How would you do a Devshop?

Jan 03, 2012

Hello. Following the theme of a Writeshop, our team is planning our first ever "Devshop," an intensive on-site workshop to develop multiple courses in one week. I'm writing to ask if anyone has done this before and to solicit ideas about how to go about it.

We're planning on three 45-60 minute courses. We are doing this because the project owners want three things: 1) the development to remain in-house since they’ve been happy with our teams’ work on their courses in the past; 2) one project owner wants to gain a broad understanding of the design and development process; and 3) they need to meet an important deadline.

We’re bringing some of the team from Africa and elsewhere, so we don’t want to waste their time or resources.

Here's a little background information based on what we've come up with so far...

  • We’ll use an existing course template; we’ll develop in Articulate Suite
  • Devshop participants include one SME and one instructional designer/developer for each course. We'll also have a graphic designer and an intern to paste/load content into Engage and Quizmaker.
  • The final course content (written materials) and custom illustrations will be available one month before the devshop begins.

In the month before the devshop, IDs and SMEs will create storyboards for their respective course and go through the quizzes with a fine-toothed comb. Once the SMEs approve the storyboard, IDs will create very raw wireframes.

Proposed devshop schedule (6 days):

  • Day 1: Introductions, review reason and goals of devshop, review course objectives, review devshop schedule.
  • Day 1 - 2 (design phase): IDs and SMEs review wireframe, brainstorm/design interactions, navigation and animation; SME records draft narration and runs through the whole thing to see how it will work (this is where we find the SMEs tend to change things…when they hear the narration and see the action on the screen).  Graphic designer begins work of editing illustrations and creating additional graphics according to IDs’ and SMEs’ instructions.
  • Day 3: SMEs have option to review final wireframes and make last adjustments.  SMEs leave devshop but are on call (return on Day 6).
  • Day 3 - 5 (development phase): IDs, intern and graphic designer continue with development; publish drafts and test each others’ courses.
  • Day 6 (review phase): SMEs return to review the prototypes and development team makes final adjustments. Publish prototypes. Team creates beta test questionnaire for users. Everyone flies home.

The courses will be completed in the weeks following the devshop. During this time we'll do the beta testing, final narration with professional recording team and voice talent, etc. We hope to roll out the final products 6-8 weeks after the devshop ends.

Some outstanding issues are how to plan for technical issues that may arise with laptops or softwareand also how we will incorporate the approval process in this rapid schedule.  Each SME has a supervisor or two who may need to give the final OK. And we don’t want to run into problems after the prototype has been tested.

Thanks for reading this far! I’d love to hear your thoughts, critiques and suggestions.


4 Replies
Steve Flowers

Cool idea, Leslie. We've worked in similar ways in the past. You might consider "mini-designshops" before your dev-shop. I've found that 90 minutes per workshop, 3 or so times per week really accelerates the design process and maintains energy levels after the initial burst week that follows kick-off. These can be facilitated at a distance fairly easily if the ID comes prepared with an agenda. For these sessions, you might consider some light prototyping to hash out and align expectations. This will help to focus your devshop by identifying things that might not work out in development early on. 

Since you're bringing folks in, you'll want to make the most of your face to face time. 

Leslie Therese Blanton

Thanks guys!

Robert, thanks, I'll do that -- build in some extra time. And I'm also going to talk to our IT staff to alert them to the devshop and solicit their assistance should we have larger technical issues.

Steve, thanks for the suggestions. I like the mini-designshop idea.  I'll share this with our IDs so we can make the most of the time before the devshop.   Just have to figure out how to get all the people in different time zones (countries) talking to each other.  That's completely do-able, though, if everyone is committed. And we're following up now to be sure that all of the players will be responsive and active during the month before and the weeks after the devshop, when we're not face to face.


Michael Hernandez

I like the idea of working course design and development this way (or similar to it) permanently.

One caution I have is to avoid having the SME's take command of the design.  I have not met one yet in the organizations I have designed for that really understood and applied sound instructional design practices.

This is especially a challenge where the SME holds a position of authority in the organization and the ID does not.  There is the risk that the SME ends up telling others what to do rather than relying on the more in-depth knowledge, experience and advanced skills of others to make the best decisions that support the actual learning of the end-users.

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