When it comes to developing eLearning courses, there are many things that can go wrong. Okay, so that isn’t the most positive start to this blog post! But the fact is that a single eLearning developer will not pick up every error in the first version of an eLearning course.
Just as an author works with an editor, and a journalist needs a proofreader, it is only natural that eLearning developers need feedback from other people to identify errors and problems. Fresh eyes are needed because the developer is often too close to the material. But effective course reviews cannot be done in an ad hoc manner.
To collect quality feedback, you need a structured review process. This involves determining who will review a course (both internally and externally) and what the timeframes for review will be. In this post I will look at some important aspects of the quality control process.
Clarifying the Review Process
If you are developing a course for a new client, it is important to communicate with them about the review process. This should be done at the start of a project. If you wait until near the end of the development process, you could run into problems such as project timeline blowout and additional costs.
A typical problem is the late entrance of unexpected stakeholders who request additional content be added to the course. To avoid such problems, you must provide a clear understanding of how the review will work before the project commences.
Consider the following questions:
- What steps will there be in the review process?
- Who are the key stakeholders involved in the project?
- How much time is needed for the review process?
- Are the deadlines realistic for both parties?
- What amendments are not included in the Scope at each review that would incur additional cost?
In some cases you might be developing a course with the help of several Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). For example if there are 5 SMEs, are you prepared to go through 5 different review documents? What happens if different team members have different views on necessary changes? A good solution is to ask the team to nominate a spokesperson for the group.
The SMEs could have a team meeting amongst themselves and then the team leader can produce a single review document on behalf of the team. This would save you time and also keep costs down (a good incentive for the client).
If you are using Articulate 360 then consider using Articulate Review web app. It allows you to gather consolidated feedback throughout your project, show stakeholders the latest version, and manage resolved comments after making changes.
Checking for Accuracy
The first version of your course is likely to have inaccuracies but there is no need to panic. If you have a thorough checklist of questions at hand, it will help you and others to identify errors. In fact, I have found that many SMEs actually like spotting errors (as long as there are not too many!).
Here are some questions to consider:
- Is the actual content in the course accurate (e.g. facts, figures, names)?
- Is the content up to date?
- Is there any content missing?
- Have you checked for typos and spelling errors?
- Does the audio script match exactly what the learners are hearing?
- Are the instructions clear and correct?
- Are the quiz or test answers correct?
Checking for Consistency
Consistency is needed to make your course look professional and cohesive. It helps to give the learners a sense of stability when working through the content. Some questions to consider when checking for consistency include:
- Is the look of the course consistent with other courses for the same client? (e.g. colours of the player)
- Is there consistency with the use of fonts (font type and size) for headings, body text and so on?
- Have you been consistent with terminology throughout the course? For example a course can be referred to as a ‘unit’, a ‘session’, a ‘module’ – choose one term and stick to it.
Using templates will assist with consistency. But more on that in another blog post.
Checking for Functionality
When a course has been published and loaded to a Learning Management System, it is ready to be checked for functionality. Keep in mind that features such as links to websites may work in the pre-publishing phase, but then not work on the LMS and vice versa.
Before the course goes live, make sure you have tested all the technical components of the course from the environment where the course will be deployed. Allow time for problem-solving because it can take longer than you think, especially if there is a problem you have not encountered before. I have found the eLearning Heroes community an excellent resource for finding solutions to technical problems.
Here are just a few things to watch out for:
- Is the navigation working according to client’s requirements (e.g. Does the client want learners to pass the quiz before progressing to the final screen?)
- Do the videos in the course play correctly?
- Are there any problems with visibility (e.g. video too small, font size too small)?
- Do animations appear at the right time to synch with the audio?
- Do the links in the course work correctly?
This is just a sample of things to check. It is best to develop your own review checklist, even if it’s as simple as a table in a Word document. Download this simple template to use. I recommend developing a new checklist for each client. By tailoring the checklist to the clients’ needs, you are more likely to meet their specific requirements.