Showing My Work #2

18 Oct

The Showing My Work series of posts are what I’m using to ‘narrate’ the projects that I’m working on or have developed.

I’ve been designing and developing some eLearning modules for the employees in my organisation. Prior to my arrival, eLearning wasn’t used very much and unfortunately what did exist was mostly eReading.

Looking at our existing courses, they appeared to be mostly a cut-and-paste from the policy or procedure document with a few questions at the end with not much interactivity at all. There also wasn’t a structure around creating and building the eLearning modules themselves. So, I introduced a process for eLearning module development (I also use a variation for classroom courses). This development process is based on how I was taught to develop modules by the company who gave me my first opportunity as an instructional designer.

Here’s what our design process now looks like:


In this process, each stage builds on the work done in the previous one. This is what happens at each stage:

1. Kick-off meeting:

This is the first meeting I have with the Subject Matter Expert (SME) and where:

  • I give an overview of the development process and what will happen at each stage
  • We discuss the requirements for learning and the module
  • I ask questions about the topic, the learners, what they doing now and what they need to do after the course
  • I gather the content for module
  • I take lots of notes.

2. Design Strategy (DS):

A DS is an overview of what the module is about, the learner characteristics and what will be included – the objectives, order of topics, sub-topics and a summary of content, scenarios and activities. At this stage:

  • I produce a DS document based on information gathered from the kick-off meeting
  • I work out a structure for the module
  • I consult further with the SME (if required)
  • Once completed, I send the DS to the SME for feedback (including any other stakeholders)
  • I collate the feedback provided by the SME and incorporate into the DS
  • Then I send a revised DS back to the SME for approval and sign-off.

3. Storyboard:

A storyboard is a screen-by-screen breakdown of the module – text, narration, graphics and descriptions of interactions. It also includes any resources that the learners can use. At this stage:

  • I produce a storyboard based on the information contained in the DS document
  • I also create a few screen mock-ups, to show the look and feel of the course
  • Once completed, I send the storyboard to the SME for feedback
  • I collate the feedback provided by the SME and incorporate into the storyboard
  • Then I send a revised storyboard back to the SME for approval and sign-off.

4. Module Creation:

  • I create the e-learning module in our authoring tool (Articulate Storyline) using the content, images and instructions from the storyboard
  • I conduct some Quality Assurance (QA) to check functionality, spelling etc.
  • I have at least one of my colleagues look it over
  • Fix anything identified in the QA
  • I send the module to the SME for feedback
  • I collate any feedback provided by the SME and incorporate into the module
  • Then I send a revised module back to the SME for approval and sign-off.

5. Deployment:

  • Ideally, I like to send a module to a pilot group for testing and feedback
  • I then incorporate their feedback into the module
  • The e-learning module is deployed to the relevant staff via our LMS.

I use word documents for my DS and storyboard and I’ve created templates that I can use for each new module. Here’s a sample from the storyboard of our safety module:


I have used PowerPoint in the past for the storyboard (at the request of a client) and while it does allow you to see what the finished product will look like, I find using word helps the SME’s to focus on the words being used.

Overall, what I like about this process is that the SME’s are involved at each stage and have input as the module is developed – it’s an iterative process. While the above stages look straightforward, in reality it doesn’t always work as smoothly as I describe. What you are reading is the ideal way the process should work. However, in the workplace, the SME’s sometimes make more changes when you send a ‘final’ version for review, they may take longer to get feedback to you than they originally said (which holds things up) and may need some guidance during development, especially if they are new to it. I’ve come to realise that you need to manage these things as best you can.

It’s also important to mention that I don’t always say ‘yes’ to my SME’s requests,. Sometimes you need to push-back, especially if what is being asked is going to negatively impact the learning. I make sure I explain my reasons for not doing something. I find that his can be one of the most challenging aspects of development and something that I’ve worked on. I’m finding this easier to do as my levels of experience and confidence have grown.

I’ve learned that it’s important for modules to be designed in a way that aims to change behaviour and improve performance and are not just a transfer of information via a content dump. When I’m designing I like to think from the learners perspective and ask myself – could I sit through this module and enjoy it and learn something at the same time?

How do develop your eLearning modules?


Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Show Your Work


Tags: , , , , , ,

7 responses to “Showing My Work #2

  1. Raquel Oliveira (@Raqwelr)

    October 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Hi from Brazil ! Really appreciate the clean canvas ! Would you mind share the template ?

