Wednesday, May 15, 2019

AI Bots Gaining Ground- What Does It Mean for Us As Virtual Trainers? - Tip #212

AI Bots Gaining Ground What Does It Mean for Virtual Trainers?

Last year, China’s Xin Hua news agency introduced Qui Hao, the world’s first AI male news anchor. Just three months after, they unveiled Xin Xiaomeng, the world’s first AI female news presenter. While critics were quick to say that those anchors are not truly AI but just AI-powered, I leave that to the experts. AI has truly arrived and is now making its mark in the business of storytelling and presenting. What does this mean for us, trainers, facilitators, and presenters? Are we to lose our place as master storytellers in the fourth industrial revolution sooner than we think? Are human trainers and storytellers about to be replaced by AI bots? How do we continue to thrive and stay relevant in this fast-paced and ever-changing environment?

While an article by McKinsey and Co. doesn’t think so -- or at least not just yet, their research with MIT's Lab for Social Machines recognizes that a collaboration between humans and AI technology can be a very powerful tool to enhance the video storytelling process and help us continue to flourish in the world of AI.

Humans are innately emotional beings AI is not.

The power of human touch

What makes a fun, engaging and highly interactive virtual training or webinar session? Is it the usage of the latest tools? Perhaps. Is it showing the most visually appealing slides and content? Maybe. Personally, the most significant element of a successful presentation is the humanity of the trainer or presenter. The connection between humans, like how we make conversations, relate with each other’s stories, show warmth, humor and empathy, is still beyond the capabilities of AI. The emotional human traits are what set us apart. But it doesn’t mean that we can and should rest on our laurels.

Let’s challenge ourselves

Developments in AI and technology don’t happen in trickles, but in leaps and bounds. Have you heard about the short film, Sunspring? It’s the first ever screenplay solely written by an AI bot. Can you imagine this being possible ten years ago? Let’s continue to challenge ourselves and strive to be better trainers, facilitators and presenters in the midst of all the technology advancements going on. Be updated with the latest trends and topics. Always consider what is relevant to the changing needs of your learners and participants. Find new and creative ways to engage and evoke their emotions.


AI technology is here to stay. Whether we see it as a threat or an opportunity is a matter of perspective. I continue to see it as a challenge to be better at what we do. Humans are innately emotional beings. Let’s use this to our advantage whenever we do our sessions. In this modern world we live in, it’s always in the best interest of us, as trainers, and our learners to learn to adapt to the rapidly changing technology. This will help cement our place as master trainers and storytellers. Share with me your thoughts. I’d love to read your comments below.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

5 Big Don’ts for Successful Webinar Presentations - Tip #211

successful webinar presentations

Over the years, I have done a lot of seminars, workshops, and talks - both virtually and in-person. The main challenge in virtual presentations is that your audience can’t see you and vice versa. It can be tricky to capture their attention or get them engaged by merely hearing your voice and seeing your slides. How do you turn your presentation into a provocative, engaging, and highly impactful virtual experience for your learners?

In my previous blogs, I’ve shared numerous dos when designing and delivering successful webinars. Now, I give you the big don’ts.

Don’t skip the prep

In any endeavor, be it mountain climbing, joining a triathlon, performing on stage, or doing a virtual presentation, preparation is the key to its success. It was Confucius who said, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such effort there is sure to be failure.” Test and prepare your resource materials. Conduct a technical dry-run of your tools in advance. Rehearse your presentation flow. Be prepared with back-up plans for any possible glitches. Have a checklist and follow it religiously. Trust me, your audience don’t need to see you to know if you’ve come unprepared. The instant they realize that, nothing you say would interest them anymore.

Don’t drag with facts

I have learned, from my experience in doing webinars, that you immediately lose your audience’s attention the moment you start your presentation with facts. Nothing is enticing nor motivating about going through a litany of learning objectives, or stating compliance policies, or showing a bunch of technical data. I find using real-life situations and weaving stories into content to be highly effective in engaging the participants.

successful webinar presentations
Don’t force engagement

Connection with your audience has to happen naturally and seamlessly. You can’t force it or overdo it, lest you come off as inauthentic or insincere. Share relatable stories that trigger conversations. Pitch thought-provoking and relevant questions then allow your audience to reflect and share their thoughts and experiences.

