As we begin each new eLearning project, there is information we’d like to request from our stakeholders. We want this information so we can create a project with results that meet and exceed the project needs. So, asking the right questions is essential. Of course, there are core questions asked relating to any established performance requirements, needs analysis data, audience, and job-related information and procedures, to name a few. There are, however, a handful of questions that AREN’T typically asked that should be. And if you are a stakeholder, perhaps the following can give you some ideas when discussing your next project.
Let’s explore 10 commonly missed questions we should be asking stakeholders:
1. Has there been any previous training conducted?
Knowing if any previous training exists, whether it be instructor-led, on-the-job, or eLearning based, can be valuable for a number of reasons.
- These previous courses may have information that can be used when writing the new course.
- Knowing this training exists may give you the opportunity to take the same training, which can help you gain a foundation for the materials, job responsibilities, and performance needs.
- You will know what information and exercises your audience has been invoved in. This may provide insight into why there might be knowledge gaps and act as a foundation that can be built upon.
2. Is there an audience sample group for information, prototyping, and reviews?
Having a sampling of employees who can act as an advisory group can be a great resource during the life of a project. While this is a great question to ask, it can occasionally make a stakeholder uneasy. They may not want their employees to lose a lot of time in the development of a course and might not want you to contact them directly. The stakeholder may prefer they or a subject matter expert help with these needs, but often they won’t have the in-the-field knowledge that is going to have the greatest value. If there is a concern, try and find out what the stakeholder feels comfortable with. Even if you end up with one employee for 30 minutes to review a nearly finished project, their involvement can provide a wealth of information.
3. What is the expected seat time?
This question can really help you with development expectations. Identifying the length of seat time can help determine the amount of effort involved and what a realistic schedule might look like. A stakeholder may not have any idea how long the course should last and will tell you that figuring this out is part of your responsibilities. This is true, and it is determined during the instructional design process, but understanding the order of magnitude is what is most important. Do they feel it is a 10-minute course, a 30-minute course, an hour course, a 6-hour course? It might be a gut feeling or based on the audience’s availability or tolerance level, but usually you will get a worthwhile response. If you assume the seat time is 15 minutes but the stakeholder has a feeling it will take 2 hours, there might be a disconnect in the projects goals.
4. Do you have any company brand, media, or eLearning guidelines?
Brand guidelines go much further than just the corporate logo, colors, and fonts. They can give us insight into how we present company culture and continue the corporate image through the experience we create. Media and eLearning guidelines don’t always exist but if they do, it is best to know about them from the beginning. There may be additional design considerations and limitations of which you need to be aware.
5. Do any image libraries exist?
This question goes hand-in-hand with the last. Some companies have image libraries with relevant and approved photographs of employees, products, locations, and other unique imagery that you won’t find on some stock site. Having access to these libraries can again provide another avenue to create an experience that is tailored to the audience.
6. Can you show how the user will access the course through the LMS?
It is easy to forget about the learning management system, since course development typically doesn’t require your involvement with it. Getting a quick look at the LMS will give you a better idea of the audience’s user experience before the course and after. The knowledge will help you define action items and user instructions at the end of the course. These include how to exit, how to take the next module, or how to use the course as a future reference.
7. Are there any projects you can share that have an experience similar to what you want on this project?
Too often the stakeholder will have little idea what the project experience should be. Again, they may say that is your job, which again is very true. On several occasions it turns out that the stakeholder did have some idea or had seen something they liked, but didn’t think to discuss it. Knowing how they envision the course doesn’t mean they have designed it or that is what the course is going to be, but it can be a factor in making sure the eLearning experience is heading down the right path.
8. What is the budget?
Stakeholders can be reluctant to give you this information, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Even determining a budget range can help. There are so many ways to create an eLearning project, and having insight into the budget expectations can help determine what limitations you might have. For instance, video, animation, complex knowledge checks, and even augmented or virtual reality projects may not be possible if you know the budget doesn’t support it. Or, the budget might mean you have some flexibility in creating a more unique experience for your audience.
9. Who are the key decision makers?
Don’t assume that the stakeholder is the only decision-maker during project development and reviews. If you are nearing the end of a project and find out that the SME, the stakeholder’s manager, and the company’s legal department all need to give final sign-off, your schedule may be in serious jeopardy, and the more who review your course, the more adjustments you may be in store for. It’s best to have the opinions of all stakeholders early on and throughout the development process. So find out the internal review process before it’s too late.
10. When do you actually need the project completed?
Speaking of schedules, always ask when the project actually needs to be finished. If the project is going to launch in two months, the final sign-off may need to be a month earlier, to give enough time to add it to the LMS and preform any final testing.
As discussed, there are a handful of questions that stakeholders are not commonly asked when starting a project. Keep these questions in mind so you can keep on schedule as you gather the information you need and build the course that gets results for both the audience and the stakeholders.