In July 2013 we started developing a new web-based authoring tool for e-Learning. One of our focus points was to make it so easy that everybody could use it and would be able to create and share e-learning courses, quizzes and exams. We were hoping to attract a new audience with this, people who do not have an instructional design background like our ‘old’ audience has. I have to say we are positively surprised by the results. Easygenerator’s e-Learning software, is now live for one year and we have 7.500 users in 154 countries. But most surprising for us is that 5000 of them do not have an e-Learning background at all. They are teachers, trainers, subject matter experts, HR-employees and they are creating courses and quizzes with our tool. I believe it is an important generic trend in e-Learning and in this post I will share our experience and lessons learned from the past 12 months.
Examples of e-Learning created by people with no e-learning background
Here are some examples of our new users and the kind of courses they create.
Trainer: Flipped classroom
A trainer has created a course that has most of the content he wants his students to learn. He has added quizzes as well. The idea is that students learn the topic before the face-to-face meeting. There are two advantages. The physical training time is cut by half and during the face-to-face meeting he can now focus on applying the theory in practical situations. (Image from: http://ctl.utexas.edu/teaching/flipping-a-class)
Teacher: Knowledge retention
A teacher creates fun quizzes for his students, containing the topics they did learn in the past weeks. This way he increases the retention of the students. Repeating the topics and bringing them again to the top of their mind. And with the question types that are available in easygenerator it becomes a popular activity with his students.
HR department: on-boarding course
An HR-department has to do all on-boarding training of new employees of a large software company. They now put all formal information and training in e-Learning courses and exams, so they can focus on different topics it the live sessions.
Security officer; compliance training
A security officer at a large plant uses easygenerator to push all the knowledge people have to have about security to his employees and test them. By using the personalized template people can filter out what they do not know yet and focus on that. it is a big time saver for them.
Chemical company: all training materials
A chemical company decided to stop with all expensive externally developed courses. They now use their own subject matter experts to create courses and they have a small team of experts controlling the quality before publication.
Challenges me have met and tried to solve
For us it was an interesting 12 months. When we started we knew a couple of things:
- A user should be able to create courses without any training in easygenerator
- We need to offer a didactical structure to support them in creating better and more effective courses
Great user interface
When we started we paid great attention to the flow of the application and the user interface. We even hired a specialized firm to support us in this process. We did beta testing and user testing and build in analytics so we could see on what places people were struggling with out tool. When we launched we found that only 6% of the people who signed up actually published a course. There where some glitches in our application that we improved but the big discovery was that people didn’t have a place to put their courses. They did not have an LMS or website to host the courses on. So we built in course hosting. With one click you can publish a course to an easygenerator server and you will get a link that you can share with your learners. Now well over 50% of all users publish courses.
We build in an didactical approach from the start. We force users to create a learning objective first, than come up with questions to assess these objectives and only as a third step ad content. We created an e-Learning course to help them and held weekly Q&A webinars to answer any questions. That worked well and people love the approach. It really helps them to create more effective e-Learning. But creating proper learning objectives appeared to be a challenge. So we created an extra tool that will help you create learning objectives based on Blooms taxonomy; we call it the Learning Objective maker and we made it available for anyone for free on our website.
In the end we also added result tracking to our tool. because many people use our hosting and do not have a LMS they had no way of tracking the results. We build our own LRS and now an author can see the results of the learner within our authoring tool.
Value of this trend
The question is how significant is this trend. I believe it is a real game changer. Everybody can now create e-Learning, publish it and track results, for $19 per month. It means that a very large group that didn’t had access to e-Learning facilities now has access. No need for expensive authoring tools or a LMS. The other thing that we notice is that a part of our users used to have e-learning companies create bespoke courses for them. Now they do it by themselves. it is faster and much cheaper. I do believe that this trend will have a big effect on e-Learning general. It fact it is the democratization of e-Learning, our users are taking over from the instructional designers. It will not be the end of instructional design, but it will have a big impact on the role an instructional designer plays.