Prof. Mamduh El-Messeiry
Course Name: E-Learning Principles
Course type: Training Course.
Duration: 20 hours
Trainer : Prof. Mamduh El-Messeiry
Trainees: Alexandria University Staff members
After the completion of this course the trainees will be capable to :
1. Understand the need of technology
2. Overcoming E-Learning Resistance
3. Describe the web based courses
4. use technology in teaching
5. Building Better E-Assessments
6. Describe the E-Learning Process.
2. P4 Computer
3. Data show
4. Internet connection
Table of Content:
Chapter I : Introduction To E-Learning
1. Future Forces
2. Writing For Global E-Learners
3. Learning Strategies
Chapter II: E-Learning Resistance
1. Overcoming E-Learning Resistance
2. How To Be An E-Learner
3. Who Wants To Be A Distance Trainer?
4. Learner Obstacles
5. Tips To Make E-Learning Stick
Chapter III : Web Based Courses:
1. Digital Video
2. Building Better E-Assessments
3. Animation – Just Enough, Never Too Much
4. Using HTML Email To Deliver High-Impact Episodic Training
5. The Devil Is In The Details: Converting Classroom Courses To E-Learning
6. Expect More From E-Learning
7. Write Right: Polishing Your E-Learning Prose
8. Lights! Camera! Action! Getting Ready To Teach Online
9. Interact! With Online Learning
10. Matching Content To Delivery? Remember The Basics!
11. 10 Tips To Optimize Your E-Learning
12. Stave Off These Seven Pitfalls Of Distance Learning
13. 12 Learning Interventions That Combat Technophobia
14. Five Tips For Type In Online Learning
15. Using Multiple Intelligence Theory In The Virtual Classroom
Chapter I :
INTRODUCTION TO TEACHING WITH TECHNOLOGY
I. 1. Future Forces, By George Piskurich
It's important to consider all of the internal and external forces that influence
organizational performance in order to understand fully the benefits of learning
technologies. Here are some of the organizational forces that might affect the use of
technology in the future, as well as some emerging technologies:
I. 2. The organization
a) Skills training will continue to be a major focus for companies as new jobs are
created and current jobs change dramatically. Technology has been, and will
continue to be, a dominant factor in the delivery of this aspect of employee
b) Computer skills training is a subset of skills training, but it needs to be discussed in
its own right. It is constantly in the top five responses to HRD trend polls, and more
companies are beginning to realize that the way to teach computer skills is with the
computer. Technology-based programs that use proper adult learning methodologies
will reinforce classroom processes and reduce classroom time for the learning of
these basic skills.
c) Continued corporate restructuring and the cost-reduction requirements it engenders
will increase the pressure for more efficient training. Technology used in the
appropriate situations will continue to provide measurable, often significant,
reductions in both direct and indirect training costs.
d) Downsizing of HRD departments will require that more be done with less.
Application of proper technology will help to meet this challenge by using corporate
knowledge resources more effectively and by helping current HRD staffs to multiply
their effectiveness by allowing them to be in more than one place at the same time.
e) The focus on performance in many corporations will require the development of new
performance-improvement tools. Because of the complexity of modern business
operations and their reliance on technology, many of these tools will need to be
f) The transformation of companies into learning organizations will require new
technology-based infrastructures that facilitate the sharing of corporate knowledge
and the achievement and evaluation of integrated goals.
g) The need to use the best possible resources will further the emphasis on hiring
disabled and minority employees. Technology will help to make these employees
effective and efficient contributors to the organization.
h) Changing work habit patterns will require organizations to create alternative work
processes for their employees. Many of these processes, such as telecommuting and
virtual offices, are technology-based interventions.
i) Accountability will continue to be a major issue at all levels of the organization.
Technology helps provide the necessary structure to determine accountability.
I.3 The learner
a) Learner control is an issue that has been gaining in emphasis for a number of years.
Technology will provide increasing control to learners, not only over when things are
learned, but also how they are learned and even what is important to be learned for
specific jobs and situations.
b) Individual responsibility for personal development is the new philosophy of
development specialists. Many new programs and opportunities for individual
development will be possible because of advances in learning technology.
c) An integrated implementation format will combine a suitable amount of technology-
and nontechnology-based learning interventions to meet the needs of learners who
have low or high levels of internal self-directedness.
I.4 The technology
a) Web-based training through internal and external networks will become a standard
as problems with bandwidth and speed are solved.
b) Desktop training and conferencing will continue to grow as more employees become
comfortable with it.
c) Interactive distance learning, either through satellite or land-line linkages, will
become the preferred method of training for multinational corporations that can't
afford the expense or, more importantly, the time to bring contributors to a central
location for training.
d) High-definition television will bring back the use of video for both live and
prerecorded training programs.
e) Easily portable computers will provide EPSS and just-in-time training in any work
f) Voice recognition allows data input without the use of keyboards and mice. This will
advance the development of expert systems that people can querie the same way
they ask for help of each other.
g) Personal communications devices will provide wireless real-time access to
information, and thus provide up-to-date training anywhere, anytime.
h) Virtual reality processes will provide true simulations that will allow trainees to
experience real situations without real danger. From three-dimensional models to
total immersion, this technology will take training from theory to practice in a totally
Chapter II. Introduction to Teaching Tools
Chapter II :
E-learning can create huge change in an organization, so implementers can expect to
face some resistance. Two key strategies can help you deal with push-back: championing
How is your e-learning project going? Well, I hope. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re
losing sleep, dreading meetings, or wondering why you’re working so hard. E-learning
can create huge change in an organization, so implementers can expect to face some
resistance. Are you taking that on or hoping it will go away over time? You’ll increase
your success with e-learning if you confront rather than avoid this dark side.
After all, introducing e-learning into an organization changes the way learners learn,
instructors teach, designers develop, and managers manage. It’s no wonder you may
experience push-back. The good news is that there’s much you can do. Championing and
communicating are two key strategies that can help you deal with e-learning resistance.
The following list of tips can help, but keep in mind that this is not as much a ―to-do‖ list
as a ―to-be‖ list. Be present. Be aware. Be attuned to the moment. Rather than following
a prescribed checklist to act like an e-learning leader, be one.
II. 1. How to champion e-learning
There are a number of skills required to be an effective champion and lead an e-learning
project successfully. Common sense will go a long way to guide you.
Be consistent. Good champions are consistent in what they say and what they do. For
example, if you’re advocating the use of e-learning, it’s essential that you have hands-on
experience that you can describe.
Be flexible. As an effective leader, you need to be able to balance consistency with
flexibility. When you recognize a problem, you might need to take a new direction. When
you reset your sails, you need to explain why you selected the new direction.
Encourage frank discussion. Dissension is not bad in itself. E-learning leaders need to
create a safe place for opposing ideas to be expressed. It’s better to bring out and deal
with conflicting ideas than to force them underground to fester.
Be open about issues and how you will handle them. For example, if lack of
funding is a potential issue, let people know. It’s important that they have the truth. But
it’s also important that they can see your energy, concern, and enthusiasm and know that
you will do everything you can to secure the necessary funds.
Know the biases of the organization. When approaching stakeholders with a
proposal for e-learning, keep in mind their past experiences. For example, stakeholders
might be skeptical about new technology because of involvement in a failed IT
implementation. An effective champion anticipates and addresses stakeholder concerns.
It might help to admit that an earlier project ran into difficulty, explain why, and then
outline how your risk management strategy will ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
Network. E-learning leaders in similar organizations or trainers you meet at conferences
or associations may be able to offer tips and even partnerships. Use your network to
spark ideas for content, resources, and collaborative projects.
Promote the program. You’ll know that stakeholders are ready to embrace e-learning
when they take the time to talk to you. Exploit these opportunities when they occur.
Report positively on your progress, and promote, promote, promote.
Remain positive. Assume that anything is possible and help your company move into
action. People in your organization might lack the tools, knowledge, or infrastructure to
implement e-learning but you can help them acquire what they need. As a champion
you’re probably in a management position where you can seek resources (human and
financial) and create partnerships (for sharing resources and experiences, as well as for
Take initiative. E-learning success results from working hard and facing issues. When
you identify a potential risk to your project, watch it carefully, identify ownership, and act
decisively to mitigate the risk.
Use consistent e-learning terminology. Teach e-learning terms and definitions to
people in your organization and encourage everyone to use them consistently. A shared
language will help people understand what e-learning is and communicate with each
other. (For a comprehensive list of e-learning terms and definitions, visit ASTD’s e-
learning glossary at www.learningcircuits.org/glossary.html.)
II.2 How to lead through communication
Sometimes it pays to revisit the obvious: One of the most important steps you can take in
managing change is to communicate effectively. By doing so, you’ll help people in your
organization gain understanding and acceptance of your e-learning program. Plan your
communication strategy by thinking through the following questions.
Which groups need to know about the e-learning project? Taking time to identify the
different groups will enable you to target your messages to them.
What messages does each group need to hear? Managers need to know what their
role in the implementation will be. Employees need to know what e-learning offers
them. Trainers need to know how it will change their job function.
What should each group not hear? Certain details and ambiguities can confuse
people rather than enlighten them. So take care with your messages. For example,
don’t announce a launch date until it’s firm.
When should the messages be delivered? When should messages be sent out in
relation to roll-out? (Not too early in case roll-out dates are postponed.) Try to
inform managers before employees so that the higher-ups can support the e-
learning initiative and inform and advise their staff.
How should the messages be distributed? What sources do people access and trust?
Consider in- person, paper-based, and email communications.
Who should be the spokesperson for the messages? Who do listeners trust? Who is
available? Who wants to take on the role of e-learning champion?
Who should not deliver the messages? Who do listeners not trust? Who is not
available to follow through? Who is reluctant to champion e-learning?
If you deliver the messages, do you need assistance? What is your role? What are
your limitations? Is there a part of the message you can deliver best, while someone
else delivers the rest? Admit when you need help.
Who can help when you need assistance to deliver the messages? If there are gaps
in your capacity to communicate about the implementation, who can help? For
example, you might not have time to meet with groups throughout a large
organization, so you might engage helpers to speak to committees that meet
regularly. What resources will your helpers require? (For instance, PowerPoint
How should you approach people who can help you? In most organizations
managers are responsibile for moving forward with new initiatives because they are
closest to the people who will be affected by the change. As a champion you will
have the most impact if you feed into the management stream and provide what
managers need so that they can spread the messages throughout the organization.
II.3 Putting ideas into action
Many of you had already started implementing some of these ideas before you read
them. But what about ideas that are new to you? I’ll bet that some of you are putting
those new ideas into action before you get to the end of this article—at least in your
head. Good for you! Some of you will want to pass these lists to colleagues. Others of
you will be thinking about the ideas and asking yourselves where you fit in. If you’re in
that category, you might like to make a grid and assess yourself against all of the criteria.
The most helpful thing you can do with these ideas is to absorb them so that you can
recall them easily. The best way to absorb them is to read them over and envision
yourself using them. Go ahead. Create pictures in your mind. Have some fun. Later,
when you’re faced with resistance, you’ll be able to call on the ideas presented here.
Championing and communicating are two strategies that most of us use at work. Now
you should have a better idea of how they apply to e-learning. I’m sure that many of you
are already doing great work in those areas: You know how to champion powerfully and
communicate effectively. What works for you? How are you facing the dark side of e-
learning, the resistance to change? I’d love to hear from you.
II.4 How to Be an E-Learner
By Nuala Sweeney
Congratulations! You've been selected for e-learning. Here's how to excel.
If you take advantage of all its capabilities, e-learning can be a compelling way to extend
the reach and impact of your knowledge. But because much of e-learning is self-paced,
you'll need motivation and personal tenacity to succeed. Usually, you must organize your
own training schedule, choosing when and how you navigate through modules. Although
you may feel more in control of your learning, effective time-management is a must. It's
up to you to start, finish, and excel.
How can you be sure that you're getting the most you can out of the experience? Here
are some tips to help you take advantage of all e-learning has to offer.
Allocate quiet time. Those who have been successful with e-learning agree that it's
critical to commit to a training schedule. Decide on a consistent time of day, make an
appointment with yourself, and write it on your calendar just as you would any other
meeting. Because it's important to avoid telephone and email interruptions, try to make
your learning appointments for times that won't be full of people clamoring for your
attention. Be jealous of your time and attempt to keep it free from disruption.
Discuss your schedule with your manager and co-workers. Because you're not off
site in a classroom, people may be tempted to interrupt you while you're learning. It's
vital to discuss your training schedule in advance with those around you, so they'll
understand the times that you'll be unavailable and why it's important not to disturb you.
Be considerate of others. If your course uses audio, put on headphones to minimize
the sound. Just as you don't want your manager or co-workers to disturb you while
you're e-learning, they don't want to hear constant noise as they're trying to work. Be
aware of co-workers' needs for a quiet environment.
Set realistic learning goals. Take time to consider your goals, including specific work
issues that you think could be resolved with further training. Set learning objectives for
yourself that will challenge you but that you can realistically accomplish. Following the
training, track your results and match them to the previously established goals. If there's
an objective that hasn't been achieved, or that you feel could be improved, review the
relevant portion of the training.
Be an active participant. There's no question that the more you put into your e-
learning experience, the more you'll get out of it. Become an active "long-time learner,"
enthusiastically participating in all that e-learning has to offer--sometimes more than
once. For instance, you may return to the course regularly for reviews and refreshers,
particularly as new on-the-job challenges arise. E-learning is perfect for that because, as
long as you're at your computer, school is always in session.
Create a peer e-learning group. Peer-to-peer learning is one of the most powerful
training techniques. Many e-learning courses now include the opportunity for real-time
collaboration with a community. It's well worth your time to utilize this feature. For
instance, you can participate in chat sessions to share ideas and learn from the
experience of others. If your course doesn't provide a built-in community, try to
determine who else in your company is scheduled for the same training. You can arrange
to meet in a chat room or virtual classroom (or in person) to discuss and practice the
concepts you've learned. Participating in a community can maximize learning and
increase your rate of retention.
Accommodate yourself. In self-paced e-learning, there's no teacher setting the
schedule. If you study for a long period of time, be sure to take frequent breaks. In fact,
most effective learning takes place in 20- to 30-minute chunks. If you study for longer
than that, you won't be fresh enough to absorb and retain new knowledge.
Reflect on what you've learned. After breaks, and when you complete the course, try
to recall what you learned. Mentally apply new concepts to your work situation, actively
seeking specific, real-life situations that could benefit from your new knowledge. Test
how effective your newly won skills are and return to the courseware for additional tips if
Use all available resources. E-learning is made even more relevant through the
inclusion of online resources. Many courses offer a variety of tools and job aids. Take
advantage of suggestions for additional reading or practice that will help you maintain
your new skills.
Share what you've learned. To better retain your new knowledge and skills, share
what you've learned with your manager and co-workers. You can also participate in chat
rooms or discussion lists on the topics you studied and share your ideas with the
community. Sharing maximizes your learning experience and provides tangible benefits to
those around you.
Participating in training can improve your image with current employers and make you
more marketable to prospective ones. With the dawn of e-learning, training can now be
more flexible, personalized, and fun. To make e-learning effective, however, you must
see yourself as the person in charge of product development. The product, of course, is
II.5. Who Wants to be a Distance Trainer?
By Karen Mantyla
Everyone wants to be a millionaire, but ask a group of trainers whether they want to
become distance learning instructors and you'll see them peer around at colleagues,
wondering which brave souls will raise their hands. Here's what to look for in potential e-
trainers and how to help them succeed in the transition from face-to-face to virtual
The 2000-2001 timeframe will produce
not only more DL instructors than ever before, but at a faster rate. Many organizations
and consultants offer train-the-trainer programs in delivery methods ranging from Web to
satellite to videoconferencing, and others. Supporting instructors as they make the switch
from classroom trainers to facilitators of learning is a fast-growing service field, and
instructors who are considering the change will find help readily available.
I make this point because addressing the real or perceived problems that instructors deal
with in distance learning is the first step in the selection process. It's important to check
the mindset of instructors that you're considering for these positions. If you provide a
forum--such as a workshop--where negative perceptions can be addressed and dealt with
effectively, you can enlarge your pool of candidates. Basically, instructors are reluctant to
volunteer for these jobs for the following reasons:
Skepticism that training via distance learning isn't as good as the tried-and-true
Tip: Offer researched documentation and a list of successful distance learning
organizations for benchmarking best practices and successful outcomes.
Fear of using the technology and appearing less than proficient.
Tip: Identify the learning technologies being used and allow ample time for
trainers' questions and time to practice, practice, practice.
Training where peers can see them.
Tip: Have instructors do team teaching with a distance learning instructor or
shadow one to get comfortable with these classrooms without walls. Having a
mentor is also helpful when making this transition.
Lack of control.
Tip: It's important to convey to instructors that distance learning is a team effort,
with all members pitching in to support learners' success. The instructor,
instructional designer, site facilitator, and technology and administrative contacts
form a strong nucleus for supporting the success of distance learning initiatives.
When people learn, the team--including the instructor--is given credit for that
Fear of losing their jobs.
