You know what's fun about an iterative development process? Reviewing deliverables.
No, really, hear me out! Reviews can be awesome if you know what you're looking for and keep the end goal in mind. There's a fine line between making sure you nail the details and feeling like you need to copy edit everything yourself. Here are three levels you can use to structure your review process, as well as some tips and additional reading to help you make the most of your review periods.
Early on in the process, step back from the nitty gritty (i.e. set aside your internal debate about whether to use the Oxford comma). What is your overall feeling about the way the piece comes across? What was your first impression when you started reviewing? Too formal? Too informal? Does it represent your brand? Will your learners relate to the characters, language, and visual style? Are your eyes crossing because of all the plaid in the interface? These kinds of big-picture questions are important to settle early on, and sometimes they can be difficult to describe. Speak up if you're feeling confused, overwhelmed, uncomfortable, bored, or disengaged. Also feel free to share if you're feeling excited, intrigued, and engaged. Positive feedback is encouraging.
From here, start thinking about authenticity. We build courses for organizations that specialize in everything from hamburgers to emergency preparedness to t'ween fashion to network security. One of the commonalities among all of those projects is the authentic representation of whatever it is we're representing. As you review character interactions, think about whether they really sound like interactions that happen in your organization. Do the colors, graphics, and visual styles ring true? Although an e-learning course often involves a heightened sense of reality (or sometimes a wildly fantastical fiction), at some level it should represent your organization. Look for those parallels and make sure it feels like home (er, work).
Ok, now you can get into the specifics and make sure everything is factually accurate. If your employees would never wear yellow shirts and all the visuals show yellow-clad characters, that's important. Make sure the details are just right. If you're one of those lucky training groups developing a wildly fantastical fiction, make sure learners will be able to build the necessary bridges back to the job.
Tips and stuff we want everybody to know
I asked our project managers for some other tips and helpful hints for review periods. Here's what they said, along with some more posts to check out:
1. Be kind and offer encouragement where it's warranted. As you state what isn't working, also share what is working for you. Both kinds of feedback are helpful.
2. That said, it's ok to be honest and give a negative comment. You aren't going to hurt our feelings. We ultimately want an end product you feel proud of and are excited for your learners to experience. (Hat tip: PM Kasey)
3. Keep moving forward. Remember that you're in a process, and trust that things will continue to evolve over time. Resist the urge to get stuck on a specific issue or detail.
4. Hit your deadlines. Providing feedback in a timely manner ensures a project remains on track.
5. On the last day before your feedback deadline, consolidate everyone's comments. It's very common for reviewers to have differing opinions, and someone on your team needs to make the final call. Waiting for one last person to weigh in, or waiting for a final decision on just about anything, can really bog down the development process. (Hat tip: PMs Sheena, Kasey, and Megan)
6. Be collaborative. You don't get to have the final say on everything ever. If you do, it probably gets pretty boring after a while. Stay open to new ideas.
7. Don't hold back from sharing feedback because you don't know how to solve the issue you're bringing up. That's why we're here! We take all of your feedback, crank it through our magical Noggin idea machine, and come up with solutions. (Hat tip: PM Kasey)
8. Remember your audience. You aren't building this e-learning for yourself, and we aren't building it for ourselves either. It's ok to say, "This is really cool, but it just won't resonate with our learners." In fact, it's crucial to say that. Learners come first! (Hat tip: PM Kasey)
9. Think about the future. You're putting a lot of time into developing an amazing e-learning course, and you don't want it to be outdated five minutes after launches.