Updated: Dec 24, 2019
Gathering information about a new project can be a daunting task for any Instructional Designer, especially once you're outside a company and providing services on a consultant basis. It's key to get as much information regarding the project up front, so you can clearly provide the client with a detailed proposal.
Every initial call or meeting with a potential client should gather the basics about what they're looking for and what they expect. Some designers prefer to use a project intake form to give them a clear picture of what the client needs. Personally, I like to talk through these questions with clients together. I find it to be easier for the client and more efficient.
It's easy to find a list of intake questions from many eLearning blogs and industry leaders, but I often find that many of the questions are too detailed (ie, overwhelming) for clients, or not applicable for the clients I work with. Below are the questions I've found to be extremely helpful when I'm discussing a new potential project.
What are the main goals of the project? Some clients already have learning objectives identified, whereas others need help with the analysis and identifying learning gaps.
At a high level, what are the main topics the course will include? While these will likely change as you begin the analysis, this gives you a good initial idea of how large the project is up front.
How do learners currently receive this information? Often times there are already existing materials that you may be able to leverage. This also often gives a good picture as to how the learning need arose and why the client is reaching out to you to begin with.
Is this course part of a curriculum or larger learning program? Some clients come to consultants for just a small piece of larger program. For example, they may have eLearning in place and want to add an ILT component, or vice-versa.
Describe the audience. Be sure to identify their role, experience, and tenure with the company. This helps to know what kind of "tone" to use in the development.
What is their level of familiarity or attitude toward the desired delivery method (eLearning, ILT, OJT, etc.)? Some learners may have a positive or negative attitude toward the delivery method, and knowing this up front may impact your development.
What to do learners already know about this topic? This helps to identify what level of detail is needed once you start designing the project.
Who will be the Subject Matter Experts? How many will there be and what are their roles? Sometimes clients haven't even thought this far ahead, so you may need to provide some recommendations on who to include.
What kind of review process is desired? Some clients prefer a very in-depth review process with many deliverables, while others are not as strict.
Confirm your role as an Instructional Designer. Some IDs do analysis and design only, while some also do development. Make sure you know what the client is expecting.
What is their final vision of the program? It's important to know expectations so when you come back with your suggestions, you don't under or overwhelm them and you know where you may need to provide backing as to why you choose certain learning strategies. If developing an ILT, do they expect icebreakers, breakout sessions, hands-on practice, etc, or more of a lecture-style presentation? If developing an eLearning, do they expect videos, knowledge checks, scenarios, voiceover, animations, etc. or a basic click-through presentation?
How will the learning be deployed? If it will be an ILT, do they have a communication plan and strategy in place? If you're working on eLearning, does the company already have an LMS?
Just by asking these few basic questions, you should be able to get the client to open up and provide you with the necessary information you need to build out a proposal. Of course, these are just the basic questions I use to guide the conversation. I often ask additional follow-up questions to clarify and dig deeper, but these main questions get the ball rolling.