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Crisis L&D: Delivering high-quality learning, fast

by Melany Blackwell, co-founder and CEO, App-eLearn

The email arrived on a Wednesday afternoon. Critical training needed to be rolled out to a large cohort of several thousand people on Monday morning – on a shoestring budget. It was a high-profile project. The training was a matter of saving lives.

So, with no time to lose, it was a case of roll-up-the-sleeves and get it done well and fast. But how do we produce a quality learning resource under such constraints?

Crisis L&D: Keyboard with emergency key in red

Mission impossible?         

What sounds like an impossible scenario can be a harsh reality in times of crisis. Need we mention ‘COVID- related training’ and its impact on the way we do business since 2020?

Learning and development teams can be valuable champions of crisis communications and training if they are able to build on their strengths and can adjust their usual modus operandi. So, here are a few considerations to aid a successful high-profile crisis training project.

Think basics during crisis L&D

The need for speed leaves no room for L&D business as usual – which normally comes with planning cycles to design eLearning courses and training programs intended for a long shelf life in a learning management system (LMS).

What is needed during a time-critical crisis is a rapid development piece, homing in on the core message to be conveyed. Ask, ‘what does the minimal learning solution look like that covers all a learner needs right now?’

Who? Where? What? How?

Communication and training channels during a crisis may differ from where people normally access their training. When there is a need to deliver training to thousands of learners within days, face-to-face sessions are unlikely to be an option (especially during the peak of COVID), so digital is the way to go.

The learning piece needs to be able to be deployed across all necessary and existing channels and devices, with minimal bandwidth and fit for purpose for the situation at hand. The channels can be an organisation’s own LMS, LRS or social learning platform, but may also need to include access through mobile and web channels. The chosen learning format needs to cater for a full suite of diversity and accessibility without delay.

Clear-cut processes   

It is important to assign clear, uncomplicated review cycles and accountability for content development. There is no room for a substandard performance in learning design, accessibility issues or unplanned technical complications when it comes around to delivery time on the Monday morning.

The same principle applies to input from subject matter experts and ensuring stakeholder reviews are tightly managed. Look for the shortest route to obtain definite, authoritative sign-offs on technical matters. Should in- house team capacity or skill be a threat to the project, engage trusted learning vendors with a proven track record of being able to deliver high quality fast. A job like this one cannot afford to go wrong – people’s lives were at risk.

Tools and resources       

Crisis L&D is not the time for long storyboarding or designing learning artefacts in an iterative, agile way; this is the time to be on-point with key learning messages. Think repurposed photography, rapidly produced video and illustration, and eLearning authoring tools that offer the flexibility to carry them all.

Use authoring/design tools with templates, a range of interactivity effects that are accessible, responsive and platform agnostic – and that inexperienced learning authors could operate under remote instruction if required. If mobile deployment is needed, choose an authoring tool that is natively fully responsive, without the need to recode or manually adjust break points for different screen sizes.

L&D teams are on a front line during this pandemic.

Melany Blackwell, Co-founder and CEO, App-eLearn


Typically, in a crisis, a watertight way to see who has completed the training is needed. Whatever learning platform and authoring tool is used, the end product needs to seamlessly integrate learning analytics and big- data tracking into existing systems for fast and detailed reporting.

L&D teams have become much better at learning analytics over the past few months; some have learned about, and adopted, xAPI. Those teams will be ahead of the game in deploying rapid learning pieces with solid granular trackability for compliance and performance measuring purposes.

L&D teams are on a front line during this pandemic. They can be a catalyst for rapid development of quality crisis learning artefacts if they build on their wealth of experience, embrace tools which support rapid development using easy-to-use pre-built templates, with automation around responsive design and learning analytics.

In our high-profile crisis case, the COVID-related training was indeed delivered Monday morning and it was accessible immediately from any location, any device, automatically capturing learner data and completions for analytics.

Months later, we are able to validate that the training was timely and effective. As L&D professionals, we were rewarded in knowing our training played a critical role in keeping staff trained, and in turn, our crisis L&D helped save lives.

This article originally appeared in Training & Development Magazine, March 2021 Vol. 48 No. 1, published by the Australian Institute of Training and Development.

Why we need to create eLearning that works on any device

The eLearning industry is ripe for radical disruption, and we need to create eLearning that works on any device to stay relevant in the future.

