Tag: MGPP

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Emotional Pitfalls of eLearning as a New Business

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Falling into a deep hole

In Using Moodle for Business, I put “lack of objectivity” at the top of Common Mistakes.  As with any new venture, deciding to launch an eLearning site has its risks.  There will be costs, there will need to be a great deal of time invested to make it work, and the revenue stream is never guaranteed.

No matter how excited you are about the unlimited potential of having your content online, you must harness that excitement and write a business case.  This business case must be based on facts and data from market research, financial considerations, and your own self-assessment. It should not be an emotionally-driven document.

This doesn’t mean that you should be dispassionate in the implementation of your plan.  Passion is what makes most businesses succeed.  Even the largest corporations today began as ideas of passionate people, undaunted by potential risks.

Be passionate in the work.  Be objective and calculating in the decision-making.

Another Common Mistake is the lack of a budget – a realistic budget.  I really did have one client tell me her budget was “angel’s wings”.  I’m not really sure how many dollars or euros that is, but I’m pretty sure it meant that she had no budget at all.  For a rare few, that can mean they have unlimited resources.  For most of us, it means that we will need to make some choices, based on what we can afford.  Failure to make those choices in the beginning almost always leads to overall project failure.

Even if you have narrowed your search and have decided on Moodle, it can cost from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars to construct a site.  Know what you must have and know what you can afford!

It is intuitive to most people that a building – factory, store-front, warehouse – will be a large expense for any business moving in.  There will be lease or mortgage payments, utilities, the cost of moving in and setting up.  Equipment and supplies will be needed.

Rarely do I see a sign that reads “FREE WAREHOUSE SPACE.  MOVE IN TODAY!”

But when it comes to eLearning (not just Moodle), we are teased and lured in by the promise of “free hosting”, “free downloads”, “free domains”.  This has led many people to believe that a web presence – unlike a physical presence – is free.  There is nothing to pay for; it’s all free!

As my client Kyle* says, “It doesn’t take much to do it poorly.  It is, in fact, effortless”.

Quality of Your ELearning Site =

Money You Put Into It + Time You Put Into It + Planning You Put Into It

Even if you don’t have much money, you can have a great site.  The better you plan and the more time you put in yourself, the less it will cost.  But again, don’t let your passion drive your budget.  Be realistic about your financial resources and passionate with the time you put into the planning and the building of the content.

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Monday, December 20th, 2010

How to Keep Your eLearning Development On Time & On Budget

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I have a wonderful client named Kyle.  He works for a company you’ve all heard of.  He is learning Moodle as we go; since he is quite comfortable using many computer applications, he’s a quick study.

What makes Kyle so great to work with?

He has more invested in the success of his Moodle courses than I do.  This may sound like a no-brainer but I often feel as though I’m more aware of our deadlines than my clients are! Yes, I know that clients are busy doing other things, which is precisely why they hired me.  And I know I’m not alone, as this post from The eLearning Coach proves.  But in much the same way as when I hired a brick layer to build paths through my gardens, my eLearning clients must provide feedback and make decisions throughout to ensure their courses meet their expectations.  Otherwise, everything ends up looking and sounding like me!

Here are some tips to help make your foray into eLearning go faster, easier, and end up as great as you had dreamed it would be: 

  1. Create and stick to your multi-generation product plan (MGPP), covered in this post.
  2. Create and stick to a project timeline that fits with the MGPP.  A simple Gantt chart will do.  It is important to remember that the more rushed the work is, the less likely it is to be exactly what you wanted.
  3. Review it frequently.  Don’t wait until the course is finished or the week before it will go live.  The sooner you spot something you don’t like the less time will be wasted on rework.  Everyone involved in the building of a course, from the instructional designer to the graphic artist to the video editor, makes style choices.  These choices may not be your choice. 
  4. Understand it.  Kyle, my client, gave me direction on how he wanted their book translated to Moodle online.  I gave him some options and my opinion; he chose a path to take.  After awhile, he realized he might have preferred some of the other options.  This didn’t happen because Kyle is fickle, but because he’s not a Moodle expert.  We don’t expect you to become experts in authoring tools or LMS, but the more you know, the more you’ll understand your options.  Even if you don’t know combustion engines, you still know to ask about fuel economy when you consider a new car… 
  5. Plan for use, now and next year.  I covered this in My Moodle site is up and running.  Now What?  It’s so easy to be excited about the launch, but as that date approaches, fear sets into nearly every client when he realizes “I don’t know how to monitor a forum, create a user, or get a grade report”.  

Kyle and I have put together a really kick-ass site that met both budget and time requirements of his company. We have managed our project timeline so that we would have plenty of time to play with features, compare options, and obtain feedback from others.  You can have the same success with your project, by following the simple tips above.

Related posts on using eLearning for your business: 

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Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Getting to the moon in manageable phases: Using an MGPP for eLearning development.

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Yes!  You want the greatest eLearning courses ever!  Every feature for every type of learner!  Your clients come first and you want them to be happy! You will launch this fantastic site in three months, maybe six.  But soon.           

OK, come down to Earth            

Realistically, can you afford all that?  Do you know enough about eLearning to work with someone to create the greatest design ever? Do you know enough about your elearning clients’ needs to build something they will think is the greatest ever?  Can you really eat that elephant all at once?            

Probably not.            

Does that mean you should hang it up and forget the idea altogether?           

Of course not!            

One step at a time, with the moon in mind        

Click for PDF

Here’s a handy tool that new product developers use to help them manage successful launches.  It’s the same technique used by NASA to get to the moon and back “by the end of the decade”.   It is called a multi-generation product (or process) plan.   

