How To Beta Test An Online Course

Why And How To Beta Test An Online Course

Consider all the interoperability issues that may occur after the development of an eLearning course (e.g. desktop, mobile devices, web browsers, etc.) to guarantee optimal delivery of eLearning content: Unfortunately, there are no guarantees.

The best practice is to follow Murphy’s Law when it comes to eLearning content development: “What can go wrong, will go wrong.” You never really know which online courses a learner is accessing at any given time, what bandwidth connectivity is available, the emotional state of the learner, whether the learner decides to consume learning in their offices, in a classroom, or on the go, and most importantly, you never really know the learner’s digital literacy level.

The preview feature of most eLearning authoring software is not indicative of the end product in the Learning Management System, so a best practice is to test courses on all devices before launching, as well as to generate a report of completion prior to showcasing the prototype to clients, stakeholders, learners, and end-users to prove it tracks properly. Before reviewing with the client, be certain to test your course on all desktop and mobile platforms. Create a checklist of evaluation criteria. The questions may include:

  1. Is the course in a SCORM or xAPI publication format?
  2. Within the course title that the learner sees, is there a reference to the course duration and catalog number? (Learners can easily find the course in question by locating a catalog number to avoid any confusion. An alphanumeric catalog naming convention system helps tremendously.) 
  3. Is the LMS’ course player optimized and supported in all browsers?
  4. Is the LMS’ course player optimized and supported in all devices?
  5. Can the content be consumed by learners remotely via wifi? Consider potential connectivity issues.
  6. If the course utilizes job-aids or any resources, is it readily accessible by the learner in their learning environment? Can it be downloaded or only previewed within the Learning Management System?
  7. If the course is intended to be repurposed and delivered in a classroom setting as well, a needs analysis is paramount. Also, consider the learning environment; i.e. how the audience and learners will consume their learning: will it be on-site, off-site, or anywhere in between?
  8. If there are any videos, are they compressed and rendered appropriately either for streaming content or is it a requirement to download first?
  9. If videos are to be downloaded, is the reproduction of intellectually property a concern?
  10. Is your content free of any potential copyright infringement issues?

Abiding by this checklist serves as a continuous improvement workflow practice for any future eLearning and online training content, as well as a potential debugging and troubleshooting tool. Become proactive in documenting your findings and keep a digital journal or ticket system; it may expedite future online course development and prove to be helpful in discovering necessary future system requirements as your Learning Management System deals out new releases, patches, and upgrades.

The old-fashioned best practice of documentation is still considered "gold," and, therefore, if you don't document, you actually lose gold you could have easily found. Finding past documentation on best practices and quickly implementing them in your present workflow is extremely powerful, as saving time is gold in eLearning development (time is money, money is time).

There is another key point in documentation regarding the establishment of a baseline of standards in workflow and development: If you don't have a baseline of best practice standards to begin with, how can you improve your development of future best practices in your workflow, technical, and communication processes? If you don't have a baseline, how can you even determine what direction to take in improving your communication frequency and processes with all interested parties (not only present and past clients and customers, but also future clients, customers, and especially newly acquired vendor relationships)? Hopefully, your vendors also possess strategies in the documentation of their best workflow and communication practices, but this is another important topic of research and discussion.

Wouldn't you agree?

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