As rapid eLearning development tools have matured over recent decades, companies have a new tool at their disposal for communicating to their workforce. Do a simple search for “rapid eLearning development tools” and you’ll have plenty to read.

But, as with any other emerging technology, it isn’t clear how those tools should or could be deployed. The natural inclination is to replace in-person training, aptly putting the “learning” into eLearning. But this limits the scope of what is possible and where rapid eLearning development can serve the business. If your business is using eLearning development in any capacity today, you have an opportunity to broaden its use to other areas. If you don’t have any eLearning capabilities yet, rest assured that they are not difficult or costly to obtain in today’s world. In either case, the key is to modify one’s perception of what eLearning is and what its primary purpose should be. Instead of thinking, “What training can we convert to eLearning?” business leaders should be asking themselves, “What’s changing in our company?”

Change management and eLearning

Not every business has a formal change management practice in place. More often than not, changes occur and someone is charged with communicating those changes. As a result, the communication suffers. It’s an afterthought; a pesky checkbox in an already complex project plan. But a change without meaningful communication is a change without impact.

Consider your workplace and imagine the types of changes that are happening. System upgrades or replacements, new corporate policies and procedures, personnel changes, strategic shifts—these happen all the time, and spreading the word is often relegated to email. But when changes like these affect how people will do their jobs, an email simply will not do.

To effectively communicate change, one needs to:

  • Describe the change—the context and rationale
  • Explain the expected outcomes of the change—the good and the bad
  • Reinforce the message
  • Verify the outcomes

Technically, email can handle these items; but overall, email falls short. Why?

  • People’s inboxes are already full. Giving them more to read is not going to garner support, create enthusiasm, or leave a lasting impression.
  • Email is static and silent. It simply does not engage the recipients.
  • Tracking is limited. You might be able to learn how many people opened the email, but this doesn’t tell you whether your message was understood, much less retained.

On the other hand, eLearning is perfectly suited to communicate change and to do so with voice, images, interaction, and context. With simple interactions and questioning, an eLearning asset can test viewer understanding of the message. It only takes a few thoughtful questions or interactions to effectively test knowledge.

So, how do we put this new medium to work? It’s possible that the pieces are already in place.

Steps along the way

One needs a developer who can not only use a rapid development tool, but can also organize the content in a meaningful way. Look to those who do training in your business, and you’ll likely find this person.

One also needs a means of deploying the eLearning assets—ideally a learning management system (LMS) or intranet that provides tracking so that managers can see exactly the degree to which those concerned receive and understand the message. An existing intranet may be able to serve this purpose; or, alternately, many LMS providers sell subscription-based cloud solutions that are quick to get up and running.

The final and most important step is to simply bring eLearning into the change management process. Include the people who will be responsible for communicating the change into the project plan early and often.

These nuts and bolts are not new, but why limit their use to the narrow world of training when they can provide so much value in the greater scope of corporate change?

Suppose your company is upgrading a key system, such as a customer-relationship or order-management system. The change is intended to lower costs, streamline processes, and provide better data to leadership. Those are the intended benefits, but will they happen if the user community does not understand the changes or how they affect individuals’ roles?

Making it work!

“Having eLearning in our arsenal of things we can provide to our user community is key, especially when changes are complex or span multiple business groups and functions,” says Sophia Campbell, an ITIL process and tools manager and IT training manager at ConvergeOne. “People learn in different ways; some prefer a classroom, some prefer written manuals, so giving them an alternative—an interactive, rich-media format that they can view on their own time—increases the likelihood that we will succeed. Our field has little time to dedicate to training development and delivery, and eLearning allows us to do the most with the shortest amount of time and resources.”

To maximize the chances that the intended benefits are realized, create a handful of eLearning assets—five- to 10-minute tutorials that each tell a piece of the story. (An experienced developer can put one of these together in a few hours.) Some may be relevant to the whole community, while some may be tailored to specific user groups or roles. If software is changing, eLearning can simulate its actual use, providing both training and understanding at the same time. Each eLearning module should contain some simple interaction or questioning to both reinforce the concepts and also test knowledge. Managers will be able to easily see who has viewed the pieces and how the information is sinking in. Follow up after a few weeks with an additional short piece to reinforce areas that are falling short, or additional information you need to convey. The possibilities for creativity, messaging, and analysis are endless, depending on the resources you have and the value you place on communication as a part of change management.

Whatever the specific application, eLearning should accompany change, especially when change leads to new or modified job roles. When viewed through the lens of change management, eLearning can be a powerful tool. One only needs to recognize its potential and bring it into the process.