Rapid Roadblocks: Too-little Content

July 21, 2008

When you want to develop an elearning course relatively rapidly, having plenty of reliable, semi-stable content helps. In most cases, the SME (subject matter expert) usually has too much content. Over at the Rapid Elearning Blog, Tom Kuhlman recently wrote some excellent tips for getting rid of some of the content when your SME has too much of it.  It does seem that on most all instructional design projects, SMEs and clients usually give you a lot more content than is needed for your course. Thinning out the content takes time and reduces the rapid meter. But this is a heck of a lot better than the opposite case: not having enough content. Have you ever had that happen?

That is exactly the case with my current not-so-rapid e-learning project. When I first started, all I had for content was a single PPT slide deck and an unresponsive SME. The PPT had some good key ideas in it, but they were not hashed out in any sort of detail. A lot of the slides didn’t make much sense or seemed incomplete outside the instructor-led course that it supported. Unfortunately, there were no slide-notes, handouts, white papers, instructor guides from previous courses or anything else. And the SME was not responding to specific content questions.

So what’s an ID to do when there is too-little content?

Make it up! As an instructional designer, one of the value adds that I bring to the table is the ability to research and benchmark externally and synthesize the results into internally revel ant content for my course. If the SME isn’t responding to requests for content, I can research and literally make up content myself, send that to the SME, and hope to get a response that way. Indeed, I’ve found that this approach usually works. It’s easier for many SMEs/clients to respond to someone else’s content-creation attempt than it is for them to create original content themselves. Don’t let the lack of content stop you.

Researching, benchmarking, and writing content outside your realm of expertise takes a LOT of time and drastically cuts into the rapid meter. And that’s OK…so long as it’s OK to stretch out the time-frame. The key is to figure this out up front during the content analysis phase (assuming there is one!). If there are content challenges (too much, too little, bad content, NO content, etc) then you need to note it as a significant risk and include additional time in your project plan.

Have you encountered similar problems with too-little content on any of your training projects? How did you handle it? I would love to hear any tips and tricks you have.