Thursday, January 29, 2009

Using Gagne's 9 Events of Learning in e-Learning

Robert GagneHow well does Gagne’s Nine Events of Learning fit in e-learning? I think it is a good fit, but in full disclosure, I do not always use all events or in the intended order. If you are not familiar with Gagne, here is a quick overview.


The following are examples of how I believe we can incorporate each event, although I have taken some interpretive liberties with each event. Then again, the events were not originally designed with e-learning in mind so some liberal interpretations must be made. 


  1. Gain attention – This works great in e-learning. Use of animation, audio, graphics, etc. make this any easy task. The important thing is to tie it to the content and to “stimulate learning” of the subject at hand. Do not just get the learners’ attention, but get them curious and motivated to learn about the subject/skill your course addresses.

  2. Inform learners of the objectives/direction – I always include objectives. Learners should, and want to, know what they are going to learn, but do not include objectives as written in your course design plan; they're very dry and boring that way. State them as if you were face to face with the learners. If your course has characters, let them tell the learners what they will learn and what to expect.

  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning – Have an exercise(s) that will assist learners associate the subject with concepts they are already familiar with or link the exercise to prior experience or knowledge. You need to really know your audience to pull this off, which requires a thorough needs assessment. In the classroom you can also use this event to measure your audience and tailor the training to them, if needed. In an asynchronous e-learning environment you will not be able to do this in a direct manner, but you can allow for self reflection and user control of the course. The user should be able to pick and choose the content they need. Even if you are making a very linear course, you should at least have a very accessible contents menu.

  4. Present the content- This does not mean shifting into page turner mode. Keep it interactive. This can include using a character and story to deliver the content, breaking it up with questions and input from the learner, games, branching scenarios/sims, etc. I also like to use interactive Flash animation to put emphasis on the content and to allow practice and application of the new skill or knowledge. FYI: Typically the following feedback levels (5-7) will be incorporated into the “present the content” event.

  5. Provide learning guidance - This is an opportunity for the learner to apply the learned knowledge or skill, but with guidance. A good example is a simulation. Whether a software sim or a soft skill branching sim, it should have sound instruction/directions and feedback for incorrect choices or answers. Unlike classroom training you cannot directly gauge the challenges the learner is having and any feedback provided is pre-scripted. The only alternative is a way for the learner to post questions or need for clarification through the course, such as an e-mail function. This will still not provide immediate guidance, but is an alternative if the course's feedback is not enough. Another reason that course evaluation and redesign is important.

  6. Elicit performance - Allow the learners to practice the new skill. An interactive exercise or a simulation. Remember, this event does not require as much guidance as the prior event. They should be at the point where they can apply the skills and wish to practice those skills. For example, a software sim in a “try me” mode, but with little are no instruction. Feedback can be provided, but more likely at the end of the event. This is an opportunity for the learners to confirm their understanding of the content and a chance to practice and increase the likelihood of retaining information.

  7. Provide Feedback - For e-learning courses, feedback is folded into the 2 prior events/feedback levels. 

  8. Assess performance – With very few exceptions, I include an assessment at the end of the course (switching events events 8 and 9). I will include feedback for both correct and incorrect answers. For correct answers I may provide some additional pertinent information, which may boost retention. And for incorrect answers I will provide feedback that provides information on why their answer is incorrect and, if appropriate, what the correct answer is and why. If the content involves software I may also include a screenshot if it helps. Although this is the eigth event I always make it the last event, after Enhance Retention and Transfer. My experience is that once the learner has completed the assessment and received their certificate and credit for the course, they most likely exit. So, I swap the ninth and eigth events.

  9. Enhance retention and transfer (closure)- Prior to the assessment I will provide a conclusion. I highlight and review important elements of the content and re-affirm if the course objectives were met. I will also discuss how this new knowledge or skill will be used in the workplace. This is also an opportunity to provide review questions prior to launching an assessment (event 8).

This is how I apply Gagne's Nine Events of Learning. Please feel free to add your comments on how  you apply the nine events in e-learning courses. Thank you.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

e-Learning Job Search - Online Resources

With turbulent times, shrinking training budgets, and a level of uncertainty, more e-learning professionals are searching for new opportunities. So, what are the best sites to search for an e-learning job?  Here are the sites I have found most helpful:


e-Learning Guild - You can search jobs posted on their site and you can post your resume there too. You do need to be a member, but the associate level membership is free.


ASTD - You can search jobs posted on their site and post your resume. Logo 

Dice - This site focuses on tech jobs, and e-learning jobs are included. This is definitely a good site to search if your focus is on the development end. 

