Planning a course is one of the most controversial topics in a history of eLearning. The project completely depends on Subject Matter Experts, stakeholders, and reviewers. Nothing is finalized if you bypass any of them. Most companies have project managers sitting on top of Instructional Designers to monetize their work or set an ideal deadline about eLearning course development time without knowing the consequences. That makes Instructional Designers unhappy and miserable. Somehow, there is a need to solve this mystery and come up with something that will make not only Instructional Designers happy, but also their life much easier.
“How long does it take to design one eLearning course?” I bet that this question has been asked by your immediate boss lately, and you are like “I am working on it, will be done by, let’s say, next week”.
That happens with most Instructional Designers; and the only reason for it is that, when we are trying to estimate eLearning course development time, we don’t know what turn it will take once it’s reviewed by the Subject Matter Experts or the stakeholders. We need to bring all of them under one umbrella if we want our project to be completed within the timelines. It’s hard to come up with something that works as an alternative, but not impossible. There are some areas we need to look that help us become more efficient:
- Selecting the best authoring tool.
- Being persuasive.
- Review cycles.
Let us have an analytical look at each one of them:
Most of us start storyboarding without doing a proper analysis, and that causes a huge problem with our projects. It is important to be aware of the following questions before we start:
- Did you review the existing manuals and documents?
- Did you have the permissions to access the system?
- Did someone give you a training (instructor-led or F2F) on this course?
- Did you review job aids?
- Did you finalize the outline of your eLearning?
If you have answers to all the above questions, then you proceed to another level which is storyboarding.
2. Selecting the best authoring tool.
Timing is the biggest concern here; that’s why it’s important to take the right decisions, especially when choosing the best authoring tools. Following are the things you need to consider before selecting a tool:
- The tool should be user-friendly.
- It shouldn’t take long to understand the technicalities of the software.
- The output should come in desirable formats (SCORM, weblinks, and Tin Can).
- Should have everything in one tool (storyboarding, importing from PowerPoint, interactions and adding questions).
There are two fantastic authoring tools available in the market:
- Articulate Storyline 2.
- Adobe Captivate.
3. Being persuasive.
You need to be influential and well verse in terms of communication, especially when you are scheduling a meeting with Subject Matter Experts. For more details, please see my article 5 Steps To Win Subject Matter Experts’ Hearts.
Prototypes consume so much time to design and take a while when collecting feedback from Subject Matter Experts and stakeholders in terms of design, content, or templates. It’s better to fix the prototype and sign off before you start developing. Make sure you are listing all the dates and times in the spreadsheet.
5. Review cycles.
I have interacted with so many Instructional Designers lately and asked how many review cycles they think are enough for one eLearning course. They believe that three review cycles are sufficient to complete the project within the timeline. However, it again depends on your company structure. I once ended up with five review cycles and finished my project within the deadline. Prefer side by side reviews; it will take hours, but you end up doing changes in front of Subject Matter Experts, will be easy to take their sign off at the same time. If they are busy, then I think it’s better to send your project via email, collect the feedback, do the changes, and then take the approvals.
Tracking is one of the most critical components of planning. It gives you an idea of the amount work you did and is remaining. One of my colleagues, Steve, has given an amazing idea to list down your tasks as milestones, so you have something to show your manager. For example:
- Milestone 1: “Recorded the screens with Christopher on Thursday 2/12/2016“.
- Milestone 2: “Simulation reviewed by Mike on Wednesday 2/27/2016“.
These dates will also be a part of the spreadsheet.
I have created a sample spreadsheet for you that will help you to identify the progress of your project and estimate your eLearning course development time. Have a look and share what you think about it.