A – Z of my work place learning

People Hands Holding Red Word Never Stop Learning

Continuous learning is critical in modern work places. Jane Hart’s Modern Workplace Learning book and blog describes a multitude of valuable ways to learn going way beyond typical training courses. As part of the 2016 L&D Challenge run by Jane Hart we were given the challenge to reflect on how we learn in the workplace. Below is an A – Z of how I manage my personal work place learning. This reflection is awesome for learning professionals, I also think it is valuable for any professional to look at their methods for continuous learning.


ATD membership – reading blogs and magazines to identify trends coming out in the industry


Blogging – both reading and writing. Helps me reflect on and refine my practice.


Committee member (just became one) of New Zealand Association for Training & Development – NZATD. This will make me actively connected to local people who share their talent and expertise. I always learn something new from the speakers. If you’re in Wellington NZ check out the next event.


Daring to do new things


Elearning Guild – reading reports to help embed my practice in theory or research. Also watching webinars while exercising on my cross trainer to broaden my knowledge on different learning techniques and strategies


Follow thought leaders – checking in on both Twitter and their blogs. I often pick up new ideas which then I research further and look for opportunities to implement. Blogs are perfect for me as being a mum of young ones and having my own business I don’t read much books because of the time commitment, they are an easily digestable way to keep up with trends.


Government learning group (local group) – networking and finding out what other people are doing in the learning field in the government agencies. Very valuable for sharing ideas. And of course Google comes under G too…


Help – being able to ask for it when needed and knowing where to find it, and being grateful in return– no-one is an island ;)


Inspiration from other industries e.g. movies, marketing, gaming, IT etc… looking at blogs or just taking ideas in when I’m not working – everything is inspiration!


Jane Hart – top of mind of course! Reading the MWL book by Jane Hart, blogs and participating in this L & D challenge experience


Kids – playing and watching the kids gives me insights into so many things


LinkedIn and Lynda.com – Lynda.com means I don’t have to remember how to use different tools I can just jump into a video for the specific thing I need to do. I use it as a performance tool.


Mentoring others new to L & D, keeps me fresh and thinking about my practice. Great for consolidating my learning and keeping fresh.


Networking – both with learning social groups and outside of learning groups e.g. talking with another parent from my daughter’s playgroup I found out he has a games analytics job and we talked about the commonalities and differences between our professions


Online learning courses e.g. Udemy, Moocs, Lynda.com, Elearning guild


Personal learning network – I can call friends in my learning network to ask advice or talk and bounce about strategies and they do the same with me. I find this really useful for reality checking


Questions, questions, questions – spending effort in learning how to ask good questions ( so I get quality information back both with collaborating with others such as SMEs and with learning professionals. In fact one year I set this as my main professional development focus.


Reflective practice both during projects and after it has finished


Sharing – when sharing my learning I often find that those I’m sharing with have extra gems to add and therefore enhance my learning even more and expand my view.


Twitter – I find it hard to get to many conferences with family commitments so around conference time I search the hashtags to find out what’s new and what’s being talked about. I’ve also implemented it as a learning tool for a University course I was the Educational Designer for.


Udemy – taking some online course such as UX design and also helping a friend with developing her content for her own Udemy course


Virtual classroom – attending an Elearning Guild online course.


WordPress feed – where I can read both learning related and also non-learning related blogs.


Xperience – I know a bit of cheating ;). I find it useful to directly experience a method before implementing it myself if I can. For example, learning about virtual classrooms during a virtual classroom course by elearning guild.


Youtube – When learning to use new tools such as using a new sound recorder. I search Youtube and find someone else has already put a succinct video up and this helps reduce my learning time. Thank you world!


Zen – for me it’s important to take time out from learning and thinking to relax and just be – I often find this a valuable time and when insights come afterwards

Concept Handwritten With Chalk - Color Image.
** Note: Soft Focus at 100%, best at smaller sizes

Reflecting 2015 and learning 2016

You may have noticed I had a little break from blogging at the end of 2015, well now I’m back with a vengeance and will have heaps of tips and gems to share in 2016.

