eLearning is done! Now what? Absolutely nothing :/

I'm not sure if I'm in the best thread for this, so I apologize if not. I work in the training department for a large corporation. eLearning is a new capability for our department. We've only been able to create internal eLearning courses since about 6 months ago. Since then, I've gotten flooded with eLearning creation requests. I meet with the SMEs, go over the content, develop a plan, etc. Once the module is created to their satisfaction, they send it to the other stakeholders to get their final approval before rolling it out in our LMS.

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Problem:

That last step is where I've been finding that the process looses steam. For example, SME: "Looks great! I'll get approval from my boss and my counterpart at corporate and then we'll roll it out!" and then it waits and waits and waits for approval before eventually loosing steam. The SME doesn't care whether or not it gets finalized in the LMS because they've done what is required of them, they can check their box and call it a day. However, it's incredibly frustrating for me to spend a ton of hours working on things that nobody ends up seeing and using. This has happened about 10 times (granted, only from 2 or 3 different people) since July.

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Solution:

1- I've decided to start holding a kickoff meeting with not just the SME but also all stakeholders involved in the approval of the module to help make sure we're on the same page / put faces to names / etc.

2- My boss and I also discussed starting charging other departments for this service. It's not unheard of as currently if an employee takes a training course, their department is charged $X and that money goes towards covering the cost of the course, etc. However, it's just something we've never set up before within my team.

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Feedback:

I'm wondering if anybody has ever set up a charge back system for other departments for eLearning creation? Also would love to know any other tips you guys have found in order to prevent issues like this?

18 Replies
Kelly Meeker

Hi Gloria! Crystal shared your discussion with me and first of all, I'm so sorry you're dealing with this frustrating situation. It sounds like you've got some great ideas for moving forward productively, and I wanted to share a couple of resources that might help support your goal of getting buy-in from a larger group before putting in a ton of hours on a project. 

This download has a list of questions you can use to start the conversation with the folks who are requesting training. It may be that you discover that training is not the right answer for the need? Perhaps it's a management issue or something else that can be addressed by the team's leader. 

Check out this conversation in Trina Rimmer's AMA about dealing with "flaky" SMEs. We also have an e-book that's focused on working with SMEs - this might help you get some ideas on helping them feel some ownership of the project! 

Best of luck in dealing with this tough situation!

Nicole Legault

Hi Gloria - that is really a great question and good discussion to bring up. We spend so much time building great courses, it's frustrating when they dont make it into the hands of the people who NEED them. But do the learners really need them? That's a really important question. 

You mentioned in your initial comment "I've gotten flooded with eLearning creation requests. I meet with the SMEs, go over the content, develop a plan, etc." Now that you've offered up your skills and services as a training /elearning developer, SMEs and Managers are likely to go "AHA! We have this performance problem - let's create e-learning to solve it!" but as the instructional designer and training designer it's up to you to have the skillset to be able to critically review each of those requests as they come in, look at their merit, and identify the real needs. 

The training needs analysis is not just about making a project plan and looking at details of the course (objectives, duration, how many learners, etc.) -- looking at those things assumes that the training is needed/required. So before you start planning a course, you should always do a Training Needs Analysis to identify that training IS indeed required.

A training needs analysis is done by analyzing current vs. expected performance and identifying if there is a performance gap, and if there IS, is the gap caused by a lack of training/knowledge and skills?  Only in those cases where the answer is YES will training be worthwhile, and resolve a business problem. The good news is once you've identified a real, tangible business need, you can make a stronger case for why you need to follow through and deliver the courses you create, and you can also help prove the value you're providing your organization with your courses. 

Here's some (hopefully) helpful articles about identifying training needs and tying e-learning course to performance metrics and KPIs:

Best of luck to you :) 

Judy Nollet

Hi, Gloria,

Great advice in the previous comments. I'll address the charge-back issue: YES, your department should charge for eLearning development!

For example, I contract with a Training & Communications department within a large corporation. If it's determined that an eLearning is needed (see Needs Assessment comments above), I prepare a statement of work (SOW) with an estimated cost range for the project. I don't start working on the project until the SOW/cost is approved. Also, I get a project code, which I use when entering my time in the required tracking system. Thus, the department/cost-center that requested the course automatically gets billed for my time. And, thus, they have a stake in getting a project done.

