Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Been caught napping

I've become something of the "rapid" specialist of late.

We have managed to show a client that for their needs rapid development tools like Articulate are what they need to be able to produce quick turnarounds on material that is mostly about presentation (product training) and liable to last minute changes (their industry constantly shifts).

The lightbulb moment has been particularly gratifying since I have thought that they would be better off like this for some time. I'm not a big fan of page turning elearning (who is?) but I'm even less a fan of taking up time to produce page-turning elearning when tools like Articulate and PointeCast allow reasonable results in comparatively little time.

I have subsequently been drafted in to produce other product training type elearning for some other clients of the same salesperson, so pleased have the first clients been with the results. As a result I am getting more and more familiar with the tools and finding ever more interesting things you can do (the Articulate demo piece where it is possible to edit a wiki in a window in a course is quite neat - interesting to see if our developers would match that as easily!)

Yesterday I chatted through what was possible with my new boss. He was impressed by what he saw. Tools like this have until now passed him by (it's not really anything his clients have asked him for). I think pretty quickly understood the challenge that faces companies like us in maintaining value in our bespoke development when off-the-shelf products like those I'm using can give such results for so little labour.


Cammy Bean said...

So, Dan. I've slowly figured out (I think) that you work for an eLearning/training vendor? What have your traditional development tools been for bespoke (custom) eLearning pieces? It's interesting that you've made a case for blending your use of tools...I like it.

I work for a vendor as well. And I've made the case a few times that we use other tools, but it's a hard sell when we want to pitch our own products and technology.

Dan said...

Cammy, you're right, I do.

In my division we really offer bespoke development of online courseware, often alongside implementations of our own LMS.

Previously I had been an elearning manager for a public sector organisation and was used to press-ganging whatever tools I could lay my hands on to the task. So I am happy with using different tools.

We use an off-shored model of development, so we (that's to say the ID team) script up here in the UK and use a team of developers in a nameless foreign country to do the hard work. They use Flash and the Adobe CS in the main, but can and will turn their hands to anything - we've even ended up using tools like Lectora when clients demand, so that they can take ownership of the final product.

What I found was that we were creating short 20-30 minute courses for some clients that would take, once you've been through the whole process, longer to produce than their effective shelf-life would be. And we often had to make last minute changes to content that, with the programming in another timezone, would take a day or more to fix.

As it's product training (usually) then the majority of the content is straight knowledge, so the default way to impart the knowledge is presentation. With a rapid tool I am able to respond to a change far more quickly - heck, we can fix problems in minutes.

The argument against from inside our company is "won't they be able to do it themselves?" Possibly. But they usually can't get the great graphics and extra flash animations that we can from the usual channels.

Even if we aren't doing much, there is still the case that there is "ID work" to be done. SME's can create content, but whether it is going to make sense or even be very useful is another thing altogether. Another client of mine has a tendancy to put everything in an overly wordy "business" speak that they aren't even aware of themselves. Being an outsider I can hack it apart without worry.

But there are other benefits from my pov - audio is unbelievably easy to add to these things and we want to start upping the audio content (despite the benefits, most clients of ours aren't interested, but business PCs now have okay sound and good network speeds so there is no reason why not).

Cammy Bean said...

Thanks for all the info.

The Kineo guys have found a similar trend. Companies who can technically "do it themselves" but just don't have the time so outsource the development.