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Nov 2009

Getting to Rapid by Cutting the Project Bloat | Learning strategy and design

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Cammy Bean

Cammy Bean

Senior Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

Rapid e-learning doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality. Nor does it mean using a specific tool. Sometimes, rapid just means you get it done rapidly. A cigar is just a cigar.

Kineo recently completed a project for Canon in 17 days, using high-end Flash for delivery. This award-winning project shows that you really can create quality at speed. But it did mean doing things a bit differently: cutting down on the process bloat, avoiding lengthy project plans and design documents, and getting to a working version as quick as lightning.

In this tip, we’ll look at trimming the project fat so you can deliver sooner.


Cut the bloat

With great nostalgia we remember the days of the 25-page project plans and the 40-page design documents. Thankfully, those good ole days are long gone. We all know what a Next button does and that the Exit button gets you out of the course. Move on folks, there’s nothing to see here.

Of course, you still need a schedule that you and the client agree to and you should document it. You might create a quick outline or jot down the key design principles that you agreed to in a working design meeting with the client. But you don’t need a dense description of each and every element. People hardly read that stuff anyway. How many times have you heard, “Oh, so that’s how it’s going to work?” even though you had described it in great detail in that lengthy design document?

So write it down if you must. Just make it snappy. Keep the paperwork to the essentials and cut out all the bloat.

Show, don't tell

A simple way to cut that paperwork bloat? Work closely with your client team. Brainstorm designs early and often. Draw things out on a whiteboard. Show lots of examples of similar e-learning pieces, so the client gets the picture. When you show how it can work, you won’t need to write it all down.

Prototype early and often

Get a working version of the program up as quick as you can. Start with a paper prototype: sticky notes on a wall. Work up to a PowerPoint wireframe if you like. Build it in Articulate sooner rather than later, if that’s what you’re using. The sooner the client sees and feels how their content is going to work, the quicker the entire process moves.

Reduce touchpoints

Think about ways you can reduce the number of project touch points and layers of bureaucracy. We recently created 30 hours of e-learning in a matter of months for a large global organisation by severely reducing bloat. Every week, four subject matter experts sat down with four designers to create four chunks of content. Each team was focused on their chunk only. The best part? Each subject matter expert had the final say on that chunk. The buck really did stop there and we got it all done on time and to everyone’s satisfaction.

Think about your own projects. Do all five VPs in the marketing department really need to sign off on the final storyboard? Or the final build?  Can your organisation be that brave? Can you commit to only having one individual sign-off on a project?

Consider the shelf life

How long will this particular e-learning remain relevant? If it has a short life-span, then perfection may not be necessary. At some point, all of this stuff is just – well, temporary. And disposable. Don’t get too sentimental about your little creations. Just send them off into the world, wipe away your tears, and move right on into that next project.

(This does not give you license to create poorly designed experiences that have no effect on the learner. Your mission must still be to create great e-learning experiences from which people actually learn. Which is a topic for another day...)

Cammy Bean

Cammy Bean

Senior Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

Cammy has been collaborating with organizations to design online learning programs since 1996. An active speaker and blogger, Cammy gets fired up about instructional design, avoiding the trap of clicky-clicky bling-bling, and ways to use technology to create real behavior change.

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