Part 2: You Need a Plan!
In Part 1 of this series, you met the team you’ll need to bring your project to life. Now that you’ve met the team, let’s look at them through the lens of the project life cycle. At the top of this infographic, you can see the four phases of any large-scale learning solution: Plan, Build, Test, and Execute. Let’s break down those four phases to see what the team members will be doing in each phase:
- Plan: The critical milestones that must happen during the planning stage include:
- Kickoff: The project kickoff typically includes re-introductions of team members if needed, sharing the vision and goals of the project, success factors and accompanying metrics if known, a group SWOT, and organizational benchmark data to support the reason for the project.
- Alignment: A critical component of a successful plan includes key alignment of stakeholders as well as conflicting goals and agendas. What does each stakeholder need to achieve as a result of this project?
- Assess Needs: Where are we now, and where are we going? How are we going to get there? What human resources to we have? What must we outsource? What technology do we want to use? Do we have it now? Do we need to buy it to support this project? These questions illustrate a small sample of the Q & A that takes place during the Plan phase. The goal is to be sure all stakeholders have shared all information they consider helpful in ensuring the success of the project.
- Learning Strategy Design: Perhaps most critical to the success of a large-scale learning solution is a thorough and sound Design. Most large-scale learning solutions include a High Level Design (HLD) that illustrates the skeleton of the project in terms of target audience, deliverables, and timeline. Once stakeholders agree on the HLD, then a Detailed Design Document (DDD) is produced, which includes a blueprint from which the Delivery Team can work. DDDs typically include Learning Objectives by topic, instructional strategies, delivery type (eLearning, facilitated learning, self-paced workbooks, etc.), source content identification and access, assessment strategies (how will learning be measured), and estimated time to complete.
- Build: The Build phase is the heart of the project timeline. This is where the majority of the work is done. Keep in mind that most large-scale learning solutions include multiple deliverables, such as eLearning to equip participants with basic terms, concepts, and examples of best practices. Then there may be a facilitated segment if participant skills must be observed and practiced with guided feedback. And finally, on-the-job performance may require deliverables in the form of performance guides, observation checklists, etc. Each of these types of deliverables may have a dedicated team and its own timeline. In each phase (Alpha, Beta, Gold), the instructional designers render the deliverable. The SMEs review the content and provide feedback. The PM or ID Lead typically does a QA review sometimes before as well as after the SME content review. Lastly (and sometimes only in the final version), the stakeholders review the deliverable, and once accepted, the cycle repeats in the next phase until the final product is approved by stakeholders. A typical deliverable build includes the following phases:
- Alpha: Depending upon deliverable, what’s completed in this phase will differ. For eLearning, an alpha is usually preceded by a storyboard. The storyboard, which is a mock-up of the eLearning course, may be a part of the Design phase or the first component of the build. In the alpha phase, all content might be rendered accurate and functional EXCEPT recording voiceovers (computer-generated voice can be used in alpha). For facilitated and other non-programmed learning, ALL content is often presented as final in the Alpha.
- Beta: The goal is to provide 100% finished product. Upon review, if tweaks are needed, they will be rendered in the Gold phase.
- Gold: The Gold version is 100% final product ready for Pilot. The Gold phase is omitted if 100% stakeholder approval was granted in the Beta phase.
- Test: Testing includes running the learning solution in the environment in which it will perform, and also allows a segment of the target audience to complete the learning solution to determine if any further changes are needed. ELearning content must go through testing in all environments in which it will expected to run when implemented, while other deliverables may only require target audience trial. During this phase, feedback is used to make required final adjustments. Another task that occurs during testing is ensuring the target audience is ready to participant in the learning solution. This may include course registration, travel arrangements, etc. The final step of Testing is ensuring all content is accessible to the learners prior to Implementation.
- Execute: The Delivery Team is in the spotlight during Execute.
- The Learning Technologist is focused on ensuring all learners can access the learning
- The Facilitator ensures s/he is ready to make learning transfer happen
- Scheduling Support is attuned to ensuring travelers arrive for site-based facilitated learning
- Leaders ensure calendars are cleared and their direct reports participate in the learning solution; leaders also play a large role in ensuring participants transfer learning on the job