Developing learning of any kind can be a challenging process, and for eLearning there is an added degree of complexity as you consider the scope of the project.
When you are getting started with instructional design for eLearning, even the smallest project can feel like a huge mountain to climb. As you practice, and your experience grows, you will learn that the more time and effort you put in at the beginning of the process, the easier your project will go.
Here are some simple tips to consider for your next instructional design project:
- Understand ‘The Big Idea’.
Always focus on the key drivers for your course. If you understand what is driving the request for this course, and the reasoning behind it, you can better appreciate what is needed, which can direct what you need to design.
Investigate why you have been tasked with producing the course. Study the course brief, if you have one, and talk to the stakeholders to find out more. Find out first-hand from the stakeholders what they want from this course, and what their aspirations are for the end result.
Are we simply sharing knowledge with this course, or is it more about behaviour change and learning skills? Has there been an incident that has highlighted a training gap? Is there a new process being introduced? Is the course regulatory? What is the impact if the course is not created? Fully understand just what is being asked for.
Ideally, produce a summary of everything you have learned, and share it with the stakeholders before you start designing anything. This gives you an opportunity to clarify understanding with those requesting the course and gives the stakeholders the opportunity to see that you have understood what they are asking for. Resolving any misunderstandings at this stage, while potentially embarrassing, can save weeks of rework further into the design process.
Before you go any further, your main question here should be ‘is eLearning the best option for this course?’ If your answer is no, then make your case to the stakeholders for what you consider to be the most appropriate learning materials for this content.
- Define who the learners are.
You need to understand who the audience is for this course, as this can have a significant impact on the course you design. Is the course aimed at everyone within the organisation? Or is it targeting specific job roles? Alternatively, is the course aimed at a specific age bracket such as college students or millennials?
Your target audience can affect the content and how you present it, as well as the graphic design of the course, the navigation style and the language you use.
- Understand how the learners will take this course.
Start with how the course will be hosted and delivered to the learners. Traditionally courses are delivered through an LMS, but there are many variations available; anything from a modern LMS, such as Docebo with its own mobile app, through to older SCORM and AICC platforms. Alternatively, the course may be hosted on a web platform or intranet site. The method used can have a significant impact on your end course.
Then move on to understanding how the learner will view the course. Our technology is evolving at an intense rate and we can no longer assume that PCs are the only way the organisation accesses and views its information.
Use this knowledge to define your course aspect ratio and resolution.
- Guide your Subject Matter Experts.
Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are wonderful people who are passionate about their topic. But they may not understand much about eLearning and the process that goes into designing a course. If you can educate them in the possibilities of eLearning – for example what you can do with interactions, questioning, branching and scenario-based learning, they can quickly grasp the possibilities. Once they understand the possibilities, they can start to work with you, sculpting their content into an engaging course.
Your main challenge isn’t collecting the information from the SMEs, but rather distinguishing what is the critical information that you need to convey in your course. The SMEs have a deep and passionate understanding of their subject and you have to filter all of their knowledge into the ‘must know’, ‘should know’, and ‘nice to know’ buckets, so that you can design a course which puts across their knowledge in the most effective and engaging way.
If you ensure you take these four tips into consideration you will be well on your way to a smooth design and development process. It really is all in the preparation and for Instructional Designers, our preparation is gathering all of the information. Once we have that, we are in a good position to design the course we have been asked for.