6 Tips To Conduct A Successful eLearning Brainstorming Session

You never know what brilliant ideas are going to pop up during an eLearning brainstorming session, which is why they are such an integral part of the eLearning Project's kickoff meeting. In this article, I'll share 6 tips for conducting a successful brainstorming session with your eLearning team.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

6 Tips To Get A Head Start On Your Next Rapid eLearning Project

Your next rapid eLearning project is just around the corner, and you know that time will be of the essence. But is there anything you do NOW to get a head start? In this article, I'll offer 6 tips that will help you prepare for your rapid eLearning course in order to beat the clock and increase productivity.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

7 Tips To Get The Subject Matter Expert Involved Ιn Your Next Corporate Client Meeting

How To Involve A Subject Matter Expert In A Corporate Client Meeting

Your Subject Matter Expert is an integral part of the eLearning team. They offer their expertise during the online training content curation process and help narrow down the key goals and objectives. But they can also be a valuable asset during kickoff meetings, feedback sessions, and online training course launches. Here are 7 tips that can help you tap into the experience and talents of your Subject Matter Expert in your next corporate client meeting.

  1. Enlist the aid of the RIGHT Subject Matter Expert.
    Subject Matter Experts tend to specialize in a specific field or niche. Therefore, it’s important to choose a Subject Matter Expert who has the expertise in the particular industry that pertains to your client. For example, you wouldn’t want to bring a life science Subject Matter Expert into a meeting that deals with physical science. They may know about a great deal about the general topic, but their experience does not lie within that targeted niche. Aside from their knowledge, you should also opt for a Subject Matter Expert who has the right disposition for the meeting. If they are typically boisterous then they may not be a good match for a client who is quiet and reserved, for example.
  2. Prepare them for what to expect in the meeting room.
    Even the most experienced Subject Matter Experts still need to be prepared beforehand. This is due to the fact that every meeting is different to some degree, even if you are working with the same client. Be sure to clarify their role in the meeting, what you expect them to discuss, and how they are going to contribute to the discussion overall. They should also know as much as possible about the situation, such as who is who and what topics will be covered.
  3. Determine the goals of the client meeting beforehand.
    Your Subject Matter Expert should be completely aware of what you hope to achieve by the end of the meeting, whether that be landing a new project or clarifying the eLearning course objectives. This is also the time to get their input and ask if they have any goals they would like to meet, such as learning more about the specific needs of the client before proposing the online training content. You may even want to supply them with a checklist of objectives that you want to cover during the meeting. If the goals are more in depth you can give them a detailed overview of the steps involved and how you are going to check them off your list.
  4. Research the client’s background prior to the meeting.
    Collaborate with your Subject Matter Expert
    to learn as much as possible about the client, including their mission statement, training initiatives, and history. You can typically find a wealth of resources online by visiting their website, LinkedIn profiles, and other social media pages. Look for any clues that might tell you what they are looking for and their professional traits. For example, are they tech-forward or do they prefer more traditional training methods? Researching their background gives you the opportunity to step into the meeting well informed and organized. You are also more likely to address their specific needs if you can identify their current training gaps.
  5. Ask the Subject Matter Expert to create examples for the client’s review.
    It’s always a good idea to head into a client meeting with something to show, especially if the client is new to online training and may still need some convincing. It’s also a great approach for clients who are unsure about what they truly want or need their online training program to contain. Ask your Subject Matter Expert to create a draft outline of the content to be included in the online training course and/or several examples that you can put on display. It doesn’t have to be anything detailed or elaborate, just as long as it gives them a clear idea of the options you have for them.
  6. Discuss the details of meeting after the fact.
    After you’ve stepped out of the meeting you should set aside some time to talk with your Subject Matter Expert. You can discuss the highlights and address concerns that either of you might have. This is also an opportunity to talk about how you are going to proceed and prepare for the next client meeting, if necessary. Go over each of the goals and objectives you set beforehand and determine if they were fully met. If not, then discuss the steps that you must take in order to achieve them. Make sure that your Subject Matter Expert knows about this post-meeting conference in advance so that they can make time in their schedule.
  7. Don’t forget to appreciate all of their hard work.
    Your Subject Matter Expert has taken the time to attend the meeting, prepare beforehand, and recap all of the details afterward. As such, they deserve a pat on the back and a show of gratitude. Thank them for all of their hard work, and ensure that they know how much you appreciate their efforts. Even experienced experts who have been in the field for years like to be praised every now and then, especially when they go above and beyond by making it to the client meeting.

