eLearning – Summary

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So, this has been a journey!
Hi.  My name’s Scott.  I help the people at corporations and organizations create web based training and eLearning tutorials.  Specifically, I help you write it, I create the content (sound, video, graphics, etc.) that goes with it, and I help you put it all together.


While writing this article, I came across a quote: Learning is chaotic.


Today’s hard and fast rules for learning do not apply to every learner, and will not be the same hard and fast rules for tomorrow.


As creators of training materials, we try to build a framework around this chaos called learning.  We have to be adaptable and change with the times.
Learning is an interruption.  If we are going to be successful, we have to be disruptive.


I’m writing this summary on the day that some training courses I created for the University of Washington Social Work Continuing Education Department have been glowingly approved.  Direct quote from the project manager, via my email:
Scott – Thank you Thank you Thank you.  These 3 courses really look great!

And one of the project manager’s bosses:
Scott, these look great!  I appreciate your rapid response and flexibility.
These are fantastic products!

For this UW project, I

·         Helped write the narration scripts (they drafted, I revised)
·         Created the content, which means:
o   Sourced the voice over talent
o   Used at least 6 different programs to create the graphics and
o   Edit the video
o   Created downloadable course transcripts, and then
·         Assembled the video, graphics, transcripts, quizzes, into training courses on their system


Two years ago, I created content for a 25 volume online University-style training system for a multinational insurance agency.  This is my Real World Example B from that section of this article.


As of this writing, that training required for all sales agents, and profits have risen.


For that project, I
·         Interviewed SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and then drafted and revised their speaking scripts
·         Hired and supervised two freelancers to help me out with videotaping, video editing and graphics
·         Assembled the video, graphics, training manuals, subtitles, quizzes, pages, chapters, and modules on a beautiful custom system


Back in the wings right now I have a training project for a state agency.  My source material is Power Point files.  With them I am:
·         Writing the narration script
·         Sourcing the voice talent
·         Hiring help for particular parts
·         Putting everything into self-contained courses with Articulate
·         Posting the finished product to the agency’s system
Is this starting to look familiar?


Unique needs can be approached with simple steps and still create a unique, desired outcome.


I step in and execute those steps.  There might be a whole lot of steps (every need is unique), but I make my clients feel like it’s easy.


My clients (or more directly, my clients’ Project managers, managers at businesses and organizations, educators, human resources) already have their daily jobs to do.  When something like “build a training program for X,” is dropped on their plate, it can be a large order.  It took me 20-some pages to describe the various moving parts.  Particularly where creating the content is concerned; they may have never written a narration script, they might not understand the difference between the content itself and the way it is organized.


I don’t think they should have to know any of this.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with not knowing how to do these things.  They are tasks best left to specialists.  There is no shame in not knowing how to do something, as long as you know how to hire someone who does.


A competent content specialist will be able to mesh his work seamlessly with your project.


Since 1994, I’ve been doing exactly this for all kinds of clients.  All kinds.  As I listened to a friend of mine giving me feedback on this article, he said something like, “Scott, do you know what a truly powerful force you are, how you have been so helpful to me and others as a project manager and content creator.  How you are able to quickly size things up then synthesize, reorganize and guide people.  Do you have any idea what a benefit that is?”


Yes, I do.  That’s why I wrote this.  What he said.  I like to call it my blender head.
                                               haha, that’s a band logo.  Who knew?

BUT, back to the others described above:


Something I’d love to do for these educators, and any client with the need and the fit, is take advantage of Apples iBook Author, and start creating-then-posting fully engaging interactive iBooks to iTunes U, and otherwise branded eBooks for other convenient devices.


Something else I’d love to do, since I’m playing with ZebraZapps right now, is include this game-changing power (“game changing” – – get it?  Lol.) of game creation in more and more courses.


What do you want to do?


What do you want to create?


Learning should not be a hurdle to progress or a brick wall to growth.
It should be fun.  And it has to be helpful – – to both the employee and employer.



I’m Scott.  I help the people at corporations and organizations create web based training and eLearning tutorials.  Specifically, I help you write it, I create the video and graphics that go with it, and I help you put it all together.

 Scott Bell

eLearning – Management, Presentation, Delivery

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Once you have the Training and Content (the path, with all the twigs and rocks and stuff along the path), you need a system that will hold your program together and deliver it to your learners.


How does all of your content, all of your quizzing, all of your data gathering, come together?  Through your Learning Management System (LMS) and Content Management System (CMS), or the combo: LCMS.  What are these things?  Click that link and read the full Wikipedia entry for numbing detail.


None of these acronyms create content.


They do give your learners an infrastructure for viewing the training; organizing and presenting your content, quizzing, data gathering, etc.


Does your eLearning, web-based training program, need one of these systems?  Yes, in some form.  Will it be ridiculously confusing if I go on and on about them?  Yes.


Bottom line is that you need to deliver your training to your learners, in the form and format most helpful to them, and the people who create your training content need an organized way to deliver it.



