So You Want To Hire an Online Learning Development Company…
You already know the training you want to put online. You have your target audience in mind. You have a group of subject matter experts to make sure the curriculum is as error-free and cutting-edge as possible. You feel like you’re ready to go. All you need is someone to help you build your training in an online format and upload it to a learning management system.
So, you start filling out website forms requesting quotes, consultations and demos. You may even have started some conversations with curriculum development companies. Yet, if you’re like many in this position, you feel that you might be hitting a wall of jargon and training best-practices that seems almost insurmountable.
“What have I gotten myself into?” you cry. After all, there's a lot to consider: You’re asked if you have an LMS; if you need SCORM (1.2 or 2004), xAPI or AICC; if you have branding guidelines for curriculum; if you'd like video and/or animation; if your training needs to be published as HTML5, SWF, MP4 or .exe; and if you need a single package with multiple modules built in, or each module published as a separate package. And so on.
If you find yourself in this situation or are starting down a path you think will take you into a "rabbit hole," take a deep breath. And don’t worry! Right now, we’ll break down what you need to know to set yourself up for success when working with a online learning development company.
Step by step
Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at each step of the development process in detail so you’ll know what to expect and how to come to the meeting prepared. For now, let’s look at the process to give you an idea of what’s ahead for you.
Step 1: Getting your curriculum and/or source material together Often, this happens before you begin looking for a development partner. It begins when you pull together the content. You’ll want to gather your assets, past training, documents, videos and other media, and people who will serve as subject matter experts.
Step 2: Outlining the scope of the training One of the first questions you’ll be asked is, “How long do you anticipate the training will take?” But you’ll need to know more than just "2 hours" or "8 hours." You’ll need to outline what the training will cover, if it needs to be broken into topics, if any of it will be taught in a classroom, how long it should take the average learner to complete the training, and so on. The more concrete an idea you can start out with, the fewer development bumps you'll face along the way.
Step 3: Thinking about the learner experience
Next, you’ll want to think about how the training should feel for the learner:
Would it help to incorporate video clips of actors playing out a scenario?
Do you have a subject matter expert who can explain the content better than anyone, whom learners would benefit from seeing in a video?
Would your subject matter be more easily understood if it's drawn using whiteboard illustrations or stylized animations?
Is this training program going to be the first of many, so that could you benefit from having an established visual and graphic style to replicate in other programs?
Would it help to have on-screen text narrated in a particular voice-over style?
You don’t need to decide all of these items before you get started, but knowing that making these decisions will be part of the journey ahead will help you prepare for them and finish with a cohesive training program you can be proud of.
Step 4: Verifying knowledge transfer
This may sound daunting, but it’s a lofty way of saying, “How are you going to ensure and prove that someone going through the training actually learned something?” This often consists of things like pre- and post-assessments, knowledge checks, interactive activities, module quizzes and final exams.
Your development partner should be able to help you decide what would be best for your training, but your understanding of opinions and expectations early in the process helps promote effective and efficient development later on. You'll also want to consider if learners should receive a certificate of completion, and how they will access it.
Step 5: Understanding the technical side This is often the most frustrating part for those publishing their first online course. But to simplify, it all comes down to the LMS. This is a software database that houses your online training, manages learner profiles and tracks their progress and completion. There are many LMS platforms out there, and some can cost a lot of money. Your training developers may have an LMS that you can use, but most often they don’t. However, they should be able to help you understand what you need from an LMS, and even make suggestions of platforms to look into.
Once you have your LMS, many of the technical questions you’ll need to answer are determined by its features and functions.
We’ll go into more detail about each of these steps in upcoming posts, so stay tuned. But for now, use them to help you understand what’s to come.