7 Tips for Productive Content Discovery Sessions

Content discovery sessions are an essential part of any eLearning or blended learning solution development process. A content discovery session usually involves bringing together a group of subject matter experts (SMEs) with the instructional designer and key stakeholders to determine the content that will be included in a course, the high-level topic structure and arrangement, and how key messages will be delivered for maximum impact. Usually, time is tight and there is plenty of ground that needs to be covered while managing multiple opinions and expectations around the room!

Here are our 7 tips for running productive client content discovery sessions to initiate a smooth start to your development cycle.

  1. Start at the end. A great place to start is at the end, that is, by reviewing what the organization wants to achieve as a result of the training and the success measures that will indicate when these outcomes have been met. Business goals could include raising awareness, teaching a new process, or initiating behavior change. These business goals will then inform the learning objectives through determining what learners should know after completing the training that will contribute toward business goal achievement.
  2. Plan for success. Bringing several people together for a content discovery session is not only logistically challenging, it also costs money. A plan is the key to ensuring the right information is gained and time is used efficiently during the session. Create an agenda and stick to it, diplomatically bringing the group back to the schedule if the conversation veers off on a tangent.
  3. Prepare the team. A content discovery session can be a bit of a sprint, so like a coach, you should encourage the team to warm up before the event. You could send a list of key questions so that your SMEs can begin generating responses or gathering information. Ask your client if there is any content available for you to review before the content discovery session so that you can start as prepared as possible.
  4. Use brainstorming tools and strategies. During a content discovery session, you might find yourself needing to facilitate a group brainstorming session. There are several useful techniques you can use to help the creative juices flow. You could try a mind map or other visual brainstorming methods. Never underestimate the humble sticky note; these allow ideas and topics to easily be moved and reorganized quickly. Research a range of techniques and then select the most appropriate technique for the group during the session.
  5. Start slowly. To avoid overwhelming the group, start with the high-level topics and key learning messages and then flesh them out, extrapolating slowly. This approach helps prevent people from honing in on details too early and getting off track or frittering time. When indecision arises, always bring the team back to the objectives and business goals and work to align necessary content. Categorizing content as “must know” and “nice to know” is a good way to prioritize information to include when working toward a concise delivery.
  6. Facilitate skillfully. In a group content discovery session, there are usually one or two strong personalities who are naturally vocal and those who retreat. Listen to all ideas and try to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable to speak up. Skillful facilitation can be used to prompt quieter people as they just might be harboring some of the most valuable ideas. If brainstorming, move around the room gathering a suggestion from each person.
  7. Show examples. The SMEs involved in your content discovery session might not have experience with learning delivery mechanisms or be able to visualize how the end product might look and function. To bridge the gap, show examples of past work demonstrating a range of approaches and techniques for reference or to help generate new ideas.

These tips will help you effectively and efficiently get a smooth start to your development cycle.

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