Kia ora! I'm Blair. I design fun, educational tools that help people take action.

Instructional design on a budget

Blair wrote this on 17 Mar

This week I spoke at the Australian Instructional Design Conference in Sydney, Australia (iDesignX).

Here’s what I noticed. Every time a company presented a case study showing a successful project that looked cool almost without fail the first questions someone asked were:

  • What was the budget?
  • What tool did you use to build it?

Now neither of these are bad questions. I’d like to give you my take on both these questions. Let’s look at the first one in this post.

What was the budget?

Most learning and development projects have limited budgets for a variety of reasons. The thing is, you don’t need a lot of money to create fancy animations and eLearning.

I seem to repeat this quote often:

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem starts to look like a nail.” - (Dan Tohill told me that)

Expensive eLearning modules aren’t the only way (and aren’t always the most, appropriate way) to present information, help people practice and get them to take action.

And even if you do create a digital tool such as an eLearning module for your audience, how it looks isn’t as important as how it works. In fact, Steve Jobs famously said:

“Design is how something works.”

That means, if an eLearning module or video or animation doesn’t look nicely decorated, it can still be powerful.

So what can you do on a low budget?

Idea #1: Make a lo-fi version

Here’s a example I saw about six years ago. It shows you how something clearly made on a smart phone can still have the required impact. It’s what I’d call lo-fi rather than having highly polished 3D graphics and eye-popping animations.

Cool right? Now I don’t know what the budget was for this video but it wouldn’t need to be much if you already owned the phone, a whiteboard and some sticky notes :)

Idea #2: Learn how to make a hi-fi version

In the past I’ve written about what I call push button creativity. It’s the idea that people in creative or design jobs often want templates and icon libraries and stock photos and a tool that pulls them all together into something at the push of a button. There is no problem with licensing other people’s creativity (i.e. an eLearning template, a stock photo). There is a whole stock industry that exists for this exact purpose.

The thing is that if you’ve got access to the Internet and 30 minutes a day then you can learn how to do pretty much anything. You can take a course, watch a video on YouTube, or just find something you like and copy it (for educational purposes only of course).

So …

If you see something cool, don’t ask about the budget and then kind of say to yourself, “Well we don’t make stuff like that because we don’t have the same budget.” Instead be creative by trying to make something lo-fi or learning how to make the hi-fi thing you liked in the first place.

(Continue reading part 2 …)


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