Applying project management principles to a product that is designed to teach project management principles may seem like a circular kind of project, but it’s a method that works for Glyn Davies, product development manager for ILX Group, a global training organisation specialising in PRINCE2. While ILX offers face-to-face instruction in the classroom, it is in the blended learning and e-learning space where Davies and his team show their colours.
Make mine electronic
The premise for developing an e-learning course may seem a simple one, but it isn’t about just replacing the classroom environment with a virtual version, says Davies, it’s about taking a more strategic approach in understanding how people learn.
“For certification courses we want to take what are the best bits from a traditional classroom model, what are the ways that people learn, what is the learning process and make it work in an e-learning environment,” he explains. “And then we could take the best of e-learning into the classroom.”
ILX’s popular PRINCE2 course, for example, features a video of a presenter and a dashboard of the different modules that users can work through at their own pace. Supporting the educational material are exercises ranging from animated scenarios, where users control the project manager protagonist to deliver aspects of a project, to revision tools and exam practice areas.
Compared to the product, however, development of an e-learning course isn’t always so straightforward: there’s a lot that goes into ensuring the product meets both formal requirements and user satisfaction levels. Like many IT product development projects, the process tends to form a loop of feedback and changes over the development period of about three to six months.
The process begins with analysis of the syllabus—for example, the PRINCE2 methodology handbook—and a comparison with other types of training available. At this stage, Davies says he and his team talk to subject matter experts about what to include, and how best to present the material to scope the requirements. “The subject matter expert is central to the development process. Their input is very important in the creation of the course design,” he says.
Then the design phase kicks in, where the scope becomes more detailed, right down to the scripts required to present the material. The development stage then puts those scripts into a user interface, which is then reviewed and approved.
It is in the implementation stage where the product development team needs to show it met the project’s objectives. “The completed course content is assembled and tested and then packaged to meet specific delivery requirements,” says Davies. “The development department would also assist with the promotion and marketing of the product at this point.”
Crunch time is at evaluation, which involves a formal review of the course from an accrediting organisation, and a pilot phase with key customers. The subject matter expert also plays an integral part in the review and approval process.