Rapid E-learning Challenge: Back in the Saddle

August 3, 2008

I haven’t posted much about my Rapid e-Learning Challenge in awhile. That’s because the project suffered a few roadblocks and set-backs. All of them were related to things like poorly defined project goals, lack of agreed-on specs, and non-responsive SME/sponsor. It wasn’t my fault, the sponsor’s fault, or the janitor’s fault. It was a process issue. My learning team had not defined and agreed on a process for initiating this type of project. Starting an e-learning project without such a process is a bit like reading the flight manual after the plane is mid-air.

AT ANY RATE….after a bit of floundering and false starts, the storyboarding is complete. I’m back in the saddle and the project’s moving forward. Yay!  The other good news is that now I have a graphic artist to help with the look and feel and original illustrations where needed. We do have a good process for actual course development. With the planning obstacles out of the way, I’m looking forward to the really fun part of development. We go full-tilt with this tomorrow, and plan to be finished with a beta release in a few short weeks.

All that said, I still want to “test out” just how “rapid” rapid e-learning tools are (in my case, Articulate). As the project plows ahead, I will jot down things I like, things I don’t like, new discoveries (tools, ideas, etc), and lessons learned. I’ll also post any challenges and requests for help here. Blogging is a great way to reach out and get feedback or help from the larger community “out there.”

Rapid Lesson Learned: Don’t move forward with a project if you don’t have clearly defined and agreed upon goals, as well as SME and sponsor buy-in. 


Rapid E-Learning Challenge Day 4: Analog Storyboarding

July 3, 2008

Today I needed a brain dump. As happens frequently on training projects, I received new information from the project sponsor/SME that added significant content (a recommended book) to the course and may potentially alter my strategy and storyboard. Since I had already begun the storyboarding process, I found myself just spinning my ID wheels when I looked at my outline/storyboard in PPT. It was hard to see outside my existing plan.

So I decided to step away from my PC and try a non-digital approach. 1) Sketch out and brainstorm ideas on paper and a whiteboard. And then 2) storyboard on paper using sticky notes or print outs of blank PPT slide notes. Garr Reynolds (“Presentation Zen”) and others advocate this approach as a way to enhance right-brain activity and help get outside your box. 


my white board brainstorm

my white board brainstorm

I used to protest that storyboarding and brainstorming in a non-computer way added extra steps by having to then re-create it digitally. But sure enough, it helped dump the junk in my brain that made me feel stuck, and helped me to see the big picture in a way that is difficult in PPT or even a mind-mapping tool. I also found it easier to jump around, erase, scribble, doodle, start over, and whatever else I need to do. Sometimes technology is just too cumbersome.

My lesson of the day is that it seems that working on paper may be more efficient for hashing out ideas and screen flow. And move it to digital only after you have a good sense of direction.

 So while my rapid project ain’t so rapid right now, I am improving my processes which should help the next project take off more quickly. Now, if only I could get the SME to get all the relevant content to me BEFORE storyboarding begins!

Rapid e-Learning Challenge: Day 1

June 25, 2008

One designer. One course. 48 hours.

Status: On target

Total time: 8 hours

I’m off to a pretty good start. My goal for these first few days is to consolidate my research notes and random ideas into a content outline and begin the storyboarding process. Today I reached a semi-final state of the content outline.

In the past I used MS Word to develop content outlines. This time around I decided to try out a mind mapping tool for developing the outline. Tom Kuhlman suggested a similar approach (different tool) in a comment last week, and he wrote about how he uses mind mapping here. And Michael Hanley describes using FreeMind for instructional design. I’m using the free tool at Mind Meister for now, but am open to better tools, especially if they’re free 🙂

What’s this course about, anyway?

The course is about writing my company’s version of A3 problem solving reports. An A3 is a tool that Toyota uses to propose and report on solutions to problems. The idea is to present all the essential information about a focused subject on a single 11″ x 17″ (A3 size) piece of paper. The report is divided into sections that follow specific data-driven problem-solving steps. This reporting approach forces clear, focused communication, and allows the reader to view a lot of information at a glance. It’s a brilliant process and forces clear, focused communication. I’ll write more about the A3 report and process and implications for instructional design in a separate post.

Here is a snapshot of my mind map/content outline.

Mind map and content outline for A3 Report Writing course.

This gives an idea of the high-level topics. I’m not showing the details due to internal privacy issues, but when I drill down into sub-topics, I also have initial screen treatment and activity ideas. I am able to insert notes, icons, links and even attachments. Links and attachments will be especially helpful by (hopefully) making it easier to locate source documents, web sites, etc.  So in a way it is a mini knowledge management system. A

But is it rapid?  Although I am early in the design and development process, I think the mind mapping approach is a great alternative to using Word to outline and document ideas. It looks like it will be a big time saver from my past way of flipping around, forgetting, and searching for those notes about my last great idea. The slow-down, of course, is that it takes at least a little time to install, learn, and integrate a new tool into your work. This slowed down the Rapid e-Learning Meter for now, but in future projects, I suspect a quicker start. 

My 48 Hour Rapid e-Learning Challenge

June 19, 2008

One person. One course. 48 hours.

Time to put rapid e-learning to the test. I recently got an assignment to create an e-learning course and it needs to be done fairly quickly. I need to get it done in a few weeks and I don’t want to spend more than 6 hours a day on it. On the downside, the course goals are a little fuzzy, there isn’t much existing content, and I am writing the content and developing the course on my own. On the positive side, I have a lot of autonomy to design what I want.

Here’s the plan:

I will use the Articulate suite to build the course (a tool I have used for one previous course). Because of the tight timeline, I will rely mostly on relatively simple approaches but (hopefully) engaging instructional strategies that a single, non-programmer/action scripter can do alone. To that end, I’m drawing a lot of inspiration lately from blogs like Cathy Moore (e.g. how to add emotional impact ; dump the drone), Tom Kuhmlan’s Rapid E-Learning Blog, and Jane Bozart (especially her Better Than PPT book).

Goal: A fully functioning course in 21 days (and no more than 48 hours). By “fully functioning” I mean ready for beta testing, not necessarily final release.

  • Days 1-5: content outline, design/strategy, storyboard in PPT, document my processes.
  • Days 6-10: finalize storyboard, write screen content and script, identify graphic/media
  • Days 11 – 15: Build all course screens and interactions
  • Days 16 – 20: Record audio, test, release beta for review
  • Day 21: Kaizen (improvement) – Review process for what worked, what didn’t. Look for areas of waste and inefficiencies, Improve and document process for next project.

Along the way:

In addition to developing the course, there are a few other things I will do:

  • Document lessons learned and best practices.
  • Track metrics and track data to help with future improvement projects.
  • Develop project management and process documents that can be replicated.
  • Update this blog minimum three days per week: include discoveries, general experience, review of software, etc.
  • Search out other blogs, product support site for help, and post questions as needed.

That’s it….ready, set…..

Do you have any ideas for getting set up and started on a WBT rapidly? War stories, best practices or things to avoid….any comments are appreciated. Comment here or e-mail me.