  2. tanyalau

    October 23, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Matt,
    Like you, I still use the (Savv-e inspired!) word template for storyboarding – for the same reasons you mention. I’ve experienced and considered other ways e.g. at 2and2 wireframing was used a lot as a way of visualising the interaction. I think there are pros and cons to this too – providing a visual framework helps SMEs and the business understand how the interaction might work; however, if you’re working with a visual / graphic designer, sometimes wireframing can put blinkers on their creativity (sometimes you end up with just a ‘pretty’ version of your wireframe!). Wireframing can also add a fair bit of extra time to the storyboarding process. (Although there are tools that can help you do this quicker…).

    Sometimes I include wireframes (just done manually, in Word) for more complex interactions, or might wireframe key screens. What I do more often now though is actually rapid prototyping – quickly creating a functioning mockup of one topic whilst the storyboard is being reviewed (or sometimes as I’m storyboarding), then delivering this to the business / client to help them understand the storyboard better. I’ll also use this to deliver the ‘look and feel’ – killing two birds and making design / dev process more efficient.

    Something I’ve started doing (though admittedly not with every project – yet!) is testing this prototype with actual end users (actually sitting down and observing them as they navigate it, noting places where they may have struggled / been confused , then getting feedback directly from them afterwards). This type of observational testing although relatively common in the web design industry is rarely used (as far as I can tell) in eLearning – to the detriment of learning (I’d suggest). It is amazingly valuable however, and often suprising what you discover (things you thought were intuitive, often not).

    I’ll then incorporate this feedback into the final storyboard and build. I’ll also do the observational testing with the beta.

    It’s a work in progress, but what I’d like to move towards more of an iterative testing process (SAM > successive approximation model – e.g. see

    • learningsnippets

      October 24, 2013 at 12:13 am

      Hey Tanya
      Nice to hear you still use a similar storyboard template 🙂 I like your use of the wireframe for complex interactions or key screens. For a SME, these things can be a bit hard to follow reading down a page. I’ve done a similar thing in word using shapes etc. to create a diagram. I also like the idea of a functioning prototype to give the SME’s a look a good taste of the look and feel and to give them something to ‘play’ with. Can I ask what authoring tool do you use?

      I think that observing learners is an excellent idea and one that I will definitely try. As you mention, you can find out a lot about the user experience and get some feedback directly from learners! Now that we working within organisations we have access to this type of testing that as a contracted company isn’t usually done – perhaps due to the extra costs involved?

      Thanks for the links and ideas, I appreciate it!

      • tanyalau

        October 24, 2013 at 11:53 am

        Hi Matt,
        here is a link to a really good useful methodology for elearning usability testing – which the authors call ‘learnability testing’

        I have adapted this to create my own ‘learnability’ / pilot testing method. This was really one of the only useful articles I found when I was doing research on this earlier this year – which is a telling sign that hardly anyone does it! In desperation I even posted a request for info on pilot / usability testing of elearning courses on eLearning Guild LinkedIn group and got no responses!
        Anyway, I’ve only actually done it for one course so far, but it’s been invaluable – I did it twice – at prototype (1 topic) and beta and made A LOT of improvements as a result. I am planning to write a blog post about the process (one day!!) but one of the best things about doing this is that you get a lot of insight into the actual level of prior knowledge of learners.
        When I had the kick off the SME / business stakeholder advised there should be a relatively high level of knowledge of the principles covered in this module, particularly amongst the main target groups. So I created a fairly challenging (randomly mixed pool of) assessment questions which uesrs could access at any time (skipping the content if they wished). Only ONE of the test subjects were able to pass the assessment (all were from the primary target audience). And these were people working at a senior level supposedly utilising these principles in their day to day.
        Some of them turned to me during the session and questioned the accuracy of the scenarios presented (they were accurate per policy). All a bit scary for the business.So ended up changing the design fairly significantly so it was more supportive rather than ‘testing’….

        Anyway, pretty good lesson to learn, and certainly worthwhile process – particularly for large and/or significant rollouts!

        In terms of authoring tools, I currently use Captivate, primarily because the only other one we’ve got is Articulate Studio, which don’t like mainly because of the inflexibility of its navigation / player and inability to do things like advanced actions and variables. For the stuff I create, I can usually do up a prototype fairly quickly (3 days or so), I usually try to make it enough screens to give them an idea of the look & feel + interaction design for either a topic (if time) or at least a sequence of key screens.

        Happy to help or show you my templates / process. Let me know if you need more info.


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