Monday, February 22, 2010

What to Look for in an e-Learning Consultant

Now that you have decided to contract with an e-learning consultant, what do you look for in the individual? What skills and experience do you highlight on the resumes you will receive?

The answers to the questions above vary depending on the type of project you have and your company’s culture. In this blog post, I’m going to highlight a few skills that I feel are essential for the success of your e-learning project. Please keep in mind that these are my opinions only, gained from “boots on the ground” experience. It’s important for you to know your organization’s needs intimately and to select a consultant who will be a good fit for you and your team.

Project Management Skills
In an ideal world project plans are always on time (or early) and always under budget. In reality, milestones slip and change orders may become frequent discussion items. To keep your e-learning project on task and in scope, look for a consultant who has three to five years proven experience either in project management or as a business analyst. In addition, ask if they have had some formal training or certification in either of these disciplines.

If the consultant has completed some training in project management or business analysis, and has worked in these disciplines, you will find a consultant who not only understands your global project plan but who can also help you manage it in terms of the specific e-learning deliverables.

For example, let’s say you are rolling out a new, Web-based administrative system to replace tasks currently completed in a paper-based environment. You see the need for an e-learning course to demonstrate this new system and explain its benefits to your staff. You have an extensive, six-month project plan where the e-learning development is one of many tasks you manage.

The e-learning consultant with experience in project management or business analysis can take a look at your overall plan and its milestones, and make realistic learning design and development recommendations. Most e-learning consultants follow ADDIE (Analyze Design Develop Implement Evaluate) for the management of learning projects. However, you need a consultant who truly understands the big picture so that you have a project team member who champions appropriate e-learning deliverables in a way that works best for both your project plan and your learners.

Instructional Design Skills
Yes, I know, this topic seems too obvious to mention. However, in addition to the project management skills, I feel you need to look for an e-learning consultant who not only has proven instructional design skills but also has a heart-felt passion for the adult learner. You are focused on your organization and its business results, and rightly so. That’s your job and you do it well. In the middle of hectic projects, the needs of the adult learners could get lost amid the razor-sharp focus on business results.

To have a successful, effective e-learning program that produces the workplace performance results you seek, you need a consultant who will remind everyone about the learner and what the learner needs from the course. You need an advocate for the learners who litigates for them in the court of your organization’s many opinions.

Communication and Relationship Skills
Although I list business communication and relationship skills last, they are the most important skills of all. You need an e-learning consultant who has excellent people skills. When your subject matter experts (SMEs) and your project stakeholders meet with the consultant you’ve chosen, you want someone who will effectively communicate the reasons why he or she recommends certain learning deliverables as an advocate for your learners. And yet, you also need someone who can do this with grace and respect, and who will work with your colleagues. You want to look forward to seeing the consultant instead of dreading his or her arrival at meetings. Look for someone who can collaborate with your colleagues and compromise when it’s important for your business.

How Escoe-Bliss Can Help You
With over 15 years of leadership in consulting and workforce learning and performance, the professionals at Escoe Bliss have a large database of local talent at their fingertips. They can quickly assess your needs for an e-learning consultant, and work within your organization’s budget. They can find the talent who will help you bring your e-learning project to successful completion.

Jenise Cook, M.A., will be a featured guest blogger for the Escoe Bliss team throughout 2010. Her posts will appear monthly on Blogging with Bliss. Her professionalism and passion for her work in documentation design, e-learning development, and media production radiate from her writing and we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to count her among our guest bloggers. The first blog in her series on e-learning was Why Use an e-Learning Consultant.

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