Starting a new eLearning project - What questions do you need to ask before you start?
I am often asked what questions should you ask a client before starting an eLearning project. This could be an internal or external project.
The start of the eLearning project
The start of a project can be exciting, you’ve been invited to get involved in a new project and you might be working with new people, in a new location on a new subject. If it’s an external client at the early stage of the project you might have to provide a quote or some initial costs, you might meet the client, speak to them on the telephone or Skype and probably will have had a few details emailed to you. In some instances you will be working to a tender or proposal document.
If you have a tender document it is likely that you will have some questions that will have come from your review of the tender information. If you don’t have a tender document then you might need to get some information from the client to prepare a quote or build a specification.
After making initial contact with the client gather together any queries that you have and send them to the client. Each project is different but you might find that there are some questions that you ask on each project. Asking the right questions will help you prepare your cost estimate, build your specification and allow you to move forward on the project. Getting this right is the basis for a successful project and accurate cost.
Types of document
Some development teams will have a project manager or instructional designer who will use a Project Initiation Document (P.I.D.), Creative Brief or a New Course Request Form. You may have a form that you have created based on your own requirements that you amend after each project that you have been using for years.
Common Questions To Ask Before You Start the Instructional Design Process
- Have you got all the documents?
Speak to your project contact and check that you've got all of the tender documents that you need. Have a read through all of the documents that you've been sent and make sure that you've got all of the documents that you are supposed to have. Are they are all in the tender packs? Have you got the right version of the documents? We've all forgotten to attach a document to an email or sent the wrong version of a document so don't assume that you've got everything that you need. You should also go through the tender document and look for references that might help - is there an IT policy document? Is there a brand guideline document? If there is ask for them as they might help you prepare your tender response - especially if you are going to prepare screen designs, you don't want to prepare screens and put the wrong logo in and put it in the wrong place!
- Software selection
It makes sense to have a conversation with your client about the software that you are planning to use to create the course. Many companies will have a preferred development tool list and they may expect suppliers to use it unless you have a really good case to use something else.
Find our what the preferred tool is, what version they use and whether there is any plans to upgrade or move to another development tool. This is important if you are going to start on a long-term development project. If the client doesn't have a development tool in place then think about their long term development plans and ask to speak to the IT team as well as the learning and development team about what their requirement are. You should be thinking about their software requirements, how they will support their courses as well as the course delivery.
- What is the project deadline?
Does the client have a project deadline? It is helpful to know when the project deadline is and whether the project is linked to any other business projects, sometimes delivery is linked to other wider business projects.
Make sure that you know about any other key dates that would affect the project delivery. Find out about holiday dates, any work plans, marketing delivery dates and any key business delivery dates that have the ability to affect the project.
- Why is the project being commissioned?
Ask the client why the project is being commissioned? Is it solving a business problem? Can you find out more about the wider training or development issue within the business? It can be very helpful to know the justification for the project being developed – sometimes the client can be in a rush to get the project completed and this can put pressure on the project delivery, try and find this out during your project meeting.
- Who is your project team?
Find out who is the project team and who will be responsible for sign-off. It is really important to know who is in the client project team and more importantly who will be the person signing off each stage of the project. If you don’t know who will be responsible for sign off this can delay the project and cause problems later in the project.
- Brand, IT and Design Guidelines
Ask the client if they have any guidelines for Brand, IT and Design and if they do make sure that you have copies of them so that you can make reference to them throughout your project. If they don’t have any guidelines then it makes sense to agree with your client about how you will sign off brand, IT and design requirements on the project at each key stage. Some clients will also have guidelines about how certain words and numbers are displayed. If you can get agreement before you start design and development you can save a lot of time!
- Who is the audience?
Who is the eLearning project for? Make sure that you spend some time with the client understanding who the eLearning project is for and why the project is being commissioned.
What is the language requirement? Do you need voiceover? Do you need to think about future localisation requirements? Will the course be deployed worldwide? How long will the learner have to complete the course?
- Do you have all of the course assets?
Do you have any course materials to work with or are you going to be creating the course from the beginning? Some clients will have training material that you will be able to work with, other projects will require you to work with a subject matter expert and create a course from the beginning. Establish whether the client has an existing training material that you can work with. If the client has training material then work with the client to see if it is relevant and will work with your proposed solution.
These are just a few of the questions that you can ask your client at the start of your eLearning project and remember that the questions may change on each project. You may have different questions depending on whether it is an internal or external project.
What questions do you ask at the start of an eLearning project? What has worked well for you on your eLearning projects? What has you forgotten to ask on your projects and it has caused you a problem? What is the first question that you always ask? Remember that a few questions at the start will help you as you develop your e-learning project.
You may also find useful Completing an eLearning Project - Questions To Ask When You Finish
Scott is an experienced e-learning director, designer, project manager and consultant. He has an interest in game based learning and has been involved in the creation of many game based learning projects. He is the owner of Real Projects.
The Real Projects Blog is his personal blog where he writes about elearning and how you can improve your elearning projects. Scott shares his experiences of working in elearning, game based learning and IT for some of the largest companies in the UK.
He has designed, delivered and developed e-learning projects for companies in the UK and overseas. Scott is able to understand client requirements and deliver this as a technical requirement to development teams.
Scott has recently launched Real Learner - business e-learning courses with no long term contracts or minimum user accounts.Website: www.realprojects.co.uk