I believe that all instructional designers can attest to the fact that all projects are not created equally. Very rarely does the process of developing a training experience flow smoothly from start to finish. Between pleasing multiple stakeholders, getting buy-in, and working with multiple organizations, forward progress can be hard to achieve. You feel things coming to a grinding halt all the time – everything except your deadline, which remains set in stone. Luckily, I have some tips to share that helped me overcome many of those types of challenges.
Let me provide a bit of background on the project I will be referencing throughout this post to give context. The request was for an asynchronous learning experience, an eLearning, for police officers to learn about non-confrontational interviewing techniques. Because this project was funded through a grant, there were multiple organizations involved in approval rounds. A government agency was one of the organizations involved, and the vetting process was very complicated and lengthy. Throughout the process of designing and developing, I experienced constant changes in the requirements of the project – an ID’s worst nightmare. On top of the multiple reviewers and complicated development process, there was a lack of buy-in from the target audience.
My first priority was to overcome a lack of buy-in. I needed to demonstrate the credibility of using non-confrontational interviewing with practical ways to implement it. To do this, I used scenario-based simulations and immersive environments while partnering with subject matter experts (SMEs). I included compelling stories with the aid of my SME’s experience, given in context, to gain buy-in from police officers, showing those learners how to adopt a non-confrontational approach when they interview subjects.
After determining my approach, I needed to decide what tools would best support my goals. With the project requirements often changing, I knew I needed a tool that made editing easy.
I chose two tools to use for prototyping: Twine and Articulate 360.
Twine, an open-sourced platform that’s perfect for text-based storytelling. Using Twine, I created branching scenarios that easily allowed my (many) stakeholders and reviewers to experience the flow of the narratives. I shared these narratives early in the process during calls with my stakeholders to gain their perspectives and make necessary updates. Since I chose Twine, it was simple to update the scenarios and options through many rounds of revisions.
To create an immersive environment and stay within budget, knowing the potential for many rounds of review, I needed to carefully consider my options when selecting a tool. After some research, I decided to use Storyline’s 360° interactive tool. I developed an online environment where learners explored their surroundings and assessed environmental threats to their safety – just as police officers would do on the job. Not only did this help with buy-in, but I could publish and share a prototype easily in Articulate Review. This allowed my stakeholders to review and weigh-in on these immersive activities, leaving comments for revisions and improvements. I was able to quickly update and iterate, rather than investing a lot of time into a final version only to be shown to my stakeholders at the end of the project. I partnered with them throughout development, thereby minimizing the number of edits at the end of the project.
The recommendation to prototype early and often is valuable and fairly simple, but I feel often overlooked or not considered at all. Recognize the challenges you’ll be working with early on, whether it’s with the audience, stakeholders, or both. Find ways to create buy-in by showing relevance and credibility with the training you’re creating. Carefully consider the tools you have in your disposal and if they will be well-suited for prototyping your project. By being proactive in soliciting feedback, you just may save yourself from that long exhausting list of revisions that come at the very last minute.