Love Your Learners - eLearning Blog

We bring you the most eminent thought leaders in their fields, from leaders in the tech and nonprofit sectors to one of the founding fathers of eLearning. Get engaged & love your learners!

Introducing the Litmos Education Webinar Series

wizard-with-crystal-ballWe want you to be successful with your eLearning!  And so, the Litmos team is introducing the Education Webinar Series.  Every first and third Wednesday of each month the Litmos team will be hosting a 30 minute webinar at 10:00 am PST to educate Litmos users in ways they can better utilize the system and become an LMS wizard.

The series will include a wide variety of webinars with topics for both beginners and well seasoned users.  Some sample topics include Instructor Lead Training (ILT) modules, customizing the system, Ecommerce solutions, Salesforce app, new features to the system, and much much more.  Upcoming webinars will be announced through our blog and monthly newsletter.  For any additional information, please contact

Although Litmos is the most user friendly Learning Management System in the world, we want to make sure each and every customer is using the system in the best possible way.  Using the system may be simple; however, being familiar with every feature may be a bit more of a challenge, especially if you are unaware of all the possibilities.  This is just another way the Litmos team is making your eLearning easier.

To start the webinar series we are doing a kicking off webinar titled Getting Learners into Litmos taking place on July 23rd at 10:00 am PST.  This kick off webinar will go over the various ways to get learners into your system including manually, bulk import, and self sign-up.

To join the kick off webinar on Wednesday, July 23rd at 10 am PST Register here.

We look forward to seeing you there!

*image courtesy of

Tips for Successful Instructor-led Training Events…or Concerts!

Last week I introduced you to the idea of making your subject matter experts the center of your initial training efforts. It’s their knowledge…not yours. Treat them like the knowledge rockstars they are and you will win.

Recap of Last Post

Lets recap the last post to understand why you should see your SMEs as rockstars.

This is important because…

  1. you gain the trust of your SMEs
  2. you quickly add value to the business
  3. you can define/refine a repeatable ILT (Instructor led training) production process
  4. the event is the starting point for your new design process

These are all important but in this post I will focus on the ILT event.

As long as we’re stickin’ with the Rockstar metaphor we should think of our events as concerts, right? It’s a show! And your rockstar SME is center stage.  You want all of the attention on them, and not the room, and not the technology, or the horrible day they are having. Getting people away from their desks, and the grind of their day, should be as exciting as going to a concert for them. Being excited about “going to training” is not something you will hear very often.  But people do get excited about going to concerts and that’s your goal.

Simple Ideas for producing a killer training concert!

training best practices

Promote the event!

It’s not uncommon for training departments to stop caring once the class registration roster is full.  But this is a huge mistake. You want your attendees walking into the class with a pure desire to listen, and learn. And you can make a difference by continuing to communicate with the registered attendees. One giant, long, email the day before the event does not count.  Sure, do that, so they get the correct logistical information all in one place, but you should do more.  Small notifications over time can help keep their mind on the event and get them in the mood.  Don’t miss the learning opportunity here as well.

Provide food…GREAT food!

Food solves many problems, and great food can be magical. It’s hard to focus on learning when you’re hungry. If you are running a day-long workshop then you should be prepared to have a small breakfast, a hearty lunch and snacks throughout the day.  Even if you are only running a 1-hr event you should have some sort of food option available.

Setup and test technology…then test it again

There is nothing worse than dealing with technical issues in front of everyone and delaying the start of the event. This immediately puts everyone on edge and you quickly lose all of the excitement you built up with your pre-event promotional efforts.  This makes the SME’s job that much harder to reignite their passion for being there.

Greet attendees as they arrive

There is little more comforting than a kind greeting with a warm smile. This is your job, the SME’s job.  You are facilitating the event and the goto person for questions, etc…not the SME. Remember, they are the rockstar and you are the “promoter” so to speak. So be sure to go out of your way to welcome everyone and be engaged with the event so you can quickly address any issues…big or small.

Setup the room for success

Make sure the room is clean and free of foul odors. First impressions impact everything about the experience, so make sure the room is looking and smelling its best. Creating a comfortable environment for learning is critical and even the little things you do with a room make a big difference.  So, don’t just take a room as it is.  Go the extra mile and do something unique within the space to make it functional, memorable, and delightful.

