Thursday, March 26, 2009

Declaration of War

Duck Soup - Marx BrothersOn retrospect, my best, most well received courses did NOT contain next buttons. These were courses well designed for the self directed, adult learner. And I believe by not including those dastardly, rotten next buttons it ensured that I consciously designed a very engaging course that kept the learner wanting to participate. These stinking next buttons are just holding us back. So, I am not only publicly denouncing the next button...


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Perceived Advantages and Disadvantages

Yesterday, I presented an overview of e-learning for an audience of classroom trainers and training managers. Among the many things I covered, I included an exercise where they identified advantages and disadvantages of e-learning. I thought I would share the results. Keep in mind, these are classroom trainers that are open to e-learning and the use of technology in training, but they are not the choir. I found this exercise enlightening on how trainers outside of the online training realm perceive e-learning and where our strengths and weaknesses lay. Below are the lists just how they were recorded on the poster-boards. FYI: Some of the disadvantages or "challenges" can be minimized in e-learning and I did address this. Either way they are on the disadvantages list like it or not.

Advantages of e-Learning

  • Lower costs - travel and expenses, expense of training rooms

  • Environmentally friendly, green

  • Fewer designers/facilitators

  • Anytime/anywhere

  • Can take repeatedly

  • Consistent

  • Reaches larger audience

  • Relatively easy to update

  • "Trackable"

  • Can customize vendor’s online courses

  • A trend with younger generation – "They like to learn that way"

  • Self-paced, self directed

  • "Just in Time" training

  • May be an easier medium for ESL (English as a second language)

Disadvantages of e-Learning

  • Not for all learners

  • Not for all types of content

  • Development time/cost

  • Need an LMS to implement

  • Out-of-date content (if not reviewed regularly)

  • Not for computer illiterate

  • Self-directed – not always good (e.g. skip content)

  • Fraud (e.g. other people taking a test for another employee)

  • Technology differences of end-users’ computers

  • Not cost effective for small audiences

  • Less interactive/social than classroom training

  • No face-to-face social interaction

Those are the perceptions, good or bad, of e-learning in my part of the world, much of which I am in agreement. But if I was to conduct this exercise again I would title the poster boards "Advantages" and "Challenges." Or would that reveal my bias?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Online Prerequisite for Our Visit to the Zoo

Today we took a nice trip to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Prior to the trip I went to their website to check the hours and could not resist checking out their online educational resources. They had some nice, educational games, including the "Design a Panda Habitat." I let the kids play the game. They really enjoyed the game, successfully completed it, and appeared to learn quite a bit about Pandas. Plus, it added a little more motivation for our trip, not that much more motivation is needed for a trip to the zoo.

When we arrived at the giant panda exhibit, they had already learned quite a bit about the pandas and their habitat. And the course put much of what they were seeing and learning into context. This was also convenient since the place was packed...really packed. Access to the exhibit's educational material was limited. Most of our time was spent waiting for that moment when the kids could politely get to the front and sneak a quick peak at the pandas. So, thank you National Zoo for providing online resources for all the future zoologists out there.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I absolutely love using characters in my e-learning courses. They are great for gaining attention throughout the course, acting as training facilitators, or for playing a role in a storyline or simulation. Over the past five years I have created many characters in my courses. And since my current role is coming to an end due to the bank acquisition, I feel it would be good to pay a quick tribute to my fictional colleagues who have made training easier and funner over the years. FYI: The first 2 characters were made early on and are a combination of edited clip-art images. The rest are made from scratch within Adobe Flash. Please do not copy or use these images as they are copyrighted materials.

[caption id="attachment_552" align="alignnone" width="200" caption="Captain Outlook"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_544" align="alignnone" width="160" caption="IRA - retiree who knows an awful lot about retirement accounts"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_553" align="alignnone" width="172" caption="Sam Price - known to poke around branches and learn a little too much"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_543" align="alignnone" width="169" caption="James Cyclops - Expert in One View software, but has also been seen playing the role of a persistent customer with many pertinent questions"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_554" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="And of course there's the bank's middle management"][/caption]

Well, those are some of my favorite characters I have developed over the years. I will be continuing as the e-Learning Designer with the newly merged bank and hopefully will develop many new and exciting courses and graphics.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Creds to the Classroom Trainers

Since the announcement of my bank's acquisition my e-learning projects have been cancelled. So, I have returned to the classroom to teach online professional networking, which has a focus on using LinkedIn.  I am not new to teaching face-to-face classes, but I have not done it on a consistent basis since 2002. Here are some of the great things about being in the classroom that either we do not have the advantage of in asynchronous e-learning or are at least a challenge for the e-learning designer.

  • Meeting and knowing your audience (I mean literally meeting them).

  • Measuring for prior learning and adjusting the learning on the fly.

  • Joking with the participants and hearing them laugh.

