Testing Your eLearning Course

Editor's Note: Today’s guest post is part of a blog series on creating elearning courses by Sharlyn Lauby, SPHR, CPLP. Sharlyn is a HR pro turned consultant with more than 20 years of professional human resources experience.

Up to this point, we’ve been talking about the brand and content of your elearning program. We’ve focused on your course delivering its objective. Now we have some technical aspects to consider.

Prior to publishing your elearning program on OpenSesame, you should make time to test your program. The last thing anyone wants is for all of the hard work designing and developing a program not to be successful. There are two steps in the testing phase: compliance and user experience.

First, it’s essential to make sure your elearning program meets both the required, as well as the generally accepted, guidelines for elearning technology. Here are three guidelines to review:

  • 508 Compliance refers to the section of the U.S. Workforce Rehabilitation Act that requires federal agencies and their contractors to make electronic technology accessible to persons with disabilities. It includes minimum acceptable standards such as text labels, graphic descriptors and formatting elements. 
  • Accessibility is often used in conjunction with 508 Compliance. It has to do with making content easy to use. In 1997, the White House and the World Wide Web Consortium introduced the Web Accessibility Initiative to provide checklists and guidelines for web designers, including elearning developers. 
  • SCORM stands for the Sharable Content Object Reference Model. It’s a group of standards for web-based learning. SCORM defines how the learning management system (LMS) and elearning content communicate with each other.

Most elearning author tools have tips and resources on their site about compliance and accessibility standards. In addition, OpenSesame offers a “508 Compliance for eLearning” course.

The last piece to testing is user experience. In the classroom environment, we might call it a pilot group. This is an opportunity for participants to give feedback not only about the content, but the flow of the elearning, colors, graphics, etc. We might think the course is perfect but, frankly, we’re emotionally attached to it. We created it.

When having others test your elearning, consider setting up a way to observe participants taking the course. Don’t interrupt the participant or help them during the observation. You won’t be there when individuals take the course online. This is a simulation of the experience. Take notes while the participant is taking the course:

  • Length of time participants spend on a particular screen, task, and activity.
  • Look for facial expressions that show a participant liked or didn’t care for something.
  • Watch for times when the participant thought something was funny, serious, or possibly irrelevant.
  • Pay attention to moments when it appears the participant struggles to find something on a screen or activity.

After the pilot groups, you can make any necessary adjustments to the course. It will give you the comfort that, once the program is published, you have a good sense of what participants are doing at any given time during the session.

These two levels of testing provide course developers with a double check of their work. During course design, we conduct our content check with subject matter experts. Now, it’s time to confirm that your elearning medium will deliver.

Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender, whose blog is a friendly place to discuss workplace issues. When she’s not “tending bar”, Sharlyn is president of ITM Group, Inc., which specializes in training solutions to help clients retain and engage talent. Her personal goal in life is to find the best cheeseburger on the planet. Connect with her on Google+ or follow her on Twitter.