Instructional Design

5 Questions to Ask Before Building Your Next Training Course

Five is your magic number when creating a new eLearning course. Why? Because you have to make sure you get answers to the 5 Ws in elearning.

Those are the questions you need to ask to understand the problem you’re trying to solve with the course. And they’ll help you in the quest for the content you need to create the most appropriate learning experience.

By the end of this article, you’ll know how to determine the content you need to reach your learning objectives. Let’s explore the five questions one by one.

WHO Is the Audience?

When you create an eLearning course, you do it because someone else needs it. There’s no point in teaching a skill, behavior, or attitude to someone if there’s no demand for it. However, curiosity for new information or desire to build new knowledge usually comes from a place of applicability.

The audience might be a group of individuals that don’t know each other, a team, or an organization. Nevertheless, they all have:

  • A certain learning style. This means they learn best in different ways, which may favor one delivery method over another.
  • Varying previous knowledge of the topic. This puts different learners at different learning levels. For instance, beginners need more details on the topic because they have more of a learning gap. The same goes for new employees—they need more in depth information unless they have experience with the topic from previous workplaces or learning institutions.
  • Different career paths ahead of them. The career goals of your employees may require more or less knowledge of the course’s topic. For example, if the audience needs to take the course to do their work, you should include many real-life examples of applying the new knowledge at work.

WHAT Are the Learning Outcomes?

You should design your course with the learning outcomes in mind. They impact the delivery method or technology you choose and the content you’ll include in the course. But what are learning outcomes exactly?

Learning outcomes state what employees should learn as a result of taking an entire course or one of its modules, units, or lessons. Additionally, a learning outcome should allow evaluating the degree to which employees developed the new skills, knowledge, or behaviors.

Be sure to define measurable and attainable learning outcomes to draw accurate conclusions about the course’s effectiveness. For instance, becoming familiar with a topic is not a quantifiable outcome, but enumerating the advantages of something is.

Learning outcomes allow you to:

  • Choose course content
  • Create learning activities—or tasks—to help employees develop the desired skills, knowledge, or behaviors
  • Design assessments to evaluate the achievement of learning outcomes

Misaligned outcomes and assessments might frustrate learners. So, assessments must measure what employees are learning. Learning  activities and assessments should align so that learners are practicing what they’ll be evaluated for.

On the employees’ end, learning outcomes allow them to clarify expectations and track their progress.

Integrating knowledge, skills, and behaviors and applying them to different contexts helps employees understand how the course is useful. Moreover, this boosts learning engagement and helps them realize how valuable the lessons will be in their real lives.

WHEN Will Existing Content Be Available?

At this point, you know for whom you’re creating the course and for what purpose. That’s great—you’re on track! But remember from the last section that you need to define learning outcomes to choose course content?

Well, we need to make a distinction before moving forward. Either you’re creating a course for your own organization or someone else’s. Let’s consider the latter, a corporate client who has their own learners or employees.

You’ll typically start with one of three scenarios:

  1. Your client can give you learning content from previous training programs.
  2. Your client has no learning content to provide you.
  3. The content that your client can share with you is too technical for you to understand and work with.

Assuming you’re facing option two or three, you need to consult a subject matter expert on the course’s topic. This article will help you with what you need to do to effectively work with subject matter experts to build effective eLearning.

On the other hand, if you’re facing option one, you’ll have one key question for your client: “When will I have access to the learning content?”

There are a few reasons why this question is integral to your process:

  • You must plan the course creation.
  • You might need to negotiate a date that meets your client’s expected deadline.
  • You must ensure that the date you agree to is feasible from the course creation point of view.

WHERE Can You Use Real-World Scenarios?

The answer to this W-question is plain and simple: wherever possible! You shouldn’t miss one single opportunity to establish a correlation between the course’s content and the real world. Realistic scenarios increase engagement and dedication.That’s because theoretical knowledge is one thing, but applicability is a whole other level. The more relatable examples and challenges a course has, the more applicable it is. Consequently, learners develop the skills, knowledge, and behaviors to become more productive and efficient.

For instance, scenario-based learning is a strategy that increases an eLearning course’s applicability. Realistic work challenges in a training context with real feedback and learning progress add value to employee training. Ultimately, your client’s company benefits from that proximity between the learning experience and the real world.

Back to the “Where” question, your client can definitely help you. They can point out in the course outline where you can use real-world scenarios. Then, as the course creator, you’re responsible for inserting those scenarios in content, tasks, and assessments.

WHY Might Learners Struggle With Key Decision-Making Points?

Answering this question is the same as diving into the root cause of the problem that your course should solve. From junior employees to top executives, every role involves making decisions—whether very simple or extremely complex.

These are some examples of employees who might particularly struggle with making decisions:

  • New hires, especially new graduates or professionals transitioning careers
  • Employees recently promoted to management roles who aren’t used to making decisions daily
  • Employees who just learned a new process, procedure, or technology or shifted careers or business areas within a company

Making complex decisions is tough and takes responsibility. So, training plays a crucial part in making employees more confident when choosing between alternatives. Training accomplishes that by presenting employees with decision-making situations as similar to real-world scenarios as possible.  In a scenario-based learning experience, an employee makes choices based on specific work scenarios and is then presented with the consequences of their decisions.

Use the 5 Ws in eLearning as a Guide

The 5 Ws in eLearning are the most important questions to ask to begin creating eLearning content. Learn as much as possible about:

  • The employees’ backgrounds and learning preferences
  • What your client needs to achieve with the course
  • The skills, knowledge, behavior, and learning gaps that your course needs to fill in

Ask them before creating each one of your eLearning courses and then keep them at hand throughout the course design to not deviate from the expected outcomes. Finally, re-ask them before launching the course to double-check that your final product aligns with the answers.