Project Development Stages????

Hi guys,

Sorry if this has been discussed previously but I've searched the forums and havent found anything which really answers my questions. I want to know what stages people go through when designing a course when having to use external writers?

The process I go through seems really tedious and takes much longer than I think it should. Basically I get some foundational content from a writer. This is often in the form of a "resource book" with no training aspects, no structure other than headings and way too much content and no assessment. If I'm lucky it might have an assessment book i.e. word doc essay question style. I then read through and come out with a concept of how the course might flow and then discuss with the writer. This can go back and forward numerous times before the concept is fully mapped out. I then go through the designing stage, production of elements i.e. voice overs, video development, flash files ect. During this I might have to go back to the writer for additional info but that is due to my lack of experience in knowing what I need fully.

I wondered if you guys had any particular way to structure the development of content. I thought about a form they fill in with course objectives, assessment critera ect at the start but I don't know enough about how this is done. I realise I can storyboard but I tend to do most of that once I have a concept and content to work with.

Any ideas would be really helpful.

Thanks all!


11 Replies
James Brown


Analyze -- look at the materials and mind map them. Kathy Moore has a great way of doing this.

Design --Storyboard it and determine what pieces will need to be developed into an e-learning course

Develop -- create the e-learning materials

I - Implement it

E - evaluate it's effectiveness.

david stokes

Hi Kat, In addition to James' post...

(ASSURE) - Analyselearners; stimulate; select media; utilise media; require learnerparticipation; evaluate response

(UVID) - Understand; visualise; idealise; deliver

Define clear design stages with the client via scripting/storyboards and outline a sign off process to agree clear objectives.

If you Google "Instructional design", you'll find a lot of info to help with the process.

Dave Rosowski

What your actually lacking is the instructional design part.

SMEs or Writers interact with the ID/ISD and hash out all the content before the multimedia developer gets it.

If you don't have an ID, then your left playing multiple rolls, with a writer and a client usually not understanding why your so overwhelmed.

you also need to install "control gates" on your project. These are sign-off points to where a client or writer cant go back unless the budget needs revisiting for a redo.


The writer gives "bones" to the ID, the ID created the skeleton, the multimedia specialist adds muscle (builds module), adds skin (branding) and then delivers it to the client.

With this analogy, if a client or writer wants to break one of your control gates, its liek surgery on the body you just built. If you want to move the bones around, then all the meat on top of the bones and surrounding joints need to be revisited as well.

If you control the situation and use a proper waterfall method, you can cut down on a ton or rework and revisiting.

You got 2 choices, hire an Instruction Designer,  or play the part of one and  install control gates made of steel. Do not start the development until the content is hashed out.

Steve Flowers

Hi Kat

Sounds like the process is a little out of order. If information is pushing the design, it can be really difficult to design a solid product that actually does anything but carry information in buckets. And that's not a great situation to be in. Outcome expectations should drive solution decisions. The biggest question: What problem(s) are we solving today? If the answer is "I dunno", it's faster, cheaper and easier on your learners to put money that would have been spent straight into the paper shredder.

Here's a short presentation that shows our revised high level process (the conceptual sequencing shows up on slide 38). We do have a set of worksheets to capture artifacts and outputs at various stages. These are really simple (even if the process to discover the artifacts that go into them is not). Worksheets are attached.

Fortunately, with some minor process changes, I think you can still give the writer the impression that they are contributing energy early and avoid over-the-fence syndrome. By starting with performance and business requirements (a short paragraph describing what the organization wants to accomplish or realize and a short list of tasks the participant needs to perform) and following with an examination or breakdown of the covert tasks (this is where the power of digital solutions lives) and then looking at practice opportunities for the tasks identified you're really focusing on what people DO, not what they need to know -- yet. Content excavation doesn't start until we get near the end of the cycle shown in the graphic referenced above (just starting to look at content / information when we're outlining objectives and assessment items).

I've attached the worksheets we use. Again, really simple. But it adds formality to the process and helps to formulate outcome before we start talking about outputs. Outputs without consideration of outcomes... that's what sucks the success out of a product. The GOTS/COTS is done up front as a baseline market search. It's not intended to stop there.

We're working on a few additional worksheets to further tune the process. One thing we often see is a lack of learning problem definition. In other words, what's hard about learning this concept? Further breaking this down into a particular classification of learning problem can be really helpful when matching media and methods. Too often, media selection and delivery method selections are completely arbitrary. Basing these decisions on "gut" or "this is the way other people do it" leaves too much to chance, in my opinion. Science can make the arbitrary leaps much smaller, reducing the risk that a pile of steamy poo will be the only tangible outcome.

Examples for things that would go into these worksheets can be found here in our SOP ( See Appendix E).

Kat Fardian

Wow.... Great information as always.

As Dave notes we don't have an instructional designer which is the key problem. We are a small organisation which doesn't have a huge budget and so this has become a part of my role though I have no experience as an ID. I'm trying to learn as much as possible from the net but it's hard.

