4 Tracks For Successful eLearning Project

4 Tracks For Successful eLearning Project
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Summary: Management, content, design, and technology: 4 concurrent and equally important tracks needed for a successful eLearning project.

Successful eLearning Project: What Exactly Should You Do?

eLearning projects of all kinds take a lot more than just Instructional Design and technology. Whether it's designing a college course, developing a self-paced training module, or creating hybrid workshop events, eLearning projects have several moving parts. They take planning, preparation, budgets and tracking, leadership and quite often a bit of an iron will to navigate the landscape all the players involved.

Yet something I have found in common across all the projects I’ve managed has been that they all seem to fall nicely into 4 concurrent tracks: management, content, design, and technology.

At the risk of giving away my own model (Intellectual Property is all we really have after all), I offer this to you in the hopes that it may assist you in organizing your own successful eLearning project.

1. Management

All projects need management. This is the operations and tracking side of the project. This includes the person or people who know: what’s going on, when it's due, what it takes, what the dependencies are, who needs to approve, etc. The management track keeps communication flowing between all aspects of the project and through this communication anticipates needs, makes purchases, removes blocks, and keeps the whole project moving forward.

In my work, I’ve separated this from leadership—and I don’t include leadership as a concurrent track. I have found that eLearning projects often include several leaders or stakeholders who each has their own interests and does not participate fully with the process of the project. Therefore, I try to keep to the 4 tracks in project planning, with the management track making sure any leaders are participating or updated when needed.

2. Content

The content tracking is the heart of the project and includes the work of Subject Matter Experts and Instructional Designers. This includes the educational material that’s being written, scripted, adapted and transformed. It includes writing drafts, creating mockups, and exploring activities. Many may be familiar with this core track and make the mistake of thinking this is the most important part of the project, but in my experience, all tracks are equally necessary.

Importantly, the content track does not have to include the development of graphic assets, wireframes or other technical aspects of the overall design of the project. Instructional Designers are not Graphic Designers or Technologists, even though they may have skills in these areas. I’ve found it helpful to separate these out to make the project clear and more manageable.

3. Design

The design track is the space for elements like Graphic Design, User Experience, and includes style and form decisions that need to be made for the overall project. For eLearning, this track can often include thinking through overall learner experience across the system or full learning environment and involves multiple elements within the project. This track houses the overall Graphic Design theme (sometimes called a Style Guide), repeatable templated assets (like buttons, characters, or other activity flows), and other creative elements like tone of voice.

Separating design into its own concurrent track allows stakeholders and leaders the opportunity to weigh in on project level decisions that may otherwise go unnoticed until late in the project. It also gives space for developers to begin their work on templated items early, keeping the project on schedule.

4. Technology

eLearning projects inevitably use technology for their delivery. This includes both hardware and software. For example, a successful eLearning project may involve recording audio as a podcast. This task may require special microphones, computers, recording software, post-production software, and a hosting solution. This track allows the project to consider all the technology needs, discover what’s needed, and ensure that everything is ready to go.

Technology as its own track also allows the eLearning project to appropriately involve Information Technology and/or Instructional Technology team members the space to provide their expertise to the project.

These 4 tracks move concurrently and, often, intersect during the course of the project. Separating them out this way is not to suggest that they should operate independently and not communicate or interact. Instead, I have found by separating the project into 4 concurrent tracks, I have been able to deliver projects within timeframes and budgets. More importantly, it has allowed leaders, stakeholders, and team members the chance to understand the greater scope of the project and all the expertise needed to deliver excellence.

I encourage you to use and adapt this model for your successful eLearning project. And if there are suggestions or recommendations, please, let me know in the comments below as I am always looking to improve this model for my own work.