Written by:

Mark Aston


November 24, 2022

At Spark + Co., we pride ourselves on partnering and working collaboratively with our clients on elearning course development projects.  Our goal isn’t to build training courses but to help our clients achieve their business results.  We want to help them drive their business or mission forward using our instructional expertise.  And an important part of elearning course development is the kick-off meeting.

The elearning course development at Spark+Co. is a 5-stage process:  Engage + Analyze; Instructional + Creative Design; Build, Test + Modify; Launch; Maintain.  The outcome is launching a training product that solves a defined challenge and helps support your overall organization.  And developing elearning courses all starts with the all-important kick-off meeting.  Find out below why it’s so essential, the objectives of the meeting, and the in-depth topics covered.

Objectives Of The Kick-Off Meeting In Developing Elearning Courses

In elearning course development, a kick-off meeting achieves several essential objectives.  First and foremost, it’s a chance to get to know one another and help form a cohesive, collaborative team for the project.  A team comprises the clients’ members, and Spark + Co.  It can also include external members, subject matter experts, or people representing the target audience for the intended course.  At the start, it’s important to determine if the client has experience developing elearning courses.  It allows us to adjust the focus and detail spent on each aspect of the kick-off meeting.

However, there’s a lot more to a kick-off meeting than simply getting to know one another, as you’ll soon find out.  Some of the other important objectives include

  • Confirm the overall vision for the project
  • Understanding the audience
  • Identify constraints in developing elearning courses
  • Identify content sources and types of content
  • Understand preferred ways to present the content
  • Clarify the project process and roles
  • Confirm critical timelines and deliverables
  • Clarify project expectations

Elearning Course Development Vision and Outcomes

It’s crucial that a senior member of our client’s team, such as the project sponsor, explains the vision for the elearning course development project during the kick-off meeting.  This also includes describing the critical outcomes desired.  All the team members should be sure of the project vision and outcomes.  Everyone has a shared goal when developing elearning courses focused on the key objectives and vision.

Included in this discussion at the kick-off meeting will be to find out what is essential for the client about this training product.  And to determine other activities, the client is undertaking that could contribute to or benefit from the outcomes of the elearning course development.  For example, if the client is also building a website to host a variety of templates and tools or if they plan to do a social media campaign as well as the course.

Business Goals

And during this stage of the kick-off meeting, we’ll identify organizational business goals and instructional goals.  To determine the business goals, we’ll ask questions such as “What’s the key business outcome you want to see as a result of this training?”.  And “How will we know that we’ve succeeded?”  For example, a business goal for developing elearning courses might be for employees to understand a new policy and how it applies to them.  A measure of success could be determined by including questions on the policy in a future engagement survey.  Another example could be the course needs to generate revenue or reduce calls to a support line.  Alternatively, it could be that you’ve trained 10 or 100 times the number of people than previously.

Instructional Goals

We set instructional goals by identifying the behavioral indicators that tell us we’ve made a difference due to the elearning course development.  A common question we ask is, “What do we expect learners to be able to do after taking this training?”   It should never be just about what knowledge someone learns from the training.  It’s about what they can do following the training.  And during the kick-off meeting, we’ll dig down to find out the types of situations that the course will apply to, as well as identify topics that the learner will likely have challenges with.  And it’s always critical to determine the most significant consequences if someone doesn’t perform an activity or action correctly.  An example of an instructional goal could be the learner now being able to facilitate conversations about consent using a model included in the course.

Understanding The Audience When Developing Elearning Courses

A critical aspect of successfully meeting the elearning course development project goals relies on understanding the audience(s) in detail.  Who are they?  Where are they?  What’s the size of the market?  How will they access the training?  What’s important to them?  These are all crucial to successfully developing elearning courses and are discussed in the kick-off meeting.

For example, at Spark+Co., we’ll use tools like the customer empathy map below to better understand the audience(s) in more detail.  While all of this won’t get completed in a Kick-off meeting, it will be a topic of discussion with future follow-up.

image of an empathy map used in elearning course development

Figure 1 –  Empathy Map Used In Our Kick-Off Meeting  (This Photo by Unknown Author licensed under CC BY-NC-ND)

Key Constraints + Trade-Offs In Developing Elearning Courses

Within any project, there will be constraints.  Budget and timeline constraints are already set, but there will also be additional constraints that are important to identify in the kick-off meeting.  These could include:

  • Technical limitations (e.g., LMS related) that affect elearning course development design or functionality
  • Audience time limitations
  • Policy or regulatory stipulations
  • Brand alignment
  • Communication and messaging alignment
  • Limitations of time from subject matter experts
  • Timing of feedback and review from the client of drafts
  • Availability of existing content and media assets
  • Resource limitations

It’s vital to identify constraints that could significantly impact the execution of the elearning course development project.  But it is essential to establish processes and expectations to overcome these.  For example, what do you do if there is a delay in gathering content?  Is the project delayed a little?  Or is a trade-off made with another part of developing the elearning courses to allow on-time completion?  For example, perhaps more time is spent readying the content, and a previously planned video animation is canceled or delayed for a subsequent course update to meet the deadline.  Discussing the concept of trade-offs during the kick-off meeting helps establish how changes and decisions will be made later.

Training Course Content

Before the elearning course development, the course’s level of interactivity, the production value, and what’s possible to achieve within the budget and timeline constraints are agreed upon.  Within this agreed-upon scope, in the Kick-off meeting, we’ll discuss what we want to see in the course and what we don’t want to see when developing elearning courses.  Then we’ll move on to specific content.  Is there existing content?  If so, where and in what format?  When content is not readily available, are there recommended sources we would utilize for the content?  Who on the client side is going to vet this content?

