5 Tips For Running A Successful eLearning Focus Group

5 Tips For Running A Successful eLearning Focus Group
Summary: Regardless of whether you are brand new to the world of eLearning or have been involved with countless eLearning projects over the years, we all know just how important feedback is during the eLearning design and development process. One of the most effective feedback tools you have at your disposal is eLearning focus groups. In this article, I'll share some tips for how to successfully conduct an eLearning focus group that can give you the insight you need.

How To Run Successfully An eLearning Focus Group

Conducting an eLearning focus group may seem like a simple and straightforward task. After all, how hard could it really be to get invaluable feedback when you have access to an entire group of participants? But it's not as easy as it appears, if you want to get the most feedback from your eLearning focus group, then you may want to keep these tips in mind.

  1. Determine the whys of your eLearning focus group beforehand.
    If you aren't sure why you are conducting an eLearning focus group, then you simply aren't going to be able to pinpoint the problems or challenges that need to be addressed by its participants. For example, if you know that there might be an issue with the second module of your eLearning course that involves an eLearning scenario, then you can focus on that while you are developing your list of questions or discussion topics. For example are the characters realistic and relatable for your learners? Are the eLearning scenario questions relevant and to the point? Essentially, you'll want to think about the problems that you want to solve using the information you gather during the discussions with the eLearning focus group.
  2. Who you choose to participate is essential.
    Ideally, you'll want to get a diverse group of people involved in the eLearning focus group. However, each and every one of the participants should be chosen carefully. Try to pick people that represent members of your target audience, as well as those who may be involved with the design and development of your eLearning deliverable. For instance, you may want to pick a handful of learners who represent different demographics within your audience, such as someone who may be more experienced and another who may be less tech-savvy or unfamiliar with eLearning courses. Subject matter experts, department heads, managers, and IT specialists within the organization may also be key members. When choosing your participants, it's important to keep one specific “rule” in mind. If at all possible, try to avoid placing within the same eLearning focus group employees and their department managers. It might be best to hold two or more separate eLearning focus groups, in fact, dividing the participants by their level within the organization. This way, subordinates would be able to speak freely, without worrying about repercussions, and management could be open about how their employees might respond to the training without worrying about upsetting their staff.
  3. How many participants should you invite?
    There is no “sweet spot” when it comes to choosing the ideal number of eLearning focus group participants. However, it should be more than two, but still manageable. Remember that the primary reason why you are holding an eLearning focus group is to gain insight and opinions about your eLearning course by listening to the thoughts and discussions of your participants. As such, you will need to make sure that there are enough people there to spark these engaging discussions, but not so many that participants feel as though they can't speak openly or that their voice isn't being heard.
  4. Carefully consider your venue, schedule, and group parameters.
    Try to make your eLearning focus group no longer than an hour. If need be, you can extend that to 90 minutes, but only if you truly believe that you can keep engagement level high the entire time. Also, you may want to schedule it during a time when participants won't feel rushed or inconvenienced. For example, if you ask them all to come to an eLearning focus group on a Saturday morning, then they will have to give up their weekend in order to participate, which may impact the data that you receive. Just as important as when you hold the group, is where you hold it. Think about where the participants will be most comfortable, and where you'll have enough space to set up a table and chairs to accommodate all of your members. Ideally, they should all be able to see one another during the session, so that they are encouraged to actively participate. If you are planning on running a lengthy eLearning focus group or if it conflicts with mealtime, consider a venue that serves lunch or breakfast, or arrange for food to be brought in. Remember, you want them to feel welcomed and appreciated, as this will allow you to collect the most accurate data. Lastly, set some group parameters right from the start. In fact, you may even want to provide every participant with a welcome letter or email that states the main goal of the eLearning focus group and what will be expected of them. For instance, you can let them know that they will be asked to stay focused, discuss questions and share opinions, and keep the discussion focused on the topic at hand.
  5. Develop a detailed agenda to keep everything on track.
    Every eLearning focus group will have a different agenda, based upon the desired outcome and nature of the eLearning course. However, it's often best to lead off by encouraging members of the group to introduce themselves, followed by an introduction of the eLearning course. You can then review the objectives and goals of the group, before diving into the group parameters. Then you can begin the question and answer portion of the session, which should also involve lively discussions, and then wrap up the eLearning focus group by collecting any printed feedback tools, such as surveys, and thanking the participants.

Use these eLearning focus group tips to lead a group that will give you an abundance of useful data, which you can use to make your eLearning courses even more powerful and effective.

Still unsure as to whether a focus group is right for your eLearning project? The article Reasons To Use Focus Groups in eLearning highlights 6 of the most notable benefits of using focus groups when developing and designing eLearning courses.