It’s amazing how fresh eyes can find things you might have overlooked during production. So, before launching your elearning course, it’s a good idea to have others review it. You want to discover any hidden issues before the big launch.
Most of the times you find simple issues like typos or broken links. However, there are times where you run up against larger technical issues. In either case, it’s good to expose those issues prior to releasing the course for consumption, where you could be exposed to ridicule, and possibly tarred and feathered.
In this post, we’ll explore some ideas around the review process and getting your course ready to go. Keep in mind that we’re at the end of the production process. Ideally, somewhere at the beginning of your project you created a prototype course. This is where you present the general flow and content of the course, and your client affirms that it’s all good. It’s also when you want to invite some learners to review it as well.
You’ll always have to make some adjustments, but during the final review, there really shouldn’t be any major surprises. It’s more about a final quality review check, making sure the course is tight, and that everything is going to be ready for the live implementation and launch.
Client Project Review
Prior to piloting the final course with your learners, the elearning developer, client, and subject matter experts should go through the course. At this point, you’re almost done, so there shouldn’t be major changes. What you’re looking for is stuff like this:
- Are there any typos and grammatical errors? You should do this before you meet with the client so you don’t appear sloppy. But when you look at the same content over and over again, it’s easy to miss those things. I’ve also found that sometimes you’re better off having a couple of “missed” typos to distract the client so they don’t nitpick things or throw a wrench in the process by suggesting additions.
- Are links and external resources working? Is the contact information correct? All links working and going to where they should? Review anything that the learner will click on outside of the course content to make sure they work and go to the right places.
- Is all of the content there? There are some things you don’t learn about the course until you’re almost done. This is especially true of some clients who don’t fully understand what’s going on until they see the final product. Make sure the flow is right and that the course content supports the information in the course. I’ve been on projects where we found that too many assumptions were made about the content and we didn’t see the gaps until after the course was ready to go.
- Is the content accurate? Sometimes information changes prior to the course launch. This is especially true of policy and compliance training. I was on a project once where some regulations changed near the end. I’ve also been on projects where we were building technical training at the same time as developing the technology. In that environment, sometimes the content is a moving target.
- Are implementation plans in place? What has to happen once you have a complete course ready to go? Each organization is different but there’s usually some sort of marketing component that goes with a course launch. You also need to make sure that the IT or LMS folks are onboard. There’s nothing worse than delivering a really cool elearning course and learning that none of the PCs are equipped with speakers or headsets yet.
If you’re lucky, the client review will be smooth and you’ll make minor adjustments. Unfortunately, these types of projects can start to get screwy at the end. To avoid some of this, set clear rules. The first being that at the forefront of the project you get an official sign off on what will be delivered and by when.
Another suggestion is to not bring in a new person for the final review. Here’s a common situation. The client is so happy with the course that she invites her boss to attend the review. During the review, the boss who has not previously looked at the content starts to recommend changes. Since he’s the boss, you’re kind of stuck.
Learner Project Review
The review you do with your client is going to be different than the one you do with your learners. With your client, you review the project goals and agreed upon deliverables. On the other hand, when you review the course with your learners you’re testing the course’s effectiveness. Here are some things to pay attention to:
- Is the navigation clear? Does the learner know how to go from A to B? While you don’t need to go overboard with instructions, you need to make sure that it’s clear what the learner has to do to advance through the course.
- Have you provided the right instructions? If you want the learner to do something that’s a little different than the normal navigation, make sure to provide clear instructions. This is especially true of interactions and scenarios where they need to make choices or interact with content on the screen (like a drag and drop).
- Is your course too sexy for its body? Sometimes we want to go outside the box to create something unique. While there’s nothing wrong with that, using non-conventional navigation and course structure can be confusing to the learner. If you have to build a training module on how to use your course, that might be a sign to revisit the user interface. In either case, be careful to listen to your learners if they complain about the structure. What’s obvious to you might not be to them.
- Watch the learner go through the course? Often we solicit feedback by sending a course link and having the learner forward their thoughts. However, it’s valuable to sit and watch them go through the course. You can see how many times they click, what they look at, and get a sense if anything in the design is confusing. At a minimum, find at least one person who you can watch go through the course.
- Does the course meet the learning objectives? I’m not a fan of waiting to test this on the final run through. Your best bet is to prototype the course and test its effectiveness before investing the time building it. However, you want to make sure that the final product produces results. Does the learner meet the learning objectives? Does the assessment provide the information you need?
A challenge with learner reviews is that they can be ego crushers. You put in a lot of time to craft the course, perhaps trying a few new things. And in just a few minutes, all of your joy comes crashing to the ground at the first criticism.
Because of this, it’s tempting to discount the feedback you get from the reviewers, especially since they’re not “trained instructional designers” and probably don’t always understand what you’re trying to do. Don’t fall for it. Be humble and really consider their feedback. It’ll help you build better courses.
Even if all you have is one person with which to test your course, that’s fine. My advice is to find someone who has no interest in elearning and might even be a bit technically challenged. Definitely stay away from people who build courses or know something about UI or usability design. They tend to complicate things with their professional opinions.
These are some basic tips for your final project review. I see the client review as a way to do one final quality control check and to celebrate your success; and the learner review as a way to test that everything works as planned for those who have to take the course.
Like I said earlier, you don’t want to wait until the end of the project to find out if your course works or not. A good practice is to quickly mock up the course in PowerPoint and then test out your ideas, navigation, and flow of content. If there are any major issues, they’ll surface there. That will save you a lot of time down the road.
What are some of your experiences during the final review process? What types of issues have you run into and what would you have done differently? Please share your thoughts by clicking on the comments link.
I’ll be in Orlando next week. You can continue to submit your elearning tips until I get back. Then I’ll do a drawing for the copy of Patti Shank’s Essential Articulate Studio ‘09. I’ll get her to autograph it while I’m in Orlando.
If you’re at the Learning Solutions Conference & Expo swing by the Articulate booth and say “Hi.”
Be sure to check out these sessions:
- Get Rid of the "Next" Button and Create Engaging e-Learning
- Visual Design Essentials: Practical Techniques for Designing Better Online Courses
- Master Session: Turning Click-&-Read Content into Interactive e-Learning