Wednesday, January 27, 2010

If You are Reviewing It Online, Why Do You Want Me to Print the Course

All too often people reviewing a web-based training (WBT), including subject matter experts (SMEs), request the course printed for them. If it is the absolutely only way they will review it, then I do accommodate them. Keep in mind this is after I have exhausted all other attempts of getting them to do a proper online review.

Here are reasons not to print courses for a review:

  • It is important for anyone reviewing a course to not just look at content, but to review the entire learning experience including the delivery medium.

  • If they themselves are not willing to participate online how can they expect, or request, our audience to participate.

  • Online courses are very often non-linear. Thus, do not fit in a printed, linear format.

  • Courses are interactive. They may contain anything from simple rollovers to complex games or simulations. Interactivity does not translate to a printed page.

  • Once printed it is occasionally handed around for others to review without the designer's knowledge. This can result in not being able to identify the origins of edits, if needed. It can also result in draft content mistakenly being distributed to the end user. This can all be prevented by setting appropriate access in an LMS.

  • Depending on the authoring tools used, it can be time consuming to print a course. For example, a course that contains many interactive Flash elements will require many screenshots to be taken. Time is better spent on on design and development.

  • It is more environmentally friendly to review online. As a fellow e-learning designer said to me recently, "I killed many trees with "WBT to be printed out" for SMEs, higher ups, etc."

The reality is people reviewing courses are going to push for a printed version and sometimes the only way to get them to review it will be to comply. However, I am not going to comply without at least explaining the importance of an online review. In the end, even if I send them a printed version, or screenshots, I always supply easy access to the online course along with several reminders of how important it is to also review it online.


  1. Absolutely. Printed out versions of course only really work for pure page turners, and even then it's a bad idea.

    I've found a decent issue tracking system makes a world of difference with this. I've mostly used a proprietary version, but there are some off-the-shelf products out there too ( for example).

    I had one SME who got so used to reviewing online, that when I asked her to review storyboards, she really didn't like it ("I can't see the interactivity!").

  2. Julie,

    Thanks for the comments and tracking system resource.

    The SME who wants to see the interactivity really gets it, you're lucky to have had a SME that is so engaged in the training development. They're out there. Thanks for reminding me.


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