The e-Learning Project Team: Roles and Responsibilities
by Kevin Kruse In the ancient history of e-learning -- in other words the late 80's to early 90's -- it was common for a one person, a super-producer, to single handedly create a high quality learning program. However, creating effective e-learning in today's marketplace is becoming an increasingly difficult prospect for one person. Regardless of how much division of labor is applied, team members will likely play more than one role. Only in the most monolithic software development houses are the duties so divided that no team member has more than one area of expertise and no tasks are shared. The extreme cases where one "producer" juggles all the responsibility - - from instructional design to art design and creation to programming -- result in an inferior product, an extended development schedule, or a burnt-out employee. In the cases of contracted e-learning development, the client may be asked to play certain and various roles by the vendor. The vendor conversely will be asked, required, or possibly demanded, to assume a set of roles and responsibilities. Development teams are notoriously eclectic bunches. The team can widely vary between selftaught members and those with academic credentials such as degrees in instructional design, psychology, programming, art, and other areas of study. The roles, responsibilities, and attributes outlined below are provided as a jumping-off point only. An in-house production may combine the roles of client/sponsor and vendor. A small project may see many of these collapsed into one or two positions. A large undertaking will probably require that the assignment of many of these duties, particularly graphic art and programming, be handed to groups of interdependent collaborators. The critical question to consider is whether the requisite talents and personnel exist within an organization to develop their own e-learning or if outsourcing is the most appropriate path. Client or Sponsor The sponsor of an e-learning project, often a training manager or director of training, acts on the behalf of his or her organization to assure that the product that gets created reduces cost, increases productivity, or in some other way adds value. Ultimate responsibility for the success or failure of a project rests with this person since she usually supervises the overall team or selects and manages an outside vendor. Along with or in place of a project manager, this role encompasses the acquisition of a budget for program development, final approval power, schedule creation, and revision. When a client/vendor relationship is established, the client negotiates with peers internally, such as the IT department, student population, and senior executives, to make sure that a e-learning initiative is appropriately implemented. It is helpful for a sponsor to have prior experience in project management and a training background. He must have a good understanding of business need, student population, and internal political issues. Other desirable attributes of a client/sponsor are: • Capacity to organize a team effort.

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Scrutiny in selecting team members or a vendor. Willingness to explore radical solutions. Ability to secure and manage budgets.

Project Manager The project manager is the person who ultimately guarantees on-time, on-budget delivery of a elearning solution. He or she is responsible to the sponsor/client for the quality of the finished product. The management and coaching of all other team members is left to the project manager, who serves as single point of contact between disparate team members and, in the case of an outsourced project, the client. The project manager guides the approval process, including obtaining feedback from evaluations, implementing revisions, and drafting progress reports. Good organization skills, time management, and the ability to juggle multiple tasks are all prerequisites of an effective project manager. Other positive attributes include: • • • • • Experience in multiple backgrounds (jack-of-all-trades). Basic understanding of technical, design, and media issues. Knowledge of the fundamentals of instructional design. Mastery of financial fundamentals. Proficiency using scheduling, productivity, and communication tools including GANNT charts, spreadsheets, and conferencing technologies.

Subject Matter Expert The subject matter expert (SME), contributes the core content and original materials along with being available for information acquisition through formal or informal interviews. She provides access to source materials and reference items such as books, articles, videotapes, and static art. In the client/vendor model, the client assigns this person as one who can give guided tours of facilities, explain processes, create flow diagrams, provide sample dialogue, and shape simulated settings. It is the responsibility of the SME to reviews design documents, scripts, and the final deliverable for accuracy. A master of the selected content area should fill this role. For example, if selling skills are being taught, he may be the representative of the year. Someone with years of experience and high peer evaluations would be selected to shape instruction on management techniques. In the case of software training, the SME would probably be someone who had a role in the design of the software or someone certified as an expert. For a e-learning to benefit, the SME must be: • • • Committed to the project. Understand the amount of time required. Be able to communicate to outsiders without using jargon.

