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Creating eLearning Content around Learning Objectives with Simple and User-friendly Authoring Tools

The research was conducted and analyzed by our marketing colleague Rayna Topalska.

In March 2014, easygenerator conducted a survey to identify trends in the eLearning arena. Research results indicated how eLearning professionals perceive the latest developments in the field, what challenges they face and what demands and requirements they have.
60 participants from 16 nationalities spread over 5 continents took part in the survey. Most respondents are experienced in the field of eLearning. They are mainly employed as instructional designers (32%), consultants (23%), or teachers (13%) mostly in the education and IT sector. The study relies on a combination of quantitative and qualitative research perspectives. The major outcomes are presented in the following sections. More detailed information about the research can be found in the PDF document attached under ‘Useful links’ at the end of the article.

5 eLearning Trends

In a recent article, Kasper Spiro outlined five eLearning trends that he thinks will lead to the end of the Learning Management System (LMS). The article was well received and stimulated a lot of discussions on the topic. This wide response was one of the main drivers to conduct this survey. 
As Figure 1 demonstrates, the survey results align to Spiro’s expressed opinion in the article. Participants highlighted the importance of personalized (adaptive) learning that is based on the outcomes of previous activities, or on creating smarter personalized courses based on learning objectives. Furthermore, the survey showed that eLearning is moving toward mobile learning. Specifically, respondents identified that eLearning materials should be available anywhere, anytime, and on any device. As learners can find courses and content almost everywhere, this creates the need for more specialized content. Additionally, according to survey respondents, massive open online courses (MOOC) do not add value to the learner. The participants also agreed that curation is an important factor affecting the learning process. As learning becomes more self-directed and learner controlled, the job of learning professionals will shift from creating courses and scheduling events, to collecting information and learner generated content. The survey outcomes emphasized that learners will be taking more and more control of the learning process, including deciding for themselves where, when and how to complete courses to gain new skills or knowledge.

Figure 1: 5 eLearning trends (answers reported on a Likert scale ranged from 1=‘strongly disagree’ to 7=‘strongly agree’)

Figure 1: 5 eLearning trends (answers reported on a Likert scale ranged from 1=‘strongly disagree’ to 7=‘strongly agree’)

Creating eLearning Courses around Learning Objectives

Further important outcome of the survey relates to the eLearning course development process. For 60% of respondents, the most important first step in developing eLearning is creating learning objectives. This is followed by designing course structure, selecting content materials, and formulating questions. The final step is developing a timeline for the course. Figure 2 provides detailed information about the individual steps in the authoring process.

Figure 2: Steps in the process of creating eLearning courses

Figure 2: Steps in the process of creating eLearning courses

When developing learning objectives, it is important to use Bloom’s taxonomy. The theory is a classification of different levels of cognitive learning. It is used as a guide when developing curriculum or learning assessments. Of all survey respondents, 81% indicated they are familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy, and for 77%, it is helpful in the process of creating learning content. “Bloom’s taxonomy is essential as the basis for good instructional design”, commented one respondent. Although Bloom’s taxonomy is widely used, several participants indicated that it is not truly understood and at times, even misused.

Tin Can API

The survey results shed light on the popularity and usage of Tin Can (Api) technology. Tin Can is a new specification for learning technology that facilitates data collection on a wide range of learning experiences an individual completes, both online and offline. These learning experiences are recorded in a Learning Record Store (LRS) that can exist within traditional Learning Management Systems (LMSs) or on their own. Despite the value and advantages Tin Can provides, 56% of survey respondents have no familiarity with the Tin Can technology. Moreover, the majority of professionals who are familiar with the technology have only researched, read, heard, or discussed it, but do not use it in their work. Mostly because they are bound to their LMS that also records learning experiences.

Simplicity and Usability

eLearning professionals use a variety of tools to develop courses, that are mostly PC-based and web-based authoring tools. However, usability and simplicity are the leading factors in their choice of an authoring tool. Other important factors are the design and technical features, as well as the opportunity for creating personalized and responsive publications. Additionally, due to shrinking budgets, price is another important factor. Moreover, survey respondents the importance of tool compatibility and portability with other systems and eLearning platforms. Surprisingly, the established reputation of the tool is the least relevant factor, which demonstrates the market is open to new tools that would meet customer demands.

Figure 3: Challenges while creating eLearning content

Figure 3: Challenges while creating eLearning content

As Figure 3 demonstrates, the biggest challenge for eLearning professionals is the complexity of current eLearning authoring tools in combination with the fast changing eLearning environment. Therefore, respondents find it difficult to choose the most suitable tool to meet their needs. Further issues include the lack of human resources and time. And finally, shrinking budgets should not be underestimated as a current industry challenge.

Conclusion

This relatively small survey highlights several important factors currently impacting eLearning development. Looking to the future, personalized and specialized eLearning content that is accessible everywhere and anytime will continue to become more important. Also, there is a need for more user-friendly and simple tools which support the development of eLearning courses around learning objectives.