We have almost finished the final version of our first module, which looks at “Developing your search strategy”. We’re pretty experienced trainers and we thought that this would be the easiest module to start with – how wrong we were! It has been challenging working at a distance, trying to accommodate the needs of all sectors and ensuring that the resources will be applicable to the range of different professions in healthcare. That’s before we even started to think about what it means to write good e-learning materials, that are interactive, engaging, short and assessment focussed.
So what did we actually learn? Here are our top tips for writing e-learning materials and managing a large scale project:
- Version controlling our scripts – we spent a lot of time reworking our first script to get it right and gathered lots of comments along the way. We didn’t always adapt the original script so we spent a lot of time trying to pull all the comments together for a more streamlined script.
- Providing information to the developers – this follows on from the above comment as we wasted time sending individual ‘comments documents’ to our developers expecting them to work out what we wanted. We are now using a single template and getting that as polished as possible before handing it over.
- We are the experts, the developers are not – They do not have the background knowledge or understanding that we have. Things that make sense to us may not make sense to them.
- Understanding what good e-learning is – it is very different from writing a MOOC or a usual training session. We soon realised that it wasn’t going to be enough to translate existing materials into an online format in order to fulfil our objectives. E-learning needs to be succinct, visual, interactive and meet varied learning needs. You do not have the flexibility to change tack or adapt what you have in face to face training. You do not have the opportunity to interact that is provided by a MOOC.
- Envisaging what the final product would look like – it is difficult to visualise from a script what the final design might look like. Things that we had to consider along the way were colours and accessibility, Health Education England branding, style, audio and feel. It is difficult to please everyone, so compromises were made along the way.
- Project management techniques– we spent a lot of time planning in terms of consultation, communication and developing timelines but I’m not sure that we fully anticipated potential risks. Some of our challenges were around being a dispersed team, consulting with a lot of people and crucially changes to the development team when some of our key contributors left.
- Setting clear deadlines – this is always going to be challenging when the project leads are taking this on top of existing roles and responsibilities. We have also learnt to be clearer when setting deadlines for other team members to ensure we can complete on time.
- Knowing when to stop consulting and adapting – it took us a long time to get to a stage when we could sign off the first modules. Some of this is about knowing when to stop and accepting that good enough is good enough. Another part is having more confidence that our extensive consultation means that we are developing what people want.
We think the next few modules should come together quite quickly. We have signed off on the final design and we have completed a number of scripts which are ready to go. We will be presenting at EAHIL about our approach to consultation so hope to see you there!
Clinical Outreach Librarian
Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
Knowledge and Library Services Manager
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust