For elearning teams, course content development requires a high degree of organization, more so if you’re outsourcing certain specialties, like the creation of multimedia simulators.
To ensure collaboration and balance between course quality and quantity, a project collaboration solution is well worth considering, as the creation of digital learning products involves tasks and activities beyond developing learning content, such as resource scheduling and management, task fragmentation and tracking, and approvals.
Course development – the challenges
As in any team-based projects, course development isn’t immune to challenges that can include the following:
1. Unclear responsibilities and failed task handovers
One way to bungle a course development project is by not clearly defining each member’s roles and responsibilities, as well as the dependencies tied to each task. While there certainly are cases when role ambiguity is considered a misdiagnosis, acknowledgment of mutual dependencies is paramount to teamwork and cooperation.
You may have the most talented bunch in the entire course development universe, but if nobody knows who does what and what happens when this or that is completed, chaos is likely to ensue, as ambiguous roles and responsibilities elicit negative after-effects such as:
- Effort duplication
- Failure to meet deadlines
- Low team morale
2. Multiple systems for data input and management
Word processors, spreadsheets, shared drives, email, flash drives – there are various ways course development updates, files and documents can be shared among team members. However, having multiple and disparate systems to work through shared data can pose a number of problems, namely:
- Lack of data integrity
- Data duplication
- Data inconsistencies
- Difficulty locating certain files
3. Disconnected planning and execution
Disconnected planning and execution in course development can result in an elearning team’s failure to meet product end specifications. Mismatches entail more work for certain individuals, as content may need to be redone to adhere to the course’s requirements, or in cases where there’s not enough time to perform an overhaul, substandard work quality.
4. Projects that go above budget and fail to meet deadlines
An expected consequence of the combination of all of the above challenges is a project that goes above and beyond budget and time specifications.
So how can these be minimized, if not totally eliminated?
Course development – software advantages
Like you probably already heard many times, “There’s an app for that.” Including cloud-based software adoption in your elearning team’s overall course development strategy poses many known benefits, including but not limited to:
- Reduced time to market. The ability to automate repetitive but important tasks (e.g., automated notifications whenever new comments to discussion threads are posted, files are shared or updated, approvals are granted, and so on) speeds up and smoothens the product completion process flow.
- Lower costs. Errors brought about by miscommunication are costly, both in terms of time and money. Further, the visibility afforded by project management solutions lets managers visualize course development process bottlenecks in a timely fashion, so mitigating strategies can be put in place accordingly. The same visibility affords them the ability to make maximum use of their manpower.
- Accessibility. If your project management software is hosted in the cloud, it can be accessed by authorized users regardless of device, time and location, as long as they’re connected to the Internet, a clear benefit for mobile/remote team members.
Some features offered by cloud-based project/work management suites include the following:
- Document management. Because documents and various files are essential to creating top- notch content, project management solutions act as a single repository for all your document needs. Members can upload, edit, and share files, and everyone is assured that the document they’re working on is the most up-to-date.
- Task tracking and control. As the team manager, it’s your job to ensure tasks are carried out as planned. With a dashboard to give you a snapshot into the status of each task or activity, you know whether or not your team is on the right track.
- Resource management. Teamwork equals task dependencies, and efficient task execution means the people assigned to each task have matching skills and capabilities. As for dependencies, the moment you understand which tasks are giving your people a hard time, you can assign more people to help out, if possible. This way, bottlenecks quickly get addressed, and the process goes on its merry way.
- Reporting and analytics. Optimum project control and informed decision-making can be carried out with the help of real-time reports showing the project’s actual status, including the productivity metrics of the entire team and individual members. This way, delivery forecasts are as precise as possible, and steps to improve performance can be discussed, implemented, and measured for further improvement.
- Platform for collaboration. Collaboration, when leveraged to the fullest, can catapult an elearning organization to success. But collaboration doesn’t accidentally happen. At the very least, it requires team involvement and commitment, plus an environment where it’s nurtured and encouraged, hence the need for a collaboration platform that supports uncomplicated communication among team members and other stakeholders. Communication avenues supported by most project management software include status updates, one-one-one chat, group chat, even video chat for the more high-end ones.
- Automated notifications. With push notifications that people automatically receive through email or as SMS on their phones, approvals and urgent updates reach their intended recipients promptly.
eLearning course development teams need to leverage existing resources, like people and technologies, to power their success. In the technology department, project management software adoption to foster overall visibility and facilitate smooth transition from one task to another is a path worth tackling.
Maricel Rivera is a freelance business and technology writer who currently manages content for Comindware, provider of breakthrough enterprise software, such as Comindware Tracker for adaptive BPM and Comindware Project for project planning and execution.