Completion of a tough job

Just under a year ago, I took on a project that was expected to last about 3 months. It was supposed to be an easy win, where the SME already had most of the content and wanted to make quick progress. Today, I finished the build of this eLearning package. It still needs a couple of updates and to go through the review process, but the actual content and build is finally done!

So what have I learned from this quick win that took almost a year?


1. Ask more questions at the beginning. 

Before I begin any new projects, I want to be 100% sure that the client knows exactly what the project is about and can communicate that to me. Vague ideas aren't a good starting point. I want to know:

  • What is the subject?
  • Who (specifically) is it aimed at? 
  • What do they want learners to learn?
  • What behaviour changes do they want to see as a result?
  • Why has this piece been commissioned right now?
  • Is it connected to other projects?
  • What has triggered this project?
In short, before I go any further, I want to know the background and rationale for the project and research the content so that I will know from the outset whether it is heading in the right direction.

2. Agree the learning objectives and final assessment questions first.

This was not my original way of working. I used to wait until the content was written before beginning the assessment questions, so that I could ask questions that reflected the content. Now I work the other way round. I start with what I want learners to learn, then the assessment questions, and then ensure that the content works with those.

3. Check regularly that the project is heading in the right direction.

There were moments along the way with the project I've been working on, where it just didn't feel right. It felt disjointed or as though I just wasn't sure where we were headed. I wish I'd stopped at that point and raised the alarm. It would have saved a lot of time and energy. The turning point in the project was when I did just that, but I left it too long. Maybe I didn't want to offend the SME or admit that I wasn't following the content - it didn't make sense to me. I sort of assumed it was just a topic I knew nothing about, but the whole point of eLearning is that it must make sense and enlighten the learner. If I didn't get it, after reading it and re-reading it... something wasn't right.

4. Thank those who make it happen and ensure they get recognised.

I was fortunate. After alerting the client to the fact that I had serious concerns, they found me an SME who was just the right person. This person knew the subject and could explain it to me in language I understood. Between us, we have worked really hard and revamped the whole of the content. It felt like a never-ending task but today, we did it! The whole thing is finished and ready to go to review. Another couple of weeks, and it will go live. I can't thank that SME enough!

I often compare having a 'trained' assistance dog to someone who is 'qualified' to do a particular job. People ask me, "Is Liggy still in training?" It's a strange question. She'll never stop training. Of course, she's passed her initial training but she'll go on learning for her whole life. In the same way, I'm qualified to do my job but I will go on learning. We all know this but it's an uncomfortable fact that we learn most from things that go wrong. It can feel disheartening but if we can unpick it and decide on some concrete things we would do differently next time, all is not lost.

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