Audio Narration in Training

Cathy Moore does some very neat demos. One of her latest demo's is on the use of audio narration in training. Definitely worth checking out - great work Cathy.


How to get blog comments easily

Many of us often wonder how we can get more participation from our readers. Well I found one sure fire way - criticize Brett Favre. Yip, mention the words Favre and hype in one sentence and you'll get PLENTY of feedback alright! All I can say is at 8-1 the old man looks pretty impressive from my couch.

For those of you who don't like sport maybe you can write a post about why Bill Gates isn't a genius - seems to me it would be the same as saying that Favre is hyped. On a side note why hasn't anyone written and article about why Favre is pronounced Farv?

eLearning: Selling while educating

I often find myself in the precarious position of being both a salesman and an educator when going on a sales call. I was wondering if this is a norm in the eLearning industry or whether I am just in a unique position, as I deal with both the sales and marketing side as well as the development side. This may put me in a position where I am more familiar with the nuts and bolts of the industry, unlike your ‘typical’ sales person. I said precarious because I sometimes feel like I am the first person who educates the customer on the development cycle of an eLearning project and the amount of work that is involved from both the vendor as well as the customer’s side. In addition, some potential customers seem shocked by the average price of developing eLearning programs.

I sometimes wonder whether this realization scares the customer off, but at the same time you want to be as honest and upfront as possible. I would love to year from other people in the field to see whether my experience resonates with them. Have you had a similar experience? Is the duality of sales and educating necessarily a bad thing? Is this duality unique to eLearning or does it translate to other industries? Is this duality the result of the relative ‘youth’ of the eLearning industry? Your thoughts would be appreciated.


Narcotic elearning anyone?

I came across a very timely blog post from Cathy Moore regarding the amount of boring eLearning content out there. It is very timely because I was asked that exact question by a potential customer yesterday. My reponse was right in line with Cathy post:
No clear goal: We don’t look closely enough at the business reason for the course.
The wrong tool: We’re using elearning when another method would work better.
Too much telling: We think, “We know things that the learners don’t! We must tell the learners these things!”
Not enough time: Feeling pressured? You’re not alone. Several respondents to Elliott Masie’s 2005 survey mentioned problems like “ever faster development cycles that make it difficult to maintain minimum quality standards”
Lack of internal standards: Rigorous, written standards for elearning materials don’t appear to be wildly popular.
Fear of creativity: We’re sometimes afraid not only of
humor but even of “safer” ideas like dialog, scenarios, simulations, “discovery” approaches, and the many other ways to show instead of tell.
I'm gonna add a few more ideas at Cathy's blog so make sure to check it out.

Is copyright causing a conundrum for trainers?

With the proliferation of applications that allow anybody to create content, where do we draw the line as far as copyright? Blogs are loaded with content that was not created by the author especially images. Is this an issue or are blogs different from other training/informational materials developed within your organization? Where do we as eLearning developers draw the line in terms of incorporating content that is available in the 'public' sphere e.g. Youtube?

Youtube videos are littered with copyrighted material that the content creator has manipulated/edited into a new format. Can we/should we reference these videos? Is copyright becoming less of an issue because of the fluid nature of content on the internet? Clearly the music industry is still battling the peer to peer applications, although most of it has not been terribly successful. Music sharing is not a new thing. Back in the day kids used to copy cassettes from each other. With the advent of the internet and peer to peer applications you can now share files with another person in Mongolia in mere minutes.

So some of the questions I would like you to think about are:

  • Where does copyright begin and end in the web 2.0 era?
  • Have the rules changed with the advent web applications like blogs, Wikipedia, Facebook, Youtube etc?
  • Are the rules different for learning programs vs. blogs?
  • Is there a difference between music rights and copyright on images/video?
  • Can copyright be an enforced with the advent of the internet, does this matter?

Springboks - World Cup Winners

Well my 4 year fix of high quality rugby combat is over and it ended in victory for the Boks! The build up to the World Cup has been tumultuous to say the least. The next four years will definitely be as interesting, especially with a push in many political circles for affirmative action in the selection process. Several politicians are also pushing for the exclusion of all South African players who decide to play their rugby outside of South Africa.

South Africa not only ended the World Cup victoriously, they also won several IRB awards including team of the year, Jake White was honored with the coach of the year and Bryan Habana won IRB's player of the year - great job boks! In addition, the Boks now top the world rugby rankings, followed by New Zealand, Argentina, England and amazingly Australia at number 5!

Here are some great Youtube videos - enjoy!

Rugby World Cup Victory 2007 - Celebrations CT
Springboks 2007
Race debate after SA victory
Try Savers and Rib Breakers 6
Springbok rugby tribute - The link is a temperamental but worth the wait!
RWC 2003 Best Tries
Springbok Rugby Tries '05/'06
National Anthem of South Africa - AWESOME video
My final thoughts on the Rugby World Cup of 2007
Op die bokke and Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika!


How to lose a customer in 5 minutes or less

Considering how difficult and time consuming it can be to get a new customer why do businesses find it so easy to lose a current customer? Nothing destroys a business relationship as easily as bad service. Thrown bad response to said bad service into the mix and you have a fatal combination. Let's look a quick example.
I was out with my family last night and we decided to swing by the pharmacy across from our local medical center to pick up a prescription that was sent through earlier in the day. My wife called ahead to make sure that they had received it and that it would be ready. We were assured it would be. The unnamed pharmacy provides drive through service so I can pull up to the window without dragging my whole family including my cute little ankle biters along - perfect!

Drive up, press the button, automated lady tells you to fill in all the info, couple of minutes later a real person says they'll be there in a couple of minutes...no problem so far. 15 minutes go by and I have more cars piled up behind me than at a Rutgers football game. I decide to press the button again. Same robotic lady followed by a person saying we'll be with you in a few minutes.
After 5 minutes a lady behind me gets out and politely comes up to my window asking if I had seen a ‘real’ person yet. I inform her no such luck and we proceed to press the button again. Same response as before.

After another 5 minutes my 3 year old informs me "Daddy I have to go potty". Fearing what would happen if I lose my place in line I get out, my wife takes over the driver's position and the 3 year old and I walk around. Once inside the pharmacy I head to the 'service counter'. I ask for the key to the restroom as that is always locked. I also inform them that my wife is on the other side of that window merely waiting for one item that has already been sent through. Response: 'I am not in charge of the window and we are very busy tonight'. Translation ~ I only work here dude, not my problem! Meanwhile back at the ranch I was passed by a guy in a pickup who drove around and was in the pharmacy receiving his order. There were also two other people standing around waiting - wow very busy indeed.

I hate bad customer service and worse still I hate the response that it is not problem I just work here. Take some pride in your job and in your organization. Anyway, I head to the potty and in the meantime my wife calls them on her cell. The response is a sigh and eventually someone came to 'help' her. Actually it was the young lady who told me she was not responsible for the window - hmm.

