9 Stages Of The Custom eLearning Development Process
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Custom eLearning Development Process Through Its 9 Stages

Jacky, an L&D professional, just received word that she will be managing the complete overhaul of her company’s current onboarding curriculum. She’s only been with this company for two years and has never overseen development for such a large custom eLearning program anywhere. What process should she use? How long will it take? And where should she begin? If Jacky follows the 9-stage process listed below, she’ll be well on her way to creating her first successful eLearning curriculum.

eBook Release: Providing An Amazing Custom eLearning Solution For Corporate Training
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Providing An Amazing Custom eLearning Solution For Corporate Training
Inno-Versity offers a marvelous custom eLearning solution for corporate training and provides a complete guide for L&D professionals.

Stage 1: Program Objectives And Constraints

As with any complex project, the first step in eLearning development is to plan where you’re headed. Start with the big picture: what will the program accomplish? what will be gained? and how will you measure these gains? Clearly written program objectives provide stakeholders with concise statements of expectations to which they can respond. Their feedback to the objectives should shape your best course of action. Plus, starting with the right objectives means you won’t have to make substantial changes later in the process.

As you specify the program objectives, also make a list of possible project constraints, such as budget, timing, and scheduling. By compiling these two lists simultaneously, you’ll have a complete understanding of your training needs, and which obstacles may stand in your way.

Stage 2: Cultural Fit

Now that you’ve determined the program objectives and constraints, it’s time to think about your company’s culture. You want this new curriculum to fit in well with the learning landscape of your organization. Think about your company’s vision and values and how the eLearning modules can reinforce these foundational messages. And what about other learning initiatives? Will this curriculum fit in or conflict with them? If there will be opportunities for subsequent learning, what segues need to be established to connect with those? This is also a good time to do some benchmarking, both internally and externally. What has been tried before? What can you learn from previous attempts?

And finally, what kind of resistance to the learning opportunity might you expect? Stage 2 is when you begin to seek buy-in from stakeholders and leadership. Too often learning is rolled out before anyone has bothered to ask coaches or managers their opinions on the learning gaps and resources needed. The results of even the best eLearning will falter if middle managers are against the program. Good internal communication and marketing start by making sure the curriculum fits within cultural expectations and existing frameworks.

Stage 3: Learner Needs

The learner is the shining star of stage 3. Take adequate time to study your learner population. What is their key problem or knowledge gap? How is it measured? What hinders them from learning or applying what they know? Consider their demographics, technical ability, experience with the content, and motivation to learn. And how should content be delivered? Will they make use of just-in-time microlearning segments or prefer an extended learning time away? Departments and teams may appreciate gamification, where they compete against other divisions or individually to top a leaderboard. Fitting the content to the culture and the learner are two of the best benefits of custom eLearning, so be thorough at these stages. Establish your expectations for the learner experience and decide how you will evaluate the experience in the end.

Stage 4: Content And Strategy

You’ve looked at your organization as a whole, as well as your population of learners. The next stage is to focus on content. What topics and subtopics need to be taught in order to bridge the learning deficit? It is important to ask these questions to the right people, so engage your Subject Matter Experts to brainstorm a list of topics and then sort and consolidate the topics into concise units of study.

Next, write a learning objective for each of these topics and use an action verb. Look for results such as recall, apply, achieve, or value. Using action verbs provides a basis from which to measure results later in the process. Assessments tie directly to the learning objectives: did they recall the information or were they able to demonstrate a specific skill?

This is also when you begin to uncover any existing resources or content. What has been used before? Even poor resources are a better starting place than working from scratch. Make a folder to house any source information that will be used to create the storyboard and share it with SMEs and developers.

Stage 5: Storyboard And Design

All your work analyzing, planning and organizing up to this point will influence the Instructional Design of the storyboard. Learners’ previous experience with the content will dictate the entry point they need. From that entry point, content follows a logical progression through the topic and sub-topics, peppered with examples, real-life scenarios or interactions to increase learner engagement. Visual graphic elements further enhance learning as do animations and video. How content is delivered is critical to the success of your eLearning module.

