Piloting a New eLearning Program

Ferrari By Teerapun pub 08 April 2013 ID-100156305

After procuring the very first LMS for our company and getting everything up and running for a period of time, it was time to mention to senior leadership my next step in the phased implementation that I had planned: the launching of a new eLearning program (See glenndrysdale.com for related articles).

I had previously shared the picture of a gorgeous, red Ferrari. I told everyone: we own that Ferrari now (our new LMS), and that it was time to get it out of the garage and start the engine, kick the tires, and get it ready to drive—but that we would only be ready to shift into first gear, then second—and later, we would be able to see what this baby could really do! It was my way of keeping a phased LMS implementation as our focus. The next phase of the implementation was eLearning content development. It was time to shift gears, and rev up the engine.

Given the importance of this decision, I decided to purchase some tools in advance, including rapid-development eLearning software, do the hard work of learning it, and develop a pilot course so that senior leadership could conceptualize exactly what I had in mind.

In addition to purchasing the eLearning software, I signed up for some training on that software; I highly recommend this step. The cost is nominal, and the expertise gleaned will create the capacity to move much quicker in implementing an eLearning plan (I don’t sell anything, or advocate for any services, on this blog but if you desire suggestions, post a message and I’ll be glad to share some resources I have used).

I took two levels of training on my chosen software, and began to practice using it when my project flow afforded me discretionary time. Of course, there are some good, basic eLearning books readily available, and I purchased several—and read them all. It is important to do the research and to conceptualize the goal; very early, these questions are among the first ones to ask:

  • Who are my learners—my audience, and what type of content will I be producing?
  • How technical is the content (which requires more expertise in production, better software, more advanced graphics and video capabilities).
  • What are the technical capabilities of my learners’ computer systems and where are they primarily located—that is, do they have laptops, smartphones, desktops with more computing power, stable and high speed internet? For example, many laptops with limited connectivity and memory cannot handle much video, and learners will be frustrated with screen freezes and such. These issues need to be considered carefully, prior to producing content.
  • What type of learning objectives do I anticipate—will we be focused on compliance training, safety, technical content specific to an industry, competency development, new hire orientation, or what? Each type of content has its own challenges and opportunities.
  • Do I have a source for quality graphics to support desired content? ELearning is a graphics-hungry media—otherwise you will be producing read-and-click modules that no one will find engaging (another topic on my blog). How can graphics be secured?
  • How many courses are anticipated, at least initially, and is the content new or will it be re-purposed from existing content—whether eLearning, instructor led courses, or other learning content? Who owns this content, and where does it reside?
  • Who are the identified SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) that can be utilized for content development and how available are they? Do you have good relationships with them?
  • Who will manage quality assurance and uploading and testing of courses into the LMS? Will your LMS administrator have time, and training, to do this? If not, who will, and what training needs to be secured?
  • What human resource professionals are available to assist in producing the eLearning content, whether full time, part time, or contract?
  • Who will be your in-house voice talent (you?), and who has editing capabilities for text?
  • Who is your key IT person available to assist you with difficulties in uploading content to your LMS if you experience them as you navigate these new processes?
  • Who are the key stakeholders and potential eLearning champions that you need to develop relationships with and invite to the showing of your pilot course?

After careful consideration of these questions, and after securing both the eLearning software and your training on it, produce your pilot course. Do this with few promises in terms of delivery dates, since you will be learning throughout the process as time is available and will be determining the capabilities of those that might be assisting you—as well as your own. Do your other work, and develop your pilot quietly, not sharing much about it with others, until your confidence grows. Of course, this advice can be altered in large companies with lots of training staff—I did not have this luxury at the time.

Fortunately, in my own case, this pilot project was done on a time-available basis. I didn’t say much about it until the course was ready, and then I got the keys to the Ferrari, invited a few key senior leaders to my office, and took them for a drive! I had a clear audience and purpose for the pilot course, interactive content mapped to a real learning need, voice-overs, high quality graphics (much of it purchased), video clips that I had captured myself on an HD camcorder, and even some music clips in a few places. I showed the course on my own monitor in my office, for key stakeholders that I hoped would become my eLearning champions. It helped them conceptualize the content and the value that it could bring.

The response I heard, immediately: “What do we have to do to get more of this?” I knew then that we were ready to begin, in earnest.

Once the vision is clear, enthusiasm will ramp up and stakeholders will be willing to invest in the project, and even to champion it—all of which is crucial to your success. From there, it will be easier to secure the investment of time and resources needed to ramp up your eLearning initiatives, for the benefit of your company.

It’s a journey well worth taking.

Find more information at learningopensdoors.com

Graphic: FreeDigitalPhotos, Teerapun, ID-10015630