What does eLearning mean in your organization? I’ve learned that whenever we’re talking about online learning assets, it’s better not to assume! Is it a standalone "module" that looks like a self-directed PowerPoint deck? Or is it any combination of interactive files, media and learning activities— basically any learning that isn't delivered in person in a classroom?
With any gig I take on, I always check with my client to clarify what we both mean by eLearning. It's surprising sometimes to see how close or far our definitions can be! Having worked with a variety of customer and employee-facing online learning materials, my own definition of eLearning has broadened over the last few years. I’ve embraced a more inclusive understanding of eLearning than its traditional definition, in line with many of the organizations I serve.
Terms often used for eLearning
Don’t forget about the course authoring tools in your LMS
How eLearning is built (or authored, to use industry jargon) has a wider array of options now too. Formerly, eLearning mostly referred to custom developed content using a third-party authoring tool like Articulate Storyline or Adobe Captivate. Period. And that’s still completely acceptable and highly impactful. But many organizations forget that they can author courses directly in their LMS (arguably a better strategy than third-party applications, depending on your LMS, of course!) If you haven’t explored using your LMS itself to develop an eLearning course, this might be the time.
What are some effective course objects (or rich media assets) used in eLearning?
Depending on what your organization needs and how it makes sense to deliver them, any combination of these learning assets or course objects could form an engaging eLearning experience:
There is a valuable movement happening in the eLearning industry right now; we’re finally shifting away from thinking of learning as a course and more as an experience. Learning doesn’t begin and end within the confines of an eLearning course—it happens on the job, during a commute, in discussion on social media, and a million other digital ways. Thinking of eLearning in the broader context of the experience will help you build more impactful online learning too.
Pro tip: Spend a few minutes defining what you mean by eLearning within your organization, and ensure you have the same discussion too with any external contractors. This way, you'll all be on the same page and can get started collaborating!
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Planning to develop an eLearning course? Then you’ll want to know how much time it will take. The answer: It depends. eLearning courses range in duration (how long it takes a typical learner to complete) as well as development hours.
Do you know how much time and effort your organization spends on a typical, 30-minute eLearning course build? Depending on the level of interactivity and custom engagement, your project infrastructure and more, developing a new course can take anywhere (truthfully), from 20 to 200 hours.
How long it’s taken me to build eLearning courses:
All other projects in between varied widely in development time too, based on these common factors:
Pro tip: The biggest mistake most organizations make is desiring a highly interactive course, but underestimating how long it takes to develop. Create your estimates on evidence-based resources such research from the Chapman Alliance. Be wary of internal teams or contractors that can promise you a complex course in a tighter timeline—chances are the project won’t be on time or budget, and might not be what you hoped for.
This is why I recommend starting with a small scoping project to test if your budget, project plan, or contractor-client relationship are aligned.
The term custom course development is widely used, but what does custom actually mean? Essentially, custom eLearning or instructor-led materials can mean anything that has had instructional design applied to create a unique course object. Instead of acquiring an out-of-the-box training product from a third party, you create your own (or outsource this to an eLearning consultant like me).
Here are a few examples of custom strategies I’ve helped clients work through:
Levels of Interactivities
Extras – Not included unless identified within scope requirements
I love designing custom course content for my clients; it’s one of the many stimulating challenges of my work that help me continually evolve as a professional. It’s the perfect opportunity to try innovative instructional design techniques, incorporate findings from new studies on how adults learn, and clients and learners get a course that meets their needs.
Do you have a custom course project in mind?
What Makes Learning or Training Sticky?
5 Tips for Hiring the Right Learning Consultant
When to Use Articulate Rise Over Storyline for Your Project
How Much Time Should I Estimate for eLearning Course Development?
7 Instructional Design Types: Who’s Best for Your Business?
Leah Chang is a learning consultant with 16+ years of experience designing online and classroom learning. In her spare time she goes on self-propelled travel adventures and tries to grow vegetables.