Tip: Provide instructors with resources detailing the new types of jobs that have
been created by this new learner-centered environment. Roles, in addition to
training, include facilitating, moderating, site coordinating, and learner support. An
excellent resource on such new positions is ASTD Models for Learning
Technologies: Roles, Competencies, and Outputs, by George M. Piskurich and
Ethan S. Sanders.
Trainers' perceptions should be addressed openly. The goal is to ensure that their
decisions are based on facts, not perceptions. In your e-learning strategic plan, you
should build in ways to identify and address people's concerns and resistance to distance
Here are some pointers for the next step, selection. (For additional information, refer to
ASTD's Distance Learning: A Step by Step Guide for Trainers, by Karen Mantyla and J.
Selecting distance learning instructors
Training delivery, especially that first one, will have lots of eyes watching. New mindset
shifts about distance learning are often formed by an organization's initial course or
event, so the first one must be successful. A great outcome will help dispel skepticism
and, conversely, a poorly delivered course will fuel the fire for "I told you so" while
increasing the zeal to minimize change. Ready to select potential DL instructors, here's
what to look for:
Enthusiasm about distance learning. It's important to start with these people; you
can convert others as you go along. If someone has had prior successful DL experience
and is enthusiastic about doing more, put him or her at the top of the list. These
instructors can also act as mentors.
Excellent onsite instructors. A track record of excellence in delivering onsite training
is a basic requirement for DL instructors.
Learner-centered mindset or willingness to develop one. Those who have a
strong instructor-centered mindset will not be your best candidates.
Flexibility. With new skills and technologies to learn, flexibility is an important attribute.
Plus, it's a valuable trait for those times when the technology fails and contingency plans
Adaptability. A DL trainer works with a team and doesn't control what each person on
the team does. The trainer is a vital part of the success of the distance learning event
and needs to think of delivering training as a collaborative way of supporting the needs of
learners. All team members are important, especially the technical people who now
become a life-support system that must be included in all planning. The instructor must
learn to adapt to recommendations and new ideas by other team members. Rigidity is
Sense of humor. Effective use of humor helps remote site learners enjoy the learning
experience and want to come back for more (and tell others to come back with them).
Good press is invaluable.
Willingness to learn about new technologies. Effective distance learning instructors
find out how the equipment works, how the software can be used, and how the hardware
and software support the learning experience.
Willingness to create interaction. A talking head or long pages of text on a screen
prompt the yawn reflex. Interaction is important and not only helps people learn, but it
also can be used to apply the learning to the real world.
Willingness to practice using the equipment and to rehearse delivery. Most DL
instructors say the number 1 way they learn is to practice, practice, and then do it again.
Though instructors may know their content well, it's vital to become confident and
comfortable delivering the content with learning technologies.
Training distance learning instructors
Once you've selected trainers, your next job is to help them succeed. There will be
differences in training, depending on which technologies they'll use. Such differences
include course conversion--including learner support materials--and training delivery
methods. Insist that trainers experience the technology before using it for instruction; ask
them to take an online course or two and attend a satellite or videoconference event to
see what it's like being a learner.
Instructors need practice and a good overview of the job, including how to
understand different learning technologies and the advantages and disadvantages of
select courses for conversion
convert courses or learning content with a media selection guide (this helps
instructors choose the best technologies for Web-based, CD-ROM, satellite,
videoconferencing, and other training).
design for short segments of 10 to 15 minutes
build in interactivity for 30 to 50 percent of the program and vary the activities to
ensure an active learning event rather than a passive learning experience
create effective visual aids
dress properly when using video
create effective remote site materials
prepare evaluation tools
train remote site facilitators
ensure easy registration and identify precourse administration requirements
deliver the learning experience based on the selected technologies
set up contingency plans for when the technology doesn't work
establish learner support systems before, during, and after learning delivery (help
line and email access, for example)
use all equipment and applications.
Effective onsite instructors learn how to be successful. The same holds true for distance
learning instructors. Having a step-by-step process for selecting and training instructors
will help ensure that learning is the focus and the technology is seamless.
II.6. Obstacles to E-Learning
E-learning: eliminating the classroom forever! Of course, everyone will want to use our
whiz-bang Website, learning portal, or learning management system. Virtual classrooms,
desktop conferences, 24/7. They'll all come flocking. Ah, the misconceptions run rampant.
In a recent poll, Forrester Research identified these three most common obstacles to a
successful e-learning strategy:
lack of interactivity, 56 percent
cultural resistance, 41 percent
lack of bandwidth, 36 percent.
Much has been said about e-learning's interactivity and bandwidth issues. But subtler and
more frequently ignored issues revolve around the human side of e-learning
Traditionally, e-learning implementation strategies have focused on technical issues.
However, the human element is the most influential aspect of any technology solution.
Technical infrastructures can always be upgraded or replaced; altering human
perceptions and attitudes requires almost divine intervention. Thus, the success of an e-
learning program depends on the people using it. That's especially true for enterprise-
wide solutions that represent a significant change in the work process and the role of
learning within an organization. Another curve: it's a well-known fact that a majority of
people resist change regardless of its benefits.
So what's to be done? The motivators that cause people to embrace change are
multidimensional. In order to understand how e-learning initiatives succeed, it's
necessary to first understand the obstacles that cause failures.
Online learning is all the buzz, but are organizations willing to walk the talk? Numerous
cultural issues can affect e-learning adoption in organizations; four of the most significant
the accepted use of computers for job tasks only
an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality
an unwillingness to invest in new technology, especially for training-related activities
a love/hate relationship with training.
The accepted use of computers for job tasks only. Here's an example of a subtle
cultural obstacle: One of our client companies had an unspoken policy that any type of
computer use outside of daily job functions was not allowed. Extensive use of the
corporate intranet or Internet was considered unrelated to the job function and,
therefore, unacceptable. No one ever explicitly stated this policy; it was simply
understood by staff. What's the likelihood of a successful e-learning initiative in that
That type of corporate obstacle can be managed by public support from executive-level
management. Find a champion for the intervention who will promote it to the middle and
executive management team. That person needs to have a 30-second "elevator speech"
about the e-learning solution that is replayed whenever possible. In addition to gaining
management support, it's critical to have a well thought out plan for involving people
throughout the organization as stakeholders. These individuals can be engaged through
advisory boards and focus groups and serve as an excellent resource for determ ining
content, validating and testing, providing feedback, and championing the project among
their peers. They, too, need a 30-second elevator speech to shop the solution.
"If it ain't broke; don't fix it." This mentality about training persists because many
companies fail to ask questions about the bottom-line impact of a shorter learning curve
or the ways in which increased accuracy and improved quality can affect revenues.
Organizations spend millions of dollars to install ERP systems that promise increased
productivity by integrating operational information into one system. But when it comes to
investing in new training technology, people often resist. Historically (or maybe
hysterically), training has been considered an expense rather than an investment.
Management knows they have to train their people, but are loath to allocate the
resources to do so. Consequently, their love/hate relationship with training.
What's the solution? Money talks. Decision makers have difficulty recognizing a return on
investment in training, so you must make a strong financial case that demonstrates a
substantive ROI. Even better, show the correlation between your learning initiative and
the company's competitive advantage. Quantify the financial implications of your
program. If there's a payback, people will listen.
The foundation for establishing ROI is good metrics. The following is a list of training
results that can be measured and then translated into financial terms:
immediate and direct access to information.
help desk calls
printing and distribution costs
sexual harassment cases
Learner obstacles to an e-learning initiative can be harder to pinpoint than organizational
obstacles because people often keep their opinions to themselves. Attitudes towards
training and technology run the gamut from enthusiasm to utter fear and loathing. Here
are some obstacles to watch for:
resistance to taking on the responsibility for one's own learning
preference for learning through social interaction
fear of others having access to personal information
desire for direct access to experts
discomfort with learning new methods and tools.
Suggestions for managing those learner obstacles are found in the chart below.
Obstacle Method for managing
Resistance to Well-designed WBT demands interaction, critical
taking on the thinking, and synthesis. The learner cannot
responsibility for simply "check out" mentally as he or she might
one's own do during classroom training. Positioning e-
learning learning as an extension of job responsibilities
can help reduce resistance to taking on the
responsibility for learning. Make self-paced
learning fun and integrate learning accountability
into performance appraisals. There needs to be
individual accountability for all learning
regardless of the delivery method.
Preference for Create collaborative work groups (online and
learning through offline), online chats, threaded discussions, and
social interaction live collaborative learning events via phone. The
telephone is still a sophisticated piece of
technology; take advantage of it.
Fear of others Demonstrate security measures and tell people
having access to how their information is being used and who has
personal access to it. Treat all information as sensitively
information as HR.
Desire for direct Incorporate "e-mail the expert" or hold
access to experts Webcasts. E-learning actually offers more
opportunities to access experts, via email and
other collaborative methods.
Discomfort with Keep it simple. Once people take the first step,
learning new the subsequent ones are easier.
Those obstacles represent the tip of the iceberg. Conduct a thorough needs assessment
and factor the findings into your solution. There's an old saying that may be helpful to
remember: Lemons can always be used to make lemonade--just add sugar. In other
words, if your needs assessment reveals obstacles and points of resistance, you can work
to leverage them so they contribute to your overall strategy rather than serve as
Successful implementation of an e-learning initiative is a massive undertaking. The
monetary investment is significant, but it has the potential to generate up to a 400
percent ROI and increase a company's competitive advantage. Remember that,
ultimately, the success of the system is up to the individuals who use it. Integrating the
human element into your e-learning strategy is the most overlooked, and yet the most
critical, step for an enterprise-wide solution to fulfill its promise. When individuals
succeed at their jobs, organizations realize their business goals.
So, if you build it, will they come? You bet. And they'll use it with great enthusiasm!
II.7. Tips to Make E-Learning Stick
By Susan Boyd
Training effectiveness isn't measured by smile sheet evaluations or posttest scores. The
true test lies not in the classroom or online, but back on the job. Do learners apply new
skills and competencies in the day-to-day environment? The following tips will help
ensure that your learners do, and that your company's investment in e-learning pays off.
Create a job-focused curriculum
Meet with managers to discuss their business goals and objectives and how training
will support them. Gather sample documents and business examples to use in
designing the training so that it relates to the learner's job. Ask managers and
learners how the training and materials can be designed to best meet their needs.
Break down the curriculum into concise skills based on job needs. Be sure to relate
each training skill to a job skill. List objectives in terms of skills, not prior courses
taken. For example, rather than stating that the Introduction to Excel course is a
prerequisite to the training, list the skills the learners must have mastered, such as
creating a worksheet that includes totals, copied formulas, and a header.
Use a blended approach. Determine which parts of the curriculum need to be
offered asynchronously, synchronously, and face-to-face. Consider whether topics
need in-person interaction and support (face-to-face), require guided instruction and
facilitation (synchronous e-learning), or can be done independently with minimal
support (asynchronous e-learning).
Create a curriculum of courses rather than one long master course designed to
teach all people all things. Chunk material into modules that can be completed
within 15 to 20 minutes. Be sure to specify how each chunk of learning fits in with
the others and what prerequisites are needed before completing each section.
Make learning interactive
Design content to be as engaging as possible. Based on your budget, media format
(synchronous or asynchronous), and bandwidth, choose among video, audio, digital
photos, animations, drawings, and clip art to capture the learner’s attention. Involve
him or her often by including thought-provoking questions, case studies, surveys,
analogies, quizzes, and tests.
Don't forget to include real world examples, photos, sample documents, charts, and
interviews to make content relevant to the job.
Build in practice time as each new concept is presented. Include a few assessment
questions after each major concept to test for understanding throughout, not just at
the end. Create case studies or scenarios in which learners are asked to apply the
knowledge and skills learned rather than just demonstrate recall.
If you're doing software training, create job-related exercises that reflect how the
software is used. Simulate the software or ask learners to use the actual software to
complete a list of exercises after each module.
Build in learner feedback. In an asynchronous environment, learners use such tools
as discussion boards and email with instructors and other learners. Learners in a
synchronous environment can use a chat room, discussion tools, or follow-up emails
after the learning event.
Offer support materials
Create quick reference cards for job tasks. These can be provided to learners when
they register for the course or printed from the Internet or intranet.
Develop a list of FAQs and show learners where to find it on the intranet or Internet.
Include online help guides with troubleshooting tips.
Send out a copy of slides for a synchronous session ahead of time. That helps focus
the discussion and also provides a place for notes.
Demonstrate e-learning courses in meetings and classroom training sessions. Get
learners to practice using the technology in a guided session.
Market the benefits of online courses: Stress how flexible they are to meet
scheduling and travel needs. Include testimonials in company newsletters and
Make sure learners have the right software and hardware for the courses. Offer
technical support in getting started and provide headphones for audio.
Pilot the e-learning courses with designers, subject matter experts, and six to eight
representative learners. Conduct follow-up interviews with learners to collect
suggestions for improvement and determine how to enhance the learning
Schedule manager overview meetings to demonstrate the technology, discuss
system and time requirements, and identify learners' support needs. Make managers
aware of e-learning's benefits: reduced travel time and cost, increased learner
productivity, and its ability to be tailored to meet individual needs.
Identify the manager’s role in approving the training, preparing the learner,
supporting the learner, and conducting follow up. Set up learner and manager
agreements, learning contracts that encourage both to discuss their expectations,
how new skills can be incorporated into the job, and the effort and time needed to
make e-learning successful.
Stress that a "learning at the desk" culture needs to be established and adhered to
or the benefits and cost savings can't be realized. Communicate to managers that
training should be treated like a business priority and scheduled and completed
within a specified timeframe. Get managers' buy-in that learners shouldn't be
interrupted while e-learning.
Send immediate confirmation when a learner enrolls in a course and include any
technical details needed to get started as well as information about the required
timeframe for course completion.
Remind learners to make their desk an environment conducive to learning.
Recommend that they clear their desk, print out course materials and job aids, have
a place to jot notes and questions, and turn off the phone ringer and email
notification. Ask them to post a sign outside their door or cubicle that says training
is in progress and, please, no interruptions. They may also want to include the time
they will be available after training.
Identify whom the learner should call or email regarding technical problems, course
feedback, and so forth.
If possible, assign a mentor to follow up with the learner. The mentor can be a
previous graduate of the course, a subject matter expert, or a "super-user" within
the department who has mastered the task, skills, or knowledge presented in the
course. The mentor should complete the course as well to make sure he or she is
familiar with the objectives, format, and content. Then he or she can work with the
learner to illustrate how to apply the training to job skills.
Monitor and report the results
Review training statistics daily or weekly and prepare exception reports that show
what didn't happen as expected--for example, compare the number of course
registrations to completions.
Survey learners via phone or email to identify obstacles that prevented them from
starting or completing a course. The reasons may include problems with hardware
or software, scheduling issues, interruptions during training, work demands, the
course not meeting their needs, course design issues, and so forth.
Follow up with managers to discuss ideas for improving completion rates in their
departments. Give each manager a report of people who didn't finish and ask for
support and suggestions. Perhaps the course wasn't tied effectively to the
department's specific goals and the manager can help you modify it. Or interruptions
or scheduling was a problem and the manager can help ensure that learning
happens as planned next time.
Identify graduates of the course who might be willing to serve as mentors to new
learners face to face, over email, on the phone, in virtual meetings, and so on.
Create a list of responsibilities for mentors and review with managers and mentors.
Include an evaluation at the end of the course to get learners' immediate feedback
(Kirkpatrick's Level 1). Questions should be focused on the engagement of the
learner and his or her subjective opinion of the format and content.
Send out a follow-up evaluation to learners within one week of course completion
(Kirkpatrick's Level 2). This can be an ungraded posttest used to determine whether
learners have mastered the skills and concepts. Information from this evaluation can
help you revise the course.
Survey learners again three to four weeks after training to determine how the
training has been applied on the job (Level 3). How is the training being used and
how helpful was the course? Offer incentives for completing the follow-up evaluation
form--for example, Amazon.com points, entrance in a drawing for tickets or
certificates, free lunch pass, and so on.
Conduct phone and email surveys with managers to determine whether training
made an impact in meeting business objectives (Level 4). Since it may be difficult to
measure ROI formally, managers' feedback on the value of the training can help
support and justify its expense.
Enhance the course
Use feedback gathered through the evaluations, surveys, interviews, and helpdesk
call tracking (ask the helpdesk to report on the questions they're getting about the
course) to make revisions and additions to courses. E-learning can't be static or it
won't meet evolving job needs.
Prioritize and schedule course changes.
Inform managers and learners about the changes and how they'll be implemented.
Complete course changes and pilot the revisions as needed.
Identify future training needs
Discuss additional training needs with learners. Ask them what skills they need
training in to do their jobs effectively.
Discuss with managers the additional training needs that learners identified and ask
for confirmation. Determine whether managers have other training needs.
Prioritize training needs and business objectives.
Locate resources and schedule time for new classes.
How to Gain the Most from an E-Learning Course
A Learner Checklist for Success
Find out as much as you can about the course before
you begin. For example, read the course description, ask
about prerequisites, and talk to other learners who've
Be sure you have completed the course prerequisites
and have the necessary experience.
