Forget the eLearning authoring tool, remember the audience

July 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Last week I was invited by a Marketing department to review their proposed eLearning. They were concerned at the constant re-education needed for sales people – “…they just don’t remember what we teach them”.

Their use of Articulate Storyline was excellent, branching, layers, states, and so on – so why wasn’t the training being successful?

Over the first couple of hours, they mentioned, several times, that “…what we do is very complex”, and their aim was to try and get salespeople to “expert” level. In this case, this was a valid requirement, salespeople do need expert-level knowledge to perform a consulting role for clients.

Using a flipchart, I showed them that what they DO is actually very simple, using about 3 squares, 3 symbols, and two arrows. What was complex was HOW they did that – they had never put all the complex facts into a simple overall framework. Their teaching had no framework, and I suspect that this is why sales never remembered anything.

Their role, as Marketing was to be “sales support”, and I think they had just become the “sales confusion department”.

I received an email the next day, and I quote “… I can see now the importance of thinking from the end-user perspective and also to try to keep the content to a minimum and use illustrations, videos etc. to keep things interesting rather than bombarding the viewer with words.” That is partly true, as it also needs to be relevant and meet sales’ ends, but they made a huge leap forward.

When faced by the “classic SME” situation, be prepared to challenge, and talk in business-related language. Get out of your comfort zone. They wanted to know how to use Articulate Storyline more effectively. I explained how to run their business more effectively, using Storyline as one of the tools to get there, and they will now create courses, (and job aids…) so much for effectively because of that.

The perfect formula for eLearning

July 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Here’s a link to a Guest Blog I made earlier today, some thoughts on “perfect” eLearning.

If such a thing exists.

The science of Umami, and why Instructional Designers should care.

July 22, 2014 1 comment

I cooked a steak for supper yesterday, and finished off the mushroom, onions and red wine sauce with some umami powder.

Some what?

Umami – the taste of “savoury meatiness”, found in parmesan cheese, lemon peel, mushrooms, and synthesized as monosodium glutamate, or “flavour enhancer”.

Scientifically identified in 1908, yet we still mainly teach that there are 4 tastes – sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Why over 100 years later is the term still in its infancy?

What’s this got to do with Instructional Design?


We still talk about “learning styles” – perhaps they should just be viewed as preferences?

Many people still let SMEs give us bullet points, but how often do we explain what bullet points ACTUALLY ARE? (…how many of us know?)

We still mainly “tell” in courses, rather than let people discover their errors, and then learn how to solve problems. We are scared of people feeling as though they “failed”, (even if they DID, but we then explain WHY and let them practice for success, in a safe, online environment).

How long will it be before we have the courage, as a profession, to constantly and assertively let our Subject Matter Experts and customers know that there IS another way, that there is an alternative to linear courses?

Changing perceptions and comfort zones is a hard road to follow, but it IS our job to do it. Challenging can be scary, especially when the next invoice is riding on it, but ultimately, it is HUGELY rewarding, both for us, and our clients.


Sourcing #freelancers from “…the Crowd”, or “…from individuals IN the Crowd”?

July 10, 2014 Leave a comment

I was recently at an event looking at how to use a “Crowdsourcing model” for #eLearning. Broadly, there seemed to be 2 perspectives.

  1. “Crowdsourcing is a way for groups of networked individuals in a Crowd to create content for clients, and the crowd benefits”.
  2. “A Crowd enables clients to quickly assess individual skills in the group, and choose individuals for their projects”.

The first focused on benefits for the Crowd, the second focused on benefits for individuals IN a Crowd environment. I see the second option as more valid and workable. Like Star Trek – we are still individuals, and do not have a Borg “Hive-mind”, (yet!)

The Crowd (for me) is a way to link people with similar skills and aspirations, and make that accessible to clients. The end activity may not benefit the entire group, there is still a “competitive” element. Even Crowd funding still only benefits the ones that successfully.

These 2 positions were amplified in a discussion on Portfolios.

I suggested they should be on a subject of the Crowd member’s choosing, of a fixed length. Everyone would have a similar chance to shine, demonstrating their talents and vision to prospects. Some people recommended the subject should be what “the creator was passionate about”, such as a sport. I am just not convinced by this argument. Do commercial prospects REALLY want to see this?

Another view was that Portfolios should show the “skills of the Crowd” – benefitting “the whole”. I do not see this as workable or scalable. A “portfolio by committee” could be a huge and lengthy undertaking, and secondly, as soon as (say…) another 100 people join the crowd, you would have to repeat the process again.

In any herd (real or virtual) – there are leaders and followers. In any online community there are “lurkers” and “doers”. Being in a Crowd does not guarantee anyone will require the skill you offer, Crowds, for me, benefit the member IF they possess skills the rest of the herd need, and it becomes a skill-exchange from people with known skills and shared values. As they become more prevalent, the skill as I see it, is joining the correct group/community.

