Reasons Your eLearning Courses are Failing?

Course Timeline is Too Long

Perhaps you have put too much into the course. Trying to please a client or employer by cramming too much information into the course can be an issue. The course becomes too long to handle in the time frame allowed. Don’t let your employer or client convince you to include every little detail in the course, as this will water down the course and make it less effective. Spend the time getting in what crucial for the learner. Keep your modules to a maximum of 20 minutes and split large modules accordingly.

Boring Courses

This can be caused by trying to keep the content too corporate. eLearning need to have a bit of humour in it to engage the learners. That said, you don’t have to make this a comedy show, no, just use enough humour that learners will enjoy doing it. If you can say something in fewer words, then do that; don’t put in loads of text just to justify having loads of content.

The Material is Not Relevant to the Learner

Your content, the material that your learners will use must be relevant. All too often designers create content based on other courses they have seen or read about in an article. Remember that your course must have the “What’s In It For Me WIIFM” factor to keep your learners engaged. If they are not getting something out of the course then they will become bored and the retention rate of the materials learned will be very low.

Presenting materials to a learner that is too advanced for their development is also another issue to watch for. As an example, I have three HACCP Food & Safety Courses, which are aligned with three different learners and their departments. Even if I roll out the three courses to all employees in the kitchen, it would not work because employees in levels 1 & 2, would never get the opportunity to work with the level 3 materials in a practical way unless the became restaurant managers.

Mismatched Styles for Your Target Audience

There are several things that go into making up the “style” of a course. Things like the graphics, colour scheme, writing style, and narrative tone all come into play.  Obviously, these are details that need to be discussed with the client or employer before to beginning work on the project. The thing is, these decisions not only need to play well with each other, but they need to be aligned with the company’s culture.

It is critical that you align your course. Some businesses have a young-spirited, free-wheeling’ sort of vibe going on, while others may be more conservative in their approach. One company might want their courses to be edgier and push the boundaries to resonate with their employee attitudes, meanwhile, others may prefer playing things much closer to their chest. It’s critical that you align the style of the course with your target audience, or else you may alienate them right from the starting block.

The Course is Too Passive

If your courses just include they learner reading or listening to content then they will lose interest in the learning supplied. If the learner is told what to do over and over, then, they will eventually just switch off.

You need to remember what Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” This holds true in life and in your eLearning course as well. Why? Because as humans we remember very little of what we hear because it alone is not sufficient to keep us interested, but when someone shows us how to do something we remember a lot more, but, when you involve the learner they remember and retain the most information.

So taking the opportunity to interact with your learner is so critical. Use opportunities where learners can interact cognitively will see the best results in your courses.

Lack of Stakeholder Buy-In

To have stakeholder buy-in, you must have every stakeholder involved in the project. Stakeholders are the key to a successful project start, development, completion and rollout. Stakeholders are the links that will enable you to find funding for the project, communicate what is required and ensure that the learners use the training in their departments.

You will need to involve stakeholders at the concept level, review cycles and revisions and finally sign off of the final project. Make sure that you are working with the right stakeholders, for instance, you would need to make sure that a senior manager or VP that is involved in a lot of travelling then it may not be possible for them to be involved in the review cycles of the project.

To ensure that you are getting buy-in from the stakeholders, it is important to include all of them in the process, allow them to have some ownership of the project, however small that role may be.


While these are just a handful of the things that can go wrong, they do represent some of the major considerations. Addressing and discussing these issues with the appropriate audience, prior to the start of course development, could mean major success. Not only for you but for all those involved.

If you’re not engaged with the course, then your audience won’t be either. Good research and stakeholder buy-in are critical to your project success. The inclusion of all stakeholders, learners themselves is required for all projects.

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Learning objectives: Our frenemy

Frenemies“Never design anything without first writing the learning objectives.”

We all know this. It’s a useful rule, but only when the objectives are useful.

And there’s the problem — conventional learning objectives can work against us. They’re our friends, but not always.

What do I mean by “conventional learning objectives?” This sort of thing:

  • List the three steps of widget certification.
  • Explain the difference between widget certification and widget approval.
  • Describe the widget supply chain.

Here are three questions that will help you set boundaries with our frenemy.

1. Do people actually need to “learn” something?

Conventional learning objectives might be your friends if both of the following are true.

