There are many things that are certain on our planet, regardless of our individual locations.

Sadly, death is one of them.  Getting from point A to point B in some mode of transportation is another.  Looking up at the sky, hoping that bird does not drop the doomsday of turd upon your heard clearly is one more.

But one of the things we (in the e-learning community) often fail to miss is rather beneficial to learning – Content.

Content

I said it. And I will go one step further – it is the most important aspect to e-learning, for if you do not have content – then all those other components, LMSs, social and mobile learning, authoring tools, assessment tools, video learning tools, micro-courses, e-learning tools in general are worthless.

Even if you have poor content it is better than no content.  That said, while having poor content is better than none, it is not a reason to do so – i.e. bad content.

If you wonder why you are not hitting constant mass on your LMS or whichever learning platform you use or have created yourself, take a deep hard look at the content.

The King is dead, love live..

Content.  Yes, here it is once again. It needs to be repeated – because it is the one item you can look at and say, “hey this is good”, “Wow, this is great”, “Egads, this stinks”.

You get the picture, or at least you should. 

Because content and the form it takes and from that form – the attention, attraction and usage of it – will make or break how well your learning management system is used, utilized, maintained and sustained.

I’ve been where you are or are about to be.  Whether it is already in the midst of using a LMS, starting out on your first LMS, using your second/third or whatever LMS, debating on what LMS best suits you and your learners – the bottom line is I have been there.

Because of that, I can tell you that no matter how many features you have with your LMS or whatever you are using as a learning platform, AND no matter what doo-dahs are included to entice learners to go into the system and stay, if the content doesn’t entice someone to stay around for a period of time, then it’s all meaningless.

Get them there and keep them there

Many people wrongly assume that if they make it mandatory for people to take X courses or complete Y by a certain time, that this will infer that the content is grand and as a result, learners will stay longer in the system. It doesn’t.

Nor does the assumption that if you have an amazing LMS with the latest in social and mobile that it will draw learners/students over and over again.

It won’t either.

And here’s why.  It isn’t enough. 

It isn’t enough to have a catalog of required courses that people have to complete.

It isn’t enough to have courses assigned to learners and that’s it. 

It isn’t enough to have only safety and compliance courses or some aspect of that, in the entire catalog and think that everyone will be enthralled to stick around and use the LMS.  They won’t.

It isn’t enough to have a catalog of courses that serve no purpose another than an avenue of delivery over ILT.  

Sure you will have learners take the courses, whether you push them doing it via mandatory or some other approach, but what happens next?  Will they stay around in the LMS to use those other cool features? 

Will they want to “hang out” and see what else they can do the LMS, beyond taking those specific, required, mandatory or company aligned courses? 

For a bit yes.  They will go in and do so and then when it is time to bolt they will.  

Long term though success – in the true sense of the word will never be fully achieved.

The reason is quite simple – “lack of choices”.

Go back to the days pre-cable

What were your choices? In the U.S. it was the three or four local channels (three of which were network), maybe the PBS station and a couple of local independent channels.

If you wanted to watch 24 hours of news – you couldn’t do it.  If you wanted to learn how to create pencil flavored ice cream bars you couldn’t do it.  If you wanted to watch Jackie making black truffles on the Bournemouth Food Network, sorry you were out of luck.

Basically you were stuck with what you had.

Now fast forward to 2014.  We have lots of choices, and yet when it comes to content (courses) in a LMS, we have taken the pre-cable concept and shoved into the LMS as our “courses”.

Where are the courses that people want to take for their own personal development?  Where are the courses they want to take to expand their personal growth or knowledge?  Where are those courses?

Right now, take a look at the courses you have in your LMS – the content. 

Ignore whether it is static or not, engaging or not, video or not – ignore all that. Look at the courses themselves.  Do you have content that is beyond your mandatory or required?  Do you have content that goes beyond workplace related?  Do you have content that goes beyond safety? 

The Data speaks the truth

Surf the net and you will find plenty of research and data which states in basic terms the following:

  • One of the main reasons people leave is because of lack of personal and professional development at the workplace

Ask yourself, are you offering that “personal and professional development” in your current course catalog?

I surmise that many currently do not.  It may be because you were unaware.

Or it may have been that you were assigned this e-learning thing and did what had to be done to get it online and have those courses built.

I get it.  I’ve been there – well to a degree.  Because every place I went, I always made sure to have “personal and professional development” courses in my catalog. Learners could pick what content (courses) they wanted to take, beyond those required by the company.

And what a list of courses they were.

  • Language courses – Learning how to speak another language (interactive mind you)
  • Microsoft Office courses
  • Surf the Internet – Don’t laugh many people have no idea on what is the “Address bar”
  • Accounting 101 or something along those lines – Basics you know – not for the people in accounting, rather for the rest of us
  • A huge assortment of professional development courses

What were the end results

Well first and foremost, an increase in usage of the LMS.  They (the learners) stayed longer in the system.  They used more of the “out of the box” cool things in the system, rather than just go in take what they needed and got it.

Granted our courses were non-linear and they could go where they wanted to and as often as they wanted, BUT they picked and selected additional courses on various topics.  They were not limited to only what had to be there.

I had one person, a mail clerk with a HS education come into my office and thank me for those additional courses.

She took a couple a week. Her boyfriend also took them.  (Yes people share passwords, get over it). 

I had other stories as well.  A VP in Finance tell me he wanted to learn how to use Word beyond what he was doing and loved what we offered.  A nurse wanted to take a course in Latin American Spanish – and now was able to do so (she couldn’t afford the ones at her local community college).

The numbers spoke for themselves – I was seeing constant and consistent growth. 

If you are ready to go for it – a couple of points

  • No more than a total of 200 courses in your LMS, I had 425 including our required content, and after six months was able to see trends – basically it was too many offerings
  • Offer courses that aid in their personal development and growth
  • Break the bundles – many 3rd party course catalog providers want you to select a bundle: example 16 business courses which includes blah blah.  If you only want four of those courses and not the whole lot – tell them so — hold firm – it is not as though they are making mass bucks here – I never settled for bundles, I always created my own with the 3rd party course catalog providers

Bottom Line

They say Rock n Roll is King.

I say they are wrong.

It’s content.

Specifically, yours.

E-Learning 24/7

Sorry for the slight change – this Wednesday is the launch of my debut report and so the blog will cover the criteria, give some insight, etc. regarding the report, inc. data and yes, you can buy the report from the blog. : )