Direct vs Consultative Digital Content Development

There is a multitude of ways to do a simple task, like measuring a piece of string, you would expect there to be an exponentially wider array of approaches to a more complex task, like developing a piece of digital learning content.

And there is. We see this building content for clients and for the clients we consult with and the clients we train. We are reminded every day that everyone is different, everyone experiences the world in a different way and everyone has different expectations around the areas of a project that should carry the most weight.

But fundamentally, even though there is this very wide array of approaches, success of any digital learning project is directly related to the development of understanding between the different parties involved. Through the sharing of information and open and honest communication. This understanding takes into consideration all the elements of the stakeholders, their knowledge, skills, experiences, preferences and environment, and adjusts itself around these to attain the best relationship and result. Having acknowledged that there are intrinsic and unique aspects of all eLearning projects we must also mention there are some broad components of content development that allow us to categorise the type of development required and adjust our approach to that development.

We have chosen the analogy of Direct v’s Consultative because it best describes the differences in working with the expectations of a client.

Let me clarify what I mean by each term:

  • Direct – the content is designed and built based on the clients stated requirements, the developer uses their experience to adapt existing concepts to suit the content being built ie. the developer makes the call about interactivity or screen layout as they develop.
  • Consultative – all aspects of the content build are noted, considered, discussed and agreed upon prior to and during development ie. the client at all times has the final say in any development decisions before they are implemented.

At B Online Learning we have aligned our development approach around these concepts. We find this gives us the range we require when it comes to providing our clients with a solution that best suits their knowledge, skills, experience, budget and environment but ultimately the solution will match the expectations of the client.

Here are some examples of projects using both models to further illustrate the concept.

Direct Project

A direct approach is where the content to be developed into eLearning is known and understood by the client and/or a client side SME.  They may already have a storyboard or the content is already in an easy to convert format. Also, the look and feel and the degree to which the information is to be redesigned to be interactive can be discussed and agreed prior to the commencement of work. Typically this approach suits an information push out project.

Of course, things can change during development and because of this we anchor all development in a 4-stage review model that keeps the client informed and provides them with specific feedback windows.

Typically these stages are:

  • Visual template and interactive concepts
    • Review and feedback from client
  • First full review of the whole course end to end
    • Review and feedback from client
  • Second review of the whole course end to end (and sign off on external media scripting, e.g. professional voiceover)
    • Review and feedback from client
  • Final review and sign off

Consultative Project

The consultative approach uses the same 4-stage development and delivery model, however it overlays a significant amount more client consultation and discussion to commence the project and throughout the development process.

Projects of a considerable scale (10+ content modules), content projects where the actual content is unknown or partially understood by the project stakeholders and projects that require a considerable investment in purpose built media elements such as video production, gamification or on screen animation usually work best as a consultative project. Typically this approach suits a project aligned to increased performance goals.

B Online Learning considers factors to actively partner with the client to discuss, workshop, uncover, document and subsequently advise the client on the best way forward.

For instance, when running a consultative project we commence the project with a consultation workshop that is designed to both gather the requirements for the content to be built and to inform the clients project team of knowledge gaps that may be present and commence brainstorming the solution.

Here is an example of a basic workshop agenda (the agenda is customised to the client’s needs as identified through the quoting and proposal process):

  • Audience Definition
    • How many people and audiences
    • Location
    • Accessibility (PC, Mobile, Laptop, Apple, Android etc )
    • PC Literacy
    • Socio economic background
    • Job Roll(s)
  • Content source
    • Learning outcomes
    • Content styles that serve these outcomes
    • Existing training
    • Identifying gaps and where to source gap information – Documentation, SME’s, media
    • Preparation of missing content
      • When will it be ready
      • Who will prepare it
    • Is formal assessment required
  • Content build
    • Branding and visual template
      • Existing or develop new
      • User interface
    • Instructional design approaches
    • Media and graphic design elements
      • Photos
      • Illustrations
      • Video (existing or production)
      • Graphs
      • Infographics
      • Animation
      • Characters (production, stock photo or illustrated)
      • Professional audio
    • Interactivity
      • Level
      • Types
      • Frequency
      • Standardisation
    • Assessment techniques
    • Special content features – e.g. certificate generation, javascript
  • Delivery
    • Delivery mechanism
      • LMS
      • Weblink
      • CD
    • Standards eg xAPI, Scorm or AICC

This same degree of enhanced client contact is extended throughout the duration of the project through the use of:

  • Standard communication channels email and phone
  • Face to face meetings and review workshops
  • Web conferences
  • Shared online resource areas

As such the 4-stage development process for a consultation build could look like this:

  • Visual template and interactive concepts
    • Conduct online meeting to showcase the template design and features to the client’s project team, marketing and branding team and SME’s
  • First full review of the whole course end to end
    • Send a review link and document to the project team for them to individually review the content
    • Follow up the individual review with an onsite workshop that walks the project team through the content and discusses and combines individual reviewer changes and feedback on the spot.
  • Second review of the whole course end to end (and sign off of external media scripting for development, e.g. voiceover scripting)
    • Review and feedback from client
    • Co-ordinate members of the project team to attend the recording of these media elements to ensure the outcome is fit for purpose
  • Final review and sign off
    • Review and feedback from client

We believe very strongly that even though everyone and every project will be different, we can still provide the best experience and solution possible by providing a Direct or Consultative experience that can truly exceed expectations.

Interested in our content development solutions? Please get in touch with us.

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