How to be your own QA

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Performing QA on your own work is one of those tasks that are impossible to master, but also impossible to skip. Sounds like a recipe for frustration? It doesn’t have to be.

Here are three strategies that made my life easier and might help you too:

1. Add a couple of “buffer” days into your project plan

You’ve spent days and weeks on end working on your project. At some point things start to get blurry, because you’ve been staring at it for too long, and details fall through the cracks. You don’t want this to happen, because details are what makes the difference between the mediocre and the truly professional. To keep you from getting snow-blind, I recommend you build in a couple of days in your project plan, that you will spend away from the project. If that’s not possible, one morning or afternoon can be enough, but it’s important that you keep the project out of your mind. Go for a jog, clean behind the sofa, download that meditation app – whatever works for you.

2. Treat every learner as a paying client

How do you know if your project is good enough to show to the world and not regret it? This can be a bit tricky to determine, especially if you are new to the instructional design field. What I used to do as a new ID is to take a step back, look at my project and ask myself if I would pay to take this training. If my answer is not a definitive “Yes”, more work needs to be done. As with the previous point, for the strategy to be successful, you must exercise some willpower and be totally honest with yourself. Sometimes I still do this if I catch myself getting complacent. I think it’s also a great way to cultivate respect for your work and for the learner.   

3. Make a checklist

When performing QA for an e-learning project, there are many things to consider, and equally important: text, graphics, audio, video, functionality. How do you make sure that you don’t miss anything? A strategy that is simple and equally effective when applied to anything from grocery shopping to project management, is to make a checklist. Learners perceive the product as a whole, but as the authors, we also need to consider every one of its aspects individually if we want to create a quality product. My personal checklist includes assessing each of these separately: text, graphics, audio and video, functionality – always in that same order. This way I’m sure that all parts of the project receive their due attention during QA. Only after I’m done with this, I will take the whole training one last time and try to see it through the eyes of the learner.      

It can be challenging to find balance between obsessing over every pixel and letting details slip. The key is to reflect on your process, notice the weak spots, and build your coping and preventive strategies around them.