Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Horror Called Feedback

Q:
Why do clients only seem to be interested in the text that needs to be written for their elearning courses?
A:
Because it's the only thing they know how to shoot on.

For two courses I have been developing in the past few months, almost all of the production time has been spent on getting the textual content done and in the elearning module. So much so, it left me almost no time to think and develop the visuals, an interface and interactions. Where did this go wrong, what made the balance tip so much towards the text instead of what actually makes e-learning a powerful tool: the visuals, interface and interactions? Because we are so used to text.

When it comes to text, we all seem to have this urge to leave our imprint on it: to review and alter it. We all have something to say about it and if you don't make clear rules about how to review text and provide feedback, it becomes quite a dreadful affair. Unfortunately, two of these dreadful affairs already took place before I realised the full extent of this problem.

For most clients e-learning is very new, they don't really grasp the possibilities and new ways to work with interaction and multimedia. So they fall back on what they do know: text. Almost never do I get extensive criticism on the interfaces, visuals and interactions we make, they are all welcomed with approval. But the text basically gets rewritten when I send it off for reviewing.
Problem for me was that I made the mistake of placing the text ín the course and sending the whole thing up for reviewing, thinking I was doing us all a great service. I couldn't be more wrong. I got piles of feedback in return, had to look it all up in the course, change it by hand and hope I got it all and didn't fix the wrong things (because what do you make of feedback like this: "Screen 3: fix the double spaces". *sigh* "Where's Wally" is easier!). Then of course they wanted to check if I had done all the feedback. But instead of getting back some small things that I missed, I got another pile of new feedback, with completely new content and screenshots.

And this went on for quite a while. The main reason being that I hadn't provided a solid reviewing framework at the beginning of the project. This gave the client the freedom to drag me into this loop of endless review sessions.

So now I know: take care of the text first, instead of writing it along the way in your course, because it drags everything down.

And for the horror called feedback: does anybody have a good approach to deal with it efficiently?