when should wbt should be a memo?

Snappy title, no?

I’ll give you my opinion on the title’s question:  All. The. Time.

Going back a few posts, I outlined the time that I had asked for information, heard it was in a WBT and was immediately deflated by the idea of watching a 20 minute WBT to find an answer I was looking for.  Word, annoying as it is, is at least searchable.

But the idea itself has sat inside my brain like a seed.  Why do we even use WBT as a community?    When I research this, I come up with some interesting themes.  It seems as though WBT was developed in response to the costly nature of live, instructor lead training.   The lure of lower cost, flexibility, and mobility is strong, and compares well to live training.  But it seems as if no one ever asked themselves – but could an email or memo have sufficed?  Seems there are different, overlooked “delivery channels” that might fit the criteria that makes WBT so great.

Deconstructed, WBT is a message with visuals, an avatar or more, and some scenarios (at best).  Could we not continue to do that in email?   Instead of a 20-30 minute WBT on our privacy policy, let’s say, why not a quick email:


Here’s the policy on privacy.  Here’s what it means practically, and for those of you who still do not get it, here are some examples of how you might use it in the workplace.  

End email with a read receipt.

Or, even better, attach or include a handy-dandy job aid.  Maybe, in this case, we send them a MOUSE PAD that sits by their computer that reminds them of the policy.  Maybe, for other things, a checklist or instructions.   For so long we’ve rolled up our learning professional noses at such  child’s play – memos, emails, job aids – and dismissed it as “not learning” that we have created an entire industry of people who produce learning that isn’t engaging at all and that our learners hate.

So, for your annoyance or reference, the following is a list of things that we might offer our learners, clients, or partners instead of the incredibly useless WBT:

  • email or memo
  • job aids (mouse pads, checklists, instructions, cards, etc.)
  • videos (if your argument is that reading is boring – I challenge you to do two things.  one is to double check how much reading there is in a wbt and the other is to see if you could take your boring 20 minute WBT and turn it into video that lasts less than 5 minutes.  i’m almost positive you can in 99.99% of circumstances.

I just don’t think avatars and clicked-on text boxes are interactive, engaging, or useful.  And as a learner, I *hate* them.  Just tell me the policy and I will do it.  Don’t convince me with your scenarios, don’t make me click on boxes to see what some avatar says about it.  Just tell me.  Treat me like a grown up – an ADULT learner.

Oh – and stop making smaller WBTs and calling it micro-learning.

Get Off My Lawn, Millennials! An Infographic for Training Different Generations in the Workplace

This article came across my twitter feed this morning and says everything I’ve been saying and thinking about “generational” stuff in the work place.

Train Like a Champion

By now you’ve probably seen some sort of infographic or article or attended a webinar or training session on characteristics of different generations in the workplace.

I’ve attempted to put together an infographic (below) that details how learning and development professionals can approach instructional design and facilitation for learners from a variety of age groups.


There’s only one tiny problem with this infographic.

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pushback on pRewoRk

Here’s an article I found very insightful about the design of virtual learning spaces.

While I’m not a fan of WBT, I do like virtual learning.  I like flipped classrooms.  I like getting it said in a 2 minute video and moving on.    What I like about the article above is that it promotes the use of prework as a flipped classroom experience, and then allows the instructional designer to really do something creative in the virtual environment to make sure people learn and apply and do.

But that’s not reality sometimes.  Reality is that we get pushback on adding prework to a design, sometimes.  And I’m not stupid, I know that some people don’t do the prework, but I also feel that in an adult learning situation, the adult has to take ownership of their own learning and come to the table prepared to learn.

So how do you solve this?


As an adult and a learning professional, I’m firmly in the camp of continuing on when someone shows up unprepared, while not allowing that to cause undue work on the facilitator.  I’d prefer not to acquiesce to those showing up unprepared, or to remove prework or to lock it down through an LMS; I would rather let people fail and struggle.  Or admit that it didn’t affect them at all, in some instances.  I would go so far as to ask “Did you complete the prework?” on a Level 2 assessment to see if this question influences the knowledge transfer and behaviour we expect.

Which means, as an instructional designer – I’m designing both the flipped classroom for the learner and the experience for the facilitator.   That’s the nut worth cracking:  helping facilitators become the owners of the experience once it is designed, and not at the mercy of the learners attending.

why i hate deveLoping wbt

I’m currently assigned to an amazing project that has some real potential to deliver results.  One of those “gift” projects that level one and two assessments will be easy to do, and level three and four assessments will prove behaviour change and return on investment.  I will be one of those lucky instructional designers who smile knowingly when discussing kirkpatrick and have a real life example of a time we used four levels of evaluation.

But my GOSH I hate developing wbt.

