A lot of my work focuses on instructor-led training – whether in person or virtual. Over the past year, I’ve returned to elearning design as well. Just like a lesson plan is the cornerstone for helping me to organize all of my instructor-led thoughts into a coherent, engaging learning experience, I’ve found the elearning storyboard template to help me in the same way as I design tightly-focused, engaging elearning.Continue reading
Last week I shared several tools that I’ve found my children’s teachers using for online school activities that I thought could be helpful for those of us in the L&D field. Today I want to continue with the theme of tools we can use by talking about Jane Hart’s annual list of top tools for learning, which was released at the beginning of September.
New Technology in L&D
I’m always intrigued by Jane Hart‘s list because this is where I have a chance to see what technologies others are using, and I am sometimes inspired to bring something new into my daily practice.
I was intrigued to see both Netflix (for documentaries) and Spotify (for podcasts) break onto the top 200 tools for learning. There are also a variety of new tools that made the list that may help with virtual staff meetings, strategic planning sessions and presentations, such as Mural and Miro, which are both online whiteboarding tools.
I’m kind of wishing I had written this post last week so that I could have discovered ilovepdf.com earlier. This is a quick and easy way to convert pdf files into editable documents such as Word, PowerPoint or Excel files with, as stated on their landing page, “almost 100%” accuracy.
There are also several new mindmapping, email and game/survey tools to check out as well.
When you consider that this list of top 200 tools are tools used by both corporate trainers and classroom educators, there is nothing on highest ranked, most popular 20 tools that surprised me. YouTube, Zoom, Google Search, PowerPoint, Microsoft Teams, Word, Google Docs/Drive, LinkedIn, Twitter, WhatsApp, Wikipedia, Facebook, Excel, WordPress, Google Classroom, Google Meet, Slack, Canva, Skype and Trello make the top 20.
Other tools that are still popular in use among the Top 50 (in case you were wondering if some of your old stand-by’s were growing out of date) include Kahoot (for games and quizzes), Prezi (this actually surprises me that it’s still so popular, coming in at #39), Snagit (for screen captures) and Vyond (for animated video creation).
Further down the list, at #182, you’ll find Pixabay. It’s a site I use every week when I’m looking for imagery for this blog or for my PowerPoint decks. If you haven’t stumbled upon it yet and you’re on the lookout for free stock images, definitely give it a look.
Tools for Learning I Plan To Try
My favorite audience participation tool is PollEverywhere, though I was recently exposed to Mentimeter (which comes in at #26 on the list). I’m not sure if it’ll give me something extra, but I’d like to check it out and see why it’s so popular.
I mentioned Mural as a whiteboarding tool. When I’m in person, I love to use a flipchart, whiteboards, and sticky notes to help organize my thoughts and play with ideas during meetings. In this world of COVID and virtual meetings, this could be a handy tool.
I’ve also just downloaded Snip & Sketch, which appears at #86 on this list. It’s a free download if you have Microsoft Office on your computer, and is Microsoft’s replacement to their Snipping Tool.
If you have a chance to check out this list of top 200 tools for learning, I’d love to hear which tools you’re using, and which tools sound like they could help you with your learning and development programs!
Want to try out a tool that can help you generate training activities – whether you’re delivering virtual sessions or you’re returning to in-person training? Perhaps Soapbox will appear on this top 200 list next year.
What is the size of your training department? The biggest team I have ever worked in has been ten people. I was at a worldwide non-profit and we served thousands of employees and board members. Even still, that was considered a rather large training department. As I ramped up in the training world, attending conferences and integrating myself into the network of learning and development professionals, I quickly met people who not only had much smaller groups, but often their teams were comprised of merely one or two people.
As trainers, we often talk about wearing more that one hat at work. But how do you know how to navigate all of the challenges that you face when you don’t have a big team? Emily Wood, author of ELearning Department of One, joins us on the Train Like You Listen podcast this week to share some resources and tips for small eLearning departments.
Transcript of the Conversation with Emily Wood
Brian Washburn: Welcome, everyone, to the Train Like You Listen podcast, a weekly podcast about learning and development topics in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn. I am the co-founder and CEO of a company called Endurance Learning. And today, I am joined by Emily Wood, who is the Education Content Development Manager for the Propane Education and Research Council. She’s also an ATD certificate program instructor. And she has recently written a book called “E-Learning Department of One”. Emily, I’m so excited to have you with us. Thank you for joining us.
Emily Wood: Thanks for having me, Brian.
