Elearning Development: The Importance of Content Readiness

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One of the areas that often gets overlooked in training projects is content. Somebody has a great idea for a web-based training course. Others agree. They envision amazing scenarios, activities, and all the possibility for behavior change in their employees. But they often forget to think about the content that will go into the course.

At Allen, we can certainly help create content. In the RMA Ethics project that I blogged about previously, we did a needs analysis and an extensive content gathering phase to collect the scenarios needed to create that curriculum. In other projects, we’ve hired subject matter experts to help us create content based on identified business objectives and learning goals. For a new initiative, we can head to the library and start researching.

But oftentimes, the assumption is that the content is out there somewhere, and extra content gathering effort isn’t budgeted into the elearning development project. The major problem with this is that if the content really isn’t ready, we end up spending a lot of time and effort on the content that should have gone into creating an amazing design.

We recently completed a project adapting an existing instructor-led course on commercial loan structuring to a web based training curriculum for the Risk Management Association (RMA). RMA is a member-driven professional association that helps banking and non-banking institutions identify and manage the impact of credit, operational, market, and enterprise risk on their businesses and customers, and one of the ways that they do that is by providing training.

Because we were adapting an existing web-based training course, their content was well developed and tested. This allowed us to focus on identifying and developing the best instructional strategies.

We created three main characters to deliver the content: a Bank Manager, a Relationship Manager, and an Underwriter.

web based training - RMA

These characters represent typical positions at a bank, and we scripted their dialogue to reflect the opinions and perspective each would likely have on the topics covered in the course. This makes for a much more engaging experience. Learners are drawn into a discussion on the content rather than being lectured about it.

RMA’s content included many well-established and detailed cases. Having a number of cases to draw on allowed us to use some cases to walk learners through the content and others as activities where learners apply what they’ve learned.

In this example, the characters each present the findings from their analysis of a company, walking learners through the steps of how to complete that analysis.

In the next case, learners review company details and then complete the analysis on their own, using what they’ve learned from the previous example.

Structuring commercial loans involves review and analysis of complex financial documents. Fortunately, RMA had already developed detailed company and financial information for their cases. Instead of just describing a concept and how it relates to a type of document, we are able to walk learners through realistic examples as we present key concepts.

Having such detailed examples embedded throughout the course makes the training more relevant for learners. They can take what they learn in the course and immediately turn around and apply it to files on their desks.

If you’re preparing for a training project, step back and look at your content:

• What sort of content do you need to support your business goals and learning objectives?
• Is this content available, or does it need to be created?
• What resources and tools are your learners using?
• Can you provide examples of these resources or tools?
• What are the most challenging tasks that learners face?
• Can you provide examples that illustrate these challenges?

Taking the time to do this at the beginning of the corporate training project will ensure you have a much more effective training later. It’s vital that bankers complete their due diligence on prospective loans, and as trainers, we need to approach content analysis in the same way.

To learn more about the Structuring Commercial Loans curriculum, visit: http://www.rmahq.org/tools-publications/rma-university/rma-university-online/structuring-commercial-loans

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