Articulate 360 Review: Why Your Business Should Strongly Consider Upgrading

Have you ever watched Bob Ross paint, amazed by how the piece is taking shape? Have you ever watched Bobby Flay pan sear a ribeye to perfection? What do Bobby Flay and Bob Ross have in common?

They use the best tool available for the job.

Bob Ross wouldn’t be as smooth without his Van Dyke Brown… Bobby Flay’s dishes not as delicious without his cast iron skillet.

You will never find the perfect eLearning tool, ever. No matter how many you test. Every tool will have one feature or two over another forever… in perpetuity. What you can find, is a tool that is usable, useful, teachable, learnable, and that gives you the most back for what you can put into it.

In this humble Multimedia Manager’s opinion, Articulate 360 is your new best option. Articulate provides the best tools for rapid authoring in the industry, and upgrading to the 360 subscription model ensures your team will always have the latest and greatest authoring tools at their fingertips.

Let’s dive into some of the key tools.

Articulate Storyline 360:


The flagship, the bread and butter, the big kahuna. While there are some nice new features, Storyline is not what excites me most.

Responsive Player: Did you get excited when I said “responsive”? Yeah, everybody does.

While a responsive player is heavily touted addition to Storyline 360, in reality, the player leaves developers a little wanting. In a nutshell, the responsive player provides a minimalist UI around your course with a hamburger menu on small devices. You can zoom in to stuff that’s too small, and… well, that’s all, folks.

Sometimes the responsive player ends up being a bit of a miss. For example, I had a hard time interacting buttons that appeared low on my iPhone 5s in multiple courses I tested.

In the Storyline 360 authoring tool, you can’t hide/show content, branch, or change interactions based on screen size like you can in Lectora or Captivate. But you might be surprised to learn that I think this is a good thing. Lectora and Captivate can both be cumbersome and a little difficult for most new developers to learn. Small device content should be thought of mobile-first… Not a “Let’s just hide stuff that doesn’t work on the phone” solution.

You can force portrait or landscape orientation (to an okay degree) and you can preview what content will look like in Storyline, but it’s better to upload and test on a device.

Better HTML5 output: One of the best, most unspoken new features is an optimized HTML5 engine. Got a team taking training on older iPads? With the better HTML5 engine, republishing courses using a new version of Storyline may improve crash issues on mobile devices lacking in RAM.

Flash vs. HTML5: You can publish to Flash, HTML5, or both (and prioritize either over the other). Does your company want to decrease Flash use and focus on future browsers with HTML5? You can publish with a priority to HTML5, and only the folks with dinosaur computers/browsers will see the Flash.

It was the opposite in previous versions.

The Dial Tool: You like sliders? We’ll then I’ve got a dial for you. Did you know that a dial is basically a round slider? With a skilled developer and imagination, dials can do cool things, but this is not what you should pay the price of admission for.

Other Stuff: Improved accessibility options, improved options for rendering video (no additional compression), ability to add subtitle files for audio/video, improved motion path options, collision triggers, and more are all included.

Killer Feature: The integration with the other Articulate 360 tools is what sets the new Storyline apart. Quickly iterate by publishing directly to Articulate 360 Review (you can even publish a single scene or slide for review) or jumpstart your project by importing a theme, images, and characters from the included Content Library.


Honorable Mention: The Insert > Input button looks like a drunk robot… and I love that.

 

Upgrade Grade: B-

The improved HTML5 publish plus integration with the Content Library are great to have, but probably don’t sell the tool alone. The responsive player is a stop-gap for now so your Storyline courses are at least usable (in some regard) on a phone. I’m guessing Articulate will have something better in the next year or so. 

Review 360:


When it comes to bang-for your buck, Review 360 is the clear winner here. Iteration on eLearning has long been a pain-point in the industry, and Review 360 looks to fix that.

Simply put, Review 360 is a step forward in eLearning review and iteration.

Need feedback on a course? Easy, publish from Storyline.

Need feedback on one slide/scene? Also just as easy (publish just a slide/scene).

Need feedback from multiple, different reviewers? Easy, publish with different titles and invite the right people.

Need to find an issue as a developer? Easy, you get a screenshot of what the user is seeing with the edit.

Want to iterate in the tool, online. Straightforward.

Prefer to iterate offline in excel. Easy, export a CSV.

Killer Feature: Screenshots with each edit. Give a developer an edit with only words and a page title and watch them cringe. Give them the same info with a screenshot and watch them kick butt. The ability to review a single slide/scene is up there, too.

Honorable Mention: Want to know when you get feedback? You can receive notification of feedback immediately, every hour, day, week, or never, if you’d like.

Upgrade Grade: A-

It doesn’t have all the features we could dream up, but you’ll get the latest features with your subscription to Articulate 360. If implemented correctly, and used well, I honestly feel like this tool could reduce reviewing bloat (clarification of edits, ease of review, etc.) almost in half.

That’s a huge deal.

Articulate Rise 360:


Rise 360 is where Articulate really gets responsive (sorry to Storyline’s responsive player). What you can expect is that Rise 360 produces trendy responsive courses that look pretty dang good on any device. Yes, you can screw it up, but the tool holds your hand and makes you look good.

In my opinion, the responsive features in Lectora and Captivate are too cumbersome and not really mobile-first. Rise 360 makes a lot of sense, and is easy to pick up and run with.