Don’t prolong

Information overload is the bane of any audience. Webinars, generally, run an hour. Make it count for your audience by cutting down ideas to the “bare essentials.”  Avoid dumping unnecessary data. Make a personal commitment to NOT lecture in webinars. Capture your audience’s attention by providing ideas that are timely, highly contextual and relevant. Focus on the crucial topic and take control of the flow.

Don’t forget your audience

One key essential to a successful presentation is high audience interaction. As I’ve mentioned earlier, not being able to see each other is a challenge in webinars. How do you ensure that while you’re presenting and showing them your slides, that they are not busy doing something else? Ask your audience reflection questions and throw in intriguing ideas. Encourage them to respond and share their insights to sustain engagement. Veer away from providing definitive answers that do nothing to stimulate their thinking and curiosity.
successful webinar presentations


To be successful at webinar presentations, it takes preparation, dedication, creativity, sincerity, and hard work. Not everyone is born with great presentation skills but it can definitely be learned. Study your topics, practice, and always involve your audience. Reflect on these thoughts. I’d love to hear what you think. Post your comments below.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

7 Reasons Stories Work for the Modern Learner - Tip #210


Storytelling has been a very effective learning tool since time immemorial. But even with the changing learning landscape, big shifts in work environments and tech disruption, why do stories in eLearning designs still work? Simple. Everybody is a sucker for a good story, in whatever shape, type or form. The beauty of stories transcends all types of learners. Yes, including the distracted, impatient, overwhelmed modern learners.

Modern learners’ behavior, attitude and motivation towards learning have evolved over the years. The rigidness and linear approach of traditional training no longer appeals to them.

Here’s my take on why stories work for the modern learners.

1. Stories are highly contextual.

Today’s learners find more value in content that is relatable and personalized. Using highly contextual stories helps learners better understand how lessons can fit into their needs and be useful to them. Integrating stories in eLearning allows the learners to build their own understanding of the lesson, establish their analyses and come up with solutions to their problems.

2. Stories deliver content faster and easier.

In a typical work week, workers only spend less than 25 minutes on learning. They want fast access to answers and solutions whenever they need them. Instant learning through hyper-stories addresses that need.

3. Stories leave long-lasting impact

Modern learners are easily distracted and have shorter attention spans. Interactive stories aid in easier recall of lessons because it gets them to immerse themselves and share their experiences making learning a personalized, highly impactful experience.

4. Stories make complex ideas simple.

While facts, technical data, and policies are vital information to learners, they tend to ignore them unless there are some personal goals to be achieved. Stories in learning designs make complex ideas simple. It humanizes technical data and analytics and enables learners to fully and quickly grasp the learning points that can impact their performance.

5. Stories make learning meaningful.

Today’s learners may have a myriad of resources and information at their fingertips but they are focused on the ones that fit their purpose. Stories carry with them the real-life and emotional aspects of learning. It draws reactions, insights and reflections even after the story has ended.

6. Stories convert content into relevant ideas.

Millenials are self-reliant learners. They are the Google generation and adept at looking for answers by themselves. What engages them more is not just finding information per se but the relevance of the information to their jobs and their lives. Stories help learners realize the significance of lessons to them, thus, contribute to faster application to real work issues.

7.  Stories add to learners’ experience.

In Jane Hart’s annual survey, learners have shown more preference to learn while doing work and sharing their experiences with peers. Unlike traditional learning where there are only right or wrong answers, story-based eLearning probes deeper into the emotional and intellectual faculties of the learners. Learning becomes a collaborative experience because they get to interact and gain additional insights from others.


Engaging the modern learners is no mean feat. We have to always be on the lookout for newer innovative ways to catch their fleeting attention span. The oldest and one of the best tricks in the book is storytelling. Not your traditional long narratives but short, succinct, and interactive stories capture the learners’ attention and help them remember. Our brains are wired to respond to stories. Let’s use that to our advantage and design Story Lessons that appeal and cater to the changing needs of the modern learners.


