A One-Person eLearning Team Vs. 13 Specific eLearning Skill Sets
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The Road To eLearning Success: 13 eLearning Skill Sets Vs. One-Person eLearning Team

Understanding production tasks is essential when considering an eLearning project and putting an eLearning team together. Most of these tasks are specialized and require specific eLearning skill sets. Certain persons can perform several roles if they possess more than one skill set. Here is a brief summary of these tasks below, some of which may overlap in real life.

  1. Project leader/manager.
  2. Subject Matter Expert (SME).
  3. Instructional designer.
  4. Graphic Designer/UI Designer.
  5. Course developer.
  6. Video and audio recording.
  7. Voice talent and video presenter.
  8. Video and audio editor.
  9. IT resource/programmer.
  10. Asset manager.
  11. Course tester.
  12. Client service coordinator.
  13. eLearning Champion.

1. Project Leader/Manager

An efficient project leader or manager must be knowledgeable about the whole production process. Understanding what the technology can and cannot do is essential in order to be able to efficiently manage a production team. Otherwise, the manager will most likely ask for things that are difficult or impossible to do, and hinder the production process rather than help it. This has a direct consequence on deadlines and budget. The leader’s knowledge needs to encompass every aspect of the process, from the program and course design all the way to the Web delivery of the material. This is quite a challenge, especially since the technology is constantly evolving at break-neck speed. Having a person in that role who has never been involved with eLearning production is rarely a good idea.

2. Subject Matter Expert

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are not an integral part of the eLearning team, but they are external resources who play an important role in supporting and informing Instructional Designers about the topics that need to be taught. Subject Matter Experts should be easily accessible because the quality of the initial material is a key ingredient for sound and efficient online courses and getting the complete and accurate information from the start will save time and money. SMEs might also be called upon to verify the courses once they’re done, to make sure that there are no mistakes or misunderstandings in the final course material.

3. Instructional Designer

One of the most neglected skill sets and often absent from eLearning projects is Instructional Design. Some inexperienced project leaders think that producing an online course is simply a matter of taking a PowerPoint from the classroom course and putting it online, and that there is nothing more to it.

The role of Instructional Designers is to first understand what needs to be taught with the help of the Subject Matter Expert(s). Then they need to know who the learners are and how they learn. Then they need to design learning programs and courses in a way that will make it easy for learners to learn. This is applicable to both classroom courses and online courses. This may seem an easy task at first glance, but that person needs to understand how various personalities learn, and the difference between adults and children learning styles. So Instructional Designer need to be familiar with adult learning principles, as well as various learning development theories such as ADDIE, Bloom’s Taxonomy and so on.

However, when it comes to online learning, Instructional Designers also need to know what the different available computer applications that produce online courses can do, so as to not design elements that are impossible to do or would require too much development time.

Another important element is understanding how the Learning Management System works, and what it can do and cannot do. This encompasses not only online courses but also quizzes, exams, and certification. Instructional Designers have to design courses in a way that will make it possible for people to learn on their own and anticipate questions learners might have, because courses that are not offered in real time do not have the benefit of a live trainer who can answer questions. This knowledge is paramount to producing good and sound designs.

Instructional Designers prepare storyboards that describe what is going to be presented to learners at both the visual and audio levels, and scripts that the voice talent is going to use for voice recordings. In other words they describe what is going to appear on the computer screen, whether it is images, slides, a live host and so on, and what music and narration will happen at the same time on the audio track.

Therefore, they need be knowledgeable about computer applications that can produce and edit such material, in order to take advantage of the available interactivity features while keeping control over development time. The proper use of software features makes it easier for learners to remember what they’re learning. But the Instructional Designer also needs to know the level of effort required in order to make the production efficient and balance the development time with the budget.

An example of this is animation, which adds a lot of activity and interest to presentations. But even though animation in general has evolved tremendously and technology now makes it faster to produce than in the old days, it still requires a minimum of time and some precision. There are many types of animation and some of them are quite time-consuming to produce. Therefore, knowing this is important when designing, so as not to design a course that will take a very long time to produce, especially with a low budget.

Instructional Designers also prepare assessments, tests, quizzes, and final exams to measure the acquired knowledge and manage the certification process. They are not only designers, but also content producers of learning material.

So, the more Instructional Designers know about technology, the more efficient they will be at doing their job. Some employers even require Instructional Designers to be proficient with Storyline or Captivate in order to accelerate the production process. The less things have to be redone, the faster the results.

4. Graphic Designer/ UI Designer

If there are no existing templates for the courses, or if the appearance of the LMS interface has not been configured, a graphic designer’s services may be needed. The graphic designer takes care of how things look to the user, i.e. attractive to look at. The User Interface (UI) designer makes sure that the interface is easy to use. These two task are slightly different but are a very useful element when you want your online courses to be successful.

5. Course Developer

Course developers can wear several hats, but their main task is taking learning assets, either assets they produced or produced by other people such as images, audio and video segments, and assembling them into a container that can be delivered on the internet, more specifically on a website, whether through a learning management system or not.

Basically, course developers should have an expertise in course production software such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline. PowerPoint is still widely used but is quite limited compared to these other tools which can do so much more. But it should be noted that PowerPoint slides can be imported by other applications. You can then add functionalities to your courses with these more specialized applications that can add more or less interactivity. Certain software also require some level of coding, for instance in the case of interactivity with Storyline.

A knowledge of HTML, HTML 5 and some JavaScript coding can also be useful, although the software usually has functionalities that will produce the necessary code. But the course developer needs to be able to understand a minimum of code and be able to adjust it as needed, for instance in the case of variables and triggers. However, that kind of coding is on a whole different level than programming languages such as PHP.

