You did it. You delivered a spectacular eLearning module to your client. You spent months interviewing subject matter experts, managing stakeholder needs, and transforming source material into a compelling course that will both engage the learners and deliver business objectives for your client. Your team deserves a round of applause (and maybe a round of drinks at happy hour) for everyone’s hard work.
Until you get an urgent email from the client. The audio is missing on the last screen. Links are broken. And *gulp* the client’s name has a typo.
Ugh. If only it had gone through quality assurance.
Oftentimes, quality assurance (QA) is seen as an afterthought in L&D organizations. However, it is critical to the success of your L&D organization and should be present every step along the way. As a QA Editor at Caveo Learning, I might be biased, but it’s true! Here’s why you should care about QA as much as word nerds like me do.
- Distracted learners don’t learn. A typo, a broken link, or even a confusing sentence—these will take a learner’s focus away from the course content and objectives. QA removes these distractions.
- You will build and keep credibility with your clients. QA is a defense against embarrassing errors that could otherwise tarnish a client’s perception of your company.
- You get a fresh set of eyes from the learner’s perspective. It is simply impossible to proofread your own work, and sending it to QA will catch more errors. You might also get a different outlook on usability and design, since your QA team is more removed from the development process.
Ok, so you are on board with QA now. But how do you start implementing it? Here’s a few tips to get you started.
Use a Style Guide
Consistency is a cornerstone of quality, and having a style guide will help ensure your deliverables follow standard conventions. It also saves valuable time—not sure if you should use the oxford comma? Stop wondering and just look in the style guide!
There are lots of style guides available. The AP Style guide is very popular in communications and marketing, and the Chicago Manual of Style is also widely used. Do you have a lot of tech clients? Maybe consider the Microsoft style guide. Figure out which one will suit your needs best, and use that as a baseline.
You will probably also want to create an internal document that captures any exceptions or any company-specific rules that might not be addressed in your go-to guide (for instance, your company prefers “e-learning” over “eLearning”). I also strongly recommend documenting any specific style rules your client has.
Set up a Process
So now, how will you actually handle the QA? When will QA get involved in the project process? How often will they review deliverables?
The answer is early and often. Ideally, you should involve QA in every deliverable stage, from storyboard to final handover. QA can catch errors in the initial project phases that could turn into huge and costly problems in later stages. You could also consider having QA present for project kickoff meetings.
You’ll want to have a process for *what* to look for in each stage too. This will vary depending your org’s setup. In general though, the storyboard phase is where QA will focus on the content and language, in addition to general flow and logic. As the project transitions into alpha, you’ll focus on adherence to the storyboard, course functionality, and any content issues that slipped past storyboard review. If there’s a voiceover script, be sure to review it as well, as changing the script after recording is very expensive. In the beta stage, the QA focus funnels down into checking the functionality and audio. Any content changes at this point should be egregious typos only—no rewriting content!
This process might not be the same for your org and should be adapted to what fits your company’s model. But the idea is the same—try to catch things as early as possible.
Track Your Workflow
You will need to track your QA requests and any issues found. You might be tempted to simply email requests, but I find that lacks transparency and can be a recipe for confusion and missed deadlines. Your company probably already has some project management tools you can use like Salesforce, SharePoint, etc. If not, there are also a lot of free options like Slack, Trello, and Google Drive. My recommendation? Anything that allows you to easily see and organize important info about the deliverable, when it is due, and who the project team is.
How do you track the actual QA issues you find?
This depends on the deliverable and what resources you have available. For a storyboard, the Track Changes feature in Microsoft Word is king. In PowerPoints, I tend to make sure that my file is the master file and edit directly in the file (with ample comments). For the latter stages of an eLearning course, I recommend using a more formal tracker. A good old-fashioned Excel spreadsheet is a classic stand-by. Your org could also purchase a tool that allows you to track more intricately. (For instance, the Articulate 360 tool lets you leave comments on specific screens in a module and have conversations discussing the errors.) Regardless of what you use, make sure you can easily view who left a comment and when, a description of the issue, the issue’s status, who fixed the issue, and any comments from the person who fixed it.
These tips will get you started on the road to quality assurance. Start getting excited—your organization, your team, and most importantly, your clients will thank you.