Fear of the “Upload” Button
Launching a new e-learning course is exciting—and a little bit scary. Did we remember everything? Did we make all the last-minute changes? Did we catch all the typos? Do all the buttons work?
When creating an e-learning course, we need to balance perfectionism with reality. We want every course to be perfect, but there are only so many times you can look at something without going over budget or over schedule. We’ve found there’s a time for checking everything one last time, and a time to blow out the candle and eat the fig. What?!
A man returns home from a long journey in the desert. He is very hot, very tired, and very hungry. He lights a candle and looks around for something to eat. He finds a bowl with three figs in it. He sits down and opens a fig. It is full of worms. He opens the second fig—also full of worms. He pauses for a moment and thinks about how hot, tired, and hungry he is. He blows out his candle and eats the third fig.
We believe in the value of a solid QA (quality assurance process). But at some point, you just have to trust the process, blow out the candle, and hit the Upload button.
Here are some of the things we do to try to make our courses as “worm-free” as possible.
- Match your level of QA to the stage in the project. In our opinion, it isn’t worth it to do a thorough proof on the first version of the storyboards. Why worry about commas when we don’t even know if we are going to keep a certain screen or rework a concept? At this stage, we do a simple self-check. However, as the course moves through production, we become more and more detailed.
- Have specialists do the reviews. Courses need to be reviewed for instructional design, content accuracy, editorial correctness, style consistency, and functionality. Don’t expect one person to be able to do all of these things. We have a woman on our team who goes through every page, clicks every button, checks every link, gets every question right, gets every question wrong, etc. We have a love/hate relationship with her. We love her and how thorough she is, but then hate to get her spreadsheet of 50 line items on a course we thought was clean. Not everyone has that kind of eye for detail, so make sure you are working with someone who does.
- Create checklists. Keep track of what each person should be looking for at each stage. Add to this list after each course – the checklists are made better with every mistake that slipped through once.
- Keep track of change requests. Whether they are from internal or external reviews, from storyboards or online drafts, make sure you don’t lose or forget changes that need to be made. Emails flying back and forth are going to get lost or forgotten. For storyboards, we do everything through tracked changes or comments in Word. Everything is in one place. For online drafts, we use two different methods. Most commonly, we use a SharePoint list that contains both internal and client feedback. For each request, we can indicate status, add updates, and have the client confirm that changes are made to their liking. Here’s a quick demo we created for one of our clients on how to use our SharePoint list. For other projects, we’ve used RapidIntake’s REVIEW service. This monthly subscription lets you upload Articulate, Lectora, and Captivate content and have reviewers comment on each screen as they go through the course. A back-end comment tracker helps you manage the changes.
- Keep a punchlist. As you near towards the end of the project, don’t commit last-minute to-dos to memory: tracking down the final version of an attachment, getting clarification from a SME on question 6, running spellcheck one last time, etc. This list is slightly different than the edits list because some of these things aren’t changes – just action steps that you may not be ready to do until the end. You can, however, choose to track these things on the change request list so that everything is in one place.
- Don’t assume changes are made properly. Any time you make a change, you run the risk of creating a new problem: either the change wasn’t made properly or it created a new problem. After your final head-to-toe QA is finished, at a minimum you’ll want to self-check every change you make. It’s safer, though, to have someone else check those changes.
- Don’t be afraid of updates. The beauty of the online medium is that it’s easy to upload a new version of the course. Sure you don’t want to lose “cool points” by having a live course with problems, but it is a lot easier to upload a new course to the LMS than to reprint 250 new student guides for a classroom training.
What techniques are you using to make sure your courses are “worm free”?
And if anyone knows more about the origins of that parable, I’d love to hear from you! I don’t remember where I heard it, and I’d like to attribute the source and make sure I’m getting it right.