As creators of eLearning content, we often put our heart and soul into what we design. That makes receiving constructive feedback a difficult, if not painful, experience. But receiving feedback doesn’t have to be a negative exchange. Rather than pulling your hair out, crying for hours, or starting over from scratch, look at ways to handle feedback that will benefit your design, and ultimately improve your skills.
We have four suggestions to help make receiving eLearning design feedback a more manageable experience:
- Listen with an open mind.
When we create a course, we spend hours working on the design—from the initial brainstorming phase, to the learning objectives, to selecting a skin for the player, to putting it all together in a package that works. Those hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears are what make receiving feedback so difficult.
As difficult as it may be, when someone—a subject matter expert, your manager, a participant—provides feedback, try to listen with an open mind. Hear what they’re saying and take it in. Don’t get defensive. If it makes it easier, remind yourself that listening to someone’s opinion about the course doesn’t require that you take action. You’re just collecting insights that may (or may not) improve your course.
- Ask for specific examples.
Vague feedback is no help at all. Have you ever heard one of these phrases from your clients, co-workers, participants, or subject matter experts (SMEs):
- “It just doesn’t work.”
- “I’m not sure what it is, but the course felt flat to me.”
- “Something is missing, but I can’t tell you what it is.”
The phrases above aren’t helpful. If someone provides this type of feedback, you can either choose to ignore it. Or, you can ask questions to dig for more specific feedback:
- “Let’s look at part of the course that doesn’t meet your expectations. What are some specific elements in this section that you feel don’t work?”
- “What would make the course not ‘feel flat’ to you—is it something related to the visual images? To the audio? To the interactions? To the type of content?”
- “What’s one thing you would suggest improving about the course to make it more useful?”
Useful feedback provides at least one thing you can do to address the issue. Before you react to feedback, ask yourself: am I able to do something with this information?
- If the answer is yes, thank the person for the feedback. (Note: that doesn’t mean you must immediately act on the feedback, it just means you’re able to do so if it’s relevant.
- If the answer is no (because the feedback is too vague), ask for more specifics.
- Solicit feedback from several sources.
You say tomato. I say tomato. (Okay, that example works better when it’s spoken, but you get my drift.) The lesson here is: there are always at least two opinions about any given topic. Unless the feedback you receive is regarding broken functionality in a course (e.g., the navigation doesn’t work), be sure to solicit a few more opinions before you take action.
While one person may not like the way the content is provided or the placement of an activity, it may work for other participants. Don’t take action or make changes based on one person’s feedback. If you do, you put yourself in a reactive mode which can negatively impact your design and your day. Solicit feedback from several sources to validate whether or not the feedback has merit.
- Ask for more feedback.
While you may feel like you’re “done” with asking for feedback, I encourage you to ask for more. While it can be frustrating and ego-bruising, feedback is what makes our courses better. Make it part of your process to solicit feedback at multiple points during the process:
- After you’ve made revisions (Did the edits fix the issues?)
- At the end of a project (What should we do differently next time?)
- Before your start a new course (What should we start, stop, and continue in regards to our typical design?)
And don’t forget…feedback isn’t always negative. When you ask for more feedback, you’ll hear what everyone loves about your design, too!
If we want to improve our skills and grow in our profession, we need to make sure we’re soliciting feedback and taking the time to review how it might benefit the work we produce. Approach feedback as a way to understand more about your craft and how you can deliver the best content possible. With that in mind, it becomes less about you and more about the possibility of the amazing content you’re able to deliver.
Liz Sheffield is a freelance writer with a background in training and development. She specializes in writing about everything related to the human side of business. You can contact her via LinkedIn or Twitter.