As I explore rapid e-learning development and the authoring tools out there, I am so very curios to see and learn: "who's really doing rapid development?" By this I mean, are you actually harvesting and harnessing the knowledge of your SMEs, coaching them to develop content, and perhaps (as an ID professional) cleaning it up and making it available as a rapid e-learning module? Or, are you using a rapid authoring tool alongside several other tools to create modules more rapidly, assuming the bulk of the scoping, design and development work? Your SME does far less of the actual work; you as the ID professional take the bulk of it on with an internal team or you outsource to one of the esteemed companies on the rise out there to develop it for you? Wouldn't we all agree, these are different beasts? Each with their own strengths, shortcomings, risks and opportunities? Would love to hear from you!

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One approach I've been using recently, with encouraging results, is giving SMEs a structured template in PPT, which gives them an idea of the flow for a short piece of linear elearning; it's based on the ID notions of concept, procedure, process etc. So for example, slide 1: title, slide 2: a pen portrait of someone to whom this knowledge made a difference, slide 3: the basic definition, slide 4: an example, slide 5: another example etc.

How this helps:
- it gives them an idea of the scale we're working to, in terms of no of pages and no of words per page
- it gives me some control of their input, in that we do this after I've ascertained the learning objectives
- it makes them less likely to brain-dump, as they're answering questions or filling in short blocks, rather than writing bullet points
- sometimes it demonstrates that a particular piece of content could be delivered just as well on one page, or that it needs to be split into several shorter chunks

We then have a home-made 'sausage machine' of HTML/Javascript templates into which we can paste the final text.

So it's not using a rapid tool or giving them the tool but I guess it's a rapid methodology.
Hi Norman,

Your response and contribution is so timely. Thank you! Just this afternoon I was delivering a workshop on adopting rapid elearning and hit upon the exact same approach: templates that encourage addressing some of those very same notions/elements, concepts, procedure, process...etc. (By chance, are you familiar with InfoMapping's techniques?)

It strikes me as I work with clients that the biggest challenge they face is in knowing how to guide their SMEs to provide the right information (not just accurate) but content, depth/breadth, etc.

I'm wondering if we're all leading to similar conclusions on how to work with SMEs. I too use templates. I've designed one for PPT to support clients using Adobe Presenter or Articulate Presenter. Similar line of thought: design templates in the authoring tool.

So who else is in favor of templates? Anyone for designing templates in a different tool? Let's share more about the upsides and downsides...

What should we include in a template? Leave out?

'-) MK
Hi Margaret

We do highly targetted shorts all the time for individual learners and also for small groups. They are not high gloss e-learning pieces but they are "Just in Time" pieces that help and support those with the initial requirements and then we publish the pieces for all of our users to see if they are useful elsewhere. That way we are responding to demand, sharing solutions and stimulating our staff to constantly review their skills and continue learning. Our approach was built on the basis that in a classroom if one person asks a question probably others in the class were thinking the same question. So by providing an answer that we can share, those with the same issues get the solution even if they have not asked for assistance, and for others they can review the answers "just in case". These may appear as quick wins but they are building in to a library of really useful, practical solutions.
Hi Julie,

That's great. That's just the kind of pulse I'm looking to gain and gather. Do you run into this question: "we want it to look good though"? My clients often speak to the desire and hope to have their targeted short and purposeful pieces still look top notch; something that they might expect from vendors. I find myself doing a lot of coaching around the fact that rapid doesn't mean "glossy per se", it means impactful and purposeful. What arguments do you use, if any, to mitigate this concern?
HI Margaret

We have worked up a series of skins that we use depending on what we are developing and also are working up an image library in conjunction with our head of comms that make sure that all the content looks "like our content". With clear branding and content guidelines the trainers can develop rapid content quite freely, but before anything hits the end users it has to go through our comms process to check it is error free and acceptable. As to the content not being too glossy, I have got around this by pointing out that we are developing these shorts as part of their SLA and if they want anything more glossy it will cost. The thing is, as we develop our capability the "gloss" is developing organically, and our audience is seeing that happen for themselves.
Hi Julie,

I have found a similar route here as well, in the states with my clients. I attempt to set them up with some skins (essentially templates with a good look/feel/tone that corresponds with their brand) and then some general tips on how to organize their content, such that stories often weave themselves based on principles, concepts, processes and procedures. Are you finding the same?

And, it is fun, isn't it, to watch SMEs who haven't ever really developed content, over time begin to embrace some basic design principles?

Thanks for your contributions to this inquiry. '-) MK
I know a lot of orgs are looking to do away with ID and allow their SMEs to build the resources themselves. But I would prefer to see a collaboration between an ID person with rapid development skills and the SME. Lots of what I refer to as beanbag time, to produce a result that the SME can own.

Related to my response on your 'working with SMEs' question, I would say that learning resources designed by SMEs can tend to be rather information-dump-ish. I've seen many such, and have been brought in to 'fix' some of them. Which of us hasn't had that heart sinking moment of looking at a 108 slide PowerPoint that has been dumped online, where every slide is just filled with text and (for some reason no-one can fathom) the users aren't using it? Because these resources are actually easier and quicker to produce than ones with interactions, appropriate images and links out to useful resources, I guess they could be called 'rapid' but if you build it and no-one comes, that pretty much defeats the purpose. I like to start these projects with "Right, long story short. What do you want people to do differently?"

In one recent project the answer to that question was "Nothing, really. We just need to demonstrate to the regulating body that they know this stuff." Sadly, the regulating bodies have often already issued the decree as to what constitutes effective practice, and to them it consists of knowing X, Y and Z. There's no escaping that, unfortunately (until the day we get called in to work with said regulating body, that is). But even so, there's no reason to dump content on people.

Often, where there is a requirement (normally from the regulating body) for assessment, we are reliant upon SMEs to come up with questions, since we may not know the field well enough to come up with enough of these ourselves. I kid you not, I have worked with an SME who has submitted a 'multiple choice' question that read "Do you know where the first aid box is kept?" Answer options: Yes or No. Correct answer: Yes. And he genuinely couldn't understand why this wasn't a valid question.

We think a lot of what we do is just plain common sense. But when you look at what gets produced without our input, perhaps that kind of sense isn't that common, after all!
Hi Margaret,

We have used a bespoke online content capture tool for the SME's to brain-dump against agreed objectives. Offshore teams then scripted content which local ID teams reviewed. We had a tool which like others, put our content through the sausage machine which in turn, created the materials.

Within a year, we had created over 700 topics of e-learning content lasting 20 minutexs each. What we found is that a man cannot live on sausages alone! We had produced templated content which was so similar in the way the content was structured and displaid, that the learning was too mutch of a bland diet. I now feel that rapid development gets you up quick, but you need to plan extra time and cost to revise what you have.




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