How to spring-clean your e-learning cobwebs

Lisa Wait eWorks Accredited ConsultantLisa Wait has held key roles leading national digital education initiatives for government. Her passions include instructional design, educational strategy and digital resource development for schools, VET and industry. Lisa might only get serious about spring-cleaning once per year, but here she explains how we can apply spring-cleaning principles across the board – ‘e’ cobwebs included.

It’s springtime!

When the sun begins to shine and the trees begin to blossom it is time to have a good spring-clean. Springtime is my annual prompt to wash the windows, clean out cupboards and sweep away the cobwebs. I must confess, these are once a year activities in my housekeeping schedule! However, although these cleaning activities don’t happen very often, they are certainly an annual undertaking. But why limit your spring-cleaning to your home? How many of us think to spruce up our organisation’s e-learning programs on an annual basis?

Online learning and spring cleaning

Spring-cleaning our online learning programs allows us to reflect on what we have been doing, to consider what worked and, most importantly perhaps, to review what didn’t. Then we can clean out the e-learning ‘cobwebs’ and brainstorm new ideas for the year ahead. If you’re not sure where to start, here is an e-learning spring-cleaning checklist.

spring cleanCredits: Betty Spent Some Time Cleaning Her Windows by Kate Ter Haar

1. Maintenance

  • Check for broken links and links that should be replaced with more up-to-date information
  • Make sure that the e-learning content reflects current language, concepts or customer needs.
  • Be on the lookout for out dated graphics, logos or branding.

2. Learning design

  • Review the learning design – ‘drag and drop’ and ‘click and reveal’ were once considered highly interactive. Do these activities still deliver the required learning?
  • Is the e-learning as engaging and relevant today as it was 5 years ago?
  • Does the learning design reflect your current workplace and practices?
  • Is there opportunity for communication and collaboration?
  • Can your organisation make use of social media for learning?

3. Technical

  • Work through any interactive learning objects or assets to check they function correctly on the latest browsers and platforms.
  • Is it time to consider delivering e-learning on ipads, tablets and mobiles?

Too busy to spring-clean?

Perhaps I can be a little blunt here? No, you’re not too busy to spring-clean. If we never do it, if we never pause to think about what we have been doing and why, we never grow as individuals or as organisations. So spring-cleaning is about prioritising. Like all things that are good for us, from our regular yoga class to an annual check-up at the dentist, it might take a little effort to make it happen, but we know that it’s important. Lecture over (for now!). Do let me know if you need a hand.

E-learning for Government : Ask the right questions

Lisa WaitLisa Wait has held key roles leading national digital education initiatives for government. She knows how challenging yet rewarding it can be to run a project that will be under the spotlight – especially if you’re responsible for public state-wide or national e-learning. That’s why it is so important to ask the right questions at the very beginning, which can be tricky when you don’t know what those questions are. Have you thought to ask these questions?

With which technical standards does the e-learning solution need to comply?

Answer: Find out what delivery system will host the e-learning solution.
In government you are likely to be using a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Web Content Management System (WCMS). Check with the business unit responsible for the LMS or WCMS for the standards to include in procurement documentation, including any standard operating environment and supported file formats.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 Level AA) apply to all online government information services (external and internal) including e-Learning content. Information for WCAG2.0 and government departments and agencies can be found on the Digital Transformation Office website and guidance on implementation can be found at the E‑standards for Training website.

Credits: Question Mark Cookies 3, by Scott McLeod

Are there any government policies I need to know about?

Answer: This answer will depend on the scope of the e-learning project.
Procurement policy
guides any government project requiring purchasing of goods and services. Privacy policy needs to be considered if you plan to store end user personal details. If your e-learning project requires hosting, your department/agency will have a position on security and solutions such as cloud hosting. Explore relevant government policy with the business unit responsible for ICT and consult your legal team for advice on any risk management strategies required.

What about copyright?

Answer: Commonwealth or state copyright is generally used by departments and agencies. Consider if Creative Commons (CC) licensing might be applied. A CC license is ideal for e-learning resources designed to be customised and shared by end users such as schools, TAFEs and the community sector. One example of a Creative Commons license is BY NC SA. This refers to accreditation (who the work was BY) for non-commercial (NC) use which must be shared-alike (SA) – that is under the same licence. A CC license such as BY NC SA protects intellectual property and branding, yet enables ‘free for education’ flexible content. More information about Creative Commons licensing in government can be found on the Creative Commons Australia website.

