Working in an organization can be tough, especially when different departments have competing interests. This is most impactful when, as an instructional designer, you’re faced with developing learning content for multiple groups of employees who have different roles, needs and goals. This is where the art of networking comes in.
Depending on your organization, you may be housed within a few different kinds of departments –some instructional designers work under the Human Resources (HR) umbrella, some within Information Technology (IT), and others work within the training departments of programs themselves. Before you start any eLearning project, knowing who the players are that can help make or break the success of your eLearning deliverable and what you can learn from them is essential. Let’s take a look at who you might consider as you start your development, what role they play, and what you can do to elicit their support in making your eLearning something that’s effective and meets the needs of everyone in your organization.
Your IT department is essential to ensuring that your eLearning is viewable to everyone who needs to access it. They can also help users make adjustments if they are having trouble engaging with the content once it is delivered. IT departments are often left out of the eLearning development and delivery process and, as a result, IT staff may not feel as inclined to provide support when things go awry.
You can build their buy-in from the start by letting them know about your project and what system requirements will be needed. For example, depending on your learning management system (LMS), your eLearning may only be optimally functional in a certain version of a certain browser. In this scenario, IT needs to know this information so that they can get end-user machines ready for the eLearning program in advance. Be ready to answer their questions about system requirements or know where to get that information. If you get IT staff involved early on, they’ll be more likely to catch issues before deployment and be more invested in supporting learners if problems arise later.
Modern HR departments are becoming increasingly invested in the professional development of employees. This is frequently done by building up staff while decreasing liability to the organization. When you approach your HR department about an upcoming project, be ready to explain to them the intent behind the learning objectives and know who your learners are. Ask them for input on issues which are relevant to the content, for additional ideas of things to include, any relevant policies or procedures you can incorporate into the content, and any hot button issues that you might need to be aware of. HR can also let you know what your organization’s policy is on building inclusive and accessible courses. For example, if you must provide a transcript for audio/visual content or if all text must be available as audio, HR staff can let you know in the beginning.
Whoever your learners are, they’ll have a group supervising them who are in a great position to offer input as you develop your eLearning product. In addition to providing learning objectives and serving as Subject-Matter Experts, this group is also going to be filled with some of your most critical supporters as you develop and deliver your content. That’s because any training completed by employees will take them away from their other duties, and supervisors will want to ensure that any training is effective and time-efficient. Talk with this group about the subject matter, ask about how much time their employees have to complete training, and if there are any other logistical issues that you’ll want to be aware of. For example, if you are developing a policy update training and plan to deploy it during a certain timeframe, make sure that doesn’t conflict with the time the supervisor has committed their staff to another, time-sensitive project.
Lastly, you can capitalize on the expertise of your communications team by getting them involved in the delivery of your eLearning. It isn’t enough to simply develop content and send an email reminder that it must be completed. In order to gain learner buy-in, you need to work on selling what you develop. Ask communications staff early on about how they can help to market your training –this might be as simple as developing an email strategy that lets learners know about the eLearning in advance and build excitement for it, or it may be more involved. Your communications team can serve as an incredible asset in making sure people aren’t just compliant with a required training but that they anticipate and are excited about learning the content.
It’s easy to get tunnel vision in instructional design work, focusing only on the training product itself. However, it’s important to remember that what’s included in eLearning is just as important as how it is delivered and who is supporting that delivery. We can’t create the learning outcomes we want if learners don’t know about, can’t view, or aren’t engaged in completing eLearning. But, if we give some attention to our network partners, we can jump over those hurdles and reach eLearning delivery success.
Jennifer Novak is an Instructional Designer with over seven years experience in the development of training curricula, eLearning, and live facilitation. She specializes in working with organizations to complete training needs assessment and project management of eLearning and other training content.