That little incident cost them my business. In a few minutes they manage to lose a loyal and regular customer. Although the whole experience was pretty bad, it was the 5 minutes that I spent chatting to the staff (5 minutes) that decided my response.

Many businesses are focusing on training, but more needs to be done in the area of basic customer service. Given the fact that bad customer service can DIRECTLY impact your bottom line I am amazed that not more is done in this area. Is it my imigination or has customer service declined over the past few years? Given my example doesn't it seem like more should be done? What has your experience been either as a customer or an employee related to bad customer service? Have you lost a customer or been the customer who has broken a business relationship because of bad customer service?


RWC 2007 - Springboks all the way

To say I’m excited would be the understatement of the century!
The South African rugby team (the Springboks – Boks for short) have made it through to the World Cup final where they will meet the English. This 2007 World Cup has been one of major upsets with the favorite team from New Zealand (the All Blacks) being knocked out by France in the quarterfinals. In the other quarterfinal England (a MAJOR underdog) beat the mighty team from Australia (the Wallabies). With France vs. England and South Africa vs. Argentina in the semi’s most people favored the host nation (France) to take on the Boks in the final….wrong again, England beat out Les Bleus to make it back to back finals for them.

It’s difficult to explain the excitement of a World Cup to an American. Can you imagine a situation where the U.S. has to select a national football squad from all the various NFC and AFC teams? Now imagine that there are at least 4 international teams that equal the power and skill of your team. Who would you select at quarterback – Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre? [I mention Favre because I am a MAJOR Packers fan]. Imagine the excitement and discussion that would go on.

Who would be the team’s coach – again the two top sides' coaches come to mind as obvious favorites. Would they want the job and all the pressure of leading their side to global glory? Who would you select as wide receivers to compliment the QB’s? Running backs? Could you select Ladainian Tomlinson based on his current form? Are their players on the opposing sides that could counter his running style? Maybe we need to look a guy like Reggie Bush….

Let’s take it one step further and imagine that the new national team loses to Romania in the build up to the World Cup. Oh you didn’t know that Romania had a national football team…well they do in this world. Anyway, Romania is a developing football country (a so called Minnow) that has a great defense that shut both running backs down for the day. Furthermore Brady had a terrible day and threw two interceptions..now what? Should Tony Dungy quit? Maybe it is time to replace him with Bill Belichick? The guy never looks happy but he wins games even if he records some additional footage from the sidelines. Now that I have some NFL supporters’ blood boiling I want to welcome you to the world of international sport. Yes, we have the Olympics but the atmosphere is nowhere near as intense as an international team competition like the World Cup – Rugby, soccer, cricket.

Thanks for allowing me to digress from the world of eLearning and to share my excitement about what should be an epic game on Saturday. The Boks were hoping that Nelson Mandela could come to France to inspire the team to glory – as he did in SA in 1995 – but unfortunately he isn’t physically able to. Nonetheless, he will share a message with the team via video prior to the game and we all hope that this will inspire the boys to glory. On Saturday wear green to show your support.

Op die Bokke!


eLearning jokes: Not funny?

I’ve read a couple more posts on the use of humor including Geetha Krishnan's Humor in eLearning. Geetha’s post echoes most of my thoughts on humor including the issue of political correctness. What I found the most interesting were the horror stories from people who have used humor an offended people.

Make sure to check out David Lee’s comment where he mentions a sales meeting that went wrong due to the use of humor “After returning home from a very successful sales meeting where my product presentations with my marketing manager had received among the highest ratings from the sales force, I was called into my boss's office. The VP of HR and my boss's boss where there. I was informed that two jokes we included in our presentation had offended a handful of representatives and they were calling for the dismissal of me and my marketing colleague. Fortunately, a personal apology and an official reprimand calmed the offended employees and we kept our jobs.”

Earlier Davis states that “No instructional designer can be expected to know so much about every target employee to ensure a joke or a cartoon will not offend. In the case of instructor lead training, there is no assurance that every facilitator will have the background understanding and comedic timing to deliver a joke well. Best case scenario is you humor most and bore some. Worst case scenario is the company is sued and people lose their jobs.”

Do you similar horror stories? Would you agree that humor in training should be avoided? Could this be the sad reality of training in the year 2007? Are all blondes sensitive about blonde jokes? Is it possible for us to laugh at ourselves? Are jokes by their very nature at the expense of others? If so, is the price to high to pay? Are there are examples of training that uses humor effectively?

Interestingly the same argument is often made in connection with marketing i.e. humor in marketing is to risky. One of my favorite and most succuessful advertising campaigns is the Aflec duck. Maybe the key is to make fun of animals.... Then again the Geico gecko has a British accent. Are the British offended by the associated connection?


Humor me

I came across an interesting post [Laugh, and your learners laugh with you. Maybe.] by Cathy Moore discussing the use of humor in training. She mentions that most customers are very opposed to using humor (of any type) in training. I would agree with her that there is a perception that anything laid back will not be taken seriously by the audience. This has definitely been my experience with our corporate clients. Admittedly we have worked extensively in the Pharma/Biotech industries and they appear to be more serious in their approach. I am wondering if there are industries where humor is more widely used in online training.
Again, I agree with Cathy that humor is easier to use in a classroom setting mainly because the feedback from the audience is instantaneous. In a classroom setting you get feedback right away and if your joke flops you can move on very quickly changing your approach/speaking style-this is obviously not the case for online training.

Something that Cathy didn't touch on and that one comment mentions briefly is the multi-cultural nature of the training audience. This makes it trickier as humor definitely differs from country to country and even more so from area/region to region. It is VERY difficult to develop a course that will be funny for the entire audience. Actually, now that I think about it there are also substantial differences in how the different genders perceive humor. I am always amazed at how specific advertising campaigns really highlight these differences. Quite regularly my wife and I sit at the TV and I crack up at a Miller beer commercial and she is sitting next to me looking perplexed.

Another area that really limits the use of the humor is the environment of political correctness. Let's face it; much of the humor that is really funny may offend some group of your audience. This means that much of the humor is scaled back and becomes corny, rather than funny.

I would say that humor can be used, especially if the audience is small and homogenous. The more diversified the audience the more difficult it is to pull off humor.


Great service: Spread the good news

Either I'm just getting older and grumpier or companies are focusing less on customer service and not willing to back the products that they sell. Luckily I had a super surprise while doing business with the guys from MCCOM. Ok so their name is not catchy, but these guys get business.

Here's the story:I needed to capture some video from a Betacam tape provided by a customer for a fire training program. We didn't own a Betacam player so I looked around for one on the internet. I came across MCCOM's site and called them up. They had a Betacam player, so I swung by their office/mini-warehouse to pick it up. They were likable and I ended up chatting to them for over an hour. That would be a pretty good plug for them if that was end. As you may be guessing it isn't.

