Lessons learnt

We finished a project this week. It was a spreadsheet redevelopment project, we were asked to take the existing sheets and make them easier to use and to provide better information to the users. What did we learn? A couple of things that can apply in many areas:

One was that ‘Help’ files can be a good resource, but only if you know what you are looking for. One of the issues is that the people who write the ‘Help’ files obviously know what they are talking about, but sometimes they don’t seem to think about those who don’t yet know (which is why they need ‘Help’!). The lesson is to think about content development from the learners perspective. Find out what learners really need, and how they will access it. Get a learner to proofread it. Dont assume that the learner knows what you think they should.

The second lesson is to get all the information needed before starting. The initial part of the spreadsheet project went well, but then we found out that there were others who accessed the data, and what they needed was a little different, so we have to do some more work with the spreadsheets so that everyone got what they needed (which is different from what they wanted!). It’s not always possible to get all the information up front, and projects do tend to change as they go along, but by asking a few more questions, the bigger picture emerges. When preparing content for learners, find out what else the leaners will need. Often content is prepared in isolation; if more information is available up front, then the content can be developed to best suit all the learners needs, and this can reduce the amount of re-work needed later.

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