Course Authoring

Course authoring software is a vital part of your training program. This is a far cry from the old days, when expensive face-to-face training sessions were the only option available. With online course authoring software, businesses of any size now have an excellent solution to their training needs.

Introduction

Workplace learning is a necessary part of successful organizations in every business sector. Traditional energy companies face a talent shortage because of the emerging renewable energy sector. In business, one management consulting and professional services firm recently finished retraining 300,000 workers over a four year period. And in manufacturing, where 87% of employers plan to maintain or increase headcount [1], it doesn’t look like automation is going to downsize the workforce. In fact, automation is fueling growth, and that growth is creating the need for more employees and creating new jobs no one is trained to take on.

Add this all up, and it’s clear that employee training is more important than ever. Fortunately, course authoring is easier than ever. Online delivery, mobile accessibility, and trackable learner metrics make for more successful training.

Choosing course authoring software

There is a wide range of course authoring software available. When making your choice, bear in mind that active learning and spacing content over time are important factors in learning success. Look for course authoring software that provides interactive learning exercises and allows you to deliver lessons over time. These are both proven learning strategies that improve  knowledge retention.

You also need to see measurable results, so be sure your course authoring software provides learner analytics. You should be able to see course progress, quiz results, and capture free response answers to questions. And be sure the analytics are downloadable so you can create progress charts and graphs for presentations, it’s a great way to demonstrate return on investment for your training initiatives.

Planning your course with course authoring software

Planning your online courses will probably be different from planning face-to-face training. One big advantage of course authoring software is the ability to deliver smaller lessons over time. This provides a variety of benefits, many of them tied to the advantages of spaced learning.

Spaced learning breaks up complex concepts or tasks into smaller pieces of training, with each lesson adding to what came before. This forces learners to recall previously learned information each time they begin a new lesson. This is an effective learning strategy because each time learners reach back for previously acquired knowledge, that knowledge is strengthened in long term memory.

Shorter lessons, delivered over time, also prevent information overload and provide more opportunity for learning in the course of a normal work day. The key to successful planning is in making sure these smaller lessons fit together in a logical order, build upon each other to create a clear “bigger picture”, and take advantage of a variety of interactive exercises in order to maintain learner engagement. Your course authoring software should provide a nice range of interactive exercises, but it’s up to you to create a solid lesson plan.

Fortunately, there are a number of effective instructional design options that you can follow when creating your content. The ADDIE model is a very popular method of overall course design, and is an acronym for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate. With this model, you analyze both the needs of your training and your audience, thereby ensuring that you create content which will reach the people you need to train. Courses are designed around those needs, with further development coming as stakeholders test the design to ensure it provides the necessary instruction. Implementation then occurs, with the content released to its intended audience, after which you evaluate the results of your training. The evaluation phase is when you determine what works and what doesn’t work, shoring up weaknesses for future trainees while revisiting problem areas with current trainees.

Another well known and successful instructional design model is based on Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction. The nine events are a comprehensive approach to lesson design. The steps include:

  1. Gaining learners attention
  2. Informing learners of learning objectives
  3. Recalling prior learning
  4. Presenting new content
  5. Providing learner guidance
  6. Applying new learning
  7. Providing feedback
  8. Assessing performance
  9. Enhancing retention

While these nine events were originally designed for in class instruction, a good course authoring system will provide you with tools to effectively integrate each step in this process.

Understanding effective learning strategies

Ultimately, no matter which course authoring software you choose, your training is only effective when it is rooted in proven teaching techniques. A fundamental understanding of effective learning strategies is therefore necessary to achieve success in your training.

Fortunately, a tremendous amount of information is available. One of the most notable guides to learning strategies is a meta analysis conducted by John AC Hattie and Gregory M Donoghue from the University of Queensland, Australia. This groundbreaking analysis differentiates between effective learning strategies for both short term and long term memory and analyzes the best types of learning exercises for both.

As mentioned previously, both spaced learning and active learning are important, and both are mentioned in the study. Additionally, effective techniques for short term memory acquisition include summarization, note taking, outlining, and imagery. Effective techniques for long term memory include spaced practice, test taking, help seeking, time on task, and receiving feedback. Good course authoring software should provide solutions for these techniques to ensure learner success.

Gauging success and making revisions

Finally, you need access to data that tells you how learners are doing. This data not only determines who successfully completes your training. It also tells you if there are problems with your training materials. For instance, if learners across the spectrum are struggling with a particular part of your training, then you need to revisit that section and see how you can improve it. Since your learners may be scattered across countries or continents, be sure your course authoring software provides discussion forums where students and instructors can interact. This will allow you to ask learners directly about problem areas of your training so these areas can be improved quickly.