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The E-coach Blog
Milestones of a Typical E-Learning Project
By Alison Bickford on April 14, 2012
Last week I blogged about what to include in an e-learning request for quotation (RFQ). A RFQ helps make clear the requirements of an e-learning course for development.
Meeting requirements and expectations during an e-learning courseware development project is a 2-way street. The role of the client is to keep objectives clear, manage the internal stakeholders and project processes. The role of the e-learning provider is to listen to the client, meet their needs, and add value to the project experience and outcomes along the way.
Creating an e-learning course is a multidisciplinary, multimedia production. Like any production, it is dependent upon the quality of the outcome that came before it. From start to finish, there are clear milestones where the e-learning provider must seek sign-off from the client to help ensure all is correct before the next part of the process proceeds. The client has responsibility to complete a through check before signing-off the milestone.
E-Learning courseware milestone sign-offs
Let’s take up the project assuming a RFQ proponent has been chosen. There are typically six milestones that require the client to review carefully and sign off.
A. Design brief: This high level brief should reflect both the RFQ inclusions and details discussed at the kick-off meeting. It should outline the design approach for what s being taught, the assessment approach, graphic style, interactivity and animation to be used, video and/or narration, navigation inclusions, authoring tool and understanding of the client’s technology environment (standard operating environment – SOE). It should also include a few template mock-ups called GUI (graphic user interface). These are visual treatments that should reflect a little of your corporate look/feel, but should also be mindful of the learner experience. Get GUI sign-off from Corporate Comms before signing off the Design brief.
B. Test course: From the design brief the e-learning provider should create a small test course reflecting all of the agreed navigation, interactivity and assessment type. Test the course in your LMS and check all the functionality works. Test the assessment tracks correctly and the course completes. Then sign-off.
C: Storyboard: This is perhaps the most complex milestones, as it requires the client and e-learning provider to come to consensus about how the course content will be conveyed to the learner. Clients new to developing e-learning will often concentrate on the source content, whereas a good e-learning provider will be designing for learning experience and engagement. It requires give and take. Where possible, go through the first draft in person so that each party can better convey their perspective. Several iterations of the storyboard may be required before the document is ready for sign-off. Remember, this storyboard is in document form, the next step is production using multimedia. so, any alteration to the storyboard once production is underway is usually considered a project variation. It may cost you.
D. Narration script: If the narration is not verbatim to the text on screen, or it may be a video script, then these also need to be sgned off prior to studio or video production. You are looking for a script that is concise, compelling and reflects your culture.
E. Alpha course: This is the first draft of the produced e-learn. You will need to run a user acceptance test (UAT) internally to check both the technical aspects of the course, and the course content. Expect to find some minor issues, which will need to be documented as a change request. if you receive an alpha course with lots of issues, send it back to the e-learning provider for another quality assurance review – it will take too much of our UAT team time to notate the issues. Where possible, run your alpha test in your LMS so that tracking is also being tested. Sign off the change request before returning it to the e-learning provider.
F. Beta course: This course should be almost perfect. Use your change request data to check that all items have been actioned. Check your LMS tracking once more. You may find one or 2 issues. If they are minor (e.g. punctuation issue), you may decide it is not worth asking the provider to publish yet again (which means more testing for you). It is very difficult o get everything 100%. perfect. If it does need updates, document them in a change request and repeat the beta testing process.
Your course should now be live on the system…don’t forget your comms plan…
These milestone sign-offs are just one component of successful e-learning project management. For information and support, including a course and tools, why not join the E-Learning Academy. I also run E-Learning Project Management workshops.
4 Responses to “Milestones of a Typical E-Learning Project”
Alison’s summary process and milestones is very good. I can say this with some confidence as we’ve been designing and delivering e learning for 10 years.
I’d like to suggest one additional point:
Even large corporates, with extensive experience of online training can have have a sketchy view of the typical timescales needed for each stage.
Perhaps the project manager hasn’t had the courage to tell the most senior stakeholder(s) that it will take a bit longer than they’re being pushed for.
And most times they significantly underestimate how long it will take them to poll their SMEs, assemble source information, manage their interview storyboard review process and feedback to the vendor in a consolidated format.
Net result is that the final delivery dates tend not to move out, but the final third of the project gets squeezed.From the point where the storyboard is signed off, the actual development time – in our experience is often no more than 35-40% of the total elapsed time.
Create and share a simple Gantt chart (Tom’s Planner is a good place to start). It focuses everyone on the timeline.
Thanks so much for your contribution to this topic, Philip. I couldn’t agree more. Next week I am going to blog a list of things that cause e-learning projects to miss time, budget or quality expectations. The issues you raise will certainly be included. Best wishes & thanks again.
Thanks for the list of milestones—I’m glad to see that you had several focused around testing as this is often something that gets overlooked. I wrote a post on specific testing activities for Elearning awhile back. Feel free to give it a look: http://rockidscience.com/?p=289
Thanks for sharing your blog post Steven.