There are two types of people in the world. Planners and non-planners. When handed an ELearning project planners tend to sit down and plan things out to some extent while the non-planners dive right in, open Captivate and start to build their course. For this second group of people it isn’t unusual to realize half-way through development or, even worse, when the project is complete that the course you built doesn’t meet the requirements you were given, things don’t work correctly, or maybe you just built the course in the most inefficient way possible making future enhancements difficult or impossible.
Asking a few questions and spending a couple hours designing the course you’ve been tasked with building can prevent a lot of this.
Over the past year and continuing for at least the next 6 to 9 months I have been working with a team to build some complex to extremely complex ELearning courses and among the things I’ve learned is how important planning is. While I’ve always been somewhat of a planner when approaching these types of projects my plans are usually loose and vague, hitting only the “high points”. I have found that this approach works will for projects that allow for a lot of creativity but not for projects that have a more “stringent” set of rules.
After a year working on my first ELearning project this is my planning process:
When I’m handed a project the first thing I want to know (besides when’s the deadline) is what are the requirements? I want to know every single thing that needs to be built into the course down to the smallest detail and I want to how everything is expected to work. The only way to gather this information is to ask questions. Some of your questions will be answered when you are handed a project but others won’t and you may need to talk to several different people to get the answers you need. For answers about look, feel, and features you’ll probably talk to the Instructional Design person or team and for implementation questions you may need to talk to the software developers, the IT Department, or research the implementation process yourself.
The questions you ask will vary by project but some of the ones I tend to ask for every project are:
Questions for the Content Designer
Should the course be responsive?
Does the course need to be built in more than one language?
Is there audio in the course?
If there is audio does the user need to be able to turn it on and off or pause it?
What type of questions will be in the course (knowledge check and/or quiz questions)?
Questions for the technical team
Is the content going into an LMS?
What output does the LMS need/expect?
What format should the content be published in?
All of these (and about 100 more) are things you really need to know before you jump in and start building. You don’t want to build the entire course using Flash widgets only to find out when you publish that the format the LMS requires or the implementation the development team has planned doesn’t support Flash. Likewise, you don’t wat to spend hours developing a custom solution for an issue to find out the published project isn’t passing out all of the required information to the LMS.
Asking the right questions before you start building and then planning your project will save a lot of time and headaches and make you a better Content Developer.