The title of this blog post is a bit misleading. Why? There are many ways an eLearning project, or any L&D initiative, can fail to live up to expectations. No matter the cause, one of these “fail states” is usually present when projects miss the mark:

  1. The project took too long.
  2. The client isn’t happy.
  3. The project did not achieve the business or learning outcomes.

Have any of these three been true for you? If so, read on to learn about how we prevent these fail states. Keep in mind that, more often than not, we are developing large curriculums with many eLearning courses rather than a single course.

Three Outcomes With Many Causes

Ending with just one of the outcomes above can spell disaster for an eLearning project. What if the project meets its business objectives… but it took too long and the client is not happy with the process? On the flip side, what if the project went as planned and the client is pleased with the deliverables… only to find learning outcomes are not met?

The following areas can get in the way of an efficient eLearning design project:

  • Lack of content. Does the source material exist? Did we decide who will create it?
  • Lack of decision-making. How many people will review the course? Be wary not to bring in new decision-makers midway through the project who have a different vision for the design.
  • Lots of re-do’s. This one ties in to the number of decision-makers… and the project’s process. Are there too many cooks in the kitchen?
  • Not having a clear goal. The vendor should always partner with the client to identify a goal before starting the project. Some organizations do not start out with a clear goal of what people need to know or do and their intention is just general awareness of a topic. It’s important to decide which is needed: training or an information push.
  • Waiting to engage the end user. Just because Corporate likes the course does not mean the people who actually take it will like it, or have their needs met. Try not to over-focus on learner likes and dislikes… and look at learner needs instead. You do not always need to like something to learn from it.
  •  Changing tech requirements midway through a project. This one is self-explanatory. Establish clear requirements from the beginning of the project and stick to them.

What About Moving Targets?

Anyone who has worked in the field of corporate learning long enough knows that avoiding the pitfalls above is easier said than done. There are many situations where it can be next to impossible to avoid things like re-do’s and changing goals. Product launches are a great example: the goal may be to launch the product, but what it takes to get there is evolving every day. Clients often discover that what they thought when they started has changed. It’s important to have a vendor who can manage this change.

And no matter the business need or client, there are a number of ways to make sure every eLearning project is set up for success.

 An eLearning project that’s set up for success has…

  • …a strong client decision-maker.
  • …a clear goal.
  • …a clear deadline.
  • …urgency in the sense of sticking to the deadline.
  • …clear set of actions that learners are supposed to do and content that supports those actions already defined. Make sure the vendor knows where to go.
  • …a client open to new ideas and creativity. We recommend looking at content and asking “What’s really the best way for people to practice or try things out before they get to the real world?”
  • …an end in mind (what you want to achieve)… but not a solution in mind. Clients and vendors must partner to explore the best solution for the job. It might not be a 30 minute eLearning course! If people need to reference a critical piece, then a five minute course with a reference guide may be the right solution.

Above all, successful eLearning projects have mutually clear expectations for everyone involved. The vendor understands exactly what the client needs… and the number of review cycles and client decision-makers are clearly defined. Establishing these expectations also establishes trust… which keeps the team solutions-focused if and when something does go wrong.