“But won’t everything start to look the same?” Says a wary industry expert.

“So, you’ve used that same course UI for how many years for what reason?” Says Nick.

“But you’ll only be able to use the tools Articulate provides you.” Says Liddy McDeveloper.

“Sometimes less features are better.” Says All Great Modern Software.

Rise 360 is a responsive authoring tool that any learning designer/developer can figure out and get good at with a little practice. It doesn’t take advanced programming logic to make responsive materials with this tool. I’m not over-blowing the complexity of others, but I am highlighting the simplicity of Rise 360.

Honorable Mention: New features – Customizable course buttons and text + xAPI support… Yes, please!

Upgrade Grade: B+

If your team can author in Storyline, they can author in Rise 360. All that content you want in people’s pockets… yeah, it’s possible. While Rise isn’t the right solution for all mobile materials, it’s a huge step forward for just-in-time resources and reference materials. If you build it, they will come.

Articulate Content Library:

Weighing in at a svelte 1.5 million images (including characters’ bundles, illustrations, icons, and more), the content Library is another handy addition to the Articulate 360 Suite of tools. Not a designer? Grab a template and implement your brand standards… Or, just use it to improve your team’s designs. 

Killer Feature: Storyline Integration. Quickly implement included assets in your courses without needing to leave Storyline at all.

Upgrade Grade: B

This is a great supplement to your current stock photography and character sites. While it’s probably not a replacement, it could save time and money through quick integration while developing (less task switching) and could help reduce subscription needs on other stock sites.

Other Apps


 Replay 360:

Articulate Replay allows you to quickly record your screen, voice, and face simultaneously. Quickly edit to toggle between Screen and Presenter view and captions and lower-thirds with ease. Want to make Lynda.com style tutorials or training videos? This tool makes that easy. This is my favorite tool that I don’t consider in the core above.

Articulate Studio 360:

With the trio of Presenter 360, Engage 360, and Quizmaker 360… Articulate Studio 360 is a PowerPoint plug-in packing potent powerful publishing potential. Yes, I did that on purpose.

Articulate Studio 360 is a close relative of Storyline who you call when you don’t need the heavy lifting of the big kahuna. Have a page-turning slide deck? Call Studio. Want a splash of interactivity? Create templated interactions and quizzes for Presenter with Engage and Quizmaker.

Studio 360 was a separate purchase from Storyline in previous versions. With Articulate 360, it’s included.

Articulate Peek:

Peek is a quick and easy tool to record your screen for interacting on ideas with your team. Videos upload directly to Articulate Review so you can share a link and get feedback from anyone. Remember Screenr? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.

Bonus: Upload your Peek video to 360 Review, and Export to LMS. You can even tell the package to “Mark the user complete when the user watches 75% of the video.” Now any SME with Peek can make scorable video content for your LMS.

Articulate Live:

Weekly webinars to help the community learn. These are handy resources if your team is just getting started, and occasionally, there’s a treat for a grizzled vet.

Preso:

This iPad app is a handy way to annotate images, add narration, and quickly make informal training videos on your tablet. Upload to Review 360 and export a scorable version quickly for LMS.

The Verdict


Total Upgrade Grade: B+

The Articulate 360 Suite of software doesn’t answer all your dying questions and doesn’t solve all your eLearning riddles. But guess what? Nothing else will either.

What it does do is continue to provide the best community, the best support, and the best tools that are accessible to all. Tools that people can pick up and run with.

Someday we’ll all easily be able to create advanced apps, VR, and games with crazy simple software, and hell… Articulate might be right there making that software.

Seeing my teammates get excited as they dig into the new tools and new possibilities is a reminder that this is a crazy-creative industry. So, at the end of the day, my recommendation is to put the best tools in the hands of your creative people. And right now, I think Articulate’s tools are leading the pack.

A standalone version of Storyline 3 (strongly rumored to be true) might have you holding off on taking the leap to Articulate 360, but dip your toe in… the water is fine.

Seven 2017 Learning Trends: Novel or Norm?

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At the start of a new year – or the end of an old one – we love to read about trends. Articles on trends can be fun reads, but do they really help us see the future? Do trends really matter?

I’ll let you decide. I went back and found a 1998 ATD (then ASTD) State of the Industry report. Note that the “trends” listed in this report were often reported by only 1% – 2% of the respondents, who numbered in the 300 range. This meant only three or four respondents were citing these trends as tools or tactics in their talent development toolkits:

  • Computer-based training (CD-ROMs)
  • Electronic Performance Support Systems (Interesting fact: Google was founded in September 1998.)
  • Interactive video laser disks
  • Intranets
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Individual development plans
  • 360-degree feedback

From Trend to Reality

If we look at 2017, we can see that 1998 trends were all hallmarks or rudimentary renditions of things we take for granted today:

  • Computer-based training delivered via CD-ROM has been replaced by custom-created eLearning delivered via the web as well as on-demand content from MOOCs, Lynda.com, or Software as a Service (SaaS) content providers such as Grovo or Skillsoft.
  • Early Electronic Performance Support Systems and intranets were the predecessors of modern help systems such as Lynda.com, YouTube, Wikipedia, or Google as well as collaboration, information sharing, and communication tools such as SharePoint, Slack, Basecamp, and Skype plus networking tools such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter.
  • Interactive video laser disks were quickly replaced first by VHS and Beta videotape and now by videos that can be shot and edited via a smartphone and streamed via the web.
  • Coaching and mentoring, along with 360-degree feedback, have created an entire new industry and a plethora of assessment instruments. DISC, Strengthsfinder, Myers-Briggs, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, EQ assessments, leadership inventories, etc. all exist to provide us with feedback and enable others to coach us.
  • Individual development plans are a foundational element/concept related to the learning management system and now talent management systems, which try to catalog skills and knowledge required for various positions and document the development plans that enable someone to be successful in a given role.