When you storyboard a module, consider the following key elements:

  • An audio script for narration
  • Graphics, animations, video, and photos
  • Onscreen text
  • Sound effects and music
  • Learner interactions
  • Assessments, feedback, and remediation
  • Scoring and next steps

Stage 6: Development

Before your storyboard comes to life at the development stage, think about how the learner will view the module: laptop, mobile device, or both? Then, using your preferred course-writing software, input the onscreen elements, create interactions and assessments and align any animated objects to the audio narration.

At this point, your LMS specialist should be in contact with the developer to discuss publishing preferences and how the course will be set up in the learning management system. For example, will it be published in Tin Can, SCORM or something else? What kind of description of the module should appear in the LMS and instructions to learners about the curriculum? When development is complete, the module is ready for the revision process.

Stage 7: Testing And Revision

Depending on the needs of your organization, you may begin with a soft rollout of the curriculum to a focus test group. Before this, stakeholders should review the developed modules and give feedback. Be careful to provide detailed instructions as to what kind of feedback you want. Conflicting personal opinions, which seemingly change with the weather, can keep a module in review for months. If you anticipate this with your stakeholders, appoint one person to review all feedback and then make final revision decisions to keep the project from stalling.

Stage 8: Internal Marketing And Launch

Preparing for your launch is a critical stage that is sometimes overlooked. You’ve worked hard, and it’s time for you to share your excitement! Learners and their coaches need the opportunity to form accurate expectations about the curriculum. Incidentally, either false buildup or no buildup can squelch a good program. Through internal marketing, let their anticipation and excitement about learning new things build over a few days. Enthusiasm is the kind of draw you want, which will propel learning from the start. Treat your people like prospective customers, and woo them into a curious state of mind, eager to learn something new.

Stage 9: Revision Cycle And Return On Learning (ROL)

Even before the launch, you’ll need to establish a revision cycle. How long do you anticipate before some of the content will become obsolete? Will roll out to future learners be cyclical? Providing a channel for learner feedback allows you to make informed decisions about how to improve your eLearning. The results of the assessment checks you determined in the storyboard will guide your next moves.

In addition to an ongoing revision cycle, you will want to evaluate your return on learning. ROL should include both quantitative and qualitative measures, so don’t ignore the impact on your organization’s culture. For example, learners’ promotions and overall satisfaction with their work may not immediately affect profitability, but over time they will keep turnaround to a minimum. Compile both the ROI and qualitative factors to give a complete-picture evaluation of your eLearning program.

Jacky, our L & D professional tasked with overseeing a large, complex eLearning curriculum, was right to feel overwhelmed. The process can be long and detailed, but with a solid framework, each stage flows into the next and all is manageable. One important tip she should keep in mind is not to get bogged down at one stage but keep driving forward. The last thing she wants is for content to change before rollout because development took too long. If she adheres to the 9 stages of custom eLearning development process and keeps progressing through it, she should receive the desired outcome which is a great return for her efforts. Her custom eLearning will be the right fit for the company’s culture and learners while delivering relevant and engaging content that meets established goals.

Are you an L&D professional looking forward to adopting great corporate training practices which employees will find more than useful? Download our eBook Providing An Amazing Custom eLearning Solution For Corporate Training to discover when companies should invest in custom eLearning, the factors to determine the appropriate level of interactivity needed, tips for reducing the complexity of custom eLearning development, and much more...

There are many more sublevels to discover when it comes to custom eLearning development processes. Learn more about them by checking the webinar Developing Custom eLearning For Corporate Training. This webinar will be led by experts who have led some of the largest eLearning projects in the world.

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Inno-Versity creates custom elearning for some of the largest companies in the world. We remove complexity from critical elearning projects. We are an in-house team of talented and experienced instructional designers, artists, and learning experts.
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