eLearning Strategy 101: How to Make Yours a Success

elearning 101 guide

Employees need to learn—how to use a new Javascript framework, how to process a customer insurance claim, how to write a press release. And with the ready availability of ways to learn, from colleagues recording a Loom video to the employee reaching into their own pocket to spend $20 on an Udemy course, there’s no shortage of eLearning ideas and opportunities. 

However, organizations would most likely prefer not to lean on random video recordings or employees paying out of their own pockets if they truly want to ensure that learning will be taking place and properly applied to work. For this, they will need an eLearning strategy.

What is an eLearning strategy?

An eLearning strategy is a plan for how the organization can leverage technologies, including devices, software, and networks, to improve individual employee competencies, skills, and knowledge. By doing so, at scale, the overall organization’s business performance will improve.

An eLearning strategy is also part of the overall learning and development strategy that should already be in place. These can include not only technologies but also processes, policies, protocols, and objectives set forth by the firm’s senior management to manage learning initiatives and track success. 

Why organizations need an eLearning strategy

Organizations make a concerted effort to build an effective, comprehensive eLearning strategy plan to:

  • Accelerate skill and knowledge acquisition in a structured, measurable manner
  • Determine which resources are available in-house and which must be outsourced,
  • Remove the burden from the business and even individual employees on developing or acquiring necessary training
  • Support recruitment and retention initiatives, especially as training has become a sought-after employee benefit 
  • Foster a culture of learning, encouraging employees to keep improving professionally and personally 

Without a proper eLearning strategy in place, learning leaders will be unsure of which technologies are available—or even appropriate—to create and measure effective training. The availability of a particular technology does not necessarily mean that it needs to be used across the board for developing all courses. 

For instance, some organizations may find that recorded instructional videos might not serve as compelling or engaging learning solutions for training customer care agents as would annotated animations that the agent can pause and stop along the way.

What’s included in an eLearning strategy

1. Ensuring alignment with overall business strategy

As cited above, an eLearning strategy must align with the organization’s overall learning and development strategy. However, it can go even deeper and align with the overall business strategy.

In this way, an eLearning strategy can meet the goals and objectives of the organization by ensuring that eLearning understands the needs of the business.

One of the most straightforward eLearning strategy examples would be an organization that decides to go 100 percent remote. Without physical meeting resources available for training, L&D will be tasked with both: 

  • Converting existing training to eLearning and; 
  • Developing training with the full understanding that employees will not be convening in a physical space.

A more granular example of mapping eLearning to business needs would be a sales organization that has uncovered the need for peer-to-peer training in its sales enablement processes. If the organization has become virtual or if sales teams are globally dispersed, then L&D would need to develop eLearning tools and resources that meet the needs of salespeople who must learn from each other in a remote environment.

2. Uncovering the needs and capacity of the business

With the ubiquity of apps that can screen record or software that can add captions to a video or annotate a PowerPoint, employees, managers, and entire business units are increasingly taking it upon themselves to develop their own eLearning. Oftentimes, these DIY learning modules work in a pinch, especially as employees need to learn something quickly. 

However, this can be time-consuming and inefficient, especially when different departments may have developed nearly identical training. As such, a unified eLearning strategy is more critical than ever to seek efficiencies and save time. 

To create an eLearning strategy, learning leaders would benefit from performing an internal stakeholder assessment to better understand the capacity of the business unit in addition to the resources they may have available to train their teams directly. This can enable L&D to accelerate course creation and delivery in a “co-creation” and ownership model.

This is expected to accelerate in the future. HR consultant Josh Bersin points out that career management, coaching, and giving people self-service career tools will be the #1 way for organizations to build capability for growth in the “flow of work.”

3. Performing a resource audit

ELearning cannot be developed without the proper tools in place. As part of the strategy, L&D needs to perform an audit of all technology resources related to the potential development and delivery of eLearning. 

The audit can include:

  • Current subscriptions to premium software needed for development, including pricing and number of seats
  • The skill sets and capacity of L&D employees and contractors trained in that software and who will be responsible for developing training
  • Budgets available for eLearning course development
  • The devices, platforms, and connectivity of employees who would be accessing the eLearning, in addition to their current understanding and awareness level of using eLearning

A technology audit is performed not necessarily to point out what is missing or needed, but can be used to uncover just what is available for the L&D team. The audit might reveal that existing technology resources might be sufficient to simply update new courses or repurpose existing support tools and assessments.

4. Selecting the eLearning tools

Perhaps one of the more obvious components of an eLearning strategy is the selection of the software stack required to carry out the eLearning. Below are a few technology considerations.

Learning Management System or Learning Experience Platform

A learning management system (LMS) has long been considered the backbone of learning systems, responsible for housing content and tracking learner use. However, the use of a learning experience platform (LXP) has been growing, as it enables learners to access content through social media, blog posts, videos, and information from sources around the Internet.  

Organizations will need to decide which will work best for their organization. However, rather than selecting one, there are platforms that enable companies to run both simultaneously.

Source: TechTarget

Authoring tools

An authoring tool is a type of software that allows organizations to create digital training content, convert it into an eLearning format, and distribute it to learners. The authoring tool produces the lessons, quizzes, support materials, and anything the organization needs to generate learning experiences.

While texts, illustrations, animations, screencasts, videos, and the like are created every day by individuals and organizations for all sorts of needs, authoring tools for eLearning content are different because the LMS relies on specific file formats and standards that aren’t available in more generic content creation tools.

As such, companies interested in creating learner-focused content will need to select an authoring tool and then train instructional designers and developers on its use.

