Part VI: So You Want To Hire an Online Learning Development Company…
If you're thinking for the first time about working 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're outlining what it takes on your part by breaking it down into five simple steps. This is the sixth and final post.
The first post gave a high-level overview of all the steps. The second post focused on getting your curriculum and/or source material together. The third post helped you focus on the scope of the training. The fourth post covered what the user experience is and how the training looks and feels to learners. And the fifth post evaluated how to verify knowledge transfer. If you haven’t read the five previous posts yet, we highly recommend that you review them before beginning this one.
In this post, we'll help you understand the technical side of online learning.
Three areas of responsibility
To help you navigate the technical decisions you’ll have to make, let’s consider the three areas of responsibility that need to be covered:
First is the responsibility of ownership; this is probably you or your company. The training was your idea, you’ve done all the heavy lifting to get the idea off the ground, and you’re the one paying for the development and hosting.
Second is the responsibility of developing the training program. This is the outside development company you have hired (or will hire) to create all the assets that make up the program. (It's whom we're helping you prepare to work with in this series of blog posts.)
Third is the responsibility of hosting and managing the online program, including getting people registered for the course so they can access the material, attempt the quizzes, complete the exercises, take the final exam and receive a certificate of completion. The technology that manages this is called the learning management system (LMS). An LMS is a platform that houses your online training, manages profiles of users, and tracks their progress and completion.
Getting an LMS will cost money, and there are two ways to go about getting one: 1) Build an LMS yourself. If you're part of a large-scale enterprise with access to the technical talent to pull this off, building an LMS may be right for you. But for most people developing online training for the first time, it makes more sense to: 2) buy access to LMS platform software from a third-party provider. There are dozens of LMS providers, and finding the right one for your needs is a big decision.
The focus of this series has been how to prepare for working with curriculum development consultants. Later on, we may do a similar blog series about selecting the right LMS, but for now, let’s just discuss what you need to know about an LMS when working with the curriculum developer.
Also, it should be noted that some LMS providers offer program development help or even drag-and-drop-type creation tools. But from our experience, if you want build the best, most professional training possible, keep your learning developer and your LMS provider as separate entities.
The technical side
What do you need to know about the technical side before hiring an online training developer? It's different depending on where you are in the LMS selection process.
If you already have an LMS (or a narrow list of ones you'd like to use), gather all the technical specs to give to your developer. These specs should include what publishing standard to use (SCORM 1.2 or 2004, AICC or xAPI), published package size restrictions (such as no more than 1 GB per published package), what success or completion criteria to use ("pass" or "complete"), what format to publish packages (SWF or HTML5), what video and image file types to use (.mp4, .avi, .jpg, .png, etc.), and how certificates of completion are handled (downloaded or emailed).
If you don't have an LMS yet, don’t worry; you can use this to your advantage. Consider getting your developer involved in the selection process, especially if you're overwhelmed by all the other decisions you’ll need to make regarding your new courseware. Any developer should be able to help you understand what aspects of an LMS are most important to you and what features might not be worth paying extra for, and ultimately guide you to make a decision you feel good about.
Regardless of where you are in the process, one of the best things you can do early in your collaboration with a developer is to get them in contact with your LMS administrator (either someone on your team or someone who works for the LMS provider). Don't cut yourself totally out of the loop between these two parties, but let them communicate directly on what needs to happen to make the process run smoother from the start. That way, you can keep yourself up-to-date on what’s happening but not feel like you have to become an elearning technology expert while you’re trying to do everything else necessary to build your online learning course.
Well, that does it for this blog series. Thank you for reading through the various tips in getting started with an elearning development company. If you would like to learn more, have questions or just want some one-on-one help starting your process, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.