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Satisfying eLearning Customers and Users

by Ron Kurtus (revised 24 January 2012)

A major goal in developing e-learning material is to satisfy the users, such that it meets their expectations and fulfills their needs. It should also satisfy the needs of the customer or person who paid for the training.

To try to satisfy the users and customers of the eLearning material, you must first find their opinions about it and then seek to achieve satisfaction and value.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



Finding out opinions

If you are developing CBT, WBT, or similar electronic documentation, you need to find out what the learners feel about the experience of using your training.

Use your own opinion

One way is to examine other CBT or WBT material yourself. If you are getting in the business, you should become a connoisseur of computer-based training. Try them out. Dissect them. Be objective and apply your "gut feeling" whether or not it gets the job done.

Interview recent users

Interviews and and talk with recent users of your company's or your CBT material. Find out what they liked or didn't like. Ask for suggestions for improvements. Try to get beyond their politeness to find out what they really think.

Survey users

Surveys can provide some information, but much good information is lost from those who don't care to bother filling in the answers. Usually dissatisfied customers don't want to bother with a survey.

Try to keep the survey very short and brief.

Typical complaints

Typical complaints about CBT material can be broken into a few main areas:

Difficult to read

Being able to easily read the material on screen is a major area of concern of users. Problem areas include poor color combinations,  too much text, having to scroll too much, and boring material affect readability.

Color combinations

Just as you prefer to read black text on white page, instead of something like red text on green paper, user also prefer not to have colorful reading areas. You don't have to stick to black and white, but you should avoid difficult-to-read color combinations.

Too much small text

Although a learner may read many pages in a textbook, having to read the same amount on the monitor can be unpleasant. This is especially true if the font is too small. You really have to shorten your material and get to the point. Use pictures instead of words to describe something.

Scrolling

Also, the necessity of having to scroll can be irritating. Scrolling doesn't work that well, so clicking to turn a page may be more desirable.

Boring

Because it is not as easy to read from the monitor as it is from paper, there is also a tendency to become easily bored and to lose interest.

A solution is to break the material into chunks that are presented on separate pages. Also, break the material into smaller sections and add questions or exercises to break the monotony of reading.

Another way to reduce boredom in reading is to add a little levity so that the subject matter is not presented in a heavy-handed manner. Of course, you must be caution in using humor that may not seem proper to some in your audience.

Too many interactions

Although interactions are an important advantage of CBT, requiring too many interactions, especially with a mouse, can also be irritating. That is why people don’t like to scroll too much. Giving the option of using the keyboard makes the interaction of a page-turner less stressful.

Some designers overdo interactions, requiring the user to do many contortions to get information that could easily be stated on a page or screen.

Simulations and games good

Interactions should be easy, necessary, and engaging. That is why simulations or games that require multiple user interactions are enjoyable, but multiple interactions to simply get information are disliked.

Wasted time

People are busy, and they want to get through their CBT in a minimum of time. They do not want to have to sit through unnecessary animations or overly detailed explanations.

Time consuming animations

The worst case of this I have ever seen was in a software tutorial that would not let you go to the next page until their cutesy-but useless-animation was complete. I only got through the first two pages before giving up.

On the Web

When providing material over the World Wide Web, you must also be conscious of the transmission speed limitations. Complex graphics, sound, video and animation can take a very long time to download over the Web. People don’t want to wait several minutes for the next screen to load.

Not value-added

When someone takes any type of training, and especially if it is a CBT, that person wants to learn something of value. Too many products give fluff and show fancy special effects, but do not give you the information you want.

Useless information

One example of useless information that I recently ran into was a CBT on "How to Use JavaScript" from a major provider of computer training titles. The first 20-minute section gave the history of JavaScript. Like, who cares? I wanted to learn how to use it, not how it evolved over the years. Also, the graphics were pretty, but the information trickled slowly.

Get money's worth

People want to learn and to get their money’s worth and value for the time they spend. They’d rather learn something from a 100-page book than to have to read 300 pages for the same information.

Seeking to satisfy

By checking what customers really want in eLearning, you can increase their satisfaction. A CBT that teaches in the shortest time possible is the best.

Unfortunately, there are often other factors involved that can hinder a developer's effort to make the best CBT possible for the customer. Upper management may want to add material to justify a high price, or there may be a certain corporate look that someone wants, even though it hinders the learning process.

You should try to satisfy what the user wants, but you still need to adhere to what your customer—the person who pays you—wants.

Summary

Users are concerned with the ease of reading, the interesting use of interactions, the speed of the training and its value. These are factors to keep in mind when developing your CBT or WBT titles.


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Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

eLearning Resources

Books

Top-rated books on eLearning


Questions and comments

Do you have any questions, comments, or opinions on this subject? If so, send an email with your feedback. I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.


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