Review Cycles: Questions to Ask and Online Collaboration

Diane mentioned in her blog earlier this year that if you’re not careful you can spend more time in review cycles than for production in your e-learning courses.  Diane mentioned how we are using a tool to see who needs to review the courses.  In this blog, let’s look at how you can structure your reviews.

A typical e-learning project has a review cycle for the following three phases:

  • Prototype
  • Storyboard
  • Online Draft

For each of these phases, you’ll want to clearly define the process for how reviews should be handled – and, as Diane mentioned, who will be part of that process.  There are many ways to structure your review cycles and many factors for you to consider.  Here are some questions we ask when we are working with clients to figure out the best structure for the reviews:

  • When do we involve external reviewers (such as business customers and subject-matter experts)?  For example, should we do this at storyboard phase or when the course is complete?
  • What happens if people disagree with each other in their comments?  For example, is there a lead subject-matter expert who can give the final go or no-go decision on a change?
  • How long do reviewers need to go over the material?  For example, are there vacations or other projects scheduled that would slow a review?  I’ve had clients consistently complete their reviews in 24-hours (which is not the norm) and have had others request a month for their reviews.
  • What happens if reviewers don’t respond in the time allotted?  For example, do we decrease the time to make the changes or does it move back the final delivery date?
  • How do we want feedback given?  For example, should we have a review meeting, have them track it individually in a spreadsheet, give tracked changes in Word, etc.)  I’ve found all of these are great options, as long as everybody agrees on them.
  • What process will we have for checking corrections to verify they are made correctly?
  • Do we need formal sign-off on the final version?  If so, who needs to make the decision that a version is final?  For example, a subject-matter expert, a stakeholder, etc.
  • How do we keep track of open issues and questions?  For example, should one person track open issues? Or can it live in an online spreadsheet or wiki that anyone can see or update at any time?

Most of our clients like the idea of using a spreadsheet to track open issues and questions, like the one we posted here as a resource to our E-Learning Uncovered: From Concept to Execution book.  We prefer putting this type of spreadsheet in Google Docs.  When we do this, it gives us real-time updates and comments-and makes it so everybody knows what changes are needed for the project.  You can even set up action columns so those working on the project can see with a quick sort what outstanding action items that have.

The only two downsides we have found to using Google Docs for our online collaboration tool for reviews:

  • When someone filters or sorts a spreadsheet in Google Docs, it changes the view other will see, as well.  You may want to set some guidelines if you use this option for a review tool (such as possibly what the default sort should be and that if someone needs to filter or sort the spreadsheet temporarily, they should change it back when they are done).  Your guidelines will vary based on your team’s needs.
  • Some companies block Google Docs.  We’ve used SharePoint in those cases.  Generally one of the options will work.  

I’d like to hear your success stories.  What do you use to encourage collaborative feedback during your review cycles?

Desiree Pinder
Artisan E-Learning

One Response to “Review Cycles: Questions to Ask and Online Collaboration

  • Utkarsh Talwar
    4 years ago

    Hey Desiree, great post. You’ve broken down the review process quite well. There are better ways than Google Docs to give feedback now. For example, with zipBoard ( you can collaborate with your stakeholders in real time and provide feedback visually, not just in text. You can take screenshots from your courses, draw and annotate things, point out exactly what is not working, and even assign tasks to people. It makes collaborative reviewing so much easier.

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