In 2015 I enjoyed exploring learning and content approaches beyond traditional blended learning. In one project I used curated resources and activities for a pull rather than push learning experience for customer service. In another project I created learning resources that were delivery method independent and therefore more flexible, adaptable and scalable than anything I’ve seen before! You can read about these approaches here: Learning resources from content curation, Going beyond blended delivery to…

The most popular hits on my blog in 2016 were: Rapid prototype vs storyboard? and The game of learning design. If you missed these why not check them out?

So what’s my plan for 2016?

I’ll carry on exploring curated content and using alternative learning solutions in my design rather than defaulting to “traditional online, facilitated, or blended courses”.

To support this I am engaging in the 2016 L&D Challenge run by thought leader Jane Hart, why not join me and start to think about modern workplace learning in a different way. To find out more check out Jane’s book Modern Workplace Learning and her blog http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/blog/.

I’ll be exploring some new technologies to support story telling and graphic design – keep an eye out for posts on these. Video will be a big part of my work plan this year so expect some posts on this as well.

Happy 2016 everyone, what’s on your radar for the coming year?

Learning resources from content curation


Want to work smarter, how about repurposing already existing content? I love curating and repurposing content, check out my post – Second hand shopping for elearning.

So how can you curate content and use it for your learning resources? Here’s an example of how I’m doing it now.

I’m working on a customer service project. At first glance it looks mammoth with the huge amount of possible content, and also the need to contextualise the content for different audiences. But I’ve found ways to make this project smaller and more work efficient. The most critical factor is reducing the amount of development of “new” resources and to instead use existing content/resources in a smart way.

You may balk and think you can’t do this as your customer service needs are specific so you’ll need your own tailored content – and you’re right, your needs are specific. Learning will still need to be targeted, have context, and be meaningful to your people. However you can provide context and meaning without having to develop everything from scratch. Context and meaning can be provided through activities and questions surrounding the content, allowing you to use already existing content that you’re curated from the internet or youtube. You can also use existing resources curated from within the organisation you are working with.

Here’s a taster of how curated content could be used:

Example: Empathy and customer service

  • Start with a poll e.g. ‘how important is empathy for providing customer service?’.
  • Ask thought provoking questions about empathy and how it is related to their work role.

From this we can see context is provided through the poll and, questions – not through creating new resources. Then we can use already existing resources to create a deeper meaning of empathy. There are some excellent videos around empathy that could be linked to, here’s an example of one:


  • Questions or activities could be provided around any of the learning resources. You can also increase social learning by suggesting questions are discussed with their team, manager or peers.

There are a multitude of activities that could be designed around curated content, the only limitation is your imagination. Think reflective learning, social learning, problem solving and learner sourced content. How about an activity recognising empathy blockers or a challenge where the learners are the agony aunt and have to provide responses?

In summary

Using curated content means that the majority of your effort is used finding high quality resources rather than creating. It’s much more time efficient – how long would it have taken you to make an animated video about empathy? You could make a story out of your curated resources so they have flow. Bring the learner in by designing activities around the curated resources that give context and the opportunity for staggered practice and mastery.

How have you used curated content for learning? – share your thoughts in the comments and we can all learn more together!

Going beyond blending delivery to ….

Blended delivery has been around for years and the term is often banded around in Learning and Development circles. Essentially what it means is that training content is delivered by a variety of delivery methods. Some parts might be facilitated, some online and some parts other delivery methods such as on-the-job learning or coaching. With blended delivery the mode of delivery is usually fixed. There will be set delivery methods for each part of content. For example a blended training solution might consist of a pre-requisite online module, a facilitated (or virtual classroom) session, work place assignments and coaching sessions.

The content within blended delivery does not usually easily translate to different delivery methods without requiring a significant amount of rework and adapting. Usually the facilitated parts of your content will only be suited to facilitated delivery, the online content will only be suited to online delivery. How many times have you heard someone say they are going to change a facilitated course into an online course? If you’ve experienced designing eLearning you’ll know there is a significant amount of rework changing facilitated content into online content. Extra thought is needed for how to make the content work effectively in a new delivery mode.

Well what happens when blended delivery isn’t enough to cater for your business in the future?

