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Effective e-Learning Design Through Collaboration

by , vice president - training and marketing | @rhillsites

Richard Sites, vice president - training and marketing | e-Learning Instructional Design BlogThis past week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend and speak at the 2013 CSTD National Conference and Trade Show in Toronto. The theme for the annual conference of the Canadian Society of Training and Development was “The Learning Ecosystem.”

The conference theme was described as: “A complex interdependence between learning and the organization exists; one where the organization can’t grow without learning, and learning can’t deliver without organizational supports like strategy, systems, technologies, coaching, OD, and design sophistication.”

This theme really piqued my interest because of the challenge that all of us as learning and development professionals face creating training that benefits the organization and is valued by the organization and the learners.

Being at a conference full of engaged professionals discussing collaboration and partnership in learning and development really inspired me to make more of an effort to share the ways that SAM supports collaboration. So often the discussion of SAM is focused on iterations, prototypes, deliverables and such.  But the power of an iterative process is collaboration. In Leaving ADDIE for SAM, we recommend four criteria for selecting a design and development process, one of the four being supporting collaboration. We firmly believe collaboration is critical to the success of any learning and development project.


The Savvy Start is a collaborative brainstorming meeting that kicks off the SAM process. This is a time when people from across the organization can discuss and debate the key characteristics of the performance which the training will seek to improve.

Iterative Design Phase

While design is often seen as something that an ID professional completes alone and then seeks review and approval, SAM offers a strategy to reach out to senior leaders, SMEs, managers, recent learners, and others to collaborate throughout the design process. The collaborative review and revision of prototypes, content samples, media, and other design elements allows key stakeholders to have a voice early in the process, often preventing more costly revisions in the development phase.

Iterative Development Phase

Producing multiple deliverables in the Iterative Development Phase offers opportunities for key individuals to collaborate on the effectiveness of the development efforts to achieve the proposed design. Rather than offering a completed product for review and dealing with unintended revision requests later, SAM seeks to present the project team and stakeholders the opportunity to review the instructional product in an iterative manner.

I've highlighted only three, high-level moments in SAM which offer opportunities for collaboration and partnership. There are many other opportunities to collaborate in SAM which you can read about in Leaving ADDIE for SAM.

Effective collaboration and communication throughout an instructional design project is crucial in building successful learning experiences. But, collaboration is also vital to the success of learning and development professionals within an organization. We designers and developers of instruction should seek more opportunities to partner within our organizations. And SAM is a great way to start!

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In Chicago, December 16-17, I will be facilitating the first ever ASTD workshop on SAM, The Leaving ADDIE for SAM Mega-Workshop. If you are interested in attending, click here for more information.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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