Category Archives: L & D Issues

“How long does it take you to develop an eLearning course?” Part 2

Good Fast or Cheap--How Long to Dev eLearning

I know: last time, I didn’t answer the question, so here we are again.

In case you missed it, check out part one of this series!

First, let’s talk Project Management.

Accomplished project managers will have to excuse me for using a rather crude version of a concept that comes from this field. I live in the trenches as a learning professional, and my customers are typically internal. I may be accused of dummying this down a bit, and maybe that’s the only way I can use it. Please forgive.

I’m getting to the answer to the question; really I am. But first, let’s look at this graphic related to service design. Here is the project management triangle, a model about the constraints of project management, where each side represents a constraint. One side of the triangle cannot be changed without affecting the others. Scope, cost and schedule all affect the whole. It’s a useful model.

Proj Mgt Triangle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project Management Triangle at Wikimedia Commons

 

Here’s the down-and-dirty model that I use, and it’s used frequently, today:

Euler Diagram

The project triangle as a “pick any two” Euler diagram at Wikimedia Commons

 

The model demonstrates that in any give project, you can have two, but never three—but you get to pick which two you prefer. If you want all three, keep dreaming. There really are no free lunches, no shortcuts to quality. Might some use this model to justify laziness or poor work quality? Sure, but that is a different issue. This model is really about managing the opposing forces of quality, speed and cost against each other.

Said a bit differently…

Good Fast Cheap

Good + Fast = Expensive. In this approach, the answer is always yes. We will drop everything, cancel all appointments, and getterdone! Just open your wallet. Yet this option is difficult, because deploying more resources on a project doesn’t necessarily lead to greater efficiency (See Brooks’ Law of software development). Often, it just takes what it takes!

Good + Cheap = Slow. We will do great work, in between all our other projects and while waiting for the elusive SME (Subject matter Expert) to find time to sit down with us, since he has other priorities. Just don’t ask us for hard-stop deadlines.

Fast + Cheap = Bad. It’s still true that you get what you pay for. We can tweak a PowerPoint deck and throw it into a software program and post it. But, don’t expect sound course development, learning objectives, or learning transfer. But the truth is, delivering a project where the result is low quality is rarely an option today.

Some say you can have all three; others say you can really only pick one. The best chance of getting all three? It’s a small, agile team with adequate resources and flexible timelines, provided the team has enough expertise to get the job done. Now, back to our question.

Clock large

How long does it take to produce an eLearning course? Here’s the answer…

It depends…on what you want most.

There are always trade-offs; the speed of business often doesn’t allow for as much time and resources to be dedicated to a project as we might like. We might not have enough dedicated staff. Timelines can be shorter than we’d like. So, you can pick two. Speed depends on what you pick as your focus.

Here are some other items that the answer to the question depends upon:

• How available and motivated are your SMEs, needed to provide content?
• What sort of budget is available for graphics, software, and time-on-task?
• What level of support is there for this project or program, from senior leadership?
• Do you have current, quality branding, logos, and colors available?
• Is there an overall instructional design and content development strategy already in place?
• Who is empowered to make decisions about this project, in a collaborative environment?
• Who is on the development team and is this team empowered, supported, and believed in?

Here, now, is the rest of the answer to the question…

1. Realize that beginning a new eLearning development program, internally, is a much bigger task than you may think. It needs staffing, budget, and a tool kit suitable for the task. Do not begin without careful consideration and consultation with a learning professional.

2. You can use a vendor rather than developing your courses internally, but custom course design is often billed by finished course minute. Know what you want, and what your budget is. Off-the-shelf course packages are available, often priced by head count—the number of people viewing a course. Over time, this can grow to be expensive, so be strategic in your decisions.

3. To do the job well internally, don’t rush to hire an instructional designer. Build your program. Hire a learning architect (a fairly new term for one that leads the learning function), a learning professional with broad and deep expertise to build a learning function that will accomplish your goals. In the end, this approach will be cheaper than attempting to do it without adequate resources, and you will avoid the resulting false starts.

4. Start here: find a person that you can trust to build it, trust him, and let him build the functionality you need. Support him. See number 3.

