e-Learning Leadership Blog

Stop Scaring Your Learners: 4 Ways to Bring Life to Boring e-Learning Scripts

Posted by Ann Iverson on Fri, Oct 31, 2014

It’s that time of year when all things creepy and crawly come out to play. Chances are, you’ll encounter something scary in the Halloween experience. I’m always amazed by people who actively enjoy being scared. Are you one of them? Not me. Fear seems like such an unpleasant emotion—your palms sweat, your heart beats uncomfortably hard, you feel the urge to flee quickly, and so on. So I guess I should’ve been more honest with you. Your invitation to the newly-released horror movie? I wasn’t actually home organizing my closet. And the Trail of Terror gathering? I didn’t really have car trouble on the way there. In my effort to appear fearless, I was actually hiding from the truth—the real world is often scary enough for me. I don’t need monsters and ghouls to get my heart pumping.

Take e-learning, for example. I recall mandatory courses that I’d put off for weeks because I just couldn’t handle the terror. I imagined myself clicking the dreaded link, and listening to a narrator read the screens word-for-word. Of course I could read faster, we all can, so I’d finish the screen and do some work offline before the narrator stopped talking, which was my signal to click Next again. Her frighteningly-monotone voice would make me want to scream! I was always relieved when I conquered that e-learning monster! The nightmares would stop, the sun would come out, and the world was bright and shiny again.

So, now that I design and write e-learning courses, my vow is to never torture the innocent people who are required to take them. One of the most basic ways I can do that is by writing better e-learning scripts. Good writing can make the difference between an e-learning course that frightens people and one that inspires them to pay attention. Are you with me? Here are four surefire ways to stop scaring your e-learners:

1. Be Friendly 

Friendly is a nice word, but what does it mean, exactly? Well, ask yourself, would you hang out with your e-learning course on a Saturday night? Do you like what is says and how it acts? Do you want to be with it? I don’t know about you, but I choose to hang out with people who are simple, direct, honest, and helpful. So, I write, and prefer, courses that reflect those characteristics. Give me a “straight shooter” over a complicated drama queen any day.

One easy way to be friendlier is to dump any technical terms and industry jargon that result in unnecessarily complicated language. You want your learners engaged, not working hard to decipher big words.

Sometimes, technical terms are necessary, especially in administrative, technical, mechanical, or scientific contexts. If you can’t avoid them, be sure to define technical terms the first time they occur using simple and concise language.

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Tags: Custom e-Learning Solution, e-learning

Seven Halloween Costume IDeas for e-Learning Instructional Designers

Posted by Brittany Laeger on Tue, Oct 28, 2014

Halloween is just a few days away and finding a costume for work can be a challenge! It's gotta be creative but also work appropriate!

Halloween is a pretty big deal at Allen Interactions, so here are seven creative costume ideas to channel your inner instructional design geek!

1. Prototype

Start with a white outfit. Use black tape to make a stick figure costume. Then, add an "Under Construction Sign" or carry around a few wireframe boxes or "blah blah blah" signs.

Stick figure costume: allfortheboys.com

2. Content Monster

The content monster is one of the scariest costumes for your learners! Start with any monster costume and then cover yourself in loads of content. Make sure to overwhlem everyone with words!

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Tags: Instructional Design

Oh What a Feeling: Emotion and Learner Engagement

Posted by Ellen Burns-Johnson on Thu, Oct 23, 2014

One of my favorite chapters from Dorian Peters' Interface Design for Learning calls upon instructional designers to create learning experiences that foster intrinsic motivation, and provides suggestions for how to do it well.

As part of my instructional designer book club (yes, you read that correctly—I am that much of a nerd), we are currently reading the fascinating to me Interface Design for Learning by Dorian Peters. Allow me to review the book: it’s good. One of my favorite chapters is the second one, in which Peters summarizes “the learning landscape,” explaining the rise of instructional design, constructivism, behaviorism, and every other -ism that contributed (or contaminated) the practice of analyzing how people learn. You should read this book for insights gleaned from that chapter alone.

But I digress.

We should design for emotion. Right?

I’ve always been fascinated by how the role of attitude, feeling, and emotion plays in learning events. Current industry thinking addresses emotions this way: someone on the team says aloud, “Yes, we must consider the learners’ attitude and motivation.”

Everyone nods solemnly.

Several people murmur, “Yes. Of course.”

Then, the topic is promptly dropped and the team returns to bickering between the words “recognize” and “identify” in the behavior-based performance objectives.

What the heck?

We all know from personal experience that learning can be emotional. Ever attend a full day of corporate training while contemplating a divorce? Go through e-learning while feeling dread for hospital test results? Try to attend an online class while yelling at the kids? It's really hard to engage in learning when your emotions are focused elsewhere.

Obviously, we designers are not usually able to control learners’ life situations and emotional states. But we can influence the many emotions invoked by training itself: resistance, boredom, anger over a newer, complicated process, frustration over extra responsibilities, fear of failing…all of which we want to avoid.

