Our first blog in this basics series looked at what e-learning is. This one introduces you to some of the people who make it happen.
The budget holder
An e-learning project often begins with a budget holder. As the name suggests, this person is responsible for a budget within their organisation. They decide whether or not an e-learning project goes ahead.
When the project has started, the budget holder tends to get involved at important review points. They sign off each stage of the project, allowing the rest of the team to move onto the next stage.
The subject matter expert
The word “expert” sometimes throws people off here. A lot of the subject matter experts I’ve met don’t consider themselves to be experts. You don’t need to be Einstein to be a subject matter expert.
A subject matter expert (SME) is someone who is best placed to answer questions about the learning content and make sure all of the information is accurate.
An e-learning project might have one or multiple subject matter experts. Subject matter experts work closely with learning designers to:
- Create learning content
- Review the proposed structure and learning approach
- Review the words and images learners will see on screen
The project managers
If an organisation has decided to work with an external supplier like Relish Learning to design and produce e-learning, there are usually two project managers. One project manager works for the organisation which has commissioned the project. The other works for the supplier.
Both work together closely to make sure the project is running on time and budget. They co-ordinate the other people involved in the project, communicating when people are needed and for how long.
The learning designer
This is my background. A learning designer is sometimes called a learning consultant, instructional designer, content writer or UX writer. There are differences between these roles but for now, let’s just use the term learning designer to cover all of them.
A learning designer is usually not an expert in the subject matter being taught. They work closely with subject matter experts to understand:
- The main purpose of the project
- The wider organisational and industry context
- Who the learning is for and what their needs are
- How success will be measured
- The learning content being covered
Learning designers then use their own expertise in designing learning experiences across lots of different digital formats to recommend the most effective ways to:
- Engage learners
- Structure the learning content
- Communicate key learning points
- Use interactivity, media and images
- Assess how much people have learned
They also write all of the words learners read on screen and script any audio learners will hear. Learning designers balance the needs of the organisation with the learners’ needs. Does this e-learning cover the necessary information? Will it address issues and change behaviour? Will learners see the point in completing it? How will it feel as an experience?
The graphic designer
A graphic designer works closely with the learning designer and developer to design screen layouts, buttons and navigation elements which are visually appealing and match an organisation’s brand. They also source and prepare the images which are used alongside text on the e-learning screens.
There are two types of developer: front end developers and back end developers.
Front end developers are the people who make the stuff you can see work. If you select a button to see the next screen, the front end developer will have made sure the next screen is where you’ll go.
Back end developers sort out all of the stuff which happens behind the scenes. For example, they will make sure an e-learning module can communicate with a learning management system (LMS).
So that’s the whistle stop tour of people who are involved in e-learning projects. Each project is different but you’ll usually find this core group of people involved. Sometimes, particularly on smaller projects, you’ll find some people who perform multiple roles. Perhaps they are the learning designer and the project manager. You might also meet specialists, such as illustrators or animators, if that’s what your project needs.
In our own projects, we’ve worked with clients who have some in-house skills but need additional support. We’ve also taken on full projects ourselves. Adapting and varying the way we work is one of the things which makes it fun. For our clients, it means getting the level of support they need. Just a little plug there in case you didn’t know what we do…
Our next blog post in this series looks at the process of creating e-learning. We’ll be sticking to the basics again. Yeah, nice and simple like.