At a micro level, design principles are applied to create a specific learning unit – in LMS terms, a SCO. To create an effective unit, we, as designers are required to set guidelines. Parameters based on the needs analysis or as addressed in the first functional specifications as outlined in the agreement between you and the client.
At the designer’s work desk, it boils down to writing a storyboard or in some cases, a lesson plan. A lesson plan gets translated into the storyboard which specifies or details out the actual production output. Each of these granular units needs to be reviewed, keeping in mind parameters established at an early stage, assuming that parameters are established early.
In a situation where, the final output has not been envisioned properly, parameters are loose. Very often, designers rely on dynamic guidelines which evolve or get updated. Is that a good practice? Everything that I have learnt screams NO! To address this need for guidelines, elearning organizations develop pilots.
Development of pilots is not just to provide the client a sample of your work, but an opportunity to interact with the client in co-developing the course. Ultimately, the product has to satisfy client needs. So, as you develop the pilot, you would identify the gaps in the development process; further define what the client requires; define specific guidelines; identify problem areas; and describe structure for client interaction on the granular level.
Still, parameters define how your review process will take place. Are you confident of addressing client needs? Do you have the skill and talent as well as subject expertise? Often subject expertise in the content is not needed. In most cases, client will supply the raw content. It is only where the raw content is sourced by you and has to be approved by the client, then you can have an additional step in the process.
The question is should you get the content approved first and then write your lesson plans or should the lesson plans outline the content?
Where the content is pending approval from the client, the review process becomes of paramount importance. The client review is now focused not just on the output but also the input. You review what you put into the course and you review the outcome.
The review process becomes more subjective and less defined. It also goes into several exchanges of changes; of deliberations. Suddenly you have given your client your team and not talent, as the reins of the course delivery are firmly determined by the client review team.
On the other hand, if the client provides the content at the outset, with firm guidelines, is it enough? The client checklists are for the output. You still review the input. And thus, the need for your internal guidelines is paramount. Specific and measurable – just like course objectives, a review needs to map to certain points. ID review guidelines define how your content will flow – what kind of screens will precede assessments. Will you intersperse your course with checkpoints? If so, when? Are you using interactivities or scenarios? When will you use them? Will you follow these with informational screens? Are there utilities like glossary or good to know pop-ups in your course? Are there try-outs?
Each and every guideline has to be detailed at the pilot stage. Or decided on before you even begin with the review stage. What about updates? Clients sometimes update guidelines. It just adds to the review challenge. Can you therefore, create a guideline which calls for a little scope of update, unless absolutely necessary?
The process leads to many conflicts at the micro level. Conflicts between the reviewer and the writer or conflicts with the client subject experts.
At the macro level, you just haven’t defined a framework within which you can work smoothly. At the macro level, there are standards established by SCORM and AICC, which define how your elearning courses will be created? Compliance to these standards and processes will define your micro level guidelines.