In short, those 1998 trends evolved into today’s reality over a span of years. But the evolution was not always fast. In fact, the 1999 “trends” probably looked similar to 1998’s version.

Fast Forward to 2017

There are really two groups of learning trends to watch in 2017. The exciting group that everyone wants to talk about is new on the scene. We are seeing the first signs of these trends, but it will take several years for their usage to become meaningful. The second group has already been talked about for several years, some of them as far back as 2008. But just like those trends from 1998, they are now becoming mainstream.

Three 2017 Emerging Trends

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1. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

This one is getting ready to boom. Artificial intelligence and machine learning take in lots of data inputs and provide pinpoint guidance back to us. AI is already in the classroom. It’s available to us as consumers. It’s logical to believe that corporate learners are going to expect an evolved learning experience that goes beyond static, unchanging content as we move to the future.

We are seeing lots of examples of machine learning (self-driving cars use machine learning, for example). Predictions are for virtual assistants to find their way into more and more classrooms; some already exist today. It’s realistic to think that at some point, virtual assistants will make their way into the HR and L&D realm as well.

2. Virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality

These new reality technologies have been sitting on the horizon for years. Technology has finally gotten to the point where the opportunity is catching up to the promise. In 2016, VR headsets and game systems emerged on the market that are relatively 1) affordable, and 2) comfortable to use at least for up to 30 minutes. Older systems tended to make people motion sick very quickly. Motion sickness can still be a problem, but most people can tolerate it for periods of up to 30 minutes’ time.

The eLearning Guild has announced its first VR and AR conference in 2017, a sure sign that this is a technology that’s moving past “interesting to watch” to “great examples of its use are out there.”

3. Storytelling

This one is a sleeper. It is not about technology. It’s about how we get people to pay attention. We are all going to have to get better at telling stories and using stories to help people learn. Videos, VR, and games all lend themselves to stories so the ability to craft compelling stories is going to be key to effective use of technologies.

Four 2017 Established Trends

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1. Microlearning

Simply put, microlearning is learning that is organized into small components or activities, typically about five minutes in length. Microlearning has been around as a term since the early 2000s; it has become immensely popular as a term in the past couple of years.

In the past three years, there has been a proliferation of SaaS solutions focused on microlearning, including Knowledge Guru, qStream, Axonify, Grovo, and Mindmarker.

Part of the push links to the uptick in interest is the arena of “learning science” and the science of learning. Increased awareness of the linkage between spaced repetition of content and long-term memory has sparked interest in microlearning.

2. Mobile

Mobile is no longer new, but it does appear to be “stuck” with adoption not proliferating as trend watchers predicted back in 2010, 2011, and 2012.  The constraints of the LMS – and lack of adoption of xAPI – keep it in limbo as a primary tool for learning. However, it’s an excellent tool for microlearning. The tools touted for microlearning rely heavily on smartphones to distribute their microlearning.

3. Gamification and learning games

This trend has moved mainstream. It is questionable whether it still warrants the term “trend” as the research is fairly compelling as to the efficacy of learning games as a tool.

Mobile games remain an intriguing learning solution, particularly when combined with the emerging interest in microlearning.

4. Interactive video, 360-degree video

Video keeps getting more and more useful as the tools available to produce it become more accessible. The newest iPhone, for example, has a very worthy video camera. It’s possible to shoot and edit a video all on a smartphone and then push it out to a video streaming site such as Vimeo or YouTube on that same phone.

Why Compare 1998 to 2017?

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As I pondered trends from 1998, I concluded these things:

1. Change can feel slow, but we never stand still.

Year-to-year change can be so slow that we may fail to recognize when big change is around the corner. It takes a decade or more for dramatic change to start to become visible. In that time, some “trends” will morph into completely different technologies. Clearly CBT has morphed into the eLearning we currently have. The eLearning we have now is likely to morph into AI, VR, or AR… or something we cannot yet envision.

2. The influence of technology has touched every aspect of L&D.

It affects design, development, implementation, and tracking. It has also dramatically affected talent development. No area is untouched. The skill sets of today’s L&D professionals include technical abilities those in the 1990s would have not even imagined.

3. Despite the evolution of technology, the “what” of training has remained very stable… with a few twists.

The 1990s marked the dawn of technology in the workplace as we now know it. This meant a ton of training on how to use a computer or how to use software. We don’t need that today. However, managerial training remains a constant as does compliance, product, and process training.

