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Completing online training in a park

An eLearning primer - part II: what works in trucking

Mark Murrell

In the first part of this article I reviewed different approaches to eLearning and talked about the ones most commonly used in the corporate world today.

There were five main styles, ranging from very simple to very elaborate. To recap:

Each successive model is more elaborate than those that came before, so it probably comes as no surprise that they also take progressively longer to build and have increasing costs as well. While a simple slide-based course can be built in a couple of weeks for a few thousand dollars per finished hour of content (the budgeting metric for all custom eLearning), immersive and game-based courses can take upwards of a year and cost $50-75k per finished hour. Big difference!

It's important to note that one style isn't inherently better than another. They each have strengths and weaknesses, and situations where they're the perfect fit.

In trucking, however, most of them don't work very well. To understand why, we need to look at some of things that constrain an eLearning solution for trucking:

Those constraints pretty much immediately rule out some of the different eLearning types noted at the top.

Immersive and game-based courses take too long to develop to keep up with regulatory changes. They also generally rely on newer technology and better connections to deliver the maximum experience, which rules out a lot of the intended audience. Finally, they're expensive to develop in the first place, and ongoing updates would make them even more expensive, resulting in a final product that wouldn't be viable in the market. As a result, it's no surprise that you don't see courses like this in trucking right now.

Flash-based courses are faster and less expensive to develop, but they do generally require better quality equipment and connections, limiting their effectiveness here. As well, the lack of text is a problem for a good chunk of the audience who prefer to learn by reading, or English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) people who tend to do better when they can see and hear the words at the same time.

At the other end of the spectrum, basic slides are cheap and fast to develop, but the bare bones learning experience doesn't work for a good segment of the audience who need more interaction to learn properly. Regulatory training content can be pretty dry, so a simple text-and-images approach will just magnifiy that and make it even harder for people to stay engaged and learn. Plus, if you're just going to use text and images then a PDF that can be printed or shared is a better choice, or maybe an infographic that's more enjoyable and tends to be stickier for learners.

That brings us to CBT style, which actually works really well for trucking. It provides a great combination of learning elements, and fits very nicely inside the constraints noted above:

It's for those reasons that we use this model for our courses, and that last point is particularly important since we like to incorporate different elements from a variety of styles. For example, one of the benefits of immersive eLearning is that it gives people a chance to simulate real world scenarios, helping them to see how the new content fits into daily routines. We don't create fully immersive experiences, but we do use characters and scenarios to show how the content applies to real world situations. That provides a comparable benefit, but in a much more contained, sustainable package.

So, while I started this two-part piece talking about all the different kinds of eLearning that are common across the corporate education world now, those options narrow once you start considering the requirements for any specific audience. In the case of the trucking industry, and its distinct needs, CBT-style ends up as the best option. Of course, even within that box there's plenty of room for variety, but at that level it's above my pay grade so I'll leave it to Jane to cover in her articles and webinars!