We are already facing the reality that learners, especially younger cohorts, are engaging best with eLearning that works on any device, on any browser, anywhere and at any time and rejecting traditional eLearning that serves large content chunks through courses that live in outdated Learning Management Systems (LMS). Many organisations still seem to depend on an LMS that solely supports desktop learning, and LMS vendors are scrambling to apply bandaid upgrades to accommodate the deployment of content via a smartphone or through an app. However, in many cases, this requires learners to click up to 10 times to launch a single piece of content.

Added to this, much of the content isn’t designed for easy use on a mobile and is stuck in the fixed window setting. Courses tend to be manually structured with impractical breakpoints. Many courses only support one or two key browsers and fall down when there’s any instance of compatibility mode running within an organisation’s operating environment.

Learners are used to ‘googling’ information where and when they want it.

While traditional eLearning satisfies system compliance, it is not always the best way to roll out flexible user-focused content to time-poor learners, especially for ‘point of need’ learning pieces. Hopefully organisations are already embracing micro-learning and appreciating the ‘just-in-time’, ‘just enough’ and ‘just for me’ benefits of it.

The LMS and desktop learning are no longer the norm

In our experience, many organisations, once they have a learning system, feel compelled to make the most of it or put up with its limitations because it was in a bundled arrangement organised through procurement, rather than exploring new ways to create eLearning that works for both learners and the L&D investment.

When existing practice does not cater to end-user needs, new solutions will emerge and shift the paradigm of ‘how we do things’. This new solution is responsive eLearning authoring tools, enabling the production of learning pieces that automatically work on any desktop, tablet or smartphone. We’re talking here about fully mobile first and 100% responsive solutions, not clunky creations that attempt to be responsive by relying on manually set breakpoints.

Early adopters set the new benchmarks

Authoring tools that aren’t natively designed to be mobile first and fully responsive either don’t operate on smaller devices or require the manual configuration of multiple breakpoints. This is time-consuming and more expensive when using an external developer. Currently, to our knowledge, there isn’t an authoring tool that is 100% responsive, WCAG AA compliant for accessibility, natively HTML5, and also SCORM compliant and xAPI enabled.

In the absence of a suitable authoring tool and coming from our longstanding experience in eLearning design, we therefore spent the past 12 months working with our industry partners to develop App-eLearn. Based on the open-source Adapt framework, we have enhanced its technology and supercharged its features, functions and plug-ins, and raised its capabilities to suit the needs of modern enterprise L&D teams.

Here is what you can expect from App-eLearn:

App-eLearn helps you create eLearning that works on any device:

  • The core functionality and intuitive interface makes creating truly responsive content quick and easy. The enhanced software takes care of adapting the material, so it displays well on any device. No additional coding or plug-in management is required.
  • The authoring tool is xAPI enabled and SCORM compliant.
  • Flexible design options will suit any brand and context.
  • Scalable content enables you to repurpose and expand learning pieces quickly and easily across multiple brands or versions.
  • Cloud-based access and automatic back-ups mean that you will be able to access the tool from anywhere, and you can collaborate online with other team members with no installation or downloads needed.
  • Our Australian based technical team supports you, so you do not have to know how to install a plug-in or learn how to create your own.
  • Leverage from freely available plug-ins or create your own custom features so you can spend your effort enhancing your own enterprise version.

Could you benefit from responsive eLearning design?

Responsive eLearning design solutions pay off for large, multi-brand organisations that understand the need to provide eLearning directly to their learners – that means providing content that is optimised for all screen sizes, especially the smartphone. Furthermore, a genuinely responsive authoring tool like App-eLearn minimises the required development time for creating responsive eLearning, thereby reducing the need for a technical eLearning developer, supporting the implementation of Learning Record Stores and Learning Experience Platforms, and efficiently supporting organisations rolling out content across different brands.

Responsive eLearning development with App-eLearn fits all sizes of business, large or small

At the other end of the spectrum are small to medium-sized businesses who wish to create eLearning themselves but do not necessarily want to invest in expensive single licence authoring tools that require a greater level of technical capability.

Would you like to learn more about App-eLearn?

Contact our team today to find out how we can help you meet your learning and development goals, or access our free trial here and watch how to get started here.

By supporting mobile responsive eLearning, your content will keep up to date and be compatible with the exciting developments coming to eLearning during 2020 and beyond.

Don’t get left behind – make it your priority to investigate the difference between adaptive breakpoints and responsive eLearning, and create learning that works on any device!