Finally, in answer to the question I posed at the start of this post: yes, trends DO matter. We need to pay attention to them. What starts as a trend – with only 1% or 2% of early adopters using a process, tool, or technology – does find its way into the mainstream. But it may take a while (virtual reality and augmented reality have actually been on the landscape for a decade). I started attending to games and gamification in 2008 and it is now close to mainstream in 2017. Eventually, however, these early trends become the way we do things. What is novel today becomes the norm tomorrow.

Access the 2017 Learning and Remembering Report to view the results and analysis of our Learning and Remembering Survey.

Why Learner Personas and Learning Design Go Hand-in-Hand

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Most learning and development professionals are familiar with the term audience analysis. To maximize the effectiveness of your learning experience, you need to analyze your audience. By crafting a learner persona, you can go beyond a typical audience analysis and paint a vivid picture of who you are designing a learning experience or materials for. This means gathering more than simple demographic data. Ideally, you will interact with the target learners. If that’s not possible, make sure someone on your design team has firsthand knowledge of the target – either she has been in the learner’s role in the past or the learners report to her.

How to Create a Learner Persona

Marketing professionals have long used buyer personas to gain a clear picture of whom they are selling to, what motivates them, and what strategies work best to target them. They base the personas on real market-research data, but fictionalize them to a degree to describe a single buyer, which personalizes the buyer for the marketer.

Your learner personas should be similar. Base your personas on the research you do to help you understand their goals, motivations, challenges, and daily work flows. Add to these data any company data that exist on age, gender, educational background, years of experience, and so on. The table below offers an example of a tool you can use to help create a persona. The column on the left identifies the type of information you want to gather and questions you want to answer. The column on the right is an example that shows you the right level of information detail to gather.

This particular tool is used to gather data with the intent of creating a learning game so it includes specifics around game play.

 Information-Gathering Tool for a Learner Persona

Persona Element and Description Example
Name: Give your persona a name. You want this persona to feel real to you and not be a bunch of statistics. Stephanie
Demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, college, etc.): Make your training look like your learner. Don’t assume anything. Age 41, Caucasian, Female. Four-year degree from a small liberal arts college. Majored in communications. Sorority member who achieved numerous academic honors while in college and was extremely active.
Experience with the company, within the role: What is representational of your learner? Go with the median, not the average. Averages can fool you. Ten years of experience within pharmaceutical sales with specific experience in three different therapeutic areas: cardiovascular, primary care, and gastroenterology. Shifted to selling biologics three years ago.
Biggest challenges on the job: Most roles have common challenges; find them and include them in your persona. ·       Pace—the days are long

·       Keeping up—there’s always more you could be reading to stay abreast of trends, issues, and competitors

What she values most about the role? What motivates this person regarding the role? What makes her want to do this particular job? Your training can acknowledge both challenges and values. ·       Being credible

·       Knowing her product helps patients have a better quality of life

·       Hitting goals she sets for herself

Workday flow: How does a day go from start to finish? Your training should reflect understanding of the workday flow. ·       Because her territory is urban, Stephanie may schedule as many as eight appointments in a day.

·       She’s up at 6 a.m., with her kids getting up at 6:30. She starts her “work” day around 7:30 and often ends as late as 10 p.m., although she may take a break in the late afternoon.

·       Evenings vary. If there is a professional meeting, she could be dining with healthcare providers (HCPs) at that meeting. If there’s no meeting, she could be planning calls for the next day, entering notes into Salesforce, catching up on reading, or responding to emails.

Sales call flow: Be clear on how the rep sells the product you are helping her learn about. Learn how much time a good sales call takes. Map what you believe reps need to know and know how to do with what they will actually use in a sales call.

Types of calls made in a typical day: Find out how many types of sales calls there are. If there are several different call types, make sure your training program reflects this reality.

·       Calls need to follow a “ladder” process. Early calls have different sales call objectives than later sales calls. The ladder is a six-call process. Each “rung” of the ladder has a specific call objective and message associated with it.

·       Call lengths vary from five minutes to 20 minutes.

·       Early calls focus on educating HCPs on the product category. Later calls focus on providing information on the specific product being sold.

·       There are two categories of customers: clinicians and pharmacy.

·       Getting from the bottom of the ladder to the top may take anywhere from six weeks to a few months’ time.

Devices and how they are used during the flow of a day: Design for the device that reps use the most. ·       Uses laptop in early mornings and late evenings. Does planning activities; documents information in Salesforce; takes e-learning courses (because they’re not available for phone or tablet).

·       Phone is constantly in her hand throughout her day. She uses it to track appointments, check and respond to emails and voice messages, and put quick notes into Salesforce between calls.

·       Uses tablet to pull sales aids up on tablet when talking with HCPs, if needed and appropriate.

Where self-paced training will be completed: Setting matters because it tells you how distracted reps are likely to be, how much time is realistic to allocate for any self-paced segments, and whether sound is a good or bad option to include. ·       Wherever she can squeeze it in. Usually she’s at home, later in the evening while she sips some herbal tea or has a glass of wine. She may also start her day with it, leaving it to a Friday when she does more home office work.

·       If she had access through a phone, she could do small bits between sales calls or while grabbing some lunch.

Games played and amount of time spent playing them: Ask your targets what games they play, how much time they spend playing them, and how frequently they play. ·       Stephanie is slightly embarrassed to admit it, but she is completely addicted to Candy Crush and other simple mobile games like it. It’s almost a stress reliever for her. She’ll play it whenever she’s in line or waiting.

