SME web comic

I can take absolutely no credit for this. I have a printed copy taped up near my desk, and I think clearly shows the number one conflict between SMEs and IDs.  SMEs want to pass on all knowledge immediately because it is all important and necessary. IDs want to organize that into comfortable chunks for the learners.

To give credit, this is from one of my favorite blogs, Usable Learning.

Sorry about the quality, I scanned in my copy!



We've all had to sit through this course...

We've all had to sit through this course...

Asking the right questions during design to track down elusive content

As a first-time BLP blogger, I was very eager to lock down my e-learning topic and join the ranks of my fellow bloggers. Last week, I determined my three blog topics for the month, all focused on curriculum design and development. I felt good identifying my first topic: designing an e-learning course with little to no content in sight, and then…do you know what happened next? Ironically, I had created the topic and struggled with…the content. I can’t escape!

So, I did what I always do…begin the “content inquisition.”

Don’t get me wrong! I never start designing an e-learning solution from a content-driven approach. My first step is to focus on desired outcomes: what do learners need to know and/or know how to do after completing the course? What should they believe? What will success look like? Will they do their jobs differently, and if so, how?

Once I have the answers to all of these questions, I begin the content discussion. If you want learners to DO this, what content should we share with them? Why? How will THIS content help learners DO that? It is the battle between the “must-include content” and the “nice-to-include content.”

Dr. Ruth Clark wrote about removing the “nice to have” content (and avoiding cognitive overload) in her book, e-Learning and the Science of Instruction and in an article called Design Strategies: Efficiency in e-Learning: Proven Instructional Methods for Faster, Better, Online Learning she co-wrote for the E-Learning Guild’s e-magazine. Although the article is about five years old, it is still one of my all-time faves. Check it out at:

My goal, after the dust settles, is to have a clean, concise list of content that obviously supports the desired course outcomes. Then, the real fun begins…finding this content! The inquisition continues….

  1. Can we review any of this content before we finalize the course design?
  2. How many different “sources” should we rely on? (Websites, books, existing training, subject matter experts, etc.)?
  3. What % of the content exists in a written format and just needs to be inserted “as is” in the program (existing procedure, for instance)?
  4. What % of the content exists, but is from existing training, guidance documents or other written sources and needs to be edited and/or repackaged?
  5. What % of the content exists, but is not in a written format (i.e., a subject matter expert knows it)?
  6. What % of the content needs to be created from scratch and may not need to be discussed and agreed upon prior to “releasing” for use in the program?

If the majority of the content is already available and easily accessible, I feel really good about finalizing the design with the help of a content map. If I can map the existing content to the course objectives, I’ll have a clearer vision of the course overall course structure, length, and types of learner interactions. I can also easily identify content gaps and “nice-to-have content” that might try and sneak into my design!

If the majority of the content does NOT exist, I recommend incorporating a content gathering step into the design phase of the project. I’ve learned that a more robust design leads to an easier and more successful development phase on an e-learning project.

So…how do you create a solid e-learning course design when the content you need to support the course objectives is…mysterious?

Lean times call for creative solutions

I read yesterday that during times of economic recession people actually become healthier. The reason is that during fiscally tight times people tend to drink and smoke less to save money. They also head outdoors for lower cost and healthier entertainment such as hiking. Yesterday on the BLP LOL Live webinar about Moodle, we heard that quite a few organizations are interested in Moodle due to budget constraints. As Lisa pointed out in her post Leveraging Learning, informal learning is gaining popularity at least in part due to the economic crunch as some organizations can’t or won’t pay for a formal learning solution.

Implementing Moodle as an LMS or social networking as a tool for sharing knowledge still has a learning curve and costs associated with them. They’re not necessarily easy to implement. The implementation process will take time and require new learning by staff. BLP invested 160 hours to set up our Moodle site, load three courses and 16 users. The folks on the project learned a lot along the way and at the end of the day we have quite a nice tool for a relatively low cost. Likewise designing and implementing an informal learning solution is new territory for most organizations. It will take time to properly design it and educate users as to how to use it. However, you gain a cost effective and useful tool. One of my favorite options on Moodle is the ability to identify a peer by area of expertise. I remember a manager once complained how she spent an hour and a half making five phone calls to find the person who could help her use the company’s accounting software. It would have been nice if she could have performed a two second search to locate the right person or search a discussion board that may have had the answer to her question.

By saving money and increasing the utility of new tools we can stay financially fit and implement effective solutions. I’d like to hear your stories. How has the need to tighten the budget helped you develop solutions that make your company or department fiscally fit while improving knowledge sharing?

What do your learners want from the LMS?

You have very specific wants and needs for your learning management system. You need to be able to track who took what course. You want to be able to automatically assign courses to learners. And so you pick a solution that fit your needs. But did you stop to ask what your learners want?

The best LMS won’t help you if your end-users, your learners, hate it. You need to test your LMS from your learners perspective. Some questions to ask yourself:


  • How do you know what courses are assigned to you? 
  • Where do you see the courses you’ve completed? 
  • How do you take the test or complete the electronic signature requirement?
  • When do you learn about new courses as they become available?
  • How can you add a course to your learning plan?