Brian Washburn: We like to have our guests introduce themselves using a six-word biography. And so when we think of this idea and this topic today, which revolves around being a department of one, and I think of my own life experience in the world of training and development, I think my biography would be “I thrive bouncing ideas off others”. How about you? If you could sum up your experience in six words with our topic, what would it be?
Emily Wood: Obviously, I’ve been a department of one for a while now in a couple of different companies. So mine would probably be “quality work can be built alone”.
What Does It Mean To Be an E-Learning Department of One?
Brian Washburn: So I’ve always worked on small teams, but I’ve never been a department of one. You’ve written a book called “E-Learning Department of One”. Can you tell us a little bit more about what an e-learning department of one can mean?
Emily Wood: Sure. Actually, it varies a lot based on the organization that you’re in. When I was writing the book, I was the instructional designer, e-learning developer, and LMS administrator for my company. I did everything from interviewing my SME to writing the contracts for getting our LMS to the training manuals on all the new software that we purchased.
And I loved it. The variety is really what inspires me. I like to have lots of different little things to do. Now with COVID, I think more and more people are finding themselves in the position of creating online training.
So you might be an e-learning department of one because you want to share your passion with people in the only way that you can safely do that now, which is online.
The Many Faces of E-Learning
Emily Wood: E-learning can be so much more than an asynchronous module that you’re going to create using an authoring tool. It could be in virtual instructor-led training or even something like this podcast.
As people are more distributed and the costs are decreasing on the software that we can use to do this, more of us are finding ourselves in a position of creating e-learning and really doing it on our own because we are so distributed. So it’s a really empowering world.
Brian Washburn: Yeah. And it’s interesting. I was having this conversation the other day with somebody who is a graphic designer. And she was looking to talk to somebody in the field of learning development. She’s thinking of making a career push or a career switch.
And she was asking, so what is an instructional designer? And it’s really interesting. We use these terms, instruction designer, e-learning developer, and they can mean so many different things to so many different people. And you wear so many hats.
And e-learning can be more than just asynchronous modules. It can be a multi-week course that’s actually still instructor-led. It can be something just digital, like a podcast, or microlearning, or things like that.
Job Titles in the Learning Field
Brian Washburn: So for somebody who is developing e-learning or just working on their own in the world of learning development, how do you think that person can self-assess their own strengths and weaknesses? It’s nice to have other people who have a background, who can actually give you feedback. But when you’re a department of one, how do you do a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses?
Emily Wood: Well, first, I want to talk a little bit about that title idea that you brought up because about five years ago, I remember there was this big trend where people were starting to get into user experience design. And instructional designers or departments of one, like me, made this decision whether or not we were going to call ourselves learning experience designers.
And so I actually– my LinkedIn, I call myself a learning experience designer because I think it’s about the whole ecosystem of things that a person can use to learn. So when Dr. Clark is talking about e-learning, she says it’s anything that’s using technology to supplement the learning experience. And so the performance support that we’re creating, the YouTube videos that we’re making, the podcasts, everything that we can do that’s supported by technology, is really part of what it is that we’re doing.
I also saw somebody post recently about how they got called into a meeting with the CLO of their company and told to make some badges. And they thought they were being called in because they’re an instructional designer. And, of course, we have thoughts about how badging programs should work and certificate programs.
And the CLO of this company didn’t realize that an instructional designer doesn’t mean graphic designer. And I thought, wow, I mean, titles– I don’t want to be in a box. I feel a lot of us are in a renaissance person kind of position where we have to know a little bit about a lot of things. But I like to deepen the tea in the one area that is my focus.
For me, I really enjoy the learning theory and the psychological theory behind what people are doing. But I know a little bit about graphic design and a little bit about LMS and administration. And if it really comes down to it, I can code, but you don’t want to see it.
Brian Washburn: Yeah. It’s so fascinating. So the words we use, the title– especially the titles we use because we’re kind of a specialized world. If we go to a cocktail party and someone asks me, what do you do? I don’t say, oh, I’m an instructional designer or a learning experience designer.
I’ll say, I design training programs or I design learning– I don’t even say I’m a trainer because then people think that I should be more buff than I am. They think gym trainer. [LAUGHTER]
So I don’t even use a title. I’ll just explain a little bit about what I do. And then if they’re like, oh, tell me more. Then I’ll get into it more, and I’ll get really nerdy. If their eyes start to glaze over, then we’ll move on to other topics. It is. It’s one of those things where the words sometimes mean different things to different people.
Sometimes they don’t mean anything to people and that can get us into a whole other podcast topic.
