If you were to talk to any of my team members or peers about me, they would tell you that my favorite word is reuse and the word I hate the most is rework. The reasons for this are simple, but let me take a minute to state them here:
The reasons that reuse is my favorite word are speed, productivity, and cost. When you increase your level of reuse, the time it takes to design and deliver a learning solution is shortened so you can help your business partners meet their objectives faster. The shortened work cycle means higher productivity for the learning & development team as you can quickly move on to the next priority in the project pipeline. And of course, any time you can use something more than once, you are saving money.
The reasons that rework is word I hate the most are speed, productivity and cost. This is simply the other side of the coin. Rework occurs when a learning solutions doesn't meet the need or isn't acceptable to the client for whom the project is being completed. Any time you have to go back and rework something you are slowing down the process of meeting the need. Besides lowering the productivity of the learning & development team, this can also prevent higher productivity for the target audience as they wait for the reworked solution to be released. And again, of course, time is money so costs increase.
Here are some the things my team does to increase reuse:
- Use standard tools and templates. We have an instructional design toolkit that we use when building learning solutions. Since the work the team produces is in standardized formats, it makes it easier for one team member to pick up and reuse something that was created by another.
- Share learning assets. We have a digital asset management library that we use to store (and protect) course files, graphics, audio files, videos, animations, exercises and activities. I encourage my team to share and reuse as much as possible. And whenever new assets must be created, they get added to the library for potential future reuse.
- Use modular design. In recent years, our learning objects have gotten shorter and more focused. When possible, we create objects around a single objective so that content that might be reusable, isn't embedded with content that is unnecessary or inappropriate for a learning need.
- Create "brand neutral" learning objects. While it may seem cool to have programs that are branded to support a specific event or initiative, this limits reusability. It can be distracting to a learner who comes across branding associated with last year's kick-off meeting theme in a program that what would otherwise be valuable to them. The only branding we use for our learning objects is our company logo. We do not use sub-brands. When we do need to brand something, we try to do it through the marketing and promotional materials rather than in the learning object itself.
- Create "stand alone" learning objects. Avoid referring to specific dates or mentioning key contacts' phone numbers or email addresses inside a learning object. As soon as you turn the page on the calendar or the key contact person moves on, your learning object becomes out of date. Keep date-specific or person-specific information separate from learning content. If you want to have a module introduced by a senior executive to give it context or heightened importance, create a video of the executive delivering the introductory message as its own learning object. Then offer both introduction and the learning module together as a curriculum. If that executive changes jobs or moves on, the video can be retired, but the learning module can continue to be used.
- Conduct peer reviews. It is always helpful to have a second set of eyes look at your work. Particularly when working under deadline pressure (as we all do). Our instructional designers conduct peer reviews for each other to provide feedback on design elements and look for glitches, errors and typos. An added benefit to this process is that the designers build off each others ideas in future projects.
- Conduct walk throughs. While it is standard practice for us to conduct design reviews with our internal clients, sometimes they don't give their full attention to the documents or prototypes they are sent for review. In order to get them to focus on key elements of a design, we will schedule walk throughs with them. This way the designer can lead the reviewer through a script, a storyboard, beta version, or draft, making sure that appropriate focus is given to every element that needs to be reviewed.