We tested the machine at their site to make sure it worked and I tested it once I had it set up at the office. No issues either time. Well yesterday I fire it back up as I was ready to capture the tape...no luck! I got sound, but no video. I called the MCCOM guys up to see if there was any setting that I was missing. After some discussion we decided that it may be a dirty head and they recommended that I bring it back in for a clean.

After some amount of testing, cleaning, poking and prodding earlier today we all realized the machine was shot. Luckily they had another one in stock. When I wanted to pay, both Scott Trupp and Mike Mehalko said "absolutely not!' I explained that I was more than willing to pay as the machine worked when I tested it and it is a used machine. The still refused my money and said 'just enjoy it and spread the goodwill'. Thanks Mike and Scott I intend to. What a privilege to work with people who are willing to do the right thing and who understand the value of building a long term relationship with your customers.

If you are looking for "new & used broadcast video & audio equipment, these folks maintain an extensive inventory as well as broker equipment for their customers. Their many services include: custom studio design, appraisals, liquidations and facility upgrades. They buy used video equipment from complete facilities to Non Linear Suites to individual pieces of equipment. Or they can take your used equipment in trade toward newer or New equipment", please contact them and remember spread the good news!


Let the RWC games begin

I seldom write about non-eLearning topics but today I have to share my excitement! In a few hours the RWC 2007 kicks off in France with 20 top nations from around the world representing their fans hope for glory.

Although much of the American population is oblivious to the start of this amazing event, I will be glued to my TV watching as many games as possible (thank goodness for TIVO). Based on the Bok team [South African team = Springboks] selection I am confident that they will be facing the All Blacks come the final on October the 20th. Hopefully the magic that Madiba provided in 1995 by wearing the Springbok jersey will work again this year.

In closing all I can say is:



Rusting to success

I never thought of success in terms of rust, but I had the privilige of having some relaxing time on the plane from Chicago and I read the September issue of Business 2.0 from cover to cover. I would highly recommend this issue to ALL members of small businesses. The issue covers the latest business disruptors/innovators and also give some detials about previous disruptors such as the founders of Facebook, Google, Microsoft etc. The whole issue was filled with inspiration for small businesses to keep going and to keep thinking about new ways to help people do what they do more effectively, easier and quicker. One particular article struck gold with me. The article about Fred Franzia was elightening and VERY amusing. Wow, talk about a fish that swims agianst the current.

My favorite Fred Franzia quote from the article is:
"Success is easy if you think of it as rust: It's inevitable if you keep at it."

Amazingly that is the consistent message from all of the start up entrepreneurs that are profiled in the magazine. Keep at it, believe in yourself and work hard. The rust will take care of itself!

Putting a $ amount on trust

I bumped into a business associate the other day and he was telling me a horror story about a new LMS implementation that went horribly wrong at a large fortune 500 company. Accordingly to him they had an excellent computer systems validation (CSV) team in place and all was going well. Suddenly the company found a cheaper supplier and kicked the first guys out. The new guys came in and didn't know what they were doing and all the wheels fell off the bus. Does this sound familiar? Have you had similar experiences with 'cheaper' low quality vendors replacing 'more expensive' top quality guys and gals?

My associates seemed to be of the opinion that this is happening more and more. Companies focus purely on the $ amount being charged and don't look at the bigger picture i.e. the cost of bringing a new group up to speed, building relationships between team members, additional time spent on project management, policing the quality of the final product etc. Much of these activities can be grouped under the broad label of trust. Can you trust you supplier to deliver a quality product on time and on spec? What dollar amount can you put against that feeling of trust? Is it really worth getting someone new in and not having that trust and security? Is the example I cited a case of shortsightedness or is there more to it? Your thoughts are appreciated.

Personally I have a network of suppliers that I've selected based on both cost and quality. Once they've been selected I consider them as part of my company and I build a long term relationship based on both parties mutually benefiting. Unless their price to quality ratio drastically increases I wouldn't cut the relationship to save a few $'s somewhere else. To me, if it looks too good to be true it probably is. Putting a $ amount on a business relationship built on trust is highly risky and not worth the gray hairs. In my case I am losing hair at a rate of knots, so I have to take good care in this department.


40's up!

I was amazed when I noticed that I have posted 40 entries on this blog (this being # 41). I also counted 23 comments which I think is a great ratio of comments to posts.

Thanks for the feedback I really appreciate. I enjoy blogging although it was pretty hard to get the juices flowing initially.

Death by video?

We live in the multimedia age. One unfortunate Miss Teen USA contestant massacres a response to a question in a beauty pageant (while mentioning my country of birth) and EVERYONE watches it on Youtube – with subtitle included.

Surely given the massive amount of video that people now have access to on their cell phones, smart phones, PDA's, internet, TV, TiVO etc it makes logical sense to bombard people with video in training programs, right?

I am constantly amazed at the number of customers who want video in their training programs. The reason that I am amazed is because when I ask them why video is needed they look at me with blank stares. Apparently it is so obvious that no explanation is needed. Don't get me wrong many of our training programs use video elements/segments but these are tied directly to the objectives of the program.

So this begs the question - can a training program suffer from death by video? Surely having a video training program is much better than having just text on screen. I would say - maybe. Having the talking head video on screen for 30 minutes is just as boring as the text based page turner. Yes, I did say boring. Fact is people are busy and they want something that engages and entertains them. This is best achieved by use a combination of eLearning elements such as text, interactive graphics, audio and video. The last two elements may be limited based on your budget, time frame, deployment method etc.

Back to video. Using video is a great idea but use it in limited amounts to meet your learning objectives. What are users going to get out of the video? Why do they need to see the video? Does the video have graphics included, multiple narrators/actors i.e. will it engage the user? If you can adequately answer these questions then you should use video. The best idea is to split any video that is longer than 3-5 minutes into separate learning segments. Contemporary business people share one characteristic with gold fish, their concentration span is VERY short. This means you have to keep them hooked and using video can be a great way to achieve this.

Just make sure that your training program doesn't suffer a quick and horrible death by video.


Business Matchmaking: Chicago

I am very fortunate to be able to make a trip out to Chicago for the Mid Western regional SBA Business Matchmaking event. This is an amazing opportunity for buyers and sellers to interact on a one on one basis and I would HIGHLY recommend it to small business people. I went to an event in Ft. Lauderdale last year and we got a very nice contract out of it with the NFPA, as well as some great leads for future projects.

The format of the event is speed dating for business. The nice thing is that you are matched with buyers based on your product descriptions and their buying needs. I will let you know whether this event turns out to be as successful as the previous one.