This is the challenge I’ve had. The business I’m working with can (and has before) changed rapidly as a result of natural disasters. There could be a slow trickle of people who need training from attrition or a sudden large amount of people who need training when a medium or large natural disaster occurs. The audience who need training at any one time could be dispersed over the country and could range from just one person to groups of up to 20 or more in quick succession. Not only that, but I also don’t know what will the Learning and Development team would look like in the future. Would there even be the team resources to deliver facilitated sessions or manage complex training solutions?

What if we start off with learning resources that can be delivered in a variety of ways – adapting to the changing needs of a business?

Rather than deciding how content is going to be delivered, why not start with making sure the content could be delivered in a variety of ways to a variety of audiences. This way the content would not have to be reworked and redesigned for each new situation or audience and can bend and flex with the business’s needs.

In my solution to this challenge the learning resources respond rapidly to change in a way that is not dependent on location or number of audience. It’s parts rather than a whole solution – pick and mix. The parts can be utilised in different delivery methods – face-to-face sessions, online, flipped classroom, catch up sessions or in a blended manner – without having to be adapted or reworked. The delivery approach and make-up can be selected based on the circumstance and audience rather than the content.

What is this approach called?

What do we call learning resources that can be put together like different ingredients to suit different audiences and delivery methods? I think it’s more than blended delivery… What do you think? I’d love to see your comment.

Steps to build better branching scenarios

Word Decision And Arrows

Branching scenarios are an effective way to practice decision making and demonstrate how to apply particular knowledge or skills. In saying that, there are still too many times when branching scenarios are done poorly when just a little more effort could make a huge difference.

Here are some steps to help build better branching scenarios:

1 Have clear learning objectives

An effective branching scenario has the learner practice a decision and then reinforces the behaviour that is required for success. Write clear learning objectives to make sure your branching scenarios have purpose and are reflective of the desired performance. Remember to ask your Subject Matter Expert (SME) to check if they are correct too.

2 Source content from your SME

Source the content from your SME – the questions you ask will effect whether your branching scenarios are targeted, authentic and going to make a difference. Find out the decision points, common mistakes, what the consequences of making a wrong choice could be, and what the benefits of making a right choice are.

3 Context

Typically the content of a branching scenario has at least three steps – challenge, choice and consequence. I suggest having another step – context – this is where the scene is set before jumping straight into the challenge. Context will help your learners identify with the situation and will make it easier for them to imagine making the choice in the real life situation.

branching scenario postits2

 4 Challenge

Now that your audience has the context, it’s time for a challenge. This should come from decision points sourced from your SME. It is important the challenge is both realistic to your target audience and has an appropriate level of challenge. If it is obvious what choice should be made then both your challenge and your choices will need reworking. It will be more memorable if your challenge connects and evokes an emotional response from your audience.

5 Choices that are grey and likely include common mistakes

Next is presenting the choices – how can your audience solve the challenge? Choices should be grey and not black and white – there should be the opportunity to make mistakes, with the ‘desired choice’ not being immediately obvious. In fact there could be more than one technically ‘right’ choice but the business  prefers one of the ‘right’ choices/behaviours over the other. You could present conflicts between two desired behaviours to find grey areas e.g. not giving out private information but at the same time maintaining customer service. After all life is full of grey and conflicting situations, and we want to simulate real life decisions as much as possible.

Do not design for the lowest common denominator, instead design to engage thinking.

6 Feedback that reflects reality and comes from the right source

Providing feedback is the most important part in a branching scenario yet it is often the part that’s done the worst. It can seem like it’s just tacked on at the end to placate the learner e.g. “Your answer is incorrect because you should have chosen the other option”.

The most powerful feedback is feedback that simulates the consequence of making the choice, rather than telling you about the consequence. Check in with your SME to ensure the feedback is realistic and believable and adapt as necessary.

Also think about the natural source of feedback. Would feedback come as an action, a sound, a work consequence? Does the feedback come from a person, a customer, colleague or manager?

7 Make it relatable and believable

Branching scenarios should involve imagery. Do not scrimp on this – it is relatively cheap to source quality graphics. Include images of a realistic environment (setting). Characters that look real with realistic emotions rather than stock image graphics. Use the characters and pictures to build a story within your branching scenario.

If you have text in your branching scenarios make sure the voice and tone of the text is appropriate for the scenario and your audience. Remember you can also use sounds and video to enhance your branching scenarios – the possibilities are endless.

