Effective Feedback: How to Gather and Deliver Feedback Through eLearning

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In eLearning design, assessments flow both ways, with learners “giving as good as they get.” Instructional designers learn quickly that a format of click, click, click, followed by more mind-numbing clicks with a test at the end garners disastrous results. The results show up in learner surveys and lame test scores. We’ll look at how to gather effective feedback, which is prologue to improvement, and how to give constructive feedback. The best feedback is built into the course. The challenge is to give and get feedback that serves the end user—the learner, and ultimately, the enterprise—by increasing the effectiveness of the module.

Delivering Feedback to Learners

When you deliver feedback is just as important as how you deliver it. Incremental/instant feedback is the most powerful because it allows the learner to make immediate corrections and/or review the information while it’s still fresh in his or her mind (as long as you haven’t locked the navigation).

  • Games, assessments, and tests offer immediate feedback to the learner.
  • Badges give feedback and recognition to the learner.
  • Provide ‘feedback’ to assessments through branching.
  • Game stats not only provide feedback but also provide the learner with an idea of where he or she places relative to other learners.

Tips for Gathering Feedback from Learners

Gathering useful feedback is what will make your eLearning evaluation succeed. Getting good feedback is all about asking the right questions at the right time and evaluating scores objectively. At the end of a module, learners just “want outta here,” so if you can ask questions as the training progresses, you’re likely to get more useful information. I know, it breaks the protocol, but you want serious, constructive feedback.

  • You’re not still asking, “What did you like most/least about the course,” are you? More important than what the learners like or don’t like is how engaging they found the course and if they will be able to use the knowledge they’ve acquired. Try asking, “What was the most useful/least useful thing you learned in the course,” or “What piece of knowledge will you put to use immediately/never”?
  • If you’re concerned about any portion of your eLearning, ask questions that target your concern immediately after that section of the training.
  • Sometimes you don’t even have to ask. If you offer a test and everyone fails the test, what does that tell you? If your gamification stats are miserable, they’re probably an indication that the game elements are not effective in converting information to real-world situations.

Educational Playbook: What Corporate America Could Learn from MOOCs

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Perhaps one of the most disruptive education strategies of all time, MOOC’s bring learning to the masses. Massive open online courses do what no other institution or method can promise: Allowing literally hundreds of thousands access to education and training once reserved for the post-secondary elite. But they’re not just restricted to Engineering 101 and Introduction to Spanish: MOOCs mean greater access to education in any number of topics.

Unfortunately, corporate America has yet to hop on fast-moving MOOC train just yet – even though it makes perfect sense. Wondering what your training is lacking right now? Learn from the massive success of MOOCs to put a casual spin on your L&D and watch your learners engage on a massive level.

The MOOC Revolution

Despite the fact that they were borderline non-existent just two years ago, MOOC’s have completely changed the educational game. Gone are the days where you’d need be accepted to Harvard to take advantage of Harvard ed: Today, the esteemed school is spending $60 million to develop courses with MIT for MOOC site edX.

It works like this: An institution supplies a MOOC: The curriculum, grading and topics for a specific course. Learners can register for classes – sometimes on a schedule basis, sometimes at their own leisure – and then reap the benefits of a share and share alike learning culture. The result is a less-strict learning environment, where students collaborate in a more casual, lower-pressure setting.

What MOOCs Got Right

While it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to education, MOOCs are knocking it out of the park in a number of ways. First and foremost, MOOC’s respect the learner: Because students dictate the courses for which they register, they’re not being pelted with unnecessary or “been there, done that” information. Instead of years of training and education, they pick and choose what they need to further their education and knowledge base.

MOOC’s are also highly collaborative. Whether discussing topics in a MOOC forum or taking a course from an industry expert (instead of a professor), there’s a sense of community and peer-to-peer learning opportunities that more formal education can’t really match.

