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eLearning Development: Always Create Prototypes

When developing eLearning – whether you are doing it yourself or evaluating eLearning companies – it is vitally important that you prototype (or proof-of-concept) each major phase along the way. Developing an eLearning prototype is an iterative process that generally requires at least two or three revision cycles to get it right. Some organizations are resistant to developing a prototype due to the front-loaded cost and time required to do so. If you need to justify or defend, or persuade others to the idea of building a prototype, here are some high-level benefits to bear in mind:

  1. Establish a baseline: Your eLearning prototype, once created, serves as an unmistakable baseline of exactly what you expect. The best way to communicate the vision you have for your course is to point to a functioning prototype.
  2. Confirm your team’s/vendor’s ability to get the job done: Have you ever hired someone based on strong recommendations and great interview skills? The candidate said all of the right things, nodded his head in agreement with everything you said you wanted, and it’s all systems go. A few frustrating weeks pass by and you’ve arrived at the decision that this person or vendor just does not have the chops. You should have required a small proof-of-concept to confirm the skills were there.
  3. Minimize miscommunication: Imagine this – your storyboards are done, audio is produced, graphics picked out, and all you have to do is assemble the content into your final eLearning course (authoring). Now imagine this – the development team worked hard for several weeks and just gave you a sneak peak at what they’ve been up to. You are horrified, because the quality level is way below what you expected and not at all in line with your vision. If you had prototyped the project first, you could have avoided this.

The risks of paying way too much for development or projects running way over budget can be minimized greatly by simply developing a proof-of-concept. This goes for all major phases of the eLearning development process including storyboards, narration scripts, and media production. Any part of the process that will consume time and money if not done correctly the first time really should have it’s own proof-of-concept development cycle built in to the process.

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