You can buy this system off the shelf, or you can find one via the open source world, or you can hire a firm to build one customized to your specifications.


I support building one customized to your specifications.  Here’s why:


·         Off the shelf, open source, or custom build, there will be rules and a learning curve….you rarely just set these things up and go.
o   With a custom build, you are making the rules
·         Off the shelf, open source, or custom build, you will need technical support.  Each has support limitations, but I have found that:
o   When a knowledgeable firm does your custom build, you have available, helpful technical support.  You are one of a handful of clients, and your needs will be important.  You will actually matter to them, and their responses will show that.
o   Off the shelf will provide ok support, but you are one of a large group of clients, and support will likely involve call centers, automated menus, and other frustrating things.
o   I have never experienced helpful support on an open source product.


Those things said, I want to say a few more things to discourage you, in general, from going with an open source LCMS.


·         Linux is open source, and free.  If Linux was both Free and Easy, everyone would use it.
·         WordPress is open source.  WordPress requires technical support from technical geniuses and technical coaches, most of whom are not free.
·         You generally get what you pay for.  Right?  Right.
·         Your time has value.  Right?  Right.
On the other hand, Filezilla is open source, and I love it.  It always works for me.


All that said, a few words to encourage a Custom Build.


·         It’s built to do specifically what you need.
·         You have a choice of programming languages that will do various things for you.
o     Example:  a custom system built on Microsoft .NET can give you web, windows, tablet, phone, xBox (how incredible would it be to deploy your xBox-compatible training program?)
§  These options might be paid add-ons or plug-ins with other systems.
·         You make the rules
o   You are not compromising your training to fit it into a generic system’s template
o   You are working with the firm to design
§  How your training will look
§  How learners will interact with your training
§  How you manage your training content


There are a lot of options out in the world.  I have my opinions.  You need to pick the presentation and organization method that best fits your needs.


Which brings us to Delivery.  Yes, it’s different from organization and presentation.  How will you get your training program to the learner’s fingertips?  Delivery has two layers:  The Pipe, and the Devices.


I kinda feel like drawing pictures again…


Delivery: Pipe

If your learners are staying in your office building, in your town, potentially even in your state (Rhode Island is tiny…), your Pipe can be potentially be Local Distribution.  This can happen via your own highly responsive corporate servers, or a local data center.
On the other hand, if your learners are spread far and wide, across states, the country, the hemisphere, the world – – or if your servers simply are not robust enough to handle your training experience, you will need some hearty distribution.  There are services for this.  A couple are Amazon hosting (EC2 at this writing), and Windows Azure.  This is “the Cloud.”
You might even think of iTunes, Newsstand, and iTunes U as cloud services – – because you use them to access data/media from anywhere with a signal.  YouTube is video in the cloud….so if your training is all video, and you don’t care about security, and have some other method of reporting, your training could potentially live on YouTube.


Delivery: Devices

These are the computing devices that the learner can use to access training.


·         Desktop PC
o   Learners probably have one at work, likely to have one at home
o   Easy to set up a workstation where learners can log in and access training
o   Windows or Mac
o   Physical keyboard and mouse
o   Wifi or Ethernet internet connection
o   Not portable
·         Laptop
o   Learners possibly have one at work and at home
o   Windows or Mac
o   Physical keyboard, mouse options (physical, trackpad, multi-touch)
o   Wifi or Ethernet connection
o   Portable


Desktop PC’s and laptops have been around for the longest, as a device type they have logged a lot of training time.  Right now, they are what the majority of people are used to using.  Your training content can be robust, sugary rich media, or simple.


·         Tablet
o   Learners possibly have one, or their employer might provide one
o   Mac, Android, possibly Kindle Fire (Microsoft is building a prototype)
o   Touch screen
§  Will use gestures and need a design that allows users to click with big ole fingers.
o   Wifi internet
o   Highly portable
·         Smartphone
o   Learners possibly own one, employer might provide one
o   Mac, Android, Windows
o   Touch screen
§  Gestures, design for finger clicks
o   Wifi or 3G/4G internet
o   Highly highly portable


As I understand it, designing for tablets and smartphones is basically the same (iPhone/iPad, Android Phone/Android Tablet).  Same display size ratio, simplicity, larger buttons for clumsy fingers.  It’s been a little amazing – and makes complete sense – to see how iPads have become learning devices of choice for educators and government agencies.  They’re just so portable, and just so intuitively easy to use.


In my mind, I’m lumping “eReaders” in with Tablets.  So much can be done with interactive eBooks and iBooks that I think it’s just a matter of time before they completely take over the market.  When you combine engaging, interactive eBooks with simple delivery via Amazon and iTunes, and program in a pipe back to the database for reliable reporting, you have a brand new way to think about textbooks and the way people learn.




That just about wraps things up.  I know, for some of you this is far too oversimplified.  For others, it’s far too much to take in.  No matter where you are in my galactic continuum, I hope this article has helped you generate your own notes and questions.


Tomorrow is the last little bit – – See you then!


