How do you correctly scope an eLearning project? In the last twenty years, we have estimated and bid a lot of eLearning projects. Correctly scoping a project is key to a project’s success. This checklist is what we use to clarify what is known and what is unknown. If you use this list of questions as a guide when describing your project in an RFP, you will get better bids. It’s critical for the Request for Proposal to include details to allow others to realistically estimate the project. Even if you’re creating the eLearning internally, using this checklist will help you set the framework for your project.
In other articles, we have made the case that understanding your audience is the most important step in any eLearning development process. Your audience impacts your eLearning scope. Therefore, it makes sense that the initial questions you consider should be about your audience rather than your content.
The audience size, background, education, and motivations greatly influence the design of the eLearning.
- What is the age range of the audience?
- How big is the audience?
- What type of background and education does the audience have?
- What are the key motivators this audience would have for taking this training?
- What is the primary language the audience, or does the eLearning need to be available in multiple languages?
- What would motivate the audience to take the proposed training?
- Job requirement that will be checked?
- Clear job advancement path?
- One of several options for general knowledge/skill enhancement?
- One of many options for the audience to gain this specific knowledge?
- Benefits and/or salary?
- Safety and/or compliance?
- Why would the eLearning matter to them? Be specific.
- What would be the reasons they would skip it?
- How much time do the learners actually have to give to this topic? Hours or minutes?
- How important is this course compared with competing tasks and other training for this audience?
- How valuable is the work time of those being asked to take this training?
- Does the audience have a positive or negative view of eLearning in general?
- Will the audience perceive eLearning to be the preferred delivery method for training?
- What platforms or devices will the audience use to watch the eLearning?
- What type of environments will the learners be in? Will it be conducive to audio interactions?
The purpose of the training also impacts the eLearning development scope. Communicating this clearly up front will help the developers understand key details.
What are the reasons for creating this training?
- Correcting existing problems in job performance?
- Addressing a felt need or business opportunity in the marketplace?
- Reducing help-desk support needs?
- Job performance goals associated with the training?
- Standardized test achievement goals associated with the training?
- Legal, compliance, or safety goals associated with the training?
- Rolling out a new program corporate wide?
- Updating product or sales training?
- Generating sales and revenue? (More on this below.)
Why is eLearning specifically being considered over other training methods?
- Saving money by moving away from traditional training?
- As a secondary option to classroom training or live events?
- Creating a more consistent training experience?
- Broader market without expanded workforce?
- If eLearning will be replacing a current training delivery method, what are the issues with the previous delivery method?
If there is a clearly definable financial impact of either having or not having successful training on this topic, that should be defined. This information can impact the eLearning scope as certain things may be more important in the development process.
To be able to truly judge the success of a project, clearly define the financial expectations, if any, in as much detail as possible.
- Is the expectation to save money, earn money, or neither?
- Is the course to be sold? If so, how?
- If the purpose is to save money? If so, how?
- Will the eLearning be used it to replace current training?
- Will the eLearning be used to save money on travel, staffing, etc.?
- How does the eLearning support other financial business goals?
Identification of existing material is one of the biggest impacts of eLearning scope. Asking a team to scope a project without providing complete access to the existing material is a waste of time because all they will be able to do is guess.
The condition and completeness of the existing course material impacts the schedule, budget, and strategy for eLearning development more than any other factor besides the audience.
Creating an eLearning storyboard from a current and well written manual is a much different task than creating a storyboard from undocumented material that only exists in the minds of subject matter experts. The more information provided about the current material, the more accurate any vendor’s estimate will be on actual course development.
- Is there existing course material?
- If so, what is the current format of the course material?
- PowerPoint Slides? If yes, do they include full speaker notes?
- Do the following exist?
- Well-defined learning objectives?
- Test questions?
- Classroom activities?
- Student or teacher manuals?
- Artwork, photos, charts, or diagrams?
- Audio, multimedia, or video material?
- How accurate is the current course material?
- Has the current material been reviewed by the best subject matter experts recently?
- Is the current material published so that feedback from leadership and the general student population is current?
- Approximately how much of the material needs to be updated and changed? Is there firm agreement internally from key decision makers, in-house subject matter experts (SME), and/or approvers about what is required?
- How much research will be needed to document the content changes?
- Do SME’s have 100% of the knowledge needed to provide and review the course content? If not, what type of outside SME or research is needed?
- In addition to existing documentation, how many different people will need to be interviewed and involved to ensure complete coverage of the needed material?
- Who are the specific subject matter experts and decision makers, and what is their availability to support this project?
- How much time will be required for each content review cycle to ensure all subject matter experts and key decision makers have time to review the content and collaborate on final directional decisions?
- Is there a need for the new course to go through a senior leadership and or legal review process?