Instructional Designer A typical instructional designer has a background in liberal arts, frequently with a master's degree or doctorate in instructional design, psychology, education, or multimedia technology. This team member must be very analytical, have good communication skills, and be very organized. A successful instructional designer works quickly in a fast-changing environment. It is the instructional designer's responsibility to conduct high-level analysis of performance goals, audience, training needs, and technology limitations. In concert with the sponsor, project

manager, and SME, he creates the design document, specifies learning objectives, selects interactive exercises, and creates evaluation questions. In the early design phases, this person may have to create script and screen templates and often will be the lead scriptwriter. Additionally, the instructional designer supervises the formative and summative evaluations. Borrowing an analogy from movies, the project manager is the producer; the instructional designer is the director. The best instructional designers: • • • Writer Working after an instructional designer has created an outline, a writer creates and revises the script that actually dictates what words, images, video, and audio elements that are presented to the audience. The writer works with the artists and programmers to ensure that what is envisioned can actually be implemented within the time, budget, and technology constraints. It is his responsibility to apply navigation directions to the scripts, add notes indicating any special functions, links, or other software behaviors, and create alternate items, if necessary. A prior knowledge of content/topic being trained is helpful but not necessary. An effective writer has: • • • Good communication skills. A writing style that is concise, direct, and engaging. Creativity to increase learner engagement. Have a basic understanding of technology in order to know what is or is not possible given certain technology realities. Appreciate and apply a breadth of adult learning theories. Quickly and accurately recognize performance/knowledge gaps.

Graphic Artist From the blueprints created by the instructional designer and scriptwriter, the graphic artist creates screen layouts; specific interface items such as buttons, windows, and menus; and specific graphics and animations necessary to the program. The work could include original illustrations and cartoons, simple flow diagrams, manipulated stock photography, and images obtained with a digital camera. In addition to 2D work, there may exist a need for 3D images and animation, particularly when immersive metaphors and simulations are desired. While bachelor's degrees from art school are common, many artists are self-taught. Multimedia artists need: • • • Creativity tempered with an understanding of the intended audience, client culture, and learning preferences. Understanding of human computer factors and interface design. Ability and willingness to a adapt to a dynamic set of standards and tools.

Programmer Using the script as a guide, the programmer is expected to assemble different elements (text, audio, video, graphics, and animation) into a coherent whole. He develops the rapid prototype, the programmed working model, upon which the final product is based. The programmer is called

upon to debug a program following alpha and beta tests, create databases, and construct reporting mechanisms used for student tracking. Like graphic artists, many programmers may have specialized degrees or be self-taught. Multimedia development is not usually accomplished using advanced languages but rather in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) or with authoring systems (e.g., Authorware, Toolbook), programs that facilitate e-learning creation. A multimedia programmer should have: • • • An analytical, methodical approach to work. Ingenuity around creation of reusable objects and engines. Ability to code optimally and choose the right tool based on the technologies available to the audience.

Audio and Video Producers Other specialists oversee the pre-production, production, and post-production of video and audio elements. Pre-production includes the selection and preparation of shooting locations and set up of equipment, production encompasses the creation of raw audio/video content and postproduction primarily refers to the editing and refinement of content to a desired duration and quality. Industry experience is particularly desired for these team members. More often than not, the audio/video crew is contracted. Quality Reviewers Quality review is most frequently assigned to various team members with other roles, supplemented by outsider talent for thoroughness. Copy editors particularly excel in this role. Those with attention to detail, a good eye, technology knowledge, and a drive to do out of the ordinary things with software are invaluable resources. The quality reviewers work internally during development, alpha, and beta stages, check the program for general quality and bugs, and create change reports. Quality personnel inspect: • • • • • Functionality under various operational conditions to confirm the software's compliance with expectations. Content in the program to make sure it matches the content in the script or text-based document. Logic and inconsistent behavior throughout the application. Performance and proper operation of the product on a variety of systems with assorted hardware configurations, and/or operating systems, concurrently running software, and installed peripheral devices. Accessibility and usability of the product, the intuitive nature of the user interface, the look and feel of the program, on-screen dialogs and prompts, user-error forgiveness, and context-sensitive help.

Administrators Administrators facilitate communication, track expenditures, and assist in reproduction and distribution of materials, among other duties. Increases in the size of teams and projects contribute to the need for oversight by administrative personnel.