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Yet another massive open online course (MOOC) abandoned mid-way! Raj has recently enrolled in a 3-week MOOC that he hopes would help him in his job as a Marketing Manager. Weeks 1 and 2 have passed and he is lagging behind in completing the videos he needs to watch to move forward in the course. Currently, in Week 3, he is disillusioned that he will never be able to catch up, as he has a job and targets to complete.
Is Raj a bad learner? I don't think so. Does he have the motivation or interest? Of course, he does. He enrolled for the course out of his own will and interest, with all the good intentions. Yet, he just could not get himself to complete it. There could be three reasons for this:
Research shows that course completion rates in MOOCs globally are low, approximately 15%. India has its own MOOC - SWAYAM which has been launched by Ministry of Human Resources Development and All India Council for Technical Education. It currently has about 43 courses hosted on it and many more to be added in near future.
The success of any online learning solution depends on how well the student embraces the solution and actively engages with it. Lack of interactive learning is what causes many students to drop-out of e-learning courses mid-way. In the case of SWAYAM, it appears that they have made efforts to provide a holistic learning experience with each course comprising of video lectures, reading materials, self-assessments tests and discussion forums. Will the courses generate better completion rates? Time will tell.
In corporate learning situations, organizations cannot afford such employee disinterest in the learning material. Every corporate training intervention is created with a purpose -- to upgrade the skills and knowledge of employees so that they perform better and as a result, get better business outcomes for the company.
Organizations that are thinking of introducing e-learning, need to come up with engaging and interactive learning solutions.
What Does it Take to Create Interactive Online Learning Solutions?
For any e-course to be engaging, it is important to make it interactive. It should be a two-way process that actively involves the learner in the learning process. For this purpose, you need three key elements:
For classroom training, the Subject Matter Expert (SME) collates the content, prepares notes, PowerPoint slides, and hand-outs and shares it directly with the learners. The SME does most of the heavy-lifting and is largely responsible for the success of the training program. This is not the case with e-learning courses.
To develop e-learning courses, SMEs provide all the relevant content to Instructional Designers (IDs). IDs analyze the content, align it with the course objectives and prior knowledge of learners and go back to the SMEs if they find content gaps.
Sometimes, the content that IDs get is of good quality and is well-structured, has good examples, FAQs, and exercises for practice. At other times, the content may just comprise of PPTs that are used during classroom training without any speaker notes or related examples that the trainer would have shared in the classroom. Or, it could be in the form of an instructional manual that contains all essential information.
In such situations, IDs will need to chunk the content, segregate non-essential from essential based on the learning objectives, identify content gaps that need to be filled, and look for relevant information, either from the SME or relevant stakeholders. This process is extremely important and cannot be undermined.
To make sure that you are using the right content for your e-courses, you need to:
Storyboard is the term borrowed from the movie and advertising world. It indicates a document that visually represents each screen on the e-learning course. It is a blueprint, prepared by IDs, that helps courseware developers to create the actual course. If the blueprint itself is faulty, the course is bound to falter and may not attain its objectives.
Therefore, it is important to have a good team of IDs, who understand different instructional strategies, based on planning & analysis, using appropriate multimedia tools, to enhance learning styles in accordance with the preference of adult learners.
A typical storyboard will provide a logical structure to the course, dividing the content into different modules, specifying what each screen will contain, its layout, the graphics used, voiceover practice assessments, and everything that provides conceptual understanding of how the course should be developed.
To make sure you have the right storyboard for your course, you should:
Right Courseware Development
Right content and right storyboard will need to be backed by right courseware development. This is the stage where the content presented in the storyboard comes alive on screen. This is done by courseware developers who include multimedia experts and visual designers. While the main e-course is developed using rapid authoring tools such as Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, Lectora Inspire, or iSpring, you also need other software programs to build all the necessary elements that go into the course. For example, to create graphics, you will need tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator.
Graphics are key to an interactive e-learning module because, there are so many graphic elements such as various buttons, tabs, images, diagrams that are essential for developing a course. Today, some of the authoring tools are quite powerful and provide an all-in-one solution to develop a basic functional e-learning course. Additionally, they offer a wide range of digital assets such as images, backgrounds and templates, which can be customized to reflect the subject at hand or align with visual branding of your organization. The choice of tools will depend on the level of interactivities that you require for your course and the complexity of graphics and interactions you wish to include.
To ensure your courseware development is on track, you should:
Self-paced learning is not easy, especially when day-to-day tasks and demands of the job vie for the attention of the employees. For learning to stick, online courses need to be designed carefully with the right content, right storyboard, and right courseware development. It requires a coordinated effort of SMEs, IDs, and multimedia developers, who understand the constraints in which employees learn, their learning preferences, and styles, and design courses that tick. In the absence of such an effort, you will end up having a whole library of courses on your learning management system with no takers.
Gilakjani, A. P., & Ahmadi, S. M. (2011). Paper title: The Effect of Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learning Styles on Language Teaching. In International conference on social science and humanity (Vol. 5, pp. 469-472).
Ghirardini, B. (2011). E-learning methodologies: a guide for designing and developing e-learning courses. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Tracey, M. W., & Boling, E. (2014). Preparing instructional designers: Traditional and emerging perspectives. In Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (pp. 653-660). Springer New York.
CommLab India., (2017). 11 Interactivities That Increase Learner Engagement in an E-learning Course. Retrieved from https://www.commlabindia.com/resources/article/elearning-interactivities-that-engage-learner.php
DeVore, S., Marshman, E., & Singh, C. (2016). The challenge of engaging all students via self-paced interactive e-learning tutorials for introductory physics. arXiv preprint arXiv:1606.00518.
CommLab India., (2016). How To Start E-learning in Your Organization: 5 Basic Considerations. Retrieved from https://www.commlabindia.com/resources/ebook/elearning-implementation-in-organizations.php
Boulay, R. (2013). Designing and developing online materials for molecular biology: Building online programs for science. The international journal of design education, 6(3), 53.
Towse, M (2009), Best Practices: Creating Successful Online Modules. Learning Solutions Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/56/best-practices-creating-successful-online-modules
Schulze, A. S., Leigh, D., Sparks, P., & Spinello, E. (2016). Massive Open Online Courses and Completion Rates: Are Self-Directed Adult Learners. Handbook of Research on Individualism and Identity in the Globalized Digital Age, 24
Jordan, K. (2015). MOOC completion rates: the data Retrieved from http://www.katyjordan.com/MOOCproject.html
TNN, 2017 43 massive open online courses now available on SWAYAM Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolhapur/43-massive-open-online-courses-now-available-on-swayam/articleshow/57799484.cms
About the Author:
Dr. Ayesha Habeeb Omer is the COO & Co-Founder of Commlab India, a global online learning solutions provider.. She has 19 years of experience in financial services, university teaching, training and e-learning. She was one of the first people in India to be awarded doctorate in E-learning. She also holds an Advanced E-learning Instructional Design Certificate from ATD, USA. Her Twitter handle is @ayesha_commlab.
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