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Jun 2015

Is rapid elearning right for you?

Blog posts

Steve Lowenthal

Steve Lowenthal

CEO at Kineo US

Care about elearning? Do you care about the little things – like cost, speed and control? Then you might at a minimum be intrigued by rapid elearning, or quick-delivery elearning.

The promises of rapid elearning are certainly compelling:

  • Reduced cost
  • Less time
  • Increased ability to respond to organizational needs
  • Greater control over updates and maintenance

Sounds great. Who wouldn’t want that? Just a few questions though…

  • How do you identify the right projects for rapid elearning?
  • Are some training needs better suited than others? Which ones?
  • What’s different about rapid elearning scoping, design, scripting 
    and testing?
  • What does it mean for training departments? What needs to change?

We at Kineo believe rapid elearning is an important tool (one of many). But it needs rigor, if it’s to deliver on its promise. That means each of these questions, and several more, must be answered in detail.

Here are a few tips on rapid elearning to hopefully spur on some rapid thinking of your own, and to help you determine if it is the right fit for you.

Rapid Tip 1: Your Precision Weapon Better Hit the Target

Traditional training delivery (classroom and elearning) can often have a scattergun approach, attempting to take on a particular topic and cover everything a learner could need to know so no amount, however small, is missed. That approach scores high on completeness, but low on efficiency and effectiveness. Learner time can often be wasted on less important points and the more content added to the course, the more likely the really critical information will get lost in the fog.

Rapid elearning is best used to make a series of surgical strikes. It has a small window of opportunity – usually 20 minutes or less. It cannot hope to hit more than one or two key concepts. Its effectiveness lies in its ability to focus in on a very specific target and deliver with precision.

The value of rapid elearning relies tremendously on hitting the right target with the right message. A key step is to prioritize those targets that are right for rapid elearning in your organization.

Rapid Tip 2: Model Behavior

Creating new instructional design models and approaches is an immensely creative and rewarding task, and one we at Kineo turn our minds to with relish. But rapid elearning is not the place for it. There just isn’t time on average projects when there is a four to five week turnaround. Does that mean there’s no room for instructional design in rapid elearning? Certainly not; when your rapid elearning is likely to be 20 minutes or less, you better make sure you’re keeping it short, focused and delivering value to the learner with every point. Lack of discipline at this step is what results in the PowerPoint nod and click next presentations that give elearning a bad name.

So what do you do? You leverage archetypal models for solid instructional design based on tried and tested principles.  You turn them into art directed templates, so it’s easy to extend and amend on a solid baseline.

Rapid Tip 3: Get That Custom Feel for Less

Rapid’s not good enough, they say (and sometimes it’s not – see #1). It doesn’t look like custom. It doesn’t work like custom. You can’t feel the quality. What makes the difference? What makes it feel ‘custom’?

  • Sound instructional design: sadly absent in much ‘custom elearning’
  • Clear structure and writing: more important than ever
  • Engaging graphics: can add great value – and they need not be expensive if you know how

None of these need to break the bank, if you know what you’re doing.  Don’t be intimidated by those who deride rapid elearning as just PowerPoint with a SCORM wrapper.  It can be a powerful part of your tool set if the fundamentals are solid, and you’ve tactically added those finer points that lift it.

Rapid Tip 4: No Blend Like a Rapid Blend

Rapid elearning modules are just part of the solution. A rapid approach to elearning means looking beyond course and module-based methods to include tutoring, virtual classrooms, podcasting, blogs and more. Each has its own benefits. Each can be treated better with a rapid approach. Developing a rapid blend means looking at these options and others with a new approach.

Rapid Tip 5: Follow That Sign

Somewhere along the way, templates became a four letter word in the eLearning world.  A lot of this had to do with rudimentary HTML authoring tools where template meant graphic right text left and not much more.  The layout of a page is actually an important design tool to set expectations for learners – if the page looks like this I can expect this kind of information or to take this action.  A solid set of templates are at the core of rapid elearning.  They both accelerate development and give important cues to the learner. 

Take Another Look at Elearning

Many think that rapid elearning’s day has come and gone.  That’s great if you have unlimited budget and time but if you don’t than rapid can be an effective arrow in your quiver.  We think that means:

  • Thinking 80/20: focus where rapid elearning adds the most value
  • Focusing on the fundamentals: scope, design, graphics, script
  • Using templates intelligently to build rapidly on solid foundations

In short, it means looking at all your elearning from a whole new angle.

Steve Lowenthal

Steve Lowenthal

CEO at Kineo US

Steve Lowenthal has over 15 years of experience in Learning Technologies in consultancy, sales and management roles. He's a regular speaker at US conferences and events on trends in LMS, elearning and technology.

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