 Scott Bell

eLearning – Types of Content and Types of Training

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What is “Content?”  It’s what you’re reading right now.  It’s the front page of Yahoo or Google.  It’s everything on YouTube.  It’s all the tiny pieces in the Operation board game from Milton Bradley (caution, small contents can be a choking hazard).
If we think of eLearning and web based training as a path through a forest, “Content” is all the dirt, stones, twigs, bugs, grass, flowers, arrow signs, etc., that make your training interesting and unique.

Content is what you consume with your senses.  Training is the path you take to consume the content.  When content and training are combined, they create the lesson.

Should you outsource your content creation, or keep it in-house?  There is no right or wrong answer, it’s entirely up to you and every organization is different.  Perhaps you have an in-house media team that exists just to create whatever content you need, and they can easily fit your new training content into their production schedule.  Perhaps your in-house team is already overwhelmed and they would pull out their remaining hair if you dropped a training project on them.

You do what is best for your learners and your organization.

In this section, I’m going to break down Types of Content, and then talk briefly about Types of Training.


·         Text
o   Words on a screen, words on a page, words and symbols on a white board.
o   The most basic type of content
o   Easy to create, we are all used to typing text
o   Low file sizes , making it easy to deliver
o   Writing Professionals are available to help create compelling text
o   The “Social Learning” Type of Training can be all text.
o   Easy for the average learner to consume
§  Learners with special needs will potentially need assistance consuming text

When I’m creating any type of content, I begin with text.  It’s the outline for a project.  It’s the script for a voice over.  It’s the written description of what will happen – – what the learner will hear and see – – in the training.

·         Audio
o   Spoken words (voice over), music, sound effects
o   Easy to create low quality audio
o   Easy to outsource high quality audio to wide variety of professionals
o   Affordable
o   Low file sizes, making it easy to deliver
o   Easy for the average learner to consume
§  Learners with special needs will potentially need assistance consuming audio, the typical scenario pairs audio with text.
§  Highly portable

Audio is the first step in adding life to a training project.  It doesn’t have to involve creating a complex soundscape.  You don’t have to work with some long haired hippie spouting off about Theatre of the Mind!

 It can be as simple as choosing a friendly warm voice for your voice over.

It is very important to have “good” audio on a project – – because it’s the first thing that your learners will connect with.  Bad audio – – static, too loud, too soft, too muffled, out of sync with images – – makes learners instantly tune out.

Audio can also add depth and fun to your training, because it generates an emotional reaction.  Last night “The Terminator” was on TV.  I’m a guy, so I watched it.

The repetitive, simple music that always accompanies the Terminator’s presence quickly generates a sense of foreboding and builds my emotional connection with the images on screen.

Sound effects and music make learning more fun, and add another layer of interaction to games.  Going back to the Operation example, learners jump and laugh when that annoying buzz shocks their ears.  The buzz sound reinforces the “Don’t touch the sides!” lesson.

·         Visuals
o   Static Images
§  Photos
·         images of real people, places, things
§  Illustrations
·         drawings or artistic renderings of people, places, things, concepts
§  Charts and Graphs
·         illustrations and/or photos that deliver measured information and/or results
§  Graphics
·         images made of various pieces, including the items listed above, possibly mixed with text.
o   Moving Images
§  Video
·         Moving, non-static images of people, places and things
·         “Plays” or “Loops” for a set amount of time
·         Generally has a two-dimensional feeling of depth
·         Can also be a sequence of Static Images
·         Animations
o   Moving sequences of Static Images, possibly incorporating Video
o   Generally have more “life” and depth than standard Video
§  Interactive Images
·         Touch-screen devices can have interactivity built into images, allowing them to zoom, pan, manipulate 3D objects, and reveal information.  See Apple iBooks.
o   Tools to create low quality visuals are accessible and improving every day
o   Professionals are available to create high quality visuals
§  The range of what can be done visually is highly dependent on the projects budget
o   Medium to large file sizes, and multiple formats in use; delivery needs to be planned in greater detail than text or audio
o   Highly flexible medium; you can create and incorporate practically anything
o   Easy for the average learner to consume, depending on available devices
§  Learners with special needs may need assistance consuming visual content, the typical scenarios can allow for a text transcript and if needed, a separate audio file.
§  Devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones have made visuals more portable than they once were.

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Visuals are currently the easiest way to disrupt someone’s day.  A lesson that might take up several pages of text can be passed through a meaningful video in just minutes.

If you are going to include Visuals in your training program, and you’re even the least bit uncomfortable, inexperienced, or confused about it, please please please contact a specialist.   A specialist will work with you to create a far more moving learning experience, and will already know how to deal with the obstacles that always come along for the ride when working with visuals.

·         Games
o   Interactive
§  The learner physically and/or mentally has a role in creating an outcome
§  The learners decisions result in a reward or consequence
o   Can be as simple as a quiz
o   Can be more complex, incorporating Text, Audio, Visuals
o   Creation is getting more affordable
o   A professional can help you with creation and delivery
§  Can be digital, mental, physical
·         Digital formats vary
o   Flash is common, which can be good or bad

Games have been around forever….they are as simple (and complex) as physical card games, dice games, Tic Tac Toe, Rock Paper Scissors, elementary games like Red Rover, computer Solitaire.  Games encourage learning because the learner thinks about a strategy, within certain rules, and is rewarded for winning.  Games are learning contests.

