By the Studio K Instructional Design Team
Here at Allen Interactions, an important part of our formula for success is made up of our partnerships with our clients. We have found that truly engaging, behavior-changing e-learning is built in large part out of the strong client relationships and collaboration. We love it when our clients ask us what they can do to help with the e-learning design and development process.
Our team of instructional designers from Studio K has compiled a list of 5 ways client stakeholders can be all-star collaborators when working with learning design teams or e-learning providers (just like us). So, this one’s for you, thoughtful stakeholder!
1. Know what you like (and don’t)—and bring examples.
“I’ll know what I want when I see it.” Projects that start this way are usually bumpy. Designing without enough guidance is like throwing darts at a board blindfolded and hoping to get a bullseye. You can help us create an e-learning course you will love by simply knowing your team’s preferences and tastes.
Be sure to meet with your internal team before the Savvy Start to develop a shared vision and gather supporting examples. Discuss questions like:
What are strengths and weaknesses of our current training?
What do we like and dislike about e-learning we’ve experienced in the past?
What are the organization’s expectations for performance—both for the learner and for the training itself?
What kind of look and feel do we want for our e-learning course?
What level of interactivity do we want in our course? What do we mean when we talk about interactivity?
Is there any disagreement about our vision for the course? How can we remedy this disagreement before design starts?
The most valuable tool that a client team can bring to a Savvy Start is a unified vision. It won’t be 100% fleshed out, of course, but it is such an immense help to be able to see concrete examples of what your team likes and dislikes—and to hear why. It assures that everyone has the same expectations and helps us avoid time- and budget-consuming revisions later in the process.
2. Provide consolidated, actionable feedback.
We create custom learning experiences through cycles of iterative design, prototyping, and client revision/feedback. There are many benefits to using the SAM Process, but one of the big ones is the fact that we get to collaborate with you, our client, and respond to your feedback throughout the process. Of course, the type of feedback changes depending on where we are in the process. For example—early in the process, feedback is typically more open and guiding, and as the process moves forward, feedback should become more specific and directive.
You can help us make revisions efficiently by:
Providing feedback that is specific and actionable, and clearly calls out the location of the trouble spot.
So instead of this: “Title is wrong”
Do this: “Page 4, change feedback popup title from ‘Correct’ to ‘That’s Right!’”
Designating one contact person on the project to review the team’s feedback and consolidate it—removing duplicate feedback and resolving contradicting feedback.
3. Get buy-in from key stakeholders early and often so approvals go smoothly.
There is nothing more frustrating than having a decision-maker outside the project team swoop in and change the project at the last minute. You can help us keep the project on track by inviting anyone who could say “no” at the end of the project to be part of the Savvy Start at the beginning of the project. Encourage them to give feedback early in the design phases, and keep them informed throughout the process.
4. Finalize content before development begins.
A few content tweaks here and there is no big deal—in fact, we expect it as part of the iterative design process. However, it becomes an issue when we are halfway through course development and find that we need to rewrite a script or add an entirely new interaction to fit some heretofore unseen content. You can help us by ensuring that content is final before it comes to us and letting us know early if you expect changes.
Having final content at the beginning of development is especially critical when dealing with software simulations or process training: two types of training in which each step of the course is dependent on the next. If your new software system is not stable or the process is not signed off, every change we make will have rippling effects. The simple change of one button on a software screen requires new screen captures, development re-work, and instructional re-writes. This eats up the budget and makes it difficult to hit dates on time—two problems we do not want to put our clients through.
5. Develop a shared vocabulary with your Instructional Designers.
When it comes to design, words can have vastly different meanings for different people. Take the word “immersive”: depending on who you ask, an immersive e-learning course could be anything from a full simulation, to a realistic scenario, to a page-turner with realistic context-driven media. Some people use “immersive” when they really mean “containing audio narration” or “a blended learning program.” You can imagine the wacky hijinks that ensue from these kinds of misunderstandings.
On the flipside, we Instructional Designers have our own lingo that can be confusing to uninitiated subject matter experts. So, if you’re sitting there confused as we babble about click-tells, gestures, and hot-spots, please stop us and ask us what we mean! Also, expect us to ask you seemingly silly questions like, “What do you mean when you say ‘simulation’?” By working together, we can prevent miscommunication so that the project we’re seeing in our minds is the same one you are seeing in yours.
There you have it! These are five key ways you can work with your Instructional Designers successfully. At the same time, we’ll be doing our part to gain and sustain a deep understanding of your needs so we can create designs that meet them. We’ll be sure to communicate clearly and regularly so you trust us as a valuable resource. Together, we can do anything!
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