Linked In - Great site for professional networking, but you can also search for a job within the Linked In interface. You can either find positions posted by members or search positions posted on Internet job search engines. The results also include who in your network may be employed by the companies listed.

Indeed - I like this site because it pulls results for many different job search sites, it's easy to add filters and to create job alerts. Logo

SHRP - The Society for HR Professionals is not my first choice, but worth visiting. Many training departments fall under HR and they post e-learning position on SHRP. You may also post your resume on their site.

Also check you local college ISD programs. Some include job listings on their sites. They may also host networking events or career fairs.

Aside from the above, always network. Networking is the most effective way to find the next opportunity that is right for you. If you know of any other great resources for finding e-learning positions please add it to the comments section. Thanks!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How We Can Use Video in e-Learning

clapboardVideo can be a great compliment to e-learning courses. Here are a few ways you can use video in your courses:

  • Vignettes of experts providing advice/tips as it relates to the course's content. I will usually place the video in a box in the corner with a play button. Once the user reads the content they can then "hear from as expert." FYI: I want the video to add to the content, not overshadow it.

  • Narration - a talking head can narrate each page. Personally, I am not a big fan of this. It just annoys me and I end up turning the sound off. I only ask that you give users the option of turning the sound off and that they have the option of moving forward without listening the entire narration. User control is very important in e-learning. It is, please believe me on this. You can also get fancy and show a narrator's full body imposed over the page. You can have them walking about the screen and pointing out specific elements of the content.

  • Demonstrations of psycho-motor activities. For example, assembling a widget.

  • Showing role-plays. For example, how customer service is done properly at your organization. Or perhaps how it is not executed properly. Better yet, create stopping points where the user makes decisions and the video branches dependent upon the user's choices. That is a lot of work on our end, but if done right it is well worth the effort.

  • Simulations - add a setting or background to your simulations. For example, the interior of a store, building or factory where the sim is set. This can add an element of realism, like customers coming and going, machines moving, etc.

These are the uses of video that come to mind, but I am sure there are other uses I have excluded. Please let me know how else we can use video in e-learning.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Estimating Course Completion Time

clockWe often see estimated completion times in the introduction of e-learning courses. How are these estimates actually derived? I am sure many are educated guesses or estimates simply based on the number of pages and word count on each page. Bad idea, whether the course is a simple page-turner or not. Here are variables NOT accounted for in such approaches:

  • Interactivity within the course (games, simulations, questions and feedback, etc.).

  • Variations in learning styles and the time people dedicate to reading the content, and possibly reading content repeatedly.

  • Audience familiarity with e-learning and/or computers. Time may be required just to learning how to use the technology and becoming comfortable with it.

  • Complexity of content. The more complex the longer it may take to digest the content.

  • ESL (English as a second language) as a factor among the audience.

Now I know a seasoned e-learning designer can get a "pretty good" idea of how long it will take to complete a course, especially if they know their audience well. But if you want to be confident in your estimated completion time, and I think we owe it to our audience to give them a reliable estimate of the time they will be investing in a course, then you must time the course during a beta test. You will get varying times among your participants, but you will be taking the average time to estimate the completion time. FYI: If you beta test the course on an LMS, which you should, the exact times will be recorded for you. Your beta testers must be a diverse selection from the course’s target audience. Plus, any changes to the course as a result of the beta test must be accounted for in the final estimated completion time, if needed. 

If you do not have the luxury of implementing a thorough beta test of your course, then minimally get a number of diverse people to complete the entire course even if done remotely and not observed in a testing lab. Capture their completion times and in the end give your audience a realistic estimate of the time required to complete the course.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

To Storyboard or Not to Storyboard

StoryboardSome e-learning designers "storyboard," others do not. Me, sometimes I do and sometimes I do not. Below is a list of reasons I do not use storyboards. I also include a list of when I find it worth the time to storyboard a course. Before I begin, I must note that I always create a thorough course design plan (CDP) for each course. My CDPs include a rationale, target audience, participant prerequisites, course description, terminal objectives, enabling objectives, evaluation plan and a course map. So, here we go.

I do not use storyboards because:

  • I run a one-person e-learning department. I am designer and developer. After the analysis and design, the course is very much in my head and I do not need to hand anything off to a developer.

  • Often my courses are non-linear and both difficult and time consuming to storyboard. I have deadlines to meet, people!

  • I have new ideas during development and scrap half the storyboards anyway.