No Big Question

For those of you who are wondering, there is no Big Question for August. I have been a little lax posting entries, but this is more a result of being busy rather than losing interest. Typically this time of the year is a little slower and then it really picks up again later in the year. Fortunately this is not the case this year, so I am a happy camper. We are also looking to branch out and develop some of our own products so this will be an exciting adventure that will seriously deplete my already scarce free time. As they say 'no rest for the wicked..'

Anyone have any interesting topics related to eLearning/distance learning? I am always open to new ideas. Have a great weekend and stay safe.


Interactive learning

Too often the term interactive learning is used in an abstract manner where its actual application or power is lost. Interactive learning is simple and you can contribute in an active way. Actually I want to thank all the contributors over the last couple of weeks. We all heard that Web 2.0 is different and powerful and that it will exponentially increase learning. Well in the case of blogging it has definitely done so for me. Blogging is powerful because not only is it easy for you to share your thoughts or nuggets of wisdom, but it is also easy for the reader to respond directly to you, sharing their thoughts are challenging your ideas.

Yes Web 2.0 has made publishing easy, but it is not a one way interaction it is truly interactive. Sadly many of you read the blog via a reader and as such you may miss out on the comments. This is very sad, because the true learning takes place at the level of interaction i.e the point where my rambling gets challenged by readers' comments.

Let's take one great example. Tim responded to my post on July's Big Question regarding Tool selection with the following comment: "Could you frame some of this rhetoric about e-learning 2.0 in the context of e-learning for large corporations like banks where there is no internet access (no access to blogs as a learning tool), the requirement for mandatory training for compliance purposes, and where standards (restrictions?) like AICC or SCORM are in place?".

Wow, this blew my socks off. What an excellent question. Initially I was a little stunned by the word rhetoric, but after some reflection I realized that to someone who is actually trying to implement eLearning 2.0 in a corporate setting, much of the discussion must appear to be at the level of rhetoric. The fact is that the corporate context does limit the implementation and therefore the implications of eLearning 2.0. Tim's response really got my brain thinking about eLearning 2.0 from a different perspective. My response to Tim then got another comment from an Organizational and Development student (Mary deVore) who thanked us for discussing this interesting topic.

My point is that blogging is a great interactive learning tool. The ease and level of interaction is fascinating and it really makes my juices flow. I would like to recommend that you comment on your favorite blogs and that you read other people's comments. This is really a great interactive learning tool. Please keep up the good work!


eLearing tool selection: Learning Circuits Big Question

I have thought about the Massive question of the month (July) and I think as with anything, moderation is key. I agree with Andrew's comment that it is important for us as professional's to keep up with the most important development tools. I personally think that there will be a natural 'shake out' of tools and that a few (maybe 10-20) will predominate over time. It is not realistic or feasible for developers to be familiar with a large number of tools as most of the 'major' tools can be used to replicate the functionality of smaller tools. This is pretty major generalization, I know. Please give me some examples of where this doesn't hold true.

Let's look at the points to consider:
How does the eLearning design process need to change to accommodate such a wide variety of tools?
I don't subscribe to an 'eLearning design process'. We have a specific
design process that is a modification of the most predominant approaches to eLearning development. Our approach is based on modular rapid prototyping. This approach is larger than the set of tools that are used. In a sense the process is independent of the tools.

How does the tool selection process need to change?
I think vendors will naturally gravitate to what works for them. Having said that, tool selection may be influenced by the customer's experience with tools that they have either used internally or that they have heard other people use either successfully or unsuccessfully. Customers are more informed about tools and this is a major change from 10 years ago.

What should learning professionals do to stay up-to-speed?
Read, research and ideally develop materials using different tools.

Do they need to learn new tools constantly?
Again, I think vendors will for the most part stay with what works for them, BUT and this is a big but they will be pushed by vendors to adapt internal tools or tools that are widely used within the organization. There is a cost associated with adopting new tools so most vendors will not change unless there is a long term benefit.

Can they stick with a few tools?
See all the thoughts above.

Will this trend continue? If so, then what does that imply for us?
It seems like we are at a watershed with what many experts refer to as Web 2.0 or eLearning 2.0. Will this trend continue? I think that if these tools are able to influence and change the way that work is done, then yes the trend will continue. If blogging continues to be as big as it is at the moment then people will continue to use it as a resource. I'm sure I will regret making this prediction, but I see the hype around blogging decreasing over the next 5 years. What about the other web 2.0 tools?

Let me grab my crystal ball real quick, hang on........


The big question is massive


This month's BIG question is more like a massive question. In fact it is sooooo big that I am merely posting it for now as I think through my responses. I would love to hear from you regarding these questions, especially if you are customer of eLearning services. Unfortunately much of the discussion around these topics involves the eLearning development community rather than the consumers of our products. It would be great to have the the consumers weigh in on their experiences, expectations, successes and failures. How important is tool selection to the customer? Do they care about the actual tool that will be used for delivery or do they just want it to be effective? I know, I'm adding more questions to an already loaded question. See details below....

As compared to ten years ago when there were roughly four major authoring tools, today there are a large number of different tools and different approaches to creating content. You can use standard authoring tools, rapid development tools, LCMS, simulation development tools, HTML editors, Wikis, and many others including a vast array of media creation solutions. And to make matters more difficult seems to be a constant flood of new tools. We literally have 100s of choices.
So, this month, The Big Question is...

Choosing Tools?

Points to Consider:
  • How does the eLearning design process need to change to accommodate such a wide variety of tools?
  • How does the tool selection process need to change?
  • What should learning professionals do to stay up-to-speed?
  • Do they need to learn new tools constantly?
  • Can they stick with a few tools?
  • Will this trend continue? If so, then what does that imply for us?


Why do women blog less?

Interesting discussion about diversity in the blogosphere going on at Tony Karrer's blog.

Why do you think that women blog less than men? Do women like the personal nature of conversation? If blogs are similar to diaries why do men blog more than women? Surely the opposite would be case?

Are blogs a way for men to show their knowledge and women aren't interested in 'showing off''? Many theories and opinions out there...

I would love to hear from women!


Online communites

I found a VERY interesting graphical representation of online communities based on estimated size of membership. It looks like most of the communities are represented, even if Microsoft is relegated to Icy North. I love finding visual representations like this and I am always amazed at the time it took to put something like this together.

Please make sure to check out all the other amazingly interesting maps:

Be warned this site covers eclectic topics such as:
Gastronomic Cartography: the France of Breads; Where (and How) Evolution Is Taught In the US; Bushlandia vs. Reality; A Vulture’s View of Ethiopia and much, much more....enjoy.


PowerPoint: Beating a dead horse?

