Why Quality in Learning Deserves Your Attention
By Nora Elsberry |
Have you ever heard of the Missing Tile Syndrome? Coined by one of my favorite commentators, Dennis Prager (1), he explains that in life, we all tend to “focus on what is missing instead of on what is present” (2). Do you dream of buying a Ford Mustang? Hope to have a baby? Then don’t be surprised if you start seeing Mustangs or babies everywhere you look. It’s human nature to fixate on what we currently lack.
So what does a ‘missing tile’ have to do with a learning design company? If what you ‘lack’ is quality, focusing your attention there can actually be a positive thing that shifts your business toward greater success. Whether you’re touting a world-class education product or teaching the masses through online learning, here are three steps to help you focus on quality—ensuring a consistent experience for your learners, students, or customers.
“Quality shouldn’t be an afterthought, but can instead be a powerful tool to provide foresight into what projects need, and learners expect."
1. Understand the importance of quality
You probably know how it feels when you’ve written something ‘brilliant’ only to have a coworker proofread your work and point out mistake after mistake (that you never noticed). Why couldn’t you see those errors yourself? Most likely, it was because you weren’t looking for them.
Imagine if these small (or not so small!) issues were happening every day in every document, communication, graphic, video, or product within your company. What would be the communicated message? Let’s change that message to competence, attention to detail, professionalism, and experience instead. A strong Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) program will protect your company’s image and improve it over time. That’s something worth your focus.
2. Learn to define quality
Do you know what ‘quality’ means for you? Perhaps you’re trying to switch from instructor-led courses toward dynamic, constructive e-learning experiences or ensure that a product fulfills design specs while meeting your customer’s needs and wants. Before achieving change, you need first to define it. It’s the same for quality. Before you can start using QA/QC in a meaningful way, you need to understand these two different, but useful processes. Still unsure? Let’s dive in.
QA is the umbrella—the overarching method that is preventative and educational. QA first brings to light what is working and what isn’t, enabling you to use it to proactively teach companies, departments, and individuals how to duplicate excellent work or products time and time again.
QC, on the other hand, is protective. It cycles through all phases of product development and acts as a catch-all for errors, mistakes, and missed opportunities. Do you want to ensure you deliver your products in a timely and consistent manner? Do you want your customers to know what to expect every time? Implement QC—it can save the day!
3. Practice implementing quality
Now that we know how to define quality and understand that consistency is a powerful business tool that learners and customers expect, what comes next? The doing. To get you started, let’s review some basics:
Begin with your aim. Why is starting (or improving) a quality program important to you (or your business)? What will it accomplish for you? How will your product improve? Knowing your personalized ‘why’ can do wonders to unify your group around something new and keep it going when the going gets tough. Any questions?
Just do it. You’re going to need both a QA program and a QC process not only to educate, but perfect. Not sure where to start? Begin with what you have and then start moving in the direction you want to go. Do you have an idea about what your final product should look like? Then write it down and share it with others. Have you noticed consistent errors or skipped steps? Make a checklist and then check it twice. Sometimes the first step is just to act—imperfect or not.
Practice makes perfect. With your big ‘why’ in place and a desire for change, you need to keep taking steps toward quality. What are you currently doing right? What parts of your process should always be repeated? What is the best way to communicate this information to others? Consider what you want to share, and then how you want to share it. Having a plan and implementing it consistently is the best way to enhance your quality in the present and ensure it keeps improving to higher degrees.
Now, what? Summarize, please.
Quality doesn’t just happen. If you find that it’s a ‘missing tile’ for you, fixate on learning how to implement and enhance it rather than just noticing that it’s lacking. Using the steps above, map out your reasons for wanting quality, outline the quality you need to implement, and plan how to get there. It’s a simple process, but one that takes focused effort and concentrated action.
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t. Now that you know what’s missing, your quality is bound to improve (and keep improving!) by leaps and bounds—once you decide to act.
Nora Elsberry - Quality Control / Learning Designer, Construct