Learning Thursday #12: Five Ways to Promote Training Team Productivity Using Your Email Application

Learning Thursday is a blog series that features a new L&D article every other week along with discussion points.  Read and then share your own ideas by commenting below!  Check out the last Learning Thursday here.

Although learning professionals wear multiple hats, we hardly ever work in a vacuum.  When we develop a course for instance, there is often a subject matter expert, multiple instructional designers or developers, a technical editor, and others providing oversight or input into the final product.

Sometimes the hardest part of our job is not the actual instructional design process.  It’s coordinating with everyone involved in a project so everything is completed on time.  Here are five ways you can use your email application to better coordinate projects and team activities.

  1. Create a shared out of office calendar. (Here are instructions to create a calendar in Outlook.)  Make sure your team members use the calendar to indicate their scheduled time off and any dates they plan to work in another location.  This calendar allows the team to plan deadlines, upcoming meetings, and coverage of tasks.  The CIO at one of my former employers implemented this calendar and personally made sure everyone in management participated.  It was great for productivity and also helped us find opportunities to meet each other in person while traveling between offices.
  2. Create a calendar or repository that lists upcoming meetings across your organization’s locations. Some organizations use an event management system to track and coordinate meetings across teams so expenses and resources can be shared.
  3. Require all team members to set an auto-reply message when they are out of office. Ask that all team members include at least one alternative contact in their auto-reply so that issues can be addressed while they’re out of office.  When I managed multiple sub-teams, my auto-reply contained four names and email addresses/distribution lists and an explanation of what each contact could handle.  Here’s an example:

Thank you for your message.  I will be out of office until <date> with limited access to email.  If this is an urgent matter, please contact:

  • <My director’s email address> for matters requiring management approval
  • <Trainer team’s distribution list> for questions related to new hire orientation, classes, and one-on-one coaching
  • <Instructional design team’s distribution list> for assistance with project intake and updates to documentation
  • <eLearning development team’s distribution list> for assistance with the LMS or e-learning courses
  1. Manage your team’s email volume. Here’s another wonderful idea from my former CIO: Outlaw Reply All.  Some teams have a real issue with email volume, especially if team members are remote and coordinating projects through email.  Having a full inbox makes it hard to find the information you need, and every time a team member receives an email that doesn’t relate to them, they’ve lost a few seconds of productivity.  Set a cultural expectation that emails should only go to the people who will benefit from the communication.
  2. Create targeted distribution lists for your team. If you have multiple sub-teams within your training team, consider creating a distribution list for each sub-team so it’s easier to route emails to the appropriate people, making the entire team more productive.  Advertise the new distribution lists so people outside your team know which team handles what tasks.

How do you use your email application to help your team’s productivity?  Please share your ideas in the comments section.

Try Adobe’s learning management system, Captivate Prime, for free.  Connect with the author on Twitter or LinkedIn, and follow me on Adobe’s eLearning blog.

The post Learning Thursday #12: Five Ways to Promote Training Team Productivity Using Your Email Application appeared first on eLearning.

How does the brain learn?

How does the brain learn?

As instructional designers, we all know how people learn, but do you know the science behind it? How can we use what we know about science to help us engage the brain and improve learning?

The brain is constantly restructuring in response to learning and the environment. This is known as plasticity. Plasticity involves creating and strengthening neural connections and weakening or removing others. Every time you learn, your brain uses plasticity to develop new neural pathways.

Repetition is key

How do we avoid losing the knowledge we want to retain? Well, the most simplistic way to put this is ‘use it’. If you don’t, you may lose neuronal pathways that haven’t been used.

So how do we avoid this? If you can, set your learners up with frequent knowledge refreshers. This could be a quiz about the information they learned, or a repetition of key information later on in the course.

How we remember

One of the most recognizable learning studies was one done by BF Skinner. In this study, he evaluated the interaction between rats and pigeons and food levers. Animals were placed in cages with levers that would release food pellets if the correct item was selected. With success, these selections gradually became more difficult. Based on this study, he concluded that complex tasks can be learned through practice and reward for behaviors.

Similarly to this study, people learn complex tasks quickly and more effectively with practice and rewards upon success. Adding practice items or badges and points to your learning materials may improve the knowledge retained by your learners.

The overload effect

Popular learning types may result in learning overload, or too much information being given for the brain to process. With a hefty amount of information, users may run into an effect called ‘cognitive overload’, which causes the brain to become overwhelmed.