And this will also include the duration of instruction, which is often a challenge.

Balancing Content And Duration During Elearning Course Development

When developing elearning courses, one of the most common challenges is meeting the client’s expectations of how much content they have, with the desired duration of the course.  Sometimes, clients want to create a series of modules, each an hour in duration.  But the content they have is either poor quality or the amount of content is minimal.  And not enough to create a series of 1-hour modules.

But more commonly, the client has a vast amount of content they want to include in a 1-hour course.  The content significantly exceeds the course’s ideal duration (and budget).  Balancing the time and the amount of content when developing elearning courses is often a challenge for our clients.  So, at Spark+Co., we developed a tool to help our clients better gauge and balance the ideal course duration with the amount of content they have.  Table 2 below provides estimates of the format and amount of content corresponding to the course length.  This table has been helpful for clients when discussed in the kick-off meeting for developing elearning courses.

    Likely Course Duration
Format Of The Content   30 min 60 min 90 min 120 min
Narration – (e.g., from videos, podcasts, and recorded webinars) ~ 100 words are spoken a minute 5,000 words 10,000 words 15,000 words 20,000 words
Presentation Slides – (e.g., PowerPoint slides).  It can vary significantly based on the design + layout   15 – 25 slides 30 – 50 slides 45 – 75 slides 60 – 100 slides
Pages Of Content – Assuming pages are letter-sized, double-spaced, single-sided   12 – 15 30 – 40 50 – 60 70 – 80


Table 1 – Guide To Balance Content And Duration When Developing Elearning Courses

Ways To Present The Content

There are many ways to present the same raw content, which can lead to very different course experiences.  So, during the kick-off meeting, we’ll explore and brainstorm the course’s look and feel.  And discuss possible story, format, and thematic ideas to use.  For example, suppose you were developing elearning courses on how to read a financial package.  In that case, you could have a simple course that shares critical points on do’s/don’ts.  Or you might prefer to have a sample case study where you show financial information.  You could also create a course where the learner calculates data on the screen or one where they upload their work.  You could also frame the course design from an audit perspective, where you go back and look at where things might have gone wrong.  Then you could show all the places where the person did it correctly and tell a story about their financial impact.  There are many ways to present content when developing elearning courses, and discussing various options during the kick-off meeting is important.

Elearning Course Development Process + Timelines

During the kick-off meeting, we’ll discuss the other steps in our elearning course development process, including the project schedule and timing.  We’ll also discuss the iterative development approach and review cycle before launching your new training product.

And we’ll cover the online tools and review processes we use that streamline the development process and allow for the collection of feedback efficiently.  These obtain your input on the course storyboard, instructional activities, and creative elements such as graphics and videos, quizzes, and other content elements used when developing elearning courses.

graphic showing the Spark + Co process for elearning course development

Figure 2 – The Elearning Course Development Process Used By Spark + Co.

Roles When Developing Elearning Courses

We’ll review and assign the roles needed for your elearning course development project during the kick-off meeting.  Many roles are necessary to design, create and launch a successful course.  Depending upon the project’s complexity, only some or all of these roles may be required.  The table below lists roles that may be necessary.

It is crucial that everyone on the team understand the role(s) that they will be performing when developing elearning courses.  And as you can see below, some roles are performed by the client.  In contrast, many roles are the responsibility of Spark+Co, or your elearning course development company.

table of roles for developing elearning courses

Table 2 – Roles When Developing Elearning Courses

Timelines, Key Deliverables + Project Expectations

Before the end of the kick-off meeting, we’ll review timelines and essential deliverables and who is responsible for fulfilling them.  As well an important aspect is to discuss expectations during the elearning course development project.  These can include

  • How often are updates provided, to whom, and via what format (e.g., virtual meetings or by email)
  • Clarify who will perform which role
  • The importance of meeting timelines and review schedules to ensure the project timeline can be met
  • Consequences of missing deadlines
  • How/who makes decisions
  • How to share content with us

Often a client has a strict deadline to meet for the course.  But this can be put in jeopardy if the clients, already busy, employees do not meet the deadlines in the elearning course development project.  At the kick-off meeting, it is essential to reiterate the need for the client’s reviewers to meet the agreed-upon timelines for providing feedback and review.

Finally, guiding principles may be created to help make decisions and choices as the project progresses.  Contrasting examples of guiding principles for developing elearning courses might be

  • The project deadline is absolute. If the content and design are 80% complete, that’s good enough to launch, and we can complete the rest with subsequent updates.
  • The course quality is most important. The project launch can be delayed as necessary

What A Client Can Do Before The Kick-Off Meeting

While Spark + Co. will lead the kick-off meeting, there are a few things that the client can prepare in advance of the meeting.  These include

  • Gathering up course content and materials
  • Ensuring subject matter experts are available for the duration of the project
  • Providing access to your organization’s brand assets and standards
  • Thinking in advance about the outcomes you want to see from the course

Final Reflections on Kick-Off Meetings When Developing Elearning Courses

Typically a kick-off meeting for developing elearning courses lasts about 2 hours.  And as you now know, we cover a lot during that time.  Much of which is vital to running a successful elearning course development project.  And by the end of the kick-off, we’ll collectively agree on the course’s vision and objectives and better understand its audience(s).  You’ll also appreciate our process, the project timeline, deliverables, specific roles, and the steps along the way.  And we’ll have started along the path to form a cohesive, collaborative team to create and launch your new instructional product.