I recently came across an infographic about determining the costs of a custom e-learning course. From my years of experience doing e-learning, I think the graphic is dead on. To summarize, it lists three important factors that determine the cost of an e-learning course:
- Graphics and multimedia
- Level of interactivity
- Instructional design time
Out of curiosity, I took a poll at my organization to determine the level of complexity of each area used in our projects. The consensus I found is that instructional design is often the most complex. My area of the organization deals with a lot of technical information so this is not surprising. However, I would venture to say that most e-learning projects are instructional design heavy when it comes to cost.
So why would I say this? Instructional designers are the foot soldiers when it comes to creating learning. They are often asked to wear many hats but their expertise is instructional design and that is where most of their time goes.
Wearing many hats is so common that organizations often don't hire the expertise they need for the other two areas that effect the cost of e-learning: graphics and multimedia and level of interactivity. That is why most e-learning is weak in that area. It's not because instructional designers don't think about these things that they get omitted, it's because they often don't have the time or required expertise to achieve them.
Graphics and multimedia often requires a graphic designer or expert in video production. Creating interactivity often requires the use of Flash or other skills that a web developer would have. Organizations often don't hire the required skill sets to excel in these areas. They either don't budget for it or don't know how to find the skills needed. I personally think the skill set required is an emerging field in the workplace.
This gap leaves well designed e-learning without the support of informative graphics and other multimedia. Instead, stock graphics or poorly produced video ends up being used. Sometimes multimedia is "repurposed" for the e-learning but it ends up not being the ideal presentation to the learner.
Interactivity that engages the learner is left out. Learning through discovery is not provided. The e-learning often becomes a page turner with lots of reading or voice overs that drown the learner in words and voice. "When can I click the next button again?" they ask.
So I have to ask:
- Are you really serious about effective e-learning?
- Why put all the instructional design resources into a project but then leave it lackluster and disengaging?
I think those are valid reasons e-learning often comes up short. However, I think there is something else. Most organizations have not fully committed to e-learning. They understand the cost savings aspects of it. But they have found it difficult to make it even close to as engaging as face-to-face training because of a lack of initiative.
Most learning and development organizations know how to win at face-to-face. But e-learning? Are we really doing what it takes to win?