Development is a Joint Venture

There’s always a more or less discernable ‘zone of irritation’ for an organisation when developing online learning with a partner learning organisation. I think, after several large online learning development projects that this comes from a lack of clear understanding on the part of the contracting organisation in terms of what their real, rather than vaguely imagined, learning requirements are and an underestimation of the investment required (financial resources and human resources) to develop and continue to maintain an effective learning platform and also from an over confidence on the part of the development organisation in terms of what they assume their client understands about learning, online learning and learning platforms.

Learning development organisations (such as praxMatrix) need to be aware of this and, where possible, ensure that the pre-development consultancy and planning phase fully covers all of the learning objective, technical, design, content creation, methodological, financial, support and on-going maintenance considerations that a client needs to factor in to their planning process. It’s worth pointing out that the process is rarely ‘set in stone’ and no matter how careful this pre-planning phase is and how well it aligns the client with fully realisable objectives there will be modifications and new requirements entering the mix as time goes on. If you fail to cover it, however, there is a more than even chance of something akin to a serious train wreck occurring down the line.

Never assume that your client knows what is available either in terms of technological solutions, learning approaches and methodologies, or content development and re-purposing or that they fully understand the investment required to get the platform to production phase and then to maintain it. Being transparent, articulate and keeping the client fully informed is essential not only to ensure that they get the best possible solution for their organisation but also to protect against mid-project disappointments and/or disputes about development that occur when a client becomes caught in a web of their imagined solutions as opposed to what is actually possible. This is not at all an uncommon situation for developers!

Beware of Death by Nerdspeak, painfully common amongst online learning professionals – your client needs to know and is relying on you to provide your expertise in a clear, understandable and concise way. Bewildered nods will tell you if you are drifting away from building good and useful communications with your client. As soon as you see the glazed eyes stop the jargon and get back to a bit of simple English! Your job is not to dazzle with a smoke and mirror display of all you seem to know – your job is to work with your client toward a clear and common understanding.

The foundation of good relationship with your client is to assume (even at the risk of appearing a little pedantic!) no technical or learning knowledge until you have established evidence of the in-house expertise and to guide, inform and be transparent about the various solutions you feel are best for them (rather than for you!) and approach the development as a true partnership and not a solo voyage where you are making all the calls.

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