Getting the Most From E-Learning Solutions


April 21, 2014


Photo of Ben Carmel
E-Learning Strategist Ben Carmel

Gone are the days when professional development typically meant an extended, off-site retreat or a few hours in an auditorium, listening to expert presenters. Today, organizations must consider how to deliver professional development and other trainings efficiently and effectively by tapping into digital tools that are available 24-7.

As experienced instructional designers, Education Northwest staff offers some recommendations for maximizing the effectiveness of a wide variety of e-learning solutions: from self-paced tutorials to instructor-led online courses to cloud-based collaboration. In the latest issue of our Lessons Learned series, E-Learning Strategist Benjamin Carmel and Program Director Nancy Henry discuss “From Training Space to Any Place: Expanding Approaches to E-Learning.”

Carmel and Henry point out that creating e-learning is like developing any other successful training or professional development program: You need to start with the learning objectives you’re trying to achieve. Once you’ve mapped out the vision, goals, and metrics, then you can consider which digital platform is most appropriate and how the content should be structured.

The difference between a traditional approach and e-learning often lies in the way learners interact with, retain, and apply knowledge delivered through digital media. The best e-learning focuses on the few skills, facts, and contextual knowledge that are essential to meet the identified learning goals.
—Ben Carmel

Using the example of an online tutorial on criminal background checks that Education Northwest developed for the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program, Carmel and Henry explain that the first step was figuring out why supervisors weren’t routinely performing the checks. Once our team discovered the answer, they were able to design the course so it highlighted the importance of such checks and the consequences if they weren’t conducted. The course also provided links to resources and forms that were readily accessible and could be easily updated.

The interactive course engages users with various scenarios of when background checks may or may not be necessary. According to Carmel, “an e-learning course that begins with a learning activity, even one that may baffle or confuse at first, draws participants in to explore, make mistakes, learn lessons, and apply them.”