5. Structure matters. Structure can’t cause growth, but it can limit growth. The learning function needs to be structured well. See number 4.

6. Decide what you can commit to, and commit fully. You have to build a clear vision for your goals, and then staff to that vision. Resist trying to find shortcuts. See number 4.

Beginning an eLearning function in your organization and producing quality, effective courses is a journey that takes time. It needs to be done well the first time, or you the risk having false starts, poor quality, and the loss of credibility and enthusiasm resulting in greater risk of eventual failure. Much depends upon the types of content that you will develop as well as what dedicated, trained staff are deployed for the initiative. Many tools exist to manage time lines, budgets, toolkit deployment, development priorities, and so forth. But I maintain that it isn’t really about that. It’s about leadership, and that requires a person: a leader-practitioner that knows how to get the job done, that you can trust to own and manage the eLearning program–for the entire journey.

The answer to the question, how long does it take to produce an eLearning course?

It depends.

“How long does it take you to develop an eLearning course?”

Good Fast or Cheap--How Long to Dev eLearning

It’s been a very busy time for me, with lots of conversations happening, and in several of them, I’ve received questions related to how much time it takes to develop an eLearning course. I’m going to discuss this question here, but the answer is more complex than it may seem. The two-part series I’m writing here is provided to educate regarding the issues involved, not to obfuscate them. But those wanting quick, “pat answers” will be disappointed, and I make no apologies for this, as it’s an important subject.

The Complexity of the Issue

One instructional designer in a large, multi-national company said she had spent eight months on one course with an SME (Subject Matter Expert) that kept changing the game, moving the goalposts on her—deciding on-the-fly to alter the course design, causing considerable extra work. The ID (Instructional Designer) kept complying, and the changes kept coming. I asked her if she had a process for managing change requests, and she did, but the SME ignored it, and was disorganized, continually reacting to what he saw on screen, requesting seemingly endless changes. As a result, this course took the better part of a year to complete, and this was the first of a dozen courses that were anticipated: at that rate, this course development project would have taken twelve years! I was able to present some options for a sound course development process, to resolve some of the issues.

This is only one example regarding the difficulty of answering this question: “How long does it take you to develop an eLearning course?”

Clock large 2

The Question is Bigger Than You Think

Whether in government, Higher Ed, or corporate learning, we are asked this question in the name of deliverables—regarding what can we produce, and how long it will take. Consultants get the question, as do internal Instructional Designers.

When the question comes, our feet get light and we feel that we might need to break into a dance. We’ve been asked to dance to this tune before, many times, and we hesitate. Why? So many reasons! We are tempted to dance with the questioner because we know all of the variables involved in producing good eLearning content, the inter-dependency involved in working with others in a collaborative environment, the frequent change requests that can come too late in the process, and the too-frequent disregard for deadlines on the part of SMEs who have their own challenges. We are asked for hard-stop deadlines when so much does not depend upon us. There are just so many variables.

What Instructional Design Professionals Know

We know that some of us can get much too artsy and take too much time tweaking an image, or picking a color or font; we understand that the speed of business necessitates that we need to keep projects moving. We also know what quality looks like, and how to achieve it, and we know that too many shortcuts won’t produce it.

We know the right answer to the question…but we don’t want to give it too soon.

Competing in the Learning Space

We also know that more than ever before, competing in this space as a course content developer or learning provider is becoming more challenging, since eLearning providers and LMS vendors continue to proliferate and also to be consolidated, significantly enhancing course offerings and affecting pricing models. Those that remain must step up their game with sound, quality content that engages learners and meets business needs.

Skillsoft alone boasts 19 million learners and 6,000 customers; such vendors are partnering with LMS providers and are driving down prices. Lynda.com has a different business model but is well supported. There are many content providers today, across many industries, including eLearning, mLearning, vLearning, talent management suites, and VILT (virtual, live platforms). The competition has never been greater; the need for excellent content and competitive pricing structures puts pressure on smaller vendors and niche players.

