Project Management for Course Development

I’ve taken my fair share of project management courses (a-la PMP) at The Graduate School in Washington, D.C., but I never pursued a PMP certificate. While the concept of project management as outlined in the PMP program makes project management seem pretty objective and almost scientific, managing instructional design projects is, go figure, a little more “wishy washy.” What I’ve found is that it’s critical that you have a project plan for designing performance improvement activities and that you ensure the client and all stakeholders understand the plan and their involvement in it. Here’s the plan I created based on the Successive Approximation Model for the National Glass Association.

  1. Based on Curriculum Plan, client provides initial proposed course objectives (to be refined as part of the instructional design process) and any existing content and research opportunities on course topic.
  2. Send Backgrounding Questionnaire to stakeholders/Subject Matter Enthusiasts request responses in a week.
  3. After Backgrounding Questionnaire deadline, provide updated course learning objectives to appropriate stakeholders/SMEs. Meet with stakeholders/SMEs via teleconference to discuss and approve learning objectives within three days of initial draft of learning objectives is provided.
  4. Begin to develop the CCAF Matrix (or other course design products) for each of the Learning Objectives (3 days). Request additional information or clarification using a Content Gathering Document sent to the SMEs involved on the project. They will have two days to respond. Use SME responses to fully flesh out the matrix (or other course design products (2 days).
  5. Use the matrix (or other course design products) to write the content for one of the interactions (1 day) and get feedback from the SME group (which should include a recent learner or two). SME group review – probably via teleconference – should answer the following:
    1. Is it accurate?
    2. Is the language/tone/voice appropriate?
    3. Will the style resonate with the intended learner audience?
    4. Is it too verbose or too technical?
    5. Is it too conversational?
  6. Once the first interaction is fully fleshed out, write the content for the rest of the interactions and the transitions of the course. (May take a week.) SME group will review/provide feedback (3 days).
  7. Storyboard the course. Once stakeholders approve storyboard, send to developers.
  8. Send prototype to the SME group for review. They will respond to the User Review Questionnaire. This group should include a few more actual learners. They will have three days to provide their feedback.
  9. Send updates to developer. Within three to four days, course is updated and complete!

 

 

LMS Upgrade – All the Bells and Whistles

As you might recall from my previous blog post, Choosing a new Learning Management System, I researched LMSes and chose Absorb for the National Glass Association.

In this blog post, I’d like to show you the stark contrast between our previous LMS, The LMS Which Shall Not Be Named, and Absorb – from both a learner standpoint and an administrator standpoint.

This is the previous LMS’s home page and course catalog from a learner’s perspective, and the admin tab from an administrator’s perspective.

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Although we haven’t yet customized the skin or our learner experience, here is what Absorb looks like:

Home Screen: Learner Perspective

Absorb Home Screen - Learner

The long billboard on top is part of Absorb’s Mercury Module, which allows you to target different photos and/or videos to different learners based on any attribute in their profile.

We plan to use the Resources section to house our  Knowledge Management content, including articles, videos, etc. This will be a “Members Only” benefit.

The Latest News will show the latest news from Glass Magazine.

The Poll section may be replaced by advertising, but it is a neat feature to solicit feedback from learners.

The Contests section may also be replace by advertising, but it is a way to encourage learners to compete with each other and complete courses. Contests (gamification) have been proven to increase course completion rates.

The Tweets section is fed by our Glass Build America Twitter feed.

Catalog: Learner Perspective

Absorb Catalog

Much more user-friendly, the catalog can be organized into categories (I have created categories of Contract Glazier, Glass Processing, Intro to the Glazing Trade, Legacy Courses, and Safety in our initial planning). In this example, I’ve also created a Curriculum, which you can see in more detail here:

Curriculum: Learner Perspective

Manual Glass Handling Curriculum

There are several courses in this curriculum (specifically the ones under Safety Considerations) that will be prerequisites for other courses, as well. Once a learner has completed a course once, they will not have to complete it again in other curriculum courses. Another feature we’re using is Terms and Conditions. You can see the button to review Terms and Conditions on the left. Previously, every course started with a Terms and Conditions slide. Now, it is a box that the learner must check when he or she starts a course. We also added Comments as a means of encouraging learner interaction with the instructor/Course Director and with peers who are also taking the course.

