Elaine Musgrave
Elaine Musgrave
Senior Manager, Educational Products, Wiley

Where to start

In this first post, we provide some ideas to start your big-picture planning for an effective eLearning platform solution.

Having evaluated the potential benefits of an eLearning program, you know such a program is in your organization’s future. You may have started to develop a curriculum for professional training and even identified authors who can deliver the content. You’re on the way to solving the content piece of the puzzle, but how do you find the right platform to make your eLearning program complete?

Take a deep breath before you dive in

Take some time to consider the broad scope of your eLearning program and how you’ll find a platform that works for you. Here in broad strokes is an ideal eLearning development process:

   

    • Research and requirements gathering

   

    • Technology provider evaluation and selection

   

    • Further scoping and development

   

    • Implementation

   

    • Platform launch

   

    • Platform maintenance

 

Looking at these steps, consider where your organizational resource is best utilized and determine where you’ll need some extra hands to get the job done.

Consider having someone do your homework for you

Your first step will be to research what your specific audience and your organization needs and wants in an eLearning platform. You don’t have to do this alone ―consider hiring a consultant with a proven track record to start working with you now and stick with you throughout the process.

Why bother with a consultant? Even if you have staff people or volunteers with the technical experience, an experienced individual who is not directly involved in your organization can provide needed perspective and can challenge or validate assumptions about the workflows and structures your platform needs to support.

If getting that outside perspective is just not in the cards, you’ll need to appoint a project manager with:

   

    • Leadership and administrative skills

   

    • Ability to take your internal development team through the process

   

    • Availability to devote significant time and effort to this initiative

 

No, really—go do your homework

It’s tempting to simply sign up for a few demos from some technology providers and see what happens. If you’re just checking out the eLearning landscape, that’s not a terrible place to start. Just don’t confuse those exploratory conversations with technology providers with the in-depth discussions you should have with them once you have a solid grasp of the technology requirements. Beautiful user interfaces cannot hide inadequate research.

You may already know what subject matter your program should cover, but you also need to discover how your intended audience wants to interact with that content. If you issue membership surveys on a regular basis, maybe you’ve already been asking your members about their preferred content medium—articles? podcasts? webinars? some combination thereof?—and the devices they use. User surveys are great provided you know the questions to ask, and if it’s available, third-party research, existing or commissioned, can illuminate the habits of your proposed audience as well.

If the data is available, look back at how demographics and practices have changed in the past few years, as well.

Peer into the future

shutterstock_109374251_339746481_339746485_256224451.jpgHold a few sessions where your internal team thinks about potential futures for your organization in eLearning. You’ve done your research, and you know a lot about what your users want now, but things are changing rapidly. It’s unlikely you’re in a position to guess at what the next phenomenon will be, but you can at least consider new developments that might be of relevance to your discipline. Maybe right now you’re just going to do some webcasting. In a year or two, do you want to offer follow-up assessments that verify learner understanding? Do you eventually envision your organization providing certification? In the future, do you foresee the potential for your organization to be obligated to meet the reporting requirements of an accrediting body? Document these ideas now, mark them as questions about future planning, and then remember to trot them out when you’re talking to potential providers.

Look out for part 2―coming soon―where we’ll explore requirements mapping.

Image Credit/Source:Konstantin Chagin/Shutterstock