Everyone Loves Getting Gifts

Setup each student area with a pen and paper…at the very least.  Make sure there is an outlet close by and wifi available. And don’t forget a small gift of some sort…preferably something branded and unique.

I think you get the idea.  Don’t just push the logistics of your event onto the shoulders of an admin.  This is YOUR event highlighting the genius of your knowledge rockstar.  At this point you have had little to no control over the content and so it is up to you to be excellent at all the things that ARE in your control. And that’s the logistics of the event.  Don’t minimize the importance of the little things and how much real learning impact you can have on attendees by paying attention to the details.

*Image courtesy of

How to Make Your Subject Matter Expert a Rockstar!

rockstar sme

*image courtesy of

Everyone wants to be a rockstar at some point in their lives. Corporate professionals are no different. Most of us will never get that chance, and probably don’t actually want it.  We just like to dream about it. What we’re really after is just a little recognition. We like that the company values our knowledge and expertise, and we enjoy talking about it and sharing with those who are interested. But most of this is seen as part of management’s responsibility.  Recognizing employees, and keeping employees motivated is their responsibility, not the training department’s…or is it? I don’t think many of us think of it from our unique perspective as training professionals. We should. And we will…right now.

Success This Way, Failure That Way

Our subject matter experts are the single gateway between success and failure.  And yet, in much of my “education”, and in many good books about our industry, SMEs are simply referred to as a resource. We talk about them like an ATM of knowledge, and how we will extract all of what we need quickly and efficiently. We learn how to craft surveys, and questionnaires. We learn how to interview SMEs to get all the information we need to create training content. We expect them to be okay with just handing over their content without anything in return but the promise of a course based on their intellectual property. And when we include them in our design processes we get frustrated with them because they “want to include everything and the kitchen sink”.   Nobody will ever teach you how to how to treat your SMEs like…well…people!

“e-Learning is NOT about Technology. It’s about people. The “e” stands for everybody!”

Do You Already Have Their Respect?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure all of you are quite nice to your SMEs and they are most likely quite cordial with you in return.  In fact, you may even have stopped reading already because you don’t see a problem with how you’ve dealt with your subject matter experts.  You may even think you already have the full respect of your SMEs and don’t need to change a thing.  Hurray for you! Nice work. But for the rest of us, a simple shift in thinking could very quickly turn a difficult situation into a major win for everyone involved.

And before I continue let me just confirm your suspicions that this does not apply to every SME, or every situation. Every situation is different. I simply feel compelled to share because I’ve had bad experiences of my own, and I’ve heard about so many more related to working with SMEs. And while you may not have had a bad SME experience yet in your career, I can assure you they exist.  Why am I so sure? Because what we do involves people, and people are emotional, and unpredictable, not the mindless “resource” our ISD (Instructional Systems Design) processes assume they will be. No! They’re people!

A typical scenario might go something like this:

Mrs. SME is identified as the “goto” person for topic-x in the company. She is more than willing to chat about her expertise with those willing to engage and eager to learn. She is happy conducting 1:1 Informal Training sessions because it’s a good feeling to be helpful and, as human beings, we enjoy engaging with other human beings about topics we love. But then the company grows larger and what was once fun becomes an interruption, a grinding chore, and begins to take away from Mrs. SME’s productivity. This is where the business learns an important lesson: 1:1 Informal Training does NOT scale.

This is when you get the call. “Hey training! We need a course on topic-x so Mrs. SME, and her team can focus on the work. We need it ASAP. Thanks!”

This is not the type of situation where a 6 weeks, or 6 months, ISD process is going to fly. Remember, you want to keep it simple, and provide business value. Turn off your ISD brain and just think “SIMPLE, and ADD BUSINESS VALUE”. And don’t forget that you’re dealing with people. Yes! The request is clear. Create a training course.  And yes, you are the best. And given the content, you will create something amazing.  But what about the SME? Sure, they don’t want the hassle of daily interruptions of informal 1:1 training requests, but they also don’t want to give up that part of the job that makes them feel so good.  Disconnecting the intellectual property from it’s owner, in my experience, is easier said than done. Even when they agree that your help is needed, letting go of the ownership and responsibility is hard. Taking this into account will change your perspective and make you a more successful, and empathetic training professional.

