Since November, I have been working on a big project for a brand-name institution: 29 self-paced eLearning courses.
Mostly software training, with bits of process and product information thrown in for good measure.
Courses range from 15-30 minutes each and are geared towards my client's external clients. No assessments or formal testing. Lots of software interactivity.
Most of these courses already exist as online, instructor-led experiences. I've got the PowerPoints and Word docs to prove it.
Relentless schedule. The lifecycle of an ideal course, on paper, is about 40 days. That's from initial content kickoff to final live courses.
It goes a little something like this:
The first step is the contact kick off meeting. This includes myself, the instructional designers at the client company who manage things on their end, and any subject matter experts that they can assemble for the meeting.
We go through any existing classroom notes. We talk about the performance objectives. We review the content at a high level.
Generally, within a couple of days of the kickoff, I have a second meeting with the SME or course trainer. If possible, I sit in on a live training session. Schedules don't always work out, so more often this is a one-on-one tour of the software and the content notes with the trainer. Here we attempt to get into all the detail
Thankfully, I type really fast, so I've got a lot of good material to work with when I get to the next stage.
If the stars are aligned, I immediately begin story boarding. Depending on the length and complexity of the course, this takes anywhere from 1 day to 5 days. Of course, this varies greatly depending upon how accessible the subject matter expert are to me.
This is the single longest phase of this project.
Each course goes through an extensive review process on the client side, starting with the client's ID team and their SME team. The document is sent out to everyone, then the whole team gathers in a conference call and walks through the story board together.
Ideally, the team has reviewed the document beforehand and has all of their comments, but more often than not, this is their first look at it. I capture all of their comments, make revisions, and send out an updated version.
The client ID team wrangles the SMEs and gets more comments until we have a SME approved script.
Next, the story board goes to the client's editing department for copy editing. Have we dotted the right letters? Have we adhered to corporate guidelines?
From there, onward for a legal review to make sure all the trademarks are in the correct places and no false promises are being made.
This is where things get delayed and backed up: the SMEs and the legal department.
Once we have a final, legally approved document we can begin building the course.
The client takes all the screen captures because we can't have access to the software.
I prep the script and send it off for audio production (we've been working with an excellent independent guy with his own studio who can churn this stuff out!)
My development team builds the sucker. We've got this down to a lean and mean 5-7 days, which includes internal QA. We use a fairly templated approach, so at this point there aren't many bugs to discover.
We post the course for the client team to review. Usually, this is another online walkthrough. Sometimes the SMEs have looked at it beforehand and have their comments all lined up, sometimes this is their first look at the thing. You never know.
We revise and fix. Sometimes have to record new audio. Occasionally have had to rewrite big chunks and send a story board back to editing and eReview because the right SMEs weren't initially included in the review cycle...or someone just didn't get that they really needed to review the story board...or....or. But that hasn't happened too many times.
Course Goes Live
We post the final course. The client IT team downloads all the files and puts it on their servers and the thing is live.
Instructional Design: When the Schedule Dictates What You Can Actually Do
So how much time do you think we have here for real creative instructional design? Not much.
This is the harsh reality of eLearning in the trenches. When great just can't get in the way of good enough.
This is what I've started calling guerilla instructional design. Get in and out as fast as you can with the fewest casualties.
But the client is delighted with what we've been producing. Initial feedback from actual end-users has been really positive. Something's working here.
Is That A Light At The End of The Tunnel?
- This morning I sent off a first draft of story board #22.
- About six courses have actually gone live.
- Another four courses have been built and are in revision purgatory.
- Another ten plus story boards have been written and are somewhere in the vast client review process.
My client hopes I go late.