There are many options for what a course consists of, as shown:

Learning Object Options: Admin Perspective

Learning Objects

There are so many other features in Absorb, but I can’t possibly show them all to you. What I would like to say is that, especially for someone with limited LMS experience and limited time to dedicate to uploading and managing courses in the LMS, Absorb is very intuitive and easy to use. It is also very robust and powerful. It is going to be a great asset to our organization.

Choosing a New Learning Management System – Lessons Learned

Reviewing our current LMS and deciding if we needed a new one (and if so, which one?) was one of the first tasks I tackled in my position at the National Glass Association.

Did we need a new LMS?

Heck yeah. Our previous LMS was database-centric, which made it not very user-friendly for our learners OR for me, as the LMS administrator. It was not very intuitive or aesthetically pleasing. The reports that could be run were very limited and did not provide many insights. Uploading courses was cumbersome. Adding surveys to courses, allowing supervisors to view learner progress, requiring prerequisites or recommending courses based on learner attributes – daunting, if not impossible.

So I did some research to find a new LMS. Mind you, I’m not an LMS expert, but stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night 🙂 and I’ve used LMSes in the past (specifically Blackboard) and I know what the potential is and almost anything would be a step up from what we were using.

How did I choose LMSes to evaluate?

I used two sources for LMSes to evaluate: Capterra and PCMag.com. Capterra essentially reviews your requirements and puts you in contact with providers who can meet your needs within your budget.

What LMS did we choose?

Absorb

What criteria did I use to evaluate them?

  • E-Commerce
  • Single Sign On (with future AMS)
  • SCORM/Tin Can Course Hosting
  • Discussion Forums in Courses
  • Survey Functionality (or the ability to embed a Survey Monkey survey in a course)
  • Task Completion Tracking
  • Allows Supervisor/Trainer Oversight into Learner’s Transcript
  • Quiz/Test Authoring
  • Webinar Sales and Hosting (via Zoom)

Vendor Comparison

Absorb (from PCMag.com rankings)

Offers all required functionality out of the box. User-friendly for learners and admins. Excellent support even in the demo phase. Within budget. Learners have lifetime access for one-time user fee. Most secure LMS on market.

Only vendor that is Certified as “Smartchoice Best in Class LMS Vendor” from respected research firm Brandon Hall Group. Also recommend by Gartner, Forrester and Bersin by Deloitte.

  • $18,000/year ($1675/month) / One-time, $5 fee per new user
  • $4,000 setup fee
  • Possible one-time fees for:
  • Historical Data Import $1,750
  • Offers API to exchange data with AMS
  • $3,500 for scheduled data file export or import OR
  • $4,000 one-time fee for RESTful API (real-time integration)

Litmos (from PCMag.com rankings)

Offers all required functionality out of the box. User-friendly for learners and admins. Within budget (least expensive solution).

  • $8,388/year for up to 500 active users
  • $13,000/year for up to 1,000 active users
  • No setup fee
  • Possible fee for importing historical data

TOPYX (Capterra recommendation)

Offers all required functionality out of the box. Extremely versatile and robust, but not intimidating or difficult to use. Excellent support. Too expensive. VERY cluttered learner interface. Poor design.

  • $24,750/year non-profit price
  • Unlimited users / unlimited content

BlackBoard (from my previous experience and from PCMag.com rankings)

Offers all required functionality out of the box. Extremely versatile and robust, but not intimidating or difficult to use. Excellent support. Too expensive.

  • $20k to $25k for BlackBoard (MoodleRooms)
  • $15k extra if we want their online collaboration tool (BlackBoard Collaborate)

Aptify (Association was looking at their AMS, so I researched their LMS)

Does not offer all required functionality out of the box. Not user friendly for learners or admins (configuration is very similar to current LMS – database-like). LMS is clearly not the primary business of this company (seems like square peg/round hole). Too expensive.

  • $25,000 for Education Module
  • •$30,000 for LMS

My Custom Event (Capterra recommendation)

Does not offer all required functionality out of the box. Not user friendly for learners or admins (configuration is very similar to current LMS – database-like). LMS is clearly not the primary business of this company.

  • $155/user/month (2 user minimum) includes
    • 250 active learners
    • 1.95% per transaction fee
  • $275/user/month (3 user minimum) includes
    • 500+ active learners
    • 0% per transaction fee

Digital Ignite / YM (Current LMS)

Does not offer all required functionality out of the box. Not user friendly for learners or admins (configuration is very similar to current LMS – database-like). LMS is clearly not the primary business of this company.

  • $18,759 setup fee
  • $1500/month for 2,500 active users