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Surprise! How to Help Your Clients Visualize the Course When it’s Just Words January 4, 2007

Posted by Ben Craigo in Intructional Design, Lessons Learned, Project Management.

In the pre-production phase of an e-Learning project there are a lot of ideas thrown around, design sessions and documents created.  You’re on the same page as your client.  You’re on the same page as your development team.  Everyone is energized.  Things are great.

Then you go away with a storyboard in hand and the development team starts developing.   After a while, you have a version of the course that’s ready for review.  You put it in front of the stakeholders and…they’re less than thrilled. 

What happened?

More than likely it because how they pictured it working in their mind’s eye during the early design stage was different than how it was actually developed.  Kind of like when you read the book and are disappointed with the movie adaptation.

Managing this expectation is probably one of the most important parts of an e-Learning project.  Changes made downstream are much more time consuming to change and more costly.  That’s why you need to help your clients visualize the course early.

Here is how you can help your clients visualize what the finished course at the early stages.

Show Examples From Other Courses

If you have other courses in your portfolio that have the same kind of look-and-feel as the one you are designing showing these can help show how the course you are developing will work.  Nothing in your portfolio that shows where you are going?  See if there are example courses you can show provided either by the company you bought your e-Learning tool from (like Adobe) or from other companies.   If you go the later route make sure you can deliver the same level of quality.

Whiteboard Your Storyboard

Walk through the storyboard on the whiteboard.  Draw out the interactions and give a sense how the course will flow visually from one page to another.  This will also show up potential gaps in the flow that need to be tweaked.

PowerPoint Instead

PowerPoint is another good tool for modeling how the course will look and flow.  It can also be passed around a little easier than a whiteboard.  Works well for virtual collaboration.

Develop Mock-Ups

Create graphic images of how the course will look.  A few screens that show where things are placed, colors, branding and exercises will go a long way to putting a “face” on your course.  These should be fairly polished. 

Create a Prototype

A prototype is something that should show some moving parts.  It allows for showing how the course will actually work.  This is invaluable for solidifying a common understanding and agreement of what the course should be.  It will bring up any surprises early where it’s easier to address.  Don’t spend too much time on the prototype because there is a very good chance you will need to change something.  Maybe a lot of things.

Following through with just a few of these suggestions will go a long way to helping you keep on track and making a great e-Learning course that everyone is happy with.



1. Cynthia Huber, CTM - January 15, 2007

This is an excellent article – full of great tips.

2. Bobbe Baggio - January 16, 2007

Very nice insights Ben…..Prototypes are easier than ever to crete and very effective in showing the client. I also think part of this is know your client and understand what they know and don’t know about e-learning? Some people can invission and some just can’t…( Harry G…different intelliences:-) So showing some people storyboards and drafts just confuses them more….Fortunately…there are many good RPD alternatives available out there. Nice ideas…:-)

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