Games can be enjoyable as social or solitary experiences.  People are predisposed to playing games.  As long as it presents an “easy challenge” to participate in, is rewarding to complete, and is relevant to the training, a game incorporated into the training process can be a wonderful interactive learning opportunity.

Allen Interactions recently released ZebraZapps, which lets a content creator easily build games that will help learners learn.  I’m playing with ZebraZapps right now, and LOVE it!  The Thiagi Group has used games to make learning fun and effective for thousands of learners at top companies.

Games engage, games work.

A game can be part of a learner’s training experience, and a game can be its own self-contained Type of Training.

Types of Training are the paths (through the forest) along which the learner consumes Content.  We’ve covered Games; here’s a quick look at two more Types of Training:


·         Games – noted above; people learn how to win a game
·         University setting
o   Compared to reading a book and taking a test
o   Materials are presented; the learner is expected to learn
o   May have interactive components, but the learning is not necessarily interactive
§  Example: rather than ask a question, you review the materials presented seeking an answer.
·         Social setting
o   Interaction between trainers and learners
o   Group discussions between classmates, possibly including teachers/trainers
o   Similar to posing a question on Facebook or in a group chat, then receiving an answer or information about the answer from an instructor or the group at large

Some people learn best by reading.  Others learn best by listening.  Others learn best by watching.  Others learn best by doing.

There is no rule against mixing all Types of Content with all Types of Training.  By selecting the right mix of content, and organizing it into the right mix of training, you have unlimited potential to teach your learners in the ways that they learn best.

What can hold you back from achieving that “right mix” is technical stuff.  And that’s what we’ll look at tomorrow:  Management, Presentation, and Delivery of this delicious training gravy!

 Scott Bell

eLearning – Ensuring Effectiveness

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People will not learn just because you want them to.  Remember that human behavior has to be part of your effective training plan.  No training program will be effective if it is not embraced from the top down.


·         In corporate and business training, top management must clearly and openly make training a priority, take part in the training, and possibly conduct parts of the training.


·         In Continuing Education, trial results of a process or procedure must be clearly stated.  Evidence must be available to support the learner’s “Why?”  A respected name or a popular procedure or process will deliver the top down embrace, helping people want to engage in the training instead of feeling like a prisoner.


Embracing the training from the top down is necessary for both the analysis that needs to happen to create effective training, and the follow-up that needs to happen to make sure people are learning.


Without human behavior, that top down embrace, your training will run into obstacles.  These include:


·         Company policy
·         Managerial attitudes
o   Lack of importance placed on the training
o   “The last training we did was a waste of time.”
·         Changing expectations
·         Changing processes and procedures


The list can go on and on.  Without the top down embrace, these and many more obstacles will prevent effective training.  So get that top down embrace.
Once you have the top down embrace (have I said that enough?), start planning for the positive results you want to achieve.  Begin with the end in mind.


Create training that will produce demonstrable results.


The Kirkpatrick model has been used to measure training program effectiveness since the ‘50’s, and still holds true.  Here are four ways to measure effectiveness:


1.       Reaction.  How did the learners like the training?
You can glean this information from a questionnaire, from comments.
Find out what learners want to learn, what do they want to get out of the training?
Content Hint: Design for your learners.  People who love to read do not necessarily enjoy playing video games, and vice versa.  Teach your learners with the things they enjoy doing.


2.       Learning.  Did the learners actually learn?
This can be shown through pre and post quiz scores, feedback from people who observe the learners.
Content Hint: Pre-quizzes can whet your learner’s appetites for what lies ahead.


3.       Behavior.  Did the training cause the learners to improve their job performance?
On the job observation.
Do the learners refer to things from the instruction, either overtly or contextually?
Content Hint: The learner will integrate pieces of training that most closely resemble his daily job tasks/concepts more quickly and easily than pieces that do not resemble daily job tasks/concepts…
That’s a really long way of saying that people learn by doing.  For example, if you’re teaching an electrician how to measure voltage with a new meter, teach with the new meter.


4.       Results.  People RESPECT what the Boss INSPECTS.
Are the learners performing?
Are profits rising where they were projected to rise?
Are more products being sold?
Has the time it takes to complete a task dropped, or are tasks being completed with fewer errors?
Is a concept being embraced?
Content Hint: Remember, people learn what they want to learn.  Results will be more easily obtained if learners want to learn the material.  What is the learner’s “Why?”


For me, “Learning” and “Behavior” blend together in this model.  They may or may not for you.  Either way, this is a starting point for measuring your trainings effectiveness.  When you begin with Reaction, Learning, Behavior, and Results in mind, you will create more effective training.


