Friday, June 8, 2012

Rapid e-Learning Development: Appalachian Trail Online Course

We recently launched our first rapid elearning course. The Appalachian Trail Online Course was developed by combining rapid elearning with blended learning.

Due to the learning resources already having been written and filmed, we were able to assemble a complete course in about 16 man hours. (We worked about 1.5 hours after work for two weeks plus a bit extra afterwards for the 3D ebook cover graphic.)

Here's a few things we learned:

1) Develop a course outline or mindmap first. Usually we mindmap our course and then move things around into a meaningful order. We skipped that step at the start, but it soon became apparent the laws of instructional design were still in effect. Our omission caused us to back track and rearrange considerable blocks of content and navigation links.

2) Conduct SEO research before adding content. For public, open courses that will depend on search engines to bring traffic, you should research the keywords and phrases that match your content. While we roughly knew what keywords to use, we ended up creating an entirely new set of pages and copying & pasting our content to the pages with new, improved filenames.

3) Break content down into specific tasks. Use action verbs, such as: read, watch, listen, or review, to provide clear instructions on what you want the learner to do.

4) Indicate the length of videos. While most online videos are short, there are a good many that are very long. One of our selected videos was over one hour in length. We adopted the standard of specifying the length of videos in parentheses after linking to the video. This allows the learner to make informed decisions as to whether they should watch the video at that moment based on their current situation.

5) Give credit to content authors. As much as possible we included the author or producer of the content we linked to. Part of our reasoning was to brand several content producers as the "go to guys" for information related to the course. Seeing the same names repeatedly eventually establishes the meme that person is an expert.

We showed an early version of our course to a business professor. His primary comment was the course was too linear. He thought we should look into converting the course to something more interactive using Prezi.com.

What are your thoughts and comments? Constructive criticism is always welcome.

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