TIME AND MONEY iStock_000001930442Large

Learning from the Research

We also know the metrics, and they vary depending on the type of course to be produced. In Higher Ed it is thought that a full-time ID (Instructional Designer) can produce perhaps 12 – 15 courses per year, depending on certain variables, in that type of eLearning. In corporate eLearning, I have heard it said that it takes about 33 hours of development time for one finished hour of learning, but that figure seems low, unless the ID is developing short soft skills courses with no need for collaboration or research. One respected research organization has looked at these metrics across many industries related to what I would term corporate-style eLearning, and has found that for a level-one, basic course, 79:1 is typical: you can expect to expend 79 hours of development time for a one-hour, finished course. More complex level-one projects, they say, take more like 125:1. However, they also found that for a more typical level-two course with template features, the figure is more like 184:1, and we generally refer to that course type as “rapid development.” For higher level, very technical courses, their research says it takes more like 267:1. Yes, that is 267 hours of development time for one hour of produced content. A level-3 course ranges from 217:1 – 716:1, depending upon complexity.¹

These figures represent time on task, not including wait time for SMEs to provide content, and not including change orders and so forth. In one Fortune 500 company, the learning director told me that it takes 100 hours of design time for a typical course—and these courses average less than one hour in length, but they tend to be rather technical in nature. Another research study noted that for an average, rapid-development one-hour course with moderate interactivity, development times ranged from 90 to 240 hours. ²

So, you say, we will use a consultant and get content developed externally from a vendor? That’s fine…just be prepared to open the wallet. It won’t be cheap, and it shouldn’t be, for quality. One eLearning vendor that I talked with told me that his average custom course development price, with all factors considered, would be around $30,000–for one course. This pricing seems typical and may not be excessive given that in large organizations, perhaps thousands of learners will access it over time with no cost for travel, hotel, facilitation, and so forth. Smaller organizations don’t have budgets for this level of cost, however, and often opt for an in-house ID or independent contractors. Still others opt for subscription services for learning content, paying a monthly per-user fee, sacrificing all customization of content.

Each choice has its own challenges and opportunities. There are many variables regarding purchased, vendor-produced courses, including whether or not you own the course content or are merely “renting” it. Subscription, per-user content vendors are growing substantially, for off-the-shelf content with varied quality. And, the more technical the content, the more assistance will be needed from internal SMEs for custom content development. Using a consultant can be the perfect choice, depending on the variables. How fast will it be? How expensive? How good?

IDs get offended sometimes at the questioning. I’m good, and I’m fast, but I don’t do junk, we may say. We need to know who will be on our project team, or if we will be developing the content as a one-man band. If we will be developing the content in-house: what are the roles, the people that will assist and support, and are there dedicated SME/employee hours to spend on course development? Is there a budget for graphics? What software is there? These are important questions along the way in formulating the answer to that question: How long will it take?

The question I’d be asking now, if I wanted to understand how to budget time and resources for an eLearning project is: What is typical, and what is realistic? The research I’ve cited stretches across many industries including 249 companies. Smaller companies, non-profits, Higher Ed…there are many variables, too many to account for, in this one article. The nature of the course content, industry, learning type and desired course length are all important considerations, as is the LMS (Learning Management System) on which the learning will be deployed.

The Tasks Involved

Here is more information from research, regarding the variety of tasks involved in producing eLearning, and what percentage of time these tasks take:³
• Front End Analysis: 9%
• Instructional Design: 13%
• Storyboarding: 11%
• Graphic Production: 12%
• Video Production: 6%
• Audio Production: 6%
• Authoring/Programming: 18%
• QA Testing: 6%
• Project Management: 6%
• SME/Stakeholder Reviews: 6%
• Pilot Test: 4%
• Other: 1%

This list reveals the need for considerable expertise in the instructional design process, and for having an experienced learning leader to manage the program. Too often, an eLearning development program results in shallow, educationally unsound courses with little possibility of facilitating performance improvement or employee development. Over time, this becomes obvious, and credibility is lost. An experienced learning leader to manage the process is crucial for success, since quantity does not equal quality, and efficiency does not equal effectiveness. What’s the ultimate value in producing the learning content if it does not adequately support the business or result in meaningful people development?