Meet with your manager to discuss how the training will
apply to your job.
Meet with your mentor, if one has been assigned, to
Before the Course:
discuss how the e-learning course will function. Identify
a date and time to meet after the training.
Test whether you have the correct hardware and
software to enter the course and report any problems.
Obtain course materials and job aids. Review them prior
to the course to become familiar with the content.
Schedule a specific date and time to complete the course
(if asynchronous) and make it a priority to finish within
the scheduled time period.
Turn off your phone ringer and email notification.
Post a sign on your cubicle or door that says, "Training is
in Progress – No Interruptions" and indicate when you'll
During the Course: be available again.
Use a headset to hear the audio portion of the course
and minimize distractions.
Set a learning goal to be met by the end of the course.
Make notes of any questions or problems with the course
to report to the training department.
Keep a "Bright Idea List" to identify key points to
remember and apply to your job.
Identify additional resources to reinforce and supplement
the course (i.e., Web links, books, articles, additional
training, experts within the company, and so forth.)
Complete the course evaluation form.
Meet with your mentor, if one was assigned, to review
the course and identify ways to apply it to your job.
Discuss what you learned with your manager and
identify specific ways to apply the training.
Refer to your course materials, manual, online help, and
After the Course: other tools when you have a question.
Give feedback to the training department on any
problems you encountered or suggestions you can offer.
Also identify future training needs.
Recognize that learning is an active process that
continues after the e-learning course takes place. You
can only get back what you're willing to put in!
Chapter III :
WEB BASED COURSES
III.1. Digital Video
Trainers who want to add video to their e-learning offerings don’t have to rely on
professional camera work and complicated and expensive video conversions. Using digital
video, trainers can direct, edit, and produce high-quality video themselves.
Film or convert. The first step in incorporating streaming video is to determine whether
to film or convert digital files.
Do-it-yourself trainers who opt for filming are in luck: Digital video cameras (DVCs) are
lightweight and familiar to use. But the real value of using DVCs—other than getting to
pretend you’re Spielberg—is how fast and easy you can work with the recorded images.
Extracting DVC images only requires a simple file download. Most DVCs come with a
feature called IEEE 1394--also called firewire or i.Link by some manufactures. IEEE 1394
is a standard digital interface that allows for two-way communication between either two
compatible DVCs or between a DVC and a compatible personal computer.
To record crisp, clear broadcast-quality images, a three-chip imaging system (or 3-CCD)
is crucial. CCD is a light detection device used in professional and consumer digital
cameras to capture images for video.
Finally, in addition to such features as speakers and microphones, zoom options, and
shutter speeds, you need to consider whether you
need to record for minutes or hours during a single shoot
need still-camera options
plan to use manual or auto controls
plan to use special effects.
Some training shops may choose to convert existing images. If so, it's often less
expensive to have a professional service prepare the video. If converting video in-house,
you'll need an analog-video converter.
Edit. The real trick to producing professional-looking video is using editing software to
manipulate the video images for delivery via the Internet, intranet, or CD-ROMs. Most
digital video cameras offer optional compatible editing software.
Off-the-shelf editing packages can cost up to $10,000, but there are useful packages
available for as little as $600. There's even video-editing shareware, though we don’t
recommend you use those programs for professional projects.
Falling prices aren’t the only advantage of editing software. Most programs include new
ease-of-use features allowing trainers to avoid dealing with such technical issues as bit
rates, compression drivers, and frame sizes and rates. However, complex editing features
are still available for more advanced users. One caution: Editing video requires a fast
machine with a large amount of hard disk space.
To aid the production process, trainers-turned-producers can pick from a laundry list of
available features, including
timelines that order individual video segments
drag-and-drop icons for storyboarding
drawing tools and texture tiling
audio playback and mixing
real-time transitions and playback
numerous special effects.
The following table outlines three leading editing software packages.
Adobe EditDV 2.0 (PC) MediaStudio Pro
Contact Adobe Systems Digital Origin Ulead Systems
information 888.724.4508 800.572.3487 800.858.5323
http://www.adobe.co www.digitalorigin.co http://www.ulead.co
m/ m m/
Video • IEEE 1394 interface • IEEE 1394 • IEEE 1394 interface
capture • batch capture with interface • batch capture with
timecodes • batch capture timecodes
Editing • back-timing • three-point editing • back-timing
features • drag and drop • back-timing • drag and drop
• unlimited title layers • drag and drop • supports MPEG
• supports QuickTime • unlimited title • unlimited scrolling
• customizable layers text
transitions • supports • video layering
• video layering QuickTime • 3-D manipulation
• unlimited scrolling • unlimited video • more than 100
text layering transition effects
• 3-D manipulation • picture-in-picture
• supports third-party effects
plug-ins • 3-D manipulation
• more than 40
Audio • special effects • audio rubber- • read and edit MP3
features • audio-only capture banding files
• 21 built-in controls, • built-in channel • drag and drop
14 new audio filters mapping • special effects
• two-channel audio
System PC: PC: • Pentium processor
requiremen • Pentium processor • 200MHz processor • Windows 95, NT
ts • Windows 95, NT • Windows 98 or 4.0, or higher
4.0, or later 2000 • 64MB of RAM
• 64MB of RAM • 64MB of RAM • 70MB of disk space
• 84MB of disk space • 5MB of disk space
• PowerPC processor • PowerPC
• MacOS software 9.0 processor
or higher • MacOS software
• 32 MB of RAM 8.5
• 50 MB of disk space • 96 MB of RAM
Price US$549 US$425 US$495
Deliver. If you've made it this far, you've probably shot a few scenes and used your
editing software to delete useless frames, clean up the audi, and add special effects. But
are you ready to add your newly polished video clips to your latest e-learning project?
You still need to determine the final video format, such as .avi, .mpeg, RealPlayer,
QuickTime, and so on.
Technical factors to consider when choosing the file format include the end-user's
machine set-up, browser, and connection speed. For example, .avi files work best for
short sequences and fast connections, while .mpeg is the preferred format for longer files
or users with slower connection speed. It's important to note that .mpeg files often
contain compression errors. Likewise, developers should link to more than one compatible
.mpeg player because not all MPEG players support all versions of .mpeg files.
Commercial Websites that need to support a broad audience or that use longer,
streaming clips often choose video formats compatible with Real Player, QuickTime, or
Advanced Streaming Format for Windows Media Player.
Finally, delivering digital video on a Website requires a wrapper, which is a Web
application that points to compatible media players or browsers.
III.2. Building Better E-Assessments
By Margaret Driscoll
Online testing offers untapped potential for instructional designers building e-
Assessments are the foundation of effective instructional practices and return-on-
investment studies. The power of tests and assessments will become exponentially more
important with the advent of content management systems and learning management
systems. Once those applications become AICC standard compliant, course developers
can take advantage of assessments as a means of driving advanced learning practices,
such as branching and personalization.
In addition to offering a variety of instructional practices, data from testing can be used
to conduct item analysis and strengthen courses. Indeed, often it's test questions that
drive the following instructional practices:
Posttests assess a learner's mastery of content at course completion. For example, after
taking a course on basic banking principles, learners are given a 25-item test to assess
their understanding of key concepts. Test data is used to determine whether the learner
mastered the principles, and a comparative review of scores can determine course
Pretests assess the learner's readiness for instruction and can exempt learners from
studying material they already know. Before starting a course on Lotus Notes, the learner
is given a test to determine what he or she already knows about using mail, bookmarks,
calendar, Web access, and more. Test data will let learners skip modules they already
Remediation test items can pinpoint knowledge that the learner lacks and branch to
additional material. Based on test items that the learner missed, the system determines
which sections need additional instruction.
Adaptation questions get a feel for to the learner's strengths and weaknesses. For
instance, after taking several lessons and completing the posttests, the delivery system
(based on programming decisions made by course developers) determines what different
scores imply. If the system observes that the learner consistently achieves a perfect
score, it may change the pace of the program, provide fewer simple practice exercises,
and introduce moderate or difficult examples more quickly.
Personalization can be used in combination with adaptation questions to create
programs that offer individualized instruction. In this case, a learner answers a series of
questions to build a learner profile, including name, job title, primary language, and
location. Using profile and testing data the system can tailor a lesson, providing practice
exercises that are the right level of difficulty and delivering more relevant examples.
Beware easy test-building software
You don't have to search the Internet very long to find stunning examples of bad tests.
Meanwhile, test-building tools have never been easier to use or more accessible, making
it possible for anyone to author a test. But ease-of-use and accessibility come with a risk:
Technically appealing tests may not be good educationally.
Online test-building tools have the same problems as traditional pencil-and-paper tests
plus some new problems introduced by technology. The most common problem with
online tests is failure to link questions to the course objectives. It's important to
determine if an objective that reads "the learner will be able to use, apply, calculate,
build" is tested with an item that assesses the learner's ability to use, apply, calculate,
and build. However, it's challenging to verify when objectives link to test items because
maneuvering within a course can be difficult and time consuming.
An obvious problem with online tests is the inadequate number of questions that assess
the learner's mastery of the content. Many online courses use only one or two questions
for each objective, which often are recycled from the practice items. Too few questions
may fail to accurately assess the learner's level of comprehension. The questions must
proportionally test all content presented, and questions should range from simple to
complex. That kind of breadth provides a fair assessment of the learner's mastery.
Another common problem is that online tests tend to disproportionately assess
memorization. Many questions simply ask learners to identify, find, select, and define
items using true-and-false or multiple-choice answers. It's easier to write those types of
questions, but many courses require learners to gain high-level skills, such as applying,
analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating. When high-level skills are the goal, memorization
questions are inadequate at assessing the learner's mastery.
These problems are compounded when course developers chose to use bells and whistles
without understanding how those features affect the assessment. For example, many
systems offer a timed-test option, but course developers aren't clear about when to use
it. Basically, if a timed performance isn't required, developers shouldn't use it. Likewise,
graphics and animation may be interesting graphically, but they're a distraction if they
don't add content to the test.
Building online tests
Test-building software is simply a tool. The basic principles are the same when writing
online or paper-and-pencil tests. But software to create online assessments is getting
more sophisticated, as are the reports they generate. If you want to perform statistical
tests for reliability and validity, these programs offer useful tools. However, they also
have the potential to increase the GIGO quotient (garbage in/garbage out).
Here are some tips for writing solid test items.
True-and-false questions are best for testing memorization of factual information.
These questions are generally easy to write. If you find you have several true-and-false
questions, check whether memorization is a course objective. If memorization isn't the
goal, consider developing other test items. To develop true-and-false questions:
write one true-and-false statement for each fact the learner must memorize
test only significant facts rather than trivia
use statements that are unequivocally true or false
write short statements
eliminate unnecessary detail that may confuse learners
avoid negative statements and double negatives which can add an unnecessary
Multiple-choice questions test facts and the application of knowledge. These questions
are more difficult to write, but they're the foundation for branching, item analysis,
adaptive learning, and personalization. To develop multiple-choice questions:
test only one piece of information per question
use only plausible distracters
use four or five distracters
avoid using answers that can be easily eliminated
review questions for inadvertent clues
be sure the software supports partial credit answers
avoid using "all of the above" and "none of the above" answers as distracters. If you
use them, make "all of the above" and "none of the above" plausible answers.
Fill-in-the-blank questions test facts or the application of knowledge. These questions
are challenging to write because limitations in some packages accept only an exact word
or phrase. To develop fill-in-the-blank questions:
write questions that have a single answer
keep in mind the software's limitations
use only one blank per question
use fill-in-the-blank when you want the learner to recall information rather than
select or identify information
consider the risk of spelling and debatable answers. If the system can support a
range of answers, be prepared to manually review and grade responses for fairness.
Matching questions test for memorization, and are considered a variation on multiple-
choice questions. To develop matching questions:
check the screen layout; items should fit on the screen without scrolling
consider the effect of different screen resolutions
avoid using software that draws connecting lines between items
note whether learners can use the same distracter multiple times
provide more possible distracters (answers) than stems (terms to be defined). When
the columns are of equal length, learners can guess the answers through process of
Testing-building software options
Whether you own software for generating online tests or are thinking about buying
software, consider whether you might use the following features:
Test banks and randomization. Test banks are a warehouse for individual questions
that use metatags. Metatags provide information about each question, such as objective,
author, difficulty, and so forth. Test banks are an important feature for creating random
tests that provide each learner with a unique set of questions.
Scoring. In most software programs, course developers have the ability to control the
value for correct, incorrect, and blank answers. Variable scoring gives you greater control
over weighing items. When using variable scoring, be sure to provide learners with clear
directions regarding how answers will be scored.
More important, designers should take a look at how test-item types are implemented.
Fill-in-the-blank, drag-and-drop, and matching formats differ dramatically among test-
building tools. For example, for fill-in-the-blank items, some systems accept only one
right answer, others accept five possible answers, and some use fuzzy logic. Consider the
question, "What is the capital of the United States?" Correct answers can be Washington
D.C.; Washington DC; Washington, DC; DC; and so forth.
Timing. Some programs can track latency or the time it takes a learner to complete a
single item or the overall test. The ability to control and monitor time is useful only when
testing a time-dependent skill.
Clear instructions. When asking learners to answer fill-in-the-blank or multiple-choice
questions, be sure to provide directions. For example, state whether spelling is a scoring
factor or if they can select more than one answer on multiple-choice questions.
Reviewing and submitting answers. Programs offer various options for submitting
completed tests. For example, questions can be presented sequentially so that the
learner is required to answer them in a specific order before moving forward. Another
option is to break the test into sections relative to the content and have sections
submitted one at a time.
An alternative scheme is to have learners scroll through questions, allowing them to
return to ones they don't know. In this scheme, learners submit the entire test when
completed. Scrolling though a long test may allow more consideration before final
submission, but it can also become unmanageable for the learner. Overall, it's desirable
to be able to return to unanswered questions. Good design may provide cueing devices
or indicators to identify unanswered questions.
Testing is a powerful online tool, but there's a long way to go before online testing is
used to its full potential. If you're designing online tests, review guidelines for developing
effective pencil-and-paper test items. Determine how test data can drive sophisticated
practices, such as branching, remediation, and personalization. The next step is to move
from test design to implementation of online testing. Consider scoring options, analysis
reports, and how to link test scores with learner profiles. Finally, learn as much as you
can about the features of the test-building software you plan to use.
III.3. Animation – Just Enough, Never Too Much
By Thomas Toth
Using animation in e-learning.
The trend in both e-learning and traditional Web design is to eliminate the term
animation because it brings up images of Saturday morning cartoons. Instead, the
industry is referring to animation on a Webpage as motion graphics, and new job titles
have been created, such as new media developer or motion graphics designer.
Motion graphics often are very effective if used properly in your e-learning program.
Remember, though, that in addition to the complexity of their creation, you may face
expensive charges from design studios that specialize in producing high-end animation.
To avoid pitfalls, here is some advice to help you make decisions about animation and
some less complicated and inexpensive alternatives to use for your own e-learning
Motion graphic types
The speed of a learner’s Internet connection—high-speed broadband versus a typical
telephone modem connection of 56 Kbps—is a significant consideration in e-learning
design. In addition, file size delivered to the learner is a vital part of keeping the learner
engaged in your e-learning program.
Your e-learning developers are very aware of these limitations and have techniques and
software tricks to deliver important e-learning animation without giving up reasonable
download times for your learners. Here are some of your options.
Animated GIFs. When you really think about it, animation is just series of still images
shown in sequence, like pictures in a flip book. Graphic designers have picked up on this
100-year-old idea by creating a graphic format that allows the browser to rapidly flip
through a single file of sequential GIF images on the screen. Voila! Your learner
experiences the illusion of motion. This type of animation is called an animated GIF. Most
Web browsers recognize these files as just another GIF image and display the image you
want without any problems.
An animated GIF is easy to create and modify. Your designer can use free software,
called shareware, that can take individual images and combine them into a finished GIF
animation. Your developer may use such software tools as the GIF Construction Set for
Windows or GIFBuilder for Macintosh.
Advanced graphic design programs, such as Macromedia Fireworks and Adobe
Photoshop, include tools for creating animated GIFs. If you own these software
programs, creating these GIFs files is probably a capability your designer already
understands. Your main job as a trainer is to understand the capability of a GIF and
specify its use in your e-learning design.
The major disadvantage of an animated GIF is its file size. Remember, each frame of the
animation is a single, complete GIF image. If your animation needs 20 frames, you have
created a file of significant size that may be a download problem for your learner. Your
designer can offer techniques to reduce the size of these files, but even after the
individual images have been optimized, the files sizes are often remarkably large.
Another limitation of an animated GIF file is the degree of animation you can create with
the technology. Traditional films are created at a rate of 24 frames per second. A GIF file
isn’t going to give you the fluid motion of film. Perhaps you’ve seen an animated GIF in a
banner headline on the Internet. You probably noticed that the image on the banner
headline didn’t fly or fade in but appeared in sequence across the screen. Smooth fluid
motion would require many individual frames, making the finished size unusable on your
Use animated GIFs to illustrate a simple concept or to add some eye-catching decoration
your e-learning project. But, don’t overuse these elements because your learner will soon
become bored or even distracted by your creative design.