I've learnt a bit about ADDIE but not ASSURE or UVID but my problem is I'm still not sure what I need to do as the ID to make sure I get the right content from the SME. Steve your information is amazing! This will certainly help me, especially being able to show my management that the content shouldn't be the starting point and how much work goes into the process. But I'm still trying to get my head around all the information and I still don't quite get the early parts of the design process between ID and SME.

So a few questions:

  1. What do you actually take to the SME? Do you give them a list of objectives and get them to give you content? This is one of the major bits I don't understand!
  2. Lets say you are going to do a scenario situation. Do you design the scenario then go to them for content or the other way around?

Basically, using Daves analogy.... what is the process of designing the bones and skeleton between the ID and the SME. Who does what first?

Sorry I know this is stuff I should being studying in a course or something but unfortunately I don't have the time or funds so I need to rely on this amazing community!

Thanks guys!


Steve Flowers

Hi Kat,

There are two activities that I use all the way through the process:

1 - Align. The first step is making sure I have a clear understanding of the problem the client needs (or wants) to solve. Alignment happens on both sides of the contract signing. I won't provide an estimate for work that I don't clearly understand. I ask lots of questions to tune and narrow all of the arbitrary factors. After the contract is let, I'll schedule really short remote meetings at short intervals to tune the vision of the *pathway* to the solution. Not making any assumptions at this point about what the solution is going to look like unless I have a relationship with the customer. And even then, the only assumption I want to be making is that in the end we're going to have a solution that matches the problem and alleviates business pain. Until the final delivery, we're really never finished aligning. The more perfect your alignment, the more likely the product will meet expectations.

2 - Tune. I use collaborative sessions to walk through each stage of the problem with subject matter experts. You can see some of this process here. We use this process to work through the priorities and tune the each stage, further narrowing the scope of the solution.

So, the first thing you'll take to your stakeholders are questions. One of the most critical skills in design is asking the right questions. So you might open with:

  • What outcome are you looking for? What isn't happening now that you think should be happening?
  • In your mind, if this thing works perfectly, how will things be different than they are now?
  • How are people contributing to this outcome? 
  • What are people generally not doing that they should be doing to reach the desired outcome? 
  • Do you have any people that ARE doing what you need them to do to reach the desired outcome?

SME's are really helpful at this stage to help align and tune the course of the inquisition. You're searching for the root of the problems. The *thing* that needs to be solved. Once you uncover that, building upwards with task specific details becomes much easier. These are merely starter questions. These should give birth to other questions as you're able to construct a model of what the stakeholder's needs are. You might ask questions like:

  • Can you give me an example of a situation where you might produce this output?
  • What cues you that you need to do that?
  • What do you do after that?
  • How do you know when you've done that right? 
  • What tells you that you've done that wrong?

Questions help you tune the model and fill out the web of tasks and decisions someone needs to pursue to successfully perform and produce the outcome. Investigate first - make design decisions later.

Without the right questions, all is lost.

Steve Flowers

An extension to the previous recommendation. Try to avoid using a single source for all guidance and answers. More than one person will provide a more valid sample of data (people at all levels of the organization or within the specific job target). The SME is also often not a representative of your target audience. SME's can have a tendency of assuming that everyone else should know what they know. There are a couple of problems with this tendency:

  • Authenticity. Most folks don't need to know everything the most experienced guy / gal knows. This can lead to lack of focus on the stuff that's really important.
  • The nature of experience. Assuming that we can provide valuable experience through a reverse vicarious method is a little funny People learn best by making their own mistakes. Some things just can't be learned in meaningful and lasting ways by being the subject of telling, asked to read, or watch.
Steve Flowers


Here are a couple of other resources. Some of these are quite old but may give you some footholds as you climb the peaks that are ISD / HPT. Some of these references are quite long, a little dated (though still relevant) and can be boring in spots. But it's all good stuff in the right context Don't look at these as "set in stone mantras" or mechanistic dogmas and you'll be OK.

This is a long tome that covers performance technology and ISD:

The documents listed under Training System Standard Operating Procedures contain some really great info.

Best of all these are US taxpayer supported, so they are pretty much free to use as references. Use away:)

Carrie Booth

I feel your pain. figuring out your workflow for a project, keeping it flexible and communicating with clients can be a challenge...

this is my process map. You'll notice a couple of things...

When I say Information, Activity and visual design... I am totally using Tom's terms. Look them up in the blog if you are not familiar... Pushing the activity design first (why do users care or need this? ) and then information design (think outlining what you are going to do, before you do it-- isn't that what 9th grade english teachers tell you to do?) force my clients (all in house) to focus on why they are training not what they are training for... I have been dropping the Visual design conversations completely and will probably move it on this list.  If you have seen some of the blog posts on not letting images drive the course... I can't agree more. If a clients says I want soccer a theme you get stuck.. and since I have no money for images... I don't ask what they want... in general anyway.,..

You'll also see that I get a script written and edited before I record a thing. And I get the PPT finished and edited before I start syncing etc. It is tempting to jump these steps, but then you have to redo work. It also puts the onus back on the client to ensure that the grammar is all right and they really like their script before they expect you to finish the course.

This is a work in progress and I would love to clean up my design notes about syncing and such. In general, the last thing i do is fix navigation and do syncs... ...Any feedback is always appreciated!.

Hope this helps...