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.
Related Tips

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?

Related blogs

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"