eLearning Course or Job Aid: Which do your Learners Need?

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Most L&D departments are shifting from “just sit down and take this course” to “just-in-time learning.” eLearning is still important, yes, but we are seeing these trends grow:

  • Shorter courses. We like to call them “learning snacks.”
  • More reference guides. Courses are becoming more scenario based with the learning objective being to “find and locate.”
  • More interactions, scenarios, and activities within courses.
  • A new emphasis on creating a learning environment with job aids available to learners where and when they need them.

With more modalities than ever before, how do you know what learning solution to create and when? I posed this question to VP of Client Services Leanne Batchelder and she had a simple answer: do a task analysis!

Benefits of a task analysis

If you’re asking the question: “eLearning course or job aid?”, it all comes down to what people need to be able to do. Are you trying to provide support for on the job tasks? An eLearning course will be most useful for focusing on the tasks learners do the most often, or tasks that are the most critical.

Tasks that put the company at greater risk of liability, loss of money, and mistakes are also important areas to focus on in training. If poor performance increases risk in an important area, it probably should not be relegated to a job aid. Areas like these should come out in your task analysis.

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Click the link to download a sample task analysis worksheet

What about easy tasks? This is where a job aid comes in handy. If learners complete the tasks with ease, or hardly ever do them, a detailed eLearning course would be a waste of resources. If a task is really important yet easy? A task analysis will once again help identify this, and you can respond with a step by step job aid, screencast, or other more detailed medium.

job aids: simple information when its needed

Ergonomics is one training area that should either be covered in a simple, short eLearning course or a series of job aids. We are currently developing a training program for one client to help people set up their desks, manage the phone, and perform other basic tasks. They could go through training, sure, but they might not even use their new desk until a month after they take the course! And with content so simple, you can be sure learners won’t return to the LMS to look information up after the fact.

For this project, we will develop a series of job aids, such as a 5-step visual job aid that can hang in the cubicle. The needed ergonomic information is available just when they need it, just at the right time.

eLearning: For Building True Skill

eLearning is ideal for building skill in a “safe” environment. The interactions with a course give learners practice opportunities where they can “learn by doing” before being in a real situation. A course is ideal for more complicated tasks learners must perform all the time. eLearning courses motivate learners by showing the consequences of completing a task incorrectly.

Example: NxStage Home Hemodialysis Patient Training CurrDesign_NxStage_image2

We developed a blended learning curriculum for patients to perform their own home hemodialysis using NxStage’s hemodialysis machine. One part of the eLearning in this curriculum has learners practice troubleshooting alarms on their home hemodialysis machine. As you might imagine, hearing an alarm going off on a hemodialysis machine you are hooked up to is terrifying! This was an important skill and learners needed to build confidence and competence in a safe environment.

The biggest reason for patient drop-out was because the alarm would go off. A “job aid” was available and information was located in the user manual, but this was not helpful “in the moment.” Severe medical consequences would ensue if the alarm was severe… so true skill was needed in this situation.

For this reason, we made the “Troubleshooting Alarms” portion of this curriculum eLearning-based, so learners could practice safely. As a result of the updated training, NxStage was able to cap the patient drop rate at 4% per month.

Which Do I need? Possibly both

The reality is that most corporate learning programs will require both eLearning courses and job aids to be successful. The key is using the right solution with different types of content.

Not sure which you need? Try using our task analysis worksheet or contact us!

  • Kevin Dahlstrom

    Some great stuff Steven – even for us seasoned folks. Great starting place and great questions to ask before beginning the creation process.