Throwing Something Back: 3 Tips For Successful Elearning Projects

“I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”  – Maya Angelou

Beginnings and endings are always ripe opportunities for taking stock. With the launch of our new website I’ve been reflecting on lessons learned. We’re no strangers to large projects, tackling technology and meeting aggressive deadlines. Maybe that’s why we were so calm going into it. But it quickly became evident that this project was different. We were our own client and only accountable to ourselves. At times our ambitious plans were put on the back burner by multiple distractions in the form of our many projects for paying clients. Some days we wondered if we were going to pull it off.

Needless to say, we did!

Looking back, I think the secret to our success — and we want to hear your thoughts on whether we achieved what we set out to do – comes down to 3 things. In the spirit of Maya Angelou, here’s our “throw back” – 3 tips for launching a successful elearning project.

Tip #1: Identify your goals and keep them at the heart of your elearning project

Sometimes when you are in the muck of things you lose sight of the big picture. You forget everything you’ve ever known about elearning or project management. You forget how to book a meeting. You forget your middle name. First, take a deep breath, do a couple of downward dogs, or take a brisk walk around the block. Then remember that all projects have a raison d’etre, a reason for being. There is a problem in need of a solution. A goal to attain. And just like in instructional design where you set learning objectives and build a course around them – with a larger project, you set goals and build your project around them.

For example, one of our key goals with the website was to ensure that site visitors could easily find answers to their questions. Questions such as: Just who are these eLearning Innovation people? How can they help us? How have they helped others succeed?

Once we knew this was our central goal, we brainstormed methods to achieve it. Our Process infographic details common phases in an elearning project, answering, we hope, that oft-asked question: How do you work?  Plan Your Project was designed to guide potential clients through the essential questions for assessing their project’s needs.

If your project has lost focus, ask all the stakeholders to summarize the goals in their own words. Talk through diverging viewpoints, using the impetus for the project’s launch to guide you back on track and help you set priorities. Open the floor to ideas and as a group assess how well the solutions are likely to address the identified goals. Remember to keep the tone positive and productive.

What strategies do you use for keeping your goals at the heart of your projects?

Tip #2: Create a realistic elearning plan

What does a realistic plan look like? It contains:

  • Discrete, measurable milestones. An important discussion to have with all stakeholders is: How will we know when a milestone is complete? Make sure that your definition of complete is transparent, and agreed upon, by all involved.
  • Resources (aka people!) attached to each milestone. Identify who is responsible for the milestone and ensure that they have the bandwidth and the tools needed to get the job done in the time allotted.
  • Dependencies. Identify tasks that depend on another task being completed. Allow some buffer time. Again, ensure that all stakeholders understand the flow of work and how their work impacts others.
  • Risks. What are the risks? Not all risks can be mitigated but you should plan for those that can be. One common risk is adding tasks to already overburdened resources (ahem, people). If it’s a short-term project, it might be less risky. It’s not uncommon to have to sprint to the finish line. But consider carefully if you are asking someone to sprint through an entire marathon.

Do you have anything to add to this list? Share your essentials for a realistic plan.

Tip #3: Remember the old adage: Show Don’t Tell

We really wanted our site to “show not tell.” Showing is more engaging and more active. We could tell you that we are great at what we do, or we can show you. We believe that showing is more authentic.

How does this relate to elearning? Plan your elearning to allow learners authentic opportunities to show what they’ve learned, not just tell you what they learned. Activities that requires “showing” can be incorporated into elearning for all audiences and all ages – whether it be a middle school student showing comprehension by paraphrasing a story, an employee demonstrating their understanding of policies and procedures by responding to a workplace scenario, or a grad student designing a robot. For more on authentic assessment, see 27 Characteristics of Authentic Assessment by guru Grant Wiggins.

 

We hope these three tips help you with your next project. We’d love to hear from you!

 Author: Laurie Pulido, President

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