The Monster Garage of eLearning

Have you seen Jesse James on the Discovery Channel's Monster Garage?
Each week Jesse and his handpicked team create a customized vehicle to dazzle and amaze you. So what does this have to do with eLearning? Read on...

Big boys like big toys

Did you see the episode when the:
* Cadillac Escalade becomes a tailgate party?
* DeLorean is transformed into a hovercraft?, or the
* Scary monster Santa float as it makes it debut in a parade?

WOW they were great... and it got me thinking...Jesse's approach to monster car design is directly related to leading successful eLearning programs. Here's why...

Each episode starts with a sketch of the "dream machine" and Jesse's verbal description of what he expects the machine to do. Just like Jesse's articulated vision, the training project leader has to be able to articulate the program vision and expectations to his boss and the team. If you can't describe the training purpose, it's time to re-think the project!

The Monster Garage rules are simple: 1) When completed, the monster machine must appear to be stock. 2) The team can spend no more than $3,000 cash for parts. 3) Jesse and his crew have only seven days and nights to design, build and race the machine.

So let's relate this to your training team... Have you taken time to create a simple set of rules for your team? Maybe you should take a lesson from the Monster Garage pit crew and make this a priority!

For the record, Jesse doesn't take NO for an answer, and whining is NOT an option. Hmmm... yet another good project managment tip!

Each Monster Garage project starts with a day of planning Even though the team is running on a very short time schedule, the first full day is set aside for PLANNING. Then the construction begins.

How often have you been tasked with developing a huge training project and no one really bothered to schedule time to PLAN? Using the Monster Garage analogy, if you are planning a 5 week development process, a full week should be devoted to planning. This is a good rule of thumb with about 20% of the project time should be spent in planning. Why? Because you can clearly articulate expectations, conduct essential research, collect information from a variety of stakeholders and produce a solid strategy for achieving the stated objectives. Keep in mind if you fail to plan, you plan to fail...

Just like the Monster Garage creations, online learning projects are big beasts and require a team effort. Jesse assembles his "dream team" based upon individual areas of expertise. He has welders, mechanics, fabricators and custom air-brush painters. His team must make the transformed vehicle not only look good, but "deliver on the promise" of functionality.

Likewise, the training project manager sets the scope with clearly defined roles and responsiblities for each team member:

Researchers determine existing content to leverage and competitive information as well. Instructional designers look for ways to create standardized templates that facilitate the learning process. They create the instruction sequence and determine the best way to create meaningful activities for accountable training. Programmers must produce solid error-free code. Developers take raw content and create lessons while the graphic artist adds visual elements with graphics, animations and color cues. The tighter you define roles and keep people on-track, the better. When it all comes together, a training project is truly a work of art.

And finally....the moment of truth and accountability happens...will the monster creation work? Jesse always takes "the dream machine" out for that victory spin. Just like the monster's moment of truth, it is inspirational when the AHA moment (light bulb) happens for your students in your beta test. It is fun to see students demonstrate proficiences from the training you created.

When your training team is successful and your training customer are happy, it's a win-win!! You accomplished what you set out to do. We thank Jesse James and the Monster Garage for his inspiration on project management!

Karen Miller has over twenty years experience in applying instructional systems design principles to create blended training solutions. She consistently delivers web-based training products on-time, under budget while exceeding customer expectations. She is a national training award winner (ASTD'98, ISPI'02), published author, adjunct college professor and an ISPI-Certified Performance Technologist. Her company, Instructional Design Consortium provides instructional expertise and USA-based outsourcing services for the design, development and delivery of online training.

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