Friday, February 8, 2019

Steps in Creating Content That Helps Learners Achieve Their Goals - Tip #206

Here’s an initial question to you. How do participants learn in a situation? Let’s find out by comparing certain examples.


I like this video simply because it is a “shining” example of how you can bore your learners to death, disconnect with them and be equally assured that they have not learned anything or retained any of the content you shared.  On the other hand,  analyzing the learners’ behavior and the lecturer’s demeanor provides us with a clearer perspective of what not to do and helps us understand what can be done to improve the approach.

In this instance, did any learning happen?  What did the video show about the learners’ reactions? Was the content that was being shared appreciated at all?

These are the cold facts of this case:
  • It is a lecture approach
  • Really boring
  • Dry delivery of the content
  • Lecturer’s monotone voice
  • No engagement, no retention
Realize that I am taking you through a process as learners, using the example to help you experience what you can give your learners. Notice that a pattern has been established.
Click here for enlarged view.

By doing steps 1 to 4, how did we help you (the learners) to focus on your own goals? If you answered a resounding YES then you are correct!

This is what I would call the “learning engagement strategy.” Why?  Answer: The learning is a goal in the mind of the learner and not from the trainer.

We all learn differently. Thus, we need to tune in to the learners according to their own goals and help them fill in their gaps. For you and I to get the learners to set their minds in motion, we need to give them the opportunity to reset their own goals. Their goal is what is important, not our own goal.


Here’s another illustration on the usage of a simple software.
How do we help the learners so that they can find their own meaning when using the software?

What do you think are the problems that can be resolved?

Images or images with captions help our learners interpret how the software can be used and how it will benefit them. It also provides them insight into its relevance to their current responsibilities. It allows them to employ the application.


Here is another concept that deals with content.

What ideas in the circles would you first look into, to help this couple review their problem?

From a design point of view we, 1) showed a real life situation, 2) showed options in the circles, 3) proceeded to ask questions and 4) then shared the responses from all who posted ideas and feedback in the chat.

By doing steps 1-4, learners learn the content we share. They are able to relate a situation to the concept. They get connected to a real-life situation that engages them to reflect on solutions and alternatives in the process of problem-solving.  It allows them to share their perspectives, experiences and learn from each other.


Let me take you through a short introduction into Storyboarding.

A key factor in successful webinar delivery structure is creating a series of micro-lessons. 
First, we begin to focus on objectives. Moving on, we come up with an event that includes story questions. Here, we flow in a pattern that we are trying to build on with the learner.

Relative to this, notice that in our three examples above, our lesson content varies by changing the application in real-life situations.

Let's do a short exercise. Create a real-life situation plus your content. Make it very short like real life one word or two words plus content. This is an exercise of a quick application. Try using your own content, courses or webinars.
Some helpful examples:
  • Need a job, asking good questions
  • Car accident plus filing a claim
  • Man in shock, review bank statement
  • E-tech issue plus how to navigate the system
Realize that each one of these are tiny lessons. Within it you have the learner’s objective. Then you have a situation plus content, building up the learner each step of the way.

Let me leave you with this food for thought.

Preview this short video and answer the question: What happens to our learners if we don’t encourage them to reflect on our content, but instead, ask them to memorize?

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Gaining Superior Motivation Skills for Webinar and Virtual Delivery - Tip #205

Many of you are well aware that I run a workshop titled The Masterful Virtual Trainer Workshop. A number of the things I will be sharing today will be drawn from it.

Let me start with this question for you - Is motivation about (A) JOY or (B) TAKING ACTION?

Most of you will probably answer (A). Why? Because you may be happy, you might be having fun, possibly exhilarated and you mistake that for having motivation. However, motivation is better defined as TAKING ACTION. It is harnessing results for what we want to do and to be able to see the outcomes of what we want to accomplish.

In a webinar or virtual session, what makes learners motivated or demotivated or uninterested? Some may say - monotone, little engagement, lack of interest, lack of interaction, no questions, not exciting or really boring situations.

