How To Outsource eLearning Curriculum, Part 3
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How To Outsource eLearning Curriculum: Surface Solution Constraints & Envision The Learning Experience

In Part 1 of this article we discussed the first two steps in the eLearning curriculum design process; being clear on your business problem / desired outcomes, and knowing your audience. In Part 2, we explored why you should clearly articulate the performance goals and any barriers that need to be overcome to achieve those goals.

Keys To Outsourcing A Results-Driven Curriculum
Discover how to create effective curriculums that ensure your solution precisely meets the needs of the learners and achieves both organizational and business objectives.

Here, we’ll see why you should uncover any technological constraints and requirements (like certification or assessments) for your solution, as well as why you need to apply what you know about your problem, audience, desired outcomes, and constraints – and envision the learning experiences and interventions.

Surface Solution Constraints

This step is a short, but important one. You now must think both outside and inside the box. What do we mean by that? Well, there may be specific constraints or requirements for the project that, if you don’t surface them and design with them in mind, might make you end up having to rethink your design approach—or even deliver some unpleasant surprises when you go to launch your solution!

Before you move into envisioning your solution, consider asking your stakeholders about:

  • Technology requirements:
    What technology is already in place that we need to keep in mind and work with as we design a solution?
    What existing technologies or knowledge sharing platforms could you leverage, and what new technologies have you been considering?
    To what extent are you open to us suggesting other technologies and to what extent do we need to design specifically for the technology you have in place?
  • Compliance, assessment, and/or certification requirements:
    Are there any compliance requirements we need to consider or plan for?
    Are there any assessment and/or certification requirements we need to consider or plan for?
  • Source content:To what extent do you anticipate that the content we’ll require for this project is readily available in existing materials? (And, if so, can we start reviewing this material?)
    For content that doesn’t exist, will we have access to subject matter experts to gather the content?
    Are there any content gaps that you feel can’t be filled by internal resources. (E.g., will we need to consider “off-the-shelf” content?)

Finally, take time to ask your stakeholders if they have some initial ideas or hypotheses regarding the solution. Giving them an opportunity to share ideas puts you in a better position to either integrate those ideas (assuming they make sense and are right for the solution) or to be able to say why you chose to go in a different direction.

Envision The Learning Experience

All of our teams at Kineo approach our jobs in the same way. We push our clients to think outside the boundaries of traditional learning and development practices to achieve the highest levels of innovation in order to transform individual potential into organizational strength. Our goal is to develop solutions that precisely meet their organizational and business objectives and make them look awesome. And as we move to the design phase of the process, I like to keep in mind Ben Franklin’s approach to learning: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

The preparation phases of Kineo’s design process are the most crucial as we’ve established, among other things, what is needed to achieve the crucial organizational and business objectives that are established for the project. There’s no “one way” on how to approach this step, but we have a proven methodology that we implement with our clients for designing and developing a full program or curriculum solution.

  • Plan to iterate
    A full curriculum usually consists of many different types of learning experiences. Break your full design effort down into more manageable design sprints and take time with each sprint to validate against the requirements.
  • Begin with the big picture
    Let your first sprint be about developing the big picture—or what pieces make up your solution and how they connect together for the complete learner journey.

Steps In A Learning Journey

While every learning journey will be a little different, they will typically address one or more these needs:

Engage How ready is your audience to move toward a change? Do they need to be convinced? Do you need to capture their attention? Or do they already have the intrinsic motivation to go on this journey?
Diagnose How aware is your audience of their current performance and abilities? Do they have a solid understanding of their strengths, weaknesses and gaps?
Learn What sort of learning solution is most appropriate? Is it a knowledge or skills gap, or does a behavior need to change?
Apply How difficult will it be to apply the knowledge or skill back on the job? How much practice, help, and support is appropriate?
Assess How will you determine if the desired outcome was achieved?
Reinforce How will what you be taught change over time? How important is it to keep the content top-of-mind?

Go back to the performance goals you identified in Step 3, and keep in mind the constraints you raised in Step 4. Now you’re ready to start mapping out the learning journey in terms of the kinds of learning experiences, support resources, assessments and other parts of the solution needed to address the needs you surfaced. To help you figure out the “right” pieces to have in place, consider these questions:

  • Where do you have more of a need to motivate and engage learners? Will there be rollout meetings or some other face-to-face or virtual introduction to the program?
  • Where do you need to build self-awareness of individual strengths, weaknesses, or gaps?
  • Where do you need to build competence (e.g. knowledge and skills)?
  • Where do you need to help learners apply what they have learned?
  • What kind of assessment or certification is needed?
  • What part of your solution will help to reinforce what’s learned?

