Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Are You a Credible Designer and Trainer? - Tip #88

Have you studied online lessons and felt that it was non-personal, cold and devoid of warmth? How does this impact the ability of learners to learn? What do you do to get rid of this chilly feeling and improve and add warmth to your presentation?

Lessons are Extensions of Ourselves

Our lessons are only representations of who we are as designers and trainers. You probably have experienced this, but there are a lot of people who open their mouths so quickly - and what comes out is shallow and trivial chatter. There are also those who only speak as geeky as they can. But most of us speak from our true selves. One of my old professors reminded me of the saying that goes:

The lessons we produce are in essence, "us" talking and speaking with the audience. The challenge that you and I face when writing lessons or speaking in workshops is that we, more often than not, cover ourselves with layers of technical and informational content. As a result, we often fail to communicate effectively. We are then perceived as uninteresting.

Conversations is What We Do

When we write or speak, we are having a conversation with our audience. Conversations are different from lecturing, writing technical documents or designing a simulation. In conversations we "get to know the other person and we allow them to get to know us." This is the crux of a warm exchange.

Let me share some things I do to keep the warm exchange going:
  • "What is the problem?"
  • "How do I solve this problem?"
  • "What is the best, fastest, safest and economical way to solve this?"
  • "How do I know I am successful in my solution?"
  • "How do I know if this is the right solution?"
  • Others

1. Advance conversations

Fifteen minutes before any of my presentations and workshops, I have a conversation with the audience. I ask "what is exciting that day", "from what great city they are from", "what they do", etc. This conversation does two things: I get to know them and they warm up to me. You see everyone who comes to a lecture or workshop is anxious - we call this learners' anxiety.

Participants grow uneasy if they spend the next hours or days with a boring trainer.

Many of them prepare an early exit from the session, mentally or physically.

2. Start with a real life story or an incident

In eLearning lessons, I always start  the first page with an image of an event and a question. The provocative image helps participants quickly recall their own experiences or stories. The question draws participants to interact with the story in the image. I have repeatedly done this in my eLearning courses and it always grabs learners' attention. This approach works wonders in mobile-learning, where learners are busy and you only have a few seconds to engage them.

Our Lessons Should Exude Credibility, Spontaneity and Catharsis

When we have a conversation with our learners, our content and lessons should exude warmth and confidence, spontaneity and catharsis.

How Does that Happen?

People learn better when they see a conversation within the lesson. This is accomplished by you as the writer asking them questions, showing them real-life incidents and stories or bringing them to a practical and useful interpretation of the content and lesson. In essence, you are talking to them in their terms or a plane that they can relate to and understand.

Where Does the Conversation Happen?

These are examples:

1. At the lesson presentation level
Let two or three characters talk to each other in your lesson page. The characters are talking about an event or a situation where the content happens in real life. For example:
Peter (character one)
"Oh, what. Do you mean that sleazy customer was actually money laundering? No wonder. I have noticed his frequency of suspicious deposits. I knew it. "
Pam (character two)
"So how did it unfold? How did he get caught? Scary, huh?"
Can you guess what the content is?

2. At the application level
Continuing our example above, we ask the learner the question:
What are the telltale signs of fraud and money laundering?
[ ] "I would suspect anyone who has frequency of suspicious deposits."
[ ] "Sleazy customers tend to hide something."
In the application question, we continue the conversation, even as the learner may also be having a conversation with himself or herself.  Self-talk is a form of reflection.

Credibility and Believability are Rooted in the Real World Not in Technical Information

Again we ask, how do you get rid of the cold, chilly feeling in lessons?

We can have conversations with our learners even if we are not in front of them. By thinking all the time that we are talking to people whom we can have conversations with, we move our focus from just delivering technical data or content to concrete human experiences.

Learners appreciate you and your lessons only if they feel and know you are talking with them, not talking at them.

Credibility and believability spans out from the learners' beliefs that you indeed understand who they are and their situations.


It is easy to fall into the trap of delivering lessons that are in "ice-boxes" - cold, chilly experiences. Incorporating conversations in the lessons extends yourself, like an offering of your life to your learners. Our learners feel this. They sense this. They love it!


Mike Sharples. Learning As Conversation: Transforming Education in the Mobile Age. Centre for Educational Technology and Distance Learning University of Birmingham United Kingdom

Raafat George Saadé, Dennis Kira, and Fassil Nebebe Department of Decision Sciences and MIS, John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The Challenge of Motivation in e-Learning: Role of Anxiety

Ray Jimenez, PhD. Do You Suck Life Out of Your Learners?


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

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