What’s the most rewarding part of developing an online course? If you said the review process—who are we kidding, we know you didn’t.
The quality assurance (QA) phase of developing an online course is one of the most important parts of the process, even if it isn’t the most fun. But it doesn’t have to be painful, either.
Follow these tips for a seamless QA process for eLearning and ensure your course will be as close to perfect as possible.
Build plenty of space for QA in your timeline—and stick to it.
As the inevitable last-minute changes in your timeline start to pop up, you’ll be tempted to cut into QA to save time. Don’t. You’ll regret this when the review process starts and you’re scrambling for more hours to fix unanticipated technical glitches, or when you hand the course off to a client and they find an error on the first screen.
The best way to plan is to pad your timeline at the beginning of the project so if you need to cut corners, you won’t be sacrificing the integrity of the course. If you’re sending out the course for reviewers, always give them a tighter deadline than you actually need. That way, if (okay, when) they’re late to deliver their comments, you still have plenty of time.
Have smaller review cycles throughout the production period
Most designers swear by this: build in several mini-review sessions after each major step of production (e.g., have the SMEs review videos as they’re produced, rather than in one batch at the end.) This way there are no surprises near the end of the project, when every minute before delivery is precious.
Test in a real environment
Many e-authoring tools, such as Storyline, enable you to run courses in preview mode to see how they look to the learner. Don’t use this option in the QA process, because there are often server- or browser-related glitches that the preview mode won’t show you. Publish the course to the server on which you intend to run it, and have your reviewers access the content from a number of different browsers, desktop and mobile, both on and off the network where you built it.
Find a new audience
By the time the QA process rolls around, very few people connected to the project are going to be able to look at it with objective eyes. While stakeholder perspectives are necessary, you should also have someone test it who hasn’t been involved in production. (Many instructional designers report using their mothers for this task, because they don’t have to pay them and know they’ll get honest feedback!)
Keep a detailed log of changes
Your QA log should contain all the changes that reviewers note, including the date requested, details, priority level, and date completed. Using Google Drive or another collaborative workspace allows everyone to update the log and minimizes the risk of duplicating efforts.
Watch someone use the course
Used to sending out a link to the course and receiving comments back electronically? Not a bad process, but a lot can be learned from actually sitting with a reviewer and watching them click through a course. Where do their eyes go first on the screen? Where do they struggle to find information? What did they miss?
One designer reported watching with surprise as reviewer after reviewer missed a rollover pop-up item on the first screen. It was an easy fix—highlighting the information in a different way—but he wouldn’t have picked up on this issue if he hadn’t witnessed the reviewers use the course first-hand.
Get your ducks in a row before you send to the client
If you’re developing a course for an external client, there are a few rounds of specifically targeted QA that should be taken care of first. Getting a fresh set of eyes to run through the course (preferably in person), doing a thorough pass with a proofreader, and having a final SME check (if they are separate from the client) give you a much better chance of having the most polished version ready before the client sees it.
What other tips do you have for a foolproof QA process?