Rapid eLearning is a term that gets used two different ways. Some people use it to refer to eLearning content that can be consumed quickly in bite-sized chunks. Others use it to refer to speeding up the eLearning content development process. It is this latter usage, the eLearning content development process, that is the focus of this article. The other usage has mostly been displaced by the term microlearning, in spite of the fact eLearning vendor Grovo has managed to trademark the word.
Defining Rapid eLearning
What defines rapid eLearning content development is taking the typical process and shortening it by a significant amount. Since there’s probably no such thing as a “typical” timeline for eLearning content creation from company to company, it’s hard to benchmark what would qualify as rapid eLearning. Generally speaking, however, people are talking about developing a course in less than three weeks and often in 10-15 days instead of several months. Some are even doing it in less than a week, though that is really difficult to pull off and still maintain quality. With that timeline in mind, other characteristics that help define rapid eLearning have to do with what must be engaged in order to meet that timeline. For example, since your eLearning development team won’t have time to take their own deep dive into the subject to be taught, you have to assemble a team of subject matter experts (SMEs) that can be fully devoted to the duration of the project. You also have to employ a content creation tool that everyone knows and can use with ease. If it can be an eLearning-specific authoring tool, all the better, but you might have to settle for something like PowerPoint to get the job done as quickly as you want. It will also help to simplify and streamline assessment, feedback and tracking functions – while still making sure these functions are providing good data. Finally, the modules of the curriculum developed will probably need to be less than hour in terms of how long it takes a learner to complete them.
Why Engage in Rapid eLearning?
You might be wondering why you would want to attempt rapid eLearning to begin with. If you’ve been in the corporate landscape for any amount of time, you know that everything is needed “yesterday,” right? The plain fact of the matter is that the pace and volatility of change in the business world has continued to increase in recent decades. The companies that can survive this kind of roller coaster ride are the ones who can respond as quickly as possible to change as it occurs. Your company’s leadership will be thoroughly impressed if your learning department or team can respond quickly to urgent training needs when they pop up, which is inevitable.
But there are more benefits to rapid eLearning than just being more responsive to business needs, important as that is. When done well, rapid eLearning can wind up costing significantly less than traditional content development. The compressed timeline typically results in a team that relies on fewer high-cost labor inputs and gets more out them in a shorter amount of time.
Tips for Effective Rapid eLearning
There are many things to keep in mind when launching a rapid eLearning project, including the following tips that will make the process go more smoothly:
- Establish Learning Objectives: Before launching a rapid eLearning process, it’s critical to make sure you’ve clearly defined the learning objectives for the course or module, just like you would in any other eLearning project. Ask yourself this question: At the end of the course, what do your learners need to know and/or be able to do? And this needs to be within the context of knowing your learner audience.
- Timeframe: Be sure company leadership and everyone on the team agrees on what the timeline is going to be.
- Find Previous Content: Take a little time to identify any relevant pre-existing content that might be incorporated in some way, or re-tooled for use in the project.
- Choose an Authoring Tool: There are now specific software tools that have been developed for rapid eLearning, but the authoring tool you use needs to be something everyone can use. Everyone knows PowerPoint, so it’s a common choice, and there’s even a plug-in called Snap! by Lectora than helps transform PowerPoint presentations into eLearning modules. The key to whatever authoring tool you choose is that it doesn’t require any programming knowledge while still offering robust functionality.
- Make Use of Pre-Fab Resources: You can minimize graphic design time by finding and using various resources online such as characters, backgrounds, stock photos, and drawings. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can find resources that will meet the needs of the content. In general, you want to think along the lines of simplifying visual design elements while making sure they are still impactful.
- Briefer Learning Activities but Still Interactive: You want to minimize any potential trade-offs between the speed of development and quality of the final product, and one way to do that is to make sure your learning activities, while briefer than usual, are still interactive to keep your learners engaged.
Rapid eLearning by Other Names
The kind of rapid eLearning I’m talking about in this article has been called by other names that represent slightly different takes on the same overall concept. See Greter Sierra’s previous article, Exploring Agile Learning Design and my own previous article, Flash Teams.
Whether you call it rapid eLearning, Agile Learning Development, or Flash Teams for eLearning, companies are increasingly realizing that eLearning content development can happen quickly in order to address ever-changing business conditions and needs.