Tag: project management

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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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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