Answers to these questions will help you formulate a picture of the learning journey and how the pieces will work together.

Creating a simple flow or box diagram will help you to envision the big picture journey.

It is helpful at this high-level stage of the learner journey development to stay as platform- or tool-agnostic as possible until you have the ideal journey defined. Keep yourself at a high level. The details will come later.

After mapping out the learner journey, take time to validate it. Consider each audience segment or persona. Does the journey account for meeting the needs of the different personas? What parts of the learner journey are the same for all and what parts need to be more personalized to a role or audience segment?

Finally, gather feedback, then iterate to consider all of the major needs and requirements in your solution before you move forward into more detailed design.

Define Each Piece Of The puzzle

You have the big picture and now it’s time to divide and conquer. Break out and define each piece of the puzzle, one at a time. For example:

  • Are you building an initial self-assessment? How does it impact what a learner sees for the rest of their learning journey? How will it be administered?
  • How are you planning to measure outcomes? How will that be built into your design?

Set yourself a plan for which pieces of the puzzle you’ll iterate on each day until you’ve been through at least one pass of each piece of the puzzle.

As your design for each piece gets clearer, take time to build out wire frames or rough visual representations of each piece. Then, bring in some fresh eyes to review your ideas and see what questions come up. Often this can uncover pieces you might want to consider as part of your learner journey or that you may have missed, like a program overview or tutorial.

Iterate the designs for each piece of the puzzle until you feel confident you have a solid picture of each piece. At this point, you are still not yet wedded to particular technology delivery platforms, so your designs may not reflect the full technical and production details needed to go into “build” mode, but that’s OK. Save that for the implementation phase. Your goal here is to have a clear enough picture to tell a story and to help you map out (in later steps) the kinds of experiences you need in your solution, how many, and what level of effort will be required to build the full program.

Apply Technology Smartly

The final step in the design process is to decide on the right technology to bring it all to life. The use of technology is about scale, consistency, resources and the efficacy of potential approaches.

What tools will work best? Revisit any constraints you surfaced earlier to make sure you’re accounting for those.

Bring It All Together Into Different Learner Journey Stories

Finally, you move from detailed design mode back to the learner journey. Start by refining your high-level learner journey map that you created earlier.

Then, take each persona and create a walk-through of key moments in that learner journey. Tell the story of how the individual experiences the program from start to finish.

Do this for each persona. When complete, share the learner journey stories with your stakeholders and others for feedback and validation. Discuss the recommendations for what tools to use to build out each piece.

Then, iterate and refine until you can consider the design approach “final enough” to map out the curriculum in detail and create an implementation plan.

Design – The Never-Ending Story

You’ve done the hard work and have a well-articulated design for a solution, which is specific to the business need, the audience, and the performance goals for that audience. It’s time now to turn ideas into reality.

Remember to avoid feature and content creep, hold true to the project charter and the performance goals, making careful decisions to only cover what helps to accomplish your goals.

And when all is built and deployed? It’s time to assess the business and performance goals. You may be able to intuitively assess to what degree your solution met all of your goals in the end, but intuition isn’t enough. By following this process, you have put yourself and the project in a position to be able to measure and track some real data to help you evaluate the effectiveness of your solutions. Take time to look at data and ask questions such as:

  • Are you getting the completion rates you had hoped for?
  • How are learners performing within the curriculum?
  • How are your other metrics? Are they trending in the way you had hoped?
  • What kind of impact is the training having?
  • And what if your investigation uncovers some problems? Do you need to scrap the whole thing?

Fortunately, having applied our 5-step process, you won’t have to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. The real beauty of our process is that, because you’ve taken a systematic approach to the project, it’s easier to determine what parts of your curriculum you can deconstruct and reconstruct as you weigh any new insights or requirements that surface from your data.

Effective Learning Is A Journey

At the heart of what drives our process is the fact that learning isn’t an event, it’s a journey. Brian Tracy said about learning:

“Continuous learning is the minimum requirement for success in any field.”

And so it is with learning curriculums and solutions. They must be built to last, to adapt, and to thrive. If you want to learn more, download the eBook Keys To Outsourcing A Results-Driven Curriculum .

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