We've Come a LONG Way!
I remember my first typing class. My teacher’s name was Anna Zwirn and she used to tape a sheet of paper at the top of the typewriter, allowing it to drape over our hands so we wouldn’t look at the keyboard while we typed. I don’t remember how many words per minute I mastered in that class, but I recall thinking it was a waste of time and I’d never use that skill in real life. Guess I was wrong. The keyboards we use today though, are a far cry from even the electric typewriters of my day. We didn’t have shortcuts or even the ability to delete our mistakes. We’ve come a long way since then.
Whether you used a typewriter in your youth or not, there’s no denying that the advancements in technology have changed the way we communicate words, do our jobs, live our lives, and even how we learn. We are truly blessed to have access to so many tools that make life better. The real question is, which ones should we use?
Too Many Options?
The problem with having so many tools at our fingertips is that we don’t always choose the best ones for our needs. The same is true in the e-learning space.
If you want to build and sell a course you have options like, Kajabi, Thinkific, LearnWorlds, Teachable, and even your website. If you want a community focus you have tools like Might Networks, Disciple, Socio, Hivebrite and even Facebook. If you need a Learning Management System, there’s platforms like Tovuti (my personal favorite), Absorb, Talent LMS, and LearnDash (a wordpress LMS plugin). If you are in the academia space, there are even more options.
With so many digital options for e-learning platforms, how do we pick the best one?
My short answer? It depends. The longer answer follows and hopefully, you’ll have a better idea of how to get started after reading this.
The Best of the Best of the Best, Sir!
The best place to start is by defining what “The Best” actually means. This isn’t intended to be vague. It simply means, given your mission and vision for future expansion, what would be best for you? What is best for you is not necessarily best for the next person.
Start by asking yourself what you NEED to accomplish your mission in e-learning. To do this, you will need to understand how learning fits into your organizational mission and vision. Is your mission more focused on community or learning? Resources or Knowledge Forums? Read this to dig a little deeper into this side of exploring your needs.
You will also need to understand your members or learners that are taking part in your mission. Start by asking some basic questions, like:
- What is our learner persona?
- What type of user experience would engage them the most?
- How will they enter the e-learning platform and what will we do with them after the course is finished?
- Are they learning individually or in a cohort?
- What type of communication do we want to have with them, or each other?
The answer to these questions will help you start to determine the “best” platform for your needs.
Content Matters, but...
Once you have identified what is “best” for your mission and learner, then you can take a look at your content. Many organizations make the mistake of focusing too much on the content without thinking of how it all fits into the mission, and whether or not the users will enjoy the experience. Yes, content matters, but not to the exclusion of everything else.
With your “best” for mission and learner hat on, you will see your content in a new light. You’ll immediately see ways to improve it. You might even decide to scrap some of it.
Now that you have the “best” content for your mission and your learner it’s time to look at what types of assets the content should be translated into for the best learner experience. Do you need talking head videos? Animation or motion graphics? Will there be quizzes, or live training?
How you execute your content will play a big role in which e-learning platform is “best” for you and your learner.
All That and More!
In addition to figuring out what is “best” for your mission, learner and content, you’ll need to understand a few more things:
1. How do you want your learner to journey through their experience? This involves the educational design of learning paths. Not all platforms give you the capacity to do this.
2. If you are going to monetize your e-learning, how will you do that? What will you charge? Do you want to offer discounts or coupons? Will you be charging a subscription or one-time fee? If you’ll need any of the above, make sure your platform can do it.
3. If you build it, will they come? Not necessarily. If you don’t have a marketing strategy in place and then also develop one around your e-learning, no one will take your course. Well, almost no one. Don’t waste your time picking a platform without doing this step.
4. Who is going to build and support it? Building and maintaining an e-learning platform is not as easy as the sales team and ads for the platform tell you it is. If you are technically challenged at all, hire someone to do this part for you. Stay out of the zone of incompetence!
5. What’s your budget? Notice how I ask this last? That is because it is the last thing to consider when picking the “best” e-learning platform. If you pick something cheap mainly because it’s cheap, you’ll regret it. Yes, you need to budget and count the cost, but if you pick a platform that is cheap but isn’t what is “best” for your mission and learner, you’re just wasting money anyway.
It's OK to Ask for Help
If you have done all of that but still don’t know which e-learning platform to pick, or if you get stuck along the way, it’s OK to ask for help.
We at the E5 Institute live, sleep, and breathe e-learning. And we can do all of the heavy lifting for you, so you can take it easy. In fact, it might be the “best” thing for your mission and your learner.
Just click that little button below.