April 18, 2014

Tips to Help Avoid eLearning and LMS Project Failure

Implementing eLearning and/or a Learning Management System (LMS) is a significant investment in resources and budget. It can also feel like a ‘leap of faith’ when engaging an e-learning or LMS provider. Engaging a provider requires trust. It requires a deep and mutual understanding of requirements and expectations.

It’s inevitable there will be misunderstandings along the way. The trick is to acknowledge and deal with these early, before the issues become embedded in the project.

Signs that your eLearning/LMS project is at risk

  • There are no project controls in place to monitor time, cost and quality. These project controls should be shared between you and your eLearning/LMS provider.
  • The provider has not given you a comprehensive list of functional and design specs prior to build.
  • The provider has not provided a working proof-of-concept prior to full e-learning/LMS build.
  • You have not used the proof-of-concept to test the e-learning course or external LMS in your standard operating environment.
  • You have not had a meeting (F2F or teleconference) with your provider in over a week.
  • Your internal project team are becoming less engaged with the project.
  • You have a sinking feeling that the project is not delivering to your expectations, but you can’t put your finger on the issue/s, so you ignore your feeling.

“That which gets captured and measured gets done”

Although project tasks, roles and responsibilities may seem obvious, and the assumption is the eLearning/LMS provider is experienced, the only thing you have to fall on when issues arise is your documentation. It is better to be overt and clear than to assume. Put project controls in place to capture project progress, monitor quality and mitigate issues.

Use a project management approach to manage eLearning and LMS projects. Below is a synopsis of project activities and tips for managing an e-learning project – click to enlarge.

A table of e-learning project activities and tips

ELearning and LMS Project Phases, Activities and Tips

Need help?

Supporting organisations in eLearning and LMS projects is a large part of our business at Connect Thinking. It is surprisingly cost-effective, and project processes and templates are re-usable. Feel free to contact me to discuss your e-learning and LMS project management needs. Use our Contact form or call +61 417 252 960, or 02 9988 3412.

Information on E-Learning and WCAG 2.0 Compliance in Australia

Computer keyboard with blue key labelled accessQuestion from a client: What do I need to do to ensure our e-learning is WCAG 2.0 compliant?

This is a very important question for any Australian Federal or State Government agency in particular. I reached out to a trusted network of e-learning providers (listed below) to better understand the issues from an e-learning design and development perspective. The following is a synthesis of what I understand to date.

What is WCAG 2.0?

WCAG 2.0 stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. These guidelines were put together by the World Wide Web (WC3) consortium in 2008. Australian Federal and State Government agencies were to conform to WCAG 2.0 Level A compliance by 31 December 2012, and are now required ensure all externally and internally web-based content achieves Level AA compliance by 31 December 2014.

It should be noted that non-government organisations are required to meet accessibility requirements under the Disability Discrimination Act. Refer to your organisation’s Discrimination Prevention policy for further information.

What is the purpose of WCAG 2.0 compliance?

WCAG is about helping to ensure anyone, including people with any disability, can access, interpret and interact with website content (WC3, Australian Government media release). The term disability includes visual and hearing impairment, motor skill disabilities, neurological disabilities and more. The term accessibility also refers to ensuring Plain English is used.

What does WCAG 2.0 compliance mean for e-learning design and development?

Arguably, interesting and innovative e-learning design can be compromised to ensure WCAG 2.0 compliance. For example, some Flash interactions such as many games are currently no longer usable as they cannot be read by text to speech readers such as JAWS. Other interactions such as drag and drop, certain graphic styling and colours may also fail to comply with WCAG 2.0.

E-Learning developers must be aware of the parameters of the guidelines and apply these during development, such as*:

  • Use of contrasting colours
  • Including a transcript for all audio files
  • Including captions for videos and animations that are synchronised to audio
  • Keyboard audio and visual controls
  • Using alternative text for buttons and images
  • Ensuring WCAG compliance extends to any content within the e-learning, including attachments and links.

*Refer to the WCAG 2.0 guidelines and WCAG 2.0 checklist for more information.

From a development perspective, content must be authored in tools that can produce output that is WCAG compliant. This includes custom HTML and Storyline. Storyline output can conform to Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act (1973). At this time, Storyline does not officially support WCAG 2.0. Be aware that Section 508 and WCAG are different guidelines (see comparison here).

If you are required to develop WCAG compliant e-learning, then you will need to expect development will take additional time and skillset, which costs money. Many organisations ensure their e-learning is compliant by having it audited, which again is an additional cost.

What does WCAG 2.0 compliance mean to IT operating environment?

To ensure the newer programming used to make e-learning content WCAG accessible will work in your environment, build a test course before developing the entire course. If your organisation is using old operating environments such as Windows XP, Office 2003 and Internet Explorer 6-8, then you may have problems even having the capability of complying with WCAG 2.0. Be sure you have a strong relationship with IT, and work together towards achieving and maintaining an operating environment that supports WCAG accessibility.

What does WCAG 2.0 compliance mean for Learning Management Systems?

It cannot be assumed that all Learning Management Systems (LMS) are WCAG compliant. If WCAG compliance is imperative to your organisation, you must seek further information from your IT department and LMS provider.