To avoid this, chunk pieces of information into small sections (ideally, five minutes or less at a time) and avoid information that isn’t essential. Materials that are sectioned into separate, smaller learning sessions will allow the brain to fully process information and will avoid cognitive overload.


When you’re creating instructional content, it’s important to know how the brain learns. By keeping in mind how the brain remembers, you can create more effective learning content and help your users retain the knowledge that they’ve gained.

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How To Use Bloom’s Taxonomy For Business

Bloom's Taxonomy represents different levels of learning and should be utilized when training objectives are developed to understand how to train the task, how much time the training will take, and how to measure successful learning when the training is complete. This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Save your clients from themselves

Two National Guard team members dangle from a cable below a helicopter“Our job is to give the client what they want.” Sound familiar?

It’s what I was told when I started. But decades later, I’d say this instead:

“Our job is to make the client look good.”

Often this means, “Our job is to save our clients from themselves.”

Make them look good…

Which manager looks good? The one who helps staff do their work well and feel proud of it, or the one who makes everyone sit through a zombie presentation followed by a quiz that a garden gnome could pass?

If we want to make our clients look good, we can’t just give them what they think they want.

…by saving them from themselves.

“Give me a heart transplant, and use this knife to do it.” No surgeon would agree to this. It goes against their ethics.

“Make me a course, and use this tool to do it.” Like a surgeon, we should have ethics. We should at least vow to do no harm.

Creating a course and making everyone sit through it does harm when it doesn’t solve the problem. We not only waste money and time, we disrespect the client, employees, organization, and our own profession.

Our goal should be to leave our clients in better shape than when they came to us. The only way to do this is to diagnose their problem and help them solve it. They’ll look good, and we’ll be heroes.

Stalk your client

To know what will make our client look good, we need to know who they are and what challenges they’re facing. For example, we could:

  • Look at their LinkedIn profile and posts. How long have they been in their current position? What’s their background?
  • Look for internal announcements or news releases about their department.
  • Look up their company in Wikipedia or business databases. How is it performing? Any recent controversies or changes?
  • Check Glassdoor for staff reviews about their division or company.

For example, in the Jedi Mind Tricks toolkit (now available), we have a practice client called Carla. She wants an online course for managers. The course is supposed to teach them how to use the (fictional, but only barely) Soto-Baldwin personality inventory to “become more empathetic.”

You could obey and crank out the course. But if you spend a few minutes learning more about Carla, you discover that going ahead with this idea would damage an important relationship. You’d also waste everyone’s time with a dubious personality test.

Your challenge is to help Carla see this for herself.

Then, do the analysis!!!

Once we understand where the client is coming from, we can help them analyze the problem.

Even if you can only invest two hours, you’ll have a chance to steer your client in the right direction.

Toolkit now available

These first steps with the client are the focus of the Jedi Mind Tricks toolkit. It gives you the direction I wish I had when I first started in this field.

You’ll change how you talk to stakeholders so you can help them solve problems and improve lives. You’ll stop being an order taker and move toward performance consulting.

You’ll have tons of realistic practice and a unique system of real-world tasks. The 30 tasks have you improve the forms you use, write what you’ll say in meetings, practice with colleagues, and establish procedures to permanently change how you work.

You can also use the toolkit as a mega-job aid as you start a new project. In each section, you can write notes in the toolkit, recording how you’ll apply the techniques to your current client. You can download these notes as a custom PDF. Later, you can reuse the notes fields and download new PDFs as many times as you want for new projects.

Check out the toolkit here!

Discuss this post on LinkedIn.

Photo credit: New Jersey National Guard Flickr via Compfight cc

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The First Ten Learning Thursday Articles!

Last December, I began publishing Learning Thursday articles every other week. The series covers both learning technology and general training topics. Past articles are listed below.

Please comment if you have topic ideas, and follow me if you’d like to be notified of future posts.

  1. Mobile Technologies in Education
  2. Project-Based Learning
  3. Use Virtual Reality (VR) to Try on Makeup
  4. Is Constructivism an Effective Approach to Instructional Design?
  5. Overcome Your Blended Learning Phobia
  6. Track Classroom Attendance Using a Scan Gun
  7. How Do You Encourage Innovation in Your L&D Team?
  8. Plan a Consistent Training Program
  9. Immersive Learning Experiences in Real Life
  10. The Many Acronyms of Learning Technology

Connect with the author on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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