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Tags: Learner Engagement, MMM (Meaningful - Memorable - Motivational), Michael Allen's Books, Effective Feedback, Intrinsic Feedback

What Instructional Designers Can Learn from Kid President

Posted by Brittany Laeger on Tue, Oct 21, 2014

You've probably heard of Robby Novak, or as he is better known, Kid President. Robby Novak and his brother-in-law, Brad Montague, created the first Kid President video in July of 2012. They have an amazing story which you can check out here, but after watching several of these videos, I was struck by the power and simplicity these videos have—no fancy film crew, no elaborate production. However, each video I watch makes me laugh, cry, and feel inspired to go do something worthwhile.

So, today here are 5 great lessons from Kid President to inspire you to do something awesome.

Don't Be Boring

In the most-watched video from Kid President "Pep Talk", he says, "Boring is easy, everyone can be boring, but your gooder than that." It's easy to get stuck in the mentality that boring learning is the standard. It can seem like a daunting taskcreating something engaging and inspiringbut we have lots of great tools to help you take the first step. So learn something new, try something different, don't be boring! "Create something that will make the world awesome."

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What's So Bad About Boring e-Learning?

Posted by Ethan Edwards on Thu, Oct 16, 2014

“Never Create Boring e-Learning Again.” That’s the title of a webinar I’m presenting next week. “No Boring e-Learning” is a statement we at Allen Interactions have been repeating for years. “The online modules we build are so boring” is a statement told and retold by my students who take the ATD e-Learning Instructional Design Certificate Program I frequently facilitate.

But what makes so much e-learning so boring? It’s easy to identify a problem, not so simple to fix it. Hoping for a new source of inspiration in addressing this hurdle, I sought definitions of “boring” online. Most definitions were nearly identical (this one happens to be from the American Heritage Dictionary):

    uninteresting and tiresome; dull;
synonyms: tedious, dull, monotonous, repetitive, unrelieved, unvaried, uninmaginative, uneventful

While this describes much e-learning pretty accurately, it’s hard to know what to do with it. So I kept looking.

And then I found something on thesaurus.com that revealed the problem with a new slant for me:

Boring—so lacking in interest as to cause mental weariness.  Deadening, ho-hum, irksome, tedious, tiresome, wearisome, dull, slow

Mental weariness. Irksomeness. Deadening. These reveal the real cost of creating boring e-learning―the debilitating effect it has on the learner. One can excuse text presented poorly. One cannot (or at least, should not) excuse creating mental weariness, or stupefying the learner.

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Tags: Webinar, Upcoming Events, e-learning success, Learner Engagement, Ethan Edwards

3 Reasons Why Failure is Life's Most Honest Teacher

Posted by Hannah von Bank on Mon, Oct 13, 2014

As a kid, I was terrified to ride a bike without training wheels. I told my exasperated father all the reasons why I was sure this crazy bike-riding plan of his would not work: “The sidewalk is hard and bicycles – have you seen a bicycle lately? Those wheels are very skinny and the seats are high up. Those things are deathtraps and I’m just going to fall and probably die.” But my Dad was determined and he eventually got me on the bike and peddling. I immediately crashed into a tree. However, I learned three very important lessons that day: 1) steering, 2) braking, and, most importantly, 3) falling isn’t something to be afraid of. The worst thing I thought could happen wasn’t that bad. I didn’t die. I didn’t even get hurt. Failing gave me the courage to persevere and the tools to do it.

Failure is life’s most honest teacher. It doesn’t sugarcoat the truth or grade on a curve. It doesn’t accept extra credit or give bonus points for effort. Failure is always happy to bluntly and mercilessly point out our faults and for that we hate it—but we shouldn’t. It’s natural to struggle when learning anything challenging for the first time. In fact, one of the greatest gifts we can give our learners is the opportunity to fail in the safe, simulated environment of a classroom or e-learning course. Here’s why:

  1. Failure forces us to face our fears

    As demonstrated in my biking story, fear of failure often keeps us from achieving our potential. We’ve all had the experience of freezing up at a critical moment because we felt unprepared and afraid to say or do the wrong thing. The fear of taking action keeps us from learning the consequences of our actionsgood and bad. Sure, we might make a mistake and be totally embarrassed. But, the anticipation of failure is almost always worse than the real thing and by not acting, we are also not giving ourselves the chance to be good at something. Encourage your learners to ask questions, experiment, and try different solutions. Encourage them to dive in head first and get things wrong. Create a learning environment where initial failure is both expected and seen as an opportunity to get it right the next time.
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Tags: e-Learning Design, Hannah Von Bank, Effective e-Learning Design

[Free Webinar] Four e-Learning Design Practices to Leave Behind

Posted by Allen Interactions on Thu, Oct 09, 2014

When: Wednesday October 29th
Time: 1:00 - 1:30 PM Central
Can't attend? Register anyway. We'll send you the materials after the webinar.

