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Defining the Initial Scope of an eLearning Solution

Written By Shalini Merugu

Defining the Initial Scope of an eLearning Solution

Often when we receive a go-ahead for implementing eLearning, our first reaction is to plan an immediate migration of all of the organization’s existing classroom training materials to the eLearning mode, without giving too much thought to factors such as what are the various kinds of trainings the organization has, what is the current training capability, what are the organization’s goals for training, what does it hope to achieve with eLearning, what are the costs involved etc. As a result, we sometimes end up biting off more than we can chew.

Planning an enterprise wide eLearning solution is a gigantic task no doubt. And might appear daunting initially – if one doesn’t break it down into manageable steps. One of the first tasks is to define the scope of the eLearning solution. While cost obviously plays a large role in this decision (especially given the initial investment in IT infrastructure), there are other factors that impact it as well, such as the shelf-life of the training, time-to-market speed etc. Defining the scope involves an analysis of various aspects such as evaluating the current training capability (the kind of training, audience, overall expected results, business impact etc), charting the proposed eLearning solution by analyzing which of the current trainings are ready-to be migrated online (using Rapid content development tools) and which of the organization’s learning needs can be addressed by developing new courseware. This in turn would lead to decisions around whether to go in for off-the-shelf content or customized courseware. Further leading to decisions around whether to develop this content in-house or whether to outsource it to content development vendors. Alternatively, while examining the existing ILT materials, you might want to see which of the courses are best suited for a blended learning approach and proceed accordingly.

Often, in our zeal to implement eLearning, we could end up taking quick and ill-formed decisions around the scope of the proposed eLearning solution and not ask ourselves questions such as ‘is the specific learning goal best supported by eLearning or by using an existing classroom course?’ or ‘Will a workshop be more conducive to learning for a given subject or will a live eLearning session be more effective?’ A very detailed and thorough analysis of the organizations current training capability is important to help us arrive at the scope of the intended eLearning solution. This exercise will also help us to look at the hard benefits of the proposed solution by doing a comparative cost analysis between the ILT and eLearning solution. One of the decisions you need to take during this exercise is to see how critical it is to include a given program in the current scope of eLearning. You don’t have to tackle all of the organization’s training needs in one go. Once you and the learners’ taste success in the initial implementation, this can become a selling point for expanding the scope – and in phase two of your eLearning solution, you can address the remaining training needs of your organization as well.

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  • Conversations with the client, followed by more conversations to confirm that what they think they want is what they really need, followed by more conversations, and then more conversations. At each stage, the intended outcomes arising from the learning (regardless of it being e-learning) are brought more and more into focus, ultimately leading to the client being able to say very clearly what it is that they need.

    It is only at this stage where I can hope to offer any solutions.

  • Bushra,
    The following is perhaps focused more with technology concerns, but I think particularly if looking at opencourseware or Web2.0 solutions, is to look at the stability and accessibility over time – will these be available in six months? For instance, is there any talk in trade publications of buy-outs (a proprietary CMS like Blackboard is acquisitional by nature – if they purchase it, it will probably not be available without a higher cost).

    I’d also think about support, both in-house and online – does your IT team see any potential conflict problems with compatability? I’d also look at training and user-friendliness, can this e-learning solution be used without a great deal of user orientation? Also, does the e-learning solution warrant its use pedagogically, or is there another option which is less problematic to use which accomplishes the same goals?

    If selecting e-learning methods of delivery, find out how often version updates are done, and what type of information/support is given to make sure conversions of information may be done without loss or degradation of existing data.

    These are just a few considerations I would explore before proceeding to the next step.

  • M. Shalini

    Bryan, you’ve nailed down a critical component that helps arrive at the scope – whether the group raising the request is in-house stakeholders or external clients. Conversation and its related skills – active listening, reading between the lines, hearing and addressing unvoiced concerns, paraphrasing what you think the customer wants in terms that are mutually understood by both parties – all of these play a key role in defining the scope and avoiding potential disasters.

    Suzzane, thanks for sharing the technology aspects to be considered when defining the scope. Your inputs complement this post beautifully.

  • I strongly feel that the following are the most considerations for an eLearning solution:
    Budget and cost Factor
    Powerful system administration
    24/7 and high quality customer service
    User friendly and intuitive interface for all roles
    Standardized technical framework
    And a unified system which offers all tools and a customizable, scalable framework, whereby you don’t need to purchase any desktop applications for content creation or go to another vendor as your on-line business model expands.