Working Alone in the Learning Field
Brian Washburn: But getting back to this idea of, for people that don’t have other colleagues who are training with them or developing training, how do you think– or what advice do you have? Or is there a tool that they could use to do some self-assessment?
Emily Wood: And I think because we’re trending as an industry in this way that we’re getting more and more diverse in the content that we’re covering, the Association for Talent Development thought that they would come up with a way to be able to help us address this. And last year, they redid the certification programs that they have. And they move them to a capabilities-based program so that you can go in and on their site, they have a series of questions that you can go in and answer.
And then based on that, you can work with their professional development team. And they put you into these sort of career ladders to help you find it. So you can go in and say, “I want to be an instructional designer”. And it gives you some of the learning theory, and how to do a storyboard, and how to do some of those types of skills.
Or you can say, “I want to be an e-learning developer”. And then you get into the hard skills, like, “here’s how you use the authoring tools. And here’s how you do the coding.” For me, a lot of that came up in this way of, I have to make an e-learning module.
And I went to graduate school. And they taught me how to use Captivate. But then I needed to add voiceover. So then I had to learn how it was to do a recording studio. And it was one of those things that I learned it by doing it and then YouTube and all of the different ways that we come at it.
I don’t know that there’s any really formal way that you can assess yourself. I think really the way to do that is to ask other people.
The Importance of Feeback and Networking
Emily Wood: And the great thing about our industry is that in our hearts, we all want to support each other. We all want to help each other.
So I have never been in a situation where I would ask somebody to look at a module that I was creating for feedback and not gotten pages of feedback. We are not the people that are like, “oh, yeah, that’s fine”. Everybody wants to help you make something better.
So I think it’s really all about networking, finding those people whose skills that you appreciate, and following them. Like you, so many people are doing blogs, and podcasts, and posting up all the different things that they’re doing. And if you reach out to them and ask them, a lot of times they will give you feedback at a certain level.
Brian Washburn: Yeah. I think that that is a really neat thing about being able to plug into the world of learning and development using Twitter, using LinkedIn. You are an e-learning department of one. I’ve worked just in small teams. I’ve never had a supervisor with a training background.
And so I’ve found that personal learning network that I can find through connecting with L&D, just folks who are in L&D as well as thought leaders on Twitter or LinkedIn to be really, really helpful. Now do you have some go-to resources, or websites, or tools that make your job as a department of one a little easier?
Go-To Resources for a E-Learning Department of One
Emily Wood: So I use a series of different things. For my networking, I’m pretty into LinkedIn. I think a lot of the people that I talked to were on there. I know there’s a really big community that people are active in in Twitter. But I don’t keep up with that as much.
If I’m looking for something that’s specifically related to training development and unique to trainers, the Learn Train is a website that came out I think last year, and I’ve been pretty active on it, where you can talk about really training specific types of things. And then for my tools, I use the Captivate community for the tool that I use primarily.
But I like the Articulate community for inspiration for new projects because they have weekly challenges. And you can see where people are going in the industry and have all of these different ways to come at solving a problem that you have in your own development.
Brian Washburn: I love Articulate community in particular. I’ve had a chance to meet and speak with David Anderson and some of the other folks that have really made that community what it is. And I love your point.
Whether you’re using Storyline, or Captivate, or any other tool, you can still go to some of these communities that, perhaps, aren’t necessarily the same tool that you’re using, but you can go there and get some inspiration and see what other people are doing because good design transcends your tool.
You don’t need to be using an Articulate tool to develop something that’s really effective in e-learning. So I think that’s a great little piece and nugget that, perhaps, we’ll end on for this particular conversation around a department of one.
Get to Know Emily Wood
Brian Washburn: But before we go, do you have a few extra minutes where you could give us a little bit more time so that we can ask you some speed round questions?
Emily Wood: Absolutely. Sure.
Brian Washburn: Excellent. You were telling me today, you just finished delivery in a session for an ATD certificate program. What is your pre-training or pre-session go-to food?
Emily Wood: RXBARs. [LAUGHTER]
I find that if you carry raw eggs, people think you’re insane. But they don’t question you as much with our RXBARs. [LAUGHTER]
Brian Washburn: That is true. What’s a piece of training tech that you can’t live without?
Emily Wood: I mean, can I say YouTube? Having access to the internet and all the great things that people are posting, that would probably be the one that’s my immediate search.
Brian Washburn: Yeah, absolutely. Being able to get more than just a narrative description on a website, but really seeing a video that can get you to what you need to do. I think it’s really helpful. How about a book or a podcast that learning folks should be paying attention to?
