How sustainable are your e-learning courses?

Jeanette Swain, eWorks ConsultantJeanette has worked in education and training for over 20 years as an environmental educator, e-learning leader and in quality and compliance. She is also a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Further to Jeanette’s Need an e-learning check-up? blog post, it is now time to take a closer look at the sustainability of your courses.

How sustainable are your courses?

In this blog post, I would like to expand on point two in my eLearning check-upHow sustainable are your courses? The questions I suggested you ask of your organisation were:

  1. Are your eLearning stars individuals with passion?
  2. What would happen if they move on?
  3. Are you utilising the skills of these staff in mentoring and coaching others?
  4. What are your continuity and professional development strategies?

What is sustainability?

From a business perspective, sustainability refers to the endurance of systems and processes. In terms of eLearning courses in your organisation, sustainability is about the systems and processes that support your eLearning effort. There are several organisational approaches to providing eLearning:

  • In some cases, eLearning is tied tightly to individual effort and can fly below the radar.
  • In other cases, organisations (especially those where education is not core business) have a team approach.
  • Other organisations provide course content online is part of the job role of all teaching and training staff. In this case they tend to have a digital learning strategy and a ‘whole of organisation’ approach. This model is growing rapidly, as more organisations become aware of the power of online delivery, and expect their staff to have the skills to contribute to it.

1. eLearning individuals

Are your eLearning stars individuals with passion or do you have defined roles within your organisation? If the majority of course design, development and online teaching falls on individuals without a formal eLearning role, then I would suggest that this ad hoc approach is not sustainable!  The obvious risk is the individual leaving the organisation without a transition plan.  Less obvious risks include;

  • course quality and consistency impacting on the User Experience
  • organisation compliance processes
  • copyright laws and regulations
  • ensuring that the individual is maintaining and meeting the business rules of the organisation.duplication of content, difficulty in sharing.

2. eLearning teams or departments

If you have an organisational team or department responsible for eLearning are they multidisciplinary? If you are working in the accredited education space do you have a broad set of skills on your team? At a minimum you should ensure that you have skills in the following areas;

  • learning design
  • content creation
  • assessment
  • copyright
  • organisational compliance requirements, and

There are sustainability issues with this approach also, however. If training staff are provided with a ’ready-made program’, do you have their buy-in, or could time and money be spent developing eLearning programs that are not utilised effectively? Other issues may include eLearning teams lacking skills in Training and Assessment or taking liberty with learning content due to lack of support from subject matter experts.

3. Whole of organisation approach

The most sustainable approach to eLearning is a whole of organisation approach. This would take the form of a digital learning strategy. Developing a digital learning strategy provides the opportunity to set the vision, objectives and strategic priorities for eLearning in your organisation. It is an opportunity to redefine the expectations of your learners and your trainers and to ensure that the organisation is focused to defined goals. A digital learning strategy should encompass:

People

  • Your staff needs, including how you train, support and encourage their ongoing development.
  • Your learners’ needs and expectations of eLearning.

Systems

  • Ensuring your IT systems are robust and able to support growth.
  • Ensuring your policies and procedures support your strategy.
  • Integration of key business systems.

Profitability

  • Reducing the costs of eLearning through preventing duplication of tasks. That is, requiring tasks to be completed online and on paper.
  • Streamlined student induction and support.
  • Bulk purchasing of digital content and IT hardware.
  • Searchable content available organisation wide.
  • Focused professional development of staff.

Is it time to develop your digital learning strategy?

Whatever your approach to eLearning sustainability, now is a good time to consider what you are doing well and areas that need improvement. If you are thinking of developing a digital learning strategy or undertaking an eLearning check-up Jeanette can give you a hand.

2 thoughts on “How sustainable are your e-learning courses?”

  1. An extremely important question Jeanette. In my experience the most successful e-learning programs are successful because of the passionate teacher. Being able to duplicate the passion, creativity and motivation of a teacher is probably the most valuable key to make a course sustainable. Of course, having systems and processes that make the course development, compliance, assessment and learning design easier for the teacher or developers does help. Making sure content is developed in a way that is modular and can be moved between systems (Scorm, LTI etc.) when needed will give the teacher more time to teach and reduce the the tech/dev drain that can sometimes diminish the teachers passion to teach online.

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