How Performance Impact Is Developing 30 Online Courses in Record Time

Written by Maria LeStage — Posted in Articulate Storyline, Case Studies, Customers

Imagine that you’re a small, nimble e-learning development shop and your client wants 30 interactive online courses—14 of them ASAP. Huge opportunity, right? It’s also a monumental challenge. How do you ramp your development time by a factor of 2 or 3?

When Performance Impact faced this challenge with its longtime client, the Center for Leadership Studies (CLS), the company immediately went into problem-solving mode. “We’d developed in-person Train the Trainer workshops for CLS, so expanding the curriculum for its online e-certification program wasn’t a problem,” says Lisa Van Damme, an instructional designer at Performance Impact. “But we knew that creating so many online courses in short order would really stretch us.”

Storyline Speeds Online Courses

Already ardent users of Articulate Studio, Performance Impact’s instructional designers had started hearing buzz about Articulate Storyline. Even though Storyline had just hit the market, they suspected Storyline would dramatically cut development time on the CLS modules. And when they started playing around with the software, the team immediately realized that Storyline would help them build powerful interactivity faster than ever. Lisa notes, “It was clear from the start that Storyline was the optimal authoring tool for creating these online courses.”

There was just one problem: they’d have to learn Storyline while they worked on the project. For that, the team leaned on E-Learning Heroes. “The rich community that surrounds Articulate helped sell us on Storyline,” Lisa says. “Anytime we need support, Articulate and friends are always there for us.”

Despite the team’s familiarity with E-Learning Heroes, they were blown away by the community response to their Storyline questions. “Every time I tried a particular effect or feature, I searched Heroes for a tutorial and found an answer immediately. I learned how and when to use lightboxes, scenes, variables, and slide layers on E-Learning Heroes.” Lisa laughs, “I LOVE Heroes!”

Rather than diving into each workshop individually, the creative team first looked at the entire series of courses and developed strategies for speeding up design. For example, they set up slide templates and character sets for all the online courses. As a result, they not only shaved critical design and setup time, they created a uniform look and feel across all workshops.

Mind Mapping Wows

With an efficient design strategy in place for the series, the team began tackling each individual course. For one course on facilitation, lead designer Lisa and her team used a “mind map” approach to brainstorm key points. “The mind map helped us visualize all the various topics related to facilitation skills and group them logically,” she says. “When I showed the PDF to the customer review team, they liked it so much they decided to use it as the actual design.”

The team’s next challenge was to build out the mind map design so that learners could view and drill down on topics in any order. They created layout shapes on the main menu and applied triggers to display submenu slides for each section. Then, they used variables and states to make check marks appear after a learner views a particular section. “Storyline let us build in so much rich interactivity,” Lisa explains. “We used variables, triggers, states, and slide layers to remind learners to visit each section, keep track of their progress, and then jump them to the concluding scene when they were done.”

Storyline Delivers Real Business Results

Performance Impact’s team completed eight highly interactive online courses in the first six months—and that’s starting from ground zero in Storyline and without tapping into their advanced Flash programmer’s time. Since then, the team has rapidly rolled out six more online courses, and will tackle the remaining 16 e-certifications once the corresponding in-person workshops are finished. Lisa says, “Not only can our instructional designers create anything we dream up right in Storyline, but we’ve also freed up resources to focus on developing rich, engaging content.”

Performance Impact’s efforts have paid off big-time with CLS. Sam Shriver, the managing director of sales and marketing at CLS, recalls, “The mind map approach to the design was pure genius. From the start, the learner is in control and everything ties together. I could not be happier with it!”

Lisa concludes, “Storyline let us do interactive and visually interesting things we couldn’t do before without getting a programmer involved. It saves us time and helps us wow clients. For all new client e-learning projects our choice is clear: Storyline.”

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