Creating an online course without a plan will ultimately lead to failure. The planning phase is arguably the most important aspect of your elearning project (heck, any project for that matter).
There are many frameworks out there that provide guidance on the key aspects of planning effective elearning. The most popular of which being the ADDIE model, but there are other ones as well.
While these guidelines are great, they are pretty dense in theory. One danger in adhering to an ADDIE only road-map is that you lose site of the qualities that make your project unique. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to elearning design, but using models sometimes encourages this approach.
So what should you do?
First and foremost, you should certainly be familiar with the popular design & development theories of today. ADDIE is still used because it works.
But I want to encourage you to bring your elearning planning phase up to the human level instead of just a “color by numbers” approach. One elearning “ninja” is to ask questions. Specifically, ask questions as it relates to the project and answer them yourself.
To get started with this approach, create a document that includes potential questions you could receive from various stakeholders. For example, everything from questions you would get from the CEO to questions that a new employee would ask.
Not all of these question may apply to the project, but it will force you to think about the courses you are going to develop from a variety of different angles.
Afterwards, provide a one to three sentence response to the questions.
To get the most out of this exercise, follow-up each question with clarification questions (i.e. “why?” and “how?”). To give you a head start, I have included some example question below:
- Is elearning the best choice?
- What tools are necessary to deliver the training content?
- Do we need experts for content creation?
- Who is the target audience for this training?
- What are the outcomes we should expect after someone has taken the training?
- How are we letting people know about the courses?
- Does performance matter?
- How are we tracking attendance and performance?
- What metrics indicate that the training has worked?
Each one of these questions could have sub-questions as well which will help to give you an idea of how you can best plan for your elearning initiative.
Note that answering questions is not meant to replace a robust plan. Taking your plan to the next level will involve applying a framework like ADDIE, and now that you have done this exercise, you are much better prepared to apply this framework.