The expertise, abilities, and skills that your Subject Matter Experts bring to the table can be of great value to you in the boardroom. The next time you're meeting your corporate client, why not bring your Subject Matter Expert along to make it even more productive.

Are you finding it difficult to work with your Subject Matter Expert? Read the article Working With Subject Matter Experts: The Ultimate Guide to learn how to work more effectively with your Subject Matter Expert and overcome the most common challenges.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Training Needs Analysis For eLearning: 2 Sets Of Questions To Ask The Client 

2 Sets Of Questions To Perform Training Needs Analysis For eLearning

Meeting the client is the very first action an eLearning Project Manager should take in order to initiate the eLearning project. The purpose of this meeting is to identify, define, and document all client training requirements related to the specific eLearning course(s) to be developed, in a measurable and testable way. The more specific the initial documentation of these requirements is, the less the misunderstanding from both sides and the easier it will be for the eLearning Project Manager to deal with the eLearning project in terms of cost management and delivery dates.

The fact that the client has opted to assign the development of the eLearning course to your company, is indicative that the client, most probably, does not want to dedicate too much time or human resources. In any case, though, there will always be a person in charge of the eLearning project to communicate with; this person will be accountable to evaluate and approve all eLearning deliverables. Getting this person involved in ALL stages of the process is key, as you proceed throughout the eLearning design and development phases. This minimizes the amount of revisions needed, that is the most time-consuming part of the process. Depending on the size of the company, this person may be from the IT, HR or Training Department, even the owner of the company or a Subject Matter Expert. As soon as it’s  clear who to be contacted on behalf of the client, it is important for the eLearning Project Manager to know how they prefer to be contacted, as well as, when they will be available, as their contribution and feedback will be required at various stages of the eLearning project.

Asking the right questions is of utmost importance for the success of this very first meeting with the client. In this article, I will present 2 sets of questions dealing with different aspects to be taken into account during your first meetings with the client, in order to identify the requirements of the eLearning Project by conducting a successful training needs analysis.

Question Set 1: Training Needs Analysis For eLearning

  1. Behavioral / Performance Requirements.
    What behavioral changes are expected upon employee´s completion of the eLearning course? How these behavioral changes will be measured based on performance requirements. Is the eLearning course(s) they have in mind what they really need? Unless, the client has identified the training needs of their company internally, a training needs analysis is possible to be assigned to the eLearning company that has undertaken the eLearning project, too. This stage involves requirements gathering from various sources, such as through questionnaires distributed to company’s employees, personal interviews with the department managers or even direct observation of employees during work time. This last one is also especially valuable as a source of information, even if the eLearning course the client has demanded is well specified, as it can give the eLearning Project Manager to get a thorough overview of the course-related operations within the company, and the real challenges in terms of the learning gap the eLearning course is supposed to fulfill. This will also provide the eLearning Project Manager with ideas for potential real-world scenarios to be included in the eLearning course in order for the latter to be as “close” to the real needs of the company as possible.
  2. Technical Infrastructure of the company.
    Another aspect to be identified during this phase is the technical feasibility of the eLearning project from the client’s side. Does the client have the technical infrastructure for the realization of eLearning course to be developed? Do they already have an eLearning platform or LMS? Are they interested in developing and hosting one, or they will opt for a cloud-based LMS solution? Explain the benefits and weaknesses of each option, in order to facilitate their decision-making process. Although one would say that all these questions are not directly related to the eLearning course, giving the client the big picture is an important milestone to set for building trust. All these are decisions to be taken from the client’s side, and there is no use of having an eLearning course without any Learning Management System to upload it.
  3. Technical Requirements of the eLearning Course.
    It is also important to find out information such as the type of device employees will access the eLearning content from, the software employees have installed into their computers, etc. Does the company follow a Bring Your Own Device Policy (BYOD)? In this case, it would be difficult for the client to guarantee that all employees have the required software, or software version, installed. In addition, if employees are accessing eLearning from mobile devices, there may be certain problems regarding Flash file compatibility for those using iOS and Android devices.
  4. Organizational Requirements.
    Regarding the LMS, training needs analysis for eLearning also involves finding out additional information, such as how internal communication takes place among departments, who will need to see the eLearning reports, what type of system permissions are needed to be assigned to whom, etc.
  5. Functional Requirements.
    What is the estimated number of learners per eLearning course? How much control they will be given to leaners? Will the design be linear? Open? Adaptive? What type of “Help” options will be given? Will it be an online tutorial, an FAQ, or a downloadable /online manual? These are just some of the extra practical considerations that would provide the eLearning Project Manager with additional information, in order not only to offer added value to the eLearning deliverables, but also to calculate the cost of the eLearning project.

