We all know that good project management is the key to the success of an outsourced e-learning initiative. Given this fact, how can you ensure that your online course development project is well managed? What does it take to create your web-based course without time and cost overruns? To find out, I talked to a project management expert at CommLab India, an organization that has been in the business of providing technology-enabled learning solutions since 2000. Rajesh is an e-learning veteran and has handled hundreds of online course development projects successfully. Here are excerpts of the interview.
It is often said that well-begun is half done. How should firms get started with an e-learning project?
Rajesh: The first and inarguably the most important step in the successful execution of an online learning development initiative is setting clear expectations. Sit down with the e-learning development experts of the vendor and make sure they get a good idea of what you want. Tell them why you need the course and how you expect it to help your employees.
Providing clarity on your expectations and goals helps create the right online training solution that meets your needs effectively. For instance, if you need an e-learning course to educate your manufacturing staff on the importance of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), e-learning specialists will come up with a course that delivers information. On the other hand, if you intend to provide customer-handling skills to your sales folk, then a course that enhances performance by changing learner behaviors will be built.
One of the key aspects of measuring the success of e-learning projects is coming up with appropriate metrics. How can companies proceed on this front?
Rajesh: Good question. You have to tie metrics with the goals of the online course. For example, increase in sales revenue can be a metric for evaluating the effectiveness of an online sales training program, but ensure the metrics are quantified. Instead of just stating that the e-learning course must improve sales revenues, it’s better to say the e-learning course must improve sales revenues by 20%. A concrete number makes it easier to measure the success of the course.
It is a well-known fact that Service Level Agreements (SLAs) determine the course of an e-learning project? As a project management specialist, how do you think SLAs can be improved?
Rajesh: The biggest enemy of a good SLA is ambiguity. You need to be very clear about what you expect from the online learning service provider. All important aspects such as the project scope, desired outcomes, information about key stakeholders and the review process, milestones, and timelines must be written in black and white.
Assumptions about small things can lead to big problems. For instance, while the client assumes that the e-learning developer is aware of all their requirements, the opposite may be true. Similarly, the project manager might assume that he has clearly explained all the project risks to the client while the latter may have understood little.
Proper coordination is the crux of a successful e-learning project. How can organizations coordinate effectively with the e-learning vendor?
Rajesh: The key to successful coordination is regular communication with your online course development expert. One of the major barriers to effective communication between the stakeholder and the e-learning vendor is a multiplicity of communication channels – too many people getting involved in the communication process. This leads to confusion, creating problems for you as well as the vendor. It’s advisable to appoint an experienced person who has a good idea of the project as the Single Point of Contact (SPOC), and authorize him to liaise with the vendor.
Good e-learning projects have good endings. What should companies do at the end of an online course development project?
Rajesh: Firms have to see that the project is properly documented. Effective project documentation helps companies analyze the issues faced, and this goes a long way in preventing their recurrence. Unfortunately, many companies don’t pay attention to this vital aspect.
So, we see Rajesh believes the following aspects play a key role in the success of an outsourced online course development project.
- Clear expectations
- Measurable metrics
- Good SLA
- Effective coordination
- Proper documentation
Hope you enjoyed the interview with our e-learning project management expert.