It will help you to stay focused and within scope.  It allows you to have a lofty goal while still accomplishing important milestones along the way.          

There are many fables emphasizing the wisdom of this approach, but the proverbial phrase haste makes waste says it all.            
    

Creating and using an MGPP           

  1. List all of the areas in which you’ll have to make choices for your project.  This example is for elearning; if it were for building a house the list might include Usage (year round, vacation), Location, Size (if you plan for additions, the final product will look better), outbuildings, landscaping, recreational features.   
  2. For each item above, write down your ultimate dream (to the far right) and the minimum you can do soon to make it worthwhile (to the far left).  You may know only one end of each spectrum; for instance, you may have no idea what technology will be the “ultimate” 10 years from now.   
  3. Critically review your soon and ultimate ideas in each category.  What milestones, upgrades, and external factors would be needed to go from soon to ultimate?  Examples: number of students on your site, annual revenue, number of employees, 10 GB speed on mobile phones, you become a Moodle master…If you try to reach the ultimate now, it will likely take you so long that by the time you achieve it, it won’t be the ultimate any longer. 
  4. Take a good guess at how many of those steps you’ll need; these become the generations.  For NASA, the three generations were Mercury (unmanned space flight), Gemini (manned space flight), and Apollo (manned flight with a layover on the moon).  The greater the difference between what you can accomplish soon and the ultimate goal, the greater the number of generations you’ll have or the bigger the leap from one generation to another.  Warning:  big leaps carry bigger risks.
  5. Fill in what you can in the matrix.  Stick to it for at least one generation at a time.  If you find that it just isn’t working, reevaluate it.  Don’t try to force it, but don’t abandon it, either.  Remember, it’s a guidance document; as the world changes, so will your MGPP. 

The format of the MGPP can be anything you want it to be; anything that works for you. It really does work!

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Monday, May 10th, 2010

Six Easy Steps to Convert Your Content to e-Learning

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Dazed and confused by all the choices!

Which way to go?

Recently I wrote a post about how e-Learning can benefit entrepreneurs and small businesses by reaching a larger audience and leaving more time to spend on higher value activities. The biggest barrier to entry for those of us sans-IT department is not the cost or the skill, or even breaking the paradigm of teaching face to face; it is knowing where to start and what steps to take next.

Since I went through this myself, I know how bewildering it can be! I had several training courses developed and a pretty good feeling about myself as a teacher. I thought that was enough. But without a budget or a course designer as my partner, I had no focus and no clearly defined path. I wandered aimlessly, trying to find the right LMS, the right amount of content to start with, and the best way to market it. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done this:

1. Start with a book (published or not), a slide presentation that you can talk to, or an existing training course. If you don’t have something already put together, you can still use e-Learning as your “publishing platform”. But be prepared for a lot of time, money, and effort. You’ll be tackling two huge tasks at once: compiling and organizing your thoughts plus the vastness of e-Learning options. Looking on the bright side, if you don’t already have something put together, you can do so with your e-Learning course in mind. 

2.Determine your budget! I had one client who told me that her budget was “angel’s wings”. This made it very difficult for me to design a plan for her. If I were an architect and you asked me to build a house, I’d need to know how big and how fancy you wanted it. It’s no different for e-Learning design and creation.

3. Find a course designer who will work within your budget to:

  • Determine your audience and their constraints, as well as your learning objectives for this course
  • Create the course and curriculum architecture (even if you start with just one, you’ll probably want to be able to add more)
  • Determine the best blend of teaching methods for your audience
  • Create methods of evaluation for both participant competencies and how your course meets their objectives
  • Determine the best hosting solution (shared, branded site) for your situation
  • Create a course (or courses) to fit all of the above.

No one, not even the best instructional designer in the world, can create a course without knowing these things. Even if you “give them all the materials”, they need to ask these questions. If you find someone who does NOT ask you these questions, move on!

4. Prioritize your efforts and budget to meet the needs of your audience first. Do what you can to reduce the costs and timeline of designing and launching the course, but don’t get in the way. Make sure the course designer you choose is willing to “share the load” with you, if that’s what you want. Remember, she is working for you, not the other way around!

I have a client for whom I’m creating several courses. He does not have “angel’s wings” for a budget, so we discuss what must be included, what should be included, and what we can leave until another time. I give him examples for things such as quiz questions, so that he can write his own. He’s not as good as I am at writing questions, but he simply can’t afford to hire someone to do it all. I don’t see this as cutting into my work; I would rather have some business from him and help him, than to not work with him at all. In return, he trusts me to make instructional design decisions so that he can focus on taking care of his clients.

5. Stay focused and within your original scope. There is a simple tool often referred to as a multi-generation product plan (MGPP). For an e-Learning course, it might look like this [click here]. It allows you to have a lofty goal while still accomplishing important milestones along the way. There are numerous examples of how well this works; start small, earn and learn, improve and grow.

6. Gather and analyze data on participant scores, feedback, and participation so that you can adjust and improve. Short term revenue is not a good measure of long term success! You must understand if the course met your objectives, if the course met the objectives of your audience (and their superiors if they paid for it), and in general, what people thought of it. You’ll know whether to add to or edit the content, or simply change the way you market the course.

If you follow these steps, in order, you’ll find that you’ll have your e-Learning course or site up and running before you know it.  Determine your budget and stick to it! Create an MGPP and stick to it!  Don’t try to do too much because if you do, you won’t be able to do any of it!

Next time I’ll be writing in more detail about the web hosting aspects of e-Learning for small businesses and how to find a course designer.

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