In principle, course developers get their material from Instructional Designers. But some course developers can also perform Instructional Design, as well as audio and video editing. With the right training and experience they can produce their own eLearning assets. For instance, course developers might need to find images or correct material while producing courses, such as removing the background humming noise on an audio track or doing some editing on a video segment. So having additional competencies in complementary fields is a big plus.

6. Video And Audio Recording Technician

Video and audio recording can be done on-site or in a studio. Please see the article 4 Tips For Producing A High-Quality Voice Over At A Small Price for more details. The recording technician assists the voice talent or presenter and makes sure the recording is well done. When a person is doing the narration, it’s easy not to notice mistakes such as using the wrong word or mispronunciations if no one else is there to assist. The recording technician’s focus is on listening, so detecting problems and correcting them can be done right away with the narrator doing an immediate retake. This prevents having to do it all over again later on.

Also, the recording technician can make sure that the gain level and other recording settings are properly adjusted and remain the same from one recording to the other, ensuring a constant quality level. Verifying the recording is also important, as is the test when starting the recording. All this is hard to do if the narrator is alone and focusing on doing the voiceover. The same principle applies to video recording.

7. Voice Talent And Video Presenter

A voice talent is a person who has a nice voice and a good delivery. Some people are specialized in voice over and you can find them on voice talent sites on the Internet, but you will need a proper budget to hire them. They usually provide their own studio and equipment. In this case, any change will incur a retake with additional costs. However, you might find a voice talent in your own environment or team and enroll that person to do the voiceover. In a project I worked on, a member of the team had some theatre training and had a pleasant voice, so he became a great asset to the project at no additional cost. You can add narration to slides, images and pre-recorded video segments without necessarily needing to record a live video presenter.

A live video presenter is often used for soft skills and adds some life to the presentation. Sometimes the presenter alternates with images and other graphic elements. A presenter can also do a short course introduction, making it more personal, and then the remainder of the course can present fixed or animated images. This type of recording will require a studio with a proper background and lighting, as well as good-quality video recording equipment.

8. Video And Audio Editor

Video and audio editing is a specialty on its own, because it requires technical knowledge but also special artistic and cinema skills in order to produce a pleasant delivery for viewers. For instance, even one second too long in a video segment can be aggravating to learners.

Accomplished course developers might have these competencies. Video and audio editing requires using specialized software such as Adobe Audition an Adobe Premiere, as well as mastering the editing process. Different audio and video segments may need to be put together for a course. Small mistakes may need to be taken care of during the editing process, therefore producing a better quality end result.

For instance, you may get audio tracks that have a loud humming in the background that needs to be removed or some mouth noises that need to be cut out. Video segments may require fade ins and fade outs or other such transitions, and some titles and images may need to be added. A whole course can be produced in video format, or video segments can be added to Storyline and Captivate courses.

9. Asset Manager

When producing eLearning material, a lot of assets are created. These need to be managed so they can be properly used and then reused as needed. This task can be managed by the course developer, but some larger projects may require a dedicated resource to manage these assets if a lot of them are produced.

10. Course Tester

Testing is a very important part of any eLearning project, but anyone from the team can do it depending on the size of the project. Subject matter experts are particularly relevant to testing the material.

11. Client Service Coordinator

Interaction with learners such as helping them with passwords, answering their questions and gathering their comments will need to be taken care of promptly. Certifications, payments, and other elements may also need to be managed. If there is no resource assigned to the task and the other team members are too busy, customer service will suffer.

12. IT Resource/Programmer

This role is not specific to the eLearning team but, if you install the Learning Management System on your own server, you may need the help of an IT resource in order to monitor security and take care of updates and other technical issues. For instance, you will have to do regular updates. Updating a system can sometimes be a challenge. If you use an LMS provider’s web-based services, they will most likely take care of that aspect for you.

You may need other types of programming, for instance if you need to develop an API for your electronic payments. APIs are small computer programs that talk to different systems and allow them to interact. For example, if you sell your courses and use a payment system, you will probably need an API to link your LMS with your payment system. You might also need to develop special modules and plugins to increase the functionalities of your LMS.

13. eLearning Champion

Last, but not least, the eLearning champion is an executive or someone part of high-management who will support the project and have enough influence to make things happen. There are many decisions to be made, some more important than others, and things can go round an round almost indefinitely in the absence of such an influencer. It has been demonstrated that projects who benefit from an eLearning champion’s support tend to be more successful and more on target.

One-Person eLearning Team?

In conclusion, a one-person team, such a specialized consultant, can set-up and configure a Learning Management System, such as Moodle or a web-based LMS, and then produce online learning material and upload it on the LMS with a small budget. That person could well be able to do audio and video editing, as well as have some graphic design and coding notions. However, that specialist is unlikely to be a computer programmer. As we saw above, each specialty requires quite a lot of expertise. Of course, larger companies will need a team because of the size of projects, the work organization, and the internal processes and procedures. But a proof of concept project can be set up in a very short time by just one person, i.e. the eLearning Specialist, at a very low cost.

It should be noted that the more time goes by, the more technology evolves and requires constant monitoring to keep up to date. Although most applications aim at keeping things as simple as possible, the amount of new offers, functionalities and available services makes it a challenge to remain on top of things. In this context, the services of a specialized consultant at the start of your project, who is passionate about eLearning and technology, can be a real investment. A specialist can understand your situation, guide you while addressing your specific needs, and recommend the best solutions while saving you a lot of time and money.

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