Flash and Shockwave animation. Macromedia’s Flash and Shockwave programs allow
you to animate your graphic ideas in bold and amazing ways. In fact, both are considered
the industry standards for animating content. Macromedia claims that 97 percent of Web
users have access to Macromedia Flash content. And most browsers that your learners
likely use already contain the necessary software plug-ins to view Flash content.
Both file formats are powerful in their own ways and offer great flexibility for you and
your designer to turn an e-learning vision into reality. One of the greatest advantages of
Flash and Shockwave is their ability to play on any browser without the learner needing
any additional player software (Windows Media Player or RealOne Player, for example).
The ability to use the plug-in and watch the motion graphics is achieved from within the
learner’s browser. He or she doesn’t have to do anything extra to view the content—just
open the Webpage and enjoy.
The Shockwave plug-in isn’t installed on most systems, however. But if your e-learning is
best served by the use of more complex Shockwave animation, the plug-in can be
downloaded easily downloaded from the Macromedia Website. When deciding to use
Flash or Shockwave for your motion graphics, you need to discuss potential issues with
each type of software with your designer.
Flash and Shockwave provide a number of advantages for the user. First, Flash and
Shockwave produce relatively small files that download very quickly. In addition, both
software programs produce vector images, which your developer can use to create sharp
and distortion-free animations. Second, Flash and Shockwave content are very popular in
the development community, and your designer is likely to be familiar with the features
of the software. Knowledge and experience with these common tools will reduce the
overall development time of your project.
Third, the perceived download time for the user is quicker. Flash and Shockwave stream
into the learner’s browser. What this means is that the viewer can begin seeing the
animation before the entire file is downloaded. The learner will have less time to wait for
something to happen; the animation will begin to play before it is completely
downloaded. If you have ever watched a movie preview from the Apple Website, you’ve
experienced streaming media—the movie preview starts to play in your browser before it
has completely loaded.
Which to choose—Flash or Shockwave? Because you’re not a graphics or software expert
you may wish to leave this decision to the expert working with you to create your e-
learning program. But, understanding more about each program can help with your own
If you’re comparing by prices, Flash creation software is cheaper. Macromedia Director,
which creates Shockwave motion graphic files, costs about US$1200, whereas Flash costs
about $500. Director is a great tool for CD/DVD creation, but considering that you’re
developing for the Web and that most Web browsers already support the Flash plug-in,
Flash would probably be the better choice for you.
3-D Web graphics. Three-dimensional (3-D) motion graphics are very expensive to
create and implement. Consider using 3-D graphics only if you have the time and budget
to handle it. Software to create the models is expensive and often involves other
manipulation to make it work in a Web environment.
Nevertheless, 3-D technology can accomplish some amazing feats. Imagine if your
learners were able to pick up and manipulate a product as part of the e-learning process.
Surgeons can observe simulated surgeries in three dimensions. As a training professional,
you will see more of this technology in the years to come, but for right now 3-D
animation is still in limited use for e-learning.
3-D animation software comes in many shapes and flavors. There’s software available to
animate simple objects in 3-D (like rotating cubes and spheres). 3-D animation software
can create and pose human figures in every shape and size. There’s 3-D animation
software that can graphically render a complex engineering document or create a
photorealistic nature scene. The pricing for these software packages ranges from several
hundred to several thousand dollars.
Motion graphics in your e-learning project
Developing motion graphics takes much longer than traditional graphic design and
requires a much more detailed script for your developer. There are three main types of
motion graphics that you might consider bringing into your e-learning programs:
instructional motion graphics, function motion graphics, and cosmetic motion graphics.
Instructional motion graphics explain a series of learning points by adding motion to
a static graphic. They’re the most common type of animations you will use. This type of
graphic is an integral part of the learning process because it address a specific learning
point or objective and then uses motion to help illustrate the concept.
Instructional motion graphics take many shapes and forms. If your e-learning program
consists of animation and voiceover audio providing the necessary instructions, your
entire e-learning project could be considered to be an instructional motion graphic. You
could also add an animated graphic to your e-learning project as an object for your user
to click on to animate. You could design the course so that your learner reads a
paragraph of text about a topic and then receives instructions to ―Click the graphic on the
screen.‖ When clicked, the graphic animates to demonstrate the key concept.
Functional motion graphics. Very similar to functional graphics, functional motion
graphics are part of navigational tools. Buttons, lines, and other elements can be
animated when the user interacts with them. Buttons can light up and pulsate, lines can
blink, and the navigation bar can be picked up and moved to another location on the
screen. All these elements are part of the functionality of the e-learning project, but they
can be animated to provide additional interactivity for your user.
Cosmetic motion graphics. Cosmetic motion graphics are background animations that
can add to the look-and-feel element of the e-learning project. Cosmetic motion graphics
might include ―mouse chaser‖—elements that follow the learner’s mouse around the
screen, background animations, or headers that fly in as each page loads. If you have
ever used Microsoft PowerPoint and added transitions between the screens or had each
line of the text fade in as you talked about it in your presentations, then you have some
experience with cosmetic motion graphics.
You’ll probably use very few cosmetic motion graphics in your e-learning project because
they can be very distracting to a learner. If the learner has to watch the same transitional
animations between screens or have each page header swoosh across the top of the
page, the novelty wears off very quickly and the user will tune out and turn off the
computer. How many PowerPoint presentations have you laughed through because the
creator used too many transitions? Use cosmetic motion graphics when appropriate, but
don’t over do it!
Just enough, never too much
The article subtitle—―Just enough, never too much‖—is important to remember when
creating animation. Overusing either function or cosmetic animations can distract learners
and destroy their ability to focus on the content. After all, the eye is automatically
attracted to motion. Large sections of text or a challenging concept can completely lose
its importance if the background or page header is moving or shaking. Correct answers
greeted by a dancing elf quickly lose their impact and humorous effect.
Limit your animations and mostly rely on instructional motion graphics. If your entire
program is a series of animations, be sure to allow the user some control over the
animation; provide pause, stop, fast forward, or rewind buttons so that the animations
can be stopped and started by the user. It’s important to use animation wisely, or not at
Just because you have awesome technology at your disposal doesn't mean you have to
use it. Remember that the most important element of your e-learning program is learner
comprehension and performance improvement on the job.
III.4. Using HTML Email to Deliver High-Impact Episodic Training
By Sven Laurik
Most email programs are capable of displaying HTML emails, which may include graphics,
animation, photographs, links, sophisticated layouts, elaborate fonts, and many other
Webpage design elements. Using these display capabilities in episodic HTML newsletters
can substantially enhance organizational learning messages.
Newsletter-style HTML emails are an excellent option if you must deliver information to
far-flung employees rapidly and inexpensively. Why?
Newsletter readers are not required to set aside time for a learning session. Email-
based training programs provide learners with brief, easy-to-assimilate episodic
learning presentations that are consumed on-the-spot. Learners can spend 10
minutes reviewing the email newsletter when it arrives, then continue with their job
Email newsletters can be less threatening to learners than conventional training
media. Email-based training can be designed with a casual appearance and
presentation that's more user-friendly for people than logging in to a formal e-
Email newsletters can provide immediate results with a minimum of development
time. They can be rapidly created and deployed: The organization doesn't have to
delay training for several months while developing an e-learning course.
Newsletter delivery is well suited to episodic learning. Individual messages provide
content in modular chunks that focus learner attention on a specific topic. This
approach enables the training to reach the field more rapidly. Individual newsletter
modules can be developed in a planned sequence, with delivery beginning as soon
as the first issue is complete, while the remaining modules are being developed.
HTML email can include most of the elements of traditional Web-based e-learning,
including text, photos, graphics, and animations. You can also link easily to rich
media, such as Flash animations, audio, video, and traditional e-learning modules,
as well as interactive tests, surveys, and chats. This allows you to create and deploy
high-impact documents that are memorable and effective while avoiding the high
cost and complicated overhead of a traditional e-learning effort.
Tracking features can be embedded in each newsletter. For example, you can
include codes that identify when each addressee reviews specific links and other
elements. This approach employs procedures developed by email marketers to track
responses. Examples can be found in commercial email newsletters; look for the
long strings of numbers identifying that the recipient added to links. If you want to
duplicate this approach, you'll need specialized programming talent, however.
To obtain a general idea of the number of people reading the message, you can
track the number of hits on graphics that are displayed within the email when it's
opened, or the number of times specific links were selected by readers. Links or
input fields can be placed at the end of each email prompting learners to identify
themselves in order to receive credit for viewing the message. For smaller groups of
recipients, you can request receipts indicating that the message was opened.
Gathering feedback or testing learners can be accomplished easily via a survey form
or links to a Web-based survey or testing module. Providing a fill-in-the-blank form
within the email also enables you to collect learner responses effortlessly.
HTML emails offer accessibility. Training distributed via this method can easily be
designed to conform to Section 508 requirements for access by people with
disabilities. Email- and browser-reader programs should be compatible with the
content of a standard newsletter. Developers can use the same 508 design
techniques that are used for HTML Webpages to ensure that email-readers can
access the newsletter content and the content of any browser-based interactive
modules. (For tips on designing for accessibility, see Answer Geek.) Since some
learners may have older computer systems and software, developers should be sure
to survey users' hardware and software capabilities and take any technical
limitations--such as bandwidth issues or plug-in requirements--into consideration
when creating content.
HTML email newsletters can be used to address a range of training needs, including
rapidly addressing a specific time-critical topic
describing new policies, practices, or procedures to employees and customers
explaining to employees and customers how to use new equipment
informing customers of new features and services and describing how to operate
HTML newsletters are most effective in addressing brief topics. If you have a large-scale
learning need, you can chunk a topic into shorter elements that learners can review as
part of their daily routine--without requiring them to set aside time for a formal training
Launching your email campaign
Implementing a learning campaign using email newsletters is simpler than implementing
a traditional e-learning effort. Here's how to do it.
a) Identify the audience and their individual learning needs. Consider your
users' specific learning or performance needs and what expectations or content-
related issues may affect the design and presentation. For example, you may find
that you have several different audiences, each with unique needs. Some may
require more background information, while others may need access to proprietary
or sensitive information. Because emails can be forwarded easily to another
recipient, keep security in mind. Sensitive information can be protected by
retaining it on a password-required Webpage that you link to. You can also limit
access to some message components by placing content on sites that require
access from within your intranet. Another way to address individual needs is to
create several different versions of a master newsletter, with each variation
customized to address most efficiently the learning needs of a particular subgroup.
For example, a sales training email course could be designed to provide general
information applicable to all recipients along with additional information tailored for
each group of sales staff according to their customer group assignments--for
example, information on computer system features that are relevant specifically to
corporate customers, residential customers, or education customers.
b) Establish learning objectives and topic sequences. Determine the most
logical and effective way to sequence learning objectives and content, just as you
would for a standard classroom or WBT course. Take into account prerequisite
topics and how the topics interconnect and build to address the objectiv es.
Determine the appropriate delivery schedule for each content module based on the
desired learning presentation sequence. Plan your development schedule so that
you can build on the content created for the initial emails and continuously refine
the content and your presentation approach as additional learner issues and needs
are identified from feedback.
c) Design and create the content of each newsletter. Since each newsletter will
address a specific, modular topic, this development process appears highly
compressed when compared to traditional e-learning efforts. For example,
development durations of a week or less per issue are possible. However, if more
complicated media is required to present the content effectively (for example,
graphics, photos, animations, interactive Flash modules, and so forth), you'll need
to add a few extra days, or even weeks, to develop those items, based on the
complexity of the interactive content. This is where effective planning helps ensure
that you can maintain an aggressive delivery schedule. For example, if you need to
create several Flash animation pop-ups to explain equipment operation, ensure
that your developers start working on those elements as soon as they are
identified and defined and that everyone understands the delivery schedule.
d) Send each newsletter issue to employees or customers according to your
predetermined delivery schedule. For example, delivering messages on
Tuesday morning may help bypass the Monday crush of email. Or, deliver training
messages coordinated with product launches or implementation dates for
procedural changes to help ensure that the content is relevant to readers. The
delivery schedule should take a number of issues into account beyond the
development time requirements. For example, if your learning campaign also
requires responding to learner feedback, you'll need time to process user
comments and compose and send out follow-up messages.
e) Follow up, follow up, follow up! One way to keep track of audience response is
to send email messages within a few days of the original email summarizing user
comments and concerns and answering questions. Another more complex follow-
up process is to establish a topic Website that hosts user chats and discussion
forums, provides reference links and access to back issues of the newsletters,
archives user questions and comments, provides a FAQ list, and delivers a survey
or test. No matter how you choose to keep your finger on the pulse of your
readers, be sure to track their reactions to each email and topic, and use the
information that you obtain to refine your design and content in subsequent
The skills required for designing and implementing an email newsletter learning initiative
are not overly complex. If you, your team, or your training contractor has experience
creating Web-based training, you already have the skill set required for creating HTML
Training developers with experience working on written training products can create the
content using standard ISD [LTG] design and development techniques. Graphic artists
can increase the impact of each issue by creating images and helping refine the layout.
(The layout of HTML newsletters is best designed and implemented using Webpage
authoring software such as Macromedia Dreamweaver.) Developers with experience
creating Flash modules can design the interactive content.
The overall development process is usually much simpler and less costly than creating a
WBT site, since you can minimize such elements as interfaces and menus, complex
branching or linking, CMI essentials, and so forth.
Constantly changing learning needs within fast-moving organizations require training
solutions that can be developed and deployed quickly. HTML email newsletters can rapidly,
efficiently, and painlessly meet those needs in almost any type of organization.
III.5. The Devil is in the Details: Converting Classroom Courses to E-Learning
By Lori Mortimer
Your latest pitch to management goes something like this: Let's convert our classroom
training to e-learning. We can leverage our investment and re-purpose the content for
Web delivery. Conversion will be quick and cheap, and we'll generate a larger audience in
the process. Management loves the plan. Who wouldn't? It's ROI nirvana.
But don't cash that bonus check yet. Classroom-to-e-learning conversions are more
complex than they seem. They can actually take longer than developing the initial
classroom materials did--small issues can get magnified and wreak havoc on your
schedule and budget. Take a page from the Boy Scout's handbook and be prepared to
consider the following conversion details. Early planning can help you anticipate and
avoid scheduling delays and cost overruns.
Content is king
The content drives the project: Without your classroom content, you wouldn't be thinking
about e-learning right now. That can be good or bad, depending on your preparedness
for these content issues.
Electronic rights. Who owns the electronic rights to your classroom content assets? If
you licensed them or outsourced their development--especially before 1995--you may not
have licensed or purchased the electronic rights to them. Verifying your rights costs time
and money, but you must do it. If you're lucky, you won't kill your budget by having to
pay for content that you thought you already owned. Check with your lawyer.
Asset storage. Where are your ILT assets stored today? (These include source content
and instructor and learner classroom materials.) Are they stored on a network, in a
storage room, or both? Are they stored on site or are they archived elsewhere? Who can
access them? How quickly can you get them? Start looking for and inventorying your
content months before your anticipated project start date.
Asset version control. How do you keep track of the most recent version of each
asset? How many people work(ed) on the same course and assets within a course? Do
you keep all asset versions as they change through the development process, or do you
keep just the final published version? How organized is your process to track those
assets? Do you have a software application that tracks electronic files, such as documents
and graphics, used to build your courses? Whether you use electronic files or hard copies,
can you be sure you have the most recent version of each and every asset? If not, how
long will it take to sort the wheat from the chaff?
Asset format. What format(s) are the assets in? Are they current or outdated, electronic
or hard copy? What formats are audio, video, and other media assets in? How easily can
they be converted to Web formats--like HTML, XML, .gif, .jpg, .mpg, and others? The
older the format, the more difficult, time-consuming, and costly the conversion.
Asset management. Who's going to collect and organize the content? How and where
will you store your converted e-learning assets? If you have an efficient asset
management system now, you won't lose much time managing new assets. But if your
system is disorganized--or nonexistent--you've got your work cut out for you. Someone
will need to manage the old and new assets before, during, and after the conversion.
If you convert it, will they learn?
No matter how instructionally sound your classroom materials are, they'll need
instructional redesign for the e-learning format(s) you've chosen. An experienced e-
learning instructional designer should analyze a representative course or two for the
Amount and type of new content. How much new content will you need for each e-
learning course? How media-rich will it be? Self-paced e-learning is the most common
conversion format, and it needs the most new content. Are your source materials detailed
and complete? Good classroom instructors compensate for inferior materials by adding
their own content. For learner-paced e-learning, the designer must create this content.
Even with superior source materials, you still must generate new practice and discovery
exercises, animations, questions and feedback, and other items to replace in-class
activities and instructor-provided content. (And to ensure robust and engaging e-
learning.) The more media-rich the content, the higher the cost willbe and the longer it
will be to develop.
