Sunday, February 20, 2011

Signs of Being in e-Learning Hell #eLearningHell

Signs you are in e-learning hell (as a designer/developer):

  1. The Help Desk calls and tells you they are receiving too many calls regarding your course and the __________ (pop-up blocker, Flash Player and/or LMS sign-on).

  2. Someone shows up at your office and says "I'm here for the online training."*

  3. The stakeholder proposes that all staff take the online course in a computer lab where it can be proctored.*

  4. People call you and ask, "How long does it take to convert their eight hour classroom training into an e-learning course" and you answer,"I don't know. How long will it take you to turn my phone into a '67 Dodge van?"

  5. Your subject matter expert (SME) tells you the course looks great and has no edits. The LMS report shows the SME did not even launch the course.*

*Yes, this actually happened.

Signs you are in e-learning hell (as a participant):

  1. The course starts with five pages on how to take an online course.

  2. The quiz questions have absolutely nothing to do with the course you just took.

  3. Every answer on the quiz is either "all of the above" or "none of the above."

  4. The content is not exactly concise. In fact, it may have been written by Proust.

  5. You scored 100% on the quiz but are not marked "complete" because you skipped page 42.

  6. Next.

  7. You toss your most snarky remarks at the people pictured in the course, but they still ignore you.

  8. Back.

Of course the above is all in good fun and just a way for me to vent some frustrations of working in our field. Thankfully, the above are resolvable issues and are becoming less and less common. Do you have signs that tell you when you are in e-learning hell? Please feel free to share in the comments section. Thanks!


  1. It was a while back, but one line system I worked with had a feature to collect comments from students. One stood out:

    "This room is too cold."

  2. These are classic, Jeff! And a few I'm very familiar with. Here's one I always enjoy:

    Help Desk Agent: "Everyone at (location) cannot login to the LMS."
    Me: "Did you reboot the LMS?"
    HDA: " It's not at (location), it's at the corporate office."
    Me: "Exactly. If 'everyone' can't login, the no one in the entire company would either."
    HDA: "Oh, then why can't they login?"
    Me: "Is the internet plugged in?"
    HDA: "I don't know. I'll check. Thanks for your help."

  3. Jeff, I once worked with a support contract for an LMS that I'll leave anonymous, where I had questions about SCORM Sequencing & Navigation, which they assured me was fully supported in the version of the LMS to which we had just upgraded. To prove it they provided sample SCORM 2004 content which they offered as a diagnostic tool to demonstrate how sequencing totally worked in their LMS. It was the very same Sequencing and Navigation content examples that I had authored for ADL, and while they didn't work, they assured me that I was reading the instructions wrong that described the expected experience -- the same instructions that I, in fact, helped write when I developed the content.

    There is a special circle of eLearning hell reserved for when your own creations are used against you -- kinda like Terminator or Matrix movies, only far more tedious. As I was reading through your list, I was reminded of ALL the experiences I've had that you've encapsulated quite well. Nicely done.

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  5. Love these lists!

    Unfortunately, I've also experienced #5 from your first list.

    And a possible addition for your participant hell list: The narrator slowly reads you every word on the the time it took you to read the text a couple times and still have time for your mind to wander.

    Fun yet relevant post - thanks!

  6. This post is fabulous, and the comments are perhaps even more priceless. I've also had the exact same conversation that Kevin describes. I find that "is your ethernet cable plugged in/are you connected to the wireless" is the absolute first question to ask in any support scenario. Solves at least 50% of problems.

    Also, generally, another 48% of problems can be solved by restarting the local machine.

  7. Love, love, this. Here's an actual example of elearning hell (developers). Your SME tells you that course looks great but key information is incorrect. This is after you received the information directly from them, from manuals they wrote, and after you submitted a story board of which they approved.

  8. Wow, I must have really hit a nerve. These comments are great and I don't think I have ever received so many fantastic comments in such a short amount of time.

    Thanks everyone and keep 'em coming.


  9. I'm still trying to figure out a way to politely say, "Um, on that login... you might want to check the spelling... of your own name."

