Having scoped out the target audience, settled on what knowledge the course aims to impart, and composed a plan during the Design stage, we are prepared to move on to Development - a key stage of the ADDIE process, though not the last one. If during the previous stages we were chiefly concerned with analyzing the requirements and planning the education process, now we are getting down to business and beginning to work on the course proper. The developments stage involves having the format and the plan of the course approved by the higher-ups/clients and getting the instructional designers engaged with it. The instructional designers will be using content authoring tools to bring the concepts and ideas laid out in the course plan to life. This is where the storyboards, sketches, and detailed descriptions of various course elements you created during the Design stage will come in handy.
The Development stage can be divided into three main phases:
- Creating a prototype.
- Developing the course.
- Quality assurance.
- Conducting a test run.
1. Creating a prototype
Usually, a prototype is created to demonstrate the general concept of the course to the higher-ups or clients and getting their approval for moving forward with the course development. A prototype need not be large - a couple of pages usually suffices for demonstration purposes. Ideally, every page in the prototype should have a different structure. For example, one page can contain an illustration and some text, another an interactive task, and the third one contain nothing but text. This way you can cover most use cases and demonstrate what the majority of the pages in the course will look like.
In addition to the prototype, it is customary to provide a short summary of your course plan. The summary should be short (one, two pages at most), but having read it, a person in charge of approving the plan should have an adequate understanding of how the finished course will look like. Based on the prototype and the summary, they should be able to make the decision to either give you a go-ahead to proceed with the development of the course, or request that changes be made to the plan first. It would not hurt to supply the document containing the education strategy developed during the Design stage as well. Should the person in charge have questions or concerns after reading the plan summary and reviewing the prototype, this document may give them the answers they seek. Once the higher-ups are satisfied with the direction you have chosen, you can greenlight the instructional designers and proceed to the creation of the course.
2a. Developing the course
During the Design stage, while creating the education strategy, you should have settled on what types of material you will use. Having taken the feedback from the higher-ups or clients into account, it is time to start developing the course.
Here are a few considerations you should keep in mind during development:
- No one is thrilled by having to read pages upon pages of dry text. Spice your course up with media content. Anything from illustrations to videos to graphs and tables will make your course look better and help the learners to acquire information on the visual level. Interactive tasks will make the course more engaging and give the learners some hands-on practice related to the topics being learned.
- Make an effort to present the information in a logical order. Introduce new topics only after the learners have had a chance to grasp the basics and understand all underlying concepts.
- Regardless of how far you proceed into the development stage, always keep in mind the main educational goals the course aims to achieve. Do not disregard the data collected during the Analysis stage - it is there to help you achieve those goals.
2b. Quality assurance
You will do well to make a habit of constantly testing the course as it is being developed. Quality assurance professionals look at the produced content through the eyes of the end user, spotting both typos and technical errors. A fresh look is always beneficial, and it helps to reveal issues that may not be apparent to the instructional designers.
To make sure that quality assurance does not hinder the development of the course, it is customary to divide the course into sections or modules, so that once a section is completed, it is passed to the QA or directly to the customer for evaluation, while the development team begins working on the next one. By the time the second section is finished, you should have already received the feedback about the first one, so that you can fix any shortcomings in the first section while the second is being reviewed. Thus, working on individual separate modules helps you to both develop rapidly and keep the course quality high.
3. Conducting a test run
Another way to ensure that your course meets the required standards, in addition to the creation of a prototype, is to have a number of learners complete the finished sections of the course. Their feedback is recorded and changes are made to the course based on it, and then the corrected sections are returned to the learners for another pass. The iterations continue until all the kinks are worked out.
It is also important to measure the time it takes the learners to complete the course and see how it measures up to the goals set before the course. If the average completion time is significantly longer than planned, consider revising individual pages and/or sections, or even removing pages containing non-essential information outright.
Having finished developing the course, it is a good idea to once again submit it for review to higher-ups/clients for additional feedback.
If you did not slack during the Analysis and Design stages, Development would be a great deal easier. To reduce the number of iterations, listen carefully to all feedback and use it to improve the course and resolve all discovered issues before sending the course sections for another review. It is important to keep the higher-ups happy, so that they would leave you to your work, and you would not have to spend the valuable development time arguing. In the next installment we will talk about Implementation, and, in parting, let me wish you patience, which is essential during development. Until next time!