With remote work culture embracing businesses around the world, more and more companies and educational institutions are starting to look for proven expertise in the development of e-learning courses, platforms and other tools. Searching and hiring e-learning developers who are able to bring your idea to life, however, may not be the easiest thing to do.
The e-learning production process comes with its own bag of challenges that you need to understand to correctly assess a candidate's level of expertise before hiring a developer for an e-learning platform. In today's article, we want to shed some light on the process of choosing which developer to hire for developing an e-learning platform, and detail which qualities to look for.
Web Developer vs e-learning Developers vs e-learning Development Agency — Who to Choose for Your Project?
Once you've decided to produce an e-learning project, you'll have three options to facilitate the process: hire an e-learning developer, a web-designer, or opt for an agency. Let's see what each of these approaches has to offer and which fits your needs best.
Web or full-stack developers are in charge of the technical components of a project, i.e. they design and develop the e-learning platform itself. These individuals are well-versed in technology and, thus, focus on enhancing functionalities of the product. In a nutshell, web designers are responsible for the implementation of the project.
On the other hand, however, web developers don't specialize in integrating multimedia elements, or developing educational modules and materials. So, if you need help systematizing e-learning course logic, outlining educational objectives, or creating educational programs, then most probably you'll also need to hire an instructional design expert.
e-learning developers, on the contrary, are focused on the ideation part of the process. Their main responsibility is to structure courses and create modules with the help of dedicated instructional software and applications. The goal of their work is to ensure that users will get a great learning experience and gain full understanding of the material they are presented with.
These specialists also serve as middlemen between subject matter experts (SMEs) and the project audience: e-learning developers take the input materials from the SMEs and turn them into interactive lessons.
e-learning Development Agency
With an agency, it's possible to create an e-learning project from the ground up. A professional e-learning development agency comes as an already assembled team — with instructional designers and web developers on board who can carry out all the steps of the production process: from outlining project needs and profiling target audiences to producing assets, designing platforms and integrating ready solutions into your infrastructure, if needed.
A good e-learning development agency would normally offer all-around expertise and spare you the need to look for additional specialists somewhere else. If you're producing an e-learning course, they can also offer you animation design services, V/O, etc.
How an e-learning Developer or Agency Can Improve Your e-learning Project
Deliver Greater ROI
Every e-learning project is developed with a specific goal in mind. Oftentimes, however, novice startup owners don't actually know how to assess whether their initial objectives were met after the project is released. This, in turn, leads to an incorrect estimation of project results, in general, and distorts the real picture. Professional e-learning developers know how to avoid this problem.
They will help you shape your objectives, analyze audience profiles, establish correct evaluation methodology and identify the learning outcomes you are aiming for. By doing so, it will be much easier to produce an e-learning project that spikes the interest of learners and generates tangible results.
Provide Deep Insights
When you hire the best e-learning specialists, you get access to expertise and insights they've gathered over years of working in this business. As trustworthy partners, they will proactively advise on better strategies for a project or how to tailor a product to the audience's expectations.
For example, if we are talking about e-learning courses, these are normally developed in accordance with certain rules regarding their appearance: products that are designed for millennials often come with bright interfaces, illustrations and other imagery, while projects focused more on baby boomers have a calm color scheme and are not overloaded with visuals.
Make Products Compliant
In some countries — the US in particular — e-learning companies are expected to develop their products in compliance with particular standards and requirements enforced by local governments. If not done correctly, courses and other e-learning products may not be permitted for use (especially in educational facilities).
Professional developers who know the e-learning production process in and out can help to align the design of an educational project with common compliance standards (508 Standard, SCORM, AICC, etc.).
Checklist for Hiring the Right e-learning Developer
Proven track of record developing e-learning projects
Reviewing a candidate's portfolio is one of the most important things to do when selecting an e-learning developer. Simply knowing that the company has X years of experience or Y number of clients won't be enough. Only real-life examples of delivered projects can help you assess how good (or bad) a company actually is.
We also recommend asking developers what measurable results they have achieved for their clients — using a particular project from their portfolio as an example. This can include engagement rate, completion rate, project ROI or some other custom criteria. Listen to how developers answer your question and try to assess how engaged they are in the process.
Expertise in instructional design
What makes instructional design special is that this is where the developers focus not only on the technical aspects of a product but also on how people learn. They need to know how to organize learning content in such a way that would make sense for a learner and help them grasp even the most complex concepts with ease.