·       She also really likes playing board games with her kids; it’s great family time.

The Next Step

Once you gather the information, your next step is to convert this into a more concise format that’s useful to your team. Learner personas are often shown to a team as presentation slides or printed so they can be posted on a workroom wall for ongoing reference throughout design and development of the learning solution. When you create your personas, search for images that capture their essence and help you think of the real learners represented by the personas.

Create your own learner persona with our learner persona worksheet. Reference our example profile above as you go along.

How to Design a Complex Training Curriculum in 10 Steps

We’ve barely gotten past the title and this article is already misleading. Make no mistake: there’s nothing simple about designing a complex training curriculum. And it takes more than 10 steps.

These days, we find ourselves working with more and more clients who need support with a major product launch or another rollout of some kind. These projects are huge in scope. Hours of training must be created for a wide range of learner roles.

Situations like these can make tools like our learner persona worksheet a little less useful, to be honest. What’s the point of spending lots of time analyzing the target learner and creating a persona when there are 10+ personas that need to be created? Who has the budget for that? When we took participants through a learner persona activity in our Sales Enablement and Beyond Webinar, the feedback was “We don’t have time create personas because there would be too many. Training can never be designed to meet the needs of all of these personas!”

These challenges are real. But they don’t change the fact that organizations have major product launches, and they need to teach a wide variety of roles (sales, support, customers, etc) how to use these products. For example, a medical device launch needs to include training for sales reps, support technicians, MSLs, every HCP who interacts with the device, and sometimes even patients. Oftentimes this only scratches the surface. For example, a recent medical device product launch we supported had 14 different roles that needed training!

Here is a generalized version of the steps we take when designing a complex training curriculum for a client.

1. Clarify the process

Most product launches have aspects of their timeline that are already set. Is there a launch meeting already scheduled? When is the medical device first used with a patient? These touch points should be included in the curriculum design, with learning solutions created to support them.

2. Identify the roles

Make stakeholders agree on what roles are impacted by the product launch. As I mentioned above, it’s not uncommon for a medical device or pharma launch to have 10+ roles that need some form of training. It will take time to winnow down what training each role really needs, but listing them all out is a good way to start.

3. Look for ways to group similar roles

Every role probably has its own unique characteristics. But are there any obvious groupings? For example, you could group all employees of the medical device company together as one group and all HCPs as a separate group. To get more granular, try separating sales roles from service roles, surgeons and doctors from RNs and healthcare support staff, etc.

4. Figure out who does what, when

This is where things get a little more complicated. You’ll need to map out all the steps each role takes when interacting with the product. How do they sell it, support it, or use it with patients? Are they already slated to attend a product launch meeting or separate training event for HCPs?

5. Decide what success looks like

This part of the process is pretty standard for most learning and performance consulting methods. Before going further, you need to know what your overall training goal is and what learners must know, do, believe or avoid doing to reach that goal.

You might easily have over 100+ individual learning objectives for a complex product launch curriculum. You can reduce the complexity by grouping similar learning objectives into sub-topics.

6. Look for overlapping objectives

Once you have defined learning objectives for each role, you will probably notice some commonalities. For example, Role A, B and C might all have some learning objectives in common. These objectives can be covered in a single learning solution that all of the roles take. For solutions like these, it is important to think about how to branch the learning by role. For example, pre-work eLearning can allow learners to self-select their role and see content that is relevant to them.

7. Map out solutions for one key role

Start with a role that has the most learning objectives to meet. Map out a learning pathway that works within the product launch activities already scheduled, such as the product launch meeting or a training event for HCPs. Consider how pre-work can be used to introduce key objectives, and how training reinforcement tools can sustain the learning.

8. Continue with a second role

Now that you have mapped a learning path for your most hands-on role, try the same process with a second role. This time, look for ways to use the training events and modules you envisioned for the first role to also meet the needs of the second role. Is it possible to make the eLearning role-based, so learners select their role when they begin and take a personalized version of the training? For in-person meetings, can breakout sessions be used to split learners into relevant groups? It’s possible that the modules you imagined for the first role might change to accommodate the needs of another role.

9. Add other roles, opting out as needed

You’ll now be working down a list of learner roles who most likely need less training than your primary roles. Look for places where the learning objectives for these roles overlap with the primary roles. If a module exists with objectives this role does not need to meet, let them skip it. If they have unique objectives that have not yet been covered, consider a learning solution that can help them meet these objectives. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a course; a reinforcement app or tutorial library might do the trick.

10. Create a curriculum map

Sound like lots of information to organize? It is! If you put the learning path of every role on a single chart, it would be almost unreadable. This is why we often create an interactive curriculum map to show the product launch phases and training modules for each role. An interactive map is advantageous because you can click a specific role to only see their learning path.

How to Target Training to Learner Personas (Free Worksheet)

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You want to make your training engaging… but why? Common sense tells us that engaging training is more likely to be successful. Blogs like this one share examples of award-winning training all the time, and it’s what people talk about at learning conferences as well. But sometimes us learning professionals do all the talking.

What do learners want?

If you found your way to the training field through a sales or marketing background, you probably already know what a buyer persona is. Here’s Hubspot’s definition:

 A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.