Bersin by Deloitte. (2014). Meet the Modern Learner.

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Step Up Your eLearning Game - Go for Hyper-Stories - Tip #209

Can you think of the most recent viral video or story you have seen and shared? What about it caught your attention? Let me guess. It probably made you laugh out loud, or tugged at your heartstrings, or got you so mad, or afraid even. But it surely moved your emotions enough to share it or extend the discussion among your friends. A study by Jan L. Plass et. al., among many others, have reported the significant influence of emotions on human cognitive processes, particularly learning, memory, and problem solving.

However, modern learners are impatient. According to an infographic from Bersin by Deloitte, online trainers now only have 5 to 10 seconds to grab the learners attention before clicking away. Thus, there is a constant need for learning strategies and approaches that facilitate instant learning. One effective method that we, as trainers, L&D designers, facilitators, SMEs can master is the art of using hyper-stories in our learning designs.


Hyper-stories are the shortest and most emotional aspects of the story. By using hyper-stories, we are providing learners with content that is engaging, thought-provoking and purposeful.

4 Elements of an Effective Hyper-Story

Immediate meaning and context

According to Donald Hull’s definition of contextual learning, learning occurs only when learners connect information to their own frame of reference. The hyper-story is about making sure that the short video or idea brings out an experience from the learners. When they are able to understand the content based from their own interpretation, it is only then that lessons are relevant and useful to them.

Heighten involvement

A good hyper-story amplifies learner engagement. It ignites emotions and elicits learner response and reflection on the lesson you are trying to impart. A good tip when using a hyper-story, is to give the learners a good amount of time for reflection. Try the 10-90 rule (10% video or lesson, 90% reflection). Let it sink in. Allow them to internalize their own experiences in relation to the lesson ideas associated with it.

Faster application

Effective hyper-stories allow the learners to quickly connect the lesson to its application in real-life. When we design lessons for training, facilitate seminars or do workshops, always have a desired learning goal in mind - to build content that assists learners in their need for instant answers and solutions.

Instant recall

Hyper-stories in lessons help the learners be instantly reminded of their past experiences related to it. This accelerates the learning process. We all have a plethora of experiences and knowledge. Hyper-stories aid in tapping into this vast resource and reinforce what the learners already know.


The use of hyper-stories in lessons is an ingenious way to promote instant learning and to capture the emotions and attention of the modern learners. The connection between emotions and learning is undeniable. Learners learn faster by drawing from past experiences and reflection. Reflection deepens their own learning.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

STOP, THINK, FOCUS: 4 Ways to Design Time-Saving Lessons - Tip #208

Who hasn’t been stuck in debilitating traffic or spent hours waiting in line? Have you ever taken a very long training course and wished you were someplace else? So much precious time wasted when you could’ve spent it doing other important activities. Everybody hates wasting time, especially the modern learners!

It was a couple of years ago when I was in Santa Monica when I learned of the BIRD scooters. I was so curious about how it worked and why it was such a hit. Well, for starters, it looked cool, fun, and convenient. One fascinating discovery though, was that you could also earn. You just went and picked up any BIRD scooter, recharged it, put it back from where you got it then you got paid through its app. Easy!

This illustration relates back to our training and learning industry. The challenge in creating courses sometimes is, we have a ton of ideas, data and content. We tend to include everything that we think is important. This results in a stretched out, bloated course. In the many years that I’ve worked with instructional designers, the “all content is important” mindset remains prevalent. How do we stop wasting our learner’s time and focus instead on what truly matters to them?

The Abstraction Process

The main concept of the abstraction process is prioritizing the essentials. From a large group of information or observation, try reducing it by finding some level of commonalities or patterns and then come up with a synthesis. We have a lot of these so-called mega time wasters in our training programs. In designing content, we need to make it simple, short, fast and immediately useful at work. We should focus on our learner’s needs and  information that can be helpful to doing their jobs faster and easier. How can you apply the abstraction process to remove time wasters in your training programs?

