Published on March 9, 2014
CHALLENGES FACED IN DEVELOPING E-LEARNING COURSES FOR CORPORATE TRAINING PROGRAMS – A STUDY Nutan Erathi India Abstract Times have been changing dramatically over the past few decades with the introduction of new technological inventions. With these inventions, changes have also been taking place rapidly in the way people communicate and acquire information. This has necessitated the need to gain knowledge in accessing the information faster, at any time, from any place. In today’s global economy, outsourcing of business is increasing significantly. Corporate sectors are finding it very challenging to train their people to work across technology with other cultures and improve the existing business operations. Training is considered as an investment in which the skills and knowledge of the employees are held on equal basis with the corporation’s monetary assets. Based on this backdrop, corporations are looking for more cost-effective ways that would replace the traditional classroom training with technology based training or E-learning. E-learning is a platform that offers just-in-time information, at any place enabling to greatly reduce the expenses incurred in arranging training facilities, reduce travel costs of trainers and employee time away from the job. This paper is intended to give an overview of the key issues faced by instructors or instructional designers in developing elearning courses to impart training to people in financial sectors like banks, investment funds, and insurance companies in order that they provide financial services to commercial and retail customers. It also outlines some measures in addressing the issues. Keywords: E-learning, Financial sectors, Innovation, Adult learning principles, Technology, Instructional design, etc. 1 INTRODUCTION With internet becoming more powerful every day, a number of big companies, educational institutions and other business sectors like banking, agriculture, health, thermal power stations are turning to web based courses and employee training centers. E-leaning solution is considered as one of the most preferred ways of imparting training to adapt to the change while staying productive in the global market. The key to create effective e-learning courses lies in creating collaborative learning strategies and learning environments that are more innovative, interactive and engaging. The focus is to improve job skills and enhance workplace learning, which is informal and self-directed. Therefore, experiential learning, i.e. learning by doing is gaining more prominence in adult education. ‘Experiential learning’ is, as Elana Michelson (1996) suggests, arguably one of the most significant areas for current research and practice in adult education. Sometimes called ‘informal’ and ‘incidental’ learning, many other concepts in adult learning are related to experiential learning: ‘self-directed learning’, ‘lifelong learning’, ‘working knowledge’, ‘practical intelligence’, and ‘situated learning’. The term ‘experiential learning’ in adult education is usually associated with particular theories and practices based on reflection on concrete experience. This paper will discuss the challenges that an EFL/ ESP teacher may meet when designing an online ESP course, and draw implications that may help course designers make informed decisions to improve the quality of e-learning courses. 1.1 Adult Learning Principles According to Tara J. Fenwick, Assistant Professor of Adult Education - Educators have developed a variety of ways to enhance the learning process, by facilitating adults’ reflection and critical reflection on experience, by instigating holistic ‘experiences’ in instructional settings, by coaching and mentoring adults to enhance their learning in the midst of experience, and by assessing adults’ experience.
1.1.1 Some of the principles include: a. understanding adult learning experiences, b. knowing their diverse intelligences, c. knowing their competencies, and d. conceptualizing the relationships between adults’ learning and their own perceptions of their experiences. Therefore, in this paper an attempt has been made to analyse the issues faced in developing an elearning course and evaluate the approach to learning that are problem based and collaborative rather than didactic. However, owing to space limitations the paper confines to the development of a web based course for banking sector with special reference to improving sales in Banking Sectors, for example - ICICI Prudential. 1.1.2 Principles of E-Learning Within the organizational framework, instructors require to make decisions about course design specifications, in accordance with the learner’s need. Therefore, they should understand the learning domains, learning styles and how and why adults learn. Progressive educator John Dewey, in his classic little book Experience and Education first published in 1938, challenged the reigning pedagogy and justified education based on ‘learning by doing’. He showed how individuals create new knowledge and transform themselves through a process of learning by performing new roles. Educators, like John Dewey have determined that most of the time learning takes place by experiencing a blend of activities that promote the three learning domains: cognitive, affective, and behavioral. Cognitive refers to knowledge or a body of subject matter, affective refers to attitudes and beliefs, and behavior refers to practical application. Dewey wrote that for learning to happen, an experience must include two key dimensions. First is continuity: the learner needs to be able to connect aspects of the new experience to what he or she already knows, in ways that modify this knowledge. The second is interaction: the learner needs to be actively interacting with his or her environment, testing out lessons developed in that environment. Dewey believed the educator should help link disparate experiences into a coherent whole. Since e-learning includes instruction delivered via electronic media efforts to implement e-Learning shifts towards total automation of administrating the teaching and learning processes by means of a software known as Learning Management Systems (LMS). As far as e-Learning is concerned, the good practice of teaching or instruction is well represented in an eclectic linking science known as Instructional Technology. Instructors therefore should have a fair knowledge of adult learning principles as well as other instructional theories. Instructors and training developers therefore use the ADDIE Model – a framework that lists the generic process and represents a guideline for building effective training and performance support tools in five phases. 1.1.3 Phases of ADDIE