The Crowd provides benefits to clients if they reduce purchase time, and provide access to a community of tried and tested (?) individuals. If I were a client, I would want the Crowd to demonstrate diversity of approach, so that I could choose what I thought would work. I would just not be interested in “the Crowd” as an entity. If I audition for 4 different voiceovers I need for some eLearning, I do not want people to audition as a Barber-Shop Quartet unless I specify it. I want to use the Crowd to provide me with INDIVIDUALS as options.

I do not see a model where the Crowd benefits everyone in that Crowd, especially for eLearning. This is still a market where the INDIVIDUAL is what matters, not a Crowd of individuals. Perhaps an individual like me then goes as a client TO the Crowd, and chooses a few people to help them, but I am still unsure of how the Crowd works as a concept other then this.

I just can’t see the Crowd benefiting everyone in it. It’s another mechanism to benefit the (single) Buyer, and the few SINGLE individuals in the Crowd that end up servicing the project.

Please help me understand more – am I missing something?

And now for something completely different…

July 2, 2014 1 comment

Apart from the fact that a good Instructional Designer should probably not begin ANY sentence with “and”, this blog post celebrates the triumphant return of The Monty Python Team, (nearly all of them…) to the London stage last night, and some complete silliness from a Skype discussion I had earlier.

I was trying to discuss the merits of 14:9 Articulate Storyline slide dimensions with a colleague versus 4:3.

When I type :3 something wonderful happened….

It interprets :3 as a cat licking its paw.

14_3 on Skype

I never knew that, and I suspect you did not either. Unless you are cleverer than me and understand social media more. Or talk about eLearning or PowerPoint slide dimensions a lot in your Skype-life.

If you did NOT know this, promise me that next time you Skype someone, at an opportune moment you will just type :3, and then pretend you have no idea what you did.

We all have to right to be silly once in a while – and on that note “Hurrah for Monty Python!”

I just need to slap someone with a fish now…..


#Freelancers – original thoughts anyone?

July 1, 2014 Leave a comment

Like you, I get bombarded by feeds from social media, and frankly, I’m getting bored by most of them.

For me – social media is about sharing thoughts, sharing observations, helping other freelancers, perhaps give away the odd company secret and/or technique for success.

I am bored of getting endless re-posts, re-tweets, recommendations, and posts purporting to share knowledge that hide under a thin veil of “Buy my/our product”. I appreciate the concept of “curating”, but it does NOT just mean “Here’s a collection of stuff that you could probably find yourself if you learned how to use a Search Engine correctly”.

Many instructional designers, and many freelancers live in 1-person worlds, where communication time is short, and valued. I’d much rather receive a post from a co-worker, colleague or friend that asked an original question than get an In-Box full of content that was supposedly showing me the “52-best ways…” to do something, or covertly advertising something I do not need.

I’d love to see more questions, more engagement, and more relationships formed rather than the same information going round and round. Let’s give more – more of us, not more of others.

The value of REAL networking in your freelancer community.

June 28, 2014 5 comments

There’s an old business saying along the lines of “Never annoy anyone on your way to the top, because you may need their help when you are on the way down“. Basically, I take that to mean try and treat everyone right, and they will treat you right when you need them, (even if you are still on the way up).

Earlier this week I got a call from a very influential/well-known UK Institute. They had a problem. They had contacted me because I have 2 specific skills – #Articulate #Storyline and #Sparkol #Videoscribe – two products that are essential for their project rollout.

They need nearly 100 short, 10/12-slide, 10-minute courses produced – originally the deadline was sometime early in 2015, it is now late August 2014. It is almost the end-June now. There will be around 30-40 standalone Videoscribes to produce after that.

I went to see them, to see what I could do to help, if anything. To cut a long story short, after the meeting I placed a call to a Storyline colleague, to see if he could help, because there is no way I can do this on my own. He told me that he had diversified from Storyline, and had entered the Video Marketing world too using a new product - had I heard of a product called “Sparkol Videoscribe”?

He also knows of another resource who can help us with these skills. Sometimes – the planets just align perfectly.

In the meeting, both the client and I accepted the project dates were bordering on insanity, however, after a couple of hours, some laying down of the production “rules”, and some networking, this project has become completely realistic. I’m not saying it will be easy, but 1 person has become 3, and the light at the end of the tunnel is certainly brighter than it was. In contacting this colleague, and giving some work AWAY, a project is now more likely to happen, with me at the middle, managing it, and client panic (hopefully) turning to client delight and future repeat business.

I believe that effective Freelancer networks are ESSENTIAL, especially in my own eLearning business world . There are so many products and tools, no-one can be effective in them all. Work with REAL people, contact REAL people, and do not just be “Social Media Friends”. Be REAL friends and REAL colleagues. I am totally sick and tired of social media contacts to “Like” and “Friend” and so on – where they just ask, but offer no explanation WHY they want me to like, friend, buddy, connect and generally add to my Inbox.

That way, a massive piece of business, crazy to look at on paper MIGHT just become a workable reality with one phonecall. Freelancers often on PC/mobile tools to be effective, but do not, ever forget the value of ongoing contacts, and the occasional social call just in case you need their help.


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