Newly minted e-Learning professional, now what?
October 29, 2014 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm a project manager and I'm completing my e-Learning Design and Development certificate. A lot of my projects have included a training component and I want to expand my skills in that area. I'm reaching out to see if any Mefi e-Learning professionals have any advice for a newbie or experiences, good or bad, they'd like share.

What challenges did you encounter with rolling out an LMS and how did your PM perform? What learning trends are you excited about? Do you have any recommendations to get ahead of the curve, i.e. go learn xyz and abc?

I'm trying to work through how to proceed professionally. The lack of e-Learning experience is starting to worry me. Thanks.
posted by shoesietart to Work & Money (3 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My experience is with corporate e-learning. I couldn't really speak to the K-12/university side of things, so apologies in advance if that's your intended focus.

I am in the tail end of rolling out an LMS globally right now, so this is all fresh on my mind! An unstructured list of questions to ask (each of which is essentially a challenge):

- Can everyone who needs to log in?
- Can everyone who needs to access the system (ie if they go to, are they blocked by a firewall?)
- Does the LMS work properly on all necessary computers? (eg, does it require client-side java?)
- How are people going to enroll in content?
- Who is going to manage the reporting? What reports are needed, and with what frequency?
- Do you have training for end users?
- Do you have training for administrators?
- If global/multilingual: Is the training localized? Is the LMS localized?
- Will you run into licensing/cost issues if you have to add more users?
- How are you going to handle end-user support? How do you escalate issues?
- Is the training primarily asynchronous (eg online courseware) or synchronous (classroom)?
- For asynchronous training, what format is it in? Does it track properly? Do you have bandwidth in all locations to handle the training? Does the training work on all computers it needs to?
- How are you going to handle people creating new content? What tools are available?
- Have you identified all your stakeholders? Have you distinguished between real stakeholders and nominal ones? (ie ones brought to the table for political reasons but who don't really care much)

Note that this is what you need for just the simple "I want everyone in the company to take this HR compliance training!"

In general, I have not been impressed by PM's in this space. The general problem I run into is that they have tended to report on what people tell them, rather than delve deeper. So a PM will ask IT if everyone can log in, they say "Yes", then on day 1 of launch you learn that actually "everyone" just meant corporate and nobody in the warehouses even has an account. Successful enterprise rollouts involve auditing answers, not just accepting them.

If you really want to get ahead of the curve, (a) read up on SCORM and (b) see about setting up a Moodle (an open source LMS) instance somewhere and messing around with it so you get the hang of it and maybe (c) download something like Storyline to mess around with making some courseware.

Broadly, remember stakeholders will have a huge list of requests ("we want to be able to run a gap analysis on competencies and assign training using that") when the reality is that just getting everyone in the company able to take an online course will be a major challenge in of itself!

Feel free to memail me with more questions.
posted by bitterpants at 3:36 PM on October 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Perhaps bitterpants and I should make an LMS support group.

I got out of the biz, but I spent several years building elearning courses and then managing a team of elearning developers and implementing an LMS across 4 sites for 26,000 users - 3 months ahead of a major, critical, do-or-die organizational training effort. That may not have been a good idea.

For elearning, make sure to keep honing your design skills. When a course has to stand alone it has to be designed well. This means instructional design, but also visual design. I spent a lot of time learning about graphic design and how people process and perceive things on the screen. If you're not following Tom Kuhlemann's blog, start now. It is practical, accessible, and helpful. There are a fair number of prominent people in elearning who like to neckbeard it up and talk about how all training sucks, your training is bad, and you should feel bad. I used to dip into these things to get a sense of the cutting edge, and dip back out, because even skilled jerks are jerks.

SCORM knowledge is a big help, especially if you want to get your stuff in an LMS. It can be intimidating, but the major elearning tools do most of the work for you.

Speaking of which - you need to know how to use the major elearning tools. Articulate has Storyline, which is fast becoming an industry standard. They also make Studio, which is a PowerPoint plugin with which you can make some seriously good courses. It doesn't have the cool factor, but it deliver. Adobe has Captivate, which is widely used. Some places also use Lectora. Learn one of these (Storyline will be the most fun and probably the most profitable).

When I left (not quite a year ago), the big hype was over the Experience API (aka Tin Can). It is the sort of thing you want to be able to talk about, but it isn't necessarily widely used.

Regarding implementing an LMS - it was rough. Vendors always overpromise - on paper our migration should have been a slam dunk (going from an older product to a newer product in the same company). We had significant data migration problems, many functionality problems, and don't even get me started on the ability of people to log in. "Yes, we support single sign-on" doesn't begin to scratch the surface of the problems that will arise when the vendor only partially supports your single sign-on solution.

PM quality is highly variable based on who your project manager is. When we rolled out our LMS, the PM on the vendor side was capable but very, very busy in a way that compromised our needs sometimes. Our internal PM was great.

Bottom Line: If you want to get good at elearning, you need to do a lot of elearning. Like any creative endeavor, you have to make and make and make to get good at it. When I was hiring elearning developers, I looked for technical skills, design skills, consulting skills and most importantly, the ability to get along with people.

You can MeMail me if you have questions. I couldn't quite suss out whether you were trying to make a career change or just enhance your employability as a PM.
posted by jeoc at 7:14 PM on October 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for your responses. It's really helpful. I'm enhancing my employability as a PM and looking for a change. I'm not sure I have enough experience to get hired as an e-Learning professional but I think I could qualify as a PM for such a project.
posted by shoesietart at 10:32 PM on October 29, 2014

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