Question Set 2: Criteria For Setting Priorities In Terms of eLearning Deliverables

Once the client’s training requirements have been gathered, the next step is to start setting priorities, in order to group these requirements together. Identify the required skills to be developed per department and brainstorm with the client about the content of possible eLearning course(s) that would meet these needs. Finally, when there is an agreement of what would be needed, it’s time to prioritize the eLearning courses to be developed based on the following criteria:

  1. Urgency.
    How urgent is it for the employees of the company to acquire these particular skills identified? Does it have a direct effect on their current performance?
  2. Number of employees who need this particular set of skills.
    Although you may find it obvious that the more the employees, the higher the need for the specific eLearning course, this may not always be the case. You still have to specify this point with the client, as they are the ones who know better the priorities of their company. For instance, they may decide an eLearning course addressing to managers to take priority over a massive eLearning course addressing to employees. In any case, do not take anything for granted. You need to ask the client.
  3. eLearning budget.
    When the client’s eLearning budget is limited, the eLearning course(s) to be developed should get prioritized in order of importance. Budget allocation is also another issue to be discussed with the client. Does the client prefer to allocate eLearning budget to acquiring more eLearning courses that meet the minimum requirements, or to fewer eLearning courses of higher quality? From personal experience I can tell that most companies opt for quantity over quality, having in mind that once the eLearning course is created, they will sooner or later have the opportunity to improve it by enriching the eLearning content with more graphics and interactivity. An exception seems to be clients who are developing these eLearning courses, not for internal use, but rather for reselling purposes to their own clients.

Once the client’s requirements have been gathered and analyzed and the client along with the eLearning Project Manager have concluded to the eLearning course(s) to be developed, they proceed to the respective documentation of these requirements and the eLearning Design Document is prepared. The Design document is actually what goes to the Instructional Designer(s) to start working on specific course outlines to be sent to client for revision / approval. Once approved, instructional designers may proceed to storyboard development. Training Needs Analysis for eLearning during the first meeting with the client is actually what initiates the eLearning design and development process.

Concluding, we can say that performing Training Needs Analysis for eLearning also has 3 additional benefits for the eLearning Project Manager: First, it shows the client in a measurable way that the problem is real. Second, it helps him propose an eLearning solution that has been specifically designed and targeted to meet the client’s real needs. Third, it shows the client the added value of the proposed solution.

Well begun is half done. During this very first meeting with the client, trust is built between the two parties, and building trust with the client at the beginning will make your life easier later on, as both parties know exactly what to expect in terms of the eLearning course(s) to be developed as far as content and quality are concerned. This to the client’s mind can only have one meaning: that the eLearning end-product to acquire worth every penny he pays.

Want to learn more about how to track the progress of your eLearning course as an eLearning Manager? Read the article Top 6 Skills Of An Outstanding eLearning Project Manager to discover the top qualities an outstanding eLearning Project Manager should have in order to manage the eLearning team and be able to provide excellent eLearning deliverables to the client.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

5 Things All Successful eLearning Projects Have In Common

5 Common Elements Of Successful eLearning Projects

Unfortunately there is no secret formula for eLearning success. What works for one eLearning course may completely miss the mark for another. However, when you're developing your next eLearning deliverable, you may want to focus on the important elements that all successful eLearning projects seem to share. Does your current eLearning project possess all 5 of the following characteristics?