Up there on “Learning,” I popped in pre and post quizzes.  This is part of what makes eLearning so rewarding, in my humble article-writing opinion.  When learners take a quiz, the results are saved in a data base, and can be reviewed by supervisors, managers, department heads, organizations – – anyone with the right level of access.


A lot more than just quiz data can be gathered and reported:
·         How many times did the learner “log in” to the training?
·         How much time did the learner spend on particular sections?
·         Are Extra Credit, Bonus Activities, or Additional Reading Materials being used?
·         How much did the learner play with an interactive tool, such as a voltage meter?
·         How many times did the learner choose an incorrect quiz answer?
·         How many learners from one department, city, county, state, country, are using the training?
·         How many learners are not completing all the training?  Where are they stopping?
·         Which part of the training are learners interacting with the most?


You can gather real data on any aspect of your training program, and use it to make your training even more effective.  AND use it in the evaluation to trace results directly back to an especially popular portion of the training.


Embrace.  Analyze.  Follow-up.


These three elements are key in making your training effective.


What’s hitting the blogosphere manana?!?!  We’re going to take a look at Types of Content and Types of Training!


RSS Feed will keep you up to date.


 Scott Bell

eLearning – Costs

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In the Real World Examples post we looked at Problems and Goals.  It would be really wonderful to be able to create training that turns every Problem into an achieved goal.

However, creating training costs money, and training needs to pay for itself, and you need to know that the training will pay for itself BEFORE you invest in it.  You can do this with Return On Investment (ROI) or Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) formulas.

Training costs money internally: in the production hours that a staff gives to the training program.  Training costs money externally: in creating, distributing, and maintaining the training program.

I’ve looked all over the place for a simple way to examine training costs.  The best examples I have seen are Michael Mercer’s, from his 1989 book Turning Your Human Resources into a Profit Center.  However, most of his examples only cover what I call the internal cost.

I’m going to combine two of Mercer’s examples so that both internal and external costs are factored into the Cost of Solution.

What follows is my version of Mercer’s EEO example, complete with nostalgic 1989 numbers.

The Story (direct from Mercer):  “A division of a major oil company found itself bogged down in a costly, yet quite avoidable, business problem as a result of quite a few sexual harassment complaints… The company seldom doubted the accuracy of the claims.  They ‘spent a great deal of money’ to pay off the complainants.  These charges were avoidable; therefore, the decreased profitability was unnecessary.”

Let’s project this out 5 years.

  • Before implementing the training program, the 5-year cost of your Problem was going to be $722,000 x 5 = $3,610,000.  Over THREE MILLION DOLLARS (in 1989).
  • After implementing the training program, the 5-year cost of your Problem is projected to be $67,600 x 5 = $338,000.  Still less than the 1-year cost of your original Problem.

Of course this model does not account for raises, various salary levels, etc. etc. etc.  It is simple.

And remember, I am looking at web-based, eLearning style training, not a crew of live trainers descending on an office suite to hold sessions.

I use the EEO example because it clearly illustrates costs that you might not immediately consider:

  1. Your Problem might be sexual harassment, but the costs of this problem spill over to other areas, including turnover; involving the cost of hiring and training new employees.
  2. Maintenance of the training program; updating the training program for changing times.
  3. Cost of bad press in the community.
  4. With EEO in particular, cost of your reputation.
  5. Cost of getting on the governments radar.

Nothing is static.  What we need to learn changes, as do the ways that we learn.  Businesses expand or pull back.  New mission statements roll out.  Health care benefits and companies change.  People change.

Nobody likes to be surprised by costs.  Examine your costs from every angle, and make sure you partner with a training professional who does the same.

Remember to subscribe to the RSS to keep up!

Tomorrow’s Topic:  Ensuring Training Effectiveness

 Scott Bell

eLearning – Targeted Questions and Real World Examples

Web based training.  eLearning.  Online training.  Computer based training.  It’s called many things.

Whatever you are choosing to call it, your company or group has decided that you need to offer instruction, and that the instruction will happen on some type of “computer” or digital device.

Creating instructional materials is a project.  Every project needs a plan.

Creating instructional materials that learners will access on a “computer” presents its own unique planning needs.

Unique needs can be approached with simple steps and still create a unique, desired outcome. 

In this section, I am going to give you some targeted questions to use when planning your eLearning project.  I’ll follow these questions with some real-world examples, then will apply the questions to the real-world examples to show you what we can learn.

This is an overview.  Remember, this is all food for thought.  Your eLearning professional will help you dig down into the nitty gritty details.

Targeted Questions

A series of targeted questions will help you begin.  Targeted questions will give you targeted answers.

  1. What is your goal and/or problem?
  2. Who will be learning?
    1. Ages and Learning Styles?
    2. Are there special needs – – Will blind or hearing impaired learners be using the training?
  3. What is the task or concept they need to learn?
  4. Where are these learners located?
    1. In local branch offices?
    2. Across North America?
    3. Throughout the world?
  5. Do these learners speak different languages?
  6. Where will these learners need to access the training?
    1. What “computers” or smart devices are available to the learners in these locations?
  7. How will you measure success?***  Today we will skip this question.  Michael Mercer provides concrete steps to measuring success in his book Turning Your Human Resources Department into a Profit Center.  I will get into Mercer’s approach as simply as possible later in the series.

