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Content is king

first_img Previous Article Next Article Poor content is frequently blamed for the high drop-outrates in e-learning, but things are beginning to change. Sue Weekes looks atfour programmes that manage to get the balance right and ensure that…How to make content compelling’ appears as a subject on nearly everye-learning conference that takes place these days. And quite right too, sinceit is a big issue and one that was paid too little attention in the early daysof e-learning when courses were sometimes little more than hurried html versionsof what existed before. E-learning content has to work even harder than traditional content as itcannot rely on having a talented tutor or inspired trainer to engage thelearner. With this in mind, the overall look and feel, structure and navigationare as important a part of content as the meat of the content itself. Online collaboration with fellow students and tutors in web chat rooms orvia bulletin boards is also a vital part of the content of many e-learningcourses, partly because it simulates the classroom scenario. But in many waysit goes one better than the classroom as it allows learners to have exchangeswith those on the other side of the world and facilitates continuous andnetworked learning which can generate and feed in new content. Where e-learning has found most success is when it has been tailored to theuser’s requirements from the ground up. We look at four e-learning programmesthat work hard to engage the user. Sheffield Hallam University MSc Postgraduate Diploma/Certificate in e-learning, multimedia and consultancy Aim An international Masters programme focusing on the pedagogical,technological and cultural aspects of open and flexible learning environments.The programme is aimed at education and training professionals and teachers inschools and further and higher education. What form does the learning take? A combination of local study (face-to-face sessions with colleagues andtutors, workshops and tutorials), independent study (literature reviews,independent project work and research) and web-based learning, which bringsstudents together with colleagues in other countries. This is supplemented bylocal video-conferencing sessions, which enable students to talk to othercourse members and discuss work directly. The programme can be taken full-timeover one to two years or part-time over three to six years. Content The overall online content is short and interactive but Professor BrianHudson, programme leader at the university’s School of Education, says what makesit compelling to the user is the collaborative aspect facilitated by onlinechats and video conferencing. “We started off by using video-conferencing because it was a tool thereto be used but by the end of it, it was a necessity,” claims Hudson. “It certainly stimulated the students and there was a depth tocontributions we wouldn’t necessarily have got with pure face-to-face meeting.Often in classroom situations you want to make a contribution but theconversation moves on and you miss the moment – this doesn’t happen in avirtual environment such as a chatroom as you can always make thecontribution.” Hudson cites one case of them showing students a photograph to examine thenotion of myth. “It provoked a rich interaction that was captured online,”he says. How is it for the user? The first graduates won’t complete the course until later this year butfeedback to date has been positive. “The virtual learning environmentreally works for me,” says Sally Seymour, commissioning co-ordinator atthe University for Industry and LearnDirect. She is taking the course becauseshe hopes it will help her to understand and produce effective e-learning andhas already completed the first module. “It is very interactive andinvolving, mainly due to the learning community I feel part of,” she says.The course is held in collaboration with Arnhem-Nijmegen University ofProfessional Education, where she especially enjoys the interaction withinternational students. “They can have a completely different take on things,”she says. Avis Reservations agent induction programme Aim The training package is for all new call centre staff in the car rentalfirm’s new pan-European call centres in Manchester and Barcelona. The openingof the two centres generated a need for consistent training in differentlanguages and cultures. The intention is to simulate the job and job skills, aswell as the customer’s experience. The main objectives were to increase theeffectiveness of training and reduce the time taken for a new reservation salesagent to achieve competence from three down to two months. What form does the learning take? The programme, created by e-learning provider AdVal, uses a combination offace-to-face, video, multimedia, paper-based material and coaching, backed-upwith an assessment of individual competence. The overall package comprisesseven modules with a total of 10 hours training in five languages. It isdesigned to integrate into the three-week training for new reservation salesagents, which includes supervised handling of customers in live situations. Content The programme uses a rich mixture of text, graphics, audio and video, andAdVal has built-in a number of interactive devices to keep the learnerinvolved. This includes the facility for the user to listen to a clip of acustomer making a call and then to interactively record their responses beforehearing the next piece of conversation from the customer. It continues untilthe user has completed a specific part of a transaction with the customer andthey have the facility to playback both sides of conversation before assessingtheir own performance. Other devices include a video presentation made in the style of a televisionholiday show to appeal to the target market and extensive use of a