NOPE. People do not need to refer back to the eLearning.

This eLearning is going to contain important information, so it has to be designed in a way where people can refer back to it.

It’s a common thought on eLearning projects and it’s easy to understand the intention behind it. You’re spending all this time and money creating eLearning modules so you want to be able to reuse them as much as possible. You also think that the eLearning is going to contain all the important information that people need to know. You’re trying to kill two birds with one stone, but is it actually the right thing to do?

Nope. Sorry, this is generally a bad idea.

You have a strategy that means that A) People will do the eLearning to be “trained”, and B) whenever they need important information about this topic they will access the eLearning and find the right information.

Then you have the way people will actually have to access this information:

  1. Open the LMS via a link or app.
  2. Log into the LMS.
  3. Locate the eLearning via the search function or by browsing the catalogue.
  4. Open the eLearning.
  5. Navigate to the section that contains the information they need (assuming they know where it is).
  6. Use the info to do their job.

Six steps in total and anywhere between 2-15 minutes finding the information (depending on how good or clunky your LMS and eLearning is). That’s a long time to spend finding the information you needed as a “just-in-time” reference.

Blair Rorani posits that  “almost everything that learning and development professionals produce is effectively telling... information to 'Go to jail'.” This particular approach to putting resources in eLearning is one of the most prevalent examples you can find of putting information in “jail”.

You see, this is confusing the purposes of training and performance support. You’re mixing the two together with the good intention of being efficient and lumping reference material in with eLearning.

Consider the way someone would access electronic performance support materials:

  1. Open the Knowledge Management site/app.

  2. Search for the info.

  3. Use the info to do their job.

Or what about accessing a physical resource (e.g. Job Aid, booklet, checklist), or getting information from an expert (e.g. coach, SME, manager):

  1. Go and get the info
  2. Use the info to do their job.

Instead of confusing training with performance support, let’s use the eLearning the way it should be used - as training for how to do something. Let’s also create resources for performance support that will be readily available for people to use to support them when they are doing that thing.

By trying to shoehorn reference material into eLearning courses we will just create bloated and ineffective eLearning. We’ll also be sabotaging the very outcome we’re trying to achieve - people will have nothing worthwhile to refer back to.

Matt Smith