Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Interview with Peter Bray, Trivantis: Innovators in E-Learning Series

E-Learning design mistakes are insidious and often hard to identify until they’ve basically infected the entire course or program. By that time, it’s extremely difficult (and expensive) to correct. So, the time to make sure that you’re following good design principles is in the initial design of the certificate or degree program (associates, bachelors, or masters). Another good time can be when you’re conducting your periodic updates and revisions in response to instructional materials changes or upcoming accreditation reviews. Welcome to an interview with Peter Bray of Trivantis, a provider of innovative e-Learning software, including the well-known Lectora and Snap!.

What is your name and your relation to e-Learning?

Peter Bray. I am the Chief Marketing Officer of Trivantis Corporation. Trivantis is the leading e-Learning software company with our products as the e-Learning software of choice for Global 2000 companies in over 70 countries.

What are current statistics about the popularity of e-Learning?

The rise in e-Learning around the world is apparent and e-Learning software and services are constantly evolving to keep up with the ever changing industry. For instance, you can see this evolution within our company and the ways in which we introduce new and innovative tools to meet the growing demands of learners, such as Snap! by Lectora and Lectora X.5. Just last year Ambient Insight reported that the US market for self-paced e-Learning products and services reached $18.2 billion – and that revenues will reach $24.2 billion by 2015. Through harsh economic times, the e-Learning industry continues to grow along with the necessity for affordable and easy-to-use software.

Which elements are most effective in e-Learning? Can you point to any studies that support the points?

Effective e-Learning needs to be engaging and grab the attention of the learner. The developer needs to take all learning styles into account when designing a course. To be effective, courses should include various forms of activity and interaction, feedback, branching scenarios and of course, multi-media elements such as audio, video, Flash and narration.

What do most e-Learning programs do right?

E-Learning that incorporates interactivity can be highly effective.

There is software that helps enable interactive content incorporation. For example, Snap! by Lectora one such software program. It enables users to create interactive courses quickly and easily by allowing users to add audio, video, and interaction by means of an intuitive interface.

What are the top 5 mistakes that are often made in the design of e-Learning programs?

I frequently see the following issues in courses:

1. Too much content on a page. There is such a thing as information overload and seeing a long page of text can be overwhelming for learners.

2. Inconsistent navigation and user interface. Keeping the user interface consistent makes it easier to navigate through a course and makes learners feel more comfortable.

3. Clip art. Bland, boring clip art on pages is a snooze for learners…or worse yet, no visual support to the message.

4. Font issues. From font being too small to choosing a bad font style, hard to read text is no-no.

5. Not enough engagement. Too often, we just provide information, but we need to be interacting and engaging the learner.

What are the top 5 mistakes that are made in the deployment of e-Learning programs?

1. Not Considering the Technology of Your Users
. Remember the equipment your audience is using. If they do not have speakers, audio narration is not an option. Find the common denominator; if you build for the least advanced, you can be sure it works for all learners. Also, be sure you know that your audio, video and Flash content functions work correctly everywhere it is used. Plus, don’t forget about mobile!

2. Bad Design. 
When designing your course be sure you know your objective and your audience. Content needs to be designed to meet the need and also to engage the audience. Find out what your audience responds to best and design accordingly. To compensate for lack of an instructor, include easy navigation with audio narration. Also try to anticipate the questions and to provide a ‘facilitator’ to enhance the learners’ experience. Introducing an interesting story or a serious situation can set the tone and get people excited about the course. And most importantly, keep it short. Shorter courses are easier to take and are more likely to help learners retain the key content.

3. Not Enough QA and Testing
. Testing your project is a step that simply cannot be skipped. Preview each page while building your project and catch the mistakes early on. Plan for Murphy’s Law, because you never know what could go wrong – especially when it comes to technology. And, once you’ve tested, test again, because small changes can have large effects on the whole course.

4. No Follow-Up or Feedback
. Following up with the learners will allow you to learn from the course as well, and make the necessary changes for next time. Let the learners tell you how they are doing and what they think of the course. You can use whatever you have access to, but be sure to receive some type of feedback. Once you have all the feedback, act on it. Take others’ suggestions and make your next project even better.

5. Poor Content Management. 
Things change all the time so odds are that your courses will need to be updated. But, if you can’t find the files, don’t have the latest version or need to go to multiple vendors to get pieces of your courses then making changes becomes a nightmare. Keep a repository for all your content and make sure you’re using a tool that enables you to easily update your courses, like Snap! by Lectora.

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