Finally, above all, MOOC’s are low-pressure, casual environments. From making your own schedule to mobile apps and working solo, MOOC’s take the best part of learning without the pomp and circumstance that can turn some students off of formal education and training. The possibilities for mLearning are tremendous, and the mobile capability of MOOC’s is what makes it so appealing to students.

Implementing Change

It’s pretty clear that corporate training has a lot to learn from the smashing success of MOOC’s as a whole. A MOOC-like philosophy can reach a new generation of learners, tapping into three main motivators:

  • A casual learning environment
  • Peer-to-peer experiences
  • Autonomy

What if, instead of a mandatory course, organizations allowed employees to choose from a menu of course options for training? Or, instead of formal conference room training sessions, learners could log onto a module from home, or share what they’ve learned with other students via forums. MOOC’s have managed to make a difference in how education is delivered and experienced and based on the huge demand, course designers are definitely on to something.

Will L&D ever catch up to MOOC’s in availability, experience and learner autonomy? Probably. New developments mean training is becoming more learner-centric, which can only mean good things for talent management and training. If current efforts seem to be striking out, taking a page from the MOOC playbook might mean setting up for a serious winning streak for any eLearning company or corporate training program.

The Value of Video for Instructional Design

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eLearning Modules with Video

Have you ever tried to teach someone how to swing a baseball bat using only your voice? What about describing the color red without any visual representation? Both are – if not completely impossible – definitely difficult.

Some things simply need to be seen to be understood. Perhaps that’s why video is such a vital part of an effective eLearning strategy: It shows learners things that are difficult to explain using text or audio alone. Adding video to your modules is a step toward creating a visual knowledge culture within an organization, making L&D efforts even more valuable.

Videos for Instructional Design

Check out some of the major benefits of using video as part of instructional design best practice:

  • Video engages learners in a way the audio and text cannot. Because learners are using several of their senses at once (sight, sound), they’re more likely to retain the information for future application.
  • Video breaks up the monotony that is all too characteristic of informational modules. Instead of reading through blocks of texts or disengaging with audio alone, movement and context brings the concepts to life for learners.
  • According to the Visual Teaching Alliance, 65 percent of your workforce is made up of visual learners: Individuals who learn best when shown a visual representation of a concept. Video respects those who need more than just words to absorb information.
  • Video can dramatically cut your training time. After all, you can show a technique much faster than telling, and learner grasp the technique even faster when shown.
  • Video increases demonstrable knowledge. When learners are shown as well as told, they’re more likely to leave training and apply that knowledge to their work, therefore increasing training ROI.

Convinced yet? If you’re not using video as part of your training, you’re only doing part of the job. Even with limited budgets and a lack of resources, you can still implement video as part of an opening or closing segment, as regular video updates (anyone can film on an iPhone) or as quick tutorials. It doesn’t need to be a Hollywood-caliber production, but simply a way to add new dimension and depth to your existing and future modules.

Video as a Learning Necessity

Some training simply falls flat when done without video. Consider compliance training: Teaching harassment or discrimination can be almost impossible without situational nuance and body language shown clearly. Whenever a learner needs to be aware of facial expression or situational awareness, video makes a clearer impression.

The same goes for technique or behavioral-based learning. You can tell your sales force how to accomplish a certain technique, but it won’t stick until their shown. Video training should be used any time there’s a physical component involved: How to act, how to respond or what to do.

Whatever your budget and capacity for video, it’s clear that you cannot afford to go without. Simply telling without the show could mean your training is only doing part of the job, and that your eLearning design needs expanding. Think about ways that you could add video to your existing modules and then, start planning to use video more in the future – whether you’re showing someone how to swing a bat or close a deal.

All Greek to SME: 5 Questions to Ask Your Subject Matter Expert Before Starting an eLearning Project

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The topics on which SME’s advise are about as diverse as the SME’s themselves. From tech to healthcare, education to software, your subject matter expert is there to add the meat to your eLearning module. When working with an SME, it’s your job to extract the necessary information and divide between the need-to-know and the nice-to-know. Luckily, no matter where your SME’s area of expertise lies, you can use the following questions to get high-quality, targeted information – no matter what the topic.

