It is the nerd in me, but I like it when I can base decisions on evidence from research. So when I found this study, "What drives a successful eLearning? An Empirical investigation of the critical factors influencing learning satisfaction,” I thought it would be worth reading. Although this study was conducted in an academic environment, there are important lessons for any eLearning designer about what makes eLearning effective.
The study found seven factors that influence learner satisfaction of eLearning. In this post, I share these seven factors and how you can use them to improve your eLearning designs.
Learner computer anxiety: Not everyone is comfortable on computers. Even people who work on computers all day for their job may only be comfortable with the routine of tasks they perform on systems they are used to. Introducing a new system (an eLearning course) could cause anxiety for some. Before you launch any eLearning initiative, assess your audience and their comfort working on computers.
Perceived ease of use: This one is similar to the above, though it is not exclusive to people who are not comfortable using computers. Even savvy computer users will be turned off by something that is hard to use. When designing your eLearning courses, consider how easy courses are to find and navigate. Ease of use matters. Mindflash makes this one easy.
Instructor attitude toward eLearning: Though this study collected data on instructors who were conducting eLearning as part of their courses, the lessons ring true in the business world with managers and stakeholders. If you are launching an eLearning initiative and key stakeholders have a negative attitude towards eLearning, your project could be doomed before it starts. At the beginning of your eLearning project, get key leaders on-board. If you can get them to communicate to their teams how important eLearning is, even better. But don’t forget about your stakeholders.
eLearning course flexibility: Can people take your eLearning courses anytime they want? Can they skip around a course? Start and stop? Can people take it at home and at work? On a mobile device? The more flexible your eLearning courses the better.
eLearning course quality: In the case of eLearning, course quality is related mostly to the quality and relevance of the content. If the content is relevant to someone and it has been developed properly, is free of errors, and looks professional, you will not have major problems with learners.
Perceived usefulness: Any course (eLearning or classroom) needs to be useful. That means people find value in what you have created. The best way to ensure this is to know your audience before you begin developing your course. The better you know your audience, the more specific and useful your course will be.
Diversity in assessments: Don’t just give people simple multi-choice questions. Mix it up at bit. Add some drag-and-drop questions or a scenario or a case study. Make some assessments graded and some not graded.
Learner Satisfaction Matters
For a variety of reasons, in the real world, you might not be able to incorporate all seven of these factors into your eLearning designs. Let’s face it, sometimes tight deadlines rule. But if you strive to consider these seven factors every time you develop an eLearning course, you will have more satisfied learners and your eLearning courses will be more effective.
Bill Cushard, author, blogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations in start-up and hyper-growth organizations like E*TRADE, the Knowland Group, and Accenture. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.