  1. Clear goals and objectives.
    Without a clear idea of what you need to achieve by the end of the eLearning project, you have no way of determining what steps you must take to get there. Most importantly, every member of your eLearning team needs to be on the same page when it comes to the eLearning project goals and objectives. Ultimately, the collective eLearning team should be able to sum up the desired outcomes in just a few sentences, and articulate how the eLearning course is supposed to fill the learning gaps that currently exist. Sit down before you begin your eLearning project and go over every aspect of eLearning design and development, being as specific as possible. Talk about the requirements, criteria, and which eLearning authoring tools and learning management system you’ll have at your disposal. Make sure everyone knows what the learners need to know upon completing the eLearning course, and address any questions that your eLearning team members may have.
  2. Defined expectations and roles.
    Every eLearning pro working on the project should know what is expected of them, the eLearning team as a whole, and how they fit into the grand scheme of things. What is their role and responsibilities? Who will they be working with on a regular basis, and how can they get in contact with the other members of the team? During your eLearning project kickoff meeting, go over all of these specifics, and be sure that everyone knows about the tasks they will need to handle and when these tasks are due.  Using a project management platform makes this process much more productive and streamlined. You can simply login to the platform to share files, feedback, and reminders. For example, if your Subject Matter Expert and Instructional Designer need to collaborate on an interactive scenario, they can use the project management platform to get the job done quickly and effectively.
  3. Audience research.
    No matter what the learning objectives are or which eLearning authoring tools you are using, you need to have a firm grasp on who your learners are and what they need from the eLearning course. To do this, you should be willing and ready to learn as much as possible about your audience. What is their experience level and educational background? What information or skill sets do they need to master during the eLearning course? Do they have specific learning needs that you need to keep in mind, such as disabilities, or learning preferences? These are all questions you need to ask before you being storyboarding your eLearning course and figuring out which learning activities you’ll be using. Conduct surveys, focus groups, interviews, and diagnostic assessment to determine what they know versus what they need to know, and how you can most effectively convey the information to them. For example, if you have a group of learners who would prefer mobile learning, this can completely change the eLearning course in terms of design and development.
  4. Effective eLearning assessment strategy.
    In order to determine if your eLearning course is truly successful, you need to be able to track learner progress. This involves an effective eLearning assessment strategy that includes a wide range of test types, such as multiple choice, essay, and scenario-based. Virtually every member of your eLearning team will take part in the eLearning assessment development process and needs to be aware of the eLearning assessment goals. What are you measuring and how are you going to measure it? This is also where the learner research comes into play. If you know their learning preferences, current knowledge base, and experience level you have the opportunity to create an eLearning assessment strategy that caters to their specific needs and challenges.
  5. Open communication.
    Without a doubt, this is the most important trait of a successful eLearning project. If open communication is lacking, then all of the other aspects of the eLearning project will suffer as a result. When a problem arises, address it as quickly as possible and let every team member know that they should do the same. If there is a dispute, sit down with both parties and encourage open communication so that there are no hard feelings that may compromise the eLearning project.
  6. Foster communicative online communities.
    Ultimately, successful eLearning projects are those that foster a communicative community. Everyone should know that their opinions are being heard and acknowledged, and their thoughts matter. If they understand that the eLearning team is there to support them, rather than ridicule or judge them for needing help, then they are more likely to reach out when they require assistance. This, not only makes the eLearning project run smoothly and avoid missed deadlines, but also it produces a better finished product. Keep the lines of communication open, and enjoy the benefits of a collaborative and supportive working experience.

There may not be any "sure things" in life, but there are ways to improve your chances for success. Keep these tips in mind to create high quality eLearning courses that leave a lifelong impression.

Looking for ways to involve every member of your development team? Read the article The Top 7 Qualities Of A High Performance eLearning Team, to ensure that your team is not only a truly great eLearning professional group, but also 100% dedicated to attaining their shared goals.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

7 Tips To Get the Most Out of Your eLearning Project Kickoff Meeting

How To Get the Most Out of Your eLearning Project Kickoff Meeting

In a previous article, I discussed each of the steps involved in organizing a successful eLearning project kickoff meeting. In this article I'll offer you a variety of tips that can help to boost the effectiveness of your first project meeting, so that you can get the eLearning course design process off to an amazing start.