  • Joking with the participants and getting blank stares. Yeah that happens, at least to me.

  • Providing very specific scenarios based on what's relevant to individual participants attending the class.

  • Giving immediate answers to their questions.

  • Giving immediate and specific feedback based on their answers, application of skills, role-playing, etc.

  • Tapping into, and sharing, the knowledge of the participants. Participants always possess valuable knowledge that can and should be shared with the class. It also promotes confidence among the participants sharing their knowledge.

  • Getting immediate level 1 evaluation data. And getting anecdotal feedback.

These are some of the things that I enjoy and value about the classroom experience. And I am reminded that these are aspects of the classroom that I aspire to include in the online experience. I also am reminded how much I respect the classroom trainer. Teaching effectively and engaging the learner in a classroom setting takes a different set of skills and expertise than one must have to create e-learning. And it is more exhausting than I remember. So, "creds" go out to our classroom brethren, especially to all those wonderful classroom trainers in my own corporate university!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Use Flash to Market Your e-Learning Courses

Here is a short article/tip I wrote last April on using Flash for marketing courses. It was included in the e-Learning Guild's "239 Tips for Producing and Managing Flash-based e-Learning Content," but I thought i would also share it on the blog.

USING FLASH TO MARKET E-LEARNING COURSES — Marketing is key to successful implementation of an e-Learning course, and Flash is an excellent tool for this purpose.The rich media of Flash provides an excellent means of gaining your audience’s attention to a course,why the course is relevant to them, and the benefits of taking it.Many marketing strategies utilize electronic announcements, such as e-mails or Intranet articles, but via Flash you can deliver a more effective and entertaining message than with text and static graphics alone. Here are some tips for using Flash to market your courses:

  1. Reuse any appropriate Flash objects already created for the course. Not only will this save you a lot of time, but it will also give the audience a preview of the content and design they will encounter in the course.

  2. Use characters in the advertisement. If the course has characters in it, use them.They can act as a spokesperson, or as actors in a skit. For example, they can be discussing their thoughts on the course, and why it was beneficial to them.

  3. Make it interactive.This will not only keep your audience’s attention, but also provide a preview of the interactive elements in the course. If you can make the advertisement a short game, that is a plus. However, the game must have the same goal as the advertisement, which is communicating why they should participate in the course.

  4. Make it entertaining. If using humor, be very cautious not to offend anyone.

  5. Include audio and any appropriate sound effects. Sound is a great attention grabber, easy to import into Flash, and if you are using it in your course it can provide a preview of the course’s use of audio as a medium.

  6. Be sure to communicate why the course is relevant to your audience, and the benefits of taking the course (what’s in it for them).

  7. Keep the advertisement as brief as possible without sacrificing your message.

  8. Conclude the advertisement with instructions on how to access the course, and a link to it or to the learning management system where they can launch it.

  9. Place the advertisement where the audience will most likely see it. For example, your organization’s Intranet homepage, the training department’s homepage, the first page of your learning management system, and so on. I also like to e-mail a link to the advertisement to all potential participants and their supervisors, preferably with some sort of tease that encourages them to click the link. I find that if people like the advertisement, they will forward the e-mail, furthering the reach of the advertisement’s message. FYI: I load the Flash .SWF to my Intranet and send a link instead of sending the Flash .SWF directly in the body of the e-mail. Most e-mail systems will strip the Flash .SWF out of the body of the e-mail.

With Flash used as your marketing tool you will get more of a “buzz”around e-Learning releases, and with that, an increase in the number of people visiting and participating in your e-Learning courses.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Big Question - In the Year 2019

The March Big Question from Learning Circuits is What will workplace learning look like in 10 years?

Here are some of the things I see in 10 years:

  • We will see much more informal learning and knowledge management. There will be a need for trainers and/or knowledge managers who will guide, coach, be a catalyst for, and monitor social media and informal learning.

  • Participants will have much more control of learning events. And with the use of technology, courses will be far more reactive to their audiences' learning needs. We are already seeing this with the use of m-learning and Twitter in the classroom. Thus, a better ability of measuring your audience and formative evaluation.

  • Soft skills training (e.g. sales, customer service, leadership, etc.), which is challenging to teach online, will find its niche online. A much improved 2nd life or similar online environs will allow quality role-playing, coaching, immediate feedback, etc. Far better multi-point, video conferencing will help too.

  • There will be NO more page turners. They will be extinct by 2019. Asynchronous courses will still exist, but they will be engaging, interactive (in the truest sense of the term), and provide opportunities for people to apply learned skills in a safe online environment. Participants will not loath taking an online course, but see them as an enjoyable, positive, learning experience.

  • With WiFi everywhere and universal platforms on all smartphones (all phones will be smartphones), m-learning will be commonplace. Smartphones will also be the common medium for social learning, which we already are seeing via Twitter, Yammer and social media apps.

There it is, my crack at being a futurist.