Building better branching scenarios is not about the tool you are using to build them. Better branching scenarios are better because the design of them is better and the correct content is sourced from the SME.

I’d love to hear your techniques for building better branching scenarios, go ahead and add a comment below or follow me for more elearning tips and thoughts.


How can you use the Serious eLearning Manifesto?


Wouldn’t it be great to have a concise guide to share with your clients and stakeholders about what high quality elearning should be? Well major thought leaders – Michael Allen, Julie Dirkson, Clark Quinn and Will Thalheimer – have done just that! Together they have produced a Serious eLearning Manifesto intending to lift the quality of elearning (and learning) that is delivered in organisations. I wholeheartedly agree with characteristics and principles listed in their manifesto – http://elearningmanifesto.org/ and think it is wonderful for them to share with the learning community.

Here are three ways I can see the Serious eLearning Manifesto being used:

1.  As a quality assurance tool

You could use the manifesto as a quality assurance tool to make sure any elearning your organisation does hits the mark and is going to make a difference to performance.

2. As an influencer to raise quality

Why not use the voice of thought leaders to help influence what quality elearning should be like in your organisation (or alternatively when elearning shouldn’t be used). The elearning manifesto website is so easily sharable with stakeholders and clients. It’s great to have professional backing that is concise and without a lot of learning jargon. This way it’s not just your opinion – it’s the voice of experts in the field.

3. As a professional development tool

If you have been in the elearning game for a while most of the characteristics and supporting principles of the Serious eLearning Manifesto probably seem common sense. Why not pick a couple of points to improve on to raise the quality of your elearning design – I have! I’ve always said “the most dangerous thing for learning – is thinking you know it all already”. The eLearning Manifesto gives us the opportunity to critique our own work and find ways to improve.

How else can you see the Serious eLearning Manifesto being used? Please share your thoughts, follow me to hear more of mine.

Going beyond elearning for change

Change Management

Often in elearning and learning design we can get focused on making sure people learn the content but can easily forget about how we can motivate our audience to do something new as a result of their learning. Learning is only the first part of the puzzle, doing something different as result of that learning is where the difference is made. Not only is it important to help people learn it’s also important that they are motivated to then implement that new learning.

What sort of things do we need to consider to make sure change occurs as a result of our learning design?

1 Opportunity

Make sure there is the opportunity to put what was learnt into practice within a reasonable timeframe. This combats the forgetting curve and improves return on investment.

One time I was sent on a Microsoft Project course by a business (without requesting it) and although I appreciated the opportunity to learn about this software they might as well just have burnt the money. After the course I repeatedly queried when I would receive the software only to find out there was no budget to actually give me the software! It was a negative return on investment.

2 Business support

Just because a request has come from the business doesn’t mean the desired change is actually supported by the business. Check if there is anything working against the learning and performance outcomes of the planned learning solution. Is there already leadership and manager buy-in, will they support the change? Are targets and measures aligned to the performance outcomes? Are there sufficient processes, tools, and structures in place?

If there are things in the business working against or conflicting with the training or learning it’s likely that the benefits will be short-lived as people return to business as usual.

3 Action plan

Ask for commitment from your learners on how they will implement their learning in the workplace. No learning is useful unless it is actually applied.

This may be as simple as asking your learners to jot down (or type into your elearning course) one thing they will start doing, one thing they will keep doing, and one thing they will stop doing and the timeframes for these. Even better if their goal setting is visible to their managers. After all, if staff are given time to complete an elearning or other learning solution wouldn’t it be better if they use what they learnt…

4 Time to practice

Learning is a journey and opportunities for trial and error are important. Check if your target audience will have time to practice their new skills or knowledge on the job. Perhaps they could even be given on-the-job tasks or assignments and their managers are involved in their learning and performance improvement (this one also links back to business support).

Elearning or any type of learning design is not a magic wand for change. For any learning solution to be truly successful must take into account what happens after the learning intervention and how progression and performance improvement continues.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, why not add a comment? How do you make change happen beyond elearning?

