One of the biggest lessons I learned when I first started creating eLearning content many years ago was that there are some big items to consider before you even start. I’m speaking on a panel at ILTACON next week. Our session title is Learning Content Creation Tools. Therefore, I put together an intro section called eLearning Content Creation Considerations. So that you don’t have to struggle like I did, I’d like to share for those who may be new to creating eLearning content. Even if you have been creating learning content for a while, it may be a good refresher for you. If you are just getting started or are looking to make change your toolset and need some assistance, this is one of the areas in which I consult.
Your first consideration for learning content development is not looking at the content in isolation. You should ensure that it fits with your overall learning strategy, which should in turn align with the business goals of the organization.
This may require some conversations with management. Many times when someone says they need training, we rush off to develop it. Most performance issues are not resolved by training, so to ensure you are developing the right solution, you must be okay with asking why training is needed. This is the start of the analysis phase of any instructional design project, so don’t skip over it.
Build it or buy it?
After you have determined that eLearning is the right solution, then you have to decide whether to buy the content or develop it in-house.
The following are your critical decision points:
- Time vs. Money – Know that you will be spending both either way, so you have to weigh this with either choice.
- Customized vs. Standard – Is your organization okay with more generic content or must it be customized?
- Content being covered – If the content is very specific to your organization, you will probably need to develop it in-house.
If you will be developing content in-house, you will need to formulate your development strategy. Understanding what roles will be needed is an important consideration. You may not need all of them for every project and one person may fill multiple roles, but it is important to understand the responsibilities of each role.
- Instructional Designer – works with subject matter experts; determines objectives and designs content
- Graphic Designer – provides graphical elements needed and overall look of the content
- Learning Content Developer – creates the eLearning content, including interactions, quizzes and assessments
- If your content includes video, you may also need:
- Voice-over Talent
- Acting Talent
Training and Processes
Unless you want to be very frustrated, don’t just jump directly into eLearning content creation without a little training. The content authoring tool vendors provide some training, but it tends to only focus on the features of the tools. There is much more that goes into designing and creating eLearning content than simply using the tools though. Having good processes for your development will really help speed things up.
Some of the things you will want to look into are:
- Designing interactions
- Writing voice-over scripts
- Beyond the software
- Instructional Design Standards
- Building Style Guides
I have found Iconlogic to be a great resource for training related to eLearning content creation.
It takes a toolbox, not a tool. While you will probably have one main authoring tool you use, it generally takes a variety of hardware and software tools to produce quality eLearning content.
For software, you will likely need one of what I call the “major players” – Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, Lectora Inspire, or Techsmith Camtasia. This will be your big ticket item. If you would like to start simpler, there are several PowerPoint add-ins that make a good entry point – Adobe Presenter, Articulate Studio, Office Mix, and iSpring Suite. If you wish to produce content in more of an animated format, you might choose: GoAnimate, PowToon, Adobe Animate CC, or VideoScribe. These are but a few of the numerous platforms in this category.
For assisting in learning software, there are a few authoring tools that have the ability to present content within an application. Two that I have worked with are: TutorPro’s Live Content Studio and WalkMe. Beyond that, there are niche tools for quizzing and assessment or providing practice and reinforcement. Heck, some learning management systems even have content authoring tools built-in! With more content authoring tools popping up all the time, it can get confusing, so decide what things are important to have before you go shopping.
For hardware, you will need a laptop or desktop with a good amount of processing power and memory, because the major players can tax your computer’s resources. It is also helpful to have at least one large monitor and a secondary monitor for working with your authoring tool, the graphical elements, scripts, etc.
One of your big decisions will be whether to include audio or not. These days, most people expect eLearning to include audio, but bad sound quality can be very grating and distracting to learners, so you will want to weigh which way to go. When adding audio, do whatever you can to improve the sound quality. You also need to ensure that people are able to listen without disturbing those around them and that they are able to hear audio in their work environment.
When including audio, know that your development timeline and list of tools will grow. You will want to invest in a decent microphone, pop filter, and sound-proofing to ensure decent audio quality, if you will record the audio. If not, you will need to budget time and money for voice-over talent. With podcasting gaining in popularity, you can easily find learning resources on how to improve your audio quality.
Accessibility and ADA compliance is another consideration in your content development and tool choices. If your content contains audio, you may need to make audio scripts available. If you are not providing audio, some authoring tools provide text-to-speech functions built-in, but you will want ot test them proir to deciding they will be adequate for your needs. You will also need to include captions with your images for screen readers. For additional information in this area, MicroAssist is a great resource.
Also published on Medium.