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Greatest eLearning Challenges and How to Conquer Them

Conquer common eLearning challenges to create truly transformational learning experiences!

Last year we explored “If Instructional Designers Were Superheroes, Which Powers Would They Have?”, where we discovered that x-ray vision, seeing into the future, and shape shifting are super powers common to instructional designers. Anyone armed with those powers can surely conquer amazing challenges and defeat serious foes, so in today’s article we’re going to explore how to overcome top eLearning obstacles and troubleshoot when things go awry.

Let’s face down five challenges commonly encountered by superhero instructional designers:

eLearning Challenge #1: The SME from the Black Lagoon

Subject matter experts (SMEs) can be an instructional designer’s best friend or nemesis. Throughout design projects, SMEs and instructional designers should be in regular communication, and SME responsibilities include sharing their knowledge and resources with designers, reviewing course storyboards and prototypes, and giving designers the final stamp of approval at the end of the project.

In a perfect world, SMEs follow the project timeline and ensure all milestones are met. In the real world, many SMEs seem to have originated from the Black Lagoon. They don’t respond to emails, they cancel meetings, they either don’t share enough information or they share terabytes of information and expect the designer to wade through it and find just the right content for the course, and they continually feel the need to remind the designer that helping out as the SME is not their full-time job.

Superheroes conquer this eLearning challenge in a number of ways (without having to plunge into the Black Lagoon). Having a thorough understanding of project management is one way to properly kick off a project, manage and mitigate risks along the way, and communicate efficiently with stakeholders and SMEs. Building relationships, showing empathy, and having “soft skills” goes a long way in SME collaboration too. Taking the time to put yourself in your SMEs’ position and seeing things from their perspective can go a long way to establishing more effective SME partnerships. 

eLearning Challenge #2: The Never-Ending Task List

An instructional designer’s work is never done. Superheroes and novices alike are responsible for juggling competing demands, numerous projects at a time  ̶  each with different milestones and deadlines, and of course, personal and professional interests such as learning new tools and techniques. Some days it feels like the more tasks you cross off your to-do list, the more are added on.

Time management is a common struggle, but superhero designers have honed a few strategies that allow them to be more productive. Some designers block off design time on their calendar, to secure passages of time that won’t be interrupted by meetings. Turning off distractions such as email, instant messaging, and cell phones are also common practices. Finding ways to get “in the zone” to positively impact creativity helps too, whether that’s an extra cup of coffee, noise-cancelling headphones, or rocking out to your favorite music while you work. Breaking larger projects into the smallest possible measurable tasks helps too. When you’re drowning in work, remember the old adage of eating an elephant one bite at a time.

eLearning Challenge #3: The Race Against Time

Instructional designers simply don’t work faster than a speeding bullet. High quality work often demands significant investments of time, but the fast pace of business doesn’t always allow for sufficient time to be devoted to each project. In fact, it’s not uncommon for requestors to respond with “Yesterday” when they’re asked when they want their training content developed by.

So how do superhero designers win this race against time? Rapid development authoring tools such as knowbly™ help. The word “rapid” is right in the name! These tools allow designers to quickly create sophisticated content without needing to code or manually build interactions. Curating content is another common practice, which means refreshing and re-using pre-existing content. Old content can be given a face-lift and a fresh focus thanks to curation, and this can shave hours and even weeks off of development time.

eLearning Challenge #4: Technology That’s Stuck in the Past

Instructional designers have many skills, but they don’t share much in common with historians and archaeologists. Designers are interested in using up-to-date and even emerging technologies to create their work. Tools that are slow, cumbersome to use, and that produce stale, dated content are a designer’s worst nightmare (after Black Lagoon SMEs, of course).

Luckily, this eLearning challenge is easy to overcome with an investment in the right tools and software. If you find yourself asking, “What do I need to look for in an authoring tool?”, your superhero designers will appreciate tools that are cloud-based, responsive, and adaptive to both their needs and their learners’ needs.

eLearning Challenge #5: The Topics That Training Just Shouldn’t Touch

Training can’t solve every issue in the workplace, and it’s widely believed in the field of learning and development that training can only address skill and knowledge deficiencies. That means that not even superhero designers can create courses that resolve issues like low morale or the lack of access to the right tools or equipment.

Knowledge of performance consulting will empower designers and learning professionals to determine whether or not training is the correct approach to a workplace performance issue. By taking the time to identify the business need, conduct a needs analysis, and make an informed decision about the best solution without jumping to the immediate conclusion that training can fix any problem, designers earn their superhero capes. Being able to positively impact their organizations (and their organizations’ bottom lines) are surefire ways for instructional designers to demonstrate their value and to ensure the content they create will truly make a difference. ‘Cause that’s what being a superhero is all about.

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