If you work for a learning company for a while, you start to see that a lot of what we do is repeatable. That’s not to say that every client is the same or that every solution can be just pulled out of a drawer. There is a need for custom solutions to learning problems. But – good design is good design, and I often find myself going back to the same drawing board over and over again. We all do. And it seems that it would save everyone a lot of time and energy to recognize this fact and use it to our and our clients’ advantage.
To this end, a group of our consultants started working last year on what came to be called the “Patterns Project.” The idea was to collect our favorite designs – the ones that really work, that clients love, and to document them in an online tool. The benefits of this approach were clear:
Better communication between instructional designers and developers
Better communication with clients
Sharing ideas for better courses
Faster onboarding for new designers
Several of the folks in the group had previous experience with this type of approach, and there were some reservations at first. Right off the bat, we decided that our purpose was not to create reusable flash files that developers could just plug and play. Experience has taught us that it’s rare when you can directly repurpose elearning content that was created for another client. By the time you do all the revisions necessary, you would be better off starting from scratch. We also didn’t want to create rigid templates that couldn’t be modified or changed as needed. So this library would be about describing common design challenges and collecting examples to illustrate how we’ve solved them in the past.
Our design patterns would follow a simple…er…pattern:
Pattern Name: Each pattern has a simple, evocative name that can be used as shorthand.
Design Problem: A description of the design problem (some would prefer the term “opportunity”) that requires a design solution.
Solution: What the design pattern does to solve the problem.
Considerations: When you should or should not use this pattern; important things to keep in mind.
Examples: Links to specific activities which use the pattern.
The result is our Design Patterns website, which went live a few months ago. It is available to all Tier1 employees and can be selectively shared with clients. We started with patterns for elearning activities, but the team continues to meet regularly and we hope to add other kinds of content, as well as more pattern examples, in the future. If you would like more information about the patterns site, contact Susan Devlin.
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