Our level ones are “baked”, but I have to create a level two in wbt and publish it to our LMS.  This is the part of my job that does not cause me satisfaction (the entering it into wbt part – the writing of the assessment I enjoyed!).  But I did it, using a template, and it looks fabulous.  It’s lovely.  I even QA’ed it this morning, with a near perfect score.  There’s just one tiny little thing wrong but this one tiny little thing is the exact absolute reason I hate (developing) wbt.

Side rant:  wbt sucks as a learning delivery channel.  I don’t like it, I think we should avoid it, and I have never learned anything useful by popup text boxes and avatars.  Anything you could learn in a wbt could be better presented in a video.  And quicker.  And less stupidly fake looking.

Back to my current issue.  The one tiny little issue is that during the 10 questions, the forward button stays enabled.  Adult learning principles tell me that’s probably okay, let the adult learner do whatever they want – it’s their quiz to fail or pass or do over a hundred times.  However, in the LMS it ends up returning a null response to this and it ends up freezing.  Really – if it happens (which is unlikely) the user is likely to shut it down and try again.  It’s not that big of a deal, but it isn’t elegant.

So I went into the files and tried to fix it. We have an advanced script to run that hides the forward button.  Awesome!  I applied that and tried again.  The downside of this course of action is that the forward button is hidden from all question slides.  So then the user must somehow “know” to use the submit button instead.  Not very elegant.

And worse, if the back button is disabled, so that learners cannot go backward, the wbt goes forward when the user hits the back button because the entire screen works like a hot spot.  Yikes.

I finally fixed these issues and  republished.  The forward button is disabled, the back button is enabled, and the entire thing scores properly and navigates as best as expected.  Of course, all the spacing has been ruined so I had to go in and fix that.  Republish.  Fix something else.  Republish.

8 hours later, I think I have a viable wbt assessment.  And strong hatred for this delivery channel.

thanks, captain

I had this great idea  this week, as I was designing and developing some learning that would be trained virtually.  It was around having an Icon for the idea of “self assessments” instead of the words – that would later need to be translated.  And so, I googled the term “self assessment icon” and got this:

googly eyed crab

Amused, I sent an email to my team telling them about what had transpired and what their thoughts were on this icon.  I received an email suggesting that I use this:


to which another co-worker suggested we do this:
caillou mirror

and when I showed them I was actually going to use something more like this:


I received this:


And this, my friends, is what being on a team is really about.  Collaboration, fun, and a continual reminder to not take oneself so seriously.

et tu, brute?

I just had one of those light bulb moments for an instructional designer.

I’m working on a project that I was involved with 2 years ago.  I know the material, vaguely, but the details are lost on me.  The easiest way to explain it is that I’m creating leader content for general content that I did a few years ago – so to do this I need to reacquaint myself with some of the finer details and “how to” information.

My “come to Jesus” moment looked like this:

Me:  hey, when and how does <this role> do <this action>?

SME:  that’s covered in <this training>

Me:  (inside my head) I don’t have TIME to take a 20 minute WBT,  I just need the freaking answer

Oh crap.

I wrote that 20 minute WBT a few years ago.  It’s good stuff.  It’s informative.  I recommend it.  But when push comes to shove I didn’t want to take it because I didn’t want 18 minutes of context to get the simple answers I was looking for fast to get another task finished.

This is good, as it reaffirms things that I believe about learning.  But every time you affirm or learn, you have to act.  My question is, “now what?”


what’s fun got to do with it?

I’ve recently changed jobs.  More accurately, today was my first day at a new, amazing opportunity that I’m incredibly excited about.  Even more accurately, “new” is perhaps overstating it – I’ve worked here before, on the same team, and returned for a great new adventure with a team I love.

Someone asked me a challenging question about my situation today.  The question was something like, “what was it like, over there?  obviously something happened if you’re back.”  And he’s right, isn’t he?

I was only gone for 9 months.  I left 9 months ago to work on a new learning team – helping to develop healthcare SMEs into learning professionals.  I loved it.  I developed an online learning community between parent and child companies, I created and facilitated a 2 day instructional design workshop, I did learning bites about flipped classrooms, learning delivery channels, and terminology.  We talked performance support and learning on demand and were working with our business partners to set expectations.  We were definitely on the right track when a reorg happened and the strategy changed and I was the last man standing as a team of one.

But I digress.  I was explaining why I left so that I could explain why I came back.  It struck me today, as I tried to explain why I left and why I returned and why I’m so excited for the opportunity before me that it may come down to one small word:


The opportunity at the other job was still there.  I was a team of one who would create her own path and forge her own way and relationships.  But it wasn’t FUN anymore.  Without my team of SMEs-turned-Learning, I was working alone, had no real work friends on the floor, and had no one to collaborate and elaborate with.  This new job is amazing and has great potential and opportunity, but it struck me today, as I watched my team mates shoot each other with nerf bullets while talking learning, that what I craved most as a learning professional was a fun environment where my creativity could reignite.

