Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Why projects go Wr0nG

I recently attended a webinar run by the elearning network + ALT entitled "Why eLearning Projects Go Wrong". The recording of the ALT/ELN Why eLearning Projects Go Wrong webinar which took place on the 17th February is now available via the ALT Open Access Repository at: http://repository.alt.ac.uk/view/divisions/projectsgowrong/2010.html

above screencast was recorded by myself just to illustrate how Prezi can be used effectivly as a presentation tool during an online webinar. In this instance we were using Elluminate. Anyhoo back to the meat of the webinar.

Rob Hubbard kicked us off. Rob is a memeber of the eLN, and runs his own company

Robs many years of experiences in designing and executing bespoke elearning solutions for large compaines was spot on the mark in terms of promoting a plethora of pragmatic tips to guide us through the maze of designing an e-learning "product" that satisfies a clients spec'. Rob ran through a set of pitfalls to avoid whilst running his prezi "slides";

  • Work closely with stakeholders, as their time to review is critical - ensure they understand the entire process,
  • ensure that stakeholders understand the time needed to review the project steps at critical sign-off stages. Book these review stages in their calendars, be explicit about scope and range of "agreed changes",
  • ensure ALL stakeholders are identified and have indepth knowledge of their required input/review at each stage of the design. Document ALL comm's with them in a central place accessible to all – Robs uses basecamp for this (web based) project management of key stages, decisions, and all project doc's,
  • unstuff! - use a method like Kathy More's - action mapping - identifying what needs to be acheived – which ends up at content - keeps it (planning meetings) focussed,
  • has the "thing"/tool/ training package/ changed behaviours - made money / increase in sales, etc? Measure the business metrics. And does it fit with marketing and other promotionals?
  • test on target market – it is fundamental to adopt true user centred design process – do not be tempted to shortcut this stage of the inital design process – do so at your peril!
  • Identify learner needs - active, real world based, skills ,etc.. put yourself in your learners shoes - identify tangible outputs - that could be measured!
  • Implment a multi stage (sign off) process of protoyping and final output - identify a gatekeeper at the client end, to keep everyone in the loop. Test, test, test, on a sample of target users - to feedback users comment into the final design.
  • Adopt a "Plain "English" approach to writing copy + screen design (rememeber less is more for the web), ie. writing for screen and for elearning efficiency & learning efficacy.
Next up was David Wilson of elearnity

David also has many years experience of managing large scale e-learning projects. Davids tips complimented Robs;
Issues emanate mainly around execution - design and delivery - but also around the output - i.e. what's in it for me. 

  • 4 main points of going wrong Alignment, outcomes, adoption, and execution. See also the Towards Maturity research which backs this up. Alignment is key - if this is wrong, everything else is skewed and will not work (backed up by Towards Maturity research).
  • Most elearning is built for compliance (bigger companies) - so elearning is looked at as "boring", as most peoples experiences are primairy concerend with consuming legalities/rules, etc - not interesting!! i.e. most elearning is paper behind glass / click through pages of text + the occaisional self assessment. Dull dull dull.......
  • Drivers and barriers for acceptance and utilisation - need to be identified and designed in - often they are just ignored. Is e-learning the answer at all, and indeed is it a learning problem in the first instance? Is it just a communication issue?
  • Initiative overload - end users being bombarded by new stuff - need to decide how and if to implement.
  • test test test on target platforms and people!! Especially when using other vendors to built the end product.
  • Adoption: support from line managers to actually learn whats been created! Marketing and; relevance and; currency.
  • Outcomes: measuring success ,how to anaylse ROI? Evalaution evaluation evaluation is key. How has the knowledge being retained and used down stream, most elearning companies shy away from this and factor ROI around design and delivery of the project - not measuring improved business performance. n.b. again the Towards Maturity report backs this up.
Finally I pushed for any advice on the touchy subject of useful evaluation of such projects. I suggested that we could use the Kirkpatrick Model ??: But I was somewhat rebuffed as to it's usefulness. The answer I received was "it kind of works" - but at a higher level - not useful for business metrics - ie. performance improvements. So I did not really get a satisfactory answer for this, but I guess that this two companies needed to keep somethings back, to retain a competitive edge? Unless - this is such a grey area, (read expensive) - no one really knows/can afford to correctly evaluate multimedia type projects???? Answers on a postcard please :OD

Above all a really useful webinar for those who are
designing, and implementing any for of elearning into a large organsiation. It struck me how the whole process was simialr to managing any multimedia projects, including websites. From a project management perspective, effective (client) communication is key, as is robust user centred design.

From an end user perspective, desinging rich engaging material is the key. In fact we discussed adopting a much more social, collaborative, reflective, real world, type of expereince. Much
like Rob Hubbards own RED course, or by adopting the http://www.connectivism.ca/ approach.

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