Unless you’ve come to voiceover from an online learning background, understanding how an eLearning project is put together is a mystery to most voice over narrators. I sat down with a good friend of mine who’s risen through the ranks in the industry and is now a department manager at an international e-learning content creation company, and asked him to help me to demystify the process. To better help we ‘talent’ see where we come in. Here is the result:
Analyze and Brainstorm
A project comes into a content development company and some sort of an analysis is done. Perhaps it’s with an analysis and research team. They will take an overall look at the material, try to make sure they understand the mandate, ask for more clarification if they don’t, and then develop a course outline and a budget. Very often the integrator or project manager or content manager or all three will also attend the analysis. They’ll be there to brainstorm ideas and add their expertise at this early stage and high-level look-see.
Start the Game
At the project kickoff, the team presents the results of their analysis to the client and meet face-to-face or via zoom or Skype to make to make sure everyone is on the same page. At that point the team players assemble. There’s a Project manager assigned. This is the person who will manage deadlines and tasks and liaise with the client. The visual designer will create templates the course website (if that’s part of the package) and the look and feel of all the visuals. There is a QA person. This is the one who ensures that everything done is correct. There is a content strategist and/or instructional designer. This job may also go buy other titles but is essentially the person who will either write, order and take the content and design or create the course. Sometimes a SME (subject matter expert) writes the material and hands it off to the ID. There is someone who may coordinate the project between the administration of the company and the project and there is an IT department sometimes called technical or development department who will take care of plug-ins and other assorted computer technical stuff. Finally, there is an integrator, the person who takes everything and puts it all together.
Storyboard and Fill in Content
They make a story board template. And a website template if applicable. This will happen if the client has a website and their own LMS or learning management system. The company may provide hosting services of the content for the client, too. Then they get the story board template to the content department so they can write material to fit into those templates. A high level course outline is created along with learning objectives and capsules of what content will go where. This is sent for approval and if they get it, then they develop those storyboards.
Bring in the Narrator
The integrator oversees and checks over all the story boards, sends the client static images either with talking points and animation cues and gets approval of the script. Then, they (or the project manager) send the script to the voiceover narrator to record. By the way, this particular friend works with both non-professional and professional elearning narrators and is vehement that pro narrators always bring in a stronger ROI. While the narrator is recording and editing the team animates and integrates the storyboards. The QA team then listens over to audio before they integrate and meanwhile the integrator purchases images, edits and prepares animation to sync. Any pickups in the narration are done, and then they integrate the audio to the animation and sync it slide by slide.
QA and Bugs
At this point, there may be a peer review. Some companies have this, some don’t. A peer review helps the team to learn things from each other they didn’t necessarily learn in school or on other projects. The QA team listens watches the full program and makes sure that everything works in different environments, for example in mobile platforms. They do something called a regression which fixes any bugs, but which may also create other bugs, do a final QA and send the Beta version to the client for review period.
Release the Gold
Once they get feedback from the client, they integrate any changes and then launch the product. The product has gone from prototype to Beta to Gold. Some companies also do a postmortem to see what they can learn from experience. Sometimes an instructional designer may do all parts of the project from start to finish. But the outline I just sketched is the way one company I work with creates their content, and it’s fairly common. I hope this is has been helpful.
Kim Handysides is a successful Award winning voiceover artist. Studying the eLearning industry has made her a stronger eLearning narrator, and led her to become a speaker and coach on the subject as well.