How to start with online learning?

by Ger Driesen
11 August 2017


f you’ve never designed and delivered online learning before, where do you start? What skills do you need and how can you best choose a digital solution? To answer these questions, I participated in a podcast with @Stef Scott and @Ross Garner from GoodPractice. Here are some highlights of what the three of us discussed. Have a listen for more information, or continue reading this blog post.

Why start with delivering online learning?

Many aspects of our lives have moved online. More parts of our work are now online, so it’s logical that learning also keeps evolving in that direction. Many training providers know that they should go online, but not all know how to do it.

Where do you start with online learning? (3:10 min)

There are various ways how you can start with online learning. Rather than going to trade fairs and getting overwhelmed by all those ‘cool vendors’, just start with one thing. One learning need, one performance gap you’ve identified and one technology platform.
Many organisations jump in and pick a tool without having a good look at what the actual problem is (check out this blog post to identify what the problem is).
The key to getting started is to start with something that’s small, learn lessons from it and repeat it.

As a learning professional, be honest to yourself; if you’ve never done online learning development before, it will be a learning journey for you, so take the time to take it all in.

What if I can’t start small? (9:20 min)

Some organisations might deliberately choose a more radical change to online or blended learning, so you won’t be able to start small. In these situations, a smart ‘change management approach’ might help. For example, spend time getting feedback on what you’re building, work with pilots groups, spend time with senior stakeholders and get their buy-in. First, release the online course with a small group before enrolling the entire organisation or all clients.

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Do I need the content first or do I need the platform first? (10:27 min)

Many people ask whether they need the platform first or the content first. When training providers come to use the platform, they usually have content and courses. Identifying the best platform for what they need depends on the target audience, the characteristics of the learners and the topics of the course. You have Learning Management Systems (LMSs), which are mostly ‘management systems’, and there are platforms which are mostly a ‘learning system’. Our platform focuses on the latter, helping the learner learn.

Chicken or the egg: Do you start with content or with the platform?

Don’t forget (11:50 min) that a tool doesn’t do the design work for you; the tool will deliver what you created. You need to think first about the design of the learning journey and then about the content needed.
Some people have a great slide deck and believe you can put this on a platform to create elearning (check out my colleagues blog on this topic of using Microsoft PowerPoint for elearning. Of course, you will have a digital solution then, and it might be the first step. But, you need to focus on what it is that you want to achieve and redesign the learning journey so that it is the most efficient and decide which components in that journey will be online and which ones offline.

Which skills do I need as a professional to start with online learning? (15:39 min)

As L&D professionals, we are fond of learning and love designing learning solutions. Usually, L&D professionals don’t like the analysis part as much as the creation and delivery of learning.
But, it all starts with a good analysis, understanding the situation, the context and the learners; understanding what’s needed to increase performance. A great analysis will give you lots of clues on how to use the right blend of learning components, whether that’s online or offline.
Before you can start to design, you first need a good analysis.
Also, learning design expertise is important— which approach will get the best results for which kinds of learning or situations?
Lastly, you need to understand how technology can support learning. You need to know the functionalities and how the technology can best host or support (parts of) your learning program. Technology can vary from a small and specific app to a complete blended learning platform. So, choose the right blend and the right technology for the right situation.

Curious to know all the details? Here’s the podcast!


Ger Driesen

Ger Driesen, Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring
Think of connecting people, ideas and inspiration in the global L&D community and you’ve just created the perfect description of Ger Driesen. In his role as Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring he focuses on motivating and guiding professionals to build inspiring learning journeys. During his career he has had a variety of L&D roles, from consultant, trainer and facilitator, to L&D manager and entrepreneur. He’s also known as ‘the Dutch L&D trendcatcher’. Keep up with Ger on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Ger Driesen
Learning Innovation Leader