voiceoverartist to minimise the amount of on-screen text and allow more space forgraphics. How is it for the user? “On the ground, the system works excellently,” says Rob Field ofAvis Europe. “We have been able to integrate the soft skills while notlosing sight of the hard measures. Our call centres’ talk time, conversionrates and time-to-competence all needed to be improved. To assess theseprogrammes, pilot programmes were run and in one test (with one week lesstraining) all the learners in a group using multimedia achieved better resultsthan compared to the classroom-based group. “In both of our call centres, conversion rates are now several per centhigher than 18 months ago. Good multimedia learning has added profit as well asvalue.” GemPlus Product lifecycle course Aim GemPlus, a world leader in providing solutions based on smart cardtechnology, wanted a training programme that would homogenise the proceduresused by its worldwide research and development teams, giving all staff commonknowledge, work methods and message. The e-learning programme has to be both a training tool and a referencemanual for working methods. What form does the learning take? A five-hour web-based e-learning course devised by e-learning provider Icus,divided into five modules. The training programme is modular and integrates sequencesof knowledge assessment. It also allows time for an exchange between managersand tutors so the course can be embedded into daily working practices. Infuture, the course will be linked to a knowledge base for all its employees. Content The course was designed as a low-bandwidth global programme so eschews theuse of rich media such as video. In order to involve the learner from theoutset and ensure they could relate to the training, Icus tied it in directlywith GemPlus’ employees daily working experience. Everything about the training was designed to echo aspects of their work,including the overall look and feel of the training on screen, which includessmart card and PDA graphics and imagery. “There were lots of familiar touches they could relate to,” saysChristiaan Heyning, senior business development manager at Icus. Such anapproach also demonstrated how completing the course would benefit them intheir work: employees could learn in the morning and put it into practice inthe afternoon. Typically, an R&D member may need to know what the quality assurancerequirements are for a new product and can find this out direct from thetraining on the spot, with information presented accessibly and simply withflow diagrams. The programme is complemented by online collaboration via a bulletin boardand on-the-job coaching by GemPlus itself. How is it for the user? “In our business, being able to use common work procedures is essentialto being able to claim that we have a global approach. This is even truer inR&D, which is by its essence a global solution, and for everything thatdeals with quality. “We see e-learning as an efficient tool for the deployment knowledgewhich is frequently updated,” says Jean Marc Julia, vice-presidentsoftware engineering at GemPlus. “Employees using the training say that ittransfers notions in a simple way and at their own pace.” GemPlus is already increasing its e-learning portfolio, citing the mainbenefits as less travel and organisation fees, less disruption for staff aswell as deploying training to remote locations. As participation in e-learning becomes widespread, the company believes moretangible and intangible benefits will accrue, particularly the growth ofinternet-savvy learners who can actively build a knowledge sharing communityacross the network. Football Association (FA) The FA’s Soccer Parent, Soccer Coach and Soccer Kid programme Aim The overall programme sets out to promote good practices by parents andcoaches to heighten and encourage children’s involvement in and enjoyment ofthe game. It is intended to work on three levels, targeting FA coaches, parentsand children. What form does the learning take? A web-based programme designed by e-learning consultancy Fuel, which can beaccessed direct from the FA’s site (video and resource packs have also beenintroduced). The homepage sets out the three target areas and users click theone relevant to them to enter the training. Content In its pitch to the FA, Fuel suggested a demo of an interactive quiz basedaround a penalty kick game – if the user answers a question correctly, theyscore a penalty. This fun, interactive theme is carried to the final learningprogramme. “It was important that it was highly engaging and didn’t comeacross as a lecture,” says Chris Campbell, co-founder of Fuel. In one section, when an individual gets a question right, they see DavidBeckham score the World Cup qualifying goal against Greece, and if they get itwrong, its Andy Cole with his head in his hands. For all three target users, the approach is highly graphical with text inbite-size pieces at all times. For coaches, the training is more informationheavy but presentation is still graphical. Campbell estimates coaches will probably spend 15 minutes accessing thetraining. And he claims video has been a big hit in the training, especiallywhen it comes to conveying behavioural practices – there is a section oncoaching behaviour where the coach clicks a number of scenarios of badpractice. If coaches successfully complete the course, they can print their owncertificate, which is recognised by the FA. How is it for the user? “Football is a very sexy, high-profile sport. This comes across in thetraining programme but what’s so good about it is that it works at a grassroots level and upwards,” says the FA’s national club development manager,Les Howie. “We have had tremendous feedback and people like it becauseit’s fun, but it also has a very a serious message.” Content is kingOn 23 Jul 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more