In line with May’s Learning Circuits’ big question around PowerPoint I found some more interesting reading on the topic of PowerPoint, its uses/abuses, presentation styles and more>>:

Don’t Hate PowerPoint; Hate the PowerPointers
Really Bad PowerPoint, Part II

I still stand by my initial argument that PowerPoint has a place in business, specifically as a tool for communicating information during a business meeting/presentation. I don't see it as an eLearning tool, although there are exceptions where an extremely creative person has used PowerPoint and created a great eLearning course. Having said that, the exceptions proof the rule. As far as bad PowerPoint presentation go, I re-assert that you can blame the tool, rather blame the presenters. A tool is only as good or bad as the person using it.

Do you have any good examples of PowerPoint presentations? I am a huge fan or visual presentations that don't rely on bullet points. A massive amount of bullets tend to lead to a reductionist presentation and generally the presenter will use the bullet points as cue points which loses the interaction level with the audience. Your thoughts? Is this discussion over and should I lay it to rest?


Web 2.0: Quality vs. Quantity

Tony Karrer is having an interesting conversation regarding Web 2.0 and the implications for content creation, and more importantly the quality of the content that is created. I agree with Tony that the new tools for generating and sharing content are great, but shouldn’t there be some sort of arbitration? We are so used to peer reviews and publishers who decide what is worthwhile reading. Web 2.0 is leveling the playing field and any ‘old schmo’ can voice their opinion via the web.

My feeling is that we may be heading towards a tipping point. At the moment tools such as blogging, wikis, RSS feeds etc are really coming to the fore even though some of the technology has been around for a long time. Many companies currently require their employees to blog as part of their job description. Personally I see that changing in the short term, primarily because of the world load that people have. In the end the experts will create a community of bloggers (which I already see in the eLearning industry) and debate important developments in the industry using the new technologies.

The ‘average’ working is in the trenches putting out the fires. I think I mixed two visual metaphors there, but you get the point. In my humble opinion the web will self regulate and we will see more focused blogging by fewer individuals. The usefulness/ROI of blogging is hard to measure so companies will eventually dismiss most of it as hype and move on. Most employees will cease blogging and the experts will remain.

Blogging is just one aspect of web 2.0. I need to catch my breath and consider the broader implications. Back in a bit.


Where are the Examples of eLearning?

This month's Learning Circuits Big Question really hits close to home.
The b?g question is:
Where are the Examples of eLearning?

Unfortunately most custom development vendors like Cyber Media Creations are bound by NDA with our customers. This means that we can't post any of our demos on our website, so potential customers can't see the type of work that we've done in the past. You can read through our project fact sheets, but this doesn't give you a sense of the interesting work that we've done.

Even if we could post some examples we would be limited by the internet. Some of the high quality video work that we've done has been deployed on CD at full screen video quality. We really couldn't demo that on the web without redeveloping the interface and dropping the video quality which would defeat the purpose.

I do show/demo potential customers some of our recently completed projects as long as they are not direct competitors or in the same industry as the customer that the project was developed for. In the case of eLearning; where the product offering and quality is so diverse; it is important to show your products, but unfortunately most customers are not willing to let you demo their custom built product on the web. That's our reason for not showcasing our eLearning projects. In my opinion it is a competitive disadvantage but a reality of custom eLearning development.


The dandelion in the room

I don’t often use examples from my own private life mainly because I don’t think people are that interested in hearing about how my weekend was. If I was Bill Gates or Nelson Mandela this would be different, but I’m not. Regardless of the fact I am still going to share my story with you. Actually it was more like a Eureka moment with a twist of humor.

Over the weekend I had every intention of spreading mass mayhem and destruction on all weeds that inhabit my acre of property. On the Friday afternoon I was out sizing up the battle field when my three year old came up and patted me on the leg. “Look at the pretty flowers”. I looked down to see her holding a massive fist full of white puffed seeded Dandelions that she was blowing a light consistent breeze over. She was delicately spreading millions of dandelion seeds across my entire lawn! She looked so happy and an awe with herself that I had to smile.

What struck me almost immediately was the ease with which this story could be transported across to the real world, you know the business world. Think of two departments/groups with differing objectives. Neither group has evil intentions, they just have different perspectives. Now think about the eLearning vendor, your IT department, subject matter experts, project sponsors etc… The dandelions have increased exponentially. In order to ensure success, we need to make sure that there are no dandelions in the room. Make sure that you analyze your objectives, goals and metrics for success. Now make sure that these stack up against other stakeholders.

See you thoughts it was just going to be a cute little story about my three year old. I guess there is a lot to learn, even from the youngest members of the human kind.

Offshore outsourcing

Just a couple of ideas regarding obstacles to offshore outsourcing eLearning projects. Not comprehensive by any stretch, merely a starting point…

Cultural differences: These differences may range from subtle to obvious. Some cultures shy away from any confrontation which means that your experts may not challenge you when you make a suggestion that is obviously incorrect or at the very least non-optimal. Cultural differences can also become a major issue if you are working with a team from a not native English speaking country. Even in cases where the project managers are English-speaking this may not be the case for the majority of the back office techies. This may impact the quality of your final product as spelling and grammatical errors may easily be missed.

Intellectual property protection: Some of the offshore suppliers are based in countries where the right to intellectual property is not very well enforced or understood. You could very well end up with a situation where your training is sold to another competitor.

Time difference: Are you able to work in the time zone where your vendor is based? For most eLearning project rapid feedback in real time is an added advantage that speeds up development time.

Transfer of content: How large is the files that you will be working with? Is it possible to transfer content to the web during the development phase or will CD’s be sent to and from the vendor. What is the cost/time involved with that?


Offshore eLearning development

As you can tell I have also been a little tardy in posting new entries in my blog. Although I wish I had more time to post entries I am also grateful that work has been keeping me busy. I am lucky that each project and each client’s needs are unique, so boredom is not an issue.

The uniqueness of custom development is actually the reason for this post. I was recently informed by a potential client that they have decided to use an eLearning vendor that has extensive resources available offshore. In fact the primarily development would be done offshore with project management on the US side. The primary driver is naturally the development cost/price per man hour.

Offshore development has been around for some time now and I’m sure you heard of this and maybe your company has tried it. What has your experience been? In my past life I actually worked for a software development company that used Indian offshore resources. Our experience was mixed. The price was great, but project management was very difficult. I suspect the main reason for the negative experience with project management was due to cultural differences and a lack of quality testing on the Indian side. Although the projects were a little cheaper than doing it locally we battled to meet deadlines and the project inevitable cost more than we initially scoped both in terms of offshore time/cost as well as US project management time/cost. I have heard similar stories from other folks and especially from smaller eLearning vendors that have outsourced segments of a project.

Don’t get me wrong I think that offshore development outsourcing can and is successful, but it requires a lot of thought, planning and process management to ensure a successful outcome. It is also A LOT easier if you have a blue print of what you want and you simply want the offshore company to develop based on that blueprint/storyboard/use case. The potential customer that I mentioned is actually entering the eLearning space for the first time and developing a new product. They are not 100% sure what the end product will look like and what the features and functionalities will be. This will surely add more pressure on the eLearning development company managing the offshore team.