But what about your target learners? Have you ever a created a persona for them? Do you know what motivates them, or what types of learning solutions will motivate them most? You might have assumptions or hunches, but don’t take that at face value. Here’s our definition of a learner persona, based off of Hubspot’s buyer persona description:

A semi-fictionalized representation of your target learners. You base them on research you do plus data that exist. They help you create a training experience that aligns with the realities and preferences of your learners.

So how do you create a Learner Persona? You might consider information like this:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnic group
  • Years’ experience in role
  • Years’ experience with your company
  • Household income (estimate a range)
  • College background
  • LinkedIn presence
  • Marital status / family status

Demographic information helps paint the picture, but you still need to dig deeper. Here are some other questions to ask when creating your learner persona:

  • What’s a typical day like?
  • What makes the role challenging?
  • What values drive and motivate the employee?
  • What gaming experiences are typical? (If you are designing a game. Otherwise, change this to “training” or “learning.”)
  • What device experiences are typical?
  • If the learners are sales reps, what does a sales call really look like?
  • Is every call the same? How do they vary?
  • How should training be designed to optimize this transfer into the learners’ world?

It takes time and research just to get accurate demographic information, and asking those deeper questions about the target learner can be daunting. We’ll be leading a group through the exercise this week at the LTEN Annual Conference during our “Sales Enablement and Beyond” session, and we will give a shorter version of the session on June 22nd as a Lessons on Learning Webinar.

Learner Persona Worksheet

Want to create your own learner personas? Our worksheet lets you check to see what questions you are currently asking about learners, see a sample learner persona and create a persona of your own.

4 Steps to Sales Enablement Success Using Games

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Sales training professionals play a critical role in their organizations. Whether an organization has highly educated reps selling complex products or sales representatives helping customers in a high turnover retail environment, sales enablement is the key to a healthy sales pipeline.

We find that many organizations have similar challenges when it comes to sales enablement. They need their reps to communicate value, not features and benefits, through asking the right questions and telling a compelling story. They need to avoid competing on price, which is what customers use to make decisions when they can’t tell any real difference in value. And they need to quickly ramp up on new products after they are launched.

These challenges are amplified in the competitive, highly regulated life science and medical device space. If you come from an organization in this space, you are faced with providing excellent sales enablement plus navigating issues such as the healthcare shift from volume to value, a more complex sales process and a shift from 1:1 selling to physicians to strategic account management and selling to the C-suite.

It all comes down to this: Preparing sales reps and account managers for success in an increasingly challenging environment.

It takes a blend of learning solutions to meet most sales enablement objectives, but game-based learning is often part of the mix. For example, a sales enablement curriculum about a new product might include gamified online learning as prework, games and roleplay activities at the launch event and a mobile reinforcement game available post-launch.

If you think a game will work well with your reps, consider the following:

1. What is my business objective?

This should come before anything else!

2. Who are my learners?

Learner Personas, similar to Buyer Personas, provide a semi-fictionalized representation of your target learners. Take the time to create rock-solid personas before designing the training itself.

3. What are my learning objectives?

As with any learning solution, you must have a clear picture of what reps should know/do/believe/avoid doing after the training. This will impact the design of your game.

4. What game mechanics/elements best link to my learning objectives?

Once you know your learning objectives, match them to the game mechanics and game elements that best support those objectives. You should also use your learner persona(s) to decide what type of game your target learners will most benefit from.

Access our recorded webinar to learn more

We cover this information and more in our Sales Enablement and Beyond webinar. It’s part of our ongoing Lessons on Learning Webinar Series.

Benchmark Your Training With Our Learning Solution Scorecard

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All training is designed to help target learners improve their performance, but that’s not where the story ends. Stakeholders and training vendors are also judged by the success or failure of a learning solution.

We all have a lot to gain when training meets its intended goal. And we have just as much to lose when it doesn’t. When learning solutions are successful, job performance improves, satisfaction increases, the business meets its goals, and L&D professionals receive more budget (!) to make an even greater impact.

And when training fails to improve performance, well… we won’t get into that.

The definition of a successful learning solution can be subjective. There isn’t a consistent rubric to measure learning solutions against each other to see which ones are the best. Award programs like Brandon Hall and CLO help with this to some extent, but unless you plan to submit every learning solution you create for an award, benchmarking is tough.

That’s why we created our Learning Solution Scorecard. We introduce it to clients at the beginning of every project to coach them on what factors will make their training succeed. We use it at the end of projects to measure their success. And we use the scorecard during a project to make sure we’re headed in the right direction.

By scoring learning solutions across four categories, we are able to assess whether they are Performance Accelerating, Performance Promoting or Performance Demoting.

Is the learning solution meaningful?

Meaningful learning solutions are linked to a clearly defined business problem or need. They are designed with the needs and motivations of target learners in mind and have a clear learning solution goal that defines what learners need to do differently based on the training.

Is it memorable?

When we say memorable, we mean that learners should be able to remember what they learned and apply it on the job. The scorecard checks for a variety of instructional design approaches based on learning science to make sure the learning solution maximizes retention and recall.

Is it engaging?

By understanding the target learner, we can create solutions they will find engaging. The scorecard checks to verify that the learning materials have high production value and use innovative approaches where appropriate to enhance the learning experience.

Is it supported post-training?

