So you’ve been highly focused, locked in an office or chained to your cubicle happily designing what you are sure will be the best online learning course ever...in record time. How very industrious of you. But that’s a dangerous thing, because you forgot to include the most important member of your team: your audience.
Don’t sequester yourself and build your online course without connecting with and understanding your audience. Do you know who are they? What they need? How they learn? How they will take lessons back to the workplace? These are all important questions to ask before you begin.
If you fail to consider these questions, you’ll get your work done and go live quickly—but who will be listening? Ultimately, if you create a course in a vacuum, you will fail to engage your audience.
What do they really—I mean really—need to learn?
Unless you are blessed with learners who possess super human powers of concentration (and I’m guessing not), it is important to have realistic expectations of your students. Small bits of information are best. There will be some things they are exposed to in the context of their day-to-day tasks that are best learned there. Instead, focus on things that will only pop up occasionally, and so will be less drilled into them in the workplace. Or focus on items that are top priority—the critical pieces. Leave out the fluff or the stuff they’ll get later.
What knowledge gap needs to be filled?
Boring your audience by teaching them what they already know is a fast way to lose them. Begin your process by asking these critical questions: what do my learners know and not know? What gap am I trying to fill? Managers may advise you based on the flow of their projects or the tenure of staff. Better yet, consider a questionnaire, survey or quiz to make sure you know exactly where the team or individual deficiencies are.
How will they learn best?
Now that you’ve identified what you need to teach them, how will you go about that in a way that will keep them engaged and ensure they will be successful?
In most cases, you will want to make it interactive because students absorb and retain information best in a dynamic format. What does this look like for your audience? Demographics, company culture and technology aptitude are all factors to consider. For your specific audience, does interactive mean quizzes, story lines and discussion, or is their interest likely to be held better by using a gaming format?
Where Do They Live?
It’s about context. Learning is all for not if you don’t find a way to bridge subject matter to the real world. Think about the moment they go back to their desk, their boardrooms or their customers. How will they put what they learned into practice? Engage with managers to make sure the team is encouraged to think about what they’ve learned, and figure out how they might subsequently change the way they do things outside of the e-learning laboratory—in the workplace.
Once you’ve answered all of these questions you can return to designing the best course ever.