These questions help you do four very important things:

  1. Identify your Goal and/or Problem
  2. Identify your Audience (learners)
  3. Identify the ways your Audience will consume the training
  4. Determine the training effectiveness

Real-World Examples – – – Tomorrow we talk about Costs

The following examples are hypothetical.  I am listing several examples in the hopes that you will find one that applies to you.  I have direct experience with some of these examples.  Others are taken from interviews, conversations, and Mercer’s book (linked above, noted with *).


The general goal is to improve on a specific skill.

The way that your company processes product shipment information has changed, and the data entry employees are taking too long to transition to the new system.  “Help” is available but ineffective, on-the-job coaching is stealing productive time from other employees.  This problem is contributing to a loss of revenue in shipping delays, and internal delays that occur because the data entry employees are not performing their tasks proficiently.

  1. What is the problem?  Data entry employees are not up to speed on the new software system.  What is the goal?  Get the data entry employees to use the new software proficiently.
  2. Who will be learning?  Data entry employees.
    1. Ages?  25 to 57….I think a few are in their 60’s.  Learning Styles?  No idea.***
    2. Special needs?  Two data entry employees are hearing impaired.
  3. What is the task or concept they need to learn?  Task: how to bring information into the system, merge required fields, quickly troubleshoot for errors, then send information out of the system.
  4. Where are the learners located?  One processing center in Riverside, CA.
  5. Languages?  All data entry employees work in English.
  6. Where will these learners need to access training?  We will set up a space in the office.  We would like employees to have the option to learn from home, and might provide an incentive.  Half of the employees carpool at least 30 minutes to and from work
    1. What “computers” or devices are available in these locations?  The office will have a minimum of one Windows 7 desktop pc with an internet connection set aside specifically for this training.  Most of the employees have a computer with internet at home.  Most of the employees have some type of mp3 player.  Few own smartphones or tablets.

So, what does this brief bit of information tell us?

  • All learners will have access to a Windows PC with internet.  Delivery can be local.
  • The training can live on the internet but needs to be accessible to employees when they don’t have internet access.  It also needs to be accessible to the hearing impaired.
  • The training can be in English.
  • Since this is training to complete a technical task, an interactive “game” that mimics this task could help the employees learn.

***When we don’t have an answer to a question, we need to dig for more information.



The general goal of orientation is to make new employees profitable as soon as possible.  In this example, SALES training is directed at salespeople.

Your life insurance agency experiences high turnover with new salespeople.  You discover the new hires are leaving because they are not making sales, and therefore not making money.  You then discover that many sales managers are not training their new hires.  Your agency will not grow unless your new hires can successfully sell.  New hires need to fully understand the products they are selling, and the techniques used to sell.

  1. What is the problem?  New hires are leaving because they aren’t making any money.    What is the goal?  Get the new hires making money so that they stay.
  2. Who will be learning?  Newly hired sales agents.
    1. Ages?  Learning Styles?  Wide variety of ages and backgrounds.
    2. Special needs?  Possibly hearing impairment.
  3. What is the task or concept they are expected to learn?  Some tasks and some concepts.  They must understand basic life insurance products enough to be able to match these products to clients and upsell.  They must know how to take a saliva test sample.  They should learn how to complete paperwork, although people at the office can help with that.  They need to learn our sales script and a few basic sales techniques.
  4. Where are the learners located?  Every state in the US, and all across Canada….North America.
  5. Languages?  Possibly French Canadian.  Spanish.  We have some agents who speak English as a second language.
  6. Where will these learners need to access training?  On the road.  We like our new hires to spend a lot of time on the road.  You never know what will be available in our offices.  Most agents have the most time on the road.
    1. ADDITIONAL QUESTION:  “Are these people independent contractors?”  Yes.***
    2. What computers or devices available in these locations?  Whatever the agents can get their hands on.  Most have a laptop.  Many have iPhones or Android phones.  Most new hires will have mp3 players or access to CD / DVD players.  Some do everything on paper and file it when they get back to their offices.

What does this tell us?

  • The learning environment will be highly varied and far flung.  Cloud based training is likely to provide the best delivery.  Mac and PC compatibility.  Mobile accessible.
  • Training needs to be accessible to hearing impaired.
  • Interactivity or “games” would potentially work well for teaching the tasks of obtaining a saliva test sample and properly completing paperwork.
  • The training can roll out in English, consideration needs to be given to French Canadian and Spanish.

***When asking learners to complete training “on their own time,” be mindful of FLSA regulations.



General goal is to make your education product available to professionals.

The American Dental Society (ADS) hosts a yearly conference in Hawaii.  Attendees get to see a fun show, and have opportunities to take classes where they earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits.  Many states require CMEs for medical professionals to maintain their licenses.

