Matchstick Inc.
eLearning, Instructional Design and Learning Technology Consulting

Blog

Matchstick Inc's - Training Consultants Blog

Corporate Training Consultants-Requirements Make Better eLearning

requirements funny.png

Are you a learning and development manager, director or VP?  Does your department create eLearning? If so Lets see if this sounds familiar.  Your team have been working with your corporate training consultants, elearning developers and instructional designers on a new eLearning or mLearning course.  You have seen storyboards and some of the animations throughout the process and now the big day has arrived where the developers release a beta version ready for Testing(LAT)...

 

...Excited and eager you open it up only to see that many of the conversations and emails you have had about how to handle navigation, playback, look and feel, templates, quizzing etc are not accurately represented in the version.   Calmly (or frantically) you start to record the issues.  The list of problems grows and you see that addressing each one will require some rather significant changes to the course workflow. 

This sounds like a worst case scenario but I assure you it happens every single day in the eLearning industry.  Instructional designers strive to have in depth conversations with SME’s and during these interviews jot down notes, draw diagrams and sketches and in general capture details but its often not enough   The unfortunate part is that it absolutely avoidable. 

Why does this happen?

The issue described above stems from a scenario where you and your designer, developer or consultants have not agreed to capture requirements in a regimented and orderly fashion.  The discipline of eLearning straddles the categories of technology and design and so does not typically operate with the rigor of engineering processes that you might find in a software development environment.  I strongly believe this is a tremendous oversight and capturing requirements can be a strong differentiator for learning solutions providers. 

Why it’s important to get eLearning requirements right

  1.  Avoid Rework – The more you know up front the less likely the course is going to require rework.
  2.  Improve Course Design – Incorporating functional requirements into the aesthetic will improve the overall course design and eliminate awkward transitions or design changes to accommodate a functional requirement (ie changing navigation theme during a quiz)
  3.  Improve User Experience – (a corollary to #2) Functional requirements help instructional designers create courseware that meets requirement with a design that is pleasing to the user. Seldom can this be achieved without carefully considering requirements and design prior to course launch.
  4. Budget and Planning Benefits – The ability to capture all the requirements up front then plan, budget and build them one time.  Read more about that here.

 

How Its Done

If you have spent any time managing software development projects this is likely second nature.  Borrowing this practice and applying it to eLearning development is easy. 

Create a template for capturing requirements and instruct your designers and developers to use it when discussing the module requirements with SME’s and stakeholders.  I have shown our simple template that we use at Matchstick and have made it available for download here

Requirement Templatespics-738698-edited.png

Notice that we use requirement typesuch as navigation, testing/quizzing, Completion etc.  We give each requirement a name and provide a description of the requirement so that the designer and requirement owner can review and agree on how specifically the course should behave.  We also like to indicate the ‘Actor’ or individual or system that will be performing the requirement.  This is typically the learner, manager, LMS admin or LMS itself.

It’s a best practice to keep your requirements discrete.  In other words don’t use AND statements to combine two separate requirements into one longer complex requirement.  Later on in the process you will want to leverage this list of requirements to verify the course functionality.  Having a single requirement that indicates two outcomes will be difficult to test and verify.

 Insist on It!

I encourage you to give this approach a try on your next project.  In fact I think you should insist on this practice wiht your team or consulting vendor.   With some practice I believe you will find this approach simple and easy to use.  I am confident that it will foster important conversations earlier in the assessment and design stages of course creation and lead to less rework in the end.  

Reach out to me at peter.matamala@matchstick-inc.com.  I would love to help you embrace this practice and share my experiences.  If you want to learn more about how our Corporate Training Consultants can help deliver excellence in your next eLearning project visit our other posts, explore the resources on our website and reach out to Matchstick!

PETER MATAMALA