Speeding Up Your eLearning Course Design and Development Cycles

A common refrain we here from people in the eLearning field is that it just takes too much time to design and develop their online courses. This is as true for higher education, as it is for corporate training initiatives.

Why are cycle times such a concern? Well, time is money, whether you are in the for-profit sector or not. It is a finite resource in short supply. If eLearning projects are not completed in good time, it leads to missed opportunities and sends ripples of stress throughout the organization. I doubt that you will find very many people these days in the education or training fields who are not feeling “time starved.”

So what can be done to speed up eLearning design and development cycles? We recommend the following:

Better Focused Content

Try not to create online books…draw on other resources (textbooks, readings, web links, etc.) and make the course website the “teaching voice,” providing guidance to your learners on big picture context and directions on learning activities and key interactions. Focus on creating a learning environment, not a collection of content.

The Right Tools for the Job

Having easy-to-use course creation tools certainly makes it easier to quickly create eLearning resources. However, I think too much faith is placed in tools themselves, and more emphasis should be placed on the people using these tools (see below).

The Right People in Place

This is where I think most eLearning design and development processes go off the rails. In too many instances, too much is expected of too few. You need specialists to produce good eLearning quickly (e.g. subject-matter experts, instructional designers, graphic artists, technical personnel, and managers). A division of labour ensures that the right competencies are deployed by the right people. Subject matter experts should not be wasting time trying to figure out technical problems. Also, smart organizations contract-in specialized help when needed to stay nimble.

Good Processes

There is too much “re-inventing of wheels” going on in many organizations with respect to eLearning design and development. Creating templates for both content presentation and for learning exercises (e.g. case studies, problem-solving scenarios, games, etc.) and reusing these again and again with different content saves a lot of time.

Good Management of People and Processes

Finally, I think many organizations lack organized generalists with good project management skills. eLearning programs need people like this that can bring all the disparate pieces together (content, learning design, technology, programming, support, etc.) and ensure that the right resources are in place, at the right time, to get the job done. They are the glue, the ones who understand the big picture and can quickly recognize bottlenecks in the process and address these problems before they bog things down.

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