As with any other content business, in eLearning too, content is king. Content, rules!
“This course mostly covers what I already know.”
“The course is too difficult for me to follow.”
“This course should have included _________.”
Sounds familiar? Most online learners have an intuitive sense of what they want and how they want it. They will forgive you if the eLearning course is a little less jazzy or maybe a little less interactive. However, they will judge you very harshly if the quality of content in terms of its depth and spread is less (or more) than their requirements. Therefore, the depth and spread of the content, with reference to the learner level, affects its overall quality.
So, how can we ensure the depth and spread of content for a superior eLearning product? Here are three key pointers to bear in mind:
1. DEFINE THE TARGET LEARNER OF YOUR ELEARNING
First, it is very important for the eLearning team to define who the target learner is. We lay the grounds for a messy situation in the future if we begin course development unclear about “who” the course is for!
“Who are my learners?”
You absolutely need to ask this question. Are they beginners in the subject, are they intermediate-level learners, or are they advanced level learners? A learner analysis is like the engine of your project. It propels course creation in the appropriate direction.
The worst and the last feedback you would like to hear from learners is that the coverage was not adequate and concepts lacked clarity or adequate explanations. Or, that the concepts were too advanced and lacked examples. Or even that content was repetitive, not properly structured, and was “all over the place.”
Sounds nightmarish for a content creator, isn’t it?
Well, it should not be if you have done an accurate learner study in the Analysis phase of content development. Therefore, a learner analysis helps to:
- Determine the level at which the course should be pitched for the defined learner profile
- Field an apt subject matter expert (SME) to structure and script the course
- Set correct expectations with the SME
- Write appropriate objectives
- Include suitable examples, case studies, activities, projects, practice exercises, and supplementary material
- Prepare specific checklists and review guidelines through which the course will pass before it becomes available to the learner
2. Source Motivated SMEs and Set Expectations with Them
SMEs bear a 50-50 responsibility with content creators to ensure that the content is of top quality. Once you have defined your target learner, you need to source the right SME and set expectations with the person. Some SMEs are better off teaching advanced concepts and if you want them to script a beginner-level course for instance, it may be difficult for them to keep it simple. Go for another SME or the “right” SME. During course development, you’ll realize you did a great service to yourself and to the project by being patient in selecting an apt SME.
3. Structure the eLearning Content
Based on the learner analysis, your team and the SME are the best people who can jointly decide the structure of the content and its eventual depth. The structure determines the flow in which the concepts will be presented and gives a hint of the content spread. The depth determines the coverage – how much to teach for the defined learner group using what techniques and components.
The structure and depth of eLearning content reflects in the table of contents and course design documents, respectively. It is rewarding to finalize both documents before beginning the scripting process.
The bottom line is that in the mad rush for quantity, eLearning development teams must never ignore the quality of content, in terms of the value it can create for the learner.
Content is King in eLearning: An example
Here’s a case to support the fact that content reigns supreme – this course on the Udemy platform titled, Marketing: How I Skyrocket Sales By 633% in 12 Hours Of Work. The five hours of eLearning videos with 10 job aids has touched the right chord in the “beginner” learner. The course presentation is at its simplest best – PowerPoint slides synced with the voice of an invested SME. Thousands of students have enrolled in the course and a large number has given positive ratings. This is the power of quality content.
Finally, there would always be learners who, despite your best efforts at taking care of content depth and spread, will want more or less. That’s where you need to be patient and use your discretion.