How do I answer the question, then: How long does it take to create an eLearning course?

That’s Part 2.

Sources
 1 Chapman, B. (2010) How Long Does it Take to Create Learning? [Research Study]. Published by Chapman Alliance LLC. www.chapmanalliance.com.
  2 Karl Kapp. https://www.td.org/Publications/ Newsletters/Learning-Circuits/Learning-Circuits-Archives/2009/08/Time-to-Develop-One-Hour-of-Training.
  3 Chapman, B. (2010) How Long Does it Take to Create Learning? [Research Study]. Published by Chapman Alliance LLC. www.chapmanalliance.com. I realize that this does not total to 100%, but I don’t know the reason for this. It’s difficult to account for everything, I think.

Illustrations: iStockphoto

Empower Your Learning Leader!

LEARN AND LEAD iStock_000018956242Large

Dis-empowered employees are a significant issue today. Professionals with skills and passion too often are forced to patiently do their jobs as best they can without clear direction and without the ability to make a decision and execute on it. This is a leadership problem. Perhaps there is no one to execute leadership, no one will allow it, or layers of ineffective processes are in the way. In the case of learning leaders—those that lead the learning function in organizations, or at least are trying to—this situation is unnecessary, and costs untold dollars in lost productivity and lack of innovation. The end result is that the business is not supported as well as it ought to be.

Work environments are dis-empowering for many reasons, usually poor ones. Perhaps the person in the leadership role does not have the skills or passion to lead—this is a different issue than I am addressing here. Perhaps senior leadership is fearful or overly controlling—if so, it will limit the effectiveness of the learning function. Perhaps some people are in the wrong roles, where they cannot be effective—this is an issue that needs solving. Regardless, it is important for senior leadership to create an empowering environment in order to maximize their investment in the learning function, for the good of the entire organization.

Now, with the disclaimers aside, let’s talk about how to empower your learning leader, a person with the training, skills, and passion to lead the learning function in the organization. There are only three simple, basic steps to success.

How to Empower your Learning Leader

  1. Find the right leader, one you can trust. This is a person that is trained in the tools and processes of talent development, with the experience to lead; there is no substitute for this. If your learning leader lacks credibility, the learning function will suffer. This is also a person that respects the mission, vision, and values of the organization with high enough emotional intelligence not to alienate people. The learning leader must be able to create synergy and collaboration among the various functions of the business. If you don’t have this person, the rest of this article does not apply to your situation; enough said.
  1. Hand over the keys. Yes, you heard that right; hand them over! If you can’t do that, see #1. Otherwise, hand them over, and let the passion and innovation flow! Let this learning leader lead; have the rest of the learning function report up to him. Don’t handcuff this leader with layers of committees and cumbersome processes that reduce the agility of the learning function! Hand…them…over. This doesn’t mean that you cannot coach on business etiquette, people skills, understanding the business, or whatever—but the learning function needs more expertise than you have; otherwise, why did you hire a learning leader? You can’t coach him on the learning function, so you have to trust him. If you don’t, you will dis-empower the learning function and will wonder why no one seems to make any innovative decisions and why it seems that initiative and enthusiasm are gone, and you will want to do an engagement survey to find out what is happening. But the answers will be obvious to your learning leader. Hand…over…the…keys.
  1. Become okay with changes as the learning leader innovates. In any worthwhile endeavor, changes are needed—not once, but as an ongoing part of the process. Seeing changes happening does not necessarily mean that the wrong decisions were made initially. Perhaps those decisions were right for the business at an earlier time, but that time is past. Agility is more important! The ability to move with the speed of business and the standing permission to lead are more important than staying with past broken or outdated approaches to learning. See #2. Right decisions need to be made—from a solid learning and development perspective—to get to innovation. Unfreeze the current practices so that new ones can be developed, and allow it to happen, patiently supporting and guiding—without micromanaging.

Effectiveness and Efficiency: Get the Order Right!

A further note about the need for agility and change is needed, regarding the difference between effectiveness and efficiency. Much too often, senior leaders want to work on efficiency before effectiveness, which will always result in failure over the long term. What do I mean here?