In one of my sessions I asked this question: In your own experience, how do you motivate virtual learners?

Here are some of their answers:
  • Ask leading questions
  • Encourage interactions
  • Get them involved in the conversation
  • Coax information out of them
  • Call them by their name (Recognition)
  • Chat questions
  • Polling

What is the Emotional State of Your Learners?

Two types of states -

Mental state - talking about content cognitively
  • Are they learning?
  • Are they picking up ideas?
This is probably where learning is happening  but where disinterest may also be taking place.

Emotional state - more difficult to ponder
  • Emotions could fluctuate
  • Boredom or excitement can happen here
  • Joy may also occur in this state
However, truth to say is this - they go hand in hand as a process.
Observe the emotional state of learners in these two videos
Preview the videos by clicking on the titles.
  1. Anyone, anyone teacher from Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  2. Paper Chase - The Socratic Method
We all agree that there is a huge distinction between the A and B models. Whereas A is blatantly boring and learners are practically disconnected, B shows the professor basically fielding provocative questions with seeming intimidation and getting his students focused and reflective. The Paper Chase video is actually a re-enactment of a Harvard Professor’s class that shows asking questions is far more engaging and gets the learners to think.


There is only one type of motivation - SELF- MOTIVATION.

We as trainers, webinar presenters and virtual trainers can be instrumental in raising motivation levels. But, understand that it still is a self-motivation process by the participants themselves. In reality, our job is to help move learners from a demotivated phase to the motivated state.

Let’s review and reflect on the steps to accelerate that process.

Moving forward, we begin to summarize that there are key aspects to self-motivation:
  1. Situations
  2. Reflection / Insight
  3. Feedback
These happen all throughout the entire webinar or the engagement meeting.


Typically, we write a lot of instructions - a lot of content. However, they are not in “situation form.” In the examples below, which lesson grabs attention?
It is obvious that the visual showing a situation would capture the imagination of the learners very quickly.

Question to you: Why does a situation trigger high interest and motivation? What happens to the mind? What happens to our thinking process?

Learners may find themselves:
  • Relating to it
  • Empathizing with it (Empathy)
  • More responsive to it
  • Becoming more curious
Something happens in our minds. It triggers critical thinking. Connection happens between the situation and the learners.
Situations help the learners connect with what you are talking about. If we do not start with a situation, we risk having learners disinterested in our topics.

Situations Trigger Emotions

View the video and then answer the question:

3. The Incompetent Employee
I am pretty sure that all kinds of emotions well up as a result of the diverse points from where we are coming. If this person was just lecturing, you would not really relate to him. But the video gives rise to different emotions depending on our own personal experiences or situations.

Let’s say we chose empathy. This can actually be empathy for either the manager who is dealing with this or for the incompetent employee.

This is why when you begin your presentation and you start with anything factual like for example, "Our objective today is to..." you lose your learner. So, instead of starting that way, begin with a situation. This will carefully and immediately make the objective clear to the learner. A SITUATION is the best tool that a trainer can use to start anything and is almost always guaranteed to provoke a reaction. In fact, the more you talk about a situation, the more the learner is able to think about the problem and find the answer.

Situations Facilitate Conversations
Situations are relatable. These trigger personal experience or memory. They provoke the thought process and gets the learner thinking. They require learners to analyze what is happening. The outcome results in practical application.

What questions can you ask a webinar audience to start conversation?

Here are some examples:
  • Have you been in this situation?
  • What is the solution?
  • How can you help?
  • What would you do in this situation?
  • What emotions are the characters going through?

Now you are taking advantage of questions that will trigger or continue the conversation. This is important in the way the learners think.

Note that you could not have started a conversation without starting with a situation.

How does having a conversation in webinars help in learner motivation?

Learners are encouraged to get involved and invested. They feel good because they participate rather than being lectured to. This allows them a sense of recognition and engages them deeper.

The learners are having conversation in their mind as well as a chat among themselves and with the facilitator. No matter how huge the audience is during a webinar, what is important is that the learners reflect and listen to themselves, reflecting and thinking, to process what they are seeing in the questions to themselves. This enables them to bounce it back to others including the facilitator as they move through the circle of conversation throughout the webinar delivery.