4 Ways to Design Time-Saving Lessons

1. Instant Needs

The most common challenges to training needs analysis are it’s too costly, takes months to finish, little opportunity to do, and it’s used sparingly, not all the time. It has all the potential to be a mega time waster. But what if we can do the abstraction process and simplify training needs analysis?  We get to have all the important answers we need and save a lot of time not just for the learners but the trainers as well.

Instant Needs Dynamic Assessment

Unlike training needs analysis, Instant Needs Dynamic Assessment has the following attributes:
  1. It is asked regularly or as often as needed.
  2. Only simple key questions are asked.
  3. It prioritizes the needs.
  4. It instantly provides suggestions and answers.

Click here for an enlarged view.

In the above examples, you are able to do the survey more regularly or as often as needed, by limiting the questions to three items. Whenever people answer the survey, the system provides a matching and relevant information. This way, learning is faster, more focused on their needs, personalized. In cases where there are no matching answers in the system, it will prioritize the answers according to levels of importance. This is how you determine which topics are helpful to them. Through their feedback you can refine your courses according to knowledge pertinent to the learners. Finally, the system will make suggestions and comments based on all the answers given. Imagine the amount of time saved by pinpointing the fundamentals. You are able to collapse a huge and problematic training needs analysis into something that is small, dynamic, and immediately useful to your learners.

2. Instant Answers

Why do we make learners go through an entire 3-hour course that can actually be done in 30 minutes? It doesn’t make any sense. We must do away with the “production” mindset and focus on the realities of the workers and learners - their need for easy, fast and useful solutions to actual work issues. Most of the time, simple and direct answers are all they need.

See the illustrations below.

How Do We Keep Hot Items On The Shelves? starts with a one-pager that is focused on 3 simple and very practical questions. If learners want to drill down and learn more, there is a Reference section that leads them to a more detailed lesson page.

Preview the example.
From this lesson page, they can again have access to more in-depth information to learn more. It could be a video, checklist, tip or a guide in the form of inventory reports or management systems. See example reference below.

Reporting Tool for Inventory Management Software - BarCloud
Click here for an enlarged view.

Notice how the lessons are layered and instant answers are drilled down. By designing your lessons this way, you are able to meet your learners’ needs for quick, easy to apply, and useful solutions and answers. Think of how much learners will appreciate that their time was not wasted on a long, boring course.

3. Instant Lessons

Which do you think is more likely to elicit a response from the learners: a long itemized list of do’s and don’ts of kitchen practices or a short lesson like the example below? Instant lessons work because learners can relate to the content very quickly. Cut to the chase. Use very relatable stories that not only allow learners to connect with and reflect on but would also suit your learning objectives. This way, they learn faster, no time wasted.

Preview an example below.

Kitchen Safety Practices
4. Instant Expertise

According to Harold Jarche, “Training as a knowledge delivery is dead.” With today’s ever-evolving work situations, training, in ways that we’ve done so in the past, won’t be as effective in dealing with the learners’ needs for instant solutions and faster decision-making. Today’s learners don’t just rely solely on SMEs anymore. Most of the time they find answers themselves or collaborate with peers simply because it saves a lot of time.
Click here for an enlarged view.


In today’s fast-paced world we live in, everybody has become used to what is fast, cost-saving, convenient, dynamic and can be used immediately. This also applies to the training industry. We have to do away with long, boring, costly, irrelevant courses that frustrates and wastes learner’s time. Try to rethink your learning strategies and be creative. Think out of the box. Wipe out unnecessary processes and aim for the shortest possible solutions. Abstraction process is one way. What other ways can you think of?  Share your thoughts with me.
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Friday, March 29, 2019

Story-Based Design Models That Bridge the Gap Between Learners and Content - Tip #207

In one of my previous blogs, I shared with you my insights on how technology has changed the way stories are told and how we can actually use it to create stories that will help learners learn better. Gone were the days when good stories needed to have a beginning, middle and end. We now see certain types that may lack parts of that structure, yet remain very engaging and impactful.

