A few months ago we put together this little video on eLearning stats. Enjoy!
A few months ago we put together this little video on eLearning stats. Enjoy!
Following on from the tips for starting a learning solution, here are my tips for managing the development of a learning solution. Some of them may seem really obvious, although I rarely see all of them put together. Some are based on what I’ve done, others are what I should have done (especially the last one). Here’s the list:
If the project is reasonably large you are going to need some help in coping with the logisitics and the volume of work being generated. A good delivery manager is worth their weight in gold. Whilst you’re dealing with the challenges of politics and stakeholders, they will make sure the work is going on, the right people are doing the right work and they’ll be your support and confidant.
This might sound obvious but it’s so often overlooked. If you’re enthusiastic, your team will be. If you’re downbeat, that contagion will spread. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, if you’re open to challenge and discussion, open to be wrong and honest about it then your team will be too. They’ll follow you if they see you’re being authentic.
If something is not how you want it, be prepared to challenge it in public. There will be no time to play nice here and the quicker you do it, the more normal it will become. Let me be clear: I’m talking about telling someone in a room full of workers that the work they’re doing isn’t what you want it to be. You must be supportive, it must be safe to fail and the quicker you do this the quicker your team will get used to it. You should tell them at the start that this is what you do so that there are no surprises. There are a few rules to this – if it’s a capability issue that’s something that’s dealt with in private. If it’s just a work thing make sure they know that they’re valued and valuable but that the work they’ve done in this instance isn’t what you want. Separate the work from the person. Challenging in public becomes a valuable tool for you and your team. They all know that they’re being directed into being better, it’s not embarrassing (eventually) and everyone learns from everyone else’s mistakes. This means people are happy to make mistakes – and that means you’ll get more interesting and powerful solutions. Safe places to fail are lovely places to be.
Your team are professionals who you’ve employed to do a good job. Let me do that. Let them manage their time, let them have ideas and run with them. The only rule you should have for your team is “Don’t go too far”. Focus on output, not time in the office. Some people will go too far and will need to be brought back into line but that’s ok – they’ll learn.
I don’t mean review everything but do regular and sometimes spontaneous reviews of the teams work. Don’t make them too long, don’t make them overly complex. All you’re trying to do is keep things on track and be available for your team. Of course, if something isn’t right you’ve now spotted it early.
Ad hoc reviews, public comments, open challenge – all these things will hardly help you win a popularity contest. Thing is, it’s not your job to be popular. Don’t go out of the way to upset people, but don’t worry that they’ll be gripes and moaning. Make sure you’re watching out for genuine problems and ask your delivery manager to help you with this.
You’re not trying to buy their affection – you’re trying to show the team that you really appreciate the work they’re doing and that they’re putting up with a lot in pursuit of the goal. Get them coffee, doughnuts and take them out for a social once in a while. Don’t be stingy with this. If you go the extra mile for them, they’ll do it for you.
This one is obvious, but this is important. Some people want to be micro-managed, some don’t. Manage people in the way that gets the best out of them and don’t expect them to adapt to you.
Roll your sleaves up, do some writing, coding or graphics. Work the hours and then some. When things are hard you have to be there with them showing them you care. And when you can’t do the work, buy the pizza.
You and your team will bump up against problems and sometimes everyone is too busy (or not there) enough to talk through. So go out and get a cardboard cut-out character from your local cinema and pop them in the corner. Next time there’s a problem, go and explain it to the cardboard cut out. 90% of the time you’ll get an answer. Yes, I know it uses the fact that explaining something sometimes reveals the answer but have a cardboard developer is more fun. I use a blue plastic cow called Colin…
Don’t leave any design, animation, video or visual elements open to interpretation. If you do, you are opening yourself to someone ‘having a great idea’ that just about derails the entire project because they don’t have the full picture. Explain why you do it, give everyone a chance to contribute and have a process for amending later. But don’t let people tweak because they thought of something in the shower.
I find this hard because I understand me. But my team are a) not me and b) might not even be from my culture. You need to make sure the communication channels are open enough for you to ask your team to replay their understanding and adjust your style accordingly.
