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Applying extensive digital media expertise to workplace learning

Dynamic Business are not just eLearning designers; they also design and develop games as well as virtual and augmented reality solutions. It is this focus on digital media that sets them apart. They now offer a wide range of eLearning titles, and we were keen to explore more about their unique approach to the design and production of eLearning content.

Let us hear more from Chris Miall who heads up their Off-The-Shelf Course Portfolio on this subject.

Course-Source: What are the key principles that underpin and guide your instructional design process to ensure the efficacy of your courses?

Chris: “We use a technique that we call Action Mapping to focus our course design process and we work through four key questions:
1) what is the goal and how will it be solved?
2) What do people need to do to reach the goal?
3) Why are people not doing what they need to?
4) what changes will help?

This allows us to focus on people and outcomes, rather than topics and content. We never put technology before instructional design. First, you must determine which instructional design approach is most suitable for the audience to deliver the desired outcomes, and then decide which technology is most suitable for delivering your instructional design approach.”

Course-Source: There is an ongoing debate about the benefits and downsides of full audio tracks in eLearning, where do you stand in this debate and why?

Chris: “Having full verbatim audio for a module, a voiceover reading the content line by line, is certainly something we all remember from eLearning modules. Several years ago it was standard across the industry and is still present on some older-style courses, so we do get asked for it from time to time. It’s something that can be applied if there’s a pressing need for it, but generally, we advise clients away from this approach for a couple of reasons.

The first is the speed at which people read. That varies hugely from person to person and makes a big difference to their experience using a narrated course. If you’re in the sweet spot of reading text at the same speed that a voiceover says it, then there are some benefits to having it available. However, most of our learners read a little faster than spoken English, so having to listen to someone slowly speak a piece you’ve already finished reading is frustrating, slows down the whole experience, and ultimately leads to reduced comprehension and recall. At the other end of the scale, it’s much worse. If you, like almost 20% of adults in the UK, read slower than spoken English, then you can’t follow along with a voiceover. The written word and the spoken one start to clash and differ and it severely compromises learning.

The second reason we avoid narration is one of accessibility. All the Dynamic catalogue of courses is at least WCAG AA accessible. This means they work smoothly for all learners who need to use additional accessibility tools such as screen readers. For a learner who may have a visual impairment with a screen reader already reading out the text of the page, having an additional voiceover trying to speak the same words but out of time, just makes the entire page unusable. Our experience of working with people who have a wide array of accessibility challenges with eLearning has helped us to improve the quality of our courses, not just for them, but for everyone.”

Course-Source: You offer a comprehensive course catalogue on a very wide range of topics from general compliance and health & safety through to general managerial and soft skills, to some sector-specific content such as health & social care. How do you ensure you have access to the necessary detailed subject matter expertise to cover such a diverse suite of courses?

Chris: “Finding the right subject matter expertise for a topic is a constant challenge for any eLearning provider, and we are no different. It is also something that we can’t avoid or put off. A course without that expert oversight risks not only failing to be engaging and educational, but in some of the compliance subjects, it’s dangerous to miss out that step. Where we have a big advantage in finding those subject matter experts to work with is our large customer base. You are correct in that we have a very wide range of topics covered, and over the last 20 years, we’ve worked with a huge array of different clients. That history has allowed us to develop long-term relationships with subject matter experts whom we can trust to review and provide input for our courses. It’s not a fixed situation though, and we’re always updating and developing those contacts to make sure that we stay up to date. We also have a process in place to update the modules currently in our catalogue of courses very quickly when legislation or guidance changes.”

Course-Source: In your experience, what is the most common mistake that organisations make when it comes to transitioning to digital learning models, and eLearning specifically? How can they avoid these mistakes going forward?

Chris: “There are a lot of big mistakes that are made when transitioning to eLearning and many of them revolve around not listening to the audience. In most organisations there will be one or two decision-makers who have a preconceived idea of how something should look or work and that prevents them from listening to the audience, discovering what the learners need and the best way to engage them. They also often underestimate the amount of work involved in implementing eLearning, and the time it takes to do it well.

Learners themselves are a fantastic and much under-utilised resource. They often have experience of digital media from previous roles and other parts of their life, as well as opinions and preconceptions about what will and won’t be effective, which devices it will be best to use, and who should be consulted as a subject matter expert. My single piece of advice would be to take that experience on board as early as possible. Find a way to listen to their opinions through surveys or focus groups and work closely with a learning provider to feed that information into your initial scope in plenty of time to allow the project to change and develop to best meet their needs.”

Course-Source: How do you see eLearning content evolving over the next few years and how you are looking to leverage any innovation?

Chris: “We’ve started to see some big swings towards Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), and we’ve worked with a number of clients to produce solutions in this area. The cost of VR headsets has come down significantly, but for some organisations, the investment needed to provide access for all colleagues is still out of reach. In that case, alternative solutions, such as 360 panoramas, can be a more accessible option. AR has tremendous potential to transform learning into a point of need solution. It allows learners to use their own phones or tablets and access just the relevant information at the right time.

We’re also seeing a lot more bespoke video being used as part of learning modules, in the form of motion graphic animations, as well as recorded videos and 3D models. We’re in the lucky position of being able to produce videos in-house, so our catalogue of courses can be constantly updated and uplifted with new videos and animations.

For the next couple of years, we expect customers to become more selective about the quality of the materials they distribute to learners. We’re long past the stage of simple bullet points and static images making up most eLearning, but with rapid authoring tools being easier to use, we’ve seen instances of very simplistic modules produced directly by subject matter experts trying to save money. Organisations are recognising the dangers, and false economies, of this approach and being more selective in the quality of materials used for their teams which, over time, is dragging up the quality of the entire eLearning industry, something we’ve been advocating for many years.”

Dynamic Business courses are available via Course-Source and can be viewed here. Please contact us for a quote to meet your exact requirements and to preview the courses on your LMS.