Build Your blog academy
Develop an online e-learning platform to improve publisher content, traffic, and ad performance.
Build Your Blog Academy: This is a robust platform for teaching over 100 courses on topics ranging from writing good content, to design, to SEO, and everything in-between.
Project: 2016–2017, Curriculum development
Duration: 6 months
Tools: Illustrator, Excel, Mind X, Avid Pro Tools, Premier, Captivate, Instructure
Team: Josh LeFevre
My role: Business strategist, Learner experience design, UX/UI, curriculum development, videographer, marketer
Design Brief and History
Monumetric is a small start-up company that helps digital publishers, such as bloggers, expand their outreach and monetize their sites.
In 2015, I co-designed a 50-course working prototype, or MVP, for Monumetric, to see if online publishers and web content builders would find this curricula useful. Our goal was to help them develop their audience, improve the quality of their content, and increase traffic to their site. Online publishers loved it. Due to prototype's success and after about seven months of beta testing, I was asked to redesign and expand the scope of the Build your Blog Academy (BYBA) project. I was given free reign to design a full-scale training curriculum to teach bloggers and new site owners how to increase their influence and content and provide them with strategies to do so.
PHase 0: Business strategy and ANALOGOUS solutions
To begin the project, I conducted many user surveys with those who had taken the MVP course as well as a large sampling of randomly chosen bloggers to discover what education they thought was valuable and how they preferred to learn.
The survey data I collected showed there was interest in website development coursework among bloggers and digital publishers. I began running feasibility and revenue models to verify a market for this product. One of the company’s partners acted as part-time mentor to help me refine my focus and point out holes in my data and assumptions.
After proving the feasibility of the project, I was given a bare bones budget of $1,000 to develop the curriculum and build the first five courses. Our objective was to fill a niche without trying to compete with learning sites like Lynda or Pluralsight.
Phase 1: User research and Making the solution user centered
I took the feedback generated from the surveys and started developing a new curricula that ranged from basic site coding to graphic design to traffic acquisition. As I mapped out the courses, using affinity diagrams and card sorting, I invited several industry experts on coding, design, SEO and others to provide several layers of critique and scrutiny to make sure what I was planning was high quality and would remain relevant for 3 to 5 years in an ever-changing digital publishing landscape. I also enlisted web design and digital publishing specialists within our company to provide many rounds of critique and input to help me design a look and feel that would engage learners.
While I maintained the overall creative head, working with these experts opened my mind to new ideas and directions. This led me to include user engagement and simplicity in the design and flow of the program.
Based on what I was learning through this process and in consultation with company managers, I planned to meet the needs of bloggers and other digital publishers by expanding our course selection from 50 self-contained lessons to over 350. The significant expansion of the curriculum was intended to touch on various aspects of web development requested by digital publishers.
As the scale of this project grew, our company decided to invest in its own equipment and resources to produce the courses in-house.
This led to my researching how to design a recording studio on a tiny budget. I spent many hours researching what a good studio needed and constantly reached out to audio engineers and video experts to help me design a quality studio within a bootstrapping budget.
I began to purchase our own studio equipment and build our recording room, retrofitting a very small, echoing office.
Phase 2: Implementation
Scripting: Scripting each lesson was the most demanding work for me. I collaborated with a young broadcaster new to our company. He was my sounding board, helping me develop the lessons into engaging material that individuals would find valuable.
The most difficult challenge was to use principles to teach specific courses without featuring ideas or methodologies that would be out of date within six months. The plan included ongoing podcasts that would feature cutting-edge ideas to keep all of the content fresh.
In addition, some coursework, such as on data analysis, required creativity to make it interesting and understandable to those new to the industry. To overcome this obstacle, I worked with our developers to build a platform that would allow users to learn the information in a variety of ways.
PHase 3: Learning Management System (LMS)
It was difficult to find an LMS platform with a simple user interface that would handle a high quantity of learners at a fair price. My experience the National Nutrition Certification Program (NNCP) helped but the scale of this project was much bigger because of its subscription model.
We discovered it would be easier and less expensive to build our own LMS. I began working with our developers to create the product to support our needs.
The Project Ends
After I had fully scripted 10 lessons, had a video storyboard approved, and found voice actors, Monumetric’s business partners decided to rethink their business strategy. While they were happy with my design and the courses themselves, they had other business concerns that facilitated the shift of resources away from my project to building and researching new advertisement technologies development, the core competency of our company.
Although my project was not taken to completion, it was a great learning experience for me. I had learned how to run feasibility and revenue models, how to build a large curriculum base, and how to design a recording studio. I also learned the value of creating a larger team at the outset of such a large-scale product. While I could consult with experts and specialists when questions arose, I was spread thin. Creativity and design are greatly benefited by the synergism created by including several individuals on a project who can consult together, divide the work, and receive consistent feedback from experts and end users.
This experience was also a good lesson in living with economic realities. A design may be excellent, but excellent design does not always lead to sufficient revenue if demand is not high enough.