Understanding Online Learning Content Development: The Cycle

In the last post I looked at where small to medium sized organisations tackling the development of online courses can run into problems when selecting the development team from amongst relatively inexperienced staff members who don’t always have the skills or time required to complete the development tasks.

In this post I want to quickly look at the second area where small to medium sized organisations often fail: the course development cycle. That is, a coherent and applied strategy for the development process. This is often either poorly implemented or, more frequently,  simply ignored by team members rushing to pull the disparate strands of the development process together at the last minute.

The development process requires time and management – the two assets, from my observation, that the team members in these organisations often lack.

The development process requires time and management – the two assets, from my observation, that the team members in these organisations often lack. However, if any semblance of a successful online course is to be produced the development process must be adhered to.

Essentially, the process looks like this:

 

eLearning-Development-Cycle_V1

 

If any of these steps are ignored or rushed through there is a good chance that the end result will be a poorly implemented and poorly conceived course. Often Step 1 – content gathering is done by the in-house subject matter specialist and takes some time as they, inevitably, think of this as ‘non-essential’ in terms of their other responsibilities. Step 2 – instructional design – is often ignored completely with no thought given to how the course should progress, the type of learning methodology that suits the learning aim or what types of media, assessment and logic best suits the course. Ignoring this phase often spells disaster and, ironically, is the step that many organisations feel is the least important.

If any of these steps are ignored or rushed through there is a good chance that the end result will be a poorly implemented and poorly conceived course.

Steps 4 – 8 are usually followed in one way or another but rarely with any consistency. A typical scenario after Step 3 has been completed is that time is suddenly running out, senior management wants to see results and the rest of the process is rushed through leading to many inconsistencies in quality, design, learning methodology and content.

Although trying to allocate time for any task is a bit like asking ‘how long is a piece of string?’ given that all courses are different in both length, content, design and development requirements and technical implementation a very rough idea can be given by the chart below:

elearning-development-cycle

This gives a total of around 12 weeks or 3 months for the development of a single course. Some time can be saved by using pre-defined course page templates for the team and WYSIWYG online editing and creation tools. However, from observation, these savings are completely nullified in a small to medium sized organisation where the development of the course is not one of the main responsibilities of any given team member and where project drift occurs as a result of their limited time availability to concentrate on their specific tasks within the course development cycle.

 

(This post is extracted from training sessions provided by Tony Hughes of praxMatrix to organisations in Australia, Poland, Germany, France and the United Kingdom)