  1. Define roles and responsibilities in advance.
    Even before you step into the eLearning project kickoff meeting, each of your team members should have a clear understanding of what role they are going to play and what responsibilities they will be expected to fulfill. By providing these clear definitions and expectations for your entire eLearning team, you can avoid confusions and conflicts later on. Be as detailed as possible, and clarify roles and responsibilities again when you are conducting the first meeting. This will also help every member to learn more about what their colleagues will be doing, so that they have a firm grasp of what falls under their purview and what tasks or responsibilities are allocated to the other members of the eLearning team.
  2. Leave room in your meeting schedule for questions and answers.
    Your team members are bound to have some questions and concerns that need to be addressed. So, you'll want to leave ample room in your meeting agenda for Q&A time. This time can also be reserved for active discussions between the team, especially if there are going to be tasks that require group participation. Make sure that the members of the team feel comfortable voicing their concerns, and let them know that they can feel free to come to you after the meeting if they would prefer to speak in private.
  3. Make each member feel like part of the team.
    Team members should feel as though they are a welcomed part of the group, and that they have something unique to add to the eLearning project. This means that you should ensure they have all been introduced to one another and that they are all aware of the project's specifications and goals. Ideally, they shouldn't get the impression that they are just an asset, but an active participant of a group that is going to design an amazing, high quality eLearning course. Get them excited about the eLearning project and let them know that they are an integral part of the process, if you want to boost collaboration within your eLearning team.
  4. Give a clear definition of “success” based upon project's expectations.
    The simple truth is that “success” means different things for different eLearning professionals. As such, you will want to specify what “success” means to you in regards to the eLearning project's goals and objectives. What do you hope to achieve by creating the eLearning course? What learning activities must be included, and what methods/techniques/principles are you going to use to develop the most engaging and effective eLearning experience possible? During the eLearning project kickoff meeting you'll want to talk about the specific goals and desired outcomes of the eLearning project, as well as how success will be measured by both yourself (the project manager) and the client.
  5. Have a timeline created for each team member.
    Discussing timelines during your eLearning project kickoff meeting is vital, because team members will need to know exactly how much time they  have to develop each task or aspect of the eLearning project. You will want to develop milestones or assignment deadlines along the way, so that your team is aware of when their part of the eLearning course needs to be completed. It's like piecing together a puzzle, with each task or component of the eLearning course fitting together in such a way that boosts productivity and efficiency.  It might be best to arrange for periodic check-ins or meetings for every member of your team. If  face-to-face meetings are not possible, there are several free web conferencing tools that give you the ability to chat one-on-one with your team members and work with them remotely in order to design and develop your eLearning project and talk about how the project is progressing.
  6. Give them a support system.
    Be sure to remind your team that you and the other members of your team are there to help, if the need arises. Your team is more than just a group of working professionals; it's in fact a support system for every individual member. In order for the eLearning project to be a success, there needs to be open communication and the willingness to help whenever possible. If they need help, encourage them to ask for it and make them aware of the fact that they can email, call, or instant message you whenever they have a question or concern that needs to be addressed.
  7. Make it fun and engaging!
    Above all else, your meeting should be lighthearted, fun, and motivational. While you should discuss the important points of the eLearning project, the meeting shouldn't leave your team feeling drained or overwhelmed. Encourage them to participate and keep the discussion flowing by sticking to your agenda, but also feel free to drift off into tangents if the mood starts to feel a bit too drab or dull. Inspire them to do their very best by getting them excited about your ideas and concepts, so that they are more likely to give it 110%.

Use these eLearning project kickoff meeting tips to get the most out of your first team gathering. Regardless of your team dynamic or the nature of your eLearning course, following these bits of advice will help you to create an organized and streamlined eLearning design and development strategy.

Wondering how to run an eLearning focus group? Read the article 5 Tips For Running A Successful eLearning Focus Group where I share some tips for how to successfully conduct an eLearning focus group that can give you the insight you need.

Last but not least, for your eLearning project to be successful it is essential that you stay focused on-task, stick to the deadlines, and share valuable documentation and information with your team members. Read the article Top 10 Free BaseCamp Alternatives to learn more about the free project management tools that are available today and  can help you to stay on track by creating a virtual base of your operations.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.