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There is a step in the design process that seems to be rushed-over at times: Brainstorming.

Many times we are presented with information that needs to be trained. We’ve probably done a similar course in the past and/or covered a similar topic. We probably have standards, templates, colors, and other various course assets in place so that we can build content more quickly. The course also needs to be done yesterday.

It is very easy to just “start building”. We have a learning need, the base content is provided, SMEs are lined up to review it, and we have a deadline….let’s do it! However we are missing a key “brainstorming” step.

We all know that a team of individuals can usually be more creative than just one individual. As ideas start to “fly” others can build off those ideas and come up with new/better ones. Each person’s unique background and skills leads them to new ideas. However many times getting together a brainstorming team is viewed as cumbersome and time consuming.

Brainstorming can be very simple and quick. Here’s how I like to brainstorm a course:

  1. Come up with a basic outline of the course content and proposed flow.
  2. Gather the design team (or anyone who wants to participate).
  3. Briefly mention what topics need to be covered.
  4. Ask for ideas on how this information could be presented. (high-level ideas and quick)
  5. Write them down. (all of them….every comment is OK at this point)
  6. When everyone is done, start to combine ideas that are similar and delete those that aren’t feasible.

Through this process the best ideas rise to the top and become more refined. This process can give you great ideas for how to brand a course, make it interactive, present content, and engage the learner.

Brainstorming Rules:

  • No judgments (every comment is OK at this point)
  • No discussions (save the discussion for later)
  • No stories
  • Quick responses (only spend 5-10 mins total)
  • Get a lot of ideas before stopping (may set a goal beforehand)
  • Keep going even if you have a great idea early
  • Save the brainstorming notes

Here’s an interesting article on Brainstorming methods (right-brain vs. left-brain).

Brainstorming isn’t new but I think that if we spent a bit more time doing it our course could be greatly improved.

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