When you’re testing, document what’s easy to use and what features your struggle with. Then, you’ll want to make an implementation plan. The eLearning Guild offers a great list of tips for implementing your LMS with your learners in mind. Check out their 339 Tips, paying particular attention to Section IX, Tips on Training Users. There are several great suggestions, including:


  • Explain what the learning management system can do for them and why they should use it.
  • Consider only implementing the easiest features, adding more complex functionality over time.
  • Train, train, train!
After all, with any new technology, learners need some help. Check out this great video that I got from a friend in Norway that puts it in perspective.

This Made My Day

I am a huge history buff. I minored in history in college, just for fun. Give me a good biography about a historical figure, and I’m set for the evening. So when I discovered Historical Tweets, I fell in love!

Historical Tweets combines my love of history with the feeling “I just don’t get the point of twitter”. You can see exactly how useless 140 characters can be in the hands of historical figures, from Lincoln to Napoleon, to Neil Armstrong.

Definitely check out Mozart and, of course, Ben Franklin.

And just to get you started, here’s one in honor of our nation’s birthday this month.

Webinar Nightmare

Usually, I try to bring you something funny to do with training. This month, I have something a little different to offer, a true story that is funny only because it didn’t happen to me.

I have a friend who shall remain nameless that had a miserable facilitation experience. As a customer support representative, he was tasked with offering a group of his customers a webinar to demonstrate the software they used. His job had nothing to do with training up until this point, but the monthly webinars rotated in his department. Even though it was his first month on the job, it was his turn to lead.

As you can probably guess, the webinar did not go as planned. (Do they ever?) There were several technical glitches, outside of his control. For better or worse, his company’s VP was sitting with him as he struggled through the online presentation. And when he returned to his desk, he found that a disgruntled participant had emailed his entire department, letting them know exactly how unskilled she found him to be. That’s right, a flaming four-paragraph email which stopped just short of calling him an idiot.

Thankfully, the VP realized it wasn’t his facilitation but the platform that was at fault. By the time I heard the story, he had determined he wasn’t going to be fired. He even could almost see the humor in the situation. 

He’s up for another presentation this month. Keep your fingers crossed that there isn’t a freak electrical storm that takes out the system. Because that’s really just his luck…

A New Use for Post-Its

We often use Post-Its, in our design meetings and just our day-to-day work. Here’s a use I’ve not seen  before, but perhaps I may steal the idea for the future.

Anyone want to guess how many Post-its? Or how long it took to cover the whole car?

Training Gone Wrong – LOL

I don’t know about you, but I love Dilbert. More accurately, I love Dogbert. I’ve been reading Dilbert cartoons since I was in high school and had my first office job. In fact, Dilbert actually taught me how to survive that office job. And so, when I discovered the animated version this morning, I was thrilled.

Enjoy Scott Adam’s take on Sensitivity Training!


Something Fun for the Week

I know I’m going to spend way too much time using this week’s tool. I had a colleague send me this. She received it from Elliott Masie‘s e-newsletter and I have to admit, he’s found something really entertaining and educational. For those of you who know your Myers-Briggs score, you can now find out the scores of your favorite blogs and websites using Typealyzer.

Just for fun, I ran Microsoft. The site came back as ESTJ, or Gaurdians, which basically means organized and efficient. So of course, I then ran Apple. That site came back as ESTP, or Doers, a more playful, entergetic and slightly hyper-active personality. I’m not saying it’s a perfect match, but it was interesting that each company did recieve a different profile.

Oh, and if you’re curious, I also ran our BLP LOL Blog. We came back as INTJ or Scientists. I’m not sure I completely agree with all aspects of the description, but it definitely has some bit of truth.

Try your website or blog and let me know what you think of your results!

Learning design and development statistics…do you agree?

How much time does it take to develop a training course?

The answer, of course, is that it depends – on a lot of things:

  • The media you are using.
  • The length of the course or solution.
  • The complexity of the media being used as part of the learning solution. (An animation takes longer to build than a static image with some text on it.)
  • The complexity and availability of content.
  • The desired outcomes (learner awareness vs. learner skill development/appication)
  • The number of people involved in its development
  • What’s already known about the audience, the task, the need, the gaps, etc.

Here’s a bit of data from Bryan Chapman at Brandon Hall research on “average” development times for different media. The data is culled from surveys of learning professionals and was reported by Brandon-Hall in its reports. See if the hours match your own experiences:

34:1 Instructor-Led Training (ILT), including design, lesson plans, handouts, PowerPoint slides, etc.

33:1 PowerPoint to E-Learning Conversion. Not sure why it takes less time then creating ILT, but that’s what we discovered when surveying 200 companies about this practice

220:1 Standard e-learning which includes presentation, audio, some video, test questions, and 20% interactivity

345:1 Time it takes for online learning publishers to design, create, test and package 3rd party courseware

750:1 Simulations from scratch. Creating highly interactive content

I would assume the 33:1 for PowerPoint to e-learning conversion is what most closely correlates to Tom Kuhlman’s references to “rapid development” of e-learning since I know it’s not the 220:1 ratio reported by those Brandon-Hall surveyed.

Does this match your own experiences?  How much time DOES it take to develop learning…and which tasks consume the most time? Our experience points to reviews and revisions consuming large chunks of time…and managing the process of reviews and revisions. What about you?