The Rapid Elearning Blog

questions to ask when building e-learning courses

Many times you get projects where the customer has already determined what she wants. If the customer’s right, this is good and saves a lot of time. However, if the customer’s wrong, then you have a problem. You’ll waste time and money, and probably not meet anyone’s goals. Make sure your customer gets what she really wants versus what she think she wants.

At the beginning of the project, your job is to help your client identify the training objectives and then determine the appropriate means to achieve them. The better you do this, the more value you bring. Sometimes the right solution means no e-learning. Sometimes it means a simple e-learning course. Other times it means a more advanced course.

One Way to Determine the Right Solution is to Ask the Right Questions

Good questions help raise awareness. By asking the right questions, you help your customers identify their real needs. You also help set expectations.

Who is in charge of the e-learning course?

It’s important to get to this right away. You need to know who is paying for the project. Who is the final authority? There’s nothing worse than spending weeks designing a course, have it ready to roll out, and then have someone say, “Now let’s take it to Bob so he can review it.” If your project depends on Bob’s approval, then you need to know what Bob wants before you spend a lot of time developing the course.

What are the business objectives and how will this e-learning help you meet them?

This question helps you get to the meat of the matter. Training isn’t always the solution to the problem. “What do you want to do; and, will this training help you do it?” The answer to this question also helps establish some metrics for the training. For example, the customer says, “I want to increase production.” Assuming that training is the right solution, you can measure the effectiveness of your training by the increase in production.

What do you expect people to do that’s different than what they do today?

This feeds off the last question and gives you a sense of what you’ll need to do with the e-learning course. If the learner has to use some software in a different manner, you can build an e-learning course to do so. Or, if the learner needs to learn a new sales technique, then you build your training to meet the desired change in behavior. Surprisingly, a lot of e-learning offers good information but has no expectation of changed behavior.

When is the e-learning course needed?

It’s important to know the time lines up front. If the project needs to be done in two weeks, then the approach you take is different than a project where you have six months. The good thing with rapid e-learning tools is that you can use them for quick projects and still produce an effective e-learning course.

What do you know about the person who will take the e-learning course?

It’s important to get a sense of the people who are actually going to use the course. You want to know why this training is important to them and how it will change their jobs. If possible, schedule some time to meet with the end users of the course. It’s always a good idea to get them involved in the course design so that you build a course that meets real needs.

What do you know about the course content?

From where will the course content come? Who are the subject matter experts? What type of access will you have to them? Who will approve the final content? You need to know where the content is going to come from and who will provide it. There’s a big difference between you getting content from a subject matter expert and you having to do research and create it yourself…or have it funnel through a committee for approval.

What are some of the technology issues?

Do the learners have access to computers? Will they be able to hear any audio? Where will the e-learning course go? Do you need to track the course? How much multimedia can your network handle? There are many considerations when you deliver an e-learning course. It’s important to bring those out at the beginning of the project so that you can deal with any technical issues up front.

As a habit, it’s a good idea to make a list of basic questions to ask when you start a project. This way you’ll know you’re covering the bases. These questions are a start.

What questions would you ask?


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9 responses to “Your E-Learning Success Depends on These 7 Questions”

A very useful post Tom. Thanks so much!

I agree. I’ve saved a couple of businesses thousands by telling them they didn’t need websites with tons of bells and whistles. Asking questions forces them to see the folly in their initial desires.


Thanks for a good list of questions, Tom. Here are some possible variations on numbers 2 and 3:

In addition to asking “What do you want the learners to do differently?” it can be helpful to ask:

– Why aren’t they doing it now?
– What have you tried already?
– Why do you want an online solution?

For example, if the client developed a printed workbook that everyone ignored, putting the same content online won’t necessarily fix the problem. Maybe people ignored the workbook because they didn’t see the content as useful.

Also, to make sure a full-fledged course is really the best approach:

– What tools do the learners use now?
– Would a new set of tools provide the solution?

Thanks for the comments. Shane that’s the value your expertise brings. I used to joke about consulting myself out of work. However, helping a customer get to the right solution is a win-win. Even if you lose some work, they’ll see you as a partner and value your expertise which drives more work to you.

Cathy: The goal really is to understand where they’re at (and why) and where they want to be. Your questions help clarify that. Many times we’ll jump into a solution and not really understand the problem. We don’t want to re-purpose something that’s not working. Two good books come to mind, BusinessThink: Rules for Getting It Right and Performance Consulting.

August 25th, 2007

I am busy like everyone else and was sure that I had the time to participate in this E-learning blog… I am sure glad that I made time… Time to stop, slow down, and be reminded of these very basic questions that can save time in the long run. Thanks

Thanks Tom. Goes on to reinforce that it is important to ask questions. Clients always know too little or too much. This was we can be on the same platform after an good session of Q&A.

I want to learn in E-learning how I can get this data and information on this . I want to improve my knowledge well as I need with really activities.

March 16th, 2012

Thank you, this provided me a different way of asking my current questions.