Emily Wood: Well, on my nightstand, all the time, is “Map It” by Cathy Moore and “Design for How People Learn” by Julie Dirksen. So when I need my inspiration, those are the two I pick up. And then the newest thing I just got, but I haven’t started it yet, is “Design Thinking for Training and Development and Creating Learning Journeys That Get Results” by Sharon Boller and Laura Fletcher.
Brian Washburn: Nice. And do you have any shameless plugs before we go?
Emily Wood: Can I plug myself?
Brian Washburn: Of course.
Emily Wood: That’s got to be “E-Learning Department of One”. Paul Wilson, if you need support on using Captivate, is an absolutely wonderful and spectacular support person. In October, I’m going to be speaking in the Learning Impact series for a LearnUpon. And I am going to be speaking at DevLearn on Captivate.
Brian Washburn: If people are going to catch LearnUpon or DevLearn, please do check out Emily. Thank you so much, Emily, for giving us some time today and talking a little bit more about this concept of e-learning department of one. And for everybody who’s listened, thank you so much for catching yet another episode.
You can subscribe to Train Like You Listen on iTunes, on Spotify, or anywhere where you get your podcasts. And if you like what you hear, please go ahead and give us a five star rating or give us a comment. Do something so that we stand out. Until next time, happy training, everyone.
This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox. Sign up today for a free demo.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to speak with a number of authors who have written books on various aspects of training and development.
In this age of COVID, with conferences and training events either being cancelled or going virtual, you may be looking for other ways to hone your craft, and one of these books may be just what you need.Continue reading
Training isn’t created in a vacuum. Many learning professionals spend hours reading about and looking for inspiration and the latest trends in design and development. There are a few key people in our industry who are interested in helping all of us move forward and push the limits of engaging and creative training. Award-winning eLearning developer Ashley Chiasson is one of those people.
On Train Like You Listen this week, we sit down with Ashley to talk about how she found success in her role. Ashley shares the story of how she got started, like many of us, in a circuitous way, how she approaches stake-holders with differing visions, and she takes some time to shares some great resources!
Tune in this week, and every week to learn more about what other professionals are doing to push our industry forward!
How did you get into training and development? Did you study for this job in school? Or, like many of us, did you find your way here unexpectedly? No matter how you wound up in your role, you started the same way we all did, green and looking for resources and a community to help you along this path.
This week, we take a deep dive into getting started as an eLearning developer on the Train Like You Listen podcast. Anne Gerken, Communications Specialist at State of Montana’s Gambling Control Division, talks to us about her journey to eLearning development. During this podcast, we talk about resources, inspiration, and Anne gives us some advice she has taken to make her projects successful.
There has been a TON of stuff written lately about moving learning to a virtual environment, but what happens if you live in a place where reliable internet is not available? In a guest post, Mike Culligan (co-founder of Pyramid Learning) shares a little about setting up virtual instruction by way of text, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.Continue reading
This week on the Train Like You Listen podcast, Brian sits down with Tim Slade of timslade.com to discuss eLearning. During this conversation, Brian and Tim discuss how to create engaging eLearning, share tips on how to manage expectations with clients who want amazing eLearning developed quickly and cheaply, and discuss where to find new inspiration for creative eLearning approaches.
If a 10-minute conversation with Tim isn’t enough for you, you can also check out his book: The eLearning Designer’s Handbook: A Practical Guide to the eLearning Development Process for New eLearning Designers.
As the decade closes, I would be remiss not to reflect on how my career has evolved over the last 10 years. I have been an instructional designer for the majority of this decade, thanks in no small part to the immense amount of resources available in the learning and development field. Continue reading
Last week I wrote about the strengths of elearning vs. instructor-led training (ILT). In the comment section, someone suggested that it would be interesting to see a third column in the comparison: virtual instructor-led training (vILT). I’m nothing if not a man of the people, so I’m giving them what they want.
Something I found interesting when I added the vILT column is that I couldn’t really come up with anything unique to vILT. Every item checked off for vILT is shared by either ILT or elearning. As I studied this more, I had to pause. While vILT by its nature is instructor-led and thus will obviously share some traits with ILT, it also has some things in common only with elearning.
There’s nothing in this chart to suggest that any one of these formal training methods is superior to either of the other two. It really comes down to the problem you’re looking to solve.
Need to deploy something rapidly across multiple countries and continents in multiple languages? Elearning may be your best bet.
Have an audience of learners that doesn’t have access to reliable Internet? More traditional classroom-based learning (ILT) may need to be your solution.
What’s missing from this chart when it comes to advantages of these three delivery methods? Is there anything unique to vILT that neither ILT nor elearning have? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comment section.