I am excited with every new project I take. Blame the curiosity and the adventurer spirit :). But excitement is not enough to make a project successful. There are many things that need to be done throughout this journey.
In this article I am sharing with you 4 pieces of advice to consider when building your next eLearning course. These ideas came from my own experience and even though I read about them in my early career or I heard about them from other instructional designers, I had to understand through my own work experience their true meaning and benefits.
1. Storyboard as a starting point
If you are creating technical training, the content of it will most probably be given to you. But what if you are creating a soft skills training from scratch and you have to create the content also? Quite a headache you would say?
When I was working as a Corporate Trainer my role was to create and deliver soft skills, classroom sessions. I would create participant's manuals, presentations as well as trainer scripts. The script was nothing else but the "storyboard" term we use in eLearning design, adjusted of course for classroom delivery. I know you want to jump right into creating a branch scenario or a game but don't forget to write the story first. Taking the time to storyboard out your eLearning can actually make you more efficient.
I once read an article in which storyboard was compared with a grocery list. With a grocery list you are a shopping machine. You know exactly what you want to get and don't lose yourself in the candy isle. Without a grocery list, you are walking around trying to remember what you have in the fridge and what you need to buy. When you get home you find out you didn't buy the one item that you needed the most - bread. It's the same with storyboard. If you don't create one, you will end up bringing irrelevant content, you might build useless slides and you'll ask yourself at some point "oh, where was I?".
2. Get organized: create your Toolkit
Here is what I would include in a Toolkit: customized player, color palettes, buttons, icons and fonts. It is very important that you decide on these before you jump into bringing in the content and creating interactions. Of course you can make changes on the way but at least you will have a starting point, a structure. The elements that appear in a course need to be consistent; for example I would use the same icon for a "case study", "library", "reflection session" and so on. Even though this might sound obvious, it is very easy to fall into the trap of "oh this would look amazing, let me just add it once".
Here is something practical you can try: In the editable version of the course, add a slide that contains your toolkit. Keep it there during the course development period and use it as a reference. This way you will be focused, you will maintain the look and feel of the training and you will be more productive.
3. Be smart: store your pictures and illustrations for later
It's not something new that pictures and illustrations can bring content to life and can speak better that words sometime. That's why, the sooner you realize that you need to store these resources, the better. It's even better if you can store them on a platform online so you can have access to them anytime and anywhere. Google-ing every little picture can take you a lot of time and switch your focus from more important things on your "plate".
Ask yourself: do I have a system to save my pictures and illustrations for future projects? How would I categorize them? Think of names for the folders (ex: Characters, Office illustrations, Backgrounds etc.)
4. Test it before releasing it
Chose 3 people from the targeted audience and ask them to take the training. I usually like to sit next to a user taking the training and just watch him how he interacts with it. There are situations in which something that looks obvious to you, can make no sense for a person that sees it for the first time. Prepare a list of questions that you want the reviewers to respond to when evaluating the content and the functionality of the final project.
Example of questions could be: Is the course interactive? Is it easy to understand the instructions? Does the media play correctly? Are the objectives clear? Is there anything critical to mastering the objectives that has not been covered? Do the activities reinforce the most critical information?
Good luck with your next project and keep rockin' the stage!