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Ideas Development

Inquiring Minds Think Alike

Considering a new eLearning vendor? Load them up with some good questions.

Asking questions is vital to any development process. At the most fundamental level in eLearning development, you have to ask who your audience is, what goals you want to accomplish, and how your team is going to create the training. Simply put, you can’t create anything cool without asking questions like these.

In our line of work, there are lots of fun decisions to make, creative approaches to consider, and opinions to evaluate. Luckily, a good vendor lives for questions. (We love asking questions too.) So make a list and fire away!

To help you out, here are a few things to consider when thinking up effective questions when you’re in need of training.

START BIG

When you’re looking for an eLearning vendor, many things may need to be defined. You want to ask potential vendors how they work, what they specialize in, and how they plan to help you succeed. Specifically, you might ask them things like:

What does your typical process look like?

What makes your services more valuable than those of your competitors?

Why are you the best vendor to meet our specific needs?

Once you have found your ideal eLearning vendor, set up some brainstorming meetings to posit broad, open-ended questions, just to see where the conversation goes. You chose eLearning for a reason, so explore what that reason is. Ask the vendor what stands out about your needs, and share perspectives on the state of those needs. Look at what you’re trying to teach people, and openly question how it relates to your values as a company. How will the people you’re trying to reach feel about sitting down in front of this course? How do you want them to feel, and what do you want them to know, when they’re done? Your vendor’s team is going to think about who your audience is and try to get into their heads. Why not join them?

It might seem like these are “stupid” questions because they aren’t necessarily technical or directed at any specific developmental stages. But that’s the beauty of them. Instead of going straight to familiar or expected methods, take a broader view. Focus on curiosity, emotion, creativity. Doing so early on gives the team permission to aim high and aspire wide.

Being practical doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice creativity.

MAKE IT REAL

After you’ve discussed some of these broader matters, you can begin to figure out the specifics, including the basic instructional design approach, technical parameters, and the overall visual style. At this point, your questions should start to become more precise:

What should the user experience be like?

What tone or mood do we want to set with the course?

What is the best way to convey the key learning points to our audience?

You have some specific training issues you’re trying to solve, after all, and your vendor is there to help you stay focused on these goals.

But as you proceed through the developmental stages, keep in mind that things can change. You might encounter design gaps that arise throughout writing and production. Perhaps there is new or additional content you need to work into the course midway through development. Or you may determine that an intended feature no longer works as planned.

Don’t be afraid to take a different approach. Adding something new may become necessary to give the training the right impact. Keep working within a schedule, but remember that reality doesn’t have to be a drag. Ask tactical questions that can get executed quickly and sustain momentum.

Your vendor is your partner, and they’ll be happy to accommodate any unexpected challenges along the way.

KEEP DREAMING

From the moment you start a collaboration with a vendor, it’s important to keep the questions going through every stage of the process. Have regular meetings where you pose questions about the project’s design and purpose that push your team’s creative possibilities within the constraints you’ve established. This will keep everyone motivated and encourage open communication along the way.

As a final secret note, don’t be afraid to ask big questions at later stages in the process, even if it’s just for a laugh or to break up a creative blockage. Consider questions like these:

What would happen if we introduce a new type of activity or game?

What will keep our learners motivated to complete this course?

What are our options for taking this training to the next level in a future partnership?

You can even ask what excites your vendor about the latest developments in the project. eLearning professionals love to create — at least, we do. So why not find out which parts of the course your vendor enjoys working on most? You might end up requesting more of those cool, fun features they’re so proud of! It may be tricky to change course in the later stages, but it could still be constructive to get the question out there. Most importantly, it may be just the thing you need to suggest to make sure your learners are getting the best experience possible on their learning journey.

Have some questions for us? Drop us a line!

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