If it’s not right get it fixed. This one is really obvious but a tough one to get right. You naturally want your team to like working with you but sometimes you need to be really tough. Make sure you’re offering guidance as to the rewrite or redo and change yourself afterwards to ensure you’re giving clear instructions
Perfection is something to be aimed at. But you need to decide when you’re close enough. The temptation is to keep tweaking and keep iterating until it’s brilliant. The problem is that doing that costs time and money and the small tweaks you’re making won’t make much difference. So decide what to fix and leave it until the next version.
I’ve left the most important one until last. You will kill yourself if you haven’t decided at the start what good enough looks like. Define it, write it down and put it up somewhere. What does it mean for text, visuals, animation, video, simulation, audio, user experience and testing? This gives you and everyone else a public measure to test against.
Add your tips in the comments
Really good online learning content is the holy grail of the L&D profession. We are quite rightly obsessed with producing content that helps our users acquire the skills or knowledge that they need to perform better in their roles. However, as an industry I believe we have lost our way a little in what that actually means and we have become entranced with the idea that good eLearning needs to be good looking. We seem to think that visual design is more important than instructional design or user experience.
This is a problem. I want to explore why I think this has happened and suggest some strategies for dealing with it.
In initial kick off meetings words like ‘engaging’, ‘visually appealing’ and ‘innovative’ keep popping up. What is often meant is usually one or more of the following:
The reason for this thinking is that it’s actually very easy to remember pretty learning content. It’s also easy to recall poor, ugly eLearning. The boring stuff very often isn’t well designed on any level, but the level we can easily describe is visual. From this point we start to fixate on the visual. We invent good looking and innovative navigation, we get the colour palette right, we create scenes and characters that really resonate with our test users, we go to agencies to create our artwork. (All of these things are valid by the way.) We then populate it with our content…
Wait – we do what? We populate the content into the design. Surely the content should inform and lead the design? Surely the activities, tools and systems we’ve developed to help the users perform their roles better should be front and centre in all our thinking? You’d think so but no. We’ve become tied so strongly to our visual design that the learning content must fit into it.
Visual design is important, but it’s a tool in a toolkit not an end to itself. To work out what good is you need to think back to the last really effective piece of learning content you consumed. Don’t limit yourself to traditional eLearning, but think of anything you learnt online. Ask yourself:
If you can’t answer the last question, you need to pick something else because your choice probably wasn’t that good. I’m willing to bet that you won’t remember the visual design, you’ll remember the outcome. You’ll remember the feeling you had when you solved the problem, achieved the difficult task, or got praise for your work. Really good learning content should become almost invisible because it’s the outcome that is important: You can do something that you couldn’t do before.
So what did make it good? Here are my suggestions:
You will have noticed that visual design doesn’t come into the list of something being ‘good’. We talk about knowing what good looks like. I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice here. We should be talking about what good is. Our learning content design should be focused on being effective for our end users utilising good practice in instructional design and user experience. Looking good is a bonus, but not the objective.
Hints and tips are short posts to help you do better, faster.
Writing an audio script for a piece of learning content is tough. Quite aside from the instructional design, you’ve got to actually make it work when it’s listened to. These tips are based on years of scripting and voice over work.
There has been a lot of hype around rapid content creation over recent years. Most of it has been around tools and how effective (or not) they are. For big company L&D professionals it’s a really interesting question. On the one hand there’s the need to ensure employees are capable of using the tools and operating effectively. On the other is the need to turn things around very quickly.
Rapid content creation tools seem to be the answer but they have a few challenges:
It’s all looking a bit grim for rapid content creation then. The tools often distract us or drive us in the wrong direction. The learning and instructional design is often pushed out because we can’t do it or it takes too long. To cap it all off, we also have all the normal challenges of expert reviews, changes, amends and rewrites to deal with too.
So rapid content creation in the way it’s currently being done in a lot of places is hard and rarely successful.
Content creation can be extremely rapid as long as all the elements that make up learning development are rapid. Once you have a business challenge to address you can very quickly work out outcomes and instructional design. From there you can can move quickly into development and generate content iteratively using some well defined formats. You can also get reviews and champions created almost instantly.
The key is having a structure to work in and a firm hand guiding the process. So what do you need?
Once you’ve got all that, you follow a process:
This structure works well in a number of areas:
Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting information and guidance on how to create, manage and run a learning creation workshop that gets you from a business challenge to good quality learning content in just a single 5 day workshop. We can run these workshops for you. Find out more here.