What are your thoughts? Would you/have you tried using offshore resources for custom eLearning development? How would you rate the experience?


Rapid eLearning tools

The debate continues about personal learning environments and the use of rapid eLearning development tools. With the amount of information that is now available more and more people are developing learning content. Many people argue that much of this content is not very good.

I say that there is a place for rapid eLearning content as long as the developer/creator puts thought into what the objectives are for the content. There are many cases where information is time sensitive and it needs to be put out tomorrow. In that case there literally isn't time to develop a 'nice' looking interactive course and it doesn't make sense to hire an eLearning development company. Develop content that is easy to digest i.e. short, sweet and simple. However, if your objective is to share the content with a large audience and create a core training course then it would be a good idea to hire a professional company to assist you.

My only concern is whether the 'decentralization' of content development will eventually lead to information overload and repetition. Do large organizations need to have a central strategy for the development of learning/training content or should we allow the users to filter through the useless/bad content and get to the useful stuff? Do people in corporate America have the time to do that filtering?

Your favorite blogs

I need your help! I am busy updating my blogs and adding them to my Google reader. I would like to know what blogs you're reading. Although I am obviously interested in training/elearning related blogs any other interesting blogs would be appreciated.


You only have three minutes

I’ve been thinking about the Freakonomics blog post where people gave their ideas about why they do and don’t comment on blogs. In my initial post I just mentioned a few of the main reasons that I found interesting, but I hadn’t had time to really think about the implications of these reasons, not only for blogs but also for learning in general.

Having had a few weeks to think about two things really jump out at me, specifically related to how these reasons for not commenting impact the effectiveness of any training. I would argue that looking at why people do or don’t engage in a blog, may give us a fair indication of what people are or aren’t looking for in online training. Many eLearning applications are developed to engage the users so what lessons can we learn from people looking at blogs. Granted the two are fairly different in that reading a blog is part of informal learning, whereas some eLearning courses are required learning. Be that as it may we can still gleam something about what intrigues the cyber junkie and what rouses their interest or squashes their interactive juices.

The first is the fairly obvious and consistent reason for not commenting which is a lack of time. This is a VERY important factor to consider when developing online courses. DON’T try to develop these monstrous courses/modules that take hours to complete, people will become bored and they WILL move on!

How this for a great comment on the fixed cost of time:
“First is the fixed cost.. it just took me 3 minutes to register with Wordpress and that’s a long time for the internet age.” Matt W.

3 minutes! You better have something that is captivating to keep this guys attention!

The second aspect of commenting/not commenting that stood out for me was tone and expertise of the blog author. Check out these comments:

“It is not that I never have the desire, I just usually find myself far less articulate than the author of the blog that I am reading. For that reason I figure that there is no need for me to take away from what they have written with a seemingly un-intelligible response. I feel that there are far too many of these types of responses in blogs and I usually do not wish to be part of it.” Takshaka

“I choose weblogs authored by people much more knowledgeable than myself, written on topics I’d like to understand better. To think I would have something of substance to contribute, leaving a comment through this one-to-many broadcasting technology environment, would be hubris.” Dixie

I concede that people inclination to respond in written format on a blog authored by a blog may be different to engaging in online course, but there is certainly something to be gleaned from this comment. Tone is an essential part of a training course and bloggers comments on the experts should be taken into consideration. Not only have studies shown that simple language is easier to digest, but striking a tone of equality may get people to engage and absorb more of the information… By now my 3 minutes are up and you have probably moved on by now. If not, stay tuned.


Visualization methods: Periodic table

I came across this great resource via Kevin's blog. It's a periodic table of visualizations. Move your cursor over each one and an example pops up.

Let me know if you've found other resources like this.

Have a great Easter!

PowerPoint vs. Interactive learning

PowerPoint is a pervasive application used in many, if not most training settings. Sadly many of these PowerPoint presentations can be described only as ‘death by PowerPoint’ rather than being a good learning experience. The fact that PowerPoint is so pervasive generally means that it is used as a starting point for many of my discussions with customer related to developing customized and interactive eLearning materials. Some customers are happy with using PowerPoint presentations for eLearning and their interest in merely in outsourcing the production of these materials to an eLearning vendor. In this case it takes me some time to persuade the customer that there are more effective and engaging methods to teach people using an electronic method such as eLearning. The frustration from a vendor perspective for this example is that the customer doesn’t necessarily understand the complexity of developing a customized eLearning program and they may become frustrated by the amount of effort and time required to build a program. For this type of situation education of the customer is as important as the end user. On the other side of the perspective there is the customer who has tried using a PowerPoint training course deployed via the web which a lot of negative feedback from the user population. Sadly, many of these courses are not redeveloped due to budgetary or time constraints (something that I’ve heard numerous times). Although this customer understands that PowerPoint is not the answer, they also need to be educated on how eLearning programs are developed and how much time and effort is involved to develop a truly engaging and interactive program.

Having said all of this, I agree with Clive Shepherd that PowerPoint is not to blame per se. I think the main culprit is the business community, which has used PowerPoint in a lazy fashion. We are all used to the slides with terrible animation and thousands of bullet points and sadly this has become the accepted norm. Although I haven’t seen too many good examples of an interactive PowerPoint eLearning course I am sure there are examples out there. Although PowerPoint is not a great platform for developing eLearning materials it could very easily be used by a skilled developer to meet specific needs.

My point is that the technology is not that important, what really counts is how the training is developed. Understanding the objectives, content, audience, deployment method etc. is essential to developing a good training program. Blaming PowerPoint for not delivering is similar to blaming eLearning for not meeting its full potential. Ultimately, we should look at who creates the content, rather than what was used to develop the program.

What are your thoughts? What has your experience been with PowerPoint or PowerPoint-like training programs?

BTW, this discussion was stimulated by recent customer discussions, Clive Sheppard's blog post Don't blame PowerPoint as well as April's Learning Circuits' big question: ILT and Off-the-Shelf Vendors – What Should They Do? which addresses time-to-market and costs associated with developing custom content. Obviously cost is always a factor, especially when dealing with the customer that is satisfied or ok with the Powerpoint-type courses for eLearning.

Please also check out Learning Cicuits' big question in January which discusses quality vs. speed when it comes to eLearning development.


Blogging: No comment

Found a great post and discussion thread on the Freakonomics blog about why people do and don’t comment on blogs. It is enlightening to see the gamut of reasons that people cite for not posting comments on a blog. Many of the reasons also beg the question of what role blogs will play in the future and whether one on one interaction is really plausible for blogs.

