The two most common approaches to e-learning course development are the “Do It Yourself” approach or what Bates calls the Lone Ranger approach and the Project Management approach. But these are really two ends of a continuum and there are variety of other approaches in between these two poles.
Bates & Sangrà describe five models of course development although I’m not sure I would classify the open content approach as a development model since open content can be used in any of the other models.
- Lone Ranger
- Project Management
- Open Content
Bates, A.W. & Sangrà, A. (2011). Managing Technology: Strategies for Transforming Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, pp. 138-142.
We take a fairly pragmatic approach to e-learning development. In most organizations, some combination of Lone Ranger and Project Management approaches is likely needed to allow for broad innovation and strategic implementation of e-learning. The following tables summarize relative advantages and disadvantages of the Lone Ranger and Project Management approach:
|Lone Ranger Approach|
|Project Management Approach|
The key goal of a project management approach is to organize people around well-defined projects so as to produce high-quality materials as efficiently as possible. This allows e-learning to be developed and delivered in a manner that ensures that resources are used efficiently and that individual team members contribute appropriate skills and knowledge to the project.
You’ll recall the e-learning continuum that you looked at earlier in the course. As you move from the left to the right across this continuum, from e-learning as classroom enhancements to fully online e-learning, you also move from the realm of Lone Ranger approaches to the realm of project management approaches to development. With the added complexity associated with fully online projects, a project management approach becomes essential in ensuring that developments are completed within agreed upon schedules and budgets. Without such managed approaches, it becomes more and more risky for an organization to undertake large-scale e-learning.
One of the disadvantages mentioned above in relation to the Lone Ranger approach is that such projects are typically short-term and difficult to sustain over time. With a Project Management approach, a key principle is that projects take place in a cyclical and iterative process. A project is understood to have a number of phases or steps with discrete activities that need to take place, and at the end of the cycle, the process repeats, to allow for courses and projects to be refined and maintained. The graphic below provides an example of the development cycle that is used at UBC for Distance Education projects.
The UBC Distance Education & Technology (DET) department, which no longer exists, used a quasi-project management approach to course development. The Project Development Handbook is a useful resource that illustrates what a project management approach looks like in practice.
Each phase of the development cycle is described on pages 57-70 of Preparing Distance Education Courses: A Guide for Course Authors, which is in the second section of the Project Development Handbook.