Tag: new product development

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        

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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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Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

How Do You Know What Your Students Want? Voice of the Customer for Business Clients of eLearning

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As a Six Sigma Quality consultant, I coached many teams in new product (or process) design.  One of the very first tasks of any design project was to find out: 

What do customers really want? 

This is not to be confused with what I want, what I think they want, or what I have to sell and am hoping they’ll buy.  In my role as a consultant my most frequent question was “where is the data to back that up”.  As a Moodle content creator, I find myself asking that impertinent question with even greater emphasis.  This is because… 

If you don’t know what your students really want and what they really need, you can not design training for them. 

Most small business owners lack the resources to perform market research in the form of focus groups, large-scale studies, or small market trials.  Yet, getting the product right the first time is more critical for a small business than for a large one because of that very same thing; a lack of resources.   

How do you know what your students want before you build your eLearning?   

This is a question that plagues every design team creating a new product.  You can’t ask them because they aren’t students yet, unless you are converting from a different LMS (in which case, I hope you collected their concerns and are addressing them with your new solution).  What you can do is what everyone in New Product Development does: 

  • Observe current usage on other, similar products (web browsing, for instance).  My litmus test for whether something is tricky or not is to compare it to Facebook, Amazon, YouTube.  If young and old alike can buy a book or a toaster, view a surfing dog video, and figure out how to “like” my recommendation for an article on information overload, they can navigate Moodle, recover a lost password, and submit a comment without any trouble. 
  • Locate studies of usage on similar products for customers similar to yours.  If your students will be middle-aged managers, observing web usage of college kids won’t do you much good.  But the way people are browsing the Internet in an airport travelers lounge might be very informative. 
  • Locate past surveys of eLearning and face-to-face training with students similar to yours.  Many professional organizations maintain such statistics for their membership.
  • If you have the resources, conduct your own study or survey.  Alway, always, always hire experts to do this.  Bad data is worse than no data.

Some places to start learning about your customers and their eLearning needs:

  • The eLearning Coach – a great blog by Connie Malamed on instructional design  (She also wrote a book)
  • American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) – webcasts, publications, study results, etc.
  • Professional societies that your students might belong to, such as IEEE for engineers or the American Nurses Association, for instance.
  • StudentInsights, a market research firm focused on higher education.  Although their target clientele are universities, their findings for adult learners could still be useful for a small business delivering training to those same students. 

Don’t make assumptions about what others are thinking.  Ask around, listen, and watch.  

Watch for future posts on how to gather Voice of the Customer (VOC) data for your eLearning offerings, how to organize and analyze that data, how to prioritize it to fit your budget and other resources, and how to turn what customers want into what you build for them.

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