Course restructuring. Classroom courses have a document-based structure:
Instructional designers organize classroom content in fairly large chunks, such as lessons
or chapters. E-learning typically has an object-based structure made up of smaller
chunks, nuggets based on a single learning objective. Called reusable learning or
information objects (RLOs or RIOs), these nuggets get stored in a database. They then
can be reused and modified independent of their delivery media.
Learners don't usually see the learning object structure; it's an underlying construction
that affects primarily the way designers store and deliver content. For your courses, you'll
need to devise a guideline for what constitutes a learning object. In other words, define
what the smallest individually deliverable chunk of learning should be. A good rule of
thumb: Chunk together all content needed to learn a skill or satisfy a learning objective,
including all practices and assessment items.
Blended e-learning. Are you converting classroom courses into blended e-learning that
combines self-directed, facilitated, live, and asynchronous events? If so, each course will
need instructional redesign and re-sequencing. Blended e-learning optimizes learning
opportunities by matching instructional goals to e-learning formats. For example, you
might group content fit for self-paced learning together in an introductory module, even if
that content appears in non-sequential chapters in the classroom course. To save time,
set guidelines for which type of content belongs in each e-learning format. Then apply it
across your curriculum.
Course development is course development…sort of
A conversion project introduces new development processes and concepts. You'll also
find some familiar faces along the way. Be prepared for the following old and new
SME time. Even though you're working with source materials, you'll still need subject
matter experts during the conversion process. An SME can fill in holes by providing
content that isn't in the classroom materials--what instructors would add while delivering
the courses. For example, some ILT instructor guides are simply outlines; each instructor
must construct the rest. An SME can fill this role when converting the content for e-
learning. SMEs can also add transitions between topics and additional examples, as well
as review all of the new content for accuracy and effectiveness. The required amount of
SME time may exceed your expectations, depending on how much new content you're
Media development time and costs. If you're going to include such rich media in your
online courses as audio, video, or animations, you must plan for additional time and
higher costs in the development schedule. Even if you can reuse existing files, you'll need
time to convert file formats. You may even have to recreate files if the originals aren't
available, are of poor quality, or are too dated.
Editing and formatting. You may be surprised by the effort it'll take to ensure that
your content has made it through the conversion process successfully, even if it's
essentially unchanged. An editor or proofreader should check any reused text or graphics
for layout and editorial consistency. Even well-written text needs to be revised for easier
reading online. Web writing is usually more concise, uses more bulleted lists, and relies
more on headings than print. See "Write Right: Polishing Your E-Learning Prose."
Localization/internationalization. Once your courses are online, a larger audience
may be able to access them. Will some learners need courses in their native language?
Different alphabets and character sets take up different amounts of physical space, so
text that is translated on HTML pages, within graphics and interactive elements may need
more storage space than the English versions. One popular guideline stipulates that you
should allot 30 percent more space for translated text. Another standard says to forgo
text within your graphics and put callouts only in the HTML text. Then you can translate
the HTML, which you would be doing anyway, rather than edit all the graphics. Even i f
you opt not to translate, your audience might include English-speaking international
learners. If so, cultural issues will arise. Hire a localization specialist to help you sort
through the specifics.
Instructional design standards. Theoretically, you'll replace classroom exercises and
activities with such self-paced interactive elements as discovery exercises or multiple
choice questions. You'll need instructional standards for how and when to use those
elements, as well as how you want them to work. For example, how many chances
should you give a learner to answer a question correctly? For incorrect answers, how
detailed and customized should your feedback be? Establish guidelines so you have
consistent use and functionality across courses. See "Bringing Classroom Curriculum Up
Ancillary materials. You'll have to convert your print editorial and style guides to reflect
Web standards, and you'll classroom instructor's guides should be updated for online
instructors. The guides should include references to the user interface and explain how to
use it for group activities such as whiteboard sessions.
Live e-learning preparation. Don't assume that a skilled classroom instructor will be
equally adept at delivering a live e-learning course. Instructors new to virtual classroom
technology will need practice time, as will students. It's a good idea to plan a practice run
for each new instructor, and schedule orientations to familiarize learners with the
interface before their first class session. See "An Instructor's Guide to Live E-Learning."
Can we do this?
Yes you can! Almost no content survives the conversion process unchanged. That may
make for a lot of work and (too many) details, but not for an impossible task.
How can you plan a successful conversion project?
Choose wisely when deciding whether to convert the courses in-house or to outsource
the work. Weigh the training time and costs for your staff--or the time and costs of
recruiting new people with the needed skills--against the expense of paying someone
else. One benefit of keeping the work in-house is your familiarity with the content and
your learners. Benefits of outsourcing typically include the partner's core competencies
and scalability of experienced resources. You can also take a hybrid approach. In one
model, you do the instructional design and SME work in-house and then outsource the
course assembly and media development work.
Select a development partner carefully. If you outsource development, some criteria
for choosing a partner include
robust development environment with state of the art technologies
strong process and project management discipline
instructional design expertise
breadth of development resources (graphic artists, writers, programmers, and so
Staff up for the work you'll do in-house. Make sure you have the internal resources
to manage content asset issues as well as content conversions. And search out
experienced e-learning and/or Web professionals. Now is not the time to let your print
graphic artist try her hand at designing Web graphics. Select people with significant Web
experience who can speak authoritatively.
Prepare a solid project plan. You'll need a project plan covering all of the conversion
steps for each e-learning format. Best practices include
Plan your large-scale conversions on a small-scale prototype for each e-learning
format you've chosen. You won't catch all the conversion issues if you don't convert
at least a small portion of a course to each format before setting a schedule.
Track all time and development issues carefully, including system downtime,
troubleshooting time, and learning curve for your prototype conversion team.
Offer management at least two conversion plans with differing levels of
sophistication, and therefore time and cost. Include pros and cons for each plan,
and give an example showing the level of detail.
Let the decision-making team do what they do best: make an informed decision on
which plan(s) to implement.
Although converting classroom courses to e-learning may seem like a complicated
process, by anticipating these common conversion details, you can prepare a realistic
project plan and launch your project with confidence!
III.6. Expect More From E-Learning
By Laura Francis
It's often difficult to separate the truth from the hype when evaluating e-learning
products. Many of us get bogged down in suppliers' bold guarantees and lose sight of
what should be the real focus of the industry: learning. T his article identifies a few
characteristics of effective, interactive e-learning to help you sort the best from the rest.
To discover what makes learning memorable, just look to children. As any fan of Sesame
Street can tell you, effective learning entertains and engages. Interactivity is key,
because often learners don't enjoy receiving knowledge passively as it's doled out by an
authority figure. How can you judge if an e-learning program will be entertaining and
engaging? Here are five qualities to look for:
Audience-focused text. Effective interactive learning focuses on and addresses the
appropriate audience, resulting in a meaningful exchange of information between the
author and the learner. Have you ever read a really great book that kept you entertained
and intrigued? Did you wonder how that one differed from the 30 horrible books you
skimmed through to glimpse even a hint of an intelligible thought? The answer lies in the
author's treatment of the text. Did she focus the writing towards her audience with
examples that spoke to everyone? Or, did she use the book to pontificate about the
wonderful things she accomplished or the obscure theories she created?
To be effective, text must be written with the audience in mind. A program for HR
managers loses its impact (and the author his credibility) when the text better suits
fourth graders. To truly be effective, e-learning's examples and language must address
the appropriate audience. If a program loses touch with its audience, it wastes the time
and money invested in it. (For more on effective writing for e-learning, see "Write Right:
Polishing Your E-Learning Prose.")
Relevant questions. Effective e-learning programs contain questions that stimulate
thought and bring abstract theories to life, by connecting concepts to learners' work lives.
No one benefits from questions that simply test recall ability. That type of assessment
doesn't encourage people to retain information or make changes in daily work habits.
Good questions prompt learners to recognize the connections between the information
they just learned and its application to their jobs.
For example, in a decision-making program, learners might be asked to identify a time
when they faced a difficult decision at work and note what they decided to do about it
and how they implemented the decision. Or, in a mentoring program, learners might be
asked to identify people at work they would consider as possible mentors, as well as the
competency areas in which each potential mentor could advise them. Those questions
help learners see the concrete applications of the theories they've learned.
Informative models. Some people may consider models, graphics that users roll their
cursor over in order to view additional information, nothing more than gratuitous eye-
candy. But they do have a purpose: They provide learners with another channel for
accessing information. People's different learning styles may make what seems
unnecessary to some a crucial means of understanding to others. Some learners need
graphics and sound in addition to words on a screen because they retain more
information when several senses are stimulated and when they feel they participate
actively in their learning. For example, being able to move the cursor over a graphic to
access more information puts learners in control and the interaction helps them
But there's a catch. The information that learners gain through graphics and other
multimedia formats needs to provide them with additional learning they would otherwise
be without, not just recap data. Programs abuse learners' trust when they display signs of
something big (for example a colorful animated graphic) then fail to deliver new
information. Good interactive learning uses models to add value and meaning, not just fill
white space on a page.
Retrievable information. While most e-learning programs lack this feature, being able
to retrieve information from a secure database remains integral to interactivity.
Information retrieval capability becomes necessary when programs ask focused questions
that guide learners to input information and then take action. At a later date, people may
want to access the data they entered, so programs need to offer them a way to do so. If
users view their e-learning as a daily help tool rather than as a one-time learning
experience, e-learning will make huge advances within organizations. People could access
programs to help them work through decisions on a daily basis, utilizing a dynamic,
interactive method of learning instead of the traditional static form of e-learning most of
us are used to.
Chances to collaborate. Effective interaction is not limited to facilitating connections
between the learner and the program. E-learning interaction also encompasses
connecting learners with one another. Too often our image of e-learning involves one
person sitting in an isolated room with only the computer as a friend. Thankfully those
days have passed. Effective e-learning today connects multiple users from anywhere in
the world so that they all may participate in the same program. Through the
indispensable database previously described, learners can connect with one another and
share program information as they desire.
For example, in a decision-making program, a learner can invite another user into the
decision he or she is working on. The invited user can see the work the learner has
completed so far, answer the same questions about the decision as the learner, and offer
suggestions about the decision in progress. This level of interaction connects people
quickly and easily. The opportunities for people to expand their ideas and professional
networks can grow endlessly.
Evaluating e-learning products doesn't have to be difficult. It just takes a willingness to
look through the proverbial haystack for the elusive needle: quality interactivity.
III.7. Write Right: Polishing Your E-Learning Prose
By Laura Francis
You've developed your first e-learning course. The content is brilliant and the design
gorgeous. But what about the text? Here's how to make sure your writing is clear,
concise, and correct. Your learners will thank you for it.
Picture this: A worker sits at his desk, staring at his computer. He's trying to complete an
e-learning course his boss assigned. It's now Monday; it's due by Thursday and he's no
closer to finishing than he is to writing the novel he's dreamed of for years. Why?
Because the course is poorly written, with incomplete explanations and confusing
instructions. As he stares blindly at his computer, the man wonders when someone will
produce an e-learning course that's easy to use.
Too often, e-learning course writers fail to keep learners in mind, assuming they'll have a
trainer available to answer questions. But that's not always the case. E-learning
participants working on their own don't want to spend valuable time deciphering poor
writing when they should be learning. To ensure that your writing helps instead of
hinders e-learners, keep several guidelines in mind.
Remember the audience. If you want your work to be well received by others, you
must first determine who your audience is. For whom is your work intended? Is it for
people new to the topic? Is it for subject matter experts? Is it for people whose skills fall
somewhere in the middle? Identify your audience and their skill level, then begin writing
content that's focused for that group.
For example, let's say you're an instructional designer creating a course on HTML. For a
beginner course you may write, "HTML is the code behind documents that appear on the
Web." However, a more advanced audience would be bored with that level of content.
So, you must refocus the content for those learners, perhaps rewriting the sentence to
read, "The SSIs embedded in HTML documents sometimes require CGI script."
Don't use that tone with me. Once you've identified your audience, you should
choose the tone of your writing. In other words, the words you use and how they come
across to the readers. Should you use an academic tone? A sarcastic one? Maybe you
prefer a humorous tone, or a sad one. The tone you choose will depend on your audience
and the subject matter. Picking up a newspaper, you'd find it offensive to read an article
about someone's tragic death that's written with humor. That's because the subject
matter and the tone don't match.
If you use the wrong tone in your e-learning course, you may turn your learners off
before they ever begin to see the value of your teaching. Based on your audience and the
subject matter, determine the tone you want to use, and then stick to it. For example,
writing a course on decision making for entry-level managers, you might choose an
authoritative tone to instill confidence in learners.
Good: When you encounter a performance problem with one of your employees, speak
with the person about the situation in a confidential setting, address the issue in an
objective manner, and allow the person to explain his or her actions.
Bad: Is one of your employees not performing as expected? Don't know what to do
about it? What do you think you should do, Einstein? Confront the person, of course!
The first example offers the beginning managers a practical method to follow. The tone is
clear, straightforward, and authoritative, matching the seriousness of the subject matter.
The second example uses inappropriate sarcasm and insults the learners. See the
difference in tone? One last note: Always be careful when using humor. What you find
funny someone else might find offensive or sophomoric.
Fashionable lengths. No one wants to read the world's longest sentence or scroll
through endless paragraphs of text to find that one snippet of information they need.
What learners want is simple: brief, easy-to-read, and comprehensible writing. Don't
overload your readers if you want them to retain information. Whenever possible, write
short sentences with simple wording that gets to the point.
Long sentence: When you begin the process of decision-making, as all managers and
employees must do at some point in their careers, it's important to keep in mind several
things: the people you must involve in the decision, because no one can do it alone; the
resources you will need to accomplish the goal of your decision, which can be people,
money, time, and so forth; and the effect your decision will have on those you supervise,
as well as those you answer to--such as your manager, your customers, your suppliers,
and even your stockholders and the public--which will help you fully analyze the decision-
making situation that you have encountered at work as a professional and experienced
Edited sentence: When you begin the decision-making process, keep in mind three
factors: the people you must involve in the decision, the resources you will need to
accomplish your decision, and the effect your decision will have on others.
The first sentence is clumsy and confusing. It loses its meaning and impact because it
tries to do too many things. To be more effective, the sentence should be broken up into
smaller pieces and unnecessary content edited out. The second sentence is a much
better length; it retains the main ideas and eliminates the unnecessary descriptions.
Supporting sentences can now be written that expand on the three factors.
Crystal clear. It's crucial that readers understand what you've written. Clarity comes
from simple and to-the-point writing. Evaluate which words and sentences best convey
your meaning, and then select the most straightforward ones. Don't add big words just
because you can; show off your intelligence by writing clearly and specifically while using
the simplest terms possible.
Confusing sentence: In order to ameliorate your decision-making skills, endeavor to
utilize a formal decision-making process that will facilitate optimal results and
surreptitiously ensconce you in people's minds as a decision-making guru.
Edited sentence: To improve your decision-making skills, try using a decision-making
process that will give you the results you want, while establishing you as an expert in the
The first sentence fails to make its point because of the confusing and pretentious way
it's written. It loses its meaning and impact because it uses too many large and
unnecessary words. To be more effective, this sentence should be written more simply.
The second sentence dumps all the unnecessary words, sticking with everyday language
that most readers will recognize and understand.
Lights, camera, action. Action sells. Just check out the movie selections at your local
video store or the best-selling video games. Popular movies and games put the users
right in the middle of the action. The same could be said for effective writing, which uses
active verbs to engage readers. Examples of active verbs include: use, look, listen, act,
plan, perform, discuss, determine, and other words that indicate an action.
As with all rules, however, there's an exception. All writers sometimes use passive verbs,
because it's impossible to completely escape them. Passive verbs include forms of to be
(am, is, are, was, were, been) and other verbs that take the focus off the action and
place it on the supporting verb (The paper was written by John instead of John wrote the
paper). Writers must use passive verbs when they describe a state of being, for example,
I am an instructional designer. So, while there are times when you need passive verbs,
attempt to use active verbs when possible. They make learning more exciting and
Be kind to strangers. As the designer, you understand how to get around in your e-
learning course. But keep in mind e-learners who are viewing it for the first time. The
following suggestions will help you create products that are learner-friendly.
Use headings. These brief statements describing the information that follows offer
learners a system of landmarks on their e-learning journey.
Outline the material. An outline at the beginning of your e-learning course
familiarizes learners with the information you'll present and gives them a reference
point to return to should they get lost. The outline designations can also be used in
front of headings to provide learners with a second level of material recognition.
Set an example. Often, the most effective way to explain your point is by using an
example that brings it to life. Examples are especially useful when describing a
difficult or obscure concept, and can also help emphasize the importance of an idea.
Give specific and detailed instructions. People want clear, straightforward
instructions that get them successfully from point A to point B with minimal effort.
For example, if users must accomplish several tasks on a page before continuing,
tell them that.
Example: Complete each sentence fragment below by typing your response in the space
provided. Compile these sentences into a paragraph and type it in the text box titled Your
Paragraph. After completing these tasks, click Continue to move on to the next page.
While these instructions may seem obvious, they let learners save their brainpower for
more important activities, such as understanding and retaining your course material .
