What is a proof of concept? Simply put it’s a demonstration to verify concepts are practical for a final application. In the world of elearning a proof of concept is essentially the same thing as a prototype, although prototyping is generally used more in mobile application design.
So why don’t we prototype an elearning module or course? The vast research and empirical data I have to help answer that question is – zero. Rather, my experience has brought be to a few simple explanations.
With mobile there are a number of things to consider such as form factor (smart phone vs. tablet), pinch and zoom, swiping, rotating the device from portrait to landscape, and a host of other reasons for prototyping. Remember, it’s a demonstration to verify if it even works well for before committing to development. In the world of elearning however, the mouse’s left-click hasn’t changed since its arrival decades ago. The viewable area on today’s screens has only changed from a 4:3 ratio to a more widely accepted 16:9 ratio in recent years. We don’t really need to prototype an elearning course.
We do on occasion need to provide a proof of concept though. Proof of what you ask? Visualize this: A learner drags the mouse so the onscreen pointer arrow thing is over a button. Typically a visual cue aides the learner by slightly changing the color of the button for immediate visual feedback that they are in fact hovering over a button. The learner then clicks the left mouse button to activate the button and something happens – a new screen appears, a popup window appears, etc. Not much needed to prove that already works.
A proof of concept in the context of this post is more about the visual look and feel. I recently had a client that needed their logo on the screen. That’s a common request. I’m not a big fan of company branding in elearning design because it takes up valuable real estate. Plus, if we have to remind learners where they work when accessing elearning, we may have bigger problems. I attempted to explain several options on how we could treat (visual placement) their logo. Each option led to more questions about “what if” and I eventually learned that until I actually show them some “proofs of concept” they will never reach a decision. I put three options together each with all the same overall theme but with their logo treated slightly different. After showing and briefly explaining each of them it took all of five minutes for consensus.
That got me to thinking. I don’t recall exactly how much time I spent initially trying to describe various treatments to their logo, but once I showed them it was a slam dunk decision. Oh, here’s the part I forgot to tell you. This was all done during the same conference call. While we moved on to another topic I crudely sketched out a few simple layout designs, snapped photos of them, and emailed them while we were all still on the call.
Rapid Proof of Concepting? Rapidly Proofing a Concept? Give it a buzzword if you want, but the point here is there is no need to spend valuable time putting together a detailed and attractive overlay in most cases.
Quick thumbnail sketches work beautifully for this purpose.
Attractive Overlay Detail
Now, before I get “yeah but…” comments, let’s step back a moment. Every situation dictates. In other cases I’ve had clients ask me to put together a couple proofs of a menu navigation structure. That takes a little more involvement because that silly mouse click is part of the equation – a menu on the left visible at all times; menu as a top bar similar to a website; menu as a dropdown tab; dynamic menus…you get the point. In a situation like this, there are engagement behaviors to consider and thus more time to develop a proof of concept is needed.
In the end, if all you need to do is layout a simple visual design a simple sketch should do the trick.
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Proof of Concept: Crude vs. Attractive Overlay Detail