Course designers guide to elearning development & collaboration

Adriann Haney | 07/03/2013

Offering unprecedented opportunities for knowledge sharing, today’s most sophisticated rapid authoring tools power collaborative in-house production processes that deliver quality faster, reduce course development time and boost profitability. But effectively collaborating between designer, expert and learner comes with new challenges. Training managers and course designers need to manage a more collaborative process, identify the Subject Matter Experts within the organisation, and then encourage these new recruits to participate in the course creation process and make sure they understand what’s expected of them.

So what does today’s forward thinking course creator need to consider when managing the development of rapid e-learning? Here we look at a workflow that enables that all important collaborative work style to take root and enable companies to successfully create content with the help of internal talent.

At the core of any successful content development process you’ll find a satisfied end user, and a sure way to navigate to this happy conclusion is winning the hearts and minds of the Subject Matter Experts. Deliver a workflow and process strategy that wins over the initial Subject Matter Expert and the rest of the business will follow. As enthusiasm grows, these first generation SMEs are likely to evangelise and, as the concept gains favour across the enterprise, spark new initiatives. Ultimately, anyone in the organization could find themselves leading the creation of e-learning.

collaborative process Whilst the SMEs in these operations may hold world-class industry know-how, their lack of familiarity with the rapid e-learning software often means they are prone to two extremes of behaviour that the training manager should be aware of so they can identify and manage these situations. The first often comes early on in the project if the SMEs are not in the picture or don’t really understand what can realistically be achieved. This perception is often held by both stakeholders and SMEs and is connected to expectations regarding timings, breadth of topics covered in a single course and the depth of detail that will be included.

The second extreme can raise its head when reality clashes with the preconceived unrealistic expectations. Typical characteristics are that the project starts to fall behind schedule as insufficient time has been allocated to authoring, and the SME starts to worry about the quality of content being created. The worst case scenario here is that the organisation does not create the course material required and is reduced to paying external consultants to do it  for them – thus negating all the possible benefits associated with rapid e-learning.

However, if a rapid elearning development model that breaks down the content development process into a series of stages is used, this will dramatically minimise these effects and enable efficient course creation. So what are the common basics that sit at the heart of most eLearning productions.

While the development processes that underpin the learning we create may look dramatically different from one project to the next, study the workflow close enough and you’ll start to see some distinct similarities appear. Planning, authoring, Q&As and publishing are the common stages at the heart of course creation when success depends on interacting and achieving  buy in from co-workers. Using a workflow like this and a software solution that supports it, project managers can successfully navigate these challenges to create e-learning courses collaboratively with co-workers. Ultimately, SMEs that were originally hesitant or reluctant to create e-learning become strong supporters.

Let’s now explore the stages in more detail to illustrate how to effectively manage the SME through each milestone:

Planning

–This is an important stage for the training manager, as it’s essential to define the learning objectives and layout course structure. They can also engage with the SMEs to ensure these are realistic and obtainable. Then confirm that they understand when they will be required to participate and how much time they need to set aside to create content. Finally, the training manager secures approval for plan from all stakeholders. This method will help to guard against unrealistic expectations being formed by either the stakeholders or the SME.

Authoring

A workshop environment is recommended to kick start the content creation. Schedule an initial workshop to allow the SME to gain hands-on experience of the e-learning software and begin creating content as per the agreed chapter structure. Then ask the SME to complete an agreed amount of content before a second workshop. Here SMEs can share learning and work through any challenges they are experiencing with their content creation. This environment also gives the project manager the opportunity to share best practice and ensure that the content the SME is creating meets learning objectives. Following this process will minimise the probability of the SME tipping into a downward trend of productivity because these checks and balances will act as a barometer of their level of engagement during the project itself.

Q & A

- Carefully managed feedback helps build, or even re-ignite, enthusiasm for the project. One of the key secrets for success in nurturing SMEs through the content creation phase is understanding the value of feedback. If an SME doubts their ability to create content, holding a small review cycle with colleagues can provide encouraging feedback and reigniting the SME’s confidence. Available research on knowledge management suggests that experts who share their knowledge increase their reputation and standing in the organisation. By ensuring the SME receives feedback on the content they have created the project manager increases their motivation.

Publishing

–Consists of final testing and publishing of the course into a business’ Learning Management System and any repurposing or localisation of course material.

Throughout the entire workflow process outlined here, the workgroup ethic provides an open forum to debate and solve problems like time pressure or loss of confidence that so frequently allow e-learning projects to stumble and fall, plus an opportunity to allocate responsibilities, secure buy-in and certify deliverables across the team.

Using a Rapid E-Learning Development Model that includes good workflow process allows even fairly inexperienced Training managers to create high quality, scalable rapid e-learning solutions internally.

In simple terms, the larger and the more dispersed the course creation team, the more likely project managers are to benefit from using the scalable model presented here.

The processes and techniques outlined above enable today’s most innovative organisations to cultivate the strong knowledge sharing culture that has become critical for success in today’s ever-changing business environment.