Using these guidelines will set you apart as a learner-friendly designer who understands
the frustrations of your audience and wants to fix them. You'll quickly become a trusted
ally in the ever-growing minefield of e-learning experiences. So polish that prose, and
watch your learners succeed!
III.8. Lights! Camera! Action! Getting Ready to Teach Online
By Jennifer Hofmann
Congratulations, you've won the role of online instructor! Stage fright is only natural.
Here are some tips to follow before (and after) the cameras roll.
Keep an open mind. Many new online instructors aren't convinced that the learning
medium is effective. If the instructors aren't advocates, how can they expect the
participants to learn? Research the technology and look for success stories (they exist!).
Participate first. Classroom instructors know what it's like to learn in a traditional
setting; they've been doing it all of their lives. On the other hand, most new online
instructors haven't participated in a real-time online program. Find a class and immerse
yourself in the participant experience. How does the "dead air" make you feel? What do
you do when the technology breaks down? What makes an exercise effective? You can't
anticipate the reactions of your learners until you've walked a mile in their shoes.
Learn the technology. Many trainers visit a new classroom early to learn how the room
is set up, what classroom materials are available, how the projector works, and how to
access technical support. That preparation helps ensure that everything will run
smoothly. For the same reason, a new online instructor needs to fully understand the
capabilities of his or her virtual classroom before the class starts. How does the
whiteboard work? What happens when you launch a breakout room? Is there a way to
communicate privately with students? Knowing the answers to those and other questions
prior to your event will increase your comfort level and credibility.
Prepare a script. Don't assume that you don't need a leader guide. Plan what you want
to say and how you want to say it, even if you're giving only a short presentation. Include
in your script choreography for launching tools and setting up exercises.
Prepare the team. It takes more than one person to get an online class off the ground.
If your team includes an assistant instructor, a technical-support person, or subject
matter experts, make sure they're thoroughly familiar with the script and involved in all
Set the stage. Teaching in an open work area surrounded by co-workers might not get
the best results. Find a quiet room that has everything you need, for example, a
computer, headset, microphone, Internet access, telephone, and easy access to a
restroom. Use a "Do Not Disturb" sign--and make sure co-workers know that you mean
Run a dress rehearsal. Invite enough people to ensure that your exercises are fully
tested, and ask them to complete any prerequisite work to make the experience as real-
life as possible. If you'll be using audio, check your voice for effective tone and inflection.
Ask a co-worker to close his or her eyes while you're speaking. Is your message
conveyed effectively without visuals? Is your voice engaging enough to keep learners
alert, or is it so soothing that it puts people to sleep?
Watch the recording. Many virtual classrooms have a record and playback feature.
Record your rehearsal and watch the results. How was the pace? Were your participants
engaged? What can you improve? This tool is a great way to conduct a self-evaluation.
Prepare a back-up plan. Let's face it: Sometimes technology just doesn't work, no
matter how much you prepare. What will you do if the server goes down? If your
computer freezes? If there's a storm and the electricity goes out? Prepare a back-up plan
and a way to contact participants. You could conduct a conference call or send out an
email. Whatever your plan, your learners should know it in advance.
Learn the new cues. Once you start teaching the class, you'll need to constantly
communicate with participants. Remember that this is a new experience for them too,
and they may be reluctant to speak up. Look for cues in their energy: You can watch for
level and rate of communication, activity in the chat area, and voice tone (if applicable).
If someone sounds exhausted, frustrated, or energized, react to that emotion
appropriately. And if you feel the need for a break, your learners probably do too. Plan on
a 15 minute break for every two-hour session. If your material exceeds two hours, you
should split it up, perhaps into morning and afternoon sessions.
Take time to recover. A common error for new synchronous trainers is to plan
meetings or other activities immediately following their class session. Online instruction
can be quite draining, more so than face-to-face training. Because it's difficult for online
instructors to draw from participants' energy, they must expend additional energy to
make the class dynamic and interactive. That can be exhausting, and trainers often need
down time to recuperate.
Have fun and relax! You won't conduct perfect classes every time. But, if you embrace
the experience and maintain flexibility, your subject expertise and enthusiasm will shine
III.9. Interact! With Online Learning
By James Kirk
Quality learning materials should be attractive, visual, and engaging. Here are some tips
for locating and creating interactive exercises for your own projects.
Online instruction offers many options for content and delivery. As the novelty of learning
on the Web wears off, though, using interactive materials in your online instruction
becomes more important. No learner wants to read page after page of text, and reading
a seemingly endless number of Webpages is not the most effective way for users to learn
Materials that are interactive change in appearance or content in response to a user's
actions. For example, a short movie plays when a learner clicks on a graphic. That's a
advanced interactivity to the Web. This chart lists examples of Webpages with
interactivity levels ranging from none to basic to sophisticated.
What's the best way to bring interactivity to your Web-based learning? In many
cases, you can find free online materials on the Web suited for your courses. Sometimes
you'ill need to create your own materials. Either way, you have the power to enliven
passive online instructional materials.
One of the most obvious starting points for finding interactive course materials is the
major search engines, for example, Google or Yahoo. You can search for key words,
such as games, tests, quizzes, and simulations, then add words like education, training,
A second place to look for materials is other online courses, which can be found via
search engines or through portals, such as Free Online Courses, Blackboard, Hungry
Minds, and World Wide Learn. Many of the courses on these sites are free, but they
should be examined on an individual basis. Read the information about each course
carefully, and if you have questions, email the contact person or Webmaster.
A third place to look for interactive course materials is selected game and test sites.
Many of these sites contain high-quality exercises that can be used without charge. For
example, in Lemonade Stand, participants run a corner lemonade stand, learning the
basics of supply and demand. As with all content, make sure the selected materials are
directly related to your instructional objectives and field test them before using them wi th
Trainers who have facilitated groups for any length of time know how much learners
enjoy self-assessment exercises and tests. I've listed several Websites that host
collections of useful and provocative interactive exercises. One site, Emode, is very high
quality and it's free. Collectively, the sites compose a virtual library of assessments for
almost any training occasion. For example, participants can take tests to help determine
their I.Q or emotional age, whether they get enough sleep, and whether they're natural
leaders. Many of the tests are statistically valid.
Before using online materials that someone else has created, always ask for permission.
Email the contact person whose address appears on the homepage. If no such address
appears, try emailing the Webmaster. Include the following information:
the context in which you want to use the materials (for example, class, workshop, or
number of participants
whether this is a one-time or continuous use of the materials
whether materials will be used online or whether they'll be printed out
whether the materials will be edited and if so, how
how you plan to reference the author
whether anyone is making a profit from your use of the materials.
Making your own exercises
If you can't locate appropriate ready-made exercises on the Web and you aren't fortunate
enough to have a team of technical experts to create online exercises for you, you may
need to bite the bullet and make your own interactive activities. There are several
software programs that you can use; here are three to consider. Trial versions of each
can be downloaded from the Websites.
The Hot Potatoes suite includes six applications, enabling you to create interactive
multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching, and gap-fill
exercises for the Web. Hot Potatoes is easy to use, available in Windows and Mac
formats, and free of charge to not-for-profit organizations.
GameShow Pro enables you to design your own version of TV's Jeopardy, Family
Feud, or Tic-Tac-Toe. You can input topics, questions, and answers. Numerous
options let you determine the match length, set timers and point values, select basic
or wacky sounds, and hide bonus questions. (Note: previous versions of GameShow
Pro were not Web compatible.)
Macromedia's Flash 5 helps users create interactive Web activities that run on low-
bandwidth connections. The program does not require programming expertise, but it
takes more time to create activities with Flash than with Hot Potatoes or GameShow
Pro. In return, Flash allows you to create more diverse and advanced Web
applications. Flash is becoming the default animation standard for the Web.
These Websites and software programs should help you offer learners more interesting
and effective online experiences. Adding interactivity is one of the easiest and best ways
to enliven your online training materials.
NAME FORMAT WEB ADDRESS (URL)
Style of Narrative with a http://www.solbaram.org/articles/clm2.html
Management few illustrations.
and Informative, but
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Big Dog's Narrative http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/
Leadership accompanied leadtrn.html
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Development Activities must
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Leadership Series of http://www.rebrown.com/rebrown/l1.htm
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IQ Interactive and
easy to make.
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Leadership simulation with
Challenge some graphics.
easy to make.
Famous U.S. Crossword http://paws.wcu.edu/kirk/HRD_Courses/Hrd_675/
Leaders puzzle exercise Webexercises675/FamousLeadersCW.htm
Crossword made with Hot
easy to make.
Leadership Scrambled http://paws.wcu.edu/kirk/HRD_Courses/Hrd_675/
Quote sentence activity Webexercises675/LeadershipQuote.htm
made with Hot
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Good Leader Interactive http://paws.wcu.edu/kirk/GamesGallery/
Traits crossword game CrosswordTemplate.swf
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Leadership Interactive tic- http://paws.wcu.edu/kirk/GamesGallery/
Theories tac-toe game LeadershipTheories.swf
made with Flash
NAME DESCRIPTION WEB ADDRESS (URL)
Business A simple http://www.edgamesandart.com/twohng/
English hangman game hngmnB1.htm
Hangman to test
Cartoon A collection of http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/games/
Network fun games. index.shock.html
Final Bell A quarterly http://www.sandbox.com/finalbell/pub-doc/
stock market home.html
A Fun Zone Offers free http://www.afunzone.com/
puzzles, games, ?AID=487885&PID=123020
Illusions A large http://www.justriddlesandmore.com/
collection of illusion.html?cxc=49021
Jeopardy! Play one of http://www.station.sony.com/jeopardy/
Lifesavers One of the best http://www.candystand.com/
Candystand free gaming
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Lemonade Operate a http://www.littlejason.com/lemonade/index.html
Stand street corner
Mind Links to a http://www1.kaplan.com/view/article/
Games variety of self- 0,1898,1411,00.html
Word Plays Free interactive http://www.wordplays.com/?clicktrade=39832
NAME DESCRIPTION WEB ADDRESS (URL)
Ansir A test intended http://www.ansir.com
to measure how
work, and love.
Emode One of the most http://www.Emode.com
visited sites on
providing 75 fun
tests on career,
some of the tests
valid, others are
just for fun and
Monster Links to various http://content.monster.com/tools/
Career Center personality tests,
Tests, Tests, Original http://www.queendom.com/test_frm.html
are scored in real
time online and
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III.10. Matching Content to Delivery? Remember the Basics!
By Lisa L. Collins
So you've decided to take the plunge into e-learning. You've resolved the bandwidth,
firewall, and network connection issues; now you need to decide how to deliver the
content. Confused? Overwhelmed? Remember the basics and you'll do fine.
There are many new ways to think about content and content delivery, but as a designer,
you need only remember the fundamental instructional design principles and add e-
learning tools to your list of delivery methods. Think Web-based instruction, virtual
conferencing, chat, threaded discussion boards, and streaming media.
To determine which of those tools to use when, start at a familiar beginning: Consider
your learning objectives. Think through your training goals, including what level of
performance you're looking for and how you'll measure achievement. Select a delivery
method that will allow you to measure the accomplishment of the objectives. If you
cannot measure performance with a particular delivery method, then it's probably the
For example, if you're giving learners fact-based information and asking for knowledge
recall, you can test that recall with an online knowledge test. The content could be
delivered using self-paced reading or Web-based instruction. On the other hand, if
learners need to synthesize multiple areas of content, they could be assessed via Web
As the learning objectives move from simple knowledge recall to more complex skills, you
must take care to choose a delivery method that will support the skill transfer. You may
find that a certain skill needed by your organization cannot be taught or measured unless
it's in a face-to-face classroom environment, or that although computer simulation is best
for your needs, it's cost-prohibitive for your organization to develop. If those situations
arise, don't force the training on the wrong media. You will waste your effort and your
learner's time. However, be willing to experiment because what works well in one
organization may or may not work well somewhere else.
Because what works in one company may not work in another, you need to add learner
characteristics to the decision process. Ask the same questions for any delivery
selection process. How many learners are there? Where are they located? What level of
computer experience do they have? Are they new to the content? Do they work in an
office where they can connect to the network easily? What cultural barriers must be dealt
with regarding technology-enabled learning methods? Use the answers to those
questions to guide your selection process.
It is human nature to be easily distracted by multiple obligations, especially when at
work. Therefore, it's important that e-learning content be meaningful to the learner. If
you're using a self-paced online format, its even more crucial to capture and hold the
learner's attention. Consider adding a facilitator for both synchronous and asynchronous
activities to provide motivation, interest, and follow-up.
Now, put yourself in the learner's shoes. One of the greatest advantages of e-
learning, if your infrastructure supports it, is just-in-time prescriptive learning. Ideally, a
person should be able to access what they need to know at the moment they need to
know it. If you think of content in terms of objectives, design the information so that it
can be chunked into small pieces. You don't want content that's fragmented and
disassociated, but you do want each chunk to stand on its own as a building block to the
next. You may find that you need to bundle some of those chunks for delivery efficiency
in order to ensure that learners participate in each section, but that's merely a packaging
The truth is that there isn't one magic formula. When making
content delivery selections, a designer must take into Don't force the
consideration the objectives, the infrastructure, the budget, training on the
the learner characteristics, and the time allowed. And, as with wrong media. You
any approach, beware the pitfalls. The biggest one in will waste your
content delivery is not minding instructional design basics. For effort and your
example, if a person needs to learn to operate equipment, learner's time.
you need to make sure they practice with that equipment.
You do have some flexibility, though; the safety regulations can be practiced online and
tested for recall with an online assessment. You provide a blended approach by putting
the right content with the right media.
The second biggest pitfall is not understanding the full meaning of e-learning.
Instructional designers must become as comfortable with e-learning tools and
environments as they are with classroom-based instruction. If they are not, they cannot
make sound decisions about delivery media selection nor counsel stakeholders and
customers in their decisions. Implementing e-learning just to say you are doing it is
almost never what your organization needs to meet its performance goals.
That leads to the last point, which is how to know whether your content was effective
when it was delivered using e-learning tools. All traditional evaluation methods still
come into play. It's still important to use formative evaluation practices throughout the
development cycle to ensure that the program meets the needs of the learners. Include
in this plan a usability test, especially if you're using untested templates and methods.
Make sure that the navigation and technology do not get in the way of the learning.
You can also use traditional Level 1 surveys, but remember that learners may not like the
program because it wasn't delivered to them in a manner they're familiar with, such as a
classroom. Instead, focus more on Level 2 and 3 issues--for instance, learners' ability to
master course objectives. Ultimately, the goal is to make sure students can perform;
however, no one wants to torture them in the process.
So, be creative and willing to try new approaches. There is no one right answer about e-
learning content selection and delivery. You must take into consideration what needs to be
taught, to whom, and how much time and money is available. Just apply the fundamental
principles and capture the power of e-learning!
III.11. Ten Tips to Optimize Your E-Learning
By Beth Archibald Tang
Digital learning: You love it, you hate it, you praise it, you curse it. It's a solution to your
training problems; it can also be a challenge. Here are 10 tips to optimize the experience
for learners and instructors.
Tips for Learners
1. Technical assistance. Using unfamiliar technology will inevitably require some help,
but you should do what you can to minimize technical difficulties. For one thing, ensure
that all your equipment meets the basic hardware and software requirements of the
course. Then practice using the software, running the tutorials, and scanning the manual
or browsing the help files.
2. Netiquette. Remember your online manners. Lively, on-task discussions belong in the
online classroom; personal attacks do not because they take away from the learning
process and demean other participants. You should be as familiar with the discussion
board or listserv policy as you are with the class participation requirements. If you're new
to Netiquette, here are a few Web links:
Law Technology Center, "Lawyers and Technology" article on Netiquette
The Net: User Guidelines and Netiquette
Core Rules of Netiquette
3. Preparation. The freedom to learn asynchronously requires extra motivation and
time management skills, especially if you're scheduling around work and home life. When
the instructor sets a due date for an assignment, you should complete it on time.
Creating a space away from distractions will help you focus on the material. If time
allows, you should read ahead for the next lesson and prepare questions while reading
the assignments or participating in class discussions.
4. Shortcuts. Keyboard-based shortcuts can reduce mouse time and prevent wrist
injuries. Here are a few tips for PC users:
Tab will move you from link to link.
Alt-Tab will allow you to toggle between windows, for example, MS Outlook,
Internet Explorer, and Word, without having to select them from the task bar.
Control and left or right arrow will move you from word to word, backward or
Control and up or down arrow will move you from paragraph to paragraph, up or
Control-X will delete highlighted text; Control-Z will undo the action.
Control-C will copy text, and Control-V will paste it.
Control-A will select all text.
Mac users can turn to www.unl.edu/compsale/shortcuts.html for shortcuts.
Tips for Instructors
5. Communication. Some online courses require participation via threaded discussion
boards, email groups, or chat rooms. In those formats, it's important tha t learners get
timely responses to questions. If a question requires additional thought, you should
acknowledge the question and indicate that you'll respond soon. Take advantage of email
tools such as MS Outlook's Out of Office Assistant, which can send automatic emails
stating when you'll reply.
