Corporate training programs include eLearning initiatives as a valuable tool to share information among remote workers. Using technology has made creating the program much easier than it had been in the past, yet there are opportunities to reduce the expense of change when it comes to maintaining the eLearning program.
What is often overlooked in the rush to produce eLearning is an ongoing maintenance plan. Who will track content changes? Who will make changes? How will changes be made? How often will changes be required? What impact will this have on learners? What is the cost of maintenance? What happens when it is not maintained?
In the past, when adult learning was predominantly instructor-led in a classroom, the materials were always being reviewed by the very nature of their delivery. Trainers were often the subject matter experts or at the very least or instructional designer, familiar with the content and aware of when changes needed to be made.
ELearning on the other hand, being self-paced, on the learners’ schedule – and pretty much running independently without outside influences, can become dated without the content ‘owners’ even being aware. It does not have the luxury of being scrutinized by subject matter experts unless the task has been assigned and continues to be a part of their job function after the project is completed.
When setting out on an eLearning path, if it is the client’s first foray into any technology based learning, they may not have had an opportunity to consider what needs to happen in the long-term.
As part of any eLearning strategy we like to ask questions like:
- How often will the eLearning program content change? Changes such as organizational charts to reflect personnel changes are often overlooked.
- What kind of changes might be required to the eLearning content? With mergers or acquisitions, new logos may be required for the new entity. There could also be process changes that must be addressed for the organization.
- Who will own the eLearning content once the project is closed and the learning is live? Instructional designers, developers and subject matter experts move on to their next projects – but someone needs to stay on top of the content and set-up a regular review schedule to ensure it stays current.
- Will the eLearning program be maintained in-house or by a vendor? In-house means that someone internal to the organization will need to be comfortable making the changes; therefore the selection of the course builder tool will need to be considered carefully and could impact design.
- Has a maintenance budget for the eLearning program been allocated? Changes have a price tag and will have an associated cost – in effort, time, and money – especially if they are complicated and need to be completed by an outside vendor.
- How can we reduce the number of changes required to the eLearning program? During design, we look for content such as date references, narration style, etc., that can help us reduce the need for changes later on. For example – ‘Next year we will be…’ will date the content in 12-months or less.
What other questions should be asked? How do these questions help the instructional designers and subject matter experts when it comes time to pulling the content together?
It is unrealistic to believe that content will never change – even if the content seems solid at first glance, a good upfront maintenance plan (or at least recommendations for maintenance) can provide on-going value to the client even after the project has been closed.