Fig.1: ADDIE Analysis: During analysis, the designer identifies the learning problem, the goals and objectives, the audience’s needs, existing knowledge, and any other relevant characteristics. Analysis also considers the learning environment, any constraints, the delivery options, and the timeline for the project. Design: A systematic process of specifying learning objectives. Detailed storyboards and prototypes are often made, and the look and feel, graphic design, user-interface and content are determined here. Development: The actual creation (production) of the content and learning materials are based on the Design phase. Implementation: During implementation, the plan is put into action and a procedure for training the learner and teacher is developed. Materials are delivered or distributed to the student (target) group. After delivery, the effectiveness of the training materials is evaluated. Evaluation: This phase consists of (1) formative and (2) summative evaluation. Formative evaluation is present in each stage of the ADDIE process. Summative evaluation consists of tests designed for criterion-related referenced items and providing opportunities for feedback from the users. Revisions are made as necessary. Rapid prototyping (continual feedback) has sometimes been cited as a way to improve the generic ADDIE model. 1.1.4 Changing Roles for Learners and Teachers According to Lebrun (2005), successful e-learning should involve problem-solving, cooperative, project-based, and contextualized learning. This has implications for both teachers' and learners' roles. Learners are today more than ever required to work independently, they are supposed to clarify concepts and terms, define and analyze the problem, formulate objectives, collect information, and synthesize and transfer information for use in other situations. Another issue concerns what is referred to in the literature as 'multimodal learning' (Al-Seghayer, 2005), that is to say the use of complementary communication channels in language learning. Many studies have demonstrated that adding modes such as sound, picture, and video to the text facilitates reading comprehension (Chun & Plass, 1996a, 1996b; Cohen, 1987; Hanley et al., 1995; Oller, 1996; Secules, Herron, & Tomasello, 1992). However, the generative theory of multimedia learning (Mayer, 1997), cautions us against making generalizations concerning how learners learn from these different sources as processing both visual and verbal modes of information is moderated by the individual differences L2 readers bring to the task of reading. The implication of these findings is clear for the design of online courses: in the absence of the traditional teacher who will supplement information needed to understand the text by giving explanations, definitions, and gestures/facial expressions, the course designer is expected to investigate the group as well as individual learning styles, and provide the learners with a variety of learning sources for the same item so no student will be disadvantaged by the availability of information in one mode and not another. Al-Seghayer goes further to suggest that 'learner-controlled options' should be provided to maximize learning. He summarises this point in the following way: Designers should consider developing their multimedia reading programs with the assumption that they are addressing varying individual learners' preferences. Therefore, programs should include graphics or videos that meet the preferences of visual learners, sound recordings to meet the preferences of auditory learners, and textual information to meet the preferences of verbal learners. The intended multimedia reading programs should also, assuming that L2 readers need help in both or one of the levels, provide assistance and support at the macro-level (reading comprehension) and micro-level (word level) of reading (2005).
1.1.5 Theoretical Underpinnings of Instructional Design Instructional designers need to be familiar with the epistemological underpinnings of instructional design and the consequences on the process of instruction. Therefore, designers must continuously assess and review instructional theories, tools and resources. Some of the adult learning principles or prerequisites taken into consideration while developing e-learning courses are: Adults need the motivation to learn Adults learn only what they feel they need to learn Adults learn by doing Adult learning focuses on problems and the problems must be realistic Experience affects adult learning Adults learn best in an informal situation Adults want guidance The three primary learning styles of adults are visual, auditory and kinesthetic. The table below shows some of the methods that appeal to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. To learn, we depend on our senses to process the information around us. Most people tend to use one of their senses more than the others. Training courses should take into account all the three styles: Visual Auditory Kinesthetic Transparencies Lectures Role plays Videos/slides Group Discussions Simulations Flip charts Informal conversations Practice demonstrations Readings Stories and examples Writing/ Note taking Demonstrations Brain storms Activities Table.1: Learning Styles 2 CONTEXT OF THE STUDY An e-learning course was developed by Excelsoft Technologies, an e-learning company in Hyderabad, India, to train the employees of ICICI Prudential on one of its Insurance Plan (product). The 30 minute; just-in-time training was designed to enable the employees to gain knowledge about the planFeatures and Benefits of the plan; apply the knowledge in real life situation while dealing with customers; improve their selling skills to promote business; and thus bring profits to the organisation. The content provided by the clientele was a pdf document loaded with text and tables. Given below are screen shots of the same.
