-3. How does the number of students affect your e-learning solution?

- Depending on the number of students you have to teach, you can get very different e-learning solutions.

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Are you trying to train dozens of students with e-learning or hundreds of thousands? You'll get different kinds of solutions depending on what you answer to that question. (In the same way, if you need to transport yourself across town, you have a certain number of transportation choices. But if you need to transport 500 conventioneers, you have another class of choices—including buses but excluding motorcycles.)

Here are some of the attributes that shift depending on the number of students you're trying to train:

Cost Considerations

In general, it will cost more overall to train more students. If you can train ten students for X dollars, then you might be able to train 1,000 students for, say, 100 times X dollars, but 100 is more than ten (even though the cost per student goes down).

Instructional Design Considerations

The fact is that the amount of instructional design effort you put into an e-learning course is a variable. You might want to spend more instruction effort if the training is going to more people.

We like to think that all learning events need to be well structured according to sound instructional design principles all the time. But the fact is that they aren't in live, face-to-face learning sessions and they don't need to be 100 percent sound for e-learning either.

Delivery Considerations

With dozens of students, you probably don't need an LMS. But with thousands of students you will. If you are training hundreds or thousands of students, then you can start thinking about putting in a robust LMS to handle the administrative end of delivering courses. You could spread the fixed cost of that LMS over the large number of students. But if you are only training a handful of students, then you'll look for e-learning solutions that don't depend on such a robust infrastructure.

-4. How does student time available affect your e-learning solution?

- Depending on how much time students have to spend on the training, you can get very different e-learning solutions.

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Your employees have jobs to do, and you can't expect them to spend 100 percent of their time on e-learning (or on anything else outside the mainline path of their job).

1. The first question is whether the students can spend weeks in training or only a couple of hours? You don t want to design a training session that takes forty consecutive hours when the student can be expected to have only two hours available to spend on it. If only ten minutes are available each day, then you ll design the training to get the maximum effectiveness within those ten minutes. In that case, also, you should probably expect that the student will move slowly (or erratically) through a series of chunks.

2. The next question to ask is "How big are the blocks of time you can expect from the student?". Your e-learning should be different in feel. If the student only has minutes a day to spend on the training, then the training should be in ten- to fifteen-minute independent chunks. On the other hand, if you are sure the students can spend concentrated periods, then you can construct the course in longer chunks (forty to sixty minutes), and you can expect a student to work through a series of chunks in quick order.

-5. How does time to build affect your e-learning solution?

- Depending on how much time you have to get it up and running, you can get very different e-learning solutions.

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Do you have months to develop the training course? Or only days? E-learning courses can take anywhere from one week to six months (and longer) to put together. (In general, the simpler things take less time to build.)

In general, if you have only a short time to develop an e-learning course, you ll need to start looking at simpler approaches even if those approaches are imperfect.

You may face the situation where you can return lots of benefits from a planned e-learning system, but you just don't have the time to get it working the exact way you want it right now. So do you do nothing? Of course not. If you can't solve the whole problem with your existing budget, then you take bite-size chunks of the problem and make progress. Then you take another bite-size chunk a little later.

Another approach is to overlap things by delivering parts of the course while other parts are being developed. That way, if the whole course would take three months to develop, you might develop the first part of the course in the first month, and start delivering it while the rest of the course is still under development.

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