What makes a project run like a dream?

I recently completed a project for a client which went so smoothly it was over before I knew it. I really enjoyed the whole process from start to finish and the course we created received rave reviews from the client, stakeholders and users. I was actually quite sad to see the project come to an end. And so, it made me ask myself, why do some projects run like a dream and others don’t?

In this particular case I think one of the main differences was the client subject matter expert (SME). She was very enthusiastic and engaged with the project right from the outset, ensuring that she was able to meet every review deadline, booking in key stakeholders’ review times well in advance and continually managing stakeholders’ expectations. Furthermore, she seemed to have a strong understanding of what’s required to create an engaging and effective e-learning course and summed this up, saying,

“The general expectation is that creating an e-learning course is easier and quicker than creating classroom training, but this isn’t necessarily the case. With classroom training you can paper over the cracks in content and keep the learners engaged by having a knowledgeable and entertaining trainer. You don’t have this luxury with e-learning. Making sure the content is sound and that the course is engaging requires focused time and effort throughout the whole creation process and is crucial to the course’s success.”

Client SMEs don’t always have this level of insight into e-learning and on top of that they’re not always able to manage their stakeholders’ time, expectations or schedules successfully. What’s more, SMEs are often working on the project in addition to their day job and might not have the time to be proactive, or might not think this is part of their remit. Simply explaining this to them at the beginning of the project doesn’t always have the required effect. It almost seems like we need to create an e-learning course for client SMEs to complete before they begin working on e-learning projects. Perhaps a course entitled, ‘How to be an e-learning project SME’ or something similar could be a useful e-learning course for us to create?!

What do you think? Have you worked with any excellent SMEs recently? Or, have you had any experiences where you’ve been able to coach your SMEs to work with you successfully? Let us know your thoughts!

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About the author

Jennifer Wrigley - Instructional designer and Project lead

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  • A project runs smoothly when you don’t take shortcuts and stick to a firm project process. Beginning with a Design Document that defines the audience, content, adult learning methodologies to be applied, the team members and review team, outline, timeline and more. When developing your content use your SME after you have assimilated the data and need to fill in gaps within the content. And lastly, include the client in every step of the process. Have them review and sign off on each phase or milestone! That’s my two cents. ;-)