Part IV: So You Want To Hire an Online Learning Development Company…
If you are thinking about working for the first time with an outside curriculum development company to help you build an online or in-person training program, you may feel lost without a clear direction to start moving. But have no fear! In this series of blog posts, we are outlining what it takes on your part by breaking it down into five simple steps. This is the fourth post. Our first post gave a high-level overview of all the steps. The second post focused on getting your curriculum and/or source material together. And the third post helped you focus on the scope of the training. If you haven’t read the prior posts yet, we highly recommend you review them before beginning this one.
For this post, we'll talk about the user experience. By this, we mean everything that the person who takes the training sees, hears, touches, smells, tastes or emotionally feels about the training. True, most training doesn’t (and shouldn’t) incorporate smell, taste or touch—but hey, it’s better to cover all your bases during the planning process before you get into development!
If you haven’t done this already, define your end-user or learner. That is, who is the average person taking this training. While your development company can help you clarify your audience, you know your situation best. So it will be up to you to determine how to target the training. And keep in mind, the more specifically and fully you understand the average person in your end-user group, the better you'll be able to focus the training on its goals and objectives.
Pro tip: If you have the opportunity to do so, consider "job-shadowing" a few people within your target audience. This is not something a development company is usually able to do. So, if you can, don’t miss this opportunity to enhance your understanding.
Look and feel
Second, start to brainstorm how you want the training to look and feel. If you're following the planning sequence laid out in this series of blog posts, you've already made some of the decisions about how it will be presented in terms of the length, the delivery and the final assets you’ll need to create. Now it’s time to think about how it's all going to look. If developing the training is like building a house, and scoping the project is like following the blueprints, then planning the user experience is like getting the paint colors, carpet swatches and fixtures together.
In larger or more mature companies, a lot of this may already be decided. For example, you'll need to follow the branding guidelines of your organization. If you don’t know if that applies to you, take a minute to send your marketing director a quick email. (Don’t worry, this post will be waiting for you when you get back.)
Beyond color schemes, typefaces and photo treatments that your branding guidelines might dictate, you'll also start making decisions on what type of media to incorporate:
Will your training benefit from new video? If so, will creating the video be the responsibility of your development consultant, or can you handle it in-house?
Do you have images or photos unique to your organization that the training will use? If you don’t have them but you’ll need them, will your development company obtain them?
Will you have a narrator or on-screen personality? If so, do you want a professional voice-over artist or actor, or do you want to use one of your own experts?
Will this training be the first in a series that would benefit from having a tight overall feel from the beginning?
Taking a few minutes to think through these questions and jotting down any ideas or needs can be tremendously beneficial in helping the development company understand what you're looking for in an end product. And the results will usually be much quicker, less costly and more satisfying to you!