  1. What is the ultimate goal of the module?

Your SME should be able to explain the end goal of your eLearning projects. Whether it’s a better understanding of a certain concept, compliance training or learning a new behavior, you and your SME should be on the same page as the overall design and purpose of the course. Starting with this question sets the tone for the rest of your work together.

  1. Can you divide between informational and behavioral subject matter?

Not all learning is created equally. Sometimes, the module is purely informational: You learner needs additional knowledge. Other times, the goal is a change in behavior. In the end, your SME should be able to tell you what the learner should know and accomplish by the completion of the course.

  1. Why is the information important to the user?

Subject matter experts are fountains of knowledge and perspective, but there can definitely be a case of “too much of a good thing.” An SME can get so excited by a topic that their input becomes a data dump, leaving you to sift through and try to locate the right stuff. By asking your SME about the importance of the topic at the beginning of your collaboration, he or she is better prepped to share with you only the most relevant, targeted information.

  1. What are the learning objectives?

Who better to help you dial in on the learning objectives than the person most passionate about the material? Not only can discussing learning objectives help you extract better information, but it can help you create learning objectives that motivate and move your learners. By knowing how and when they’ll topically reach the end goal, learners are incentivized.

  1. Can progress be measured?

Your SME can tell you whether or not a learner’s proficiency can be measured after completing the modules. Sometimes, the answer is no: It’s difficult to measure purely knowledge-based subjects. If the information was behavioral, however, there may be ways to assess a learner’s knowledge absorption using simulations, testing and other assessment tools.

Consider your subject matter expert your partner in crime for the duration of the design. Ask the right questions and you’ll receive the information and insight you need to create the meatiest eLearning module possible.

Engagement Through Gamification

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It’s not a new story—educators through time have struggled with engaging learners. Today’s instructional designers must find a way to engage eLearners while developing skills or changing behaviors to meet the goals of the training. Learners and designers don’t interact during the learning, so running nails down the chalkboard isn’t an option to wake a snoozing audience. Utilizing corporate gamification can engage and even bring some fun to the learning experience.

Design the Game to Fit the Audience

If you’re new to the idea of instituting gamification at work, it might surprise you to learn that you need to turn a paradigm on its head. Instead of it being “all about the material and the goal of the training,” it’s really “all about the audience.” Engage your audience by identifying their characteristics and behaviors and matching the design experience to them, and they’ll learn. Don’t engage them, and you don’t have a chance of teaching them a thing. Are your learners Pacman or Pokémon people? Select an appropriate game and fit your material to the game, keeping your goal in mind.

Identify Appropriate Game Elements

Game elements should be consistent with the theme/tone of the training and across trainings. In the eLearning sphere, familiarity breeds comfort, not contempt. Imagine if clicking an app icon on your smartphone led to an unexpected result. Other factors to consider include:

  • Too many details and too much realism can disengage your eLearners.
  • The game is simply one component of the learning experience. It shouldn’t suck all the oxygen out of the air.
  • The design experience (the learners’ travels through the game) should be relevant to the work experience—that’s one reason to spend some time selecting the right game metaphor.
  • Ensure your interactivity is intuitive. If not, include explicit direction.

Gamification Quality Control

If you designed your game components with a clear plan to reach your goal, kept your audience in mind, and used the material you’ve been given (the cards you’ve been dealt) to reach the stated objectives of the trainings, the quality control phase will be relatively painless:

  1. Ensure your content is accurate and that you’ve made no mistakes in its presentation as you design.
  2. Take the journey from the learners’ point of view as you design.
  3. You’re familiar with the content, so call in the usual suspects to help you test when you’re finished designing. Test for engagement, usability, intuitiveness, etc., along with ensuring that the game engages and uses appropriate game elements.

