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Instructional Design Nightmares

October 26, 2011
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I’ve had a couple of situations happen in the last few days that made me think “this could end up a real nightmare”. After the  2nd one, I had the “and, this would make a good blog post” thought, and well Halloween is coming up, so here we are…my nightmares

Nightmare #1

End-user training for a new HR system: the system is easy to use, the vendor has put in good on-screen help and they told the client: “it doesn’t really need training, it’s like Amazon”…Filling out the fields is easy to do, there’s the little calendar widget, and helpful pop-up messages when you’ve got the format wrong. BUT, the process is not user-friendly, mainly because there were assumptions made about how certain out of the box functions work and then the request is “Can you add this to the training materials?”.

It’s too late to change the whole system. I have no control over the usability of the system (or what has happened in User Acceptance Testing – UAT) I’m just an independent contractor (although that is irrelevant, I’ve also been in this situation as an internal “trainer”). Regardless of all the shoulda, woulda, couldas, I have to figure out a way to help the end users knowing full well I am attempting to put a band-aid on an open heart surgery patient.  I bet there are others out there reading this who are nodding profusely. It’s reality for many of us.

Nightmare #2

I’ve recently met with a potential new client who wants to enter the world of e-learning, with a small part of their new hire training. It’s very process-centric and they want employees to understand the whole process and their part in the process. They’ve got all the processes well-defined and organized in the biggest excel spreadsheet ever. Slide-deck arrives and is fairly text-heavy presentation. Potential client has asked for proposal but has “no budget” allocated to this.

There is a good structure to follow, but quite a bit of re-design work, which I think is going to be more than they are looking to spend. So, I am worried that this is going to end up as a price discussion, when I really think it needs to be an investment discussion. It’s not just a matter of converting the slides to e-learning, but re-engineering a lot of existing content and designing instruction. Currently, it’s a presentation.

Nightmare #3

I’m working with a client who has asked for a re-design for a (primarily) classroom-based training course, to a blended (my term, not theirs) learning product. All going swimmingly, but in recent discussions with client, they mention: “the website upgrade”, and new CMS, additional changes to related programs and upheaval with their partnerships. These may have significant impact on the design process of my deliverables.

Now, I love this client and project and have a very good relationship with them, so it really is just a matter of educating them and putting in some communication lines, but it is a common thing. Clients think they should only dole out the information that they think is relevant to the project and while you can’t do a forensic investigation on everything with the client/organization, there are always assumptions of “I didn’t really think that mattered” or maybe even reluctance to share information for whatever reason. But, it can cost hours of redesign or hours of wasted time which could have been used elsewhere. Project communications can help, but honestly this arises in every project, so I know it is common.

Should I go on?

Do these situations give you nightmares as well?

What ID nightmares do you have?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2011 9:17 am

    Hi Holly,
    Great post for Halloween! Like you, I have lived everyone of these nightmares…multiple times. We’re still standing though!

    Here’s another one for you: The day after completing documentation and training courses for a custom configured ERP system, client says “We know we froze configuration 6 weeks ago, but UAT uncovered some problems and we are releasing 71 new transports into the system tomorrow. Will that have any impact on you?” YES! Definately a laugh or cry moment that unfortunately has happened more than once.

    • hollymacdonald permalink*
      October 27, 2011 10:27 am

      I’ve had that one, too. Indeed nightmarish. It’s frustrating when people assume, isn’t it?

  2. Ryan Tracey permalink
    October 26, 2011 7:22 pm

    I’m on the verge on Nightmare #1 right now! I can see the light at the end the tunnel… (How does that Metallica song go?)

    • hollymacdonald permalink*
      October 27, 2011 10:23 am

      I am with you in spirit Ryan. Systems training probably holds many nightmare scenarios…

  3. October 27, 2011 10:24 am

    Great post, and I’ve heard these stories many times.

    Here’s my nightmare, which happened a lot when I did outreach for a government agency – Being tasked to do the creative “solution design” process, being told they are open to new solutions, and then ending up right where we started! Sometimes people are hopeful that they can innovate within big organizations, but the orgs really aren’t ready to be flexible. That’s pretty frustrating.

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