  10. Shannon obvious speaks from experience. One lesson from my own experience is that the client never, ever sees the storyboards and related documents as the intended (e)learning.

    Rather, the coded, working lesson is typically seen as the prototype.

    You can't really blame the client for this--the process to design and create this stuff is too complex and too removed from the end-user reality. All the more reason to figure that review-on-paper is not really final review, regardless of who's signed what.

  11. I think that you have been following me... haha!

    I love how our helpdesk answers, "LMS? What's an LMS?" And around and around and around goes the helpdesk tickets.

    Love Jane's comment. She is so hilarious!

  12. Thanks for sharing, Jeff! Great post. My response appears here:

    Laughter is the Best Medicine

  13. Jane,

    Sometimes you need to email them the correct spelling of their name. I also find writing their name on a post-it and pinning it to their jacket works well.


    I am going to use “Is the internet plugged in?” with the next Help Desk call I get. Even better, I may just unplug the Internet if they keep calling.


  14. Great post Jeff! How about this one for developers/designers... you are in the 11th hour of a huge project that has touched every member of your team and then half of your team is laid off without notice but you are expected to finish the project anyway!

  15. Michelle,
    Wow, that certainly is the most difficult situation I have heard of. I hope this wasn't recently. If your team did complete the project it shows a lot of intergrity and professionalism.

    "You're a better man than I, Gunga Din!"

    Thanks for adding to the list.


  16. LOL its really funny, Is it ture that you getting call from someone?

  17. Jason,
    It is true I get calls regarding how long it takes to "convert" classroom training, but I would not actually ask how long it takes to convert a phone into a Dodge... Just thinking it. :)


  18. ROTFL: I have experienced every one of these. A couple more to add...
    As a designer/trainer/support:
    We have an email help system and a lot of the time they write they can't log in so we reset their password then send them directions to log in, change their password, and find their courses. But they still can't log in... after about 3 emails we find out they haven't even gone to the LMS. TO LOG IN.
    For those who can't even follow the page of directions w/ pictures to find their course I locate their course and send them the direct link.

    As a participant:
    I had to take a short course to maintain access to one of our database programs in the district. After finishing the summative exam I saved it as a PDF for posterity. When looking in the gradebook it didn't record my unit quiz grades (I assume because I'm the LMS administrator). So I printed my 100% test notice and the completed test to show the course facilitator. Since my participation didn't show in the grades, she didn't have "documentation" that i did the work and I was told to retake it. I've tried various roles to retake the test 4 times. No success of showing anything but the final exam in the gradebook. To show good faith I printed my activity report to show all I had done but they r refusing it as a solution to this problem and saying I'm making excuses. I'm now being accused of cheating by doing nothing but enter my own grade because I have administrative access and must retake a paper version the test. All this started in October... Ugh!

    I'm taking an online certification course to be state certified as an online instructor. I expected it would be a great model of high quality course material and facilitation. It has extreme amounts of busy work and many of the assignments ask for the same information in different assignments. Quite often the content is hard to locate and questions are incoherent. Such as "what is your role as an online instructor to encourage participation" role? Wouldn't that be teacher? Shouldn't the question be more like "What instructional methods would you use as an online instructor to motivate & engage the students to participate in online group projects?" They email us a few of the documents we're supposed to read (last week 7mb files). But there is no systematic way to find all of the assignments and readings. I've resorted to clicking the assignment links in the gradebook to make sure I fulfill those grades. Hope the educators they train don't torture children with those methods.

  19. Angry instructor let everyone know how poor my department's planning and infrastructure was for distance ed courses. It was *my* fault that student deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 did not always have reliable Internet access for his online course.

  20. Great post Jeff! Had me laughing but for the crying. I was given a little piece of e-learning hell to repair. The content was being delivered via talking avatar on a wiggle loop - no other visual info.

  21. Classic stuff...and unfortunately true for many of us.

  22. Brilliant in a horrible-recognition sort of way. Will be retweeting this goodness!

  23. [...] Goldman discusses tools and strategies for optimizing e-learning. You’ll find some laughs (Signs of Being in e-Learning Hell), and some very thought-provoking conversations as [...]


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