Blueprints and disruptive technologies for your learning projects

You always learn the most from things that don’t go the way they were planned. Projects sometimes don’t go the way you plan them and that’s a fact no matter how good a project manager you may be (or sometimes in spite of), even in the most agile of projects and even with a successful outcome in the end, there’s sometimes enough losses in the project to give you a headache. But the great thing to recognise is that these are the projects where we learn the most about how to make things better and avoid the same pitfalls in future work. From a recent ‘old’ project I picked up, it was clear that one of the problems with the original project was that the deliverable was just the system. If your learning technology or learning systems project involves an end product of an LMS and a training session or two that’s all well and good, but where’s the record of all that?

Blueprints thanks Pixabay

One great way to achieve this is through the use of a blueprint. When you’re configuring and work-shopping the client needs you take notes, it’s a natural process and the way most of us have something to work from. In the learning tech content world we’d make a storyboard of sorts. The storyboard helps a content developer produce what they need to, but also is a point of reference that everyone agrees to and can refer back to at later stages if the content seems to be drifting away from expectations. Same difference with the blueprint for learning systems. It’s great to have the blueprint to set up the LMS or system, but also great to have a reference you can go back to, refer to and keep. Very useful a year down the road when the client is thinking upgrade or expansion or just configuring something differently. Even more vital when, as is the case for me, the person who set up the system is no longer there.

Imagine picking up not one or two learning systems but a whole suite. Imagine then not having a blueprint for any of them. In fact half the battle on all those systems is knowing how they’ve been set, how the client is using them, what customisations they may have on the systems. So yeah a blueprint would be a great start. But it’s not the end of the story. Learning systems are living beasts not a one-off build that matches the original plan. The system you partnered to design with a client five years ago probably doesn’t look exactly like the system you have today. This is where disruptive technologies come to the rescue for us.

The principals of disruptive technologies

If the blueprint is the starting point the disruptive technologies provide the path from there to where you are today. You can trace your steps all the way back to where it all began or intercept any point along the way like a magical time-machine (one of Apple’s greatest inventions too if you ask me). The type of disruptive technology I’m referring to is the type that you use for communications, storage and collaborative development. Simple tools like Trello boards, Google Suite, Slack or Workplace that allow for collaboration and sharing through a project lifecycle and beyond. The reason these tools are great though (beyond the awesome collaboration and access from anywhere at any time on any device stuff) is that they keep a full audit-trail of what was said, decided upon and implemented too. Let’s take Google as a simple example. A shared Google Sheet has a simple side-bar that shows you not only who updated what and when, but you can click and restore or view what was done at various times, even if it was later deleted, all date and time stamped for you. It’s like an uber useful version of Word’s track changes that works in real-time. Ramp that up further to Facebook’s Workplace that allows a social media approach to tracking, easy to search, easy to pin and highlight and comment, like etc.

So when you work with a partner to get learning systems and services you should be expecting a blueprint of sorts so that you can refer back to it, but also a supporting system that’s as live as your learning system. That’s where disruptive technologies can really help. Blueprints for the start, disruptive technologies for the rest of the journey. Happy travels!

Always glad to hear your thoughts and opinions, agreements or otherwise. Catch me at nigel.young@synapsys.co.nz if you want to find out more.