- Is the content of the existing material fully owned by the client, or is it content in the public domain? Are there any copyright restrictions that need to be considered as the client works to create a new course? Teachers can often use copyrighted material in a classroom. They can refer to books and materials as references. However, you may need special written permission to turn that same training into eLearning, even if you are only distributing it internally. eLearning is a form of publishing, so different rules apply. There is a certain amount of content you can quote and source, but you cannot use and quote one source, or you are basically just stealing content.
If this eLearning is a conversion of an existing course, before submitting the RFP to any vendor, get a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) signed by all bidding parties and provide all documentation and resources available on the current course content. If possible, you should also identify each section of content that needs to be significantly changed. Taking this step will yield bids that are far more accurate in both schedule and pricing.
Estimated Target Length of the eLearning
While the length of the training can be difficult to evaluate up front, you need to have a goal here in order to provide boundaries for the eLearning scope. This information can help a development team understand your vision and create a realistic budget for amount of training needed.
The estimated length can be for the entire program or broken down for each lesson and module.
Our experience over the years has been that while clients often have very specific targets for the length of the course, they often do not match their volume of material at all. Some general guidelines can help you estimate course length.
- A complete day of classroom training can usually be converted into approximately four to five hours of eLearning.
- If the eLearning is broken down into screens with spoken audio, there should usually be no more than 10 to 20 screens for 15 minutes of content.
- To get an idea of the length of the content, read the current documented material aloud. Normal narrative pacing is around 120 to 130 words per minute, so if you are aiming for a short five-minute eLearning program, that is around 600 words. If you have 3,000 words in your source material, you are probably be looking at several five-minute modules, rather than just one.
- To test the audience’s grasp of the content, there should be at least one or two questions pertaining to each learning objective. You may wish to have both a pre-test and a post-test. Just remember as you consider the target length of the eLearning that time must be allowed for the audience to answer these questions.
- If activities or games are to be used within the training, time must also be allocated for these elements.
Hopefully you know the old saying, “Fast, cheap, or good? Pick two.”
This is pretty much a law of reality. You can choose two of these, but hardly ever all three. It’s critical to budget enough time for the development to get the results you are looking for or to adjust your development method to match your schedule and budget. The schedule greatly impacts the scope.
- When would you like the eLearning to be live?
- When does the eLearning need to be live? (This is different than the question above, so consider it carefully.)
- Does it make sense to try the eLearning with a pilot group first?
Other Considerations Related to eLearning Scope
Some of the items below naturally flow from the questions above, but it is good to make sure you have them all covered since they impact the eLearning scope.
- How important is testing?
- Do you want special features like randomized questions from a larger bank of questions?
- Are students allowed to retake tests? If so, how often?
- What simulations you would like to include, if any?
- Do portions of the training lend themselves best to video?
- Are there portions of content you have a hard time imagining how they could be effectively taught through eLearning?
- What do people like most about your current training or courses?
- Do you have other eLearning modules already? Are they successful? What do you like or not like about them?
- Can you supply examples of eLearning programs you feel have been effective for this audience in the past?
- Can you supply examples of eLearning programs you feel have been a failure for this audience in the past?
- Do you have a good style guide that matches your corporate branding for your eLeaning?
- Wha branding resources can you provide?
New Asset Requirements (None, Low, Medium, High)
It is helpful to provide bidders an idea of what type of new assets you think will need to be created for this project. Even if you cannot provide this information, the eLearning team will consider these when formulating the bid.
- Voice over?
- Stock art?
- Stock music?
- Stock sound effects?
- Custom illustrations?
- Custom photography?
- Custom videography?
- Custom motion graphics?
- Custom music?
- Custom sound effects?
- Scripting of simulations?
There’s a lot to consider for an eLearning scope. Thinking through these questions will help you whether you are developing eLearning internally or you are creating a descriptions so that your project can be estimated by others.
One of the wisest things you can do is give your vendors a target budget range for your work. This requires them to focus more on the description of the deliverables instead of just the cost. You can buy a used car for $5,000 or you can get a new car for $85,000. They won’t have the same features or functionality. The same is true for eLearning. Unless you get a true understanding of the quality of the deliverable, you cannot really evaluate a smaller bid from a larger one. But if you can get all the vendor’s targeting your budget range, you can get an idea of what each can deliver for your budget and choose the best product.
Is your RFP clear?
Get a Free Evaluation of Your eLearning Scope
Now as you answer these questions, you have to do it in a way that makes sense to a third party. Often clients are too close to their own projects to see how certain explanations would not make sense to others. The end result is misunderstanding and quotes from various vendors that are either too low or too high. Before sending out your RFP for your next eLearning project, Left Brain Media would be glad to evaluate it to make sure you have included the detailed scoping information in a way that will be clear to third parties. Of course we would also like the opportunity to bid on your work. Contact us to arrange a free analysis or a bid.
We cover related topics in these articles:
- Planning for eLearning Development
- Professional eLearning Development Process – Part 1
- Professional eLearning Development Process – Part 2
- The Culprits of eLearning Scope Creep
- Tips for Writing eLearning Scripts
- Winning Elements of eLearning Gamification
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