Situations help learners focus on context, meaning and insights. They set the tone and the background.

Read back the conversation comments of learners as a way of reinforcing many of the ideas that you may be stressing in your lesson. Yet, note that you as a facilitator, are using your learners’ voice for your teaching points. Hence, it becomes your learners’ learning not yours.

Situations carry meaning BUT conversations carry both content and meaning, Hence, when conversation takes place we insert content within a situation.

If you start with a fact and not a situation, you will not be able to ask your learners to take action or ask them what they would do.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Friday, January 18, 2019

Technical eLearning Made Easy - Tip #204

Technical training appeals to me a great deal because of the way training is designed around technical and factual information and the ability to get returns from whatever investment has been made.

The challenge presented by these trainings, has always been the inundation of so much facts, measurements and other factors.  As a result, there is a lack of focus on the right and much needed learning content. This causes tremendous overload in our learning design.

Learning by Doing : Problem-Solving Approach
In today’s learning environment, the reality is that there are varied types of learners including those with technical or even medical orientation. The best way to help them appreciate the learning is by taking them through the discovery process.

Science, Mathematics, Technology and Engineering are major areas where technical and scientific data abound. So, how do we sift through the massive information to generate meaningful and useful content for the learners?

How do you fuel their interest and raise interactivity levels to keep them engaged and focused?

Let them discover the problem and work to resolve it!

Discovery learning takes place in problem-solving situations where the learner draws on his own experience and prior knowledge. It is a method of instruction through which students interact with their environment by exploring and manipulating objects, wrestling with questions and controversies, or performing experiments.(Wikipedia)
Faye Borthick and Donald R. Jones emphasized the advantage of collaboration in discovery learning and the sense of community that results from it. They opined that, "In discovery learning, participants learn to recognize a problem, characterize what a solution would look like, search for relevant information, develop a solution strategy, and execute the chosen strategy. In collaborative discovery learning, participants, immersed in a community of practice, solve problems together."

Implementation Models - Discovery Learning Approach

Here are two implementation models to help you guide your learners through the Discovery Learning Approach.
Ask learners to study the process and find the deviations.
  • This may mean looking into technical documentation and even into the equipment
  • Ask them to look for deviations and identify the exceptions or those not within the norm
The important info is not in the norms or standards. Rather it is in those deviations the learners discover. These are what they focus to resolve.

Creating the Micro-Content

Prepare a micro-content - not teaching all the details or all of the content. Rather, identify what is most important that must be learned or resolved.

The basis of identifying micro-content is affected by the deviations that are discovered. This is what you drill into, as the learners work out the solutions to the deviation or problem.
Take the learners through the above learning process so they are able to approach it properly.

What have we accomplished with this design?

In the model above, realize that the job of the trainer is to organize the setting so that you may ask the learners to do all of the above steps in the process. This allows your learner to go through their own discovery journey.
  • Identify an issue with characters in conversations
  • Allow them to play around with a representation of the equipment
  • Let them go through the equipment
This allows a trial and error process as well. You can ask the learners to translate the complex technical information into real and vivid ways.


Why is this a more fun way of doing technical training compared to lecturing to your audience?

This design approach helps the learners discover the learning on their own. All you need to do as a trainer is to prepare the environment where they could do this.

It alludes to the “near-learning” concept that the learning and the distance to application in real life are very close to each other.

Let the learners do the work. You create the conducive environment and ask the learners to complete the journery to discovery.

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Dash of Exaggeration Makes Story-Based Lessons More Captivating - Tip #203

Two coworkers met during break time and shared the interesting things that happened to them so far. One worked through his story in a linear fashion, i.e., from point A to point B. The other started with, “You won’t believe what happened to me today...”

Which story would be more fascinating? Which would engage you more?

What Makes a Story Interesting?

