A professor once told me his secret principle to design: “Get it to work. Get it to work well. Get it to work pretty.”
Maybe not the best grammar, but his principle holds true. And I see this principle in action every day.
At Allen, we follow a defined process for project design and development. There is a lot that goes into creating interesting and compelling training courses, and this requires preparation and a concentrated effort.
Three phases of our design and development process are:
The design phase is where it all begins. We meet with clients to create a viable design that meets business objectives and learning goals, is based on sound instructional theory and includes visuals that add to the training message.
This is our vision of what the course will look like and how it will affect the working behaviors of our clients’ learners. Instructional designers, artists, programmers and writers all come together during this phase to work with the client as a team, building a comprehensive design proposal. This is our chance to dream big.
The scripting phase is where we get our training courses to work, and get them to work well. We have signed off on the design proposal and now roll up our sleeves to get to work. The work in this phase includes building the structure and activities of the course (requiring dedicated programmers) and crafting the content for the training (requiring skilled writers).
When clients first review a course during the script phase, they may see a somewhat plain set of activities with no flashy graphics or videos. This is on purpose. It is so important to get the structure of the course pinned down and the text just right. These two aspects—tech and writing—can make or break a training course. There is a lot of back and forth between our team and the client during this phase to make sure the course is developed just right.
Having the right activities and content will engage learners and help them remember what they’ve learned long after the training is over. No amount of quality visuals can make up for a poorly written and structured course. By the end of the script phase, the training course looks very impressive, even without the graphics.
Now that the course works well, we make it pretty. The media phase is where transform the training course into a work of art. Dynamic artists create images, motion graphics and videos to reinforce what is being said through the course content. We also add audio where appropriate.
When used correctly, media enriches the learning experience by giving a face to the compelling story created in the script phase. Media can explain difficult concepts, show examples of model behavior, assess learners’ knowledge and get emotional buy-in when text just isn’t enough. And that’s just the short list of what media can do.
Get it to work. Get it to work well. Get it to work pretty.
This is a simple design principle, but it really produces amazing training courses. After the media phase, we rigorously test the course and run it through integration and user acceptance testing reviews before sending a final version to the client, but the hard part is over.
We work hard and are very methodical about each phase of the design and development process, and there’s a reason for that. Building amazing and successful courses doesn’t happen overnight. However, working as a team to create a fabulous design, ensuring that a course works (and works well), and populating the course activities with beautiful graphics gets the job done.