Learners need more than one touch-point to remember new information and skills. The scorecard verifies that mechanisms are in place to ensure performance on the job. It also makes sure supervisors encourage and monitor the learner’s efforts in applying the learning.

Get the scorecard

How Gestalt Can Help You Create Better Training: This Month on #BLPLearn

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Welcome back to our #BLPLearn blog series, where we offer a monthly look at design and technology as it pertains to learning and development. I’m your host, Jake Huhn… Senior Marketing Technologist at Bottom-Line Performance.

Let’s Talk About Gestalt Principles

Learning design and graphic design sometimes feel like two distant worlds. When you’re building a course—or working with a vendor—and you’re responsible for results, it can make graphic design seem like a trivial afterthought. You’re concerned with making sure every word is perfect, and making sure every step is explained thoroughly, and making sure you provide accurate definitions. Where’s the time to worry about how “pretty” that screen looks?

But I want to encourage you to make graphic design a higher priority—and there’s science to back me up.

Gestalt-training

It all has to do with Gestalt Principles of Organization. “The Gestalt principles of organization involve observations about the ways in which we group together various stimuli to arrive at perceptions of patterns and shapes.” [Gestalt Principles of Organization] These principles are essentially graphic design 101, and every designer should at least be familiar with them. And researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia have shown how Gestalt theory can help improve learning:

“The new screen designs were then evaluated by asking students and others to compare the designs. The viewers were also asked to rate directly the value of using the eleven Gestalt design principles in the redesign, both for improving the product’s appearance and improving its value for learning.The evaluation results were overwhelmingly positive. Both the new design and the value of applying the eleven Gestalt laws to improve learning were strongly supported by the students’ opinions.”

These researchers aren’t alone, either. Other research has shown how these principles facilitate Visual Working Memory, an essential part of learning and other cognitive processes.

Implications for Learning Design

As a graphic designer, I gravitate towards how beautiful, clean design can improve learners’ comprehension of a course… but there’s more that Gestalt theory can offer learning designers. Gestalt is more than graphic design, it’s an entire psychology of perception—and it can improve more than just looks.

Consider what Gestalt theory teaches us about Similarity. Learning is facilitated if similar ideas are treated and linked together and then contrasted with opposing or complementary sets of ideas.

It can also shape the way you challenge your learners (think quizzing). “The Gestalt theory of learning purports the importance of presenting information or images that contain gaps and elements that don’t exactly fit into the picture. This type of learning requires the learner to use critical thinking and problem solving skills. Rather than putting out answers by rote memory, the learner must examine and deliberate in order to find the answers they are seeking.” [Gestalt Theory (von Ehrenfels)]

And bringing it back to where we started, the graphic design of your learning solution (the proximity of text to images, the negative space, the clean lines) is yet another piece of the puzzle when it comes to facilitating proper learning. If you organize your information and images according to these principles, your learning solution will look beautiful and be more effective.

So Take the Time to Learn About Gestalt Theory

I hope I’ve made the case that taking graphic design 101 can actually benefit your learning design. There is a lot of information on the web—from either universities or graphic design authorities—that can help give you an overview of Gestalt principles in design. A great starting point is this Designer’s Guide to Gestalt Theory on Creative Bloq. From there you can dive into the actual psychology and even explore eLearning Industry’s website for more industry specific coverage.

References

Chang, Dempsey, Laurence Dooley, and Juhani E. Tuovinen. “Gestalt Theory in Visual Screen Design: A New Look at an Old Subject.” Proceedings of the Seventh World Conference on Computers in Education Conference on Computers in Education: Australian Topics 8 (2002). Accessed March 27, 2016. http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=820062.

“Gestalt Theory (von Ehrenfels).” Learning-Theories.com. 2014. Accessed March 27, 2016. http://www.learning-theories.com/gestalt-theory-von-ehrenfels.html.

Peterson, Dwight J., and Marian E. Berryhill. “The Gestalt Principle of Similarity Benefits Visual Working Memory.” Psychon Bull Rev. 20, no. 6 (December 20, 2013): 1282-289. Accessed March 27, 2016. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3806891/#R23.

“Gestalt Principles of Organization.” Psychology Encyclopedia. 2013. Accessed March 27, 2016. http://psychology.jrank.org/pages/278/Gestalt-Principles-Organization.html.

Why “70:20:10” Is Not Enough


In a recent article, Bill Brandon speculates that we’ve hit a tipping point in the workplace. Learning demands placed on workers have exceed workers’ capacity to meet them. In other words, we are inundating today’s workers with training. Then we’re asking them to complete all of it while still maintaining high levels of productivity! This really struck a chord with me… because I see it happening again and again in our clients’ organizations.

I liked Brandon’s article and tweeted it out, saying it was a nice piece… and it was. However, I found myself going back to it and feeling like Brandon neglected a very important point. He advocated for us to think about three elements that all contribute to our accomplishments and performance in the workplace:

  • Skills and knowledge
  • Shared experience (things gleaned from others, informal learning we do via social networks, interactions with peers, etc.)
  • Individual experience (things we learn by doing)

Brandon felt that if L&D professionals thought less in terms of “courses” and used the 70-20-10 “rule of thumb” to consider how to help someone build competence, then we’d be better off. (Caution flag here: 70-20-10 is NOT a proven model. The person who originally coined the phrase has described it as “folklore”. See page 5 of this journal article written by the originator of 70-20-10, Morgan McCall.) Brandon advocated that we embrace social learning and learning pathways as the means of reducing stress and burnout.