5 Ways to go Beast Mode for Interactive Design

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Interactive design isn’t for the meek; it’s a hardcore way to engage learners and get the most out of every module. But some eLearning companies and programs don’t always seem to automatically lend themselves to interactive components: More serious topics included. If you really want to engage your learner, you’ll need to go beast mode in the design process, seeking out every opportunity for interaction and using the right media whenever possible. Here are some ways to unleash your inner design beast for the most captivating content possible.

  1. Consider Learner Tech

Here’s the thing: You might be pumped to use a new technology, but unless the learner has the means to receive and process that tech, it’s for nothing. If your learner only had the capability to view VHS tapes, you’d have to make your module compatible with VCRs, no matter what you’d prefer to use.

Always know what platforms and devices the learner will be using, otherwise your interactive components can and will fall flat without the capability to experience them.

  1. Focus on the Look and Feel First

Before you start plugging in content, lists and quizzes, make sure you first nail the overall look and feel of a module. After all, it’s hard to get a learner to engage when the interface is completely out-of-touch. By making sure that the user navigation, menu options, resources, gloassaries and buttons line up with a design aesthetic that learners respond to and love. Once the overall design, look and feel is accomplished, you’ve cleared a path for the main components.

  1. Respect the Learner

Are your learners going to be using the module in different languages? Have they already achieved a certain level of knowledge? The more you know about your learner, the more respectful you can be in designing engaging, interactive content. Catering to your learner on a personal level helps reduce boredom and frustration, two things that can turn any module with muscle into a 98-pound weakling.

  1. Choose Media Carefully

Sure, media is great: It breaks up the monotony of text-only eLearning. But not all media is created equally or appropriate for all modules, devices and platforms. Always choose media with your learner in mind and you’ll have a better chance at engagement. If a video doesn’t play or pictures won’t load, your learner gets frustrated and disengages.

Media – whatever you choose – should seamlessly play across a number of platforms, which means testing and retesting to make sure you got it right.

  1. Actively Look for Interactive Opportunities

Ready to go full beast mode with your design components? You need to actively seek and find areas where interaction is not only possible, but ideal. Find creative ways to bring content to life from a design perspective, like breaking text lists into image-based parts, or using an interactive quiz to close out a chapter. If something could be improved by getting a learner to interact with the module, indulge that interactivity and your eLearning program will be better for it.

Whether you’re a chief learning officer or eLearning project manager just starting your eLearning project or it’s nearing completion, you can become a total design beast by maxing out your interaction options. Bulking up your module with more user engagement is never a bad thing.

Selfish Screens and Other Deadly mLearning Design Sins

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Some things are just better in miniature form: Tiny chocolate bars; compact flash drives; miniature schnauzers. But if you haven’t properly planned for mLearning, the mobile and miniature version of your desktop module might fall end up a big fail. By taking into account the various devices and platforms used to view everything from video to interactive modules, you can plan ahead for future mLearning strategy – whether it’s a small thought or part of the big picture overall.

Selfish Screens

Is one type of screen hogging all the mLearning development? Even when the module you’re designing is meant to be viewed as a desktop application, keeping the propensity for mobile screens in mind will serve you in the future. Consider it “device proofing” your current efforts: By considering the way your module will look and feel on laptops, tablets and smartphones, you’re better able to plan for an mLearning strategy before it’s a hard reality. Additionally, keeping up with mobile learning trends is your best bet in order to stay ahead of the curve and avoid future pitfalls.

Rebuilding for mLearning

By avoiding the selfish secreen mentality, you can stock your module with media and interactivity to ensure that your module is compatible across a number of devices. Even if you don’t have a coherent mLearning strategy in place, future-proofing your module for a number of devices actually saves money in the long run. By ensuring compatibility, you reduce the need to revisit and redesign your module (after learning that it’s useless on an iPhone, natch).