Why I use storyboards:

  • If the course is very, very complex and non-linear, it is the only way I can get a handle on it and remember where I am going from screen to screen. For example, branching simulations.

  • If I have other co-workers involved in the actual design of the course. This gives them a great visual for where we are going with it. In other words, a great way to step back and "run through" the course before we start the development phase.

  • I include a lot of notes on the storyboards regarding the multimedia, technology and/or coding needed, etc. for each screen. This keeps me much more organized and helps prioritize many tasks.

  • Whenever people see a wall full of storyboards in your office they will think you are really busy. That's always a plus.

Yes, I know it appears I contradicted my self with the non-linear thing, but there is a certain point where it gets so complex that I feel it is necessary to storyboard.

FYI: This post was inspired by an online discussion I read where it appears e-learning designers are very split on the subject of storyboarding. I would love to hear from you if you storyboard your courses and why.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Adobe Flash Lite Exchange - Updated With New Content

Adobe's Flash Lite Exchange has been updated. It has been quite a while since they have added anything new. So this is a welcome sight. Plus, I am proud to say they included my MinuteBio on Julius Caesar.

If you have a Flash Lite enabled device or just want to browse what is available, here is the Flash Lite Exchange link. FYI: They do have an education category.

e-Learning Guild's Next e-Book - Submissions

The e-Learning Guild's next e-book will be a collection of tips on "doing more with less." Perfect for today's tight economy. If you are a Guild member (if not, join) and have tips on leveraging limited resources I encourage adding to what will be a great resource.

Use this link to submit your tips:

If you want to access past e-Learning Guild e-books click here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I recently read a question on a discussion board regarding how to motivate e-learners.  Being a fervent subscriber to the ARCS model, I could not resist promoting it. For those of you who are not already familiar with Keller's motivational theory, here are Keller's 4 categories of motivational design.


  • Perceptual Arousal 

  • Inquiry Arousal

  • Variability


  • Familiarity

  • Goal Orientation 

  • Motive Matching


  • Expectancy for Success

  • Challenge Setting

  • Attribution Molding


  • Natural Consequences

  • Positive Consequences

  • Equity

(ARCS - Motivational Theory,, accessed:1/8/2008)

A few things I like about this model:

  • It works well with Gagne's nine events of instruction. You do not need to choose one over the other, but instead can incorporate the model within the nine events.

  • For me, it encourages incorporating interactive elements into courses.

  • It is flexible. And each category can be applied numerous times throughout instruction. However, do not over do it. For example, too many repetitive "attention" events can turn out to be annoying. Remember the MS Word Paper Clip guy?

Here are few links to learn more about ARCS:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Adobe Flash on TV

BroadComFlash logo

It has been announced that Flash will be available on TVs! This news from Broadcom and Adobe certainly caught my attention. This is not only a great opportunity for Adobe Flash, but opens up many, many opportunities for Flash developers and hopefully e-learning designers.

This will now place rich Internet applications (RIA) on TVs, using Flash Lite Player 3. For now I am going to assume a content developer's kit (CDK) will be provided by Adobe and the TV remote will act in the same manner as a Flash enabled phone's key pad, recognizing key presses, etc. If this is the case, it opens the door for very accessible, interactive e-learning....on your TV. And if it talks to an LMS, even better.

Plus, if I am correct, this will expose people to e-learning beyond academia and the corporate world, who are the majority of our e-learning audience.

As this is rolled out we should learn more about its capabilities and at what level it is applicable to e-learning, but until then I will stay very optimistic.

Here is a link to the press release.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Predictions for 2009

My predictions for 2009:

With the continued economic difficulties, e-learning will grow due to its cost efficiency, or at least its perceived cost efficiency. And because of its low environmental impact it will become very attractive to companies wishing to become "green."

Blogs and social media will grow as a knowledge management tool. It has already begun, but we will see it become more common place. And they will not only be used as learning tools internally, but also externally, reaching out and educating clients and customers.

Regard m-learning, Apple iPhone and Blackberry will finally adopt Flash Lite with many other phones following their lead. This will make Flash and Captivate the preferred development tools for m-learning.

Finally, after too many training departments are downsized, we will read Kirkpatrick's 4 Levels of Evaluation, again!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

MinuteBio Featured on eLearning Learning

The MinuteBio blog is now featured in the eLearning Learning community, which aggregates e-learning blogs. As described at, "eLearning Learning is a community that tries to collect and organize the best information on the web that will help you learn and stay current on eLearning."

Take a look at eLearningLearning or view the featured MinuteBio posts.