Note that I said "estimated cost range." It's difficult to say exactly how long it will take to develop a project, especially when the SMEs are such a big factor. (Do they provide good resources? Do they answer questions in a timely fashion? Do you have to spend a lot of time doing follow-up?) And, as much as possible, I include assumptions about what's expected in the SOW, such as whether or not there will be audio or video, expected length, etc.  Those don't necessarily prevent scope creep, but they can provide evidence for why a cost is going to be higher than expected.

Good luck!

Steven McAneney

I don't think charging other departments is going to solve your problem. You're trying to persuade Managers to do something new, charging them might backfire on you. 

We try to make our elearning easy for learners, how about making the approval process easy for Managers? Make it more of a simple 'tick the box' approval (I.e. If the SME has approved it the Manager will too). At the same time set up some KPI's based on e-learning feedback from your users, which the Managers can use to base their decisions on. Pull the focus away from the development and back where it belongs, on results.

Macy Frost

Unfortunately I can't measure results for the SME if they don't ever give you a final thumbs up to throw it into the LMS. I've been doing what you described with assuming the manager is on board if the SME is and I've not had great results. Within our team, I think the issue lies more with people just having me create it to check a box on their goals but their goals say something like "create" not "create and deploy", therefore they don't care if it doesn't get deployed.

Macy Frost

Thank you ALL for your feedback! I'm a self-taught eLearning developer, really, so while I've spent a lot of time this year focusing on the technical side of creating eLearning, I probably didn't spend enough time focusing on the SME relationship management side of the process. I welcome any other feedback you may have and I'd like to thank you for your advice thus far!

Derek Hoey

Hi Gloria,

I agree with Steven in relation to charging departments. As an internal training team that is only introducing eLearning to the company, I think this could prove counter-productive to your goals.

During those initial planning meetings with SME, I normally include the following line of inquiry:

  • Who requires the course, and how will they access it?

This informs you of the posts/roles/people that you need to cater for during course design; as well as knowing who needs access to the LMS, and help you identify any potential access issues in advance.

  • What is our Communication Strategy?

When the course goes live, how will staff hear that a new course is now available? What is the expectation - is this mandatory for all staff or only select staff? (linked to point above)

Is it entirely optional? If it is optional, then you need to ask more questions about why the course is needed, where the request came from. 

After further exploration to this point, you would hopefully get a better sense of how committed they are to seeing this through. You and/or your manager might be in a position to decline the request if you feel the course is more "nice to have" than "adding value".

You could also consider designing a business case template for all e-learning course design requests an internal contract for services if you will. This could include asking the SME/key stakeholder to map out the roll-out phase and the key people responsible.

From reading your post again, it really sounds like there is nothing forcefully driving the demand. A lot of companies are expected to demonstrate compliance in key areas, e.g. Health & Safety, and perhaps this is missing? If so, perhaps try to keep projects focused on areas that are part of business KPIs and that are deemed business critical, and prioritise course design projects on elements that will add most value.

Keep in mind that it is still very early days and don't lose heart :)

Best of luck,

D.

Mark Shepherd

Hi Gloria:

I hear you, and I sympathize. 

Your situation is one we occasionally encounter in our organization.

It doesn't happen all that often, particularly recently, because in many, if not most cases, it's not really in our partner/client/SME's interest to delay on delivery of changes or adjustments to a given project.

We try to mitigate this by underlining and spelling out very clearly the consequences of delay of return on requests for changes, etc., often in writing. 

(We have also begun to use change request documents that are signed and dated, so that individuals can potentially be held accountable if a review is requested.)

Typically this means pushing back the overall delivery of a given course offering back by either a month or a quarter

We often choose "next quarter" as a scheduling strategy/tactic, as we find that a sense of urgency does not always seem to translate very well for some sections or partners.

Delays of a few days aren't a big deal. 

It's only when those delays drag into multiple weeks it becomes a concern. 

We typically raise red-flags for these kinds of delays early, often after 1 week, to ensure that people do not lose sight of what changes should be on their radar, and to ensure they are taking things seriously.

If we do not get prompt acknowledgement of or responses to our warnings, we typically begin publicly posting delivery schedules with quarter-or-more delivery date pushbacks.

