How To Help Your Tech Teams Love Learning Design

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Summary: Many learning designers in large organizations find themselves working together with multimedia technicians, web designers, graphic designers and other specialists who actually create the online materials that students will use. This can lead to tensions due to differing perspectives and priorities. These differences though can be sources of creativity if approached constructively by the team. Consider the following 5 tips to help you work together with your team, make your learning design pop and keep the love levels high at the same time.

5 Tips To Make Your eLearning Team Love Learning Design

1. Make the learning principles explicit

For the learning designer, how people learn and applying those principles to elearning design is intensely interesting. How could it not be? It’s something you (hopefully) know a lot about. Coming with this expertise can mean that when you seek to create a new template or design a new type of activity, the reasons for it are obvious to you. They may not, however, be obvious to someone from a web design or multimedia background. Given that it may add to their workload, this can lead to difficulties. By explaining your ideas and the principles that support it to your tech team, this can help to bring them on board and get them excited to challenge you back. And that’s a good place to be.

2. Make it a challenge not a chore

No-one likes extra work which seems pointless. This can be especially true for talented, smart young web types who are impatient with doing work that feels mundane. Those same people though will thrive when given a challenge which has a clear purpose and a meaningful goal. Sometimes what the learning designer wants to achieve can’t be realized with the tools available. Rather than see this as a failure, try challenging the web team to find a tool which will work. Be eager to adapt your design and your expectations in response to technical constraints as well. Healthy collaboration with different teams challenging each other to create helps build purpose and shared success when the student’s world is rocked by your awesome learning materials.

3. Study the tools

Many elearning designers have mastered the cryptic arts of web authoring and multimedia and can be invaluable when helping different teams get along. Others among us though are still catching up. Fortunately, there are many excellent resources out there to help. In the meantime, for example if your team is making the transition from Flash to HTML5, learn the basics at least about how that works. Ask the web guys to explain their reasoning for making certain decisions. Doing so shows respect and helps you to create better elearning experiences for the students. As you learn more and gain some expertise, you’ll better understand their perspectives. Gaining technical mastery is also highly desirable should you wish to move forward in the industry and become a fully-fledged elearning Jedi on your own.

4. See difficulties as chances for creativity not combat

Sticking with the Jedi metaphor, avoid channelling your inner Sith when your genius learning designs are questioned or critiqued by colleagues coming from a web design perspective. Those coming from a technical background will naturally tend to emphasize technical or web design priorities. Sometimes the choices made by learning designers will seem second-rate or misplaced to someone coming from this viewpoint. That’s to be expected. Rather than flicking on your lightsaber though, consider for a moment why the web author is making that point. Could it help you improve the learning possibilities for the student? If not, then take the opportunity to explain your reasoning, the evidence base behind your choices, and how this will help the student learn. Seek to bring it back to the learning. By creating a situation of mutual understanding, respect and collegiality is improved. This will lead to a win for the person who matters the most in all of this: the student.

5. Respect their mad skillz

Human beings are hardwired to desire approval and respect. Lack of it is at the heart of many workplace disputes. When someone is comfortable with their hard-earned skills in web publishing or multimedia, working with a colleague whose expertise is in learning can be challenging. They could feel threatened by having to consider how their web objects affect student learning. Humility on the part of the learning designer, however, can turn this potential for threat into the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Just as when interacting with SMEs, being humble and respecting the skills of the web technician can go a long way in building an effective team.

Having a highly skilled eLearning team of web designers and multimedia technicians to work with is an invaluable experience for any learning designer. Learning from them how to author your own learning design will help you become an elearning all-rounder and perhaps branch out on your own one day. In the meantime, building a close relationship with the technical team will make work a more pleasant place to be and will improve outcomes for your clients. And one day when you’re ready to set up your own elearning business empire, you might need some highly skilled and understanding colleagues to build the droids…