Here are a few of the reasons listed for not commenting:
  • No linear connection between comments and the original post
  • Intimidated by the excellent writing style of the blogger
  • Takes time to post a coherent comment
  • Need to read through other comments to avoid duplication
  • Don’t feel you have anything useful to add
  • Too many passionate views so no one will listen to your comment
  • Blogger is a SME and I couldn’t add anything
  • Read blog using a reader rather than going to the actual blog
  • Fear ridicule from other bloggers

And the # 1 reason is that many blogs require registration and login, which is time consuming and it requires you to remember your username and password.

Any comments? :-)

BTW, if you haven't read Freakonomics make sure you check it out. Even my wife enjoyed it and she wouldn't claim to know anything about economics.

Mind mapping

I came across a great post on mind mapping for all you visual thinkers out there. If like me, you like to create visual references while you learn, you will find this post very useful. Several references and links to useful mind mapping tools. Make sure to check out the comments section as this has lots of good stuff too.

Have fun mind mapping!


Portable learning content

In my previous post I was deliberating about content overload. Here is another side of the argument about content. Actually it is more of a side view as it relates more to the presentation of content, rather than the amount. I think portable content is great and this is indeed one of the main ideas behind the SCORM standard. Portable is great, but is learning content a case of if you build it in many formats they will come? Does your average corporate worker have the time and inclination to search for content? The main idea behind a LMS is to store content centrally, so how does this relate to multiple formats? Besides, many LMS'es still struggle with video content, but this is a side issue.

What are your thoughts on content formats and dealing with the large amount of content out there?


Informal learning vs. Information overload

It is amazing to me how many people don't actually know about blogs. I mention blogging and their eyes glaze over. Then you mention podcasts, wikis, my space etc and they are ready to run. I keep wondering whether this sentiment is shared by many of the corporate folks out there. Is informal learning a reality when people have day to day tasks to deal with? Will your general business user really take the time to look at blog postings to solve a problem?

I think the answer is yes and no. It depends on the type of person and the type of job/task. It also goes further than that though. I think that with sooooooooo much content being available, it is paramount that content be organized in a way that people can get to it in an easy way. This kind of goes contrary to blogs that are supposed to be free flowing/ informal thought sharing arenas. Considering the number of blogs out there, are we going to get to a point of information overload? Most blogs cover a myriad of different topics so how do you filter through all the white noise to get to the info you need?

Search engines are getting smarter and all the search engine optimization (SEO) literature is telling web builders/designer/content contributors that blogs are the best way to go. If you want your site ranked on the top search engine you better write content and you better write often. So does this mean more is better? Do we leave the content aggregation to search engines? Where does this leave your corporate user looking for info? Are we going to get to the point of information overload or are we there already?

What are your thoughts?


Is custom training content the future?

The information age is upon and most of us are trying to make sense of how all the changes are going to impact our lives and more importantly our careers/industries. Anyone that says that they are totally comfortable and up to date on all the latest changes is kidding themselves.

This month’s big question across many of the eLearning blogs relates to the issue of DYI learning. Can all the new technologies allow for informal learning to replace much of the formal learning that is currently in place? Pulling, creating and sharing custom content is becoming easier with technology such as blogs, Wikipedia, You tube, podcasts, Skype, RSS feeds etc. It is a cliché, but the list really is endless. It is an exciting time for all, not only in the eLearning industry but anyone interested in organizational development.

Below are some links to interesting reading. Not a coherent post, but rather just sharing interesting reading/viewing that I came across.

Are we ready for personal knowledge management (PKM)? For a great overview on PKM check out Harold Jache’s blog post entitled Calgary eLearning Network - PKM. For an excellent analysis of formal vs informal learning check out the learning circuits post The Numbers Behind Informal & Formal Learning Lastly make sure to check out Connectivism: What's happpening with content.

So do you think informal learning will become pervasive? Are people able to spend the time to filter through all the content that is available? Based on some scanning Yahoo Pipes is not yet well understood although RSS readers are now freely available and extremely user friendly. I guess my question is whether the average employee has the time and interest to filter through all the noise.


Let your objectives be your guide

Without fail I meet customers who focus on content and how content will be delivered during the initial needs assessment stage of an eLearning project. I regularly hear them mention that “it would be great to have some video of people working around a table”. Don’t get me wrong video is a great training tool, but have you thought about why you want to use it? How does this video segment fit into your overall learning objectives? Rather than focusing on content, start by focusing on why you are developing the training materials. What business challenges are you trying to solve by developing these materials? Who is your audience? What roles do they have in the overall process?

Start with your objectives and then decide on structure and content. Once you have a structure you can accurately assess what existing learning content you have and what new content needs to be developed. As simple as it sounds, start at the beginning. Many companies focus on content and deliver training materials that don’t meet their specific audience’s needs.


20 eLearning truths

Below is my eLearning truths top 20. Some of the 20 are based on Kenneth Carlton Cooper's article in January's edition of CLO. Do you agree with my top 20? What are your thoughts? Where did I miss the mark?

1. eLearning is about people not technology
eLearning is merely a delivery method. The success of your training is dependent on people. Ask yourself do you have the right people involved in the project? Do you understand what your learning audience needs? Technology is only as effective as the people running the show.

2. eLearning is not a silver bullet
For some reason people think that each time a new training method/technology is developed that this will be the ultimate answer. Obviously this is not the case. In the case of eLearning, people use the term so diversely that it is often hard to compare apples to apples. eLearning is appropriate for certain situations and not effective in others. If you are new to eLearning do some research and get experts to help you.

3. Branding and marketing your learning content is essential
Many of us hope that if you build it they will come. The truth is that they are busy with their daily work and they often don't even know about your training. Unless you develop a brand for your training that attracts the people, you may be doomed to failure. Build your content around a brand idea and then market it to the people who will need it to solve the issues that they face on a daily basis.

4. Management support/involvement is vital
Having management support and involvement will get your project the necessary resources and visibility. If you have visibility and a good product, people will use it and they will refer others to it.

5. Use the learning cycle: learn, apply, reinforce
This is the most effective training cycle. eLearning is a great way to train people, especially on core skills and content. You can apply many of the concepts/ideas through online simulations or in the field. Reinforce using follow up eLearning content or through face to face training sessions.

6. Task orientated learning works best
People are busy and they want to make sure that your training course will help them with their job. All content should be task orientated to be successful.

7. Effective needs assessment is critical: People, content, delivery
I can't stress this idea enough. Don't start developing content before you understand what the people need. Determine what the objective of this learning content will be. Now that you know what the content will be, what learning elements will you use? How will this content be deployed? Once you have the answers to these questions you are ready to move on.

8. Avoid boredom by developing custom content
'Boxed' content is boring. Learners have seen the boxed stuff over and over and they are bored to tears in the first 5 minutes. Avoid this by developing your own content that will engage the user by using authentic content and examples from your particular business.