Iterative Training Development Process

One of the side benefits I’ve found with my version of an iterative training development process is that you provide immediate, consistent, and visible, business value while maintaining the SME’s company standing as the expert. And not surprisingly, the Litmos LMS was simple and flexible enough to support my iterative process. And this is how you begin to move your SME from expert to rock star.

Let Your SME Be The Focal Point!

front and center

*Image Courtesy of

Your new perspective puts the subject matter expert in the center of everything.  Your role is to simply support them. And yes this goes against everything you’ve been taught about designing eLearning. Let it go. You’re in the real world now, dealing with real people in a real business with many more variables to deal with than you were ever taught in school.

It’s go time! You have no team. You have yourself, a SME, an employee base hungry and eager to gain this knowledge, and management just wanting it done…NOW! What do you do? If you’re first thought is to build an elearning course, then do not pass go and do not collect $200(that’s a board game joke right there). At this point in the training content life cycle eLearning is not simple, or rapid, and does not add business value now.  A simple solution with added business value(including cultural acceptance) is the timeless classic: the instructor led classroom training event.

The classroom puts your SME front and center.  Even when a SME tells you s/he hates being in front of the classroom, they DO appreciate the prestige it offers them. Part of your job will be to reassure them how great they are doing.  And when they send you a slide deck with 100+ slides because they’ve included “everything and the kitchen sink”, you will tell them it looks great! Why? Because this training class is about THEM, not you. It’s about scaling up the informal 1:1 training they’ve provided the company so far.  That’s it…for now.  Don’t make it any more complicated than it needs to be.  Remember: Simple, added business value, and make the SME look like a rock star!

Trust Is Everything

You might be thinking to yourself that you could make the SME look SOOOoooo much better if only you could “help them with their slides”.  Don’t do it. Remember: This first event is NOT about you! The SME was successful in their informal 1:1 training conversations, so trust them to be good enough in a 1:many classroom training event.

Something that you may have missed in all of this is the work it takes to properly organize and facilitate an instructor-led classroom training event.  Working for the eLearning Guild taught me a LOT about event planning. If you think of your short 1 hour or 1 day training event like a mini conference event, then you start to take the logistics of planning a training event a little more seriously.

The logistics of ILT (Instructor-led Training) looks easy when its done right. And doing it right takes time, patience, and your undivided attention until you’ve mastered its execution, and then automated it, or delegated the responsibility to someone else. This is the selfish reason why you don’t want to worry about the content, and the SME at this point. You’ll be busy planning the event. You will need a room, A/V equipment for the presentation, a registration process, a tracking system, email invitations, a survey, chotskies, pens and paper, printed or digital materials, an assessment, announcements, a caterer, and video camera to record the session…and more.

The Most Important Part….

The most important part of making your SME into a rock star is making sure the event is well communicated, marketed, and runs without any issues. In a well executed training event, the logistics become almost invisible to the attendees, and that gives them a chance to focus 100% of their attention on the SME…the rock star. You will be amazed at how happy the business will be if you’ve paid attention to the details of the event.  No. It’s not what you went to school to learn, but it’s added value and impresses people more than your ISD skills ever will.

Even if you are in an established enterprise that has most of this in place, scaling up from informal 1:1 training straight to eLearning takes too long, holds the content hostage during the transition, and does not add business value.  You need a system that can support the transitions that occur during your iterative design process.

Making your SME a rock star is just a fancy way of putting them first and supporting their ego.  Your time will come soon enough.  Remember, that this is only the first transition this training content will go through in its life cycle. If you think of instructor-led training as the end game, then you are not thinking strategically. Starting with an ILT event shows the business that you can get it done and that you respect the employees enough to show quick, quality, results when asked.

Don’t worry so much. Your time to show off your media development and elearning development skills will come. In fact, this entire exercise is also the beginning of your design process. And yes, this is not how you were originally taught to do either.  Oops. Remember the real world I told you about? Yea, you’re still in it.

In a future blog post I will go into detail about how the ILT event is part of your design process as well as how making your SME look like a rock star is the beginning of your entry into rock stardom as well.

7 Levels of Corporate Training and eLearning Development

elearning development

This framework attempts to clarify and harness the realities of developing training solutions in today’s 21st century corporation. One thing I know for sure is that no model, or framework, is EVER one-size fits all. Another thing I know is that you will most likely argue my use of the terms model and framework. Feel free to vote in the comments as to which term is best. I will use framework because it just feels right to me, but I am happy to call it whatever my editor friends feel is most correct. And while this framework is numbered and appears to be linear, the path you choose will be up to you and based on your abilities, and available resources.

