Authoring elearning? Here’s how to avoid ‘immeasurable hell’

Authoring elearning? Here's how to avoid 'immeasurable hell'

When you are working with e-learning authoring desktop tools to develop, assemble and publish digital files, then the old adage “the more, the merrier” doesn’t hold up. In fact the more people working on your project, the greater the challenge.

So what are the challenges?

Desktop tools do what they say on the tin: fundamentally, they work off your desktop.

Now, that presents a challenge when you have a team of talented folks all needing to be working on the same file. The rapid tools that have taken off in the market are really designed for the one-man band digital learning producer – you know, that mythical creature we’re all meant to be now, designer, developer and graphic artist all rolled into one. And sometimes that’s fine, if you are freelancing or a lone star in your organisation’s L&D department. But mostly digital learning is still crafted by interdisciplinary teams composed of people who are experts in their fields: instructional design, software development, graphic design and so on.

The challenge then becomes to manage your team and project so that everyone can do what he or she needs to in the file without working on it at the same time. Because, to do so is to fall into the trap that no project manager ever wants to see: multiple versions of the same file all containing DIFFERENT revisions!

If you’ve ever found yourself in this immeasurable hell, you’ll know that what you have on your hands are:

  • Multiple versions of the same file – all containing different updates.
  • Version control issues – which version is the most recent and up-to-date?

How to resolve with project management

To avoid the situation occurring, there’s the added project management time (cost) needed to facilitate team members working on files at separate times that you need to factor and your PM needs to mitigate against increased overheads associated with having someone waiting for a file to work on. In a world where clients are demanding more for less, the pressure is on to find cost-saving measures without compromising on quality.

So, if you find yourself needing to ramp up on your PM time to ensure you have controls in place, you’ll want to keep your eye on efficiencies wherever possible. Make sure:

  1. Only one person is ever working on the file at any one time
  2. You don’t have resources hanging around waiting to work on the file
  3. There’s process in place for hand-off to the next person who is allotted to work on the file.

This will inevitably put pressure on the PM to organise and orchestrate the team. Even if you have this luxury (overhead) in place, you still have other issues to watch for.

So make sure you factor these in when planning:

  • Make sure your team is working on the file on their local machines. Many of the desktop tools don’t work well across the network, and you risk crashing the software or worst, corrupting the file if you attempt this.
  • You don’t want to run the risk of having lots of people working on a file and then inadvertently creating multiple versions all with different revisions. Consider setting up a SVN (sub-versioning software) to run a system of check-in/check-out with file merger capabilities. SVN software such as Tortoise shows changes and helps resolve conflicts.
  • If your team is geographically distributed a VPN (virtual private networks) can be helpful. If you are using desktop development tools, be sure your team take files off the VPN to work on them and then upload them over the VPN again when they are done to avoid conflicts or corruptions.
  • There will be a high dependency on smooth communications to ensure efficient hand-offs (which is a bit more of a challenge in distributed teams, especially those operating across time zones). So, factor in ways to keep the team connected. Messaging, conferencing and software which allows sharing documentation can all help.

Surely there’s a better way?

You can of course use project management to solve these issues but surely there’s a better way? At Elucidat, we’re always looking into ways of using technology to ‘flat-line’ project management overheads without downgrading quality.

We believe that technology should help you to manage your projects across your team, not be hinderance.

For example;

  • You should only need a browser, no installs or maintenance for VPN’s or SVN’s should be needed
  • Your team should only need to work on the one file, no check-out check-in, no risk of multiple versions
  • You should have no requirement for proprietary software to be loaded on each member of your team’s machine
  • You shouldn’t need to worry about team members working at the same time, and
  • No merger issues.

What do you think? Should these issues be solved by project management or technology?

Please let us know in the comments below.

If you believe the latter then you might want to give Elucidat a whirl?

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