It’s the time of year when many of us make travel plans with family or friends. Maybe it’s a ski vacation, a trip to Walt Disney World, or a road trip to visit relatives. When you think about it, an eLearning project is a lot like taking a trip; we have a destination in mind, and we create a plan for our journey with one or more “roadmaps.” This post will provide some helpful tips on how to make sure your eLearning journey arrives on schedule, on budget. For many reviewers who are new to the eLearning development process, embarking on an eLearning project can be like traveling to a foreign country. If this is their first “trip,” chances are they don’t speak the language. So, they go along for the ride, not sure of what they’re likely to encounter along the way. If you are designing the course, it’s your job to set up a clear road map that will help your reviewers stay with you for the entire trip.
A road map might be considered old school in today’s mobile world, but with an eLearning project, you can’t just GPS your final destination. You need to create documents such as storyboards to guide your journey. If you are in charge of creating the eLearning, there are some tips that can help your reviewers understand how to follow your roadmap.
The storyboard document is the best way to lay out the details of an eLearning course. The document serves as the primary road map that the graphic designers, animators, and developers follow to build the course. But you’ll want to make sure your reviewers can read and understand the document, too.
For example, if you use standard Microsoft Office documents for creating your storyboards and other pre-production deliverables, consider including a “legend” at the beginning of the document that uses callouts to identify the different areas of the storyboard layout. This can help your reviewers understand how to read the document.
Before sending the document out for review, it’s also helpful to meet with the reviewers to go over the document format and provide them with tips on how to review a storyboard.
For instance, you might want to suggest that when they review, they read the narration out loud, so they can hear it like their learners will hear it. If the course includes a software demonstration or other process, urge them to walk through the process, step-by-step, using the actual system to get a feel for how the storyboards will translate to the learner interactions on screen, as well as to make sure the storyboards accurately reflect the process.
Another tip, if you’re delivering a Microsoft Word document, is to point out the review features available to track changes and insert comments. If it’s a PowerPoint document, be sure your client is aware of the “strikethrough” feature as well as how to insert comments.
It’s also critical to provide your reviewers with direction on how to submit feedback. Does each stakeholder need to submit their feedback directly to you, or should all feedback be consolidated and submitted from one point of contact? This is an important decision that will affect the due dates for review comments. Asking for a “single voice,” consolidated review document can help avoid redundant or contradictory comments that you’ll need to resolve, but the reviewers will need to provide comments ahead of time to their central point of contact, so that person has time to review the comments and compile them.
Here are a couple of other “travel tips” for charting a successful eLearning project:
Be realistic about the project schedule
Urge the reviewers to be realistic in estimating the number of review days for each deliverable. If several people are involved in the review process, it may not be realistic to expect turnaround in a day or two, especially during vacation and holiday seasons. Remind them that if client approval deadlines are missed, it can cause the project delivery date to slip. If there is a “drop-dead” date by which you must deliver the course, project stakeholders may need to review the project schedule and commit to the review dates for each deliverable.
Identify and involve stakeholders early on
So who are “stakeholders?” In any given project, stakeholders have some high-level responsibility or “stake” in the project. Some stakeholders, such as legal, may not be part of the project team, but may still need to review and approve the course before it can be released. It’s critical to find out who the stakeholders are for your project and get them involved at the storyboard stage, where revisions can often be made within the scope of the project budget. Keep in mind that if a particular stakeholder has a key role in the project, but they cannot provide feedback or approval by the deadline, you might want to consider sliding the project schedule out to accommodate them. This will help to avoid costly revisions later on, if you decided to move forward without approvals.
An eLearning project can be an adventure, but if you adequately chart your course with clear storyboards that get a thorough review, the production phase should be a much smoother ride—arriving at an eLearning course you can be proud of.
Dr. Pam is a serial student, having earned more degrees than everyone at Digitec, combined. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Miami, an M.B.A. from the Crummer Graduate School of Rollins College (go Tars!), an MME from Winthrop University, a B.A. from Pfeiffer University and engaged in post graduate studies at the University of Central Florida for good measure. Pam also served her time on the other end of the classroom, having taught K-12 and at the university level prior to joining Digitec in 2003. In her 10 year tenure as Digitec's Instructional Design Director, Pam has designed dozens of eLearning courses for organizations including The Walt Disney Company, Yum! Brands, FINRA, Council for Economic Education, and the North Carolina Community College BioNetwork.
Spirit animal: Dog
Diet-breaker: Hand-cut fries
Comfort object: iPad mini
Personal vice: Reality TV
Useless talent: Can flip eyelids inside out
Unreasonable paranoia: Anything that slithers
Wishes more people cared about: em dashes