You may already have noticed that we launched a new product earlier this year – E-learning courses with source files. These are courses that are ready to use – all texts, images and interactions are there, and you can make any adjustments that you wish or present the courses just as they are. With 7 courses up and running, I thought it might be a good time to reflect on our experience of producing these courses.
I thought that our most recent courses – Negotiation Process and Negotiation Skills – would make for a good subject for this little case study. The interesting thing about writing content for these two courses was that initially it was intended to be a single course on negotiations. Of course, this is a big topic with many different issues to discuss. So, when the first draft of the content was finished and reviewed by a couple of my colleagues (always a good idea by the way!), the verdict was clear – this thing was just way too long. How long, you ask? It was around 80 pages and would take more than an hour to complete!
However, we did not despair (not for very long, anyway). After reviewing the material, it became clear that almost all of it was interesting and relevant, but there was just too much information to absorb in a single session. So, what we ended up doing was sorting the content into two logical batches – one describing the negotiation process and the other addressing skills that are important for a good negotiator. All it took was some time, a wall and a lot of sticky notes.
Once we had done that, we felt very relieved – the two courses were much more digestible and the content flow improved significantly. This just goes to show that sometimes you have to change your initial plans for the benefit of the learners – and that’s okay!
Once the content issues where sorted, we could move on to working on a detailed storyboard. Of course, storyboards can come in many different formats, but we usually use a simple template that looks something like this.
At this point, our instructional designers had to figure out what layouts would best suit the content, what interactions we wanted to have and so on. So, they would first structure the text into blocks as required by the template (titles, base text, pop-ups etc.). They would then add instructions for the developers, so that they would have a clearer idea of what the end result should be (object placement, interactions, button states). This is especially important to do in cases of modified or new layouts.
In general, we strongly rely on our Light template set for our customizable courses because it’s clean and modern and can lend itself to a variety of topics. Furthermore, it’s also one of the richest in terms of different layouts, starting with simple info pages and ending with a wide selection of interactive pages.
There are many templates that we used just as they are. One type of content that we had to deal with on multiple occasions was bulleted lists, collections of short tips or characteristics etc. For this, we were happy to make use of such layouts as hotspots, timelines and sliders.
Another challenging case was handling content-heavy pages. Luckily, we had some good choices in our Click-reveal set, which offers a variety of tabbed interactions.
The content also inspired us to adjust some existing layouts to our specific needs.
Finally, we even came up with a few new layouts just for these courses, such as a Case 3 page (inspired by our Corporate Mind template set), a Summary page and a Scenario intro page.
In general, we found that the templates offered us many great options and even helped us figure out what the best way to structure the content would be. However, sometimes a layout just isn’t a perfect fit, but a small adjustment can make all the difference. Of course, very specific content can also call for a custom layout, and that’s OK – after all, you already have a solid design that you can refer to when creating something new.
Once the layouts are agreed on, our designer is tasked with finding images for the training. This means that he has to go through the course slide by slide and come up with images that would complement the content. Of course, if there are some tricky cases, we help him out with ideas!
We often select images for our templates and courses from online libraries that allow people to use their photos for free, both for noncommercial and commercial purposes. For the Negotiation courses, our designer found everything we needed on Unsplash and Burst. These and many other sites really offer some great high-quality images that will make your E-learning look beautiful and professional. If you want to learn more about this, take a look at this little blog that I wrote a while back.
Looking back at the process, it’s fair to say that we had our struggles. However, I find that, if you look at what you’ve done and you have a feeling that it’s just not turning into the great learning experience that you want, don’t be afraid to make changes and good things will happen. There are always new things you can try and many helpful resources that will inspire you and help you along the way!