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  • Kyle Brooksher

Part II: So You Want To Hire an Online Learning Development Company…

If you're thinking about working with an outside curriculum development company to help you build an online or in-person training program for the first time, you may feel lost without a clear direction. But have no fear: In this series of blog posts, we're outlining how to get the most out of your training partner by breaking down the process into five steps.

The previous post gave a high-level overview of all the steps, and this post will focus on the first step: getting your curriculum and source material together. If you still haven’t read Part I yet, please do so then return to this post.

Curriculum vs. source material

So, let’s talk about getting your curriculum and source material together. To begin, what do we mean by “curriculum” and “source material,” and how are they different?

Curriculum usually comes from an existing training. If you're updating training that you already offer, are looking to offer training in a new format (like taking a classroom program online), or are folding multiple courses into a new course, all of the existing items you use for those programs are part of your curriculum. This includes all of the obvious items like student manuals, facilitator PowerPoint files, and tests or quizzes (if you have them). But your curriculum might also include videos, PDFs, printed handouts and even links to additional resources and websites that you recommend to learners. A quick rule of thumb for curriculum is, “If a learner or instructor views it as part of the training, it’s also part of the curriculum.”

On the other hand, source material can sometimes be part of the curriculum but typically isn’t. Your source material includes everything that you'll use to build the training, such as research papers, technical manuals, government regulatory documents, or even videos from experts in the field. Keep in mind that your source material does not have to be external resources only. Consider your internal documents, memos, company policies and standard operating procedures, and even email with vital information from your internal experts, as fair game to include in your source material.

Take this one step further by thinking about who should weigh in on the content of your training. If there are people who have mastered the topics in the training, ask them to be subject matter experts (SMEs).

Tips for compiling materials

When collecting your curriculum and source material, don’t hold back. If you think something might be relevant to the training at this early stage, include it in your list of assets. Any curriculum developer worth their salt can look at a questionable piece of source material and quickly identify if it is useful or not. So, include everything you can think of at this point, and worry about removing it later on. When you get to the build phase of your project, you’ll find that it’s much easier to cut down at that point than it is to add good material.

Your goal in this stage is to have everything you’ll need to support, write and build the curriculum in one place. Most of the time, that place is a folder on a computer or shared drive, but it can be a physical file if need be. If you want to maximize your effort in this step, consider creating a master list of everything you have, including the names of the assets, what type of assets they are (Word document, video, PowerPoint slides, student manual, subject matter expert notes, etc.), and a brief description of the topic or key information they cover. A list like this is also extremely helpful when your assets include things like websites or SMEs, You can list web addresses or contact information, and you won’t forget about a given person or resource.

Take your time in this step. The more solid your supporting information is at the beginning of your project, the better foundation you have for the rest of the process. Consider this step to be your foundation. Doing it right makes building the curriculum all the easier.

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