Here’s Why You Should Always Create an eLearning Prototype

Creating an eLearning course can sometimes feel like a shot in the dark. This is especially true when you’re unsure about your SME’s (subject matter expert) expectations. The truth is, not all SMEs have the same understanding of how an eLearning course is supposed to look and feel. Even after reviewing and approving a detailed storyboard, your SME might have a distorted idea of how the final course will look and function.

I’ve learned the best way to address this issue is by creating a prototype. An eLearning prototype consists of a few samples slides from your storyboard. It might include a few presentation slides, an interactivity slide, and one or more quiz slides. The prototype also provides a general sense of the visual design for the course. This ultimately provides your SME an opportunity to see what the course looks like, how the learning content is presented, and how the interactivity will work.

If you’re still not convinced that you should always create an eLearning prototype as part of your development process, here are three of reasons why it’s a good investment of your time!

1. It can help you align expectations with your SME.

eLearning Prototype

It’s easy to assume that you’re on the same page with your SME when discussing a new eLearning project. However, you and your SME might have two very different ideas of what an eLearning course is supposed to look. You can’t always trust that what your SME is saying matches the ideas they have in their head.

Creating an eLearning prototype can help you solve this by aligning expectations with your SME. It lets you show your SME a sample of how the course will look and feel. The prototype also allows you to align with your SME on the types of interactivity the course will contain and how the navigation will work.

Because an eLearning prototype only contains a few slides, you’re able to gauge how your SME will react to your work, without having to make a significant investment of development time.

2. It can help you accurately scope the project.

eLearning Prototype

Accurately scoping a project is one of the toughest challenges for any eLearning developer. Although the scope of any given project is likely to change at some point during its duration, the earlier you can identify those scope changes, the fewer headaches you’ll experience with your SME.

An eLearning prototype can help you refine and accurately scope the project by letting your SME further define their expectations. Once your SME views the prototype, they’re likely to request changes that will either expand or narrow the total scope of the project. This might include more complex forms of interactivity or a greater use of audio, video, and imagery.

3. It can help you save time and money with large changes.

eLearning Prototype

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, creating an eLearning course can sometimes feel like a shot in the dark. It can be frustrating (and financially detrimental) when you expend countless hours developing a course and discover your SME wants to change it all because it didn’t align with their expectations.

On the other hand, it’s much easier to spend 8 to 10 hours creating an eLearning prototype, even if it results in your SME changing their mind on everything. You have a good chance of recovering those hours by having further defined the wants and needs of your SME. This can let you work more efficiently and accurately.

Although and eLearning prototype might seem like an added step to an already complicated development process, it ultimately saves you time and money by giving you further understanding of your SME’s expectations. It also makes you SME happier by letting them provide early input during the development process.

Can you think of additional reasons for creating an eLearning prototype? Share them by commenting below!

Additional Resources

Tim Slade
Tim Slade is a speaker, author, and award-winning freelance eLearning designer. Having spent the last decade working to help others elevate their eLearning and visual communications content, Tim has been recognized and awarded within the eLearning industry multiple times for his creative and innovative design aesthetics. Tim is a regular speaker at international eLearning conferences, is a recognized Articulate Super Hero, author of The eLearning Designer’s Handbook and creator of The eLearning Designer's Academy.

5 Responses to “Here’s Why You Should Always Create an eLearning Prototype

  • As usual, great job, Tim!

  • Dana Schuster
    8 years ago

    I agree Tim! It does save so much time and it creates a stronger connection with your SMEs because they feel included in the development process. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hi Tim, I completely agree with you about the importance of prototyping. It helps to portray the look and feel of the learning experience, and can also help in communicating ideas. The technical language commonly involved in e-learning is often a barrier to good communication and understanding.

    • Thanks for commenting, Anthea! I agree! It also helps SMEs visualize the course. Most SMEs aren’t able to imagine how the course will look, feel, and work from reading the storyboard alone. A prototype can really help with this!

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