First of all, a good story talks about a topic that’s interesting or important to the audience such as adding value to the topic, according to the American Press Institute. So the no.1 consideration when writing story-based lessons should be: “What’s In It For My Audience (WIIFMA)?

After that are these three things: emotions, embellishment and authenticity, according to sales leadership expert Lisa McLeod.

A boring story is like Wikipedia. It provides the listener or learner with the facts: “This happened and then this and then that.” Boring stories give the same focus to every minute detail.

Great stories, on the other hand, provide interpretation of the facts, highlighting some details over others. By drawing attention to these important parts, great stories supply meaning to an event.

How to Exaggerate Your Story-Based Lessons

A potent method of attracting learners’ attention is exaggeration. It guides them to the important message or critical learning point in story-based lessons.

Here’s how writer and visual artist Annie Weatherwax incorporates exaggeration in her writing:

1.  Decide on your message or lesson.
“When I write a scene, I distort reality as a painter does. I decide first how I want my world to be understood. What is it that I want my readers to feel and see clearly?”

2. Pick elements to highlight or emphasize.
“Then I’ll look around at my setting and ask myself: What’s here that I can use? If there is light coming in the room, I’ll accentuate it to set the mood. If there’s a couch, I might heighten my readers awareness of how it’s worn.”

3. Choose character traits to magnify.
“And I will study my characters’ faces. Is there a specific feature I can exaggerate to make the reader understand who they are more clearly? And how can I dramatize or embellish what my characters do and say?”

4. Rinse and repeat, as necessary.
“I will pick and choose and manipulate the essential elements of my scene until I’ve reshaped reality into a new form, one that holds together and sheds an unexpected light.”

Exaggeration is a storytelling tool, so use it well. Our story-based lessons should definitely inspire learners to act and change.


American Press Institute. What makes a good story?
Cheryl Conner. Thought Leadership: What Makes a Good Story?. Forbes, Feb. 23, 2016
Assessing Authenticity Quotient in Story-based eLearning Design
Lisa Earle McLeod. Why Exaggerating Your Stories Is Good for Everyone, Mostly. Huffington Post, June 18, 2014
"Why Exaggeration Works in Learning"
John Penturn on Quora
Annie Weatherwax. Exaggeration & Distortion: What Writers Can Learn From Visual Artists. Ploughshares at Emerson College
Tip #41 - How to Weave Hard Facts and Emotions into your eLearning Lessons
Tip #201 - How Visual Arts Inspire Microlearning Lessons

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, November 26, 2018

Microlearning That Kicks Learners Into Thinking and Acting - Tip #202

Remember that science experiment where you use a magnifying glass to burn or ignite a piece of paper or dried leaf?

Microlearning is (or should be) like that.

Etching Lessons Through Glass and Sun

This magnifying glass experiment is perhaps one of the first scientific activities that we all remember having participated in as kids. Why do most people still recall that specific experiment even if they conducted it when they were still children?

Simple. As with other memories, the experiment engaged them. It was fun and it stuck in their brain.

And the best part is that most of us will find it easy to remember the lesson behind the experiment as well. After that experiment, we might never have viewed a magnifying glass the same way again. No longer is the magnifying glass a harmless little thing, but indeed a fire hazard and even “a weapon of ant destruction.”

What can this science experiment teach us? How can we apply it to microlearning?

Zoom In and Focus

Microlearning comes in different formats: videos, courses, infographics, games, simulations and many more. But underneath these various ways of presenting microlearning lessons is a core principle that should guide designers and trainers. All microlearning content should should zoom in and focus on a single problem or issue that the learner needs to solve or address.

“What does it take to build successful microlearning?,” asks this Association for Talent Development (ATD) article. “Mostly, it’s just careful consideration of the problem you’re trying to solve—the very specific, narrowly focused problem you’re trying to solve.”

Why just one problem? Well, we have to remember under what circumstances microlearning content is mostly consumed. While performing a task, an employee might run into an issue and shifts focus to overcoming this hindrance so they can continue performing their job.