A good designer builds a module once. The original design for the main delivery platform should leave plenty of room for the ability to share and deliver via mobile devices. Mobile learning applications shouldn’t just be readable, but just as interactive as their full-size counterparts.

Incompatible Media

Here’s one instance that we experienced recently: A client wanted a desktop module designed, opting out of mobile optimization. Later, that same client decided that he did, indeed, want the module to be playable on smartphones. Unfortunately, the chosen custom eLearning media and interactive tools simply weren’t compatible: Buttons were too small and formats didn’t jive, resulting in poor performance.

Creating an mLearning strategy is more than just telling learners to log in from their tablets. Instead, it requires compatible tools and formats, like HTML5, to be used throughout the design process, even before mLearning becomes an issue. After all, what’s the point of a mobile learning module if learners can’t interact with it?

Whether or not a desire for mLearning is expressed during the initial design meeting, compatibility for all devices should be a priority for the designer. Size does matter, especially where interaction, media and mobile strategy is concerned. It’s not enough to simply shrink down a full-sized module for smaller screens: mini doesn’t have to mean inferior. Instead, go for the small-but-mighty approach to make the most of any device or platform.

Seeds of Change: Using a Decision Tree to Grow Your mLearning Strategy

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If you’re realizing that you need an mLearning strategy – like, yesterday – you have a lot of decisions to make. Mobile learning is about much more than simply making your learning modules available on other devices: mLearning can be supplemental to existing efforts. Not sure where to start? Utilizing a decision tree can help you see the direction in which your mLearning strategy needs to grow. (Hint: It’s up.)

The mLearning Tree

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all mLearning strategy is the same, when in fact, your needs will determine your overall strategy. When looking over your options, consider what you really want your mLearning strategy to achieve. Which of the following goals are you trying to reach?

  • You want a scaled-down version of your current module so it would be viewable on mobile devices like smartphones and tablet. No changes are made to your existing efforts but for the size of screen on which it will be viewed, bandwidth used, etc.
  • You want a mobile version that will respond to whatever device your learner is using, so it’s full-size on a desktop, but mobile optimized for tablets. Your module will detect the type of device being used and automatically change automatically.
  • You want a mobile version of your module that adapts to your learners’ specifications, including language, geographical locations and even personal settings. The module adapts to the learner’s environment and reduces the need for learner toggling (and faster access to the right material at the right time).
  • You want a fully-optimized mobile module that supplements current efforts, but can also act as a standalone module that utilizes on-board tools like the microphone, video and even GPS features. It’s less a mobile version of the same course – it’s a completely different product entirely.
  • Some combination of the above.

Each goal constitutes a branch of the overall mobile strategy tree. By deciding what you want to get out of your mobile strategy, you can cultivate that branch with a more focused effort (and budget).

Branching Out

Your decision tree should have helped you decide what type of mobile learning works best for your specific needs. As you branch out and focus your efforts on that particular strain of mLearning, you’ll be poised to create compelling, accessible content for your learners.

Whether you’ve decided to simply make your current module optimized for mobile access or you’re interested in building a standalone mobile module, principles of good mobile design matter. Bite-size pieces of information, smaller screens, considering learner preferences and ensuring that buttons and other interactions are optimized for tablets and smartphone help you go from strategic seed to a mighty mobile pedigree.

How to Identify Learners’ Characteristics and Behaviors

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Whether you’re a standup comedian, salesperson or instructional designer, you have to know your audience to engage them. Without engagement, you might as well be talking to yourself. You can’t entertain, influence or teach until you’ve engaged, and the key to winning over your audience lies in your ability to read them. You need to unearth their traits and behaviors to know how to hit their hot buttons and deliver content within their comfort range.

Verify Assumptions

Making assumptions about your learners or their prior experience and understanding what they bring to the course is dangerous and can set up learners for failure (not to mention the instructional designer). This isn’t to say that every custom eLearning module must start at the 101 level. State prerequisites, and/or start with a quick review and take the time to research your learners’ behaviors and characteristics.

