Too often, eLearning course developers are so focused on going live with their courses, that they neglect doing a meticulous check of the course before launching. And, even when they do conduct quality checks, it’s often focused on a single dimension – technical aspects of grammar and punctuation – though these are also critical.
The result: Either the course is pulled out of circulation partway through rollout; or an embarrassing stream of updates, amendments, and revisions ensue. This usually impacts learner confidence in the course and undermines sponsor/client trust in the course developer’s abilities.
Going live through multiple views
Doing a final pre-go-live sanity check is the best way to avoid such unfortunate course outcomes. Most eLearning developers instinctively think of “quality assurance” as being a list of questions to ask, and a few boxes to tick. However, to do such a check effectively, course developers must view the course through various lenses.
Having extracted themselves from the developer’s seat, and stepped into several other stakeholder’s shoes, gives the course creator a more objective assessment of whether the course is ready for implementation. Here are four critical things to consider:
In addition to the typical concerns about accuracy, learning objectives and course outcomes, etc., course sponsors (Client, Company management, HR departments) typically have additional views about what eLearning courses should deliver:
- Image and branding concerns: Make sure the course projects a corporate image in a positive light. This not only includes images of logos, corporate colors and slogans, and product/service artwork but also in curriculum and content: McDonald’s wouldn’t want an eLearning course to tarnish their brand by containing references to the harmful effects of deep-fried foods, trans fats or red meat!
- Competitor promotions: Before launch, ensure the course and its content does not promote competitor ideologies, products, or services. Oil companies, sponsoring eLearning courses, would prefer you not to use Nextera Energy (or other clean/renewable energy producers) as a case study to highlight the positive impact of “clean fuel” on the planet. They’d rather your Use Cases and Success Stories revolve around their own efforts related to course content and scope.
Ideally, a learner signing up for a course has certain expectations. Apart from the fact that they wish to learn something new about the topic at hand, eLearning developers must ensure the course addresses those unique learner expectations. To deliver a good learner experience, a final pre-go-live check must include:
- Navigation: Does everything “flow and hang together” as the course navigation implies it will. Do menus lead you to the right segment of the course? Are bread-crumbs appropriately representative of where the learner is, within the course, module, section, and chapter? Does book-marking work as it should? Is the menu logically laid out? Are all links in the menu working correctly?
- Help and instructions: The best learner experiences flow from learners that are “self-contained” – i.e., they have access to all the information and help content they need to complete the course without pause or interruptions. To preclude any such disruptions, in preparation for going live, developers need to ensure all instructions and help content is unambiguous.
- Support: Clear and explicit help content is not likely to assist with every learner experience scenario. It is therefore imperative that learners have access to a second-line of support – in terms of additional resources, including FAQs, Chat Bots, and, where necessary, human-manned call centers. As part of their go-live checklist, eLearning course developers must ensure such support functions seamlessly, and that support teams have the necessary training and scripts to troubleshoot, diagnose and resolve learner issues expeditiously.
Regardless of who sponsors the course, or who your audience is, before going live, developers must ensure the course and its content conform to the highest levels of technical competence:
- Grammar, punctuations, and facts: It can’t be stressed enough, but typos, improper tense usage, spelling errors, and factual errors and omissions can lead to serious learner disengagement and client dissatisfaction. eLearning developers should therefore proofread (or have a professional service do so) and fact-check the entire course – end-to-end – before going live.
- Broken or inappropriate links: How annoying it can be for a learner, interested in knowing more about a topic, to click on “Find out more about our Health and Safety protocols here…”, only to get a dreaded “404-Page not found!” screen. Worse yet is being led to a resource that’s irrelevant to the topic discussed. A pre-launch link and resource check are essential.
- Curriculum check: Sometimes, last-minute changes may result in segments of a course being removed, changed, or replaced to accommodate other technical requirements. However, this must not happen at the expense of compliance with the curriculum. Before going live, it is best practice to go over every section, module, and exercise/activity in the course, to ensure all aspects of the curriculum have been addressed.
Trainers have a stake in ensuring that, before going live, the course meets all requirements laid out earlier. However, there are two additional Trainer-specific elements that the go-live checklist must test:
- Assessment and monitoring: In preparation for going live, make sure the course contains all tools and resources the trainer requires to deliver the course successfully; and that they function to spec. This includes assessments designed to test/evaluate learner competence, and other tools – such as moderated chat rooms and group/one-on-one communication features.
- Learning objectives: At the end of the day, learner experiences may be measured by the extent to which the course meets its defined learning objectives. Before going live, therefore, it is incumbent on eLearning course developers to assess whether the course does, in fact, empower the trainer to deliver on each of its defined objectives.
Using pre-go-live discretion
The above are broad-stroke areas that eLearning course developers must consider before going live with their courses. However, as with any other project, logic and discretion go hand-in-hand when planning a go-live sanity check. Some remedial action, uncovered during pre-go-live checks, is best not vigorously enforced.
For instance, it is sometimes possible to take Item#6 (Grammar, punctuation, and facts) to such an extreme, that going live is pushed out indefinitely. Developers may need to sacrifice meticulous use of “first-person” or “third person” tense, in favor of factually and historically accurate content – even where the “voice” used may leave something to be desired. While the former (what voice to use in your content) may not be a go-live imperative, the latter (accuracy) definitely is!
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