I’m often asked whether ELearning works equally well for technical and soft skills training, and the answer is “It depends.” ELearning CAN be used for pretty much any kind of training, but some topics are more conducive to it than others.
In my experience, people seem to associate ELearning with “hard skills” or technical training more than with soft skills training, and indeed, ELearning got its start with technical training, mostly for the military. Back in the “old days” when we had fewer tools for engaging, interactive ELearning development, most ELearning was for technical training, but technology has changed and now there are many options for creating ELearning courses for soft skills training as well. If you’re considering ELearning as part of your next initiative, a consultation with an experienced, knowledgeable and creative instructional designer who can help you assess your needs and define your goals will prove invaluable to you in figuring out whether ELearning is best for you; and if so, what tools and activities are appropriate.
Here are a couple of examples of ways ELearning can be used for very different goals and audiences. The specific format and tools used will depend on your goals, the subject matter, your learner audience, and your resources – but there are lots of possibilities!
Course #1: Product Demonstration
Goal: “Introduce a new software product or tool. Show how it’s better than competitors’ – and then convince potential buyers to call my sales reps for more information.”
Key Design Considerations: Simple, short and sweet; attention-getting; engaging; high-level; marketing-oriented.
Possible Solutions: Quickly get to the point by creating an online video, downloadable pamphlet or infographic, or “COS” (“Click on Stuff”) interaction where different parts of the product/software are highlighted and the potential customer can roll over or click on them to learn about features. Put it on your web page with your sales rep’s contact information and/or a place to enter their contact details so you can call them back.
Course #2: Technical Skills Development
Goal: “Teach new or existing users or technical staff to use, install, or troubleshoot this product to a level of proficiency needed for their individual role.”
Key Design Considerations: High-level overview and benefits of new product to show them the value of the product; provide opportunities to use the tool, practice, and thoroughly understand how it works; provide feedback so learners know whether what they are doing is correct and why. Since this will be a longer course, or series of modules a high level of engagement, scaffolding, reiterating learned concept, and consistency across modules will be important. Learning will need to be measured and assessed to demonstrate proficiency.
Possible Solution: A short video or “COS” interaction to give them the big picture to start; PLUS an interactive simulation that lets them use the software in a near-real (but safe) environment and receive feedback as they work through problems; THEN a skills test where they must demonstrate their proficiency to the acceptable level for their role. If different types of users (e.g., data entry people, technical support staff, etc.) need the same basic info., but more or less detail, it could become a branching course where the user selects what they need to know for their role and only goes through that part of the program. Put this course on your LMS (learning management system) so you can track and record progress.
Other Options: Use of virtual reality and gamification elements could make it more engaging. A help menu or information lookup, FAQ, or “live” help standing by could also be useful.
So there you have some ideas for how ELearning for two different technical training programs: one geared toward demonstrating and marketing the product; and one for serious users of the product.
Next time I’ll talk about options for soft skills training – stay tuned!
Your Learning Coach