This means they have very little time to solve the problem at hand. A speedy answer is necessary so they can get back to their work immediately. This actually matches with how modern workers learn. According to Josh Bersin, modern workers commit only 1% of their time at work per week to learning and development activities. (That’s only 24 minutes a week!) A separate report also found that “employees utilizing microlearning know 85% of the information they are required to know to perform on-the-job compared to 73% when they started.”

What does this data mean?

Learning That Drives Thinking and Action

The report shows that microlearning is an effective way to kick learners into thinking and acting. By smartly integrating content where learners can easily access them— i.e., embedded in their daily work—microlearning seamlessly incorporates L&D so that it actually drives action.

How do you integrate microlearning into your learners’ daily work life? Share your answers with me on the comments section below.


Tanya Seidel. Microlearning Is More Than a Buzzword. Association for Talent and Development, June 27, 2018
Josh Bersin. The Disruption of Digital Learning: Ten Things We Have Learned. March 2018
Global Newswire. New Axonify Study Reveals Microlearning Key to Enabling an Agile Frontline Workforce. July 25, 2018
Tip #167 - 5 Proven Ways to Help Learners Remember Lessons
Tip #170 - How to Leverage Opportunities for Microlearning Impacts
Tip #182 - Curious Language Sparks Learning Engagement
Tip #197 - 5 Ways L&D Can Adapt to the Evolution of Employees

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

Monday, November 19, 2018

How Visual Arts Inspire Microlearning Lessons - Tip #201

If you have an important lesson to share with your learners, how do you ensure that it sticks to their memories?

You might want to take a page out of the artist’s work.

Exaggeration and the Artist

When you look at the artworks of Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh and others, you might have failed to notice one important element that’s present in all of them: exaggeration. Art movements like cubism and impressionism draw the eye or illicit emotions thanks to some overemphasized element. Picasso portrayed the human form in terms of cubes, while Van Gogh amplified color and movement in his paintings.

Our tendency to exaggerate goes back to ancient times. Have you ever encountered the Venus (or Woman) of Willendorf? It’s a figurine depicting a nude woman with exaggerated sexual attributes. Believed to have been carved during the Old Stone Age period (around 30,000 B.C.), it is associated with fertility and childbearing and was perhaps even considered a mother goddess of some type. Visual artists “instinctively know” how to exaggerate, theorizes neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran, Director of the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California at San Diego.

Adding One Level of Exaggeration to Your Microlearning Lessons

Exaggeration is a potent method of bringing learners’ attention to an important or critical message or lesson. Just take a look at the entertainment industry, mass media and social media, which use some form of exaggeration - the extreme, the absurd, the ridiculous, etc.—to hook the attention of their audiences.

According to Clark Quinn, an expert in learning technology strategy and Executive Director of independent consultancy firm Quinnovation, “We should be thinking about exaggeration in our learning design.” He suggests using exaggeration as a tool to mimic the stress of real life into our learning situations to “enhance engagement and effectiveness.”

“If we increase the meaningfulness of the learning context to match the performance context, even if the details are more dissimilar, I think it’s an effective tradeoff,” Quinn says.

In microlearning, exaggeration can hone learning ideas. Learners respond to exaggeration because it triggers our brain to remember and relate to past experiences.

Take a look at these examples. If you were shown these images at the start of a related training content, how would you feel? Would these visuals make you more interested or engaged in the training content? Why or why not?

[Workplace conflict]

[Example for bad customer treatment]

What are your thoughts about using exaggeration in microlearning? Can you think of any other benefits? How about any potential disadvantages? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.


Annie Weatherwax. Exaggeration & Distortion: What Writers Can Learn From Visual Artists. Ploughshares at Emerson College
Wikipedia. Venus of Willendorf
Chris Higgins. V.S. Ramachandran: A Neurological Theory of Artistic Experience. Mental Floss, June 29, 2009
"Why Exaggeration Works in Learning"
Clark Quinn. ONE level of exaggeration. Learnlets, September 26, 2018
Tip #2 - Using the ridiculous and exaggerated situations to hone learning ideas

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"