What does WCAG 2.0 mean to a mobile learning strategy?

WCAG is about accessibility. Compliance to WCAG 2.0 extends to any operating system and any device where people are accessing web-based content.

An Industry perspective on WCAG 2.0 compliance

WCAG 2.0 compliance is less than 18 months away. From an information perspective, it appears as though there are no direct guidelines or information specific to e-learning courseware and learning design, and no stewardship from Australian e-learning industry bodies. E-Learning developers and clients are required to interpret guidelines generalised for web content.

The lack of clarity around WCAG 2.0 and e-learning results in additional resourcing time and effort for those charged with e-learning in organisations. The specialised design skill, more complex development, testing and auditing requirements adds additional cost to e-learning projects.

Organisationally, an antiquated IT operating environment will impede those charged with managing e-learning from actually achieving WCAG 2.0 compliance. Additionally, any requirement to extend accessibility to mobile devices may actually stop or block a mobile learning strategy.

The bottom line

E-Learning designers are becoming better educated in WCAG 2.0 accessibility requirements. New programming techniques are helping developers achieve better design quality outcomes. However, these skills and knowhow are apparently not widespread. To this end, any organisation who must comply with WCAG 2.0 accessibility for -learning should consider seeking professional advice and support from an e-learning provider who has experience in developing to this specification. It is also a good idea to audit at least the first e-learning course designed and developed for WCAG 2.0. This will provide an opportunity for you to develop a baseline from which subsequent e-learning can be designed.

Some Australian web accessibility testing and training services

The following organisation are listed for your information only:

Access Testing

AccessibilityOz

OPC IT

Scenario Seven

Stamford Interactive

Vision Australia

Web Usability

Thank you to the following e-learning development providers who helped inform this blog post

Savv-e

CADRE

Openlearn

MMC Learning and Development

eWorks

LearningPlan

Got anything to add?

Please feel free to add a comment. I’d really appreciate any additional information or questions about this topic.

E-Learning Change Management Free Video Series

Followers of our E-Learning Academy blog may be aware I have been posting a series of videos on change management when implementing e-learning including Learning Management systems, webinars and performance support tools.

Here is a link to the enture series on YouTube

The series is also embedded below.

Please kindly let me know if any of the series has been helpful to you. Thank you.

8 Signs That Your Learning Management System (LMS) Implementation is at Risk

Signs of LMS riskThere is a lot of effort required to implement a Learning Management System (LMS), such as analysing requirements, engaging a vendor and getting the LMS ‘online’. The potential for failure during the early stages of a LMS project is obvious. An often unrecognised risk to LMS projects is the sustain phase of the LMS implementation.

Here are eight (8) signs that can indicate your LMS implementation is at risk:

  1. There are no established KPI measurements: Key Performance Indicators should be agreed and established during  LMS implementation so that success against criteria can be measured and reported to the executive on a quarterly basis. KPIs can include some of the monitoring, reporting and activities listed below.
  2. There are no regular monitoring of LMS use: Run a weekly report of how many people have accessed the LMS, and compare weekly figures. Run regular communication campaigns and use LMS access figures to get a sense of what kinds of comms activities drive the greatest traffic to the LMS.
  3. There are no regular reporting and actioning of e-learning non-completions or failures: Run weekly reports, and use the ‘chain of command’ to encourage staff to complete e-learning. See my blog post Fail to Follow Up E-Learning Non-completions at your Peril.
  4. There are no regular review of e-learning courses: Content will become redundant or obsolete. Be sure the e-learn owner (often the Subject Matter Expert) conducts 3-6 monthly reviews of the content. Be sure to update content in a timely fashion, otherwise it can look to the learner that you don’t care.
  5. There are no regular review of meta-data: Meta-data includes course descriptions, links to associated courses, resources etc. Meta-data is vulnerable to becoming out of date, so be sure to conduct an annual review (at least).
  6. The LMS hasn’t been upgraded for over 2 years: This can be a big issue in relation to platform stability. It also means your users aren’t benefiting from new LMS features and functions.
  7. Technical limitations recognised at implementation haven’t been followed up: What might have been an identified issue at implementation may resolve in the fullness of time without the knowledge of the LMS administrator. Be sure to keep abreast of organisation-wide IT initiatives.
  8. There has been no further discussion on LMS strategy, such as mobile: Sometimes the effort of implementing a LMS is so large that fatigue sets in and any capitalising of effort and focus is lost. Bring together a ‘learning council’ that meets regularly to discuss learning and technology requirements and future direction.

The Bottom Line

Implementing a Learning Management System is a commitment ‘for life’. It requires ongoing maintenance. It requires the LMS team to be business savvy and forward focused. It requires the LMS administrators to do menial activities, such as regular monitoring, reporting and testing platform updates. Be sure to leverage your LMS as an ongoing strategic driver of organisational learning.

NOTE: Due to the rapid progression of technology and web-based platforms, and the rapid change of internal business and learning focus, it is my current view that a LMS has a 3 year shelf life before it requires a significant upgrade or change to a different LMS.