Fig.2.a: Screenshot of the Plan as provided by banking sector – ICICI Pru displaying the benefits
Fig. 2.b: Screenshot of the Plan as provided by Banking sector – ICICI Pru displaying the features Approach For this course, a storytelling technique has been used as an educational strategy and a pedagogical tool in non-formal adult learning environment. The project focused on the linguistic (language), interactive, performing, social, cultural and multicultural aspects of storytelling to help adult learners gain communication skills, develop on-job skills, develop foreign language skills, improve intercultural understanding and build competences for facing real-life experiences. The legendary Indian folk tales – Vikram and Betaal was chosen to deliver the information and train the employees on the product. Discussion The following are the screen shots of the e-learning training program with a brief description. 1. Dialogues were presented by the characters in the story – Vikram and Betaal. The attention grabbers (graphics, animation, dialogues) aroused a curiosity in the learners because the scenarios that were introduced in the course were similar to those arising in real life context. This kept the learners engaged throughout the course.
2. The course began keeping the theme of the folk tale where the conditions of listening to the story without interruption is followed. 3. The features of the product were explained using dialogues, text and tables so that employees would get well acquainted with the product and explain the same to the customers.
4. Additional content was presented through clickable tabs, so that the learners are kept while going through the information at his/her own pace. 5. The learner was assessed on the training with the help of formative and summative assessments and evaluated based on the scores obtained. A positive reinforcement of knowledge was encouraged if the learner did not perform as expected. If the learner performed well, a certificate was awarded and the course was treated as completed.
Results Some questions that I asked myself while designing the course were: Why am I teaching this? In what way will this course prepare the learner or the employee to perform a new skill? How to use a story – telling technique and cover the vital information required for the learner Would any other technique, for example: Game based or mentor based training be more effective than story-telling technique? How to limit the teaching time to 30 minutes and keep the learner engaged and motivated? How to use simple language and simultaneously cover all the aspects of gender, culture and experiences across all technological aspects? What kind of activities would help to retain the information gained and apply the same in real life situations? This flash based e-learning training motivated the learners to take up the course because of the storytelling technique that was used. Graphics and animation made learning interesting and engaging. Navigation keys allowed the learner to move to the next screen or revisit the earlier screens. This type of navigation offered flexibility to learn at one’s own pace and time. The content was chunked into small bits of information that could be readily absorbed by the learners. The formative assessment was created to probe into the critical and analytic thinking of the learners offering a constructive feedback. The summative assessment tested the learner’s overall knowledge gained through the web based training module. Employee performance was greatly enhanced after going through the training. The retention of information was fulfilled by summarizing the key concepts discussed at the end of the course. Conclusion E-learning courses require great team effort for successful delivery of courses. The instructor plays a vital role in identifying, framing and focusing on the material and providing proper feedback to the learners. The course developed should be such that it can be used across any number of employees anytime, anywhere. The activities selected for training should serve as rich and effective context in a virtual, innovative and meaningful environment. Client appreciation received for this course showed that learners enjoyed the learning process. Since they were motivated and engaged, they developed the necessary skills required to take the business to greater heights.
REFERENCES  Al-Seghayer, K. (2005). The effects of verbal and spatial abilities on reading comprehension task performance in multimedia environments with respect to individual differences among learners. CALL-EJ online, 7(1).  Mayer, R. E. (1997). Multimedia learning: Are we asking the right questions? Educational psychologist, 32, 1-19.  http://www.ualberta.ca/~tfenwick/ext/pubs/print/ERIC-new2.htm  https://www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov/downloads/freebies/172/PR%20Precourse%20Reading%20Assignment.pdf  http://www.ualberta.ca/~tfenwick/ext/pubs/print/ERIC-new2.htm  http://www.ualberta.ca/~tfenwick/ext/pubs/print/ERIC-new2.htm  http://www.learning-theories.com/addie-model.html  http://cradall.org/content/sheherazade-introducing-magic-storytelling-adult-learning
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