  1. A knowledge or skill gap clearly exists.
  2. Closing that gap will help solve the problem.

Is there really a knowledge or skill gap? Maybe the problem is mostly caused by bad tools, an inefficient process, lack of incentives, or some other environmental issue. With your client and SME, first identify what people need to do on the job, and then walk through this flowchart before agreeing to develop training.

Will closing the gap solve the problem? Maybe it’s true that people don’t know the intricacies of the supply chain, but installing that information in their brains won’t make them better widget polishers. Don’t deliver content just because someone told you to.

(In the Asia-Pacific region? This workshop on Jan. 23 will help you stand up to content-obsessed clients.)

2. Are we writing useful objectives for the formal training bits?

If our analysis shows that we really do need to design a learning experience, then, yes, we need objectives. Are the actions we wrote earlier good enough, or should we let learning objectives elbow their way into our project?

Here’s an example from my book.

Let’s say that we want firefighters to educate the public about preventing forest fires and quickly put these fires out when they occur. Our official goal is, “Fire-related losses in our region will decrease 10% by next year as firefighters prevent and extinguish brush and forest fires.”

Which of the following do you think I’d accept as actions to reach this goal?

a) Identify the techniques used to extinguish a brush fire
b) List the principal sources of combustion in a deciduous forest
c) Describe common public misconceptions about campfires
d) Quickly extinguish a brush fire in a dry mixed forest
e) Define “incendiary device”

If you said that only d, “Quickly extinguish a brush fire,” was an action by my standards, you’ve gotten my point.

An action is something you see someone do as a normal part of their job. It doesn’t take place in their head or in that abstract world I call Testland. The action should be the focus of our analysis and design, and it should be the statement we use to “sell” the material to the stakeholders and learners.

“But the other statements are good objectives!”

In the world of conventional instructional design, the other statements are also observable objectives.

For example, we can watch a firefighter write a list of the techniques used to extinguish a brush fire, and we can point at that list and say, “See? They know it.” And that’s the problem — we’re just measuring whether they know it. There’s no guarantee that the firefighter will actually apply this knowledge, which is what we really want and what we should be helping them do.

“Identify the techniques” is an enabling objective. It describes information necessary to perform the action. It goes in the information part of the map — I’d list “techniques to extinguish a brush fire” as required knowledge that’s subordinate to the action about putting out fires.

Our goal is to create realistic, contextual practice activities. We can do that only if we focus on what people need to do. If instead we let knowledge-based objectives distract us, we’ll create the usual information dump followed by a quiz, which is the approach that helps make us irrelevant.

3. Who needs to see the objectives?

The client

If you’re using action mapping, your client helped create the list of actions, so they’re already familiar with them. If you need to submit a formal document, I recommend an outline rather than a big design-everything-at-once document. (See this big interactive graphic of the action mapping workflow.)

In that outline, you can include your action map, which shows the actions and the information required by each. The actions are your main objectives, and the bits of information represent the knowledge that supports those objectives.

If your client wants to see conventional learning objectives, consider listing your actions as “performance objectives.” Then, indented and subordinate to each performance objective, list its enabling objectives.

I resist writing the enabling objectives using test language (“describe, explain, define…”) because that sets the expectation that there will be a knowledge test. Maybe some of the knowledge doesn’t need to be memorized and could instead be included in a job reference. It won’t be tested, so there’s no reason to write a test-style objective about it.

Or maybe people do need to memorize some stuff, but a separate knowledge test would be artificial. Instead, you could assess with the same type of activities you provided for practice, which would test not only whether people know the information but whether they can apply it.

The learners

Briefly tell people what they’ll be able to do as a result of the activity, and focus on what they care about. Put those over-eager learning objectives on mute because they don’t know how to sound appealing.

  • Not this: “When interacting with a dissatisfied customer, appropriately apply the five steps of the Abrams-Martinson Dissatisfied-to-Satisfied Customer Transformation Model” that no one has heard of but a consultant convinced us to use
  • This instead: “Turn an unhappy customer into a happy one in 5 quick steps”

Again, I’m not talking just about courses. This applies to activities, which could (and maybe should) be provided individually, on demand. Each activity that stands alone should quickly make clear what people will practice doing and how they’ll benefit.