Type and style. Used judiciously, varying font size and type can indicate emphasis
and increase interest. You should avoid exotic fonts, however, because not all
computers will have them, and such fonts are hard to read on screen. A readable
balance is best achieved with sans serif fonts--contrast this M with this sans serif M-
-but it's best to allow users' settings to preside. Also, don't overuse bold and italics.
Underlining should be used sparingly, if at all, because the effect could be confused
with a live link. More information about font type and style is available at the World
Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative (very technical). Also see, the
Tufte book review on visual displays.
Color. Just as important as the font type and style is its color. Don't base
discrimination of information solely on color differentiation: Some learners may be
color-blind. Also, don't hinder readability with poor contrast between background
and text. For more information about colorblindness and the Web, see the Visibone
color blindness resource and the Visibone color laboratory.
7. White space. We can't say enough about chunking text. Separate main ideas into
readable sections. It's better to scroll down than to scroll across. As you chunk lesson
information, apportion information on the screen--for example, use bullets to emphasize
a series of important points. Be generous with navigation points (top, back, next, menu,
exit) placed in screen-sized chunks to help readers maneuver and reduce mouse use and
Bonus: Also, keep pages to about 35 to 50K in file size and about three pages of printed
text. If you can count to 10 and your page is still loading, it's taking too long. Be judicious
with graphics, images, and animations. They can significantly increase download times
and distract from the text if their points are unclear.
8. Hidden links. Navigation should be easy; don't hide the links with cutesy effects.
Links should look like links--underlined text where the cursor changes to a pointing finger
when the mouse rolls over the text. The default (expected) colors are blue for unvisited
links and purple for visited ones.
Wording of the links should be carefully chosen as well. "Email the Webmas ter" or "Email
the instructor" may be frustrating when learners' browsers are not configured to their
email. Provide the actual email address as part of the link, for example, "Email the
Webmaster (Webmaster@astd.org)." A nice extra step is to include such contact
information at the bottom of every page, along with "last updated" and "last reviewed"
dates (the latter for pages whose content does not require constant upkeep).
Bonus: Using "click here" is passé, so make sure that underlined text can stand on its
own. Here are some examples of link phraseology:
Bad standalone: Here are this week's discussion questions.
Good standalone: Review Unit 7 with these discussion questions.
9. Accessibility. Accessibility is easy navigation, not only for people with disabilities, but
for everyone. Accessibility aids, such as alt tags (the words that describe an image when
the cursor is placed over the picture) and transcripts of audio files are helpful for learners
with disabilities who may require screen readers to tell them what's on the page. But alt
tags are also helpful for people who have decided to turn off images because they don't
want to slow down their already sluggish Internet connections.
Did your programmers verify accessibility? If not, at least make us e of the Bobby tool,
which analyzes Webpages for their accessibility. You should also be familiar with your
organization's accessibility guidelines, as well as any applicable agency, state, or federal
requirements. For more information about federal accessibility requirements, see Section
508 and the international accessibility guidelines at the World Wide Web Consortium's
Web Accessibility Initiative.
10. User testing. Webpage design is independent of the content. Just as instructors and
educators assess the validity of test questions, so should they assess the design of the e-
learning vehicle. Consider these questions:
Can the learners determine where they are and navigate the site easily?
Has the coding been validated?
Do all the links work?
Does the e-learning really require the effect of that snazzy plug-in?
Another crucial question also deserves an answer: Can the learners get help easily when
Stave Off These Seven Pitfalls of Distance Learning
By Moises Sheinberg
You say you're ready to join the distance-trainer ranks? Understanding the basic pitfalls
can help boost your success rate in achieving learning objectives, reducing dropouts, and
Distance learning. Web-based training. Distributed learning. We've all heard the buzz
phrases and variations, but the only thing these terms indicate is that learners and
trainers or facilitators are in different physical spaces. Trainers who are accustomed to
traditional classroom sessions often have concerns about delivering training differently.
Here's a rundown of some common pitfalls awaiting new distance learning (DL) trainers.
Pitfall #1: Treating DL courses like traditional face-to-face courses. Some trainers may
be tempted to think that because objectives and content are the same that DL can be
handled just like traditional training--that only the technology changes. Wrong! Distance
learning requires different media, delivery methods, course design, evaluation methods,
and learner-support structures.
Pitfall #2: Jumping straight to the course content. Let's face it: Most people are not
used to DL. So, when trainers jump directly into course content, they often have to allot
more time to the beginning activities than originally planned. There can also be a lot of
Pitfall #3: Lacking the necessary support structure. Distance learners have lots of
questions and need feedback and reassurance. If these are missing, you can count on
lukewarm participation and course dropouts. Remember that participants don't have
direct contact with you, so contact must take other forms.
Pitfall #4: Lacking motivation and/or managers' support. Because many people in DL
courses are studying independently, low motivation can be a problem. Remember that
motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic, so management support is vital for the latter.
Pitfall #5: Not planning for technology problems. Tech problems are common. There's
always someone who has a previous version of the program that can't run the
application, somebody who can't install the plug-ins, or another person who doesn't have
the right connection. Sometimes a site doesn't receive the audio signal or receives it with
a delay. So, you should plan enough time and staff to solve such problems.
Pitfall #6: Failing to consider cultural and regional differences. Because DL courses
reach many people, it's important to take into account different cultures, races, genders,
ages, languages, and time zones.
Pitfall #7: Not planning enough time for discussion and teamwork. If you think that
working in teams at a distance requires the same amount of time as doing so face-to-
face, forget it. Remember that the work is often done asynchronously, so it takes extra
time for group members to respond to messages and reach agreements.
If DL is new to you as a trainer, remember that you have to experiment with the
technology. And if you make mistakes, don't despair. We've all made them--probably the
same ones! Here are some guidelines that can help you avoid some of the pitfalls.
Design your courses for DL. Even if your content is the same as a previous face-
to-face course, you must redesign the training. The learning activities will be
different--so will the interactions, the length of time for each activity, the
assignments, and the evaluations. Don't assume that training with "traditional"
methods prepares you for training at a distance.
Plan all learning activities. Timing and planning is everything. Activities that
aren't well-planned and explained can generate anxiety in learners. They need to
know what's on the agenda so they can set aside enough time for it.
Use technologies that serve a purpose. Technology is a tool and not an end in
itself. When you select a particular technology for DL, make sure you're doing so
because it's the best way to accomplish your goals.
Practice. Always test-drive new activities with internal staff first. If possible, take
the place of a learner yourself. You're using a new medium of communication, so it's
a great way to discover what problems might arise. Also, if you're using a remote-
classroom approach, rehearse. It's never the same talking to people face-to-face as
it is talking to a camera or a microphone.
Train yourself. You need to learn, too, but don't concentrate solely on the
technical aspects. There are human factors to consider. For example, it's not enough
to know how to send an email--you have to see that the message doesn't offend
anyone and isn't aggressive. Similarly, when using a microphone, you need to know
how to articulate, at what speed to speak, and when to pause, not just how to
Develop a learner-support structure. Supporting DL participants is work-
intensive. Be prepared to answer these questions:
1. How will they communicate with the trainer?
2. How will they communicate with each other?
3. Who will answer their technical questions?
4. Who will answer their subject matter questions?
5. Who will grade assignments and evaluations?
6. Who's in charge of feedback?
Allow plenty of time for group activities and discussions. One of the most-
used resources in DL is teamwork. It's an effective method of learning, but it
requires time. When you have a Web-based or print-based approach, the
communications are usually asynchronous (usually email or postal mail), so bear in
mind that it takes longer for teams to discuss ideas and come to agreement.
Allow enough time for materials delivery. This is especially important when
you use print-based coursework. As a rule of thumb, always send materials to
Have tech experts and alternative technologies on hand. Make sure that
your support team has either a group of experts for the technology being used or
quick access to one in case you have problems (which are common). Also, try to
have some fail-safe alternative to new technologies, such as faxes and phones (in
case there are problems with email), or backup video- and audiotapes (in case the
transmission fails). The most reliable means is--and probably always will be--the
Use readily available software and hardware. Before selecting a particular
hardware or software package to use for DL, take the time to find out what's
available to learners and how much it costs. Always offer at least two software
alternatives for emailing assignments. And, don't send a CD-ROM if you're not sure
that participants have a CD-ROM player!
Use various media. To give learners alternatives, send the information in different
learning media. This not only supports the theory of multiple intelligences and
makes learning more effective, but it also gives participants easy information access.
For example, you might send users a videotape and a hard copy of materials to
accommodate learning time at home and on the subway.
Allow for mistakes and lateness. Many people are experiencing these electronic
learning approaches for the first time, so be patient. Especially at the beginning of a
course, expect some users to have problems with the new technologies, to make
mistakes, and to take more time than planned. Your job: to support and encourage
Have an introductory course for novices. You can offer new users a brief
course that instructs them step-by-step how to use the DL technology. Keep it
optional, though. There may be some people who are already familiar with the
Give learners motivation, feedback, and assurance. In a DL environment,
participants can get lonely, anxious, and insecure, so support is crucial. Use a
friendly tone and try to encourage people to assure them they're on the right track.
Learners will also need quick feedback for assignments, evaluations, and questions.
Encourage activities that motivate thinking. It's easy for distance learners to
become passive because they're working independently. Sending people manuals to
read won't accomplish learning, but activities such as having them discuss topics
among themselves, defend positions, investigate topics, and apply knowledge may
work. Try to encourage and grade active participation.
Develop a diversity policy. Always consider differences in your audience and
establish communication rules, such as standard Netiquette guidelines. And don't
forget culture. Always remember whom you're talking with and take their slang,
customs, practices, and timetables into account to build rapport.
These brief guidelines are no guarantee that your DL course will be flawless, but they can
help ease your entrance into this exciting field. Unforeseen problems and snags happen,
and you'll have to deal with them as they arise. But if you plan for foreseeable
contingencies, you can take some of the distance out of learning.
III.12. 12 Learning Interventions That Combat Technophobia
By Linda Puetz
Are you ready to sustain technology's eager adopters, nurture its resisters, and
encourage the prove-its? Here are 12 workplace interventions that can help.
If I touch this button, will the computer explode? You've heard that one, right? How
about this: A woman calls the help desk with a printer problem. The techie asks her
whether she's running it under Windows. The woman responds, "No, my desk is next to
the door. But that's a good point. The man sitting next to me is sitting under a window,
and his computer is working just fine."
Why do people have difficulty using the technology provided at such great expense by
our organizations? Michelle Weil and Larry Rosen, clinical psychologists based in
California, have done extensive research over the past 15 years to explore technology
and its effect on people. They describe three distinct technology attitude groups:
Eager adopters love technology. They have the latest cellular phones, big-screen TVs,
disc players, and computers. They love tinkering with the newest and most modern
technologies available and will spend hours experimenting with new tricks and methods.
Resisters don't like technology; it's intimidating. They feel awkward, overwhelmed,
scared, and angry when forced to deal with it.
Prove-its sit on the sidelines, not actively resisting technology, but waiting to be shown
how it can make their lives easier.
Studies show that a consistent 10 to 15 percent of people are eager adopters, 50 to 60
percent are hesitant prove-its, and 30 to 40 percent are resisters. That means 85 to 90
percent of an organization's employees may be uncomfortable with new technology and
are technophobic, to some degree.
According to Weil, "This wouldn't be so bad if we could opt out [of new technology], but
people don't have much of a choice anymore. All of a sudden you have to weigh your
own fruit on the digital scale and buy gasoline at the pump with electronic fund transfers.
And, there's voice mail. It's an indication of how little choice we have now. Technology
isn't going away."
So how can we sustain the eager adopters, nurture the resisters, and encourage the
prove-its when technological changes occur in the workplace? Here are some effective
1. Assess the attitudes of end users, then place them in appropriate learning
Split the group into hesitant prove-its, diehard resisters, and eager adopters. Each group
has its own special learning needs and effective approaches. Keeping everyone together
in one group often causes eager adapters to become bored if gradual instruction is
geared toward resisters; resisters may tremble watching the eager adopters race through
the technology if instruction is rapid. Remember to personalize the introduction of
2. Learn new technology from someone who's skilled in using it and can
explain it without jargon.
Even when instructors understand the technology thoroughly, they may transfer an
anxiety to learners. Training should be down-to-earth with no more than one or two
concepts presented at a time. It's important to use teaching exercises and concepts that
learners will find motivating and interesting.
3. Make sure that technology instruction is hands-on for all users.
Technophobia is intensified when an instructor stands in front of a passive learning group
and rapidly clicks his or her mouse, selects menus, and whizzes from screen to screen
remarking to the group, "See? Isn't this easy?" Users need hands-on time to practice and
play with the technology from the start because it reduces anxiety and builds confidence
and motivation to learn.
4. New technology is best learned together, using a sequence of skills geared
to the new user's knowledge level and attitude.
A one-on-one buddy system--pairing a new learner with a knowledgeable (and patient)
expert--is very effective, especially with resisters. Some eager adopters can learn new
technologies from manuals, but the majority of persons learn much more quickly and
effectively when someone is there to help walk and talk them though the new
information. Small groups of matched-level learners working with an expert can also
progress effectively when the instructor gives individual attention as needed and
evaluates each group member's progress.
5. Limit instruction time to what the new user can assimilate and retain.
This time frame varies widely depending on the user group's level of expertise and
attitude, but almost no one can withstand an eight-hour long instruction session, even
with breaks. You'll find more effective retention and improved learning outcomes with
short periods of instruction of no more than two hours. This is especially true when
working with resisters.
6. Don't move into new instruction areas until current information is clearly
understood and mastered.
A slow-paced, unhurried atmosphere will increase learner self-confidence by providing
successful experiences--especially in the early stages. Don't assume that all is well when
no one asks questions. Continue to assess new learners frequently and encourage
questions. Resisters often feel they're the only ones who don't understand and that
mistakes are always their fault, so sharing your own difficult technology experiences and
how you successfully problem-solved will often help them.
7. Prior to introducing new technology, staff responsible for its administration
should become thoroughly familiar with its use and the organization's
Prior to implementation, anticipate common questions and have answers ready. Provide
detailed troubleshooting instruction to all administrators, help-desk personnel, and on-
the-job experts. Expert support help should be available whenever new learners are
working with new technology.
8. Have specific instructional needs in mind.
Assess ahead of time what users need to know to perform their jobs most effectively,
then provide examples that include those needs. Prove-its particularly like this approach
because it shows them immediately how learning new technology will help them do their
jobs better. If learner anxiety is high, consider easing resisters into learning by using
educational games or simple word processing. For example, the Solitaire game found in
Windows is an effective mouse-skills instructor. It provides immediate feedback, and
moving cards around on a computer screen adds to the fun.
9. Use the identical version of the new user's hardware and software programs
Resisters and prove-its may find learning from different software or hardware frustrating
and may tune out instruction because they can't make the connection to their own work
10. Whenever possible, hold training onsite at workers' job location.
If that isn't possible, the next best option is to hold instruction in a well-designed
technology center within the organization. If you've exhausted available internal learning
options, consider external vendor classes and seminars.
11. Create and maintain easy access to an expert user after training.
The ideal situation is to have an expert close at hand in every work area to handle
questions. On-the-job expert help demonstrates organizational commitment to the new
12. Employers need to value the technology and the people expected to use it.
Because 85 to 90 percent of employees may have reservations about any new
technology, it's important to ensure that it will be successfully integrated into every part
of the organization. According to Michelle Weil, "If employers don't take into
consideration that there will be company resisters and technophobes for whom they have
done nothing to help, then they're going to suffer reduced worker productivity, lower job
satisfaction, their profits and their efficiency are going to decreas e companywise, and
there will be more mistakes and errors with higher employee absenteeism."
Taking care to recognize and implement different training interventions for different worker
attitudes and expertise levels better ensures desired outcomes: improved productivity, cost
savings, and job satisfaction. By reducing workplace technophobia, you'll be well on your
way to more effective technology implementation and use. And, you'll be doing your part
to reduce those "exploding computer key" fears.
III.13. Five Tips for Type in Online Learning
By Saul Carliner
An important concern in designing online learning is the proper use of type. Consider these
guidelines as you choose sizes and fonts for the text in your online learning programs.
1. Limit the number of fonts on screen to two. The more fonts that appear on screen,
the more difficult it is for learners to read the text. So, choose one font for the headings
and another for body text (all of the rest). Make sure that the two typefaces coordinate
nicely; the typeface that you choose for headings should look good with the typeface you
choose for body text.
Generally, if you choose a serif font for one, choose a sans serif font for the other. (Serifs
are the little hook marks that appear on letters, mimicking the calligraphy from the days
before printing presses. As the word sans implies, sans serif fonts eliminate those marks.)
For example, if you choose a sans serif font like Arial for headings, you might choose a
serif font like Times New Roman for the body text. You can also use the same typeface for
headings and body text.
Many designers wonder whether to use a serif or sans serif font for online body text. For
years, the practical thinking was that sans serif fonts were better for online reading,
because the thinness of lines on some of the letters in serif fonts made characters difficult
to distinguish. As the display qualities of monitors improve, the display of serif letters
improves. However, some studies do suggest that readers prefer sans serif fonts online.
