Four Steps to a Flexible e-Learning Project Strategy

Leah Remillet, a self-described “success strategist,” once said, “without a map, every road looks promising [..] with a map, the right road becomes obvious.”  In other words, the best of intentions – without a solid plan and strategy – can lead to continually moving, but never getting closer to your goal.

When it comes time to pull the trigger on your need for an e-Learning course, class, or module, doing so without a solid strategy will often lead to a less-than-optimal result. Your course or courses may end up incoherent, without solid thoroughness to keep them straight and to reinforce the lessons you are trying to teach.

Creating a strategy, however, isn’t always easy. Many times, meetings can be derailed by arguing over semantics that are unimportant in the long run, while the important issues go unaddressed. Even when a plan is formed, it can often be ignored by the targeted audience, or it may lack the flexibility to shift when problems arise, as they inevitably do.

So how do you create a strategy that will be adhered to and is also flexible, while avoiding getting mired in the weeds? Here are some tips, to ensure you successfully establish your e-Learning project strategy:

1. Go It Alone, If You Must

Even if you can’t get buy-in from your managing department, you should still take time to create a strategy. Even if no one else sees the benefit, you’ll be glad you did.  

Having a strategy to refer to, when it’s time to take the next step, or when some hurtle threatens to derail progress, will not only be paramount to you reaching your goals, but it will also increase your credibility, in the eyes of those who may not have seen the value of a strategy before.

2. Don’t Focus on the Deliverable

Too many times, people enter a meeting to create a strategy and then deem the meeting unsuccessful, if, in the end, there is not a written document that holds the all-hallowed strategy within its pages. This course of action presents several problems.

When a document is written, even if you insist that it is fluid and not concrete, people become hesitant to change it. Unwillingness to change in the face of problems will lead to an ineffective strategy that will harm more than help. There are ways to prevent this, though.

Leave Preconceived Notions Behind

If you approach creating a strategy with too much of an assumption of what the strategy will look like in the end, you’re likely to ignore signs that your strategy will not work and attempt to shoehorn everything into your assumed strategy.

Begin by researching the comfort level of your prospective learners with e-Learning. You may be surprised by how many have dabbled in online courses on their own time. Determine how they like to access materials. Do they prefer computers or mobile devices? Do they prefer video-centric courses or slide presentations?

Admitting at the beginning that you don’t know the answers to these questions will ensure that your strategy is open to being shaped by what you learn in this research phase.

Designate a Leader

Whether it’s an individual or a committee, it’s important to determine who the decision maker is early on. Once you’re attempting to execute the plan, taking time to determine who will field incoming questions will only slow, if not completely stall, the process. Knowing who has the authority to make these decisions will save time and money, in the long run.

3. Create a Summary of the Content

There is something to be said for the big picture. When you have a big-picture understanding of something, you’re going to understand how all the pieces fit together, and so you’ll work together, to deliver the desired end result.

Creating a map, or a value chain, of your course(s) will help you keep everything straight in your mind, as you create your strategy.

Design the Modules

As you review your map, you’ll find certain modules that are repeated. These should be prioritized. Some modules may even offer value as soon as they are completed, without having to wait for the full solution to be implemented. These should also be prioritized.  

When reviewing your content, make sure you’re aware of all of the options that e-Learning has presented recently. Simply creating slideshows with a few questions afterward may have worked a few years ago, but learners expect more now. As you look over the required modules, consider which ones would lend themselves to different methods.

If a particular section is going to be primarily informational with little evaluation, maybe a slideshow is the best choice. If the subject lends itself to a more immersive and interactive experience, perhaps a scenario-based learning module would suit the information better.

Choose the Technology

As with many building jobs, going out and getting the biggest and most expensive tool for the job doesn’t mean it’s the best tool for the job. Your leadership may insist that you need to get the biggest LMS out there, but it may not be necessary.

Consider your requirements. Look at the data from your research. Do your users have access to internet offerings? If so, there are many Internet-based, nearly-bare-bones LMS offerings that could meet your needs, without blowing your budget.

Do you need to retain assessment data for certifications or licensure programs? If so, you’ll need to make sure your LMS is built around that, not something tacked on as a last-minute request.

Focus on your needs, rather than the bells and whistles an LMS may offer. A power drill is a useful and powerful tool, but it’s useless when you need to drive a nail. Keep your goals in mind.

4. Lean into Assumptions and Address Risks

Try as you may, you’re going to come into this process with assumptions about how things are going to go, the level of support you’ll get, and the amount of money you’ll be granted.  Acknowledge these assumptions. Giving voice to them can help you direct your strategy while understanding that they are assumptions and may not come to pass or change.

This is where you’ll also lay out your risks. You can’t possibly think of everything that could happen, but do consider possibilities that you are able to brainstorm. Take note of them, then come up with strategies to address them if they come to fruition. This reinforces the fact that the entire process is fluid.  When you think of ways it can shift, even if those ways never happen, you’ll already consider the process fluid and be able to address whatever problems do arise.

Making any journey without a map is dangerous and more than a little ill-informed. Taking the time to put together a strategy that is well thought-out, yet more fluid than concrete will make the actual development process much smoother than it would be otherwise. After all, without maps, how could we truly know when we reach our goals?

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