What is eLearning content development?

29 August

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What is eLearning content development?

eLearning content development is the process of creating multimedia online training materials to upskill or reskill employees. Digital learning is also used in education to develop the knowledge and expertise of students. Users can participate anytime and anywhere, making it an incredibly flexible, scalable and cost-effective tool. The term eLearning was first coined in the 1980s. However, the pandemic has boosted its uptake. Nowadays, 93% of global firms are switching to digital learning because it’s so convenient and easy to use.

Custom eLearning content development is a dynamic process with several moving parts. And just like any complex task, breaking it down into bite-sized chunks makes it more manageable.

This post takes you through everything you need to know. We outline the eLearning content development process in five simple steps and we also give you a heads-up on the emerging trends.

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How do you develop content for eLearning?

When it comes to effective eLearning programs, the driving forces are learning objectives and user needs. After all, even the most compelling and engaging eLearning will fall short if it doesn’t satisfy your goals and the learners’ needs.

eLearning content developers also draw on learning theories and instructional design models to inform their practice. Tools like the ADDIE Model, Universal Design and Mayer’s multimedia principles provide valuable frameworks for selecting and developing eLearning components.

Creating basic eLearning content using readily available platforms like PowerPoint is possible. Use authoring tools like Articulate Storyline and iSpring Suite for a more high-quality result. Or you can outsource some or all of the content development to an eLearning content developer to help you create first-rate programs.

While every eLearning program is different, there are common elements across all digital learning. And in the immortal words of Benjamin Franklin, if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. A planning tool ensures you address all the critical elements and achieve the best outcomes.

Reflecting the latest best practice, we have identified the following stages to plan your eLearning content development.

What are the stages of e-content development?

  1. Analysis: learning objectives and user profiles

  2. Create a design vision

  3. Develop your content

  4. Review and refine

  5. Measure and optimise

Let’s take a closer look at each stage in turn.

1. Analysis: learning objectives and user profiles

Before starting eLearning content development, you must define what you want to achieve with your course. A thorough needs analysis involves answering the following critical questions:

  • What are the learning objectives, outcomes and expectations?

  • Who is the target audience, and what are their needs?

  • How will you measure the success of your program?

  • How will you align your content with learners’ needs and preferences?

To answer these questions, it may be helpful to develop user profiles. Getting under the skin of your target audience ensures a learner-centric approach is front of mind. Talk to potential participants and run surveys. This will help you understand what tasks they need to do better or differently. Explore what motivates potential participants and how they prefer to learn. 

Finding out about the audience will sharpen your learning objectives. You will better understand the challenges they face and how eLearning can address them.

2. Create a design vision

With clear objectives and a learner-centred focus, now’s the time to get creative.

A design vision sets out the look and feel of your program. Think about the style, tone and format. Also consider the best delivery methods. It could be videos, animations, AR and VR or a combination of different forms. Remember to include interactive elements to maximise engagement.

Next, think about how you will structure the content into modules, lessons and activities. And while you are developing the design vision, continue to focus on the learner. How will you ensure your content is engaging, relevant and valuable to learners?

Several tools can help you with the concept stage, including the following:

  • Storyboarding: This technique allows you to organise your content into a cohesive sequence of potential screens and modules

  • Mind mapping: Use this technique to collaborate with subject matter experts and explore ideas and options

  • Action mapping: This visual design tool helps you focus on objectives and the actions that learners need to take to achieve them

  • Wireframing: Set out basic layouts and draft content using this design tool. It also helps you organise a hierarchy of information and test your interactive elements

3. Develop your content

This is the exciting stage where you actually produce your content using various platforms and techniques. You can use authoring tools like Articulate Storyline, Lectora or Adobe Captivate to create interactive and responsive eLearning. Also available are multimedia tools, such as video editors or graphic design software, to create engaging visuals and audio for your content. 

Digital learning designers often find it helpful to develop a prototype. It allows stakeholders and end users to get their hands dirty and test the design. And their feedback will help you refine the design before you are committed.

4. Review and refine

Even without a prototype, testing and piloting are crucial. You want to test the presentation of screen content, plus the interactive and multimedia elements. Furthermore, you want to ensure the program meets your learning objectives and engages users. Gather data from stakeholders and users with surveys, quizzes, interviews and analytics to evaluate eLearning’s effectiveness.

This stage often involves several rewrites and revisions. However, it’s worth it as the feedback helps optimise the finished product.

5. Measure and optimise

After a thorough review, your eLearning program is ready to go live. However, that doesn’t mean your job is done. Continue to monitor its effectiveness with qualitative data and analytics. Here are some of the things to consider:

  • User numbers – are they consistent with your expectations?

  • Session times – do you users stick around for long? And if not, why not?

  • Drop-off points – what activities or pages are losing users?

  • Big hits – which modules or activities get the most traffic?

Use the data to tweak your digital learning so that it continues to deliver against your goals.

Why is eLearning content development important?

A systematic approach to the development process is vital. Here are some of the headline benefits:

  • Consistency: Not all programs will be identical. However, a similar look and feel across your organisation’s eLearning is helpful for users and promotes your brand.

  • Flexibility: One-the-go learning is now a must-have. The content development process ensures your eLearning is adapted to learners’ pace, time and style.

  • Cost-effectiveness: Thorough planning ensures resources are well-spent. You have several opportunities to iterate before you are committed. The process is also scalable. eLearning content can be distributed to large numbers of learners without incurring additional costs per user.

The bottom line is that eLearning content development makes programs more accessible, customisable, cost-effective, consistent, and scalable. It empowers learners to gain knowledge at their own pace. And it also enhances engagement while promoting continuous learning.

What are the relevant trends in eLearning content development?

Digital learning is a fast-paced, dynamic industry. New trends, platforms and tools come onstream all the time. Here’s a run-through of the latest trends you need to be aware of:

  • Adaptive learning: Self-paced, personalised learning is increasingly popular. Students want more control to set their own pace and time. Increasingly, AI is used to customise the learning experience to the individual’s needs and preferences. eLearning content developers should adapt their programs to fit busy lifestyles and diverse learning styles. This includes on-the-go learning from mobile devices.

  • Microlearning: This technique breaks up content into easily digestible chunks. It suits the adaptative learning approach and allows learners to focus on what is most important to them.

  • Immersive learning: AR and VR have opened up new learning opportunities. It’s used to replicate real-world situations in a safe online environment. Immersive simulations allow participants to perfect their problem-solving abilities or technical skills without the expense and hassle of doing so in the real world.

  • Interactive learning: Online learning can be a lonely experience. Many participants miss the traditional classroom and crave the opportunity to interact with others. This trend seeks to address that need. Interactive learning incorporates established tools like quizzes or group exercises. However, newer forms include social learning with in-built forums for learners to engage with each other. Another possibility is AI-powered chatbots for resolving simple queries or one-on-one conversations with subject matter experts.

The Digital Learning Institute is leading the way in effective eLearning content development. Our industry-recognised and university-accredited Professional Diploma in Digital Learning Design will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in this exciting industry.

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