Places Errors Hide in an E-Learning Course
As an e-learning project manager/designer/developer/writer/editor/[insert current hat here], it can be frustrating to stumble onto an error in your course. Whether it is an error on the title slide of the course or one hidden on a screen we hope won’t ever be noticed, it’s an unwelcome event to find a mistake. To help minimize missed errors, I put together this list of the places errors hide. I use this to make sure my editors don’t forget to check certain areas as they edit the course. The onscreen text and transcript aren’t listed because I don’t find those areas to be problematic. It’s the ones that hide we want to uncover. These include:
I rarely make it through an edit of a draft where I don’t find something to change in a bulleted list. Some common errors with bulleted lists are non-parallel construction and improper punctuation. For more information on non-parallel construction, check out my last post, Using Parallelism in Your E-Learning Courses. For information on how to punctuate bulleted lists, check out the style guide for the project you are working on. Many people don’t realize that how lists SHOULD look (which includes punctuation, capitalization, and whether or not they should have introductory colons) is often determined by the Marketing Department for your company. To fix problems with the lists, check their construction using the company standard.
As big and bold as the screen headings can be, it is easy to miss a mistake in one during an edit. They can blend in for the editor like the other unchanging interface elements (such as the Next and Back buttons). Some common errors with the screen headings are spelling errors and non-parallel construction. To fix this, look at the screen titles as a group to make sure they are correct. You can often do this by looking at the course menu.
The Extras Screens
Sometimes these screens are just forgotten during the editing cycle. The main content might have been edited quite thoroughly, but Extras screens (like Resources, Help, and the How to Use This Course screens) might be unedited. The most common error I find is that either there is no information on these screens or the information is from a prior course. To fix this, you’ll want to make sure someone is checking these screens. One thing I do is ask my editors to note they have edited an Extras screen even if nothing is wrong with it, so I know it was edited.
While the onscreen instructions are onscreen, they are sometimes forgotten during the editing cycle. Like the screen titles, they can get lost in the background. The editors might have seen the information on several screens (and in several courses), so they don’t NEED to read it to know what to do. Some common errors I find are spelling errors! It is a rare occasion that I find spelling errors after editors have reviewed a course, but when I do it is generally in the onscreen instructions. This tells me nobody looked at them. To fix this, I ask an editor to go through the course and look ONLY at the onscreen text to make sure it wasn’t forgotten and note that this particular check was done.
For graphics, you have two parts to edit. First, make sure it looks good. Take a look at Rod’s last blog for some tips on graphic design. However, just because a graphic looks good doesn’t mean it is right! Second, you’ll want to edit the content. Some common errors are the names and numbers in the charts and diagrams–things that just can’t be wrong! To fix this, I have someone who knows the content (often someone other than the editor–like a Subject Matter Expert) take a look at these in detail and edit them separately to make sure they are correct.
If you are using Alt Text in the course, you’ll want to make sure someone is editing it. Some common errors for Alt Text is either that the text was never created or there are spelling errors. To fix this, the editor should hover over every button, link, graphic, chart, and diagram, etcetera, and edit that text. The editor will need to comment when there is no text to let you know something is missing.
If there is a problem with the link, it’s either going to the wrong place–or nowhere! To fix this, make sure the editor is clicking every link to verify it goes to the right place or opens the right document, etcetera. I ask editors to note when things work (just like I do with the Extras screens), so I know it has been tested.
Anywhere You Have Made a Change
If you’ve made a change anywhere during the editing cycle, it creates a new hiding spot for errors. Because we are human, it is possible to create a new error when we make any change to a course. To fix this, I always ask an editor to check the change and make sure a new error isn’t lurking in the course because of the change.
These are the common places I’ve found errors hiding in courses. Where do they hide in your courses?