Just like most other projects, eLearning projects can quickly become unmanageable – courses grow out of scope or Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to request multiple changes. Why does this happen, and how can it be avoided?
Managing expectations is key to ensuring that projects are delivered on time and within scope. Many SMEs do not know much about eLearning; therefore, frequently they do not know what to expect. This is why it is important to discuss not only the content with stakeholders but also the design of the eLearning course. In addition to showing examples of similar eLearning courses, ISD professionals should provide completed demos to stakeholders, and walk them through the look and feel of the course the first time they view a demo. It is important to communicate what the final product will look like, because in every iteration leading up to that point, the stakeholder may not understand how storyboards will suddenly become a slick-looking product. Setting expectations with stakeholders about the visual aspect of the course is just as crucial as the content delivery.
Avoiding derailment of the project plan can also be helped by determining the gatekeeper of the content. Sometimes, stakeholders know exactly how they want the content worded, and are very particular about the way the content is broken out into chunks and presented to the learner. Therefore, when they see the final product (created from the instructional designer’s point of view), they come back with multiple changes and corrections. Early in the project planning process, eLearning specialists should ask SMEs and stakeholders if they want to present their content in a particular way, and find out who is the point of contact for answering any questions or for approving the wording of the material. This also applies to the method of presentation. For example, sometimes instructional designers may want to arrange the screens in a certain way, but stakeholders may not understand the reason behind the selected approach; therefore, they may not agree with it. While explaining that all decisions follow instructionally sound principles may be helpful, some stakeholders will not give up their preferences. Communicating early and often can save a lot of development time and help to stay on track. Additionally, communication should always be documented, and stakeholder’s signature must be obtained.
Last, but certainly not least, either an instructional designer or a project manager, should prepare and present a detailed project plan at the kickoff meeting. The project plan must contain touch points and key check-in dates between the initiation phase and delivery of the project. It is important to note the dates when the content is due, or when stakeholder’s approval is needed. Always be sure to review all deadlines and ensure that they work for the client. A clause that helps to drive stakeholder’s commitment to touch point dates is a development timeline – explain to the customer that if their review takes an extra week, the delivery date may, in turn, be pushed out a week. Be sure that the language used is appropriate to the relationship with the client – sometimes telling them the delivery date may be pushed out is not an option. However, sharing the design and development process, and the importance of both sides adhering to dates up front will communicate the need for teamwork in launching the project on time. It is important to remember that even though instructional designers create learning experiences, clients hold the keys to the information, and both parties must actively participate to make eLearning projects successful.
One of the great benefits of using a tool like CourseArc to develop your content is there is no ambiguity regarding what the content will look like in a digital format. All of the key stakeholders will be able to see immediately how the content will render to the end user. This is because our tool puts the subject matter expert in the driver seat by allowing them to develop content in conjunction with instructional designers. With our solution, subject matter experts no longer have to suffer through confusing storyboards where they cannot visualize the end product, thus reducing the possibility of clients who are unhappy with the published content. Everyone can see how the course is progressing in real time! Also, with our built-in workflow and approval process, you can obtain the client’s approval directly within CourseArc. Take a few minutes to see how this works in action!