About the Lesson Development Process


The ASMET team uses the following process to produce its lessons. Note that many of the steps are also applicable to webcasts and other forms of training.

Step 1: Planning

  • Define the need or problem to be addressed. What do you want the training program to accomplish?
  • Define the target audience (who the program is aimed at). What is their level of theoretical knowledge and operational experience? In what types of forecasting environments do they work? What data and tools do they use? How will they be able to access computer-based training: via the internet and/or CD?
  • What should the audience be able to do or know after going through the program? In other words, what are your goals and objectives?
  • What content needs to be covered?
  • How will the program be used, e.g., as a lecture aid, lab exercise, self-paced learning program, or part of a distance education course? How will it fit into the curriculum?
  • What types of data and cases do you want to include? Do you have access to the right data sources?
  • Creating a multimedia project requires skills in writing, data gathering/processing, graphic design, audio/video production (if applicable), and programming.
    • Who will work on the project? Are all of the skill areas covered? What additional resources and help are needed?
    • What programs will be used to process the data and program or deliver the lesson or webcast?
  • What technical issues might impact the programming or delivery of the program? Will it be delivered online and/or on CD/DVDs? Can any audio or video be used?
  • In what language(s) will the program be available?
  • What is the schedule and the target date for completion?

Step 2: Design Process

Analyze the content and learners

  • Finalize your goals and objectives.
  • Define the content more precisely. Exactly what will be covered? What level of depth will you go into?
  • What do your learners already know about the topic? (This helps you define and limit what you cover.) Do they have any forecasting or learning needs to take into consideration? What forecasting tools are available to them?
  • If you plan to teach any forecasting proceses or procedures, how will you assess learner understanding?

Create the lesson design

  • Select an approach (type of program), such as a case study, tutorial, simulation, and/or game.
  • Create the design and structure of the lesson. What are the major sections and subsections? What types of interactions (activities and exercises) will you incorporate? Will you have any cases? Will they be embedded throughout the lesson and/or will you have a case study section? Do you need to teach any processes or procedures? Will there be any formal testing at the end?
  • What types of media will you use: graphics, animations, audio, and/or video? What types of conceptual graphics (illustrations of processes and phenomena) do you need? What materials can you reuse from other sources? Are there any copyright restrictions? What materials need to be created?
  • Test your design ideas on representatives of the target audience. Do they understand your approach? Is the content at the right level? Is it presented in an interesting way?

Write the script

  • This is where the plans for the lesson really take shape. Someone with expertise on the topic writes the first draft script, which specifies the text, interactions, and/or multimedia elements for each page. Scripts can be written in MSWord or PowerPoint.
    • If the expert does not have time to actually write the script, see if he or she can serve as supervisor and/or reviewer.
    • Scriptwriting is an iterative process, changing as the script is reviewed and updated. Although thorough planning helps ensure that the script is well organized, some amount of change is inevitable as you work with the content and the data.
    • The biggest challenges in lesson development are usually related to the data - not being able to get the right dates or types, or having trouble processing them. This makes it critical to identify your cases and gather and process the data as earlyas possible.
  • For each page of the lesson, the scriptwriter needs to:
    • Write the text. Tips: Use clear, concise language; write informally, to the learner; avoid using the passive voice and overly technical language; and develop standards for different elements, such as how titles are capitalized.
    • Write any interactions or questions that will go on the page, such as multiple choice questions or drag and drop, hot spot, or drawing interactions. For each interaction, write the question, choices, and feedback.
    • Specify the media that will be displayed, e.g., data, conceptual graphic, animation, audio, or video. Add the file name and show the graphic (or a placeholder or description). File names should be meaningful, e.g., msg_dust_rgb_03sep2010.jpg not 110.jpg.
  • Have content experts review the script.
    • Is the content accurate and clearly explained? Is it thorough enough given the level and goals of the lesson? Is it well organized?
    • Is there a good level and quality of interactivity?
    • Is the design clear and easy to understand? Are instructions provided when needed?
  • Create any supplemental materials (technical and/or installation information...).

Create the storyboard

  • Convert the script to a storyboard, a document that tells the programmer exactly how to program the lesson - what the menu structure is (the sections, subsections, and pages), and what goes on each page (text and media), and instructions for programming interactions or displaying data, etc.
  • Decide how the data will be displayed - on the page itself or in a separate window (a data viewer). Data viewers are useful for multiple products and loops or complex interactions in which users need to read the text while examining the data.
  • Create the interface (visual look) of the lesson - the graphics for the menu and the navigation system. The graphical elements should relate to the lesson topic. For example, if the lesson is on dust forecasting, you could show dramatic images of a dust storm or sample satellite products.
  • Develop standard templates for the menu and each type of interaction (text with one vs. two graphics, multiple choice and drag and drop questions, etc.). Use the template all the time unless there's a compelling reason to do otherwise.
  • Decide what other standard features you will have and where they will go. For example, will you have a title banner? What will go on it ? The page and/or section name? Page numbers (Page 1 of x)?
  • The storyboard should be complete before you move into production, particularly if you will be recording audio.

Step 3: Development Process

Create the media (graphics, etc.)

  • You can create your media at any point -- but before programming begins.
  • Decide on the use of and placement of standard graphical elements such as titles, legends, and credits, the use of borders, and fonts. Also define the lesson's color scheme. All graphics should have ALT tags (descriptions) so they can be found by search engines.
  • Give each media element a unique and recognizable name. For example, tornado_denver_co.jpg is better than section1_page2_gfx1.gif because you may use it in several places or the page name may change.
  • Put all graphics and animations in the same folder, e.g., media or images. Keep your Photoshop files in a separate 'photoshop' folder under that.
  • Find a way to track the progress of all graphics (e.g., sketch given to artist, graphic finished, graphic reviewed). You can keep an spreadsheet or record the information beside the graphic name in the script and storyboard.

Program the lesson

  • Try to use existing programming templates rather than creating your own. The ASMET team uses html/javascript templates create by COMET (marianne@comet.ucar.edu).
  • Find templates for each type of interaction that you will need, e.g., multiple choice, drag and drop, hot spots, and a data viewer.
  • Create the menu/navigational system, then program each page.
  • In your menu structure, provide links for help and feedback.
  • Add metadata information to the first page (or each page) of the lesson so the program can be cataloged in digital libraries and found by search engines

Test, publish, and announce the program

  • Review the lesson:
    • Is the content accurate? Clearly explained? Well organized? Is there a good level and quality of interactivity? Is the design clear and easy to understand? Are instructions provided when needed?
    • Do the menus and navigation system work properly?
    • Do the interactions work correctly?
    • Do all links lead to the right place? Do they open in the right windows?
    • Test your lesson in the browsers and platforms that your audience is likely to use. For CD-based programs, burn a test CD, test it, then burn the rest.
  • Publish the lesson and announce it to the intended audience.