Effectiveness, or doing the right things, is the starting point in any initiative. A learning leader understands this, and it often results in the need to abandon certain practices. Peter Drucker said long ago that you cannot only ADD things, or you will OVERWHELM the business; you must also subtract, or ABANDON things. A good learning leader has a strong sense of what will work, and what will not. He will want to abandon some things; let this happen! It’s senior leadership’s job to protect and empower, not to be an enabler of poor practices.

Do not force your learning leader to work on efficiency first—that is, improving the current practices. It is an exercise in insanity to keep attempting to perfect poor processes! This is like attempting to paint the interior walls of a house that has a faulty foundation; it might look prettier, but it won’t last. In a short-term situation, under the tyranny of the urgent, perhaps you will need to finish up with some current practices before retiring them, even though this may create extra work later; we all understand this, but this should be short-term only, and only when critical to the needs of the business. Resist the temptation to prop up poor practices to save face; in the end, everyone knows the truth and people will respect leadership more for owning the problems and supporting a new direction.

In the oil and gas industry, when a well is no longer producing, the phrase used is: “plug and abandon.” Plug the well, abandon it, and move on. Who knows when it is time to do this? The answer is: Your learning leader. Let…her…lead. There are no shortcuts, and no cookie cutter approaches. You cannot apply “best practices”—an over-used term today—to ineffective systems and come out of it with much that is sustainable. You must be doing the right things before attempting to do them better! Let the process of building something systemic and sustainable happen, and support it. If need be, push back deadlines—which are often artificially imposed—and allow time for better processes to be developed.

Empowering your learning leader is the first step to a better, more agile learning organization, but it is too often the step never taken. Find your learning leader, commit to him, support him, and let him lead. Hand over the keys, and expect more agility and change within the learning organization. In the end, it will help everyone to be more successful.

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Avoiding Death by eLearning: Four Key Strategies

Avoid Death by eLearning

A new eLearning initiative is exciting—it’s new, and fresh, and has the potential to add value by solving organizational problems and meeting needs. It’s not merely another data dump of knowledge that’s as practical as snow chains in the sub-tropics. It’s a new hope for something that learners can connect with. Until…

We’ve seen it—what’s fresh becomes old; one ancient writer said that there’s nothing new under the sun, and learners can begin to feel that way. In one of my eLearning development initiatives, I was with a company that had never used eLearning, and everything I rolled out seemed fresh and exciting. Later, as compliance training modules were heaped on, learners began to hate the word “eLearning.” This is always a challenge. eLearning can get old fast, and if we are not careful, it can become nothing but re-purposed PowerPoint slides with too many words, read-and-click slides with eternally long voiceovers read by Ferris Buhler’s teacher, just as live presenters read slides in PowerPoint presentations when they are filled with too many words and the presenters don’t know how to engage the audience—or don’t care to.

How do we avoid death by eLearning? It’s a constant challenge, but here are four ways that work for me.

  1. To avoid death by eLearning, have a trained instructional designer on your project team. This might seem obvious, yet in many situations, senior leadership merely utilizes people already on staff to develop courses, and the end result is often that no instructional design leadership and expertise exist on the team! Instructional design concepts and methodologies matter; it is important that what we produce is educationally sound. This is a topic for another post, but simply stated: Gagne, Bloom, and Kirkpatrick are people who should be informing your course design. I’ve been a Secondary and Higher Ed professional, and have a deep background in instructional design theory and practice. Without it, I would have produced mere data dumps: lots of information dumped on “learners” adding little value and not helping them become more competent in their jobs—which is, after all, the point.

Can anyone produce eLearning? The answer is NO; not without training and experience. Anyone can place content on PowerPoint slides along with some bad clip art that violates all kinds of copyright laws to be hosted on an LMS (Learning Management System) for compliance and tracking purposes. I would question if that is real learning. In fact, it is usually not called learning, but training (I feel another post coming on: another time).

