From the experience of our COO: Custom eLearning for the Pharma industry

The creation of good eLearning courses is a matter of asking a lot of right questions at the right time. The right time is before you even begin developing those courses, and some of the right questions are:

1.What is the main goal this course needs to accomplish?
2.What is the consequence for the individual / the company if this goal is not met?
3. Who is the target audience?
   a)What is their current knowledge level?
   b)Are they motivated to go through these courses or not?
4.….

All of these and many other questions are here to set your production on the right track.

Imagine you go jogging. Would you run the same way if you needed to run for 1 kilometer and for 10 kilometers? You wouldn’t. If it’s a shorter track, you would probably sprint and come to your destination much faster. But if it’s a longer track, you’d need to involve strategy as much as your legs – preserving energy and keeping your breathing steady would be of crucial importance.

The same thing is with eLearning – if the goal of your course is coming from the sales perspective and is aimed at your customers, you (or the agency creating your courses) are going to use different techniques.

You’ll focus on USPs and other sales arguments. You’re not going to go too deep because customers want to be entertained and not bored to death with all the possible technical details of your product. Instruction for your copywriters would be to focus on “what’s in it for the customer” because writing about features is a way to fail in sales. But writing about what your customer will get from those features, well…now we’re talkin’.

On the other hand, if you’re educating your employees or maybe channel distributors on the new product you just launched, then, by all means, you need to go into detail. You need to tell them everything. You can also be more relaxed when it comes to all the bells and whistles one eLearning can have (gamification, storytelling, AR/VR…) because quite often, there is a higher level of intrinsic motivation from your employees than from your end customers.

Now…let’s talk Pharma!

We have some big Pharma names in our portfolio. For them, we have created more than 100 courses over the last two years. And through that, we got some amazing insight into the best practices of eLearning in the Pharma industry.

Let me share them with you.

1. If your target audience is doctors and nurses – keep it simple and don’t waste their time

Targeting this audience means dealing with people who are extremely busy and have no time to spare. In addition to that, they are highly motivated to go through these courses since not knowing all they need to know will have a horrible impact on somebody’s health and life, as well as on the carrier of that particular health practitioner.

We had a lot of courses where we needed to teach this audience how to use a certain machine, how to do a certain procedure, how to treat a certain condition…

…So, what does it all mean in practice?

Keep it simple and straightforward. Do not waste their time with gamification and even storytelling (they are motivated enough, no need for external motivators). Interactivity and animation should also be kept at a minimum. Be precise with content and go straight to the point. Your goal here is to give all the necessary information as straightforward as possible and make the eLearning as short as possible.

2. If your target audience is older patients – keep it even simpler!

We had several courses aimed at older patients where we needed to instruct them on how to use their medication, what their new diet plan was, what to do between treatments…

The first thing we all needed to remember was that this generation is not tech-savvy. So all of the interactivity elements needed to be kept to the absolute minimum. At the beginning of the course, we created a very detailed navigation slide where we explained what means what in the course.

The biggest mistake here is to assume something will be self-explanatory in the course. It cannot be self-explanatory for the generation that didn’t grow up with technology. You need to explain it. Then fonts need to be bigger because some people might have difficulties with reading. Colors need to be chosen with the same thought in your mind – use contrasting colors for writing because subtle differences might be more difficult to read.

Have both subtitles and voice-over in the course. Make sure that voice over is instructing them on what to do next (“Now, left-click on the Next button that just appeared”)

Keep in mind this target group has multiple fears when going through your courses:

fear of technology: they didn’t grow up with it, and they are stressed out by the fact they need to use it, so keep everything simple and don’t stress them out even more
– fear of their condition: whatever it is that you are explaining to them, they are sensitive about it and potentially afraid of it. Use a reassuring tone of voice when choosing the right Voice-over artist, but also instruct them to sound certain and full of authority at some crucial parts of your training, so people feel the same comfort as they do from their doctors
fear of making a mistake with your course: if you want people to do something, make it very obvious and explain what needs to be done.

3. Double, no, no, triple-check the content!

There is rarely an industry where a typo in the content can have such dramatic and horrible consequences as in the pharma and medical industry. Can you just imagine explaining how to do a certain procedure, and then you mistakenly write 85 instead of 58mg of a certain medicine.

How to tackle this?

Normal procedure is – always include the proofreading agency. But here, that’s not enough. Make sure that after the proofreading agency goes through the text, your content creators go through it once again. And not just to read, but to compare numbers, percentages, technical terms, and similar content with the raw content you have provided them with.

We had a pharma client who didn’t allow us to write content at all. We were forbidden to change anything as the content was prepared by the doctors. Whenever we spotted a typo or a grammatical mistake, we would take a screenshot, write our suggestion on top of that screenshot, and send it to the client for approval. This is how seriously we took it.

4. Make sure to stay on top of the production with your Project management

Things need to go fast here. Rapid development is of the key importance in the Pharma industry because things change – new procedures are coming, the new medicine is being tested, and new regulations are taking the place of the old ones.

There are also a lot of stakeholders, and guess what – they are all super busy.

Managing this development is crucial because otherwise, the production will last for months, and you need it in a matter of weeks. Feedback will be delayed because Subject Matter Experts have a lot of other work to do. It could also be extremely different – where one stakeholder says one thing, the other wants the complete opposite.

I am not here to tell you which of the Project management frameworks is the best. I’m just here to tell you – you need to be on top of it and hold the production firmly in your hands.

What are your experiences with eLearning for Pharma Industry? I’d like to hear more about it and, hopefully – write another blog post on that subject. Share with me your opinion at [email protected].