Halloween Confessions: The Biggest Fears and Nightmares of eLearning Designers

From SHIFT’s eLearning Blog by Karla Gutierrez
URL: http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/halloween-confessions-the-biggest-fears-and-nightmares-of-elearning-designers

It’s Halloween time, a time for all things spooky and scary. If you are an eLearning designer, you have horror stories of your own.

Yes, our jobs as designers are not easy. Don’t get us wrong; we love the challenges that each new project brings. We love to exercise our gray cells to think up novel solutions, and we pride ourselves on surpassing our clients’ expectations every time. But we still get a sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach when we have to face our worst fears and nightmares, which are the following:

1. Nightmare: The Know-It-All Client

They are demanding, but they don’t know what they want in the course or have not yet made up their minds. They are control freaks and order you around, but the solutions they suggest cannot be pulled off by any designer in the world. They have hired you, but they don’t trust your skills and experience.

We have all met and worked with such clients, and newer ones, more demanding and peskier, will show up every now and then. Here’s how to tackle them without losing them:

  • Give them the control they desire. They can’t work with you if they are not assured that they have your reins in their hands.
  • Show them respect even if all that you want to do is give them a piece of your mind. Pesky and demanding clients want to feel important, and if they feel that you are being disrespectful to them, they might become more difficult.
  • Give in to their whims and fancies even if it means killing off your darlings and agreeing to designs that you would be ashamed to claim as your own.
  • Go through all the ordeals with a smile on your face.

2. Nightmare: The Endless Rounds of Revision

The nightmare begins with a “but.”

The client loves everything you have designed. He sends you an email with glowing praises (I loved your work …) and then drops the bomb (but …).

Can you make this shade of green darker? You don’t expect the client to specify the R-G-B values of the color he wants, but trying to find the “right” shade creates umpteen rounds of revision.

Can you make the logo bigger? Clients love that the logo of their companies shows up big and bright on the screen. It often takes much persuasion and many rounds of rework before the client realizes that the logo cannot be made any bigger without eating up the space meant for the instructional content.

3. Nightmare: Squeezing Out Relevant Information from the SMEs

There are mainly two kinds of SMEs. One kind of SME will send you reams of information on a subject that you will have to wade through to fish out relevant information. The other kind of SME will not let out much information and will probably send you a PowerPoint presentation with paltry details. You challenge is to not only glean information from the SMEs but also make sure that he doesn’t dump the details on you.

Here are some tips for your SME interview:

  • Understand learner needs and be clear about the learning outcomes.
  • Clarify to the SME the exact nature of the information you seek from him.
  • If an SME rambles and digresses during a face-to-face or telephonic interview, gently guide him home with your questions.

Here are some more tips on how to make the most of your and your SME’s time.

4. Fear: My Design Is Not Good (Engaging) Enough

Even the most seasoned designer is gripped by this fear every time he finishes a course. After all, more than one designer in the past has been guilty of creating information-packed and instructionally-sound boring courses that have driven away learners.

Keep in mind the golden rule of creating engaging and meaningful courses: Step into the shoes of your learners and empathize with their needs before you design solutions. Get back to the basicsand appeal to the learners’ emotions.

5. Fear: Deadlines and the No-Time-to-Do Everything Situation

As eLearning designers, we are up against a relentless adversary: time. Let’s face it. There will always be a shortage of time, and you will always have to race against the hands of the clock to carry out a myriad of tasks—carrying out training needs analysis, identifying learning outcomes, designing and developing, creating prototypes, and conducting quality checks.

Here is an idea about how to make do with the time you have.

Create a mindset where you are concerned primarily with building the most effective solution that addresses the most important learning outcome within a given period. So if you have a week to build a course, don’t ask yourself, “What can I build in 7 days?” Instead, identify the ideal and the most effective learning solution that you would have implemented if there been no time constraints. Strip it down till you have a design that addresses the primary learning objective(s) and can also be executed within a week.

Remember this golden rule: Whatever you create, make sure that it is the most effective solution. Create a short and simple but effective course instead of a long and complex one that tries to achieve too much and stumbles at the starting line.

Here’s another way to stick to deadlines without dishing out sub-standard products.

If you have five courses to build in five weeks, don’t rush through the project and create five sloppy and shoddy courses. Focus on creating one great course and four okay ones. Pour your efforts and resources into that one course that will address the most important learning objective and have the greatest impact on the learner.

6. Fear: Coming Up with Novel Design Solutions

Many designers fear the new and prefer to stick to formulaic solutions. But as eLearning designers, we are expected to come up with out-of-the-box ideas for every course. You have to keep up with the trends shaping the industry, learner preferences, and new technologies that spring up every day. However, there are also challenges of going down an uncharted route—you don’t know the way, and you might end up getting lost. In other words, a novel design might fall flat on its face.

Be resilient. Be fearless. Remember that the greatest designs have gone through several iterations and revision before they became what they are now. So be prepared to stumble and fall. The greatest eLearning designers have one quality in common: they can push and plod through failure.

3 thoughts on “Halloween Confessions: The Biggest Fears and Nightmares of eLearning Designers

    1. Hi John. I am just reblogging Karla’s good work. I enjoy her posts at Shift and often repost the them. The same goes for your posts. I always check to see what’s new on your blog.

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