One reason for the conference’s popularity is that professionals earn their CME’s at a much lower price than they would at home.  The ADA wants to create a “library” of the CME classes so that professionals can access classes anytime from anywhere.

  1. What is the problem?  There isn’t a problem.  What is the goal?  Create a library of widely accessible ADA Conference CME courses.
  2. Who will be learning?Medical professionals.  Specifically dentists, orthodontists, dental assistants, dental hygienists.
    1. Ages?  Late 20’s on up.  Learning Styles?  Different people take different courses…a Dental Assistant will not typically have the education level of a Hygienist or Surgeon, for example.  Styles will need to change to fit the audience taking the course.
    2. Special needs?  This needs to be SCORM compliant.
  3. What is the task or concept they are expected to learn?  This will vary depending on the training.  Some will involve learning procedures (tasks).  Others will involve learning new concepts.
  4. Where are the learners located?  Mainly North America.
  5. Languages?  English speaking.  If there is a demand for other languages we will consider it.
  6. Where will these learners need to access training?  Wherever they are comfortable.  Most will be at home.  Some may choose their offices.  Others might commute or travel and want to do this during the commute or in a hotel room.  We just want it to be available.
    1. What computers or devices are available in these locations?  iPhone, iPad, Android phone and tablets, laptops, desktop computers.

What does this tell us?

  • The learning environment will be everywhere.  Strong emphasis on mobile devices, multiple platforms.
  • Training must adhere to SCORM (Shareable Content Object Reference Model)
  • Training will be available at a cost, will need to show proof of completion.  Learners will need to report completion and credits earned.
  • Interactive pieces will be helpful for teaching procedures


General goal is to demonstrate to employees that we have already trained that they have a positive and clearly defined future with us so that they will remain with us for the long-term.    This is internal public relations with an eye on the future.  This can be offered in-house and/or in partnership with a college or tech school.


The employees who should be your company’s future leaders are leaving your company to work for the competition.  One or two leaving kind of surprised you, but now it’s happening more.  Employees say they are leaving for growth opportunities and money.  You know the competing firm has a great reputation among talented young professionals.  You are investing in employee development and you want to keep them around as they grow.


1.       What is the problem?  Our employees are going to the competition where they see clear career development and long-term opportunities.  What is the goal?  Build for the future by stopping the outward flow of employees whose training we have paid for.
Part A:  Create and implement an organization-wide succession planning process to include, at minimum, all supervisors and above, and selected “high potential” employees.  We want to do all the “paperwork” online, then follow-up in person.
Part B: We will create special training for our specific systems and procedures, and may partner with local educational institutions for general training needs.
2.       Who will be learning?  All employees will be part of the data collection for Part A.  Identified “high potentials” will take the courses.
a.       Ages?  18-67 for data collection.  We’ll know the rest after data collection.
Learning Styles?  Don’t know.***
b.      Special needs?  Not that I know of…
3.       What is the task or concept they are expected to learn?  Mainly concepts.  Management skills, people skills.  We really want to find out what these people want to achieve, that’s the only way we can show them What’s In It For Them.  Some departments use proprietary systems and procedures.
4.       Where are the learners located?  10 offices in California and 2 in New York.
5.       Languages?  Everyone in the company speaks English.
6.       Where will these learners need to access the training?  Anything proprietary needs to stay in the office, keep it protected, all that.  We will set aside time to complete the courses.
a.       What computers or devices are available in these locations?  We have Windows 7 computers hooked up to our own servers.  It’s fast.


What does this tell us?
·         The learning environment should be password protected.  We can try corporate servers first.  If corporate servers are too slow a different approach will be needed.  Windows 7 compatible.
·         A hierarchy of reporting will be necessary.  Top Leadership, HR, Managers, etc.
·         Any plan for training content may need to change based on input from succession planning “paperwork.”
***When we don’t have an answer to a question, we need to dig for more information.



General goal is to prevent problem situations.

Your company just narrowly avoided having its first Equal Employment Opportunity charge become a state and federal lawsuit.  Managers put in a lot of time to avoid the hearing, but it would have been far more expensive and time consuming to go through the hearing.  You want to do what you can to prevent this situation from arising again.

  1. What is the problem?  An employee acted inappropriately and almost caused a time and money consuming EEO hearing.  What is the goal?  We have developed procedures to prevent this kind of situation.  Now we need to teach these procedures to our workforce.
  2. Who will be learning?  Every employee, top to bottom, side to side.
    1. Ages?  Learning Styles?  Like we said…Everyone.
    2. Special needs?  Yes.  This training needs to be accessible to all.
  3. What is the task or concept they are expected to learn?  Every employee will need to learn our procedures and be tested on their retention of the information.  It’s not so much a task or concept….it’s a list of instructions for dealing with situations.
  4. Where are the learners located?  In Cincinatti, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.  In Mexico and South America, the Phillipines, Guam.
    1. Languages?  Spanish and English.
  5. Where will these learners need to access training?  We will set up stations at workplaces.  Some of these locations are really remote.
    1. What computers or devices are available at these locations?  They will use Windows machines, but some will be on XP, some Vista, some 7.   We’ve tied everyone in to the company intranet, so even the remote locations will have at least one workstation that is online.

