The escalator workflow
I’m comfortable using the escalator metaphor to picture the e-learning course production journey. From planning to evaluation, this moving stairway moves a course development team from start to finish between floors using a gentle set of hydraulic steps. I’m the handrail, keeping the team riding safely riding along their vertical journey. Descent is assured and my job is to make sure that all can step on and off the escalator when prompted.
As the elearning escalator descends, the development team passes through a sequence of different stages, each a discrete part of a project.
Sometimes the stairs get busy, during peak commuter time, and the journey downwards on the escalator is a little more frantic, with crowds before and behind creating extra momentum. Usually, as the last few steps flatten out, the pace of the course riders hasten we finish off .
The escalator approach to course development had elearning is comfortable. It works well when the authoring team is large, has lots of courses to produce and cannot always move easily from stage to stage (or floor to floor).BUT
- The phases that you pass through are fixed and you can only work as fast as your escalator travels
- The quality of the ride can only be assessed at the end
- Opportunities to run back up the down escalator are reduced the further you are away from the top.
Escalators are steady, but can’t go much quicker. Once they are moving with people on them, it becomes tricky to stop. If you want to return to the top, then a great deal of energy is necessary to return to the positioned where you started.
If a course development manager is interested in a faster and more efficient workflow, then maybe the escalator metaphor with a set of sequential stages might not be the most suitable way to picture the course development process.
River rafting workflow
Perhaps an alternate way of looking at the course development process is as a river rafting team navigating a set of rapids river. I like boating. Along a quiet stretch of water. The river becomes interesting when there are rocks in the riverbed and when this is combined with the degree of vertical drop.
The ability to navigate a crew through the safest or most challenging channels in a river depends on a guide’s skill. Shooting the rapids is risky, but possible when the rafter can “read” the water, see what the river is doing and select a suitable route. The guides job is not to “memorize” a rapid, but to analyze its currents and features. Once a river has been navigated the guide becomes more skilled in reading the water quickly, competently, and accurately. A way finding pattern is established and once repeatedly tried and tested, the guide knows the way.
The same applies to course production. A course production manager who knows the organisational goals and target audience can “read” the waters. Navigating the waters depends on how hard it is to avoid obstacles. In river rafting these obstacles might be water volume, turbulence, waves , width of runnable channels, etc. Equivalent factors exist in course production.
In course development, patterns can be used to navigate the different stages of course production. Repeated patterns become a shell or templates and collected. These collected patterns, shells and templates can be customized and re-used in multiple courses.
River rafting course production approach allows for
- Continuous or parallel activities
- Quality improvements (the QA team become involved earlier)
- More engagement around development and implementation because this exciting phase relegated to the second half of a project
- Quicker feedback is possible because the course is live sooner
- Budgets are kept in check because it’s possible to make changes without incurring great costs
The adoption of a river rafting course production workflow can have significant (expected and unexpected) impacts on course delivery. Using such a workflow should allow an experienced course production manager and his/her crew, sufficient time to accomplish their task.
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