It may not be as easy as pressing a button, but any organization can start its own online learning team with proper support. You’ll need to understand the roles that are required for building a team and the skills needed to fulfill each role. In some organizations, there are only one or two individuals to fill all of these roles. This is a more difficult way to begin.
Team Member Roles and Responsibilities
The structure of an eLearning team varies depending on the number of people an organization seeks to employ. Ideally, your new eLearning group will have at least three people, though it is possible for one or two multifaceted individuals to fulfill all the roles. If some roles are only needed part-time, consider using staff from other departments or contracting the work to freelancers. For example, a new team might need editing and testing work on a part-time basis so these roles could be outsourced. Below are the major roles needed for an eLearning team followed by the responsibilities of each role.
- Project Manager: Oversees the full life cycle of the project, interfaces between internal client and eLearning team, schedules deliverables, ensures the team has the information and resources it needs to get the job done. Provides the business analysis to ensure that solutions are aligned with business and organizational goals.
- Instructional Designer/Writer: Uses instructional design, cognitive psychology and adult learning theory to determine the appropriate solution to a knowledge or performance gap. Analyzes content, organizes content, designs solutions, and writes storyboards, scripts, performance support, mobile learning and manuals. Knows how to use social media and collaborative tools to facilitate learning.
- Editor: Helps to improve overall writing, proofreads all writing
- Graphic Designer: Creates the user interface, graphics and animations; designs the look and feel of courses, learning portals, mobile learning and print materials with an eye toward the clarity required for learning and information dissemination.
- Media Specialist: Produces and edits audio and video when required for a project.
- Authoring Tools Specialist: Assembles all the elements into a running course, adds interactivity, ensures the course can interface with a Learning Management System if required. With the advent of rapid tools, some instructional designers handle this role.
- Tester: Runs Quality Assurance checks by testing the course from a technical perspective and ensuring it matches the storyboard.
Working with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
A common misunderstanding is that the eLearning group must have expertise in all the subjects they teach. In practice, the instructional designer works with subject matter experts to develop the content. When the subject is new within the organization, the instructional designer may research the subject using books and journals or interview experts in the field. See How to Brain Sync with a Subject Matter Expert for more on this.
Example Development Process for Self-paced eLearning
Our industry has an over-reliance on eLearning and there are other solutions for closing knowledge and skill gaps, such as performance support. This is just an example of a possible workflow for developing an asynchronous eLearning course. There is always iteration. Other articles on this site explain the phases in more detail.
- Kickoff Meeting: Meet with internal or external client to discuss the issues that are requiring the need for a course. You would want to know the audience, content, prerequisites, technical constraints, schedule.
- Analysis: Whenever possible, interview and observe audience members at the start, to learn about the real issues going on. Why does the knowledge gap occur? What are the needs of the learners? The instructional designer can then analyze the content and audience from this vantage point. (See more types of analysis)
- Team Meeting: Assemble team to discuss and brainstorm solutions.
- Design/Prototype: The designer can write a design document or go directly into prototyping. Design documents, which show objectives, organization of content and creative treatment are reviewed with the client and prototypes are demonstrated.
- Development: Upon client approval, the instructional designer may iterate more on the prototype. He or she then writes storyboards or slides (these show all the text, audio script, graphics/video that will be in the course). These can be done directly in the authoring tool as a rough version, sketched or in PowerPoint, Word or a storyboarding tool. Get storyboard templates.
- Production: Upon approval of each storyboard, create graphics, animations, interactions, video, and audio and assembled into a running course
- Testing/Quality Assurance (QA): Test the course and revise as needed
- System Test: Test again when the course is integrated with other courses or imported into a Learning Management System
Remember, it is possible to fulfill the roles above with just a few talented people if each one takes on several roles. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge. If you are working on an eLearning course, start with something small to build your confidence, your skills and your team. Then enjoy the ride. It’s an exciting field and an ideal time to jump in.