Solo E-Learning Design: How to Make the Most of Your Resources


Hollywood has a way of making the loner seem appealing. Whether it’s a wandering gunman, like Clint Eastwood’s Blondie from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, or Keanu Reeves’ title character in John Wick, these people work alone and get the job done, usually dropping some pretty quippy one-liners along the way.

In the real world, however, being a loner is much more difficult, and it comes with its own set of difficulties. Working alone in the e-Learning industry is no different. Smaller companies won’t have the financial resources available for an e-Learning department, or they may be too skeptical to heavily invest in one.

Even with that skepticism, however, 98% of businesses will have some sort of e-Learning in place by 2020. With smaller companies recognizing the benefits e-Learning courses can offer their companies, individuals are being tasked more and more often with managing their respective company e-Learning solutions solo.

Attempting to implement an e-Learning solution alone comes with many pitfalls that may not exist with the backing of an entire department. Financial restrictions, skeptical management, and a lack of any kind of consulting support make going solo risky and difficult. Here are some tips to make the process as smooth as possible.

Use What’s Available (and Free)

Despite common sayings and morals from pop culture, money makes things easier. In contrast, a lack of money can make things considerably more difficult.  However, crafting an e-Learning solution alone, and on a budget, can be done.

Expand on What You Have

Regardless of the size of your company, if the company is looking at implementing an e-Learning solution, it’s a safe bet that you at least have access to a computer. If you have a computer, it’s a safe bet that you have PowerPoint. Sure, you could just produce an informational slideshow, but you’ll be missing out on many aspects of traditional e-Learning, like interactive content and evaluations.

Using a PowerPoint add-on, like iSprint Suite, will turn PowerPoint into “a fast course-authoring toolkit”. This means your boring slides become a fully-interactive course, with 24 training formats available, as well as 15 ways to evaluate learners. And at $770 (as of May 2018), it’s incredibly affordable for most small businesses.

Take Advantage of Free Trials

Robert Heinlein once said, “nothing of value is free.” Of course, Mr. Heinlein probably said that before free trials became popular. While many learning management systems (LMS) can be quite expensive, most of them offer free trials of their software.

Not only does this trial period – typically a month – give you a chance to test out and review software, but it also can also give you the ability to complete quick learning courses, at no cost, during your trial. With the number of LMS free trial offers rising, this particular methodology could work for a long time, while giving the solo designer a wide breadth of experience in using different systems.

These trials will also allow you to review which LMS get the best results from learners, as well as actual user feedback on the courses and which they prefer.

Think Outside the Box

Courses don’t always have to fit into the “intro, inform, review, and evaluate” form. There are many resources that can be used on the internet.

  • Create newsletters or blogs to inform employees of new and specific training issues.  
  • Create forums that can foster discussion related to new courses, or approach existing training requirements from a new perspective.
  • Use board simulators, like Padlet or Trello. These give people the opportunity to discuss and to pin articles, videos, or other materials they find useful, in an organized, fluid way that is accessible to other learners.
  • Track down some experts. Hosting an AMA (“ask me anything”) of sorts, with experts in the field you’re teaching. This may yield dividends, and the experts you have in mind may be willing to volunteer their time.

Now that we’ve addressed the limited financial resources a solo e-Learning designer may have to deal with, we can move on to what is possibly the cause of the scarcity of funding: a lack of support.

Get People Onboard

The management team may not even be the ones responsible for your solitary journey into the e-Learning industry, but they’re supposed to support you in your endeavors, even to the perceived detriment of their own goals. The employees themselves may see the training as a waste of their time. Therefore, it’s important to find some common ground.

Convince Management: Show Them the Money

If you want to get the support of those who have different goals, you have to show them how your goals will help their goals. It’s not that they’re inherently unhelpful or want to see you fail.  What they hear is that you need to take their resources, whether those resources are money or employee time. It’s up to you to show them that this is an investment and that well-trained employees are worth that investment.

Do some research. Put together some evidence that shows the business case for the training.  It could be increased efficiency or decreased liability. Either way, if management can see how your training will further their own goals, they’ll support you.

Convince the Employees: Bribery and Peer Pressure

While you can convince managers with a straightforward explanation of a good ROI, employees may not find that very motivating. You may have to resort to less savory methods, to get their buy-in, like:

  • Peer Pressure – We all know from school that peer pressure is bad, right? Well, not if you’re pressuring someone into doing something good. Enlist some high-level volunteers, like line managers, supervisors, and senior employees, to complete the course. Once they have done the course, others will feel pressure to complete it as well.
  • Set a Schedule – Give employees a deadline and a reason to meet it. Schedule an all-hands meeting for the day following the scheduled completion of the course. It can be a simple, in person Q&A-and-review, but it also puts pressure on the employees to complete the training before the meeting.
  • Offer Rewards – Sure, you could call it a bribe, but we like to think of it as a “random potential reward.” Offer a few gift cards – or some other gift with broad appeal – to the first few who complete the training, to be awarded at the follow-up meeting. This way, employees don’t know who the winners are until the team comes together.

Doing anything alone can be difficult. Without the financial support and backing of those in management positions, it can be an uphill battle. Making creative use of what you already have or can get for free, plus a bit of convincing and gentle manipulation, can make the journey easier.

Once you’ve proven yourself with a few courses, people will begin to see the benefits and come over to your side. And of course, if you go it alone, you’ll be able to leave every day as the mysterious stranger, as those you’ve helped watch you walk away into the sunset like every good loner should.

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