A side note: I value educators, and have great respect for teachers. I appreciate Higher Ed style eLearning, and I believe that in many ways it is more engaging, especially in terms of utilizing Bloom’s Taxonomy for higher level skills in the cognitive domain. Yet, corporate eLearning has its place, and it is a very different application than Higher Ed eLearning; knowledge of educational principles is not enough to produce corporate eLearning that adds value to an organization, competence to the workforce, and management of its learning function. We can argue about whether this should be so, but it is. I hired an ID (Instructional Designer) from Higher Ed, and since I have been in that space I knew how to work with this direct report to quickly help him begin adding value, but there is a learning curve. Knowing about ADDIE, Madeleine Hunter, Bloom, Gagne and Kirkpatrick is important and still relevant, but much skill is needed to produce corporate eLearning that can provide engaging, sound, value-added content for your organization. Not to mention working effectively with SMEs (Subject Matter Experts—again, a different post).

  1. To avoid death by eLearning, do not equate “rapid development” with poor quality. There are some excellent rapid development tools available today (this is the subject of another post, in fact—how fast can eLearning be produced?), but tools must be wielded by skilled people to be useful. I have had plumbers in my home once or twice that didn’t bring the right tools to the job, and some that didn’t seem to use effectively the tools they already had available. Both are important. Simpler tools wielded by a professional can accomplish more than elaborate tools in the hands of a novice—which can be dangerous. One plumber told me the story of a homeowner that decided to rent his own electric snake to clean out a drain; the man ended up with the snake wrapped around his body, and he sustained some significant injuries! Of course, excellent tools in the hands of a professional can be a thing of beauty.

Today, rapid development tools are better than ever, but here are some things that they can’t substitute for:

  • Real learning objectives that inform and organize meaningful content
  • Appropriately sequenced learning modules informed by adult learning principles
  • Engaging, quality graphics that enhance the learning and support the objectives
  • Multimedia, including audio and video, in support of the learning
  • Content that utilizes cognitive levels beyond merely remembering and understanding
  • Assessments that accurately measure how well course objectives have been learned
  • Strategies to increase the on-the-job competence of learners
  1. To avoid death by eLearning, have learners DO things! No, not merely to have them doing things, but doing things in support of the learning. The following strategies are especially important in this regard.

Interactions: These can be as simple as requiring learners to click, select, consider a choice, fill in a blank, or listen to audio. Admittedly, this is not high-level interaction, yet engaging the learner even in simple ways does help, though we don’t want to make it overly redundant, or trite. Keep in mind that for safety, competence and compliance training, companies want to be able to prove that learners accessed all of the content; while we want to give learners choices, giving them the choice to skip content is often not appropriate.

We know that our learners will try to answer an email, take a phone call, or even have live conversations while a course is on screen. IDs become indignant about such distracted learners; so, while it is not admittedly high level activity, at times ANY activity can help keep learners involved with the course.

Scenarios: Give your learners choices! Adult learners want this, or they feel insulted by dull, generic content that they could just as easily read from a book or the internet. Scenario-based learning requires a higher level of engagement. This is where Bloom can inform your course design and you can move learners to higher levels of thinking.

Scenarios that call upon learners to make choices similar to the ones they need to make in the workplace, utilizing concepts being taught in the course, make a difference. They utilize adult learning principles and keep learners much more engaged, increasing the odds that the content will result in real learning at deeper levels, even resulting in behavior change and better results on the job, after the learning.

Media: Today, sound is a part of our lives; music is part of our everyday experience. Why should it not be part of our learning, as well? Appropriate music clips during time allowed for reading slide content (only when such content is necessary) can put the learner at ease; it can be relaxing and, according to some studies, can enhance the learning environment. Video, as we know, is more engaging than text or even audio, though working with video in eLearning courses requires more skill, software, and company bandwidth. I am glad to make recommendations regarding this issue. Frequent screen freezes and course re-starts are not engaging for learners.

Voiceovers: Typically a part of corporate eLearning, voiceovers can be helpful, but pitfalls exist. Adult learners like choices, one of which is to read at their own individual speed, which is difficult if someone is reading the words to them. Voiceovers should not merely read the words that are already on the screen. Computer programs with voices for reading eliminates the need for humans to do the voiceovers, though they often sound unnatural and are more distracting than helpful. I like to get my SMEs to read some, and they usually love it (though they won’t often say they do. One of my SMEs sent me this message, months after we finished a course together: “Found a new voice worthy enough to replace my all-star, MVP caliber vocals, yet?”). In scenarios, you will need multiple voices for different parts that will need to be read in character. Voiceover talent can be hired, as well. Some voices are better than others.

