Best and Worst ID Projects

What are your most successful and least successful ID projects? Two graduate students have asked me this in interviews, and it’s a good question for reflection. It’s hard to pick, but these two examples are one of my best ID projects and one of my worst.

One of my most successful

One of my favorite courses was an online graduate course on cultural competence for K-12 teachers. The evaluation for that course asked if it was a “transformative” experience for students. I knew I was setting a high bar when I wrote the evaluation, and I expected that most students would say that they learned from the course but that it didn’t really transform their teaching. However, about two thirds of the students said this course was truly transformative; it made them completely rethink their approach to teaching.

It was a challenging course, and it really pushed people out of their comfort zones. That’s where the real learning happens regarding diversity though. We used storytelling successfully in that course to bring the theory to life and help people make emotional connections. Students also told many of their own stories and shared experiences in the discussion forums. I consider this one of my most successful projects because it really inspired people to change.

The course looks dated now, but for a project in 2007, I was quite proud of it. Looking back, I can also see the stories in this course as one step on my own journey to incorporating storytelling in elearning.

This was also a rewarding project because the SME was fantastic. We developed a great working relationship, and I learned a ton from her. That was also a time when I had a wonderful manager and team. While I don’t intend to ever quit working on my own, I value the time I had with that team. Even 10+ years later, those relationships make me look fondly back at this project.

Screenshot from a course on cultural competency for teachers, one of my best ID projects. This is a snippet of a story about Pamela, a woman who was growing in understanding racial identity.
Part of a story used to teach identity development in the diversity course

Least Successful

One of my very first freelance projects was not successful, although it was an excellent learning experience for me. I made a number of mistakes that I now know to avoid.

  • Mistake #1: It was a subcontracted project, but I didn’t have a detailed Statement of Work.
  • Mistake #2: I briefly discussed a scenario-based approach with the owner of the contracting company, and I thought he understood what I planned.
  • Mistake #3: The client reviewed and approved the storyboard, but the owner never looked at anything until I had the full Captivate course completed. I didn’t make sure I got sign-offs from the owner at each stage.

The owner of the subcontracting company was aghast that I hadn’t created a traditional “click next” page turner course and demanded (in all caps) that I scrap everything and completely recreate the whole course over a weekend. Since I couldn’t complete that amount of work in his time frame, I offered to either do a smaller revision over the weekend or a full revision in two weeks. He wouldn’t accept that his demand was impossible, so I didn’t get paid for the rest of the project.

I know now to have better agreements in place, especially regarding reviews and revisions. If the owner had reviewed the course at the storyboard stage or we’d had a better definition of the course in the agreement, I’m sure we could have come up with a solution that worked for everyone.

Your best ID projects? Your worst?

What are your best and worst ID projects? What have you learned from those experiences?

Your questions

This post, like many of my posts, was prompted by a question from a reader. I love good questions that make me think and reflect like this. If you have a question you’d like to see me answer here, you can send it via my contact form. Email readers, just reply to this message.

Originally published 10/3/2013. Updated 6/4/2020.

8 thoughts on “Best and Worst ID Projects”

  1. Your blog posts are always informative and insightful. Thank you for sharing ❤️
    My worst course was one of my first projects, talking about using interactive elements in e-learning. I was so excited to learn all the fancy tools that I forgot about the learning goals ?
    My most successful one was a course on writing assessment questions, backed up by case studies and practice activities.

    1. I think most of us have designed at least one of those “clicky clicky bling bling” projects at some point where we try out all the tools but forget the goals! But, sometimes those projects are worth building just to learn the skills…as long as you don’t actually use them in a real project! When I used to train people how to use PowerPoint, we always made some sort of picture to learn how to use the drawing tools. Nobody was going to really use a house or Christmas tree drawn with simple PowerPoint shapes in a work presentation, but it was a fun way to learn all the features.

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  3. Bridget Donofrio

    Fantastic post. Lots of practical information. Thank you for sharing your experiences, Christy and everyone who replies!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, Bridget! I’m glad this post was valuable for you. Social media is often full of our “highlights reels” where we talk about our successes, but it’s important to talk about the failures too.

  4. Great post.
    Worst- and I think this is common- yearly compliance training where Legal types mandate that you “must cover content” and “test that learners got it” and they can’t break out of that. You can’t say the right thing to the wrong folks, and, well, the department has to bow down to powers that be. I suspect many feel this pain.
    Best- Stole actual field cases of some of the most challenging situations our workers find themselves in and turned them into interactive scenarios to put learners into the exact same scenarios. Lots of feedback- and VERY enhanced tracking and metrics so we could see the exact point of failure and start developing support for those critical faultlines. It was successful because it wasn’t as much focused on measuring learners to rate them, it was measuring to understand and support them. Too often, I think L&D Departments look at raw scores, but not the drivers for those scores and what can WE do to support better performance. This was more about holding ourselves accountable instead of holding learners accountable.

    1. Compliance training can be awful. I’ve seen it done well, but I know that it isn’t always worth the battle. I worked with one company who was able to convince a client to do story-based compliance training. They got something like a 98% completion rate for that training without having to bribe or threaten employees. That was a huge improvement over the usual method of boring training followed by managers having to scold and nag employees for not completing it.
      It’s so good to hear that you’ve been able to do some development in a real performance consultant mindset. Thanks for sharing your success!

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