The Technology/Tradition Alliance
With the shift from face-to-face learning methods to more asynchronous, eLearning methods, more designers are using technology at the various stages of systematic design than ever before. While technology can be a blessing for growing geographically diverse learner bases, it is imperative that the technology be used in a way that complements the learning and aids training and learning teams in providing evidence of its effectiveness. The 6 commandments below are key for ensuring technology complements traditional training and provides visibility of effectiveness.
1. The Technology Shall Not Transcend The Design As It Is Auxiliary
One of the missteps eLearning designers make is using technology that overpowers the design. Examples of this can be interactions that do not contribute to the learner meeting the instructional goals, or even technology that makes the learner experience more difficult. What’s important is sound design that clarifies to learners what the expectations and goals are and helps them achieve those goals, regardless of the modality.
2. The Technology Shall Improve And Facilitate Communication And Support Between Learner And Instructor
Especially during the pandemic, technology has been moved to the forefront of delivery, but the instructor–learner relationship is still important. Outside of the face-to-face classroom, learners still need feedback from and contact with instructors. Tools like web conferencing software and community forums are great ways to maintain that relationship while providing the learner with the support they need either synchronously or asynchronously.
3. The Cost Of The Technology Shall Be Included In The ROI Calculations
Maybe I should also add that an ROI calculation should be done. According to the Kirkpatrick model, ROI is level 4 (or level 5, depending on who you ask). This level often requires some level of critical thinking and understanding of organizational goals to measure, but it is often the data that is most important to leadership to determine the practicality of training programs.
Designers have to provide evidence that the implementation of the technology is worth the expense. When examining the cost of the Return On Investment of any new technology, it is important that the actual cost of the technology is included as a cost within the calculations. This may seem obvious, but it is very easy to count the cost of the technology as negligible, or even to exclude the cost if it is initially unknown.
4. The Technology Shall Be Simple For The Learner To Access And Use
Another seemingly obvious one. However, it’s very easy for designers to get caught in the trap of “shiny” designs (leading back to commandment 1). Experiences that use difficult-to-use technology jeopardize engagement and overall learner satisfaction.
5. The Goals And Objectives Of The Instruction Shall Be Independent Of The Technology Used
Technology in learning should be considered a “variable.” That speaks to the fact that designers should be able to adjust the method without impacting the outcomes. Learning outcomes and the path to reach those outcomes should not suffer based on available technology. Some designers are fortunate to be in situations where there are a plethora of choices of technology for design, development, and delivery. There are also situations where there is little to no access to common technology tools or even a Learning Management System.
6. The Technology Shall Make Distribution Of Instruction More Efficient
At no other time has this been more important than now. With limited face-to-face interaction, technology is a valid way to distribute learning (webinars, online workshops, interactive eLearning, etc.). It is also important in the case of scaling. In corporate learning, the learner base is often large and changes/grows in quantity, so it is important to provide each learner with a consistently optimal learning experience.
In my early days of implementing an employee onboarding framework, I relied very heavily on classroom-based Instructor-Led Training. The trainings were highly rated. However, once I had to train more learners, and train learners in various locations across the United States, it became more difficult to manage and schedule these training sessions. I had to focus more on logistics than actual delivery and learner experience. It wasn’t until the implementation of a Learning Management System and a web conferencing tool (with manager support) that I was able to distribute the training to all of our employees efficiently and effectively.
The shift to more technology-dependent learning programs is just beginning. As more students and workers embrace remote learning, it is important that designers are deliberate in the integration of technology in learning. When implemented correctly, technology can allow designers to scale their learning without sacrificing quality, interaction, and support. When implemented less than optimally, technology in learning can lead to expensive programs that have no impact on learning and performance and result in a negative experience for the learner.