While it is tempting to be purely creative when developing an e-learning course, it is worthwhile having an awareness or appreciation of the following:
- Risk management
- Content gathering
- Instructional design
- Quality assurance
The risk equation is risk = likelihood x consequences. Risk management can form the first step of the management of the project. It may also be repeated at regular stages throughout the project in an iterative nature. Risk management consists of establishing the context, communicating and consulting, identifying risks, analysing risks, evaluating risk, treating risks, and monitoring and reviewing existing and new risks periodically.
The e-learning / instructional design project management process may be summed up by the use of the ADDIE model (Analyse, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate).
However, there are a few extra activities we can look at. These include Risk management, Planning, Communication and stakeholder management, Content gathering and analysis, Instructional design, Storyboarding, Development and production, Quality assurance, and Integration and delivery.
The first step of planning e-elearning is to develop a project timeline. This may be in the form a Gant chart, a pert analysis, a critical chain analysis, or any combination of these. It may even be as simple as an excel spread sheet. Whatever you choose, you will need to be aware at all times of the stage, item, activity description, stakeholder, and status.
You must have a communication plan in place. Distribute the e-learning development project plan to your stakeholders to get buy in and sign off.
A helpful way of managing your stakeholders is to use a stakeholder analysis chart.
To prepare for the project, you should discuss and determine specifications from with the IT department. Remember to include in the discussion any restrictions the client has placed on the project, such as no flash etc.
When it comes to defining the objectives and outcomes of the e-learning, ask questions such as; What needs to be achieved? What behaviours need to be enabled? What needs to happen in the real world?
Gather existing content and analyse it to determine content gaps and additional content to be developed. Gather graphics, logos, and colour scheme requirements from the client.
During this stage and the next stage, keep in mind how the e-learning objectives will be achieved i.e. by identifying behaviours, deciding how to enable those behaviours, and creating activities (rather than presenting information) that will allow the learner to practice the activities.
It is now time to determine the instructional strategy for the e-learning. This specifies how the content will be transformed into an engaging e-learning course e.g. game based learning, story based learning, or scenario based learning etc.
A design document should be created. This is the blue print of the project. This will specify the content, look and feel, and instructional design elements of the program.
Storyboarding involves laying out the content of the e-learning design document into a template. The storyboard specifies the scene, activity, IT programming instructions, and voiceover. There is one storyboard for each page of the course.
Stakeholders will review the first draft of the storyboard. The designer should make any necessary changes depending on feedback from the stakeholders. The stakeholders should then review and approve a second draft.
Narration scripts should be created for voice talent to record the narration of the course. Stakeholders must approve the talents voice, pace, inflection, tone etc. A contract should then be created with the voiceover for charges and date.
Production and development may be run in conjunction with storyboarding to save time. There are four steps to production and development;
- Design look and feel (colour palette, logos, styles etc, user interface)
- Decide on assets (photo, video, graphics etc)
- Create assets
Quality assurance involves testing the quality of the e-learning course at various points. There are usually two deliveries of the course; Alpha delivery and Beta delivery.
An alpha test document will include all of the faults discovered during testing of the e-learning such as typos, browser errors etc.
A pilot should be carried by people other than the stakeholders. This should be carried out on different computers in different locations, such as on mobiles, PCs, and Macs. These should reflect the user base.
Once faults are rectified, the beta version is tested by the stakeholders. Quite often companies like Microsoft and others will release a Beta version of their software for free use and evaluation.
Once the stakeholders have given approval, the e-learning module may be integrated. Integration involves integrating the final product with the learning management system, hosting server etc. Stakeholders should now sign off on the completed project.