It was a dark and stormy night when a new client showed up at my door. Frazzled, she quickly pointed me to her eLearning course and explained how dire the situation was. She had no budget left, the quality was horrible and the project had been due yesterday. She was afraid that she would lose her job. The first freelancer had seemed perfect for the job – she had no idea how her simple project had turned into an eLearning disaster.
Unfortunately, I come across this situation often – particularly on freelancer websites where project details and skills are not as transparent as everyone would like. However, I’ve found in many of the cases, that a little specificity at the beginning of the project can help avoid unnecessary complications. Read on for some tips to help you mitigate the risks that come with hiring out eLearning development.
Horror Story #1: One client came to me with Flash output files of an old Captivate course. Over time they had lost the original files, and now wished to have the course recreated in Storyline 360 so they could make updates. Prior to soliciting my services they engaged with an eLearning firm through a freelance website. Because they did not specify they wanted interactivity recreated, the file that they received contained only screenshots of the prior course and some simple navigation. Needless to say, the client told the freelance firm that was not what they wanted. The firm responded, “But we gave you exactly what you asked for!” End result: The client was out money and ended up with a useless result.
TIP: Be very clear in your directions to avoid being taken advantage of. Not sure what to ask for? Review my handy eLearning RFP guide here.
Horror Story #2: Another eLearning project I worked on was broken up amongst several freelancers. While the client had some specifics outlined, they failed to identify what constituted interactivity. Generally, simple multiple choice questions and true/false questions are not interactivity. This particular client was shocked when one of the other freelancers simply gave them 10 multiple choice slides comprised of only text. Additional note: navigation is not interactivity either!
TIP: Define your level of interactivity by the learning objectives and learner goals. Be sure to advise if you consider ungraded knowledge checks and interactivity the same thing.
Know Thy Content
Horror Story #3: Another client came to me with a video recording of a subject matter expert (SME) delivering an online PowerPoint presentation. The directions were to create interactivity based on the slides, but to use the actual audio recording of the SME. This was a challenge on multiple levels: (1) the audio, (2) designing interactivity, and (3) instructional design. Let’s start with the audio.
While the SME was very knowledgeable she was not a great speaker, in some cases exhibiting over 27 ah’s and um’s in a single minute. Editing those sounds out made the phraseology awkward and provided a distraction for the learner. For each of the interactive sessions, as these were not part of the original recording, there was no audio. This resulted in periods of silence that were a further distraction. Lastly because this was a lecture style presentation, none of the benefits of eLearning could really be utilized. Instead of taking the subject, rewriting it for eLearning experiences and then creating a script, we went about the project backwards. After witnessing the error of their ways (again it was work done for a client, for one of their clients) we agreed to rerecording the narration.
TIP: eLearning specific instructional design and post-design narration can make a huge difference in how the learner experiences your training. If you are developing a training with the intent to resell, be sure not to skip over this step. Quality audio and design could make a huge difference in customer/learner satisfaction and your ability to sell!
eLearning Disaster Planning
If your project is on the path to becoming an eLearning Disaster – stop, take stock, and check that everyone understands the scope of the work. eLearning project management (where your project managers understand both instructional design and eLearning development) can help you mitigate these risks and ensure your success.