Programming, AI, and personalization

These aren’t tools per se, but rather the underlying software needed for eLearning. The depth and complexity for some requested learning experiences will drive decisions related to coding and development. Some considerations include

  • Custom animations and artwork
  • Game-based elements
  • Personalized learning paths

Such custom builds would require a range of software, in addition to the capabilities of either in-house resources or outsourced talent. Scoping and pricing out custom builds ahead of time will minimize risk (and surprises).

5. Setting up systems to capture data

The success of any action plan for eLearning depends on the data that can be collected at every stage of the process. As such, a critical component of developing an eLearning strategy is how and when L&D will collect data related to the training.

Data can be collected at multiple touchpoints throughout the eLearning course lifecycle:

  • During course development, including employee and contractor hours used; funds spent on premium subscriptions and tools; and the like
  • As courses are delivered to learners, including the time for each learner to take the course; learner ratings and feedback; assessments related to retention and application of the material immediately afterwards; and the like
  • After the training has passed, such as performance improvement; the reaching of goals; impact to the department or the organization; and the like 

​​LinkedIn Learning’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report cites measurement as a continuing challenge for learning leaders. As such, any data that can track the end-to-end development and delivery of learning experiences can unlock and drive value.

However, measurement should be more than simply trying to reduce course developer hours, so as to realize cost savings. Learning leaders and senior management should have the data to be able to identify the relationship between resources and results. Once this is in place, decisions can be made to increase or reduce resources in order to predict and test outcomes.

6. Roadmapping or “future proofing” your eLearning strategy

As an eLearning strategy is built and delivered on technology, which can easily grow in cost and complexity, strategic learning leaders look to the future and build a roadmap for their eLearning strategy. While no one can accurately predict the future, considering any expected conditions that might negatively impact course development and delivery can help teams weather any storms. 

Such roadmapping might include new versions of learning management systems or course authoring tools that are set to be released in the coming months or years. 

From the business standpoint, senior management might be planning to increase headcount—or downsize—which would affect the total number of learners accessing eLearning experiences. 

Another way to roadmap or futureproof an eLearning strategy is to simply look at industry trends and best practices, including new developments in off-the-shelf learning. There might not exist an eLearning strategy template, but new technologies, or even designs, used by third-party learning providers could give learning professionals ideas of what’s in demand right now, or what might be expected or considered the bare minimum in the next year or so.

How to develop an eLearning strategy

Learning leaders need the confidence that their eLearning strategy will succeed. They need to take the time to assess what will work within their organization—and why, all backed up with the most complete data, strongest examples, and the most solid plans.

To rest assured that they are developing the most robust eLearning strategy, learning leaders can lean on the following best practices. 

1. Use training intake to capture eLearning preferences and intent

Training intake is the channel through which learning managers and in some cases individual employees can request training. While training intake focuses on the skills and knowledge that would be acquired through the requested course, the training intake form can include questions that can help L&D better understand how eLearning strategy can find its way into particular courses—or not.

ELearning-related questions that can be included in the training intake form might include

  • In what way do you feel you could best acquire the skills needed? (i.e., video, animation, text-based modules)
  • How do others in your industry usually acquire these skills?
  • Are there off-the-shelf courses that provide the same or similar learning? What do you like or dislike about courses like those?
  • How long would you spend learning these skills?

While responses to questions on the training intake form are supposed to help L&D better understand the time, resources, and feasibility of building a course from scratch against the value or impact it would have on the organization, the intake form can also prompt learners to share their eLearning preferences, which can inform strategy. 

Employees are not instructional designers, but they most likely have had to undergo online training in the last few years, so they most likely have developed preferences. They might not use instructional design terminology, but sprinkle a few questions like these throughout the intake form to help better inform your eLearning strategy.

2. Understand the needs of both learners and learning stakeholders

Leaning on your training intake system to understand the needs of your learners can be valuable in devising an eLearning strategy. You can take a broader, birds-eye view into the types of courses employees need and begin to understand the feasibility of how those courses could be developed and delivered through various eLearning formats. 

However, requests through a training intake system, even if submitted by managers, only tell part of the story. Get to know other learning owners and stakeholders across the organization so you can develop the best eLearning strategy possible. 

For example, IT will be a crucial go-to resource. They have the best understanding of the devices and software employees have access to, even if it is SaaS-based and delivered through a browser. An eLearning strategy must consider the ability to deliver, and if employees are not equipped with the right technology, even bandwidth (i.e., they might be working from home, some with slower Wi-Fi than others), then eLearning results will be affected.

You might also want to go to the departments or teams where training has a much more substantial and immediate impact, sometimes on a daily basis. An example of this would be customer service, where representatives must be continually made aware of how even subtle changes to the company’s products and services will affect their work, and so training is critical to agent and even organizational success.

Obtaining feedback from departments that are aware of the value of training can provide you with guidance on a successful eLearning strategy because their teams are the ones who stand to benefit the most from the strategy once it is implemented

A Winning eLearning Strategy with Learning Operations Software for Training Teams

Building an eLearning strategy is challenging. To plan the best you can, it’s essential to have the software in place to understand precisely what resources you have and how efficiently you can develop and deliver courses that your organization’s learners will love.

L&D teams need the right tools for not only training planning, organization, and collaboration but also course authoring and design. Without them, it becomes a challenge to ensure proper resource utilization, seek efficiencies, build courses at scale, and deliver ROI.

With Cognota, you can plan and manage training projects while standardizing L&D processes, including eLearning course design, ensuring that projects can stay within budget and are delivered on time to learners. Get started for free or speak with our sales team to learn more!

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eLearning Strategy 101: How to Make Yours a Success