Growing awareness of the Earth’s inability to sustain our current rate of extravagant and unrestrained development has led to rapid change in the global economic, social, and political climate. Probably, the most significant outcome of this change is the emergence of the concept of sustainable development, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
This concept of sustainable development also applies to global supply chains, and procurement professionals now need to integrate a new set of environmental and social criteria into their sourcing decisions. By bringing together the principles of supply management and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), they can create a sustainable source of value, anticipate environmental issues instead of just reacting to them, and improve labor standards throughout the supply chain. Thus, organizations and employees need to be informed about CSR and create sustainable eco-friendly processes within an organization. E-learning courses can help them understand the concept as well as the benefits of adopting sustainable eco-friendly CSR initiatives.
While developing such an e-course on CSR, we gained some insights into the e-learning design which can learn better. First, discussions about sustainable eco-reforms and initiatives within the CSR structure run the risk of being too preachy or authoritative. Therefore, to make the learners realize the need to adopt green initiatives as part of their social responsibility, the e-learning content needs to be simple, interesting, and informative.
Another challenge is that these courses are mostly designed for a varied audience base, and it can be assumed that some of them may have very little prior exposure to technology-aided learning. Therefore, apart from simple and easy-to-read content, there also needs to be a course design that is fluid, so that even a new user is comfortable navigating through it.
Addressing this duality is a challenge, which can be overcome by employing the right design strategies:
Chunking of Content: For the content to be easily understood and retained, the entire course was divided into logical sections—each detailing a particular topic. The course begins with a short introduction of the concept and a brief history of CSR, and then it proceeds to illustrate various examples of green initiatives that can be adopted by organizations. At the end, the course explains the benefits of adopting these initiatives. This structure allows learners to follow a logical pattern that helps them understand the topic and its relevance. This progression helps them get comfortable with the background, before moving on to more detailed topics—just as they would do in an instructor-led training.
Simplicity of Course Content and Design: We acknowledged the fact that eco-initiatives cannot be forced and to sustain these efforts within an organization, we needed to adopt a tone that was friendly, not intimidating. On-screen text was kept minimal, but the depth of the content was not compromised. Images and graphs were extensively used to illustrate concepts and provide visual stimuli to aid understanding. Complex multi-level concepts were simplified and made more palatable through simple text and image animations.
Empowering Learners to Pick and Choose: To ensure ease-of-use for learners, a menu was created that charted the topics and subtopics in the course. The learner is free to click and browse through any section of the course as per the need. This provides learners, who already have the basic understanding of the concept, the freedom to proceed and learn more. This flexibility also helps new users to explore the depth of the course and understand its scope.
Teaching By Example: Another strategy that we adopted to drive the case for green initiatives within the corporate structure was to cite case studies and real-life examples. This strategy helped to prove that the initiatives bring real and tangible benefits to business. The case studies succeed because they cited examples and answered the quintessential question: Why should I engage in CSR?
For instance, we used an example from the hospitality industry to illustrate how the choices made in the supply chain adversely affect their profits and image, as well as the environment as a whole. This case was industry-specific, but it reemphasized the fact that corporate decisions had to be taken keeping environmental and health concerns as priority. Failing this, an organization is exposed to a lot of undesirable liability – both in terms of money and credibility.
Despite being created with simple design strategies, the e-course successfully prepares employees to be responsible for the betterment of society and preservation of the environment. By the end of the course, learners are able to appreciate how important eco-initiatives are within the corporate structure. Starting with the challenges of making the serious topic come alive, yet keeping it simple for the understanding of a varied audience, we were able to create a learning solution by employing appropriate design strategies. This was a lesson that to make an e-course exceptionally successful across a large and varied audience, simplicity is often the key.