Learning is simple. E-Learning is simple.

The training industry is built around making these things hard. Or trying to make them seem hard.

Let me clarify that.

Learning is simple, but explaining exactly what the brain does when we learn, is complex.

There are many learning theories out there. They try to explain the process we go through when we learn in different situations. None of them have cracked it. The one thing experts agree on is that we can’t explain exactly how learning works.

But that doesn’t stop us from learning. It doesn’t stop children from learning, it doesn’t stop adults from learning.

Do you need to know about learning theory, to teach people online?

Not really.

Having an awareness of different theories can be useful, but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. It’s easy to read a theory that seems sensible and then apply it to everything you do. As mentioned above that theory is guaranteed to be flawed in some way and it will cause problems. See learning styles for details.

Unless you want to be an educational academic, or neuroscientist, it’s probably better to take a more pragmatic approach.

A Common Sense Approach

The ICE framework is a simple way to think about learning. You can apply it to just about any training situation. Like all learning it works best when your audience are motivated to learn.

  • I is for idea
  • C is for context
  • E is experiment

When you’re building training, follow this three step process and you won’t go far wrong.

I is for idea

Firstly you need to explain the idea. This is your topic. We have short attention spans, so keep it under five minutes. Make it interesting and leave them wanting more. You can get a lot across in 5 minutes. If you need longer, think about how you can logically break the content down into smaller chunks.

C is for context

The second step is building context. The learner is now interested in the idea, they’re thinking:

“how could that work for me?”
“What do I need to do to make it work in my world?”

When you’re designing training you want to help them think about this by asking questions, or by prompting them to relate the idea to something they know or do already. This builds confidence and helps them move towards action.

E is experiment

The third step is experimenting with the idea. This is where the real learning happens. It’s about putting ideas into action. That can be scary the first time, so you want to think about small steps they can take to build confidence. People need feedback at this stage. They are asking:

“am I doing this right?”
“is there a better way to do this for me?”
“is it supposed to look like that?”

That’s another challenge for you as a trainer, especially online. There are many ways to overcome this, from webinars, to Skype coaching sessions, or encouraging people to share their progress in online communities.

Look out for more posts soon that go into more detail on each of these steps, including tools and tactics.

Don’t be put off if you don’t have any specialist e-learning tools or experience. Everything that e-learning technology does can be done better using open, often free tools. You don’t need to have expensive, complicated authoring tools to create great online learning experiences.

What you do need is passion, creativity and curiosity. With the right mindset anyone can create engaging, effective online training for their audience.

With the right mindset e-learning is simple.