E-learning on a shoestring

E-learning in the workplace used to be the preserve of the large corporate or public body. Only they were able to afford the necessarily substantial investments in learning platforms and content development and had the large audiences against which these investments could be amortised. And only these major employers had the specialist technical skills and large l&d departments needed to support these investments. Smaller organisations were essentially priced out.

But  most people don’t work for large corporate or public bodies; they work for the millions of smaller businesses and not-for-profits that make up a significant proportion of any nation’s economy. The employees of these smaller organisations also need to learn and develop and to do so as efficiently and conveniently as possible. And don’t forget those organisations – typically cottage industries – that provide training services to the big boys, but have had neither the capital nor the technical expertise to integrate e-learning into their offerings.

But this year we have seen a major shift. I personally have been working with a wide range of smaller companies and training providers who want to establish an e-learning delivery capability. Many of my colleagues are doing the same. The formula appears to be pretty consistent:

  1. Purchase some licenses for one of the more popular rapid authoring tools, typically Articulate / Adobe Presenter (for PowerPoint-based content) or Adobe Captivate (where there’s more of an IT training bias). Supplement these if necessary with some tools to help in developing short videos and podcasts. I know there are free authoring tools, but even small companies can afford a few software licenses.
  2. Use Moodle as a delivery platform, typically externally hosted, perhaps with some customisation. Smaller companies don’t need full LMS functionality, so Moodle (perhaps with some extra goodies) will do this job adequately. Training providers will have no trouble using Moodle to provide course web sites to support traditional, e or blended solutions.
  3. Get a license to Webex, Elluminate or something similar (perhaps even a free web conferencing tool like DimDim) to provide the capability to run live online sessions.
  4. Train up as many of the training team as possible in content design and development, setting up courses in Moodle and facilitating in a virtual classroom. Not everyone will excel in all these tasks, but at least the whole team will feel involved and empowered. Some technical and creative expertise will be needed, but this can be bought in externally as and when it is needed.

This is e-learning on a shoestring, but it is e-learning that can really deliver. The key is to keep the ‘e’ elements short and simple and to integrate them cleverly with more traditional approaches. The emphasis, as ever, should be on effective learning, not on playing with technology.

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