After movie studios spend millions of dollars producing a film, they want to maximize their profits. They want their movies to please the most possible people and have the greatest emotional impact. This is why before many films are released to the public, studios will hold test screenings to see how various audiences are impacted by their product. Based on the results, oftentimes, studios will tweak the story or even completely change the ending.
Before rolling out a course to a large audience, it can be helpful to start with a pilot program to determine its effectiveness. This is our industry’s version of a test screening, and it can consist of a few modules or a sample activity that represents the overall spirit and design of the course. But what makes a pilot program effective? Let’s take a look at a few things that you should keep in mind when developing one for your course. The goal of any pilot program is to gather helpful feedback, ensuring you can maximize the engagement of your audience.
DEFINE YOUR SUCCESS
Defining what success means to you is always an important step in custom e-learning development (and life in general). Ask yourself what you are looking for from your test audience. Does a successful pilot program mean that you get a ton of feedback from your audience about specific sections of material? The course as a whole? The graphics, the content, the interface, the gamification elements?
What sort of feedback are you hoping to gather? Test screenings often have participants fill out a survey with specific questions about the film. Will this be convenient and easy for your participants? Or would it be more effective to interview them afterwards? Or observe them clicking through the course?
Defining what you are looking for and how you want to get it beforehand will exponentially increase the likelihood that you will get what you need.
CHOOSE A SAMPLE AUDIENCE
Just like an audience for a test screening contains a variety of ages, ethnicities, education levels, etc., you will want to choose an accurate cross section of the intended final audience for your course. This will allow you to get feedback and opinions through many different lenses. You may also want to think about whether the pilot group can help generate excitement for the eventual launch of the full course.
Things will change. Feedback is good! Make sure to set expectations for yourself and your development team that things will be changing after pilot feedback is compiled.
However, just because you find issues does not mean you should abandon your initial plan. Try not to let single opinions veer you off course. Studios aren’t going to change a movie’s ending just because one person didn’t like it. But if the vast majority of their test screeners didn’t care for the ending, it’s in the studio’s best interest to listen.
GIVE IT TIME
Perhaps most importantly, give yourself the time necessary to gather feedback and make the necessary changes. Studios push back release dates if it will make their movies more effective. You’ve already put a lot of time and resources into your course. It wouldn’t be fair to your audience to rush any changes that you want to make.
A successful pilot program makes for a successful final course. Who knows? It might even win our industry’s version of an Oscar for your efforts.