  1. Finally, to avoid death by eLearning, include a little personality and a sense of humor in your courses! Why not? Life is too short to be serious all the time!

A great placement for humor is within scenarios; learners appreciate this, because there is often humor in the challenges we face in the workplace every day. We all tell stories about the interesting, funny things that happen on the job. Why not build it into your learning? No, we don’t want humor just for its own sake; it has to support our learning objectives. Still, some appropriately placed humor can liven up the learning and increase learner engagement, and even improve assessment scores.

Find interesting voices, with color. Use graphics that add a touch of humor—always supporting the learning and never inappropriate for the workplace, but still engaging. eLearning is a graphics-hungry media. You never have enough, if used well.

Don’t only produce compliance-related courses. Find topics and content that will support the business, add value, and improve the competence of the workforce in professional skills, as well. Topics such as emotional intelligence, leadership, and management principles are important, and they will round out your curricula and add variety while benefiting learners as well as the organization.

Be sure that everything in your course WORKS as intended. Humor won’t minimize the effects of clunky course functions, screen freezes, links that go nowhere, and so forth.

And finally…make it fun for the ID team, as well. Enjoy what you do, and have fun at the business! The end result will be more engaging for your learners and for yourselves.

To avoid death by eLearning, utilize these principles. When starting down the path of developing eLearning, especially in new initiatives, it helps to find a mentor and to be part of a team that all shares the same vision; after all, we are learners, too. We all have to add value to our organizations, and it helps when we can do it as part of a team. Most of all, enjoy the journey!

To join in the discussion, please comment!

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

Learning and Development Architecture: The Lay of The Land

Lifelong Learning Matters!

Learning is for a lifetime. It is the way to solve problems and develop people…and ourselves. It matters, every day.

Much of the discussion around learning is focused on everything but learning for its own sake. It seems that everyone has something to sell, or some business goal to achieve. Sometimes, that is a good thing. Other times, learning ends up seeming far too complex and we lose sight of the excitement, the satisfaction, and the real benefits of learning–for institutions and individuals. Let’s attempt to re-capture some of that!

Today, Learning and Development–increasingly referred to as Talent Development–is a more complex entity than ever. Whether corporate learning or Higher Ed, the choices available to us in building learning opportunities seem immense. This site is designed to be a down-to-earth discussion portal of today’s learning architecture–the strategies, platforms, tools and content available to our organizations.

Here are only a few of the terms and concepts that we are encountering today: gamification, Learning Management Systems, Talent Development Systems, Content Management, competency mapping, eLearning, mLearning, instructor-led training, learning modalities, analytics and metrics, informal learning, social learning, continuous learning, adult learning strategies, talent development, and on it goes…

The lay of the land is exciting, but complex. The corporate LMS market alone is valued at over $2 billion in 2014, and the choices are dizzying. Smaller vendors are being acquired by larger ones. Content providers are purchasing LMS companies to host their content, bundling customer solutions. I’ve written articles about how to select an LMS, and others have as well. New Higher Ed LMSs are emerging.  Talent Management Systems seem to be taking over much of the corporate LMS landscape today–vendors are offering just about everything, for a price. Smaller businesses need choices, but the costs can be prohibitive. How to navigate this complex landscape?

This is a place to talk about learning architecture–our problems to solve, our desire for tools and solutions, our learning strategies, and our delivery choices–whether we’re involved in corporate or Higher Ed environments. It’s a place for training professionals, Higher Ed and corporate designers, learning/training managers, and learning leaders to talk. At least, I will be! I invite you to enter into the discussion.

The header image for this site is of the Boston Public Library–a beautiful, inviting place to learn. I hope that this site can capture the same spirit, and be a place for learning professionals to share and learn together, about the landscape before us.

We’ve just begun the journey…join in!