6.3 How to iterate successfully
The previous section provided an example where course defects are detected using the reporting and tracking tools of the LMS. Improvements made in increments are actually the final aspect of instructional design. As we said earlier, not surprisingly, the phase is never completed. There are several other evaluation procedures. Quality management documents are freely available on the Internet.
These are checklists for instructional designers and clients to ensure quality standards for learning have been adhered to. Another popular standard is USA Section 508 standards. These govern policies that require instructional designers to create disability and impairment friendly learning materials. Specific trainings have their own evaluation procedures. Once a course is complete, it is subjected to its evaluation criteria and revised to satisfy all guidelines. Michael Allen, the eLearning expert suggests the following ten iterations to perform before launching your eLearning course: Before you pitch the course to your audience, walk through with your subject matter expert and instructional designer to ensure all elements of the course are neatly tied together.
These are some of the touch points to look for:
- Correct all grammatical errors and typos. Before meeting with the client, make sure you clear any word clutter, any repetitions, any spelling mistakes and so on. Ask your team members to check if you cannot find any!
- Check for any broken links within the course and external to the course. Double check the contact details. Revise and review the links to make sure they lead to addresses you want your learners to go to.
- Ensure all content is present and you haven't missed out on anything. When clients review the final product, they (and sometimes you and your team) will realize some parts need re-writing and new parts need to replace deleted ones. Be prepared for such changes. This is the most important aspect of course iteration.
- Watch out for logical flow of the content. Make sure the content matches the course objectives. Another area to check for is matching course objectives with assessment items. Be prepared to figure out errors with clients that you didnt think were errors!
- Check for content accuracy. Policy and compliance trainings are sensitive. Before launching make sure you contact the client to ensure nothing has changed and the accuracy of the course content wont be affected. A rule of thumb for all forms of writing is to thoroughly check your sources. If in doubt, leave it out! Do not let incorrect information affect your credibility!
- What are the implementation plans? What steps will be taken after you deliver the course? One of the pitfalls for instructional designers and e-learning developers is discovering much later (or worse yet, when the course is complete) that the LMS or the IT infrastructure hosted for the client does not support the output file of your course. Before you try to convert your output file into another format (and ruin some features of your course) check with the client on the details of the LMS.
- Walkthrough the navigation: make sure it is simple and easy to follow. Advancing smoothly through the course is one of the important features to retain the learner. Check for navigation several times before the final launch.
- Are the instructions correct? Provide clear instructions in the form of tool tips that aid in following alternative navigation paths in your course. This holds especially true for scenario-based interactive slides that require decision-making choices or other activities like drag and drop, matching etc.
- Stick to conventional course template and style. Create simple and easy to use user-interface. Think: WISIWYG (what you see is what you get). Have a few learners comment on your navigation and course template style. Your learners may highlight problematic areas better than you.
- Observe learners evaluate your course. Observing the learner work their way through your course provides valuable information as compared to sending them out surveys. Watch their body language and facial expressions. Ask them their comfort level in navigating through the course. Take notes and repeat with at least one more learner.
- Does the course meet the learning objectives? The best way to check for this step (of course involve the SME), is to check the scores of your test-driving learners. Are they achieving new knowledge and skills? While a post-course survey will help at this stage, talking to your learners directly will shed new light on your weaker areas.