And that’s what I have to remember as I begin to design learning for this new group – learning needs the right environment:  collaborative, where bonds are created and ideas are tested; the adult version of “learning through play”.



sociaL LeaRning

The title of this post might be a little misleading, but “snapchat made me think twice about what i was doing as a learning professional” seemed a bit long.

Not long ago, Snapchat introduced “lenses” or “filters” for their application.  For those of you who don’t know what Snapchat is, it’s an application you can download to your phone that captures images to send to friends.  Where the differentiation comes is that with Snapchat, your images are only “live” for 10 seconds and then they disappear.  Making inappropriate or more edgy messages a little less risky.  It’s essentially seen as an app that teens and young people use and probably has little uptake outside of affairs in most adult’s lives.

Except mine, of course.  As the parent of three young people and an involved aunt to teenagers, I’m on Snapchat and regularly use it.  My pictures are not especially edgy and often are funny views of the dog with some silly saying attached.  I have a friend who lives in Qatar and occasionally we send images of what our landscapes look like.  It’s all on the up and up and trust me – we’re getting to how this applies to learning.

So as I was saying, Snapchat introduced a feature called “lenses” where you can add filters to your images – turning your selfie into an old lady, a viking, a rainbow puking something or other, and other silliness.  Here’s where it gets to learning.

I received a snap from my daughter and opened it.  It was her as a raccoon, and quite amusing.  A day later I received another, where she was a bunny.  Another as a viking.  You get the idea.  While silly, it was kind of cool and my interest had been piqued.  I looked around the app and couldn’t quite figure out how to make these lenses happen.  The usual kind of background stuff existed, but this new stuff was not accessible.

So what did I do?  I googled it.

I googled “snapchat changes” and immediately got about 3000 hits, the first few talking about the new “lenses” available.  I clicked on one and scanned it, but it was a news release and largely uninteresting and didn’t tell me how to use it.  The second one I clicked on explained, in about two sentences, how one uses the new lenses feature.  I nodded, shut the link, and opened Snapchat to send a rather questionable photo of myself, as diva with cucumbers over her eyes and a turban on her head, to my daughter.  I had learned something!

Quickly, on my own, unprompted by mandate.  I remembered how to do it the next time I opened Snapchat.  I taught my husband when he said, “how do you do that??” and began to experiment within the app to see what else I’d missed.  This was self-directed learning!  It was quick and useful and there when I needed it.  If Snapchat had emailed me or messaged me in the app to tell me about updates and offered links to learn them I would have erased it without reading it.  If I had read it before being interested in it I would have forgot how to do it when I really needed it.

I want that sort of environment as learning culture.



I read this article recently on flexibility. It’s about business flexibility and the necessity for change in organizations and companies.  It has resonance for the learning community.

I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school when I suggest that the company I work for is going through some organizational changes.  Let’s face it, if it wasn’t, that’s an entirely different area to worry about.  Now, I tend to be an early adopter to most change, and face things with a pragmatism that can be downright annoying (or so I hear), but change causes anxiety even in those of us most embracing to change.

Articles like the one I link to often talk about business change – being flexible and nimble as a business.  But I find that learning teams could also use this advice – we’re often knee deep in gap analysis or a program when an organization shifts – and we quickly have to adapt to support the changes, even when we don’t have insight into the motivation or direction of the change.  Even when the change may impact our own role in the organization.

I like this article for its practicality and transferable ideas.  The three strategies presented are listen, really listen, and keep an open mind.

Listen – as learning professionals, we need to listen what the business and what the employees are saying about the change and what may be required to support it.  If we were not at the table during the change management portion of the change, this may serve as our gap analysis to what needs to be done post-change.

Really Listen – as learning professionals, we may need to ask specifically how learning can support the change.  We may need to pull out the “what’s in it for me” along with “what’s in it for the business” as we seek to partner with the business during change to ensure its success.

Open your Mind – as learning professionals, we may agree or disagree with the change, but we need to be open to what the change may bring and the role we may play in it.  This is an opportunity to be innovative and flex our creativity as we support people through the change and foster new strategy into the organization.

One of my favourite aspects of learning is the flexibility required to change priorities and meet people’s needs as they navigate their careers.


the #gLamouRousLife

You know how it is.   It’s like the first time you get a traveling-for-work job and everyone thinks it must be so glamourous, but after two or three weeks the truth seeps out:  it sucks living out of suitcases and eating out of cartons.  It’s lonely and boring and you’re often too tired to enjoy the scenery.

I’m tasked with coming up with a training schedule and proposal and I’m doing it in excel and following someone else’s proposal.  These are the unglamourous days of filling in excel cells and double checking your work and hoping against hope that you’ve scheduled the right person in the right province on the right day.  It’s necessary work for the rest of the work, but it’s not glamourous or particularly interesting work.   It’s hard to stay focused.

But I found this article to help me stay focused.  This is one of those breaks from the short bursts.  Not all instructional design and learning tasks can be as interesting and glamourous as the other 95%