Are you looking for new ways to improve and streamline your elearning processes? Let’s look at some best practices for approaching the analysis and scope stage of producing elearning.
There are no hard and fast rules about how to produce great elearning, but there are a few tried and tested methods. The graphic below outlines the steps of one approach, from the initial analysis to the final evaluation of the product. In this article we’re going to start with the planning phase, stage one: analysis and scope.
Set yourself up for success
Preparation is all about setting up the project for success and making sure you’re going about it in the optimal way.
The planning phase is sometimes neglected in the tight time-scales you are often required to work to. But, planning is really important. Ignore it at your peril. Analysis is the planning step in which you identify what it is the project needs to achieve.
Getting the right people involved from the start will save you time in the long run. I recommend you include the following:
- Lead author: the person who will oversee the project from start to finish ensuring quality and objectives are met.
- Project owner: this may be the lead designer, or on larger projects a project manager who can ensure the day-to-day running of the project
- Stakeholders: the person or people who have an interest in the project, either as sponsor, commissioner or subject matter expert (SME).
Once you have the right people involved, arrange a kick-off meeting. Start with the problem you are trying to solve. This will inform the outcomes that you want from the completed product.
Here are some questions you should be asking:
- Where are the knowledge gaps?
- What do people already know about this topic?
- Are there any common misconceptions?
- What benefits will this learning have to the organization and the learner?
- Does this training align closely to your business goals?
By now you should have a clear understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. Next, you’ll need to find out who your audience is. There’s no point designing a program to run on a desktop if your target audience is a mobile salesforce seldom in the office.
Find out where the learners will be starting from:
- Are they new learners, or do they have experience you can draw on?
- What is their attitude to training and learning? If your audience are top civil servants, they may need a more academic approach than if they are salespeople who may respond best to contextualized learning.
- Is your audience used to self-study and directing their own learning? If they are not, your training design may need a more structured and supportive approach. If they are independent learners, you can free-up the structure and allow them greater choice in navigating the program.
I love using focus groups to elicit audience characteristics. You can learn a lot by running fact-finding sessions where you brainstorm a few words or phrases to personify the audience. It’s a good idea to have a colleague with you when you run the session—one of you can handle the questions and discussion while the other records responses and interprets the findings on the fly to help inform the rest of the session.
Here are some questions you need to think about during this early analysis stage:
- Where are they functioning?
- What devices are they using?
- What experience do you want them to have?
- What outcomes should result from the learning?
- How are you going to measure this behavior shift or new understanding?
- Do the anticipated outcomes align with the business objectives and goals?
- How are you going to check that you’re focusing on the right things?
Scoping involves getting a clear understanding of the design challenge that you’re about to address. For example, is it going to be a tool, survey, game, resource, course, micro-experience, simulation, diagnostic, reflection, or an app?
Several factors can affect the scope: budget, time, resources, and requirements.
If there are no objections with the first three, then you’re relatively free to push the boat out on the last one. If, as normally happens, you do have limitations on some or all of the first three, it’s important to find out what your end goal is and work backwards from there. For example, if you need to deliver a course covering safety legislation to ensure compliance, your aim will be to create an informative and behavior-changing course quickly and effectively, so don’t get distracted by stakeholders requesting lots of videos or games.
If you gather your requirements thoroughly, arriving at an agreed goal before starting, you should find that you don’t get the dreaded scope creep during the production phase.
Source content and materials
Find out if any source content or materials are already available and can be reused. Schedule time with your stakeholders or SME to analyze the content and use that time to align the content against the goals and objectives to decide what to include or exclude.
The purpose of planning is to set up the project to succeed. Honing in on the answers to fundamental questions such as, what’s the purpose of this project, what problem will it solve, and what outcomes do you want really helps to set the process on the right course.
And remember, including the right people in the early steps is crucial, so make sure your stakeholders represent both the business and the learners, because ultimately the engagement of both is crucial to success.
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Next phases in the elearning production process:
- Design (2nd phase): Save time and money through testing your ideas before you build them
- Specification (3rd phase): Define what your solution looks like and put in place a QA criteria
- Production (4th phase): Bring together your analysis, design and specs to map out and build your elearning
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