Most elearning projects I’ve worked on have a pretty fixed budget. There might be a little wriggle room, but not much. So if projects are to be delivered on time and in budget, the slicker the process is, the more time there is to spend on the quality of the product.
I’ve seen projects where the deadline was met, the budget was kept to, but most of the budget’s resources were wasted on numerous rounds of changes and corrections. In terms of budget and deadline, the operation was deemed a complete success, but in terms of opportunity to create something really good, the patient died.
So I’m a firm believer that process is key to a successful methodology, and here are two things I stick to.
The first I call ‘the wheels on the wagon’. For me, this means that every time the wheel goes round (you go through a process cycle), you try and improve it a notch. The picture that I have is of an odometer/mileometer on a bike. There’s a small piece of metal attached to a spoke, and every time the wheel goes round it passes the odometer and turns a cog, this moves the numbers round a little till you’ve notched up a tenth of a mile and so on. If the bit of metal on the spoke isn’t in the right place, it misses the cog and nothing is recorded.
This is like the difference between 10 years’ experience, and 1 year’s experience 10 times. We often describe experience as a duration, but unless the notch is being turned around, then it doesn’t really matter how long the duration is, according to the odometer, you’re standing still.
Learning through experiences more often than not comes through small steps, inches, much like Al Pacino’s ‘Inches’ Speech (Any Given Sunday (1999) ‘… because we know, when we add up all those inches, that’s going to make the difference between winning and losing’.
The second ‘process’ I call, ‘not going down the road too far’. I think I learnt this from the first multimedia project I built, for which I’m really grateful, as I’m sure it has saved me masses of time over the years. The project brief stated that the dimensions of the ‘stage’ had to be 640×480 pixels. That was a fairly standard size in those days – a small, rectangular area with a landscape orientation – wider than it’s high. I spent hours on the project and when I’d nearly finished, someone told me that I’d built it 480×640 like portrait orientation – taller than it’s wide. No problem, I thought, there had to be a button like there is in Word that will just switch things over, but there wasn’t. The only solution was to start over from the beginning.
It taught me just how easy it is to waste hours and hours of work in multimedia production. If we look at this in the context of bringing a project in on time and within budget, that lost time is time not spent on making the elearning as good as it can possibly be.
Process is important to us at What You Need To Know as it takes a lot of time to put the movies together and we don’t want to waste any. The scripts are written to make sure everything is covered and it all flows together. These are then recorded as voice tracks (rough guide versions). Images are grabbed from the internet, photos taken (e.g. can you just hold this TV remote while I take a picture, then hold your hands out like you’re wearing handcuffs),
or sketches are drawn and scanned. All these are put on the timeline with the audio track.
As the video is being built, new ideas emerge and ‘darlings are killed’.
We’ll often leave a gap and come back to a video with fresh eyes and ears. It’s amazing how often just ‘letting the dust settle’ on a video can show up a weak spot or something that needs tweaking. Once we’re happy that everything is how we want it, we’ll produce the images we’re going to use, record the final voice track, and then put it all together.
In essence it’s a three stage process of 1) gathering and organising content 2) producing an editable and flexible mock up 3) creating the final assets and video.
I know it’s easy to get wrapped up in things and ‘just do whatever needs to be done to get the job finished’, but I also know how liberating paying attention to how things are achieved can be.