9. Speak with the learner, not to them
Use the voice of the customer. Speak to them in their language and tone and you will be able to get your points across.

10. Create engaging content
Engaging content is content that speaks to the user. The user understands the examples that are presented and he knows that this content will help him be more effective in his job.

11. Compact is powerful
As the saying goes time is money and people don't have a lot of time. Developing content that requires a user to sit and learn for an hour is not realistic. Develop a learning structure that requires a user to sit for a short amount of time, while learning an immense amount.

12. Engagement = interaction
Interaction doesn't mean physical interaction for its own sake. Effective content requires mental and emotional interaction as much as physical.

12. Deliver where needed
Make sure that your content is flexible enough so that it can be delivered in the most effective way, be that LMS, intranet, pda, podcast etc.

13. Create once, deploy many
This sounds easy and logical, but making it a reality requires a lot of preplanning. If you are going to use video, can you deploy the video to all your mediums? If the course is developed using an in-house software program how will this affect web deployment? All of these issues need to be addressed during the needs assessment stage.

14. Test for success
There are lots of ways to develop this thought as testing is important in so many ways. You can use testing during your initial brainstorming sessions. Develop a prototype and test your ideas with your audience. Testing is essential during Beta and pre-production phases. Essential to your overall success is to test using a representative sample of your audience. Test to make sure that technological differences (networks, firewalls, desktop settings) don't impact the deployment of your content.

15. Develop for the future
How will your content be used in the future? Can you build on your current structure? Can new content be added seamlessly? If you don't have an LMS at the moment, could this content be ported to an LMS without having to redevelop from scratch? All of these questions should be addressed early on. If you don’t develop now with the future in mind you will waste money and your content will become stagnant.

16. Identify and engage resources prior to deployment
Who's going to be involved in testing? Who's going to be responsible for uploading/deploying the content? Who's going to help with deployment challenges? Who's responsible for supporting the program going forward? Who's responsible for updating the content?

17. Get feedback from your audience
The only way to improve your training is to engage the support and feedback of your audience. Do they think the content hits on the most important issues facing them? What could be improved? What critical areas need to be addressed? Is it easy to access the content? Is the content engaging? The only way to get answers to these key questions is to get feedback from the users.

18. Issues are unavoidable
Set up a support structure based on this truth. Not all your users will be able to access the content without any issues. Even if the content was developed and deployed based on your organizational infrastructure you will still have a small percentage of users (1-3%) that will have issues accessing or viewing the content. Do you have a help desk? Do they know what the requirements are to access/view the content? Do the users know who to contact?

19. Start small grow big
This applies to several facets of eLearning including technology and content development. Don't try to solve all your problems at once. Focus on an area that requires training and where benefits will be evident in the short term. Remember even with technology it is better to keep it simple.

20. eLearning is about people not technology
I had to throw this one in there again! Technology is great as long as you have the people and the resources to make it a success.


eLearning: Unaviodable truths

Kenneth Carlton Cooper wrote an interesting article in January's edition of CLO where he details 12 unavoidable truths about eLearning. Below is a shortened version of the 12 truths that he describes. I would recommend reading the entire article as he gives some great examples in most of the point.

If you were able to add another 8 truths to make it the top 20, what would you add? Even if you can't add another 8, send me what you have. My thoughts coming soon....

"Truth No. 1: It’s All About Compelling Content.
Providing real benefit is the primary requirement of all learning, regardless of delivery method or clever instructional design.

Truth No. 2: It’s Initial Learning and Refresh Learning.
Over time and without reinforcement and use, people forget nearly all of what they learned in any single event. If you want people to truly know how to do something, you must regularly refresh that training.

Truth No. 3: Management Support is a Requirement.
Performance management processes must specify the new behaviors. Management must expect and encourage new behaviors, and employees must see they will be formally and informally rewarded for using the new behaviors. If management isn’t supporting the effort, skip the training and save the money — it isn’t going to work.

Truth No. 4: Focus on the Task Versus Topic.
Learners prefer courses that address specific tasks they have to do now… The content is already “pre-integrated” for immediate use and doesn’t require workers to figure out how to adapt the learning to their job.

Truth No. 5: It’s Not Blended Learning — It’s Learn/Apply.
Blended learning is the wrong way to segment content. The most effective and cost-efficient approach is to use distance learning to “teach” and some type of synchronous learning to “apply” that knowledge to the job.

Truth No. 6: Content Must be Totally Custom.
Even with relatively generic content, simply creating custom background graphics, putting the instructor in a logo shirt and customizing a few stories can make all the difference in learner interest and retention. Learners need to be thinking, “They’re talking about my business.”

Truth No. 7: Use the Voice of the Learner.
Content can’t be “everything is wonderful” propaganda. If a new product sounds eerily similar to a previous failure, then that issue must be candidly addressed. Whatever the situation, the learner should be thinking, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I’d ask in a meeting … if I had the guts.”

Truth No. 8: It’s a TV Workforce.
Today, people should consider digital streaming video with special characteristics and instructional design as an ideal teaching medium. In “2004 E-Learning Research Year in Review: Predictions for 2005,” an annual year-end review, analyst Josh Bersin wrote, “One of the biggest challenges in self-study e-learning continues to be the problem of engaging the learner. Recently, we have run across some very compelling and exciting uses of Flash-based video. It is now possible to take a fantastic instructor or celebrity and put them online.”

Truth No. 9: Shorter is Better.
According to an article in The New York Times Magazine from Oct. 16, 2005, a University of California-Irvine study found the average time between interruptions at work is 11 minutes. It’s a fantasy to think 21st-century workers can sit through a 60- or 90-minute online course and maintain their train of thought… Learners require just-as-needed content: short programs delivered right before they undertake a task.

Truth No. 10: Engagement = Interaction.
Many instructional designers start with the false assumption that physical interaction is a requirement for effective distance learning. As a result, organizations create custom-programmed courses with fancy animations and mouse clicks — all for the sake of interaction. These are no longer needed, and they are costing organizations millions of dollars in unnecessary expense. What is required from a distance learning course is mental “engagement.”

Truth No. 11: Deliver Where Needed.
People can now learn at any time, in any place. Organizations must start delivering training in nontraditional locations (e.g. home, car, gym, airplane) and in nontraditional ways, including mobile computers, phones, PDAs, route handhelds, iPods/Zunes, etc.

Truth No. 12: Create Once, Deploy Many.
Organizations need to take compelling content and deliver it for the variety of uses required to maximize learning, retention and application. The mistake that most instructional designers make is trying to develop a version of the training for each primary use. This “create many, deploy once” approach is time-consuming and enormously costly. What is needed is a “create once, deploy many” approach — a form of “multipurposed learning.”"