What does this tell us?

  • Localization will be needed; multi-lingual training
  • Training will need to be engaging without a large file load
  • Proof of satisfactory completion will be needed
  • SCORM compliancy required

One of these real world examples may fit your situation perfectly, or you might find one that is a close fit.  Either way, the targeted questions help you define your project and narrow your needs.  Your eLearning professionals will also help.

If you’re a Human Resources professional, you might very well be screaming and pulling your hair out now.  Maybe you’re throwing things and cursing, “This isn’t enough information, these questions need to dig deeper, these people haven’t found the root of their problem, THIS ISN’T ENOUGH INFORMATION!!!!!!”

I don’t mean to cause you pain.  This is a very basic, very simple overview of real life situations.  If I included every possible angle, this segment of the article would go on and on and on.

These are simplified examples – – Please do look at your own situations from every angle for questions, answers, and issues.

TOMORROW:  We take a simple – – Yes, Simple – – look at Costs.

 Scott Bell

eLearning Oversimplified – Introduction

Learning should not be a hurdle to progress or a brick wall to growth.
It should be fun.  And it has to be helpful – – to both the employee and employer.


Hi, my name’s Scott.  I help the people at corporations and organizations create web based training and eLearning tutorials.  Specifically, I help you write it, I create the content (sound, video, graphics, etc.) that goes with it, and I help you put it all together.

For the next seven days I will be sharing an article that I have written on eLearning.  I’m going to share it in chunks because it’s a lot more than I tend to read at one time…however, if you would like to read the whole thing RIGHT NOW, I’ll offer that in a PDF link.  Please subscribe to my RSS feed to receive updates.

My article covers many basics of eLearning, including Planning, Rationalizing Costs and Benefits, Measuring Effectiveness, Types of Content and Types of Training, Organization and Presentation, and Delivery Methods.

That’s a mouthful, but I’m going to try to say all of this in a way that doesn’t twist your tongue or boggle your brain.

This is going to be simple food for thought; take what you will for your situation, and think about deeper questions for your situation. 

A bit about me:  I’m 36.  The only way to be on my radar is to email me or send me a link, and make sure that the information is compelling to me personally.

That’s my profile.  How many of me work at your company?  Are you engaging with this “me,” or are you helping “me” fill up “my” trash bin?

Here’s a very different profile:  Employees requiring training are going to be very different in just two years.  Approximately half of the workforce will be Millenials by 2014 (ASTD link).  These are people who have had internet access their entire life, expect rich media, and caused the social media explosion.  You think I throw things away fast?  How is your company engaging with these employees under the age of 30? (SHRM link)

Here’s one more profile:  My son is six years old.  He loves playing Angry Birds on my iPhone.  It’s intuitive.  Assuming he gets a job when he’s 18, god willing, he will enter the workforce in the year 2024.  That’s only 12 years away, yet he is never going to have to use a physical keyboard or mouse.  His generation is growing up with the world at their fingertips, and it’s only going to get closer.  He’s going to require a far more intuitive engagement than a static power point ever provided.  Don’t even get me started on textbooks J

That said, here’s an amazing question to consider: when it comes to manipulating the parts of a laptop or desktop computer to use some unknown unresponsive interface that is supposed to help people learn, how much does my 6-year-old have in common with a Baby Boomer?


Is your training plan fun?  Is it going to be intuitive?  Does it give your learners the instruction they need to contribute more, to earn the credits that allow them to keep their licenses, to grow in positive directions?  Does your training add to profitability?  Does it have a purpose or does the training exist for training’s sake?

The very first time I had to take an eLearning course (had to), it was terrible…a power point with zero frills that the company had managed to put online.

This was a safety course for Charter Communications, at the time, the nation’s third largest cable company.  The topic: staying safe while installing cable service at a customer’s house.  It covered dogs, meth heads and gun wielding customers, even brown recluse spiders.  Too bad I was working as the Creative Services Supervisor at the time, interacting with local businesses to create their TV commercials….and had never done an install.  I was a prisoner to training had nothing at all to do with my job.

Charter’s safety training was a corporate mandate.  The quizzes, a way to “check off” that all employees had completed the course.  ALL employees.  (executives included?) That was the measure of success.  “Everyone passed the online safety course, so now we’re a safer company.”

The other “high tech” training method involved packing a large room with employees and popping in a DVD.  Watch this.  Learn this.  Now.  NAOW!

That was only 10 years ago, and sadly both of these methods are still used quite often today.  However, today’s technology takes learning a lot further than a mandatory power point or a DVD in the lunchroom, and offers far greater metrics to measure success.

Again, I’m Scott.  I help the people at corporations and organizations create web based training and eLearning tutorials.  Specifically, I help you write it, I create the video and graphics that go with it, and I help you put it all together.

Tomorrow is topic number 1:  Targeted Questions and Real-World Examples

 Scott Bell