The Big Shift in Storytelling

The change in how we do stories, from simple storytelling to interactive stories, has made story-based elearning design more interesting. The main difference is seen in how it is done and delivered. Before, it took some kind of expertise to develop a good story, but now everyone can be an expert. Everyone has the ability to create and publish their own stories. Technology, of course, plays a very significant part. It became so much easier to produce visually appealing content. Stories have become shorter too. This certainly sits well with today’s learners’ shorter attention span. This means that our elearning designs need to adapt as well.

Context Matters

The most important thing to remember when creating story-lessons is this: what matters most are the people looking at it - the learners. They decide what the context should be. Lessons are not useful if our learners can’t relate to it. The challenge is how to create story-based elearning designs that bridge the gap between the content and what it actually means to the learners.
Advanced Story-Based eLearning Design Models

Model #1 Jolt Stories
This is one of the classic models that I’ve developed, where the story is presented in a very short but highly climactic manner. Jolt Stories are useful when you don’t want to go full-on storytelling but still want to capture your learner’s attention by making use of the most emotional part of the story. It drives the learners to get involved. That way, content becomes more meaningful and easily understood by the learners. See the example below.

The story is shorter yet, allows the learner better active involvement.

Model #2 Visualizing Stories
The problem when designing for technical or factual content is that there is so much data. As a result, we don’t seem to know how to organize them in way that is engaging and relevant to the learners. This model uses visually appealing graphics and a timeline flow to convert what seems to be “boring” technical data into an enjoyable story that draws the learners in. View example below.

Click here for the enlarged view.

Question: How does the timeline flow of the graphics allow the learners to quickly bring in their own context?

Model #3 Realistic Framing
It shows an optimal slide-framing between scenario and story-based design. This model is very useful as it gives learners a vivid picture of reality that they can easily connect to their own experiences. In Realistic Framing, we capture learners’ attention by giving real-life scenarios. Involve your learners by showing them the outcome of the choices they make. See the example below.

Question: How does the ability to closely visualize realistic experiences allow the learners to quickly bring in their own context?

Model #4 Mapping Experience
The concept of Mapping Experience is when we are able to replicate the flow of experiences that a particular person goes through during the process. It allows the learner to see the bigger picture and relate himself to the experiences of others. They relate, they empathize, they share their own experiences, they learn. Ponder on the example below.
Click here for the enlarged view.

Model #5 Technical Realism
What about technical content? Why is it very helpful for a learner to see a story even when content is technical in nature? Ever since I started working on story designs, I’ve been encouraging clients and companies to understand that unless we show data in a form of a story that a learner can easily relate to, the chances of lessons registering in the minds of the learners is really small. No matter how complex technical information is, it can still be delivered through stories. That is Technical Realism. An example is shown below.
Click here for the enlarged view.

Model #6 Situational Thinking
How does the Situational Thinking model allow learners to apply ideas and learn better? The whole idea of this model involves are putting learners into specific, real-life situations where they can think through the issues themselves. They can also brainstorm with peers. Learning is accelerated through experience sharing. A good example is a software platform that I’ve developed called Situation.Expert, where workers and team members fix, solve and improve work situations by sharing their personal experiences and expertises.

Model #7 Immersive Stories
Immersive Stories extend the ability of learners to relate to the lesson by stirring their emotions. They pull the learners into the story. Hence, learners actually feel like they are a part of it. When learners are so engrossed with a very emotional story, it moves them. It opens them up to a deeper understanding of the content. Provoke your learners’ emotions. Immerse them in the story. It will help them learn faster and better. Click the link to the video below.


While it’s true that technology has greatly influenced the story-based elearning design process, let’s not forget what truly matters - the learners. It is important that we are able to adapt and take advantage of all the technology available to us. However, recognize that no matter how cool or visually appealing your lessons are, the chances of it registering in the minds of the learners are minute without context. This is why story-based lessons are valuable. They transform content, even the most complex and technical ones, into something that learners can relate to. Story Lessons enable learners to bring in their own version of the story quickly. These allow them to learn and better apply the ideas they’ve learned. Reflect on these models. Which of these do you think you can immediately apply?

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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"