For more on the distinction between an action and an enabling objective, see Why you want to focus on actions, not learning objectives.

Online workshop Jan. 23

Jedi Mind Tricks for learning designersIn the Asia-Pacific region? Learn to control your clients’ minds (sort of!) on January 23. In this 90-minute interactive workshop, you’ll change how you talk to stakeholders and manage the initial project meetings. You’ll stop being an order taker and instead steer clients toward solutions that solve problems and improve lives.

Learning Technologies UK

I’ll present a shorter version of the Jedi Mind Tricks workshop in my Feb. 23 session at Learning Technologies UK.


The Complete Learning Technologist Certificate – Coming to Orlando in February!

I’ve wanted to put together a learning technologist certification for a long, long time. Well, guess who had the same idea – Training Magazine! And they’re making it happen at Training 2019! Learning geeks will unite in Orlando for our three-day learning technology program February 22-24, 2019. You can register here.

  • Day 1: Creation and Authoring Learning Tools, presented by Jeff Batt
  • Day 2: Multimedia Planning, Tools and Gadgets, presented by Nick Floro
  • Day 3: Delivery and Emerging Technologies, presented by yours truly

I’m going to cover a variety of technologies on day three, in addition to discussing how to select and implement educational technology. And I’ll give you some free goodies to take home with you. Take a look at the program descriptions below and consider joining us at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort!

The Complete Learning Technologist Certificate Program

Whether you are a designer, developer, manager, facilitator, administrator, or executive, you need to understand what learning technologies are capable of today—and what their promise is for tomorrow. Through demos, hands-on experience, checklists, and rubrics, this program goes beyond identifying the latest shiny training tech objects — and helps you become a well-rounded learning technologist who makes the optimal selection, design, and implementation decisions for your organization.

Day 1 Creation and Authoring Learning Tools; Jeff Batt, Head Trainer, Learning Dojo

Authoring tools change quickly and often, so how do you keep up? We’ll begin by examining the overall principles of development (i.e., elements, properties, behavior). Then, using those principles, we’ll begin our exploration of specific authoring tools. You’ll learn:

  • About the basics of course authoring, regardless of what authoring tool you may be using.
  • How development principles apply to current off-the-shelf tools like Adobe Captivate and more.
  • How to make the appropriate selection for authoring tools.
  • How to learn any new authoring tool.

Day 2: Multimedia Planning, Tools and Gadgets; Nick Floro, Learning Architect, Sealworks Interactive Studios

Looking to bring your skills to the next level? On day two, you will learn how to get started building and designing interactive learning. Learn the finer points, practical skills that you can apply, and best practices for delivering engaging learning. You’ll learn about:

  • Architecting your next project with collaborative tools.
  • Sketching a storyboard from paper to PowerPoint.
  • Improving brainstorming and feedback loops.
  • Creating a prototype with Marvel app.
  • Using Explain Everything App to create animated explainers and promos and to provide feedback.
  • Thinking Outside the Box: 5 activities and concepts to add to your next project.
  • Building an interactive chatbot for learning.
  • Strategies for designing for learning and your audience.

Day 3: Delivery and Emerging Technologies; Katrina Marie Baker, Senior Learning Evangelist, Adobe

You’ve spent two days learning how to create engaging training resources. Day three focuses on how to deliver your content using the latest in learning technology and features content from Katrina’s books LMS Success and The LMS Selection Checklist. You will:

  • Define common types of learning technology platforms.
  • Demonstrate how technology can help you engage learners through the use of gamification, mobile learning, social learning, and blended learning elements.
  • Explain how to use reporting and analytics to understand the learner experience.
  • Describe the process to select a new technology platform, including the features and factors you should review with potential vendors.
  • Discuss the process of successfully implementing and maintaining a learning technology platform.
  • Cover best practices that include how to internally market your platform, curate your course catalog and content, and build an effective administrator team.

BONUS! You will walk away with supplemental materials and a free trial of Adobe Captivate Prime.

BYOD:  Please bring a WiFi-enabled laptop with Storyline and Captivate installed (trial versions okay).

