eLearning Learning Best Article


How important is the Design Phase in producing a high quality online training (eLearning, wbt, cbt) program? The Design Phase is critical.

Why?  The Design Phase is both the instructional and technical foundation of the finished product.  If you get the Design Phase completed properly, you have a detailed road map to drive the Development and Deployment phases. If you do not complete the Design Phase the right way, you will end up with cost-overruns of re-work, redefining the project scope, and lots of stress.

How do you know if you have completed the Design Phase properly?  Many novices think that if they have a template picked out and a general topic defined they have met the requirements.  No, that is not enough. So what is the goal?  There are three defined objectives that must be met in the Design Phase.  They are:

1. Selection of the Project Team: From the Sr. Management to the content developers, you must name the people that will be stakeholders and contributors.  Knowing who you will work with and their specific roles and responsibilities is important.  Many teams are now a mixture of internal staff and external consultants.  If this is your first project, save time by dealing with one point of contact and consider hiring an Instructional Design Agency rather than single consultants. It’s less paperwork, hassle, and you have a team ready to go.

Identify Existing Information, Data and Information Gaps: Whether you are “recycling” an existing classroom training program or starting a new program, it is critical to gather all of the relevant documentation to sift and sort upfront.The Instructional Designer and the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are responsible for completing this task.  While this does take time to complete, it will save so much time on the back-end, if new information suddenly appears or if you realize that critical information was left out.Need to Know and Good to Know: It’s critical to define what information needs to be taught.  We call this info separation,  Need to Know and Good to Know.  Need to Know becomes part of the course lessons, Good to Know is great to add as a resource library for those who want to take a deeper dive into the information.

What types of information will be included?  it really is a decision on the SME, but they would typically want to review can include:  white papers, manufacturing specifications, product marketing and sales information and even previous training programs. Just as important is knowing the “information gaps” where critical key points have been left out or new information needs to be added.  The information needed depends entirely upon what the SME determines is critical for learner audiences to learn and demonstrate competency when completing the course.

2. Design Phase Deliverables – Four Key Documents: After researching and determining the types of information that need to be included, it is time to create the four document deliverables for the Design Phase.The four documents are Timeline & Milestones (your daily project management tool). The Timeline & Milestones is critical to your success. Get this right and your project easily falls into place. Ignore it, get it wrong or put if off until later and you will suffer project pain, delays and potential failure.

The Statement of Work is used to provide a proposal document if you are having external instructional design agencies bidding on work.The Project Plan is created for your senior management as an overview and budgeting tool. Finally the Course Outline is shared with everyone at the Stakeholder Kickoff Meeting to give the vision and introduce team members.

All of these document (Statement of Work, Project Plan, and Course Outline) contain information from the Timeline & Milestones, so you see how critical that document really is?

3. How much time should the Design Phase take? For example, a finished 8-10 hour eLearning course would typically takes about 80 hours of Design Phase research and document preparation (if you are using templates to prepare the four key documents, if not add on another 40 hours).  Expect the Design Phase to be about 20% of the entire project budget.

Now would you agree the Design Phase is truly is the important phase of the eLearning project? 

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Article Author:
V. Karen Miller, M.Ed.  CEO, Design2Train  |  eMA Bootcamp Author
Karen is an industry award-winning instructional designer with corporate global delivery experience. She founded Design2Train in 2001 and is based in The Woodlands, TX.  Her “Tiger-Team” approach to eLearning development matches the right experienced instructional designers and content developers to the project.  Her teams have successfully produced hundreds of eLearning to corporate and government agencies.  Design2Train is a federally certified WOSB.

For More Information:
Contact Karen at:  Miller@Design2Train