Home > Instructional Design - General > Getting people to like their vegetables – eLearning style

Getting people to like their vegetables – eLearning style

I just read a blog written by Mike Taylor on behalf of OpenSesame.com.

He makes the following observation:

“…For example, as parents, we have found that instead of punishing our son for not eating his broccoli, he reacts much better when we tell him that want  him to learn how to be healthy.  Although he’s not likely to be begging for them anytime soon, he is starting to get it and we’ve made a lot of progress in the vegetable department.  Maybe it is the optimist in me, and seeking these “learning moments” is my way of looking for the silver lining…”

With my daughter, we just found that the way to get her to like vegetables, (and she adores most of them…), was just to get her used to them from the word-go. She’s never questioned that they should not be liked.

It’s a bit like that when working with a new client, whether you build using Articulate Storyline (as I do), or any other eLearning content-building tool.

It seems that many people, especially in the freelance Instructional Design world try and placate initial requests on the basis of winning a contract, even if they contain unrealistic demands or beliefs from the client. Even if you cannot get a client to face upto the realities of online learning, you should as an ID explain how it should be built. It makes acceptance of GREAT learning techniques easier in the long run. Also, if you create a wonderful product that works for the business, it increases the chance that others in the organisation will be on the phone to you to request THEIR own 15-minutes of fame from association with one of your courses.

When I am starting work with a new client, I always try and be completely up-front and blunt with them. If I feel they are trying to “do” eLearning to cut costs, or “…because everyone is using iPads nowadays…” etc. I will tell them the realities of cost movement rather then (necessarily) cost-reduction, and explain some of the myths and practicalities of mobile learning etc. I feel that it’s easier to get a great relationship with your client based on honesty and professional respect from the start. They may be the expert on their subject in their industry, but you are a cross-functional expert – in learning techniques.

Start using that knowledge from the get-go. Now – who’s for broccoli?



  1. January 3, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Hi Bruce! I totally agree (and for the record a little peanut sauce makes the broccoli totally irresistible!) 😎


  2. January 3, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Nice, thought-provoking post – both in getting clients to appreciate *good* elearning and in getting young children to eat vegetables.

    I’ve found that many clients looking to embark on a new elearning project are not like toddlers who are vegetable-averse, but rather like teenagers (or twenty-somethings) who have never had to eat broccoli before, and they’ve made it this far without broccoli, so why start now?

    Great point about cost-movement vs. cost-reduction. Suggestions on how to approach such conversations with grace and respect (as opposed to the paternal: I’m the parent so just eat your vegetables if you really want an effective, engaging elearning program)?


    • January 4, 2013 at 9:39 am

      Hi Brian,
      I find that the best way to have these conversations is to offer clients (as you say), a respectful opinion, based on experience. Make it an opinion though, using the language of opinion (“perhaps”, “have you considered that”, and the occasional “hmmm…”). This is one case where the concept of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) can be used as a tool to change perceptions. Most people do what they know, but make THEM start to question the validity of that, and they will begin to change voluntarily, the process called Cognitive Dissonance. At the end of a conversation, a well-placed “…are you ABSOLUTELY sure” is necessary if they are taking what I believe to be the “sub-optimal decision” 😉
      Sum up agreed decisions on email/contract/working document etc.

      I always try to ensure that I understand the reasons for a client wanting to create eLearning. Over the years, I have seen the “…so that we save money…” argument so many times. In reality, many people do not know the true costs of classroom training, because many of the associated costs (travel, hotels, beer) and the opportunity costs are not calculated on the “training” budget, and never combined. This is one that can get quite heated. Sponsors need to understand the costs of creating good eLearning can be high, however, once built, it can be deployed to 10 or a million people.

      Hope that helps explain how I approach this, thanks for commenting.


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