Assessing Behaviors and Characteristics

There is no typical workforce—even among competitors. The corporate culture plays a major role in the traits and behaviors of your audience. Crack the corporate culture, and you will crack the “workforce personality.”

Age plays a role. In broad strokes, many millennials were taught the test, and they often want “just the facts” in 200 characters of less. A more mature audience probably wants to know “why.” They are the last generation that routinely received a classical education and were encouraged to question everything and reach their own conclusions. They took endless essay tests. Both groups want relevant eLearning with real-world application; neither wants to waste time in training. You can address both groups in the same module with a “more information” link containing a brief explanation. Everyone’s a sucker for a story, which is why good storytelling with vivid characters can engage a diverse audience.

The Digital Divide

This is the area where age plays the most important role. When you deal with an inter-generational audience, technology skill sets can vary widely, and you want to know where on the continuum your audience lies. Ask, take surveys, talk to people. If your eLearning incorporates gamification or social learning, make sure your older audience understands how to use these tools.

There’s one tool at your disposal that can encourage learning among many behavioral and age groups: Personal learning networks (PLNs) allow learners to learn from and with workers who share their characteristics, behaviors and general outlooks.

New Wave eLearning: How Wearable Tech Could Change Everything

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You’ve heard it so often that it has become background noise: Google Glass and other wearable tech will change the world. Sure, it might work for international businessmen or tech savvy hipsters, but will wearable tech go mainstream for eLearning companies and L&D pros? Will wearable tech and eLearning ever be a thing? App availability and training budgets haven’t quite caught up to the excitement of wearable tech for eLearning, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. Here, we explore three ways that wearable tech could change the way businesses onboard, train and certify their employees.


We know that solid onboarding efforts improve employee retention and aids in succession planning, but wearable tech could make it even easier for new workers to assimilate into work culture. Consider an H&R pro who could effectively research and screen a prospective employee while he’s sitting right in front of her, pulling up social media accounts and checking online portfolios.

Once chosen, that candidate can put first-day jitters to rest with wearable technology. Forgotten coworker names or understanding work culture could be remedied with a quick scan, so less time is wasted on the “getting to know you” stage and more time is focused on the “let’s get to work portion” of the first few weeks with a new organization.

Compliance Training

Here’s where the applications for wearable tech and eLearning get interesting: Compliance training. Traditionally, courses which outline compliance to rules, regulations and policy isn’t exactly riveting stuff. Paired with the ability for simulations, wearable tech could revolutionize the way you train.

Consider your annual harassment training: It’s kind of awkward and boring for everyone involved, right? But what if, instead of watching videos or talking about scenarios, learners were able to enter simulated scenarios themselves? By detecting facial expression, listening to a conversation or checking body language, a learner could actually select the right course and be rewarded for the right answer, all using their personal wearable technology. Not only would it modernize compliance training, but give employees training that they’ll actually use on the job so that mandatory training doesn’t feel like a waste of time.

Ongoing Training + Tech

The possibilities for ongoing training with wearable tech are practically endless. From mLearning applications to coaching and mentoring, what wearable tech really offers learners is a way to stay connected. And with mobile learning trends becoming more popular and effervescent, mLearning will be truly relevant.

Take the UPS delivery guy: He’s trying to drop an Xbox off and no one’s home. With wearable tech, he could find the homeowner’s phone number, contact him and work out alternate delivery instructions all without setting down the box. That’s a form of mLearning: Using your resources to get just-in-time information you need.

Or, what about sales coaching? After a seminar on a specific sales technique, wearable tech could then be used to simulate sales environments for practice, or could even give a sales force a leg up by offering information about a particular product or customer.

Of course, we’ve only uncovered a small portion of the possibilities with wearable tech. With Google Glass, smartwatches and other hands-free, in-time information delivery devices, innovation will be the real test of how and when the technology will be assimilated for L&D purposes – and not just Silicon Valley hipsters.