Copyright Agency Licensing (CAL) exemption notices could also be considered. This means that copyright fees will not be collected from the use of the e-learning resources that your department or agency publishes.

What quality assurance processes do I need to put in place?

Answer: e-Learning content can be checked in-house.
This process will require someone who has the time to work through every screen including all interactions. Documentation of any issues needs to be thorough.

What type of testing needs to be conducted?

Answer: Consider contracting an external testing company to conduct technical testing to ensure compliance and as a risk management strategy. Compatibility testing needs to be conducted on each of the different browsers, platforms and devices defined in the technical standards. Functional testing will check the resource works as planned. Testing for WCAG 2.0 compliance will ensure that the e-learning resource is accessible.

What are the ‘whole life’ costs of the e-learning project?

Answer: The project cost will include the price of goods and services and should factor in maintenance, future enhancements and transition costs (at end of life). You may also need to include external testing costs, licensing and hosting fees.

Who do I need to ‘friend’?

Answer: Make sure that you have good working relationships with your Procurement Manager, LMS/WCMS and other stakeholder colleagues. For complex projects have an early meeting with your legal advisor.

So take a deep breath…

And get the ball rolling. We now have the questions to ask and the best foundation on which to build our projects. What is holding you back? Lisa is here to help.

E-learning meets ‘The Block’

Lisa Wait

Lisa Wait, eWorks’ newest Accredited Consultant, has held key roles leading national digital education initiatives for government. Her passions include instructional design, educational strategy and digital resource development for schools, VET and industry. Earlier this month we heard about the importance of structuring an appropriate team when it comes to online course development, now let’s consider the best foundations on which to build our projects.

It’s all in the planning

Building a house or doing a renovation requires planning. Before the first ‘sod is turned’ much effort will have already gone into securing a budget, selecting the right builder and specifying the build so that it meets your needs. Months tick by browsing the Internet for ideas, reading decorator magazines, visiting show homes and meeting with bankers and builders. Yes, you guessed it – I went through all of this quite recently! In the process I have learned that an e-Learning project can be compared with constructing a house. The client and supplier work together to design, build and deliver a product within time, scope and budget.

Credits: Home Renovation Cupcakes, by Clever Cupcakes

Unfortunately, however, in the workplace we rarely have the luxury of long lead times to plan projects. Working on an e-learning project is fast paced with multiple technology, business and learner considerations. You can, however, make life easier for yourself. Even a little preparation before you meet with your e-learning consultant will lay solid foundations for your project and assist in building a program that meets business and learner needs. Here are just a few things you can do to get your e-learning project off to a good start:

Describe the e-learning environment

  • What are the educational drivers for your business adopting e-learning? Compliance training? Skills gap? Professional development?
  • Do you have a current technology platform and what are its specifications?
  • What technology access will learners have?

Define learner characteristics

  • Take the time to describe the profile of your learners, including their level of e-learning experience.
  • Will the learners have any special needs, such as language, literacy and numeracy (LLN)?
  • Will learners need technical support?
  • Is there a requirement for learner assessment or demonstration of competency?
  • Which learners will you access for user feedback and testing?

List business needs

  • What are the key business requirements? Demonstrating compliance? Improving productivity? Meeting legislative requirements? In other words, are the powers that be aiming to enhance the impact of training, or to save money, time or both?
  • When does the project need to be completed?
  • What logos/brand is required?
  • What image/key messages are important to the business?
  • And the all-important question – how much money do you have to spend?

Get your team/stakeholders on board

  • Plan how you will demonstrate ROI to management.
  • Agree who will sign off project milestones/final delivery
  • Identify the members of your internal team and their roles in the project
  • Negotiate access to other business units/specialist staff

Identify content sources

  • Source curriculum documents, relevant industry standards and so on.
  • Assemble any existing content
  • Identify style guides, glossaries

Check if there are any copyright or other restrictions to the content you plan to provide including text, graphs, videos, images

No excuses now – it must be time to get started on your project? Contact Lisa for advice.