And as a side note, this is a work in progress.  I’m open to any and all input.  For starters, I’m not really sold on the term “levels”, but just couldn’t think of anything else that worked.  I’m happy to outsource that to the community as well.

Definition of the 7 Levels

Here is how I currently define the levels:

  1. 1:1 Training – informal learning, prior to the existence of a training team
  2. Organized ILT - Organized face-to-face classroom training
  3. Designed ILT - Designed face-to-face classroom training
  4. ILT + Inline Digital Media - Digital media segments incorporated into the classroom
  5. ILT + Offline Digital Media – Digital media segments delivered as pre-work, or post ILT spaced repetition
  6. ILT Delivered Live Online – face-to-face classroom training delivered online live to dispersed audience
  7. eLearning – Fully self-contained learning experience

Iterate Quickly, Show Progress & Add Value

If you’ve been in this business you can easily see the overlap, and the possibilities of completely skipping levels.  You may even find yourself jumping straight to any of these levels as your first AND final solution…never to be iterated again.  That’s okay. The purpose of the levels is to give you a chance to iterate quickly, and to be constantly showing progress while adding value to the business.  You are, in fact, building this car while you drive it.  And, honestly, for me, that’s what makes this process more fun. It’s also more flexible, and allows for quick changes and can adapt to the rapidly changing needs of the business.

Key Underlying Features

One of the key underlying features of this framework, if you start from 1 and proceed from there, is reducing your reliance on the subject matter expert over time without simply walking in and taking their intellectual property from them like a thief. This framework takes into consideration that your SMEs are people too. And they don’t take kindly to L&D people taking their intellectual property and then eliminating them from the training process. I remember in the past thinking that I was doing SMEs a favor by taking the burden of training off their plate. But the reality is that, even if they know they need your help, they enjoy sharing their knowledge with others.

The Promise You Can Make To The Business

The business reality is that the SMEs need to be free to get the work done, and not overwhelmed with requests for training, information, etc.  The promise you can make to the business is that while you will initially need the SME in order to provide immediate business value, that participation will decline over time. Your reliance on the SME ends at the point when you, the instructional designer, have gleaned enough from the SMEs content to create more highly designed and sustainable training solutions that can be taught by you, other team members, or fully automated in an eLearning course.

I am working on a matrix for this as well, so stay tuned. And there is a lot more to this framework than I can cover in one blog post, so I welcome your feedback and look forward to continuing this conversation.

*Image courtesy of

How Corporate Training Professionals Add Value as Knowledge Brokers

knowledge brokerknowledge broker

I’ve often referred to the corporate training professional as a Knowledge Broker.  And not in the academic sense (Google it and you’ll see what I mean), but in the framework of the corporate training profession. In all honesty, in the corporate setting that just seemed more closely aligned with what training professionals did on the job, and the value they provide to the business.

A Knowledge Broker connects those that have the knowledge with those that need the knowledge.

The Knowledge Broker & Their Solutions

Designing and developing courses as solutions is only one part of the job. Actually some of your most valuable solutions to the business do not involve the creation of training content or courses. The Knowledge Broker has a much larger bag of solutions to choose from than the traditionally defined training professional. But don’t get too caught up in the semantics of it all.  No matter what your job title is, thinking differently about how you provide value to the business is the ultimate goal.

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match!”

It may seem over simplified, but here’s the reality: Some employees HAVE the knowledge and other employees NEED the knowledge.  New employees, often overwhelmed, approach the training department looking for answers, for content, for training… but mostly just for help. And more often then not, just connecting the new hire with the subject matter expert is all they need to get started.  It’s 1:1 training. And it’s the most valuable thing you can do.

That may not sound like “your job”, and that you didn’t really do anything because you didn’t design a solution. But I would argue that you did.  In fact, you designed the most elegant and, likely, most effective solution.

“A designer knows when he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Remember To Keep It Simple!

Remember to keep your solutions simple, and always look to add value to the business.  Part of your job as Knowledge Broker is simply being a matchmaker. Try adding Matchmaker to your toolkit of solutions.

 *Image Courtesy of