eLearning: should we use it or lose it?09 May 2019
Admit it – we’ve all taken, or maybe even (whisper it) been responsible for, a bad eLearning course. Perhaps it contained scenarios with no basis in real life, or slide upon slide of mind-numbing detail. Maybe the bold design induced a migraine.
It’s no secret that eLearning has been given a bad rep over the years. It is often used merely as a box-ticking exercise – a way to prove that employees have met their learning requirements. This can be especially true within cybersecurity.
The advantages of eLearning
You may be unconvinced that eLearning can work for you, but before you close this page, let’s consider the benefits.
Firstly, it can be logistically and financially challenging to host bespoke training to meet your employees’ individual needs. eLearning is a cost-effective way of delivering your message to the masses.
An eLearning course is also a readily available resource that can be accessed whenever your employee needs it. It is less daunting than a long policy document and conveys key messages quickly and effectively.
Using eLearning, you can also deliver learning consistently, so you can be confident that everybody is exposed to the same, correct information.
These advantages, however, will be lost if a course is poorly designed or if it is not embedded within a supportive environment.
Making the most of eLearning
1. Make it relevant – for you
Before creating an eLearning course, think about what you want to achieve. Consider analysing your employees’ current security behaviours to identify your priorities.
Stick to a few key messages. What do you need them to know? Keep it concise and consider splitting courses into modules to segment the learning into bite-sized chunks.
2. Make it relevant – for your employees
Adults are motivated to learn when a subject has immediate relevance to them, either personally or professionally. Make sure your employees can relate to the content in the course by framing threats in a real-life context – talk about the potential personal impact at home and work.
Focus on the personal benefits of behavioural change by providing examples of good security behaviour within plausible real-life scenarios.
3. Make it interactive
Traditional learning theories saw the human mind as a blank slate, with the teacher transmitting their knowledge to the learner. We now know, however, that people need to engage with their learning for it to be most effective.
Within your course, your employees should learn by doing. Use activities that challenge them to think, rather than passively absorb the information. This is much more likely to result in positive behavioural change.
4. Make it accessible
Research shows that people are more likely to remain engaged if their learning preferences are accounted for, so try to incorporate various modes of learning into your course. Use visual and auditory elements alongside your content and cater to kinaesthetic preferences with interactive activities.
Always consider how design elements can impact learners with different needs and ensure your course caters to disability requirements.
5. Make time
No matter how engaging your eLearning is, there will always be someone who tries to rush through and move on.
It is essential that you understand why employees might behave in this way. Have they been given adequate time? Do they see the relevance? Has the course been bundled with others that they must complete immediately as part of their induction?
Make sure employees have the time to take the course without rushing. If there are several courses to complete, try to split them over several days or weeks, if possible.
6. Make it memorable
Any eLearning course will be undermined if the learner is not given appropriate and timely feedback. Feedback positively reinforces your key messages, meaning they are more likely to be retained.
Explain why the learner is correct, or tell them where they went wrong without giving away the correct answer. Encourage them to think about the question, allow them to re-read the learning material, and give them another chance to get it right. If they continue to have difficulties, step in and provide additional instruction or re-evaluate your course.
7. Make it a part of a wider campaign
eLearning is not a panacea – it needs to sit within a broader awareness campaign.
Your employees are more likely to remember the learning if it is repeated at least three times in different ways, so use a variety of platforms to emphasise your core messages.
It is also vital that the wider environment encourages good security behaviour. Make sure everybody is on board with your awareness campaign, particularly your top executives.
Now, make it count
There’s a big difference between using eLearning as a compliance exercise and making sure your message is understood and implemented. We must reassess the role of eLearning within our employee awareness strategies for it to be an effective vehicle for behavioural change.
Keep your employees engaged by ensuring your course is relevant, accessible and interactive, and place the course into a broader awareness campaign to reinforce key messages.
Let’s redefine eLearning. It’s not a tedious compliance exercise, but a valuable educational tool that we can use to transform security behaviours – if you use it to its full potential.