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9 Steps To Successfully Adapt Your Online Course For Face-To-Face Use

Many articles exist to help you adapt your face-to-face training for online use, but what if you need to do the opposite? This article considers 9 simple steps to help you adapt your online course for face-to-face use. This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

8 Creative Ways To Spice Up Your eLearning Course Summaries And Recaps

Are you bookending your online course effectively and piquing the interest of your target audience? In this article, I’ll share 8 creative ways to jazz up your eLearning course summaries and recaps. This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

“It’s new, so everyone needs training on it.” Nope.

“We’re introducing something new,” your client says. “So of course everyone needs to be trained on it.”

New thing requires 13 hours of trainingHmmm. Really?

Maybe your client is thinking this: “This new thing is so bizarrely new that no adult Earthling could possibly figure it out without formal training.”

Or maybe they’re really thinking this: “This new thing is a pain in my neck and I don’t know how to introduce it. I’ll have L&D train everyone and call it a day.”

Either way, the client is expecting you to unleash an avalanche of “training” on innocent people who would rather just do their jobs.

Stop that avalanche right now with your Jedi mind tricks. (Learn those tricks online on Jan. 23 or in my session at Learning Technologies UK.)


“Please train everyone on the new TPS software by June 1,” your client says.

The client expects to hear, “Sure. I’m on it!” Instead, offer an innocent “why?”

“Why are you installing new TPS software?” you ask.

“Because people were messing up their reports in the old software,” your client says.

“Why were people messing up their reports in the old software?”

“It was confusing to use,” your client says. “The new software walks people through the process a lot more clearly.”

“So the new software is easier to use?”

“Yeah, a lot easier.”

“And everyone who will be using it is already familiar with the old software?”

“Yep. They’ve all been entering TPS reports for years.”

At this point, do you agree with the client that everyone needs “training” on the new software? I hope not.

You might propose this: Give the new software to a few typical TPS report creators and watch them figure it out. Their struggles (or lack of struggle) will show what support they really need. A help screen or short reference is likely to be enough “training” in this case.

Use a goal to focus on performance, not training

If you’re using action mapping, you’ll want your client to give you a measurable business goal that justifies the expense of the project.

In our example, the client’s first goal was, “TPS software training is 100% complete by June 1.” This goal is measurable, but it doesn’t show how the organization will benefit. It also gets way ahead of itself by assuming that training is the solution.

Your innocent questions help the client see their real goal. This might be, “TPS error rates decrease 35% by June 1 as all TPS staff correctly use the new software.”

This goal doesn’t assume that training is the answer, and it justifies the expense of the project in terms the organization cares about. It also leaves room for many solutions, including job aids.

What about new products?

“We’re releasing a new product,” your client says. “Please train all employees on it.”

What are the two biggest problems with this request? I’d say:

1. The client assumes training is necessary.
2. They think “everyone” needs training. They’re planning a sheep dip.

Your (polite! helpful!) questions should steer the client to this:

  • The reason the product was created in the first place. What organizational improvement is the product supposed to achieve? For example, are we trying to snag some market share from a competitor? Help your client and SMEs focus on meeting that organizational goal, which may or may not require training.
  • A breakdown of the “trainees” by job role (sales, support, repair…)
  • The very specific tasks a typical person in each role needs to perform with the product (sell it using X technique, explain it when a customer asks Y, repair it when it does Z…)
  • The real-world barriers that might make each major task difficult, including problems with tools, time, social pressures, communications, management support…
  • The (many!) solutions that could be put in place to remove those barriers

Then, if some training does seem to be necessary, it will be far more targeted and useful.

You could use a similar approach for customer training for a new product:

  • Why was the product released? What problem does it solve for customers? What does it do for us as an organization?
  • Do we have different types of customers? How can we categorize them?
  • What does each category of customer DO with the product? What are the major tasks they perform?
  • What could make each of those tasks difficult? How could we make it easier?

Related articles

What to do if they just want “awareness”

How to design software training, part 1: Do everything except “train”

Is training really the answer? Ask the flowchart.

What You Need to Know to Become a Freelance Instructional Designer

If you would prefer to watch this on the YouTube channel to get the live chat, here is the link:

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How To Make Human Performance Technology More Agile

There is a lot of synergy between Human Performance Technology (HPT) and Learner Experience Design (LXD), and they are intertwined. HPT looks at the ecosystem of the performer while LXD encompasses the ecosystem of the learning design. This article looks at how we make Human Performance Technology more agile. This post was first published on eLearning Industry.