The Elephant in the Room

While I do not disagree that avenues other than courses can be hugely valuable in helping build people’s proficiencies, I realized that the article failed to mention the elephant in the stress/burnout room. The elephant is time, or rather lack thereof. Learning takes time, whether we do it informally or formally. In today’s workplaces, we’re pushing people to do more and more. We are failing to acknowledge what this “more and more” often means: we are asking people to go way beyond 40 hours in their work week to do the learning required to build and maintain proficiency and to do the work that contributes to company profits.

Harold Jarche had it right when he said that in today’s economy, work is learning and learning is the work. That is the model employers and employees have to get into our heads—learning on the job is simply part of doing our jobs.

To manage stress and minimize burnout, we have to incorporate “learning curve” into the work people do. We have to factor this learning curve into the time things will take to complete and the amount someone will accomplish in a day or a week. And because people are constantly figuring out how to do something while they are working on their projects, we have to build in this constant “learning curve” into our expectations of what people will accomplish and how fast they will accomplish it.

In My Experience

I run a business and our formula for billable time is not 40 hours a week. Depending on the team member’s role, we estimate that 80% of their time can be devoted to billable tasks. The remainder is allocated to learning and administrative tasks. Giving people time to learn on the job is essential in an industry where we need to stay on the leading edge of what’s possible. At BLP, we have communities-of-practice that employees belong to in order to share skills. We also have periodic all-company “demo-fests” where we share out projects with each other. On top of all that, we have periodic formal courses that people will attend to build skills in niche areas. All these things take time…in addition to the constant learning someone does in the course of executing projects.

So Bill Brandon, I most definitely agree that we can and should think beyond formal courses in helping people build proficiency. But we cannot do so – even via informal means – if we fail to acknowledge that we have to build the time in for people to learn. Even looking something up requires time.

Should Instructional Designers “Teach to the Test”?

Teach to the Test

There is a lot of angst these days in the education field about “teaching to the test.” It started in K-12 but it’s crept into corporate speak as well. Some say that tests are no longer relevant. They are viewed as hold-overs of an out-of-touch education system. A growing bandwagon of people are saying that they want to help people learn to problem-solve and do critical thinking… and not just memorize facts.

In the corporate world, people really do need to recall facts to do their jobs well. There are plenty of times where being able to “Google it” is not enough: they need to know it if they want to perform their job efficiently and/or safely. In compliance and safety situations, we need some objective verification that they do know it before they are allowed to perform the job. This is needed both to satisfy OSHA regulations and as a way to protect the employee and business.

Case in Point

I sat on a materials review call for a course we are developing within the healthcare industry. This particular scenario asks quite a bit from the learner:

  1. They need to be able to recall the steps to performing a variety of tasks.
  2. They need to select the appropriate tools to do specifics jobs.
  3. They need to be able to correctly put on personal protective equipment (PPE) when entering spaces where high-risk infections are present.
  4. They need to know what protective equipment is required in specific situations, which means they need to recognize different signage located outside patient rooms.

The entire course concludes with a certification test. The test directly links to what this role needs to know…and know how to do. I was concerned to hear a materials reviewer push to add course content that was not going to be part of the test.  This reviewer said, “We need to go beyond teaching to the test.” The implication was that we would fail the learner if we only include content that will be on the test. In essence, we want to give them a smorgasbord of information and heighten their competency by doing so.

What's Wrong with the Test

What’s Wrong With The Test?

We act as if it is shameful if we “only” teach to a test, but why? I suspect many of us believe that we are dumbing things down if we do just focus on a test. Perhaps we are afraid that teaching to a test limits our ability to deliver a rich, meaningful experience that elevates the general abilities of the learner. Too often, we want to turn people into the experts that we are rather than arming them with basic proficiency to do their jobs well.

What’s the risk? If we mix nice-to-know and need-to-know content, learners will likely experience cognitive overload. Worse, we risk them remembering some of the irrelevant information at the expense of the most relevant information.*

What Does “Good” Look Like?

A good test should be an accurate assessment of the body of knowledge learners need to know to perform their jobs. If appropriate, it should also assess the skills people have or their decision-making ability when judgment is a component of executing the job. It should only assess the knowledge and skill required to do the job. Courses that are designed to teach steps, processes, and the “why’s” behind those steps and processes need to keep their focus laser-sharp. People can only remember so much.

If it is essential that workers recall a specific body of knowledge and apply that knowledge to the execution of a set of procedures and processes then, please, don’t include anything that is not essential to them.

The problem is not tests. The problem is bad tests. Bad tests contain irrelevant material. Bad tests are poorly worded. Bad tests are too easy or too hard. Bad tests are not comprehensive, covering all the knowledge and skills critical to a job or situation.

Please do teach to the test… But only if you want to verify that people gained the skill and knowledge you have defined as essential to successful performance of the job.

—-

*- Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer, The Science of Instruction, New Jersey: Pfeiffer, 2011.

Maybe you have a training need that requires some additional analysis? You can use our free Training Needs Analysis Worksheet to get to the heart of the matter.