Tag: project scope

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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