Register Now ▶

The design and development of e-learning has evolved throughout the years and with that change there are practices still being done, which are woefully inadequate. Today, we have an opportunity to do so much more, and to offer such wonderful and engaging learning experiences to our learners.

Learn the Four e-Learning Design Principles to Leave Behind this Fall

Join Richard Sites, Vice President—Training and Marketing at Allen Interactions, co-author of Leaving ADDIE for SAM and Leaving ADDIE for SAM Field Guide, as he presents four e-learning design and development practices we should let fall like the leaves, and instead focus on strategies that will enable behavior change, and performance improvement for all

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Tags: e-Learning Design, Webinar, Richard Sites, Upcoming Events, e-learning success

3 Friendly Tips to Save Your Learners from Information Overload

Posted by Carrie Zens on Tue, Oct 07, 2014

by Carrie Zens, director of marketing | @carriezens

I was recently on maternity leave and during those early morning hours I rekindled my fond addiction to the show, Friends. It always brings me back to my high school and college days of getting together with girlfriends on a Thursday night to share in the hilarity, bond, and interactions of the six friends that I still find such connection to.

But in this last round of early morning watching, a specific episode made me realize how much technology has changed our lives! The episode I’m referring to aired in 1997, one year before Google entered our lives. Can you believe that? In this episode an Encyclopedia salesman tries to ‘sell’ Joey (the one always amusing us with his dimwitted commentary, promiscuity, and loyal nature) into buying the “V” volume of a set of Encyclopedias! Remember using those big archaic books for school research?

Fast-forward fifteen years. Today we are living in unprecedented times of information creation and distribution. I recently watched the “Did You Know” video, shared by Kimo Kippen, CLO of Hilton Worldwide, in his keynote speech at our recent Allen Conference. The short video is chock full of baffling facts about global population, information creation, and technology. Here are just a few facts from the video that stuck out to me:

  • It’s estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.
  • Today, there are 31 billion searches on Google every month—in 2006 there were 2.7 billion searches every month
  • The amount of new technical information is doubling every 2 years—for students beginning a 4 year technical degree this means that half of what they learn in their first year will be outdated by their third year of study.

If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking WOW! It is now more important than ever for anything we are communicating via any channel to be relevant, memorable, and concise—especially in our learning experiences. So, I present to you my three tips for getting your content noticed in today’s information overloaded times.

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Tags: e-Learning Design, CCAF, Instructional Design, effective e-learning, e-learning success, Instructional Strategy, Carrie Zens

Would Learners Pay for Your Training?

Posted by Richard Sites on Thu, Oct 02, 2014

by , vice president - training and marketing | @rhillsites

Training efforts often begin with the need to change or improve the performance of employees. However, this initial need can quickly fall to the wayside when the process of collecting information, designing instructional treatments, and seeking approval of the e-learning course begins.

This usually leads to the design and implementation of information-based e-learning rather than e-learning that is focused on the actual performance which needs improvement. Since information is easy to identify, collect, organize and present it provides learning and development teams with clear deliverables for managers and senior leaders to review and approve.

But taking the path of least resistance is not a productive route for the creation of performance-changing e-learning.

Why do we so often find ourselves designing e-learning to easily present information instead of challenging learners to perform better? I would suggest it is because our focus changes from the learner to the instructional product.

All too often our strategies for e-learning design are based on the need to build something within a timeframe, budget, and set of expectations—organizational expectations—in contrast to designing something targeting performance.

In Leaving ADDIE for SAM, Michael Allen describes three components of an instructional philosophy which is learner-based, rather than information based. You might have heard of the 3 M’s before—meaningful, memorable and motivational.

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Tags: Richard Sites, e-learning success, MMM (Meaningful - Memorable - Motivational)

[Upcoming Webinar] Never Create Boring e-Learning

Posted by Allen Interactions on Tue, Sep 30, 2014

Date: Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Time: 1:00 - 2:00 PM Eastern
Register Now ▶

Do you find yourself contributing to the mound of boring, content-driven page-turners that our industry continues to churn out in the masses? Do you want to invest more in your e-learning design process but feel that budget constraints, learning technology limitations, and time constraints have you stuck in the boring e-learning rut? If you are looking for an e-learning design model that is learner-centric and can be harnessed without regard to budget, resource and time constraints, and without tool limitations, look no further!

In this webinar with Saba, Ethan Edwards will share the power of instructional interactivity and its elements that, if utilized properly, will have you creating meaningful experiences and providing real results for your organization.

This is your ticket—say goodbye to boring e-learning and hello to learning your employees will love!

  • Discuss the power of instructional interactivity for creating engaging, effective e-learning 
  • Discover a design model for creating instructional interactivity
  • Explore real-world e-learning courses that illustrate design elements
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Tags: CCAF, Webinar, Upcoming Events, Custom e-Learning, effective e-learning, Ethan Edwards