What is Rapid eLearning?
The term “rapid eLearning” dates back to a 2004 report by Bersin and Associates. Since the emergence of the phrase “rapid eLearning,” eLearning thought leaders have interpreted the term in many different ways, and the debate continues. Sometimes the term refers to the software and process used to quickly create eLearning content and courses, and sometimes it refers to learning delivered in short, quick electronic-based modules. Before you begin a rapid eLearning project, it’s important to make sure everyone involved has the same understanding of rapid eLearning and is working under the same accepted guidelines. Some of the criteria for rapid eLearning include:
- Courseware which can be developed in less than three weeks
- Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) as the primary resource for content
- A well-known tool, such as PowerPoint, as the base of the course
- Simple assessment, feedback and tracking functions
- Learning modules that can be taken in one hour or less
A variety of programs are available to help you create eLearning content rapidly, also known as rapid eLearning tools. These tools allow you to create eLearning content without programming knowledge. They often come with pre-made templates, themes and animations. From PowerPoint plug-ins like Snap! by Lectora® to full-featured authoring tools like Lectora® Inspire, you have a lot of options to choose from, depending on your course objectives, timeline and budget.
What are the advantages of rapid eLearning?
The concept of rapid eLearning became popular because it allowed organizations to build an online course without the high-cost labor of multiple technical and trade experts, including instructional designers, art designers, programmers and other contributors.
Rapid eLearning software offers the ability to build and roll out eLearning course modules within weeks, as opposed to several months. It can often be developed by only one person. Consider that one hour of standard eLearning can take anywhere from 73 to 220 hours to develop, whereas a simple rapid eLearning project converting a PowerPoint presentation to an interactive eLearning course can take as little as 33 hours to develop.
Here are more benefits of rapid eLearning:
- Reduced development cost
- Decreased development time
- Rapid response to organizational needs
- More efficient use of subject matter experts
- Greater control over updates and maintenance
What are the disadvantages of rapid eLearning?
There’s a saying that goes, “You can have good, fast or cheap. Choose two.” The underlying logic infers that you can produce something quickly and have it be good, but it won’t be cheap, or you can have something cheap and fast, but it won’t be good. Essentially, you can’t have it all.
Rapid eLearning tools offer you an affordable option for producing eLearning quickly and are generally easy to use. This also makes it easy for the inexperienced instructor to create bad eLearning, and the eLearning industry has seen plenty of boring, text-heavy PowerPoint presentations turned into boring, text-heavy eLearning courses. Fast and cheap, but not good, right?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Rapid eLearning can be great. It’s all in how you use the tools and how you implement your strategy.
Developing Rapid eLearning
Before you start a rapid eLearning project, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What is the timeframe?
- Is there any pre-existing content? What form is it in?
- Which authoring tool is best suited for the project?
Come up with a strategy and research different authoring tools before you start your project. One common strategy is to use a PowerPoint plug-in like Snap! by Lectora to transform your existing PowerPoint slides into an eLearning module. If you have a tight deadline and some pre-existing content, this is your best method. However, before you press start on that strategy, review your PowerPoint slides from an instructional design perspective and ensure they will provide an engaging eLearning experience. If yes, great—full-steam ahead! If not, you may want to tweak your slides before proceeding. You can find instructional design tips, tutorials and more rapid eLearning resources on the Lectora eLearning blog.
Alternately, select a rapid eLearning authoring tool like Lectora® Inspire, which will help you quickly create courses from scratch. This is a good strategy if you have a little more time to work but are still aiming for quick development.
Tools like Lectora Inspire generally offer these easy-to-use features:
- Intuitive graphic user interface. The user-friendly interface is part of what makes these tools rapid—you don’t have to spend a lot of time learning the program, which shortens your eLearning development time. Some rapid eLearning tools will allow experienced users to do more advanced scripting, but the easy-to-use interface enables the development of highly interactive learning experiences without technical coding knowledge.
- Customizable actions. Rapid eLearning tools provide a range of customizable actions that can happen in response to a learner’s inputs. You can use actions to display pop-up windows, navigate with buttons, play audio and video, display question feedback, show and hide objects/images and more.
- Variables. Variables enable you, as the author, to capture what a user has done in an eLearning course (like clicking a button) and to conditionally act on that at a later time.
Combining actions and variables allows you to create learning situations that reflect a range of realistic interactions, multi-part decision-making and randomized events. You can even create interactive games—with no programming knowledge necessary! However, this will add a bit more time to your course development, so if you need your eLearning ASAP, a PowerPoint plug-in like Snap! by Lectora is still your best bet.
No matter what type of tool you select, a good authoring tool will also offer a wide range of support and resources to help you create great eLearning, like online video demos and tutorials. Look for this as you’re selecting a tool for your next rapid eLearning project. There are also a number of free resources available online, like backgrounds, characters and stock images that you can use to make your rapid eLearning look like a course you spent months developing.
When combined with careful planning and learner experience in mind, rapid eLearning produces great, cost-effective results in a short amount of time.