eLearning Project Leaders Offer Tips From The Trenches
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Tips From The Trenches

Leading eLearning content development is complex. It requires the coordination of Subject Matter Experts, Instructional Designers, UX experts, and software developers as they strive to accomplish a large number of tasks. Failure to understand and implement a production process can have serious repercussions for your eLearning project. Without clear communications, in-house teams and external content experts and vendors may work at cross-purposes. Costs can escalate and deadlines slip if a delayed deliverable has a cascading effect across the project plan.

Below are some do’s and don’ts for how to generate success from our team of project leaders.

1. Don't: Fixate On Technology

One mistake we often see is project stakeholders getting fixated on technology. “There are always five ways to solve every technology hurdle,” suggests Monarch Media project leader Nandu Madimchetty. “It’s important to define your objectives first and then hone in on a technical solution that best fits your situation.”

2. Do: Develop Multidimensional Project Requirements

The key to a successful project is to start with a good understanding of the end goal and the individual tasks that go into creating an online course or product. This analysis can be broken into several parts, including:

  • Needs analysis
    What must learners understand after taking the course and how will they be able to better perform in their chosen field? How will taking the eLearning course change and improve their knowledge and capabilities?
  • User analysis
    Who is the audience for the eLearning product? What do they already know and what is their context? How will they access course materials?
  • Technical analysis
    What development tools and platforms are available and best suited for the project? What are the minimum standards and constraints? What is the production teams’ experience and capabilities?
  • Resource analysis
    What is the time and monetary budget for the project? Is there pre-existing content or a previous project that can be leveraged?

3. Don't: Forget You Are Dealing With Two Different Worlds

Unlike most software development, eLearning projects require two sets of design teams from very different backgrounds. eLearning project leaders need to develop processes that leverage best practices from both the Instructional Design and software development fields.

Curriculum and Instructional Designers are trained to create effective and engaging learning experiences that achieve a pedagogical goal. They may or may not have a good understanding of the technology processes and requirements for implementing their vision in an online environment.

Software developers generally come from an engineering background. Their goal is to select the right technology tools and platforms for building the product. They’re trained to translate business requirements into software functionalities and to code as quickly and elegantly as possible.

Both disciplines have their own methodologies and practices. Successful eLearning project leaders have the ability to build a bridge between these two worlds.

Understanding ADDIE and Agile

Instructional designers and software developers come from different backgrounds and bring different approaches to projects. The most important development models for each, respectively, are ADDIE and Agile. By understanding these approaches, you’ll be a more effective leader in managing mixed eLearning teams.

About ADDIE

The Instructional Design field has developed a number of models to help designers create effective learning experiences. Of these, the ADDIE process is probably the most commonly known and used. ADDIE is an acronym for the five steps in the process, which include:

    • Analyze
      The Instructional Designer conducts an analysis of learning goals, learner characteristics, and contexts.
    • Design
      The designer selects learning and performance objectives, adopts an instructional strategy, and chooses the right approaches for implementing it.
    • Develop
      The Instructional Designer creates the course content and materials, building learning activities and assessment tools as part of this step.
    • Implement
      The designer selects the best way to deliver the instructional materials. In the case of eLearning, this is generally achieved through some combination of web and/or mobile technologies.
    • Evaluate
      Once a course or training is ready to be launched, the Instructional Designer tests and evaluates it, making sure learners are achieving the intended goals and that all materials are being used effectively.

Although the ADDIE model is widely used and admired, it does have its detractors. In business environments, it has been criticized as being too slow and inefficient. Online courses and other eLearning products often need to be developed quickly, and ADDIE’s step-by-step approach doesn’t always mesh well with rapid prototyping and other fast development methodologies from the software world.

About Agile

Software development, in contrast, comes from engineering and many of its methodologies have been created primarily to increase the speed and efficiency of the development process while containing costs.

The feedback is used to inform another round of prototype development. The process of prototyping, testing, and feedback continues until a final product is complete. A number of variations of Agile have been developed to better define and refine the process, including a focus on MVP (minimum viable product) and the Scrum approach.

Agile has been shown to be an effective way to develop software in many cases, but it also has its detractors. In some instances, the succession of prototypes never leads to a successful product. Agile also requires strong, cohesive teams to succeed.

4. Do: Focus On Project Understanding

Successful project leaders understand that clear, objectives-based communication is the most valuable skill a leader can develop—it provides the glue that binds individuals together to achieve the end goal. “But communication is nothing without understanding,” councils Monarch Media’s Corrina Dilloughery. Project leaders must also maintain a high-level understanding of the objectives, required steps, task dependencies, and tradeoffs involved. By carefully tracking and reporting on what works and what doesn’t for each project and team, they build a body of knowledge that can be translated into systematized processes and build a knowledge base that allows for continuous improvement for future projects.

Although it takes an understanding of all elements of eLearning production, as well as work to collect and analyze data from each project, developing and adhering to a good process can yield dramatic business results. It is the best way to ensure continuous improvement in cost efficiency, development time, and quality for your eLearning courses and products.

If you would like more information about how Monarch Media can help you create better eLearning outcomes, please make an inquiry.

eBook Release: Monarch Media, Inc
Monarch Media, Inc
Education and personal development are fundamental to improving our world’s future. Since 1997, Monarch Media has been providing innovative eLearning solutions and technology while motivating others to reach their full potential.
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