Popular fonts include
Serif Sans Serif
2. Make sure the size of body text is readable. For most typefaces, 11 point is an
appropriate size for body text. If the typeface itself is small, you might increase the size
to 12 points. (For example, Arial Narrow and Haettenschweiller are small fonts.) You
might also increase the size to 12 points if a significant part of your audience is over 40.
Reading smaller type becomes increasingly difficult with age.
3. Use the same font for all headings. You don’t need to change fonts in order to
distinguish among levels of headings. Instead, manipulate the size of type for headings
according to the common editorial system used in word processing templates, desktop
publishing software, and online learning authoring tools. The system identifies the
importance of a heading: The lower the number, the more significant the heading.
Level Purpose Type Size and Emphasis
Heading 1 Lesson or Bold
heading Calculate size as follows:
If the body text is an odd number (such
as 11 point type), heading = size of body
text + 3 points.
If the body text is an even number
(such as 12 point type), heading = size of
body text + 4 points.
For example, if the body text is 11 points,
the size of a heading 1 would be 14 points.
Heading 2 Major section Bold
chapter Calculate size as follows:
If the body text is an odd number (such
as 11 point type), heading = size of body
text + 1 point.
If the body text is an even number
(such as 12 point type), heading = size of
body text + 2 points.
For example, if the body text is 12 points,
the size of a heading 1 would be 16 points.
Heading 3 Section within Bold
section Type is the same size as the body text. For
example, if the body text is 11 points, the
size of a heading 3 would be 11 points; if
the size of the body text is 12 points, the
size of a heading 3 would be 12 points.
Heading 4 Sub-section Bold and italic
section Type is the same size as the body text. For
example, if the body text is 11 points, the
size of a heading 3 would be 11 points; if
the size of the body text is 12 points, the
size of a heading 3 would be 12 points.
4. Justify text appropriately. Justification refers to the alignment of text on the
Left justification means aligning text along the left margin. Most text is
Right justification means aligning text on the right margin.
Centering text places it equidistant from both margins. (Because it’s
not aligned on either margin, centered text is, in a technical sense, not
You can also justify text on both the left and
Margins that are not justified are called ragged.
Despite all of those choices, it’s recommended that you justify text only on the left
margin. Do not justify the right margin as well. To make sure that the text justifies on
both margins, the system either stretches the letters or adds many extra spaces. The
type looks strange, and it interferes with reading.
5. Use emphasis type appropriately. Although using emphasis type such as bold and
italic is perceived to call attention to text, its excessive use does just the opposite.
Overusing bold and italic draws attention away from your message. Publishing convention
limits the use of bold and italic to particular instances.
Use emphasis type as suggested below.
Headings, including on charts and tables
Titles of published works (books, videos, CDs)
Italic Example: The Grapes of Wrath.
Words that are appropriated from other languages and have
not become standard English (such as détente)
Only to indicate hyperlinks; avoid any other use. In the
Underline days of typewriters, underlining was used instead of
italic type, which the typewriter could not duplicate.
Color Use only to indicate hyperlinks. When learners see
colored text, they assume it to be a hyperlink, even if it
doesn’t have an underscore. They often click on it, only
to have nothing happen.
ALL CAPS Avoid, except for acronyms. This approach to
emphasizing text fails on two levels. On a physical level,
learners have more difficulty reading text that is all
capitalized than mixed-case letters. On an emotional
level, learners usually perceive all-cap type as being
Use those five type tips to make your online learning programs readable and effective.
III.14. Using Multiple Intelligence Theory in the Virtual Classroom
By Margie Meacham
Combining what we know about multiple intelligences with virtual classroom features can
help us enrich e-learners’ experiences.
Howard Gardner, creator of the theory of multiple intelligences (MI), alerted us to the
different ways people process information and to the importance of taking that into
account when designing learning events. You may have modified the activities in your
traditional classroom based on multiple intelligences theory, but what about your virtual
classroom? In many companies, 50 percent or more of the curriculum is now offered in
some form of collaborative virtual classroom. And yet, much of that material appears to
be little more than PowerPoint slides with audio of the instructor’s voice. Often,
companies assume that this limited approach is all that’s possible with existing
technology. But many more features exist in a virtual classroom, and combining these
with what we know about MI can help us enrich e-learners’ experiences. Here’s how.
Use all of the available features
There are dozens of major virtual classroom providers and hundreds of companies that
resell the classrooms under a private label arrangement. Once you select the right virtual
classroom for your needs and budget, you can begin to design learning events and
programs that take advantage of the available features. Available features vary a bit from
provider to provider, but most providers offer the ability to
display presentations, such as PowerPoint slide shows
share the facilitator’s desktop or an application
use a whiteboard for drawing and charting
hold conversations in a chat room or sub-chat rooms
create voice sub-conferences, often called breakout rooms
document and slide markup tools such as highlighters and text and drawing tools
administer surveys and quizzes
download documents and reference materials
connect to URLs on the Internet or an intranet
use symbols, sometimes called emoticons, to show emotions and raise questions.
Plan to engage as many different intelligences as possible
Once you’re familiar with the features in your virtual classroom, plan your learning event
or program to engage as many different intelligences as possible, using all of those
features. As you review the list of suggestions below, remember that we all have all of
these capabilities to some degree, but each of us will be stronger in some areas and
weaker in others. The best way to ensure that you’re engaging as many learners as
possible to the greatest degree possible is to use as many different ways to appeal to
those multiple intelligences as the technology will allow. Here are a few ideas, listed by
intelligence type, to get you started.
Visual/spatial intelligence. People with a strong visual capacity tend to think in
pictures and will create pictures in their minds to represent thoughts or concepts. These
learners respond particularly well to learning activities that let them
see key points demonstrated with detailed graphics or visual effects, such as in a
watch a video of a process or a story that pertains to the course (No talking heads,
interpret and apply charts that summarize statistics
use flow charts or maps to arrive at a solution or destination
interpret visual puns or metaphors that capture a key fact or concept
share mind-mapping software or graphic organizers to understand a problem or
collaborate on a solution
design, draw on, modify, or correct a diagram using a whiteboard and digital markup
Verbal/linguistic intelligence. People with highly developed speaking and listening
skills often think in words rather than in pictures. These learners will respond particularly
well to activities such as
listening to or telling stories that illustrate a key learning point
taking detailed notes during a lecture
reading and interpreting text
selecting and advocating a course of action
memorizing key facts or dates
analyzing case studies
exchanging typed ideas and information with the instructor or other learners in a chat
answering written quizzes or surveys based on facts.
Logical/mathematical intelligence. People with a highly developed ability to use
reason, logic, and numbers tend to think by using patterns and linking concepts. These
learners always like to ask a lot of why? questions and expect detailed answers tha t help
them link pieces of information together.
They may benefit from learning activities such as
working on a spreadsheet or calculating percentages or metrics with other learners
conducting or analyzing an experiment
interviewing an instructor or subject matter expert to get the answer to a problem
classifying or organizing separate items into larger groups
developing theories or conclusions based on facts in evidence
solving a problem expressed as a crime or mystery.
Bodily/kinesthetic intelligence. These people have a highly developed ability to
control body movements and handle physical objects. They process information by
interacting with the physical space around them. Because the space around them is
virtual, you’ll have to create virtual interactions to help these people use their intelligence
effectively. They will respond well to learning activities involving
hands-on manipulation of the keyboard or mouse as a ―student driver‖
watching videos or presentations that let learners put themselves in the action
simulations that let learners make decisions that affect the outcome of the story or
game-like activities that require hand-to-eye coordination or rapid reflexes
buttons that let them express feelings with digital signals that take th e place of
videoconferencing that lets them show their body to other participants and express
concepts through gestures, mime, or dance
blended solutions that let them create something with their hands and share it with
the rest of the class through a digital image.
Musical/rhythmical intelligence. Learners with a heightened ability to appreciate and
produce music tend to think in sounds, rhythms, and patterns. They’re also extremely
sensitive to environmental sounds that might be interpreted only as background noise by
Try some of these activities to engage these learners:
compose or ask them to compose a song or rap to summarize key points
associate tones with different stages of a process, different eras in time, or different
levels of performance
use sound effects to accentuate the key points in a presentation
play subtle background music to enhance the desired mood (excitement, deep
thought, relaxation, and so forth).
Interpersonal intelligence. Learners with an advanced ability to relate to and
understand the feelings of other people often process information by linking it to a story
about how other people feel in a given situation. They enjoy learning in a team setting,
working with other people, and possibly taking a leadership role.
Activities for interpersonal intelligence include
creating sub-conference groups to allow for small group discussion
role-playing the same case from several different points of view
analyzing case studies for motivations, conflict, feelings, or intentions
using verbal skills to build consensus or agreement.
Intrapersonal intelligence. People dominant in interpersonal intelligence exhibit a
strong sense of self and the ability to understand and share their inner thoughts and
feelings. These people process information by reflecting on their own strengths and
weaknesses, establishing dreams and goals, and understanding their relationships with
others. Intrapersonal learning activities might include
surveys that focus on how the learner feels about a particular subject or fact
role play showing their own response or emotions in a particular setting or scenario
discussion of how the actions of others make them feel or think
retracing how they solved a problem or learned a new skill and applying that
process to a new learning situation
Naturalist intelligence. People with a heightened appreciation for and understanding
of the world around them like to experience the outdoors and relate well to animals. They
tend to process information best by exploration. These learners will respond well to
activities that let them
visit other Websites or resource documents and investigate a topic on their own
organize and conduct a virtual field trip to show other learners sites that have
go on a virtual tour of a company site, library, or museum
create blended learning that combines live field trips with sharing those experiences
in the virtual classroom.
Put it all together
Remember that everyone exhibits a combination of the various intelligences. The goal is
to engage as many of these different capacities as possible within the same learning
event or program. Too often, we find that inexperienced instructional designers use one
particular activity and continue to repeat it exclusively, when other types of meaningful
activities would create more variety, increase learner interest, and appeal to multiple
For example, in a project management course, you could use a small group discussion
followed by a visual activity such as a collaborative flow chart. Later, you could bring the
entire class to a Website to explore project management principles and resources.
Build a library of learning activities.As you begin to deploy your virtual classroom,
you will build a curriculum of learning programs that you have designed specifically for
this environment. In addition to leveraging reusable learning objects, be sure to build a
database of reusable learning events and activities. This approach will save you time as
your virtual classroom curriculum continues to grow.
Assess your own intelligences. It’s natural to develop an unconscious bias that
reflects your own areas of intelligence. By taking a self-assessment, you can learn more
about your preferences for one form of delivery over another and work to establish more
balance in your approach.
Here are some sites where you can assess your intelligences and learn more about MI.
http://www.ldpride.net/learningstyles.MI.htm. A good place to start. The site offers
an online self-test and addresses the importance of MI when working with people
who have learning disabilities or attention deficit disorder.
http://www.ldrc.ca/projects/projects.php?id=26. The Learning to Learn site offers a
free 10-module course on how people learn, including a module on MI.
http://surfaquarium.com/im.htm. Walter McKenzie’s site offers a newsletter and a
self-test for learning styles.
http://www.ldrc.ca/projects/miinventory . This site, maintained by the Learning
Disabilities Resource Community (LDRC), offers an MI inventory as well as a number
of links to other sites and projects.
By paying attention to the multiple intelligences of your audience, you’ll find that your
learning programs are more exciting and more effective. As you grow more comfortable
with the technology, your own creativity will begin to respond to the challenge. Use the
simple suggestions we've shared here to help you get started.
Chapter IV :
BLENDED LEARNING CASE STUDY
Recipe for blended learning: Start with a few online tutorials, add one synchronous event
and a pinch of discussion forums for flavor, and stir.
Every few months a new trend hits the training industry. One of the latest trends revolves
around the application of blended learning solutions. The idea behind blended learning is
that instructional designers review a learning program, chunk it into modules, and
determine the best medium to deliver those modules to the learner. Various media
include, but are not limited to, technologies such as
traditional classroom or lab settings
performance support tools
stand-alone Web-based training
asynchronous Web-based training
synchronous Web-based training.
During the past year I worked on a project that epitomized the concept of blended
training. The client, which we'll refer to as ACME Training Solutions, was a soft-skills
training provider that was recognized for its high-quality traditional classroom courses.
The company was feeling pressure from clients to deliver content via alternative,
preferably Web-based, methods. ACME needed to develop quality--and marketable--
training products based on their existing proven content.
That seemingly monumental task was assigned to a product development team. To start,
the development team needed to decide whether soft-skills could be taught using online
learning tools. Generally, soft-skills training, such as management development, focuses
on skills that people must exhibit through interaction. The questions facing the team were
Can you teach soft skills online? and Are synchronous practice sessions realistic? The
answer was a resounding Yes. The team's research also revealed that synchronous
practice is more realistic than traditional face-to-face methods for certain audiences
because they use those skills over email and the telephone more than in face-to-face
The team's second order of business was to conduct a needs analysis that identified the
following critical success factors:
Asynchronous Web modules needed to be developed to deliver the course's core
Follow-up courses using a live, synchronous medium were necessary to provide
learners an opportunity to practice skills.
Early on, the product development team recognized that developing Web-based training
was a far reach from their core competency of developing traditional classroom training.
Therefore, the team enlisted vendors with specific areas of expertise to support each
critical success factor.
To challenge and engage learners, the development team needed to produce courses
that offered more than the average page-turner tutorials. After reviewing several
authoring packages, the team decided to use Macromedia Flash to create asynchronous
learning modules. Flash gives developers the capability and tools to build interactive and
visually effective programs that can be delivered over low bandwidth. The asynchronous
modules the developers built included read-only content for learners new to the subject
matter and more interactive and complicated tools for learners who had participated in
other learning events and needed refresher materials. Audio was incorporated throughout
Likewise, the team's research and participation in several live demos lead them to select
Centra’s Symposium as the synchronous classroom tool based on its capability to create
The team spent a year designing and testing the new program. Its final instructional
concoction was a blend of training technologies that answered market needs while
remaining true to the content's quality. Basic course features included
Tech checks. Learners can't be successful if the technology doesn't work. The first step
in the learning process was to download the required software--Centra Symposium and, if
necessary, the Flash plug-in. Next, learners had to test the software plug-ins for
functionality. Technical support assistance was available.
"Learn How To Learn Online" program. In many organizations, the first part of a
synchronous program is spent teaching first-time learners the point-and-click classroom's
system and features. The team found that 10 to 15 minutes was ample time to learn
navigation basics, but more time was needed to master learning in this type of
environment. Based on that feedback, the team created a "Learn How To Learn Online"
program, which consisted of introductions, a tools overview, ground rules, and tips for
creating an effective learning environment. It also focused on the curriculum's blended
qualities and explained policies for using the asynchronous module, such as attendance
That type of instruction may be tedious for participants who have participated in
synchronous events previously. Be sure to offer learners the option to opt out of this
Participant guides. Although participant guides are often absent in Web-based training,
a well-designed participant guide can be a critical success factor for synchronous
programs. The team took pains to ensure that the guide wasn't a simple book containing
copies of the same screens used online. The participant guide contained prework
exercises and module instructions.
Asynchronous Web modules. Asynchronous modules present content that's essential
to the learning process and can be accessed at a learner's individual pace. Throughout
the course, the modules challenge users to make crucial decisions that reinforce the skills
being presented. Requiring one to two hours to complete, the asynchronous features
offer additional information on key concepts, examples, interactive exercises, and
assessments. The modules also contain tools--in this instance, forms--that learners are
required to complete, print, and bring with them to the synchronous event. The team
found that learners who didn't complete the asynchronous modules were less likely to be
successful in the live event.
Live, instructor-led events. Synchronous events are key to the learning design
because they give learners the opportunity to ask questions, interact with peers, and
practice skills in a more realistic environment. Because the instructional design for the
original classroom initiatives was based on small group interactions and practice,
breakout rooms were a natural online tool.
Just-in-time tools. To help facilitate lifelong learning, participants were directed back
to the reinforcement tools in the asynchronous Web modules, including examples,
refresher exercises, tip sheets, and so forth.
During the year of design and testing, the development team spent a great deal of time
learning. The first difficult lesson was that not all participants will follow directions or do
prework. The development team had to find creative ways to ensure that the
asynchronous modules and other pre-class assignments were completed, such as the
forms that learners had to complete to understand the synchronous class discussion.
Next, because many things were happening at the same time during the complicated
synchronous design, the team added a producer role to help facilitate the learning
process. The producer was responsible for the following tasks:
warm up learners before class begins
assist facilitation, especially in breakout rooms
scribe on the whiteboard
respond to chat notes
launch surveys and breakout rooms
resolve technical questions and problems
handle late arrivals and disruptive participants.
Perhaps the biggest lesson learned by the entire team was that re-creating learning
online and determining the right blend isn't easy or to be taken lightly. To create
interactions that meet the same standards as traditional programs, invest the time to
research the audience and the technology tools. Most imperative, bring together the right
team, either internal or external, and be willing to fail a few times in order to get the