We find this kind of open "proto-shaming" often works well, despite our not liking having to use these kinds of tactics, as if frequently leads to high-level questions being asked of the partner, SME, or associate in question. 

While this is also often inconvenient for US, we'd rather have someone put the fear of God into them than us, as we can easily respond to any questions regarding our commitment to work.

Given recent experiences, we are looking to create new guidelines for collaborations, so that our partners understand clearly what is expected of them, and to potentially prevent the scenario described above. 

We'd rather people just simply comply with guidelines and standards than give us unnecessary delay or grief.  We often have to point out these delays inconvenience THEM as much or even MORE than it inconveniences or bothers US.

If they don't qualify, no collaboration, no learning content. 

Often people will SAY they will do something just to "blow by" such criteria. 

We are tightening this so they will not be able to get away with that tactic so much.

We work to an extremely high standard, and we simply expect our partners and associates to at least give us some sense of timing of their responses so we are not left out of the loop.

In other words, treat us fairly, respect our time and commitments as much as possible, and we will more than go the extra mile for you. 

If not, well... ;)

Hope this helps!

-Mark

Enes Karahasanovic

Hi all,

 

I am new to the community, but an experienced training and eLearning specialist who had a chance of working in large corporations who use eLearning solutions as a way of training employees.

To the previous comments, I can only add that internal charging between departments will not give adequate results to speed up the process of eLearning projects.

I am not shore about your company Gloria, but for all large eLearning projects in your company you should be able to answer couple of questions before starting:

1) Is the eLearning the right approach to complete business goal that is presented?
2) Can you define a realistic project plan, including all the steps from the first meeting with SME up to the final rollout in the LMS?
3) Do you have the support from your manager? Do you have the support from HR? In large number of companies HR is responsible for the training and development process, so it would be a good approach to get them on the board (if you don't already work in HR department as eLearning specialist)
4) Who is the target audience and how urgently they need to be trained? More often that not, there is more need for a SME to develop the training/eLearning, than there is a need for learners to go throw it! SMEs can be quite tricky and sometimes put their own goals before the actual needs of the learners.

Anyway, it all comes down to how you approach the request at the beginning. The stakeholders should not be allowed to slow-down your project, just because they don't have the time or they are too lazy to approve the content. In a large company everything has it's own price.

That is opinion from my side, hope these comments give you some guidance for future!

Best regards, NS

Macy Frost
Enes Karahasanovic

More often that not, there is more need for a SME to develop the training/eLearning, than there is a need for learners to go throw it!

This line specifically speaks volume to I think what is at the core of my problem. Either SMEs just want to check it off of their goals OR they need to roll it out for compliance reasons. A very small percent of my modules have been able to actually increase someone's knowledge versus compliance-based/"the VP of XYZ just needs this out to demonstrate ABC". You've given me a lot of food for thought!

 

(Also, your daughter is absolutely adorable...I have a 1.5 yr old daughter at home so your profile pic caught my eye!)

Harri C
Gloria Boyce

The SME doesn't care whether or not it gets finalized in the LMS because they've done what is required of them,

Hi Gloria

I think the above quote from your original post pin points the issue you are facing - the SME has been tasked with finding a training solution, not with making business change. I would echo a lot of Nicole's comments here.

I think your plan to include the stakeholders is absolutely critical, they will be the ones most likely to be able to answer your questions about what ROI they are looking for. Once you have your SME tied to a ROI/KPI task they will be more likely to stay with you to the end because the learner experience and evaluation post intervention is the bit they need for validation that what they (and you) have done has been successful.

A great way of framing stakeholder/SME thinking around this is to ask what the learner needs to be able to DO. You might find at first that they respond with 'they need to know' in which case just keep on asking 'why?' - why do they need to know that? why is it useful?

Changing people's attitudes can be slow and difficult but persevere because it will make your life easier and you will be so proud of your work when you can show in black and white what difference you've made. :)

Andy Walton

Yeah, that works, Cary. I get a lot of usual "Can you do this, Andy?" And, like most first dates, they never return my calls.

Stick with a followed procedure - storyboard, UAT (user acceptance testing), feedback and publish. But always be nice. Explain where you are up to and ask for technical support if needed.

And if they ask for a dancing mouse, tell them 'Fantasia' has already been done.