The game of learning design

Soccer strategy

The gamification term has become popular over the last few years. Professor Werbach from Pennsylvania University defines gamification as, “the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts” (Gamification MOOC in Coursera 2015) . If you’re producing engaging elearning in my view it seems almost impossible not to be using at least some features of gamification.

I’m currently engaged in a gamification MOOC  in Coursera, although I’ve participated in other gamification MOOCs, this one in particular encouraged me to reflect about gamification in my learning/elearning design.

I have been using gamification features in teaching and instructional design long before the term became mainstream. The reason for this is that gamification and good quality learning share many of the same features and foundations.

Here is a taste of what gamification and good quality learning have in common:

A business goal and objectives

Both should start with a well defined business goal and then specific objectives for how to meet this business goal. Solutions are built to achieve the business goal and motivate certain behaviours of the target audience or players.

Engaging and fun

To make a difference in learning design or gamification it is critical that the experience is engaging, fun, and memorable. Game theory examines and breaks down what fun looks like and how solutions (both gamification and learning) can utilise the different features of fun to get results.


Fun is important and makes life more enjoyable, but that’s not what it’s all about… it’s also about motivation. Both gamification and learning design address how the target audience (or players) can be motivated to continue the desired behaviour after the intervention has occurred. They both have strong foundations in motivational psychology to achieve better results for desired behaviour.

Practice, challenge and progression towards success

It’s not a single one off event but something more engaging. Having opportunities to practice and a sense of challenge and progression are valuable. How can you turn your learning design into an experience rather than an event?


Learning about gamification is a great way to refine learning design. So much scientific research has been done on motivation and how to engage people in games. Why not borrow these lessons learnt and apply them to learning design and/or other contexts.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about gamification and how it applies to learning design? Follow me to hear more.

2014 the year of the story

Top Story Concept.

In 2014 my focus was very much on creating interactive elearning and utilising the power of the story through interesting design and technologies. This showed under my five most highly viewed and popular posts for 2014. If you haven’t already, check these out:

  1. Using digital stories in elearning
  2. The awesome tool Videoscribe
  3. Rapid prototype vs storyboard
  4. Why storytelling should be part of your elearning kit
  5. 10 steps to create a digital story for elearning

These are also topics I’ve especially enjoyed blogging about. If you would like to hear more on any topic please comment to let me know. Have a wonderful 2015!

Sourcing stories fast for training

Find Story

Something I’ve learnt during my time teaching, training and undertaking instructional design is that people love to share their stories. It’s a natural drive. Why not then use stories to enhance learning and streamline your design at the same time?

As mentioned in previous posts, stories are an extremely powerful way to teach or train. But where can you source these? Do you need to come up with a story from scratch? Or do you need to spend hours working with a SME constructing stories? Surely there’s an easier way…

Well of course there is! Source your stories directly from those with the experience.

Sourcing stories directly mean they will be authentic, believable, targeted and related to your audience already.

Here’re couple of examples of when I’ve sourced stories directly and how I’ve used them.

Staff stories in speech bubbles

Within a Complaints online course, one of the learning outcomes was to identify how complaints could improve business processes and service.

For this outcome I sourced stories from different areas of the business by asking for examples of how complaints had led to business improvements in the past. I then presented these examples in speech bubbles pointing off the edge of the screen. This used minimal media due to time and budget constraints and considerations.

These stories had a powerful impact in supporting the learning outcome and they took very little effort to source and present. It also meant that I didn’t have to tell why complaints are important to a business – it was made obvious by the examples.

Staff audio stories

Stories are also great in system training to explain why things are done in a particular way and as a result how it impacts on the customer and the business.  In one situation I needed a way to explain why it was important to group related information together within the software system.

For this outcome I sourced stories from experienced staff on cases they had worked on. Explaining why information was grouped together in these cases and what the benefits of grouping the information was for both the customer and the business.

These stories were much more powerful than simply telling staff what to do. They gave context and real life examples. To present these stories I simply recorded staff telling their stories, then edited the audio and placed it directly onto the LMS (Learning Management System) course page.

Microphone with cable connected ready for an interview, singing

A fast and effective approach with minimal multimedia skills required.

What techniques do you use with integrating stories into your learning design? I’d love to hear from you…

Follow me to hear more about this and check out some of my other posts about using stories in e/learning.