Designing eLearning courses can be rather tricky, if you don’t know where to start. There are lots of things to do, lots of tools to use, and lots of parameters that can impact the success of your program, so how can you be sure? What can guarantee an exceptional eLearning experience for your trainees? An eLearning course design and development is a major project that needs to be handled using the formal protocols of a project management life cycle.
Here’s a good place to start if you are still in the “head scratching” phase of your new project. In this article, we describe a no-nonsense list of 18 essential steps to deliver a successful eLearning project. Feel free to print and paste over your work area for quick reference.
The Steps Of Exceptional eLearning Course Design
To design online courses that will be a hit among your learners, especially if the training you offer is in a workplace setting, then you need to follow a few simple steps to make sure that each part that makes an online course great is at place.
If that’s too complex, then think of it this way: consider yourself as the key communicator, instructional designer and developer who manages the team and shares milestones with the customer. Your task is to listen to the customer and create a course from scratch.
When a topic is given to you by the customer, expect them to introduce you to a subject-matter expert (SME). Have your experts in the team meet with the SME.
Analyze training topics and sections. How is the current training taking place? Try to keep it similar and uniform, improving and refining in the process.
How can the topics be taught in an interactive format? Highlight the content that needs to be reinforced through interactivity.
Determine the technical resources available to the customer. Does the customer need a CBT (computer based training) or a WBT (web-based training)?
What type of LMS does the customer have in their organization? What course authoring tools will integrate easily? Cover all platform compliance, SCORM and Section 508 issues here.
Research should be number one in your project management process, and so it should be in your eLearning course development. Not conducting proper research might drive you off course – which can, of course, be detrimental for the success of your eLearning courses.
2) Determine Instructional Needs
Understand and analyze the learning audience and learners’ needs with the customer. This is the first step in determining instructional needs.
Discuss the organization needs and expectations form the course. Establish the parameters and scope of the content that needs to be converted into the eLearning course.
To create eLearning courses that actually do have an impact on the learners’ skills development or their workplace productivity, you need to pay close attention to what it is that they need to learn.
3) Course Design
Now let’s refine our research further.
You have made your research on the training that’s been offered previously, you’ve identified the learners’ needs, but are you now ready to jump to the core of your eLearning course design?
No, you aren’t! There is one very important thing to know, that you don’t yet.
In the context of this course, what are the “pre-course competencies” of the learning audience?
In short, what do they know already? Are there any skills gaps the training should target to fulfill? What are the course objectives and test items declared by the SME?
Create the course outline, divide it into sections and present it to the customer and SME for approval. Create a Detailed Design Document that demonstrates learning interactions, themes, activities and navigation logic.
4) Create a Prototype
One very important step in developing eLearning courses that lots of instructional designers skip is creating a prototype. Create a quick prototype using a graphic tools like Visio, which looks like a final course. It should include the following:
- Recruit talent to play characters.
- Write a partial script.
- Shoot photographs, and record audio (narration and characters).
- Creating a look-and-feel and sound treatment, and produce graphics, animations, sound effects, and music for the partial script.
5) Conduct a Pilot
Invite the customer with a sample of learners to test this initial prototype. Record their feedback and integrate the changes in the prototype.
6) Storyboarding / Scriptwriting
Using sticky notes or other papers, label and number them and create interactive scripts and branching scenarios using the content.
Note: here you will reinforce or enhance the content that you highlighted in step 1 with the customer.
7) Produce Media
If you want to design training courses that will engage your learners, then you shouldn’t limit yourself, regarding your content: produce video, create graphics, shoot photographs, record talent voices, score and record music and sound effects.
If you don’t have the equipment or resources to produce media, consider subscribing to media providing services. Purchase photographs, voice talent, graphics etc.
8) Produce Courseware
Assemble the media in the form of mp3, jpg, wmv etc, in your course authoring tool. Courseware development can make a huge difference to your training program and the way your learners “consume” it, so give it extra attention!
9) Test Course
One thing you shouldn’t forget in the process of eLearning design and development is testing your course!
Review the course for adherence to the scope and objectives, quality of media, any typing and grammar errors, and software bugs or glitches. Make appropriate corrections to the course based on customer feedback.
10) Customize the LMS
Customize the learning management system to run the course smoothly for the customer. This step deals with a CD-ROM based LMS or a web-based LMS depending on the request of the customer.
11) Write Manual
Write Course Administrator’s Manual and Systems Administrator’s Manual to describe the purpose and administration of the course from both training and IT perspectives.
It is advisable to hold a meeting with the customer with their facilitators and IT administrators at this stage.
12) Beta Review of Courseware
Present tentatively finished courseware to the customer for review. This stage will determine how close or far you are from completing your project!
13) Final Changes and Testing
As they say, practice makes perfect, and this also holds true for designing your training courses.
Exceptional eLearning course design takes effort, trial and error, testing, edits and some more testing. Make any final changes and corrections to the eLearning course based on the Beta Review feedback.
14) Test Lab Pilot at Customer Site
Now is the stage where you bring the completed project to the customer’s IT Department for installation and testing. Configure and verify the complete enterprise-wide deployment functionality.
15) Installation and Configuration
Install and configure to go live on the web-based LMS or distribute CD-ROMs to individuals for a computer based LMS.
16) Train the Facilitators
Orientation of the customer’s IT staff and facilitators to the eLearning project and possibly the LMS to be used for learner collaboration.
17) Roll Out
Implement the training and advertise the eLearning course. Record any issues and integrate into the development of the eLearning course. A successful eLearning course is developed by incremental improvements!
18) Measure ROI and Evaluate the Course
There is no point in investing in eLearning course design, if you don’t look back at the results it brought for your business.
Use the data and metrics that gauge the effectiveness of the eLeanring program available through the LMS and surveys to determine ROI of the training. Determine all issues and feedback and create the next version of this course.
Ready To Start With Your eLearning Course Design?
The above steps apply to your generic eLearning course design needs. Of course, there “rules” also apply to custom eLearning course development, too. It goes without saying, though, that designing an online course is more than following steps. It takes knowledge, passion and dedication to offer learners the ability to upgrade their skills and enhance their productivity.
Still wondering how to design eLearning courses?