To verify whether the e-learning developers have expertise in instructional design, ask them how they would 1) structure your e-learning project, maintain consistency, 2) ensure that learners stay focused, and 3) work with content, colors, white space, etc.
Obviously, in order to make an in-depth assessment of the instructional design expertise, you will probably need to involve an instructional design expert in the interviewing process; however, for the basic screening stage, these questions will work well.
Ability to work with complex subjects and concepts
Another important characteristic of a professional e-learning developer is the ability to easily switch between different subjects of varying complexity, and — what's even more crucial — enough skill to work with complex concepts. This also means that a production team can take on a subject (project) they have never dealt with before.
In regards to e-learning, such competencies can make all the difference in a developer being able to immerse deep into a subject (and not get lost while doing it) and will determine how well the educational content will be prioritized and structured during production.
NB! How to identify professional e-learning developers? They can produce equally good results no matter whether their focus is a project about stress management techniques or a 20-hour e-learning course on the logistics of petroleum products.
Knowledge of local market specifics
When creating an e-learning project, one of the goals for developers is to make it relevant to a specific audience. This aspect becomes extremely important for those projects developed for a local market or particular region.
If you're creating a project that focuses on firearms safety in the US, for example, you should have at least a basic knowledge of gun control policies enforced by the government in the country and its states.
Your #1 priority here would be to look for e-learning developers on-shore, within your local market. If for some reason that's not possible, look for offshore developers with prior experience creating projects for your region or topic.
Transparent production process
The production process for your elearning development partner should be as transparent as possible. When interviewing your potential candidates, get them to explain upfront how they pace production, ask what their review policy is and whether there are any additional fees or not, how they provide progress updates, who holds the copyright, etc.
You should get a complete overview of the workflow and understand how your project will be implemented before the work actually starts. Every step should be predictable, to ensure that you stay aware of what is going on with your project at any particular moment in time.
NB! Different agencies have different policies regarding the use of source materials produced by them (for example, these can be visuals or illustrations that a client wants to reuse in their social media or marketing campaign). Normally, you can buy out such assets for an additional fee, so make sure to clarify the price for these, in advance.
Established QA policy
In the case of e-learning products, QA becomes especially vital since, here — aside from the technical side of the project — the developers also have to deal with a huge amount of information. This information needs to be correctly processed otherwise it can ruin the whole project logic and the learning experience.
When looking for an e-learning development partner, be sure to confirm that they don't overlook this process and that they have an established QA policy in place. You may also ask candidates to disclose information about QA steps (what type of content, function, etc. is checked, and in which order), and the overall QA strategy (how the checks are carried out, what the criteria are, what practices are used, etc.).
NB! As a standard, all QA activities should be completed before the client gets an e-learning project for final review.
As mentioned before, e-learning projects can be quite hard to pull off due to their complexity and large amounts of information, statistical data, and all the concepts a team has to deal with. When outsourcing your project to an e-learning production partner, make sure that they have sufficient resources and capacity to take it through to the finish line.
At times, you also may come across such situations where, in the middle of the production process, you realize that the scope needs to be adjusted to fit in new functionality. Most of the time, this means that the size of a production team will need to be adjusted, as well. Ask your potential developers whether they are able to handle such situations and scale up on-demand.
Over the course of more than five years creating digital products, we've been engaged in various projects and gained strong expertise in developing EdTech solutions. One of such examples is LukLabs — an app that allows prospective students and their parents to connect and consult on specifics of education in a particular university. The app incorporates live video tours and follow-up conversation sessions to help prospects get insights into college life.
With this project, our goal was to deliver a simple yet catchy interface that wouldn’t overburden users with excessive features and distract them from the main app functionality. For the LukLabs app, we created a high-quality video tool, added an admin panel, introduced a smart search feature and a robust payment system.
Developing an e-learning course or a platform is a challenge itself, especially for those who are doing it for the first time and don't know where to start. The good news is that you don't have to be left alone with it. Picking one option out of the three — hiring a web-designer, e-learning developer, or e-learning development agency — will help to set the project on the right track.
It's also necessary to mention that all three options are equally good and can deliver the needed results. When choosing the right e-learning developer, we suggest you focus on how you want the production process to look: choosing e-learning developers means that you'll need additional help facilitating the technical side of a product, while opting for a web-developer will require you to also hire an instructional design consultant. Hiring an e-learning development agency will bring you the fastest results; however, this option normally requires you to invest more resources in production.
Whatever approach you choose for hiring elearning development professionals, make sure to keep focus on your learning objectives. If you need additional help, you can contact us through the form in the top right corner of this page. We are always ready to help!