You KNOW I’m going to have an image of a resplendent treeline when we’re talking about evergreen training, right? It would almost be unethical not to. Yes, sure it's wildly literal, but at least you get a bonus pristine lake in this one. And the Alps in the background? Come on. Just like when a photographer thinks through the composition of a beautiful stock photo, some thoughtful planning can create a lasting impact for your e-learning.
MAKE A PLAN
First trick of creating evergreen training is to plan ahead. Start by asking your team and any relevant stakeholders about how long the training needs to last. Be honest and realistic. Would it be a big win if the training lasted 18 months? Often times the specifics of an organization's process can change over time. It can be a tricky balance. Leave out too many specifics in your training because you want it to be meaningful and practical, but it is often possible to emphasize higher-level takeaways that are less prone to changing.
Work with the subject matter expert (SME) to identify terms, jargon, steps, or details that change often and make decisions about what is critical to include, and what can be conveyed effectively without stating it explicitly in the content. In the same sense, limit references to dates or time-specific events. If you do need to refer to these, try to corral them into a limited, accessible area of the course so they can be changed or removed later.
Once you know what’s likely to change and how often, you want to apply this plan to your development decisions. Any files that you know will change should be easily accessible in an organized, self-evident folder structure. Poorly organized files can be a terrible morass to navigate. Document the processes for making updates in an easy-to-understand document. Is it as simple as replace and save? Or do you need to get IT involved to reupload the courseware to a learning management system (LMS)?
Make content that will need to be replaced in an accessible file structure that can be easily edited or updated. Placing too much text in many different places and in hard-to-reach places, like in a database table, can make maintenance more difficult. Custom training can create flexibility about what file formats are used, how they are handled, and where they go. Developing training for modern, flexible environments will help guard against future technical problems. Choose design parameters that work on a range of devices that represent your users, and develop for design-friendly browsers.
WHAT ELSE OH also have your developer document the media standards the course uses so any updates can match the same quality. Guidelines around the format, compression, resolution, and size, for audio, image, and video assets, as well as and character limits for text areas, will all make it easier when it’s time to do an update.
SKIP IT ALTOGETHER
While creating enduring courseware can be prudent, not all training solutions should be built to last. Training can get tired, like fashion trends, and users can start to tune out if they feel like they are getting dated content that doesn’t reflect the current landscape of their industry. If you have a message or behavior that is highly specific or time-sensitive, consider a solution that is designed to be replaced sooner rather than later. Rather than a massive, technically complex curriculum, consider smaller, self-contained interactions that target a limited number of behaviors. If your industry or content is notoriously volatile, maybe it’s time to embrace that pace and focus on more frequent, shorter-cycle deployment of the exact things the audience needs to know, right as they need to know them.
Whether evergreen or highly affected by the seasons, a little planning internally and with your vendor can get your training planted firmly and growing to its full potential. Like this extended tree metaphor!