Resource Estimating and Planning in Instructional Design

Estimating is a dangerous idea, at least in the context of curriculum development. Why? It is because somehow estimates turn into real expectations immediately. This is not even typically a conscious act, but the second we set those boundaries, it’s challenging to convince ourselves to move them, even when they are no longer necessary. As such, it is our advice to not lose one’s mind trying to estimate the resources, whether that is subject matter experts (SMEs) to contract, multimedia, or technological solutions for interactivity.

These three resources are, in our experience, the most commonly identified for early planning, when in fact, they are the most flexible to adjust based on needs that become clear later. Let’s explore why.

I will be referencing the phases found in this presentation.

This is in continuation of my blog series on developing effective curriculum.

Subject matter experts (SMEs)
We have to line these up first, right? How can we write a course without one if I’m not an expert in the field? Granted, if you want a course on physics and you have no hard sciences in your background, the SME is going to be your first decision. This is an academic situation. However, there are many courses, workshops, and training that do not fit this situation.  If you have interest in building and facilitating course for a client, it’s highly likely that you are completely qualified to handle at least the first two phases of the process without an expert. This does not mean you won’t want to hire or request a favour from somebody whom you respect in the field to review what you have done. This also does not mean that you find a sub-topic that you simply can’t take farther until you seek expert advice. Just keep in mind that too many times we hire out content to SMEs prematurely and it’s rarely going to be planned at least until the first phase is done.

Multimedia
So many questions surrounding this concept!

Talking head videos?
Concept videos?
Graphic art?
Illustration?
Animated videos?

Again, these are not decisions to make early. The answers will emerge as you work through the second phase of the curriculum development process, and frankly, you do not want to tie yourself to a decision at this point, and waste both money and resources to not have the best solution. Allow your mind to change several times as you work through the process. You’ll have a better product as a result.

Technology
The real killer. When do we not get the cart before the horse on this decision? We see a cool technology and force fit content to it. OR we think there are only a couple of technology solutions to deliver your content, so your decisions are immediately constrained to those perceived solutions. Don’t do that! Get through both the first two phases before you even consider technology. Our era has technological solutions for just about every sort of delivery. It’s just a matter of finding it. So don’t limit your learning experience by simply not yet knowing what’s available. It’s available.

Disclaimer: Be aware of any technology constraints of your client. For example, many places have requirements, such as a particular learning management system. This does not mean you can’t have wonderful technological solutions, but you will have to be aware of the delivery expectation.

Real Decisions
There are few things you do need to decide early to help direct your decisions to be more effective and avoid wasted time and resources.

  • Do I need collaboration? If so, does it need to be synchronous?
    If yes, you cannot have it be self-directed or self-paced online delivery. Everything else is still an option available to you.
  • Do I need a system that requires document submissions?
    If yes, you will need a learning management system (LMS). This is not so much as a limitation as awareness that one will be necessary. There are many inexpensive options.
  • Do you have a holistic project that you want learners to experience?
    If yes, then it’s good to have an idea in your mind for an “elevator speech” for your course. For example, “My course will have a project where learners develop their own course.” You may not yet know if it’s going to be an online simulation or onsite workshop, but you have a takeaway concept to wrap your course around.
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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.

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