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He Said, She Said

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress”  — Thomas Edison

Wisconsin was the first state to enact a comprehensive collective bargaining law in 1959. It’s also the birthplace of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the national union representing all non-federal public employees, which was founded in 1936 in Madison.

The ongoing tension in Wisconsin’s capital of Madison is marked by a fundamental disagreement in goals.  Protesters are guarding the rights of labor unions, while the governor’s supporters say it’s about government spending, plain and simple.   The protesters message is focused on unfair practices and tomorrow’s paycheck, the governor’s on operating a more efficient government for years to come.

You might be wondering how any of this relates to designing eLearning for adults – well, I thought this split of ideology is analogous to client needs assessments for 2 reasons:

  1. I am from Wisconsin, but never knew about this part of its history until I was preparing for dinner table conversation before a recent visit (I don’t normally prepare this way for dinner conversation, but the way).  Point:  There are always facts that are uncovered in the process of needs assessment – sometimes they are just historical (we tried that before), some times they are thought to be unimportant to the task, sometimes they are hidden agendas.
  2. By including the stakeholders, there is the possibility you will discover the goals of the client and the needs of the learner are at odds.  This is what occurred during our eLearning consultation project.  The client’s goal was a web-based solution, the learners weren’t web savvy.

Asking the right questions to the right people is what a needs assessment is all about.  But how do you discern the right questions and the right people?  It takes experience – either your own or learning through someone else.  Cathy Moore has 25 years experience. Her blog, Ideas for Lively e-Learning, provides “practical ideas that will help you create lively powerful eLearning for adults in the business world.”   In her five-part video “5 Ways to Design High-Impact Materials that Don’t Cost a Lot” she talks about not making assumptions that a course is what the client needs, and demonstrates an ‘action mapping’ process to developing eLearning.  I found the videos to be a helpful way to think about both identifying the needs and organizing my project.  Not making assumptions about the NEED to develop eLearning I found quite interesting.  This means you may need to say ‘no’ to a client who believes they need something that they don’t.

What will cause client discontent?  Being told they are wrong about needing a course?  Not providing a good product because you didn’t uncover enough facts?    Not meeting the needs of the learners?  Will discontent lead to progress?  There is a lot to learn.

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One Response to “He Said, She Said”

  1. I have TOTALLY stumbled into this situation! In hindsight, I don’t think it’s my place to tell anyone, or any organization, what they do and do not need. I think about how I feel when someone tells me something like, “Slow down. You’re driving too fast.” My first instinct is to look at the speedometer and argue about how fast I’m really going. “I’m only going 3 miles over the posted speed limit…” [Note: I’m not a speed demon!]

    The trick for me, that I’m still learning how to do better, is to establish credibility and rapport with a client. Then, there’s a spirit of collaboration when we all come to the table together. At times, the only way I can figure out how to do that is to build some crappy training programs for them first. Over time, they come to trust my experience and insight. Unfortunately, building the crappy training ultimately creates some job security too! They keep coming back to me for more design work until they get it right. I think a lot of vendors prey on this fact.

    This is kind of like the topic that I posted on our Discussion Board. I can see how it would drive a prospective client nuts if they handed me their needs assessment data and I turned around and told them I need to do a needs assessment.

    Back to Wisconsin – Who isn’t building credibility and rapport with whom?


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