The process for developing an e-Learning strategy is exactly the same as the process for developing a learning strategy. However, a focus on dissemination of content via technology usually emerges. Whereas the process for developing an e-Learning strategy can be comprehensive, it is far easier to digest if broken into component parts.
The areas of focus listed below are not necessarily in order,and you can complete them as the opportunity comes available. However, it is important that you indeed explore each area, and a series of measures from each area will allow you to stay focused as you implement the strategy. These areas will also determine who in the organization needs to be part of the team that develops the strategy. For example, the I.T. person should be represented and have a key stake when exploring technology in Area 6.
Area 1: Learning Across the Organization
Analysis in this area involves documenting what you currently know about the existing situation and the anticipated direction, both internally and externally, for learning programs. This would identify key decision points and factors that impact strategies, software, tools, processes, resources required, learning, performance, business objectives, existing content, and channels. It would include documenting all assumptions you are making,and how those assumptions impact the overall solution. It would also identify a timeline and schedule for how and when to re-visit various issues as decisions are made. Finally, it would validate current tool sets, processes, and procedures,and identify areas of risk.
Area 2: Content Selection Process
This area involves a high-level analysis of the current process used to select content for courses, presentations, programs, et al., assuming there is one. The overall goal is to detail a process that will enable selection of appropriate content to put in an e-Learning format to meet the business and learning objectives. The content selection process determines how to decide which content, desired topics and subjects, and existing courses and content need to be developed, and in what manner. Having a blended learning approach is critical as you identify various delivery styles (e.g., Web-based basic, Web-based highly interactive, instructor-led,etc.) and decision criteria for determining the right style and delivery medium for the particular course and content you will develop. The decision criteria will take into consideration such things as timeliness (when it needs to be prepared), target audience, content type, audience needs, possibilities for modularity to meet the needs of other audiences, and criticality of the subject. Other factors include: corporate content, where the content resides, what the format is and how it is structured, which content is of high or low value, and the stability of the content in terms of how often you need to edit or update it.
Area 3: Access, Retrieval, and Reuse
This area explores a high-level taxonomy to categorize and classify content within context to the learning, performance, and business objectives. In this area we are exploring how to identify and tag content in meaningful ways so the end-user can gain access at the right level. This is critical for reuse and for making informed, intelligent decisions about future content, maintenance concerns, and technology needs.
Area 4: Mapping and Content Reuse
The mapping process explores how to map content to the learning, performance, and business objectives by leveraging data and information from other systems such as user profiles, learner paths, new hire orientation, succession planning,and development. Mapping content in this way is very powerful for existing and future content, but it is an often overlooked method as it is time consuming. Content re-use and the creation process evaluates selected content based on end-user attributes, end-user playback environments,and learning, performance,and business objectives. There are dozens of factors to consider when reusing content. Developing an efficient methodology that provides a framework, a standardized process, and tools and templates for how to effectively and efficiently move courses and content to the Web is crucial.
Area 5: Development Methodology
The analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation (ADDIE) model has clear reference points to the learning and performance system,and still applies. However,with an e-Learning strategy, success is dependent on output and how we manage that output. Using an iterative model that has continuous evaluation and business-case analysis will be critical. (See Model below) People often overlook overtly adopting a development methodology,or they just assume one is understood within an organization. The e-Learning Strategy should detail what model, how we interact with the model, and how we evaluate the output from the model.
Area 6: Technology
This is not the place to start! Area 6 involves a high-level plan to address Web-portal design, LMS and LCMS features, functionality, technical requirements, and to flush out business needs and potential costing models. This process will document known technical and functional requirements, and evaluate existing software applications for how well they address those requirements. In areas where gaps are too substantial,you should evaluate alternative products. Potential areas of software you might evaluate include authoring platforms for Web development, competency profiling and/or assessment systems, LMSs and LCMSs, knowledge management systems, class registration systems, and assessment authoring and delivery systems. The specific categories of products to evaluate will be determined based on the requirements established in prior steps.
Area 7: Maintenance Planning
Area 7 details how you will maintain the content, authoring, LMS, LCMS, and other systems. Over time this will represent the largest amount of time, money, and effort. Often, directors of organizational learning understand too late in the game that neglecting this important area can sabotage their entire learning effort and cost them their jobs. A plan must be established to identify a systematic review, revise, and release cycle, define triggering mechanisms and measurement criteria, and evaluate the shelf-life of learning content to provide fresh, timely, and engaging learning experiences.
Area 8: E-Learning Strategy Plan
After you have laid out the entire strategy, or set of strategies, you need to develop projects, tasks, activities, dependencies, resources, and timelines for moving forward. The e-Learning strategy plan includes a process for prioritizing projects, managing scope, identifying and resolving issues, and shifting schedules and resources as the programs and projects move forward.
Area 9: Measurement and Evaluation
This area explores how you will measure the successes and failures of training programs within the organization. Do not stray from this focus, and be responsible for reporting successes and failures both up and down the chain of command. Traditional methods for evaluating the effectiveness of learning programs within companies have presented a myriad of problems. Most notably, there is a lack of metrics in place to gauge the worth of the instructional process. What value for the organization has resulted from the money, time, and effort we’ve put forth? This question is intense and well justified. Any learning strategy and e-Learning strategy should have the basis for the answer. There’s merit in measuring whether or not the technology is up and running,how many people passed through a course, or if the participants liked the course, but as you move up the chain of command the haunting question of “What did I get” remains.
Outcomes must be established to assess the whole technology-enabled instructional process, and the outcomes are highly dependent on the technology architecture, content, instructional design, teaching strategies associated with software, attitude of all those who participate, and the work environment. Coupled with the hard metrics most commonly associated with technology (hardware, software, and maintenance costs) you will need to establish a true assessment of the learning programs.
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