Every year, at least one of us at Endurance Learning posts our choices for the list of top 200 technology-based tools curated by Jane Hart and the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT). This list is compiled by submissions that come in from learning professionals from around the world.
Since Brian first posted his top 10 list (2015) we have grown from a team of 2 to a team of 7! I was one of those original two as a co-founder of Endurance Learning with Brian. As our team has grown, so have the perspectives and tools we use. Several of us decided to share our lists and see how the different roles on our training team affect how we select our top 10 tools.
Tim‘s Top10 Tools of 2021
I’ve always been a jack of all trades in training. I know many of you out there who have done the same. Brian and I started Endurance Learning together and have a great overlap of skills, but I am someone who can do a little bit of everybody’s job. While the team has grown, the nature of my role has change. I still get involved in much of the day to day work, but I write fewer courses and focus on bigger solutions to help our team function better. My colleague Lauren has mentioned that I like to automate things! I think you’ll see that reflected in my list.
This is a new discovery for me this year. We were converting courses that had a lot of video embedded and our instructional designers needed to know exactly what was said. Descript made this process fast and easy. Then, we realized that we could record calls with SMEs and drop the recordings into Descript to get a quick and easy transcript with each person labeled. It didn’t work as well when we were talking about eye surgery but still gave us something much more concrete to start with than our notes alone.
Transparency has always been at the heart of what we do at Endurance Learning. We’re clear with each other about what we’re doing (or not doing) and have found that this makes everyone’s work easier and makes it easier for teammates to help when needed. Organizing our communication in Slack (we forbid email internally) allows us to hone in on the conversation about a project whether we were involved previously or not. It sure beats searching through email and forwarding messages as FYIs. Working collaboratively, focused conversations, able to show someone new the whole history. Not just the communication but each channel has become the project identifier we use in everything from our accounting to our timekeeping system.
We work on a lot of different types of projects. In any given week we may be consultants, facilitators, designers, or developers. I’ve always been pretty good at estimating projects, but after a while you really start to wonder about how profitable your projects are. I knew we had a winner when everyone started recording their time. We weren’t struggling because people were unable to do it. We had just made it hard to do using inferior products. Harvest is the third tools we’ve used to track time and the first that made it easy to integrate with Slack (hint: each slack channel can automatically create a project).
How did we connect Slack and Harvest? You guessed it. The same way that we connect all kinds of tools and create all sorts of custom automations. Zapier. I worked in product management and occasionally had to talk intelligently about APIs. I don’t know that I ever did. With Zapier, I’ve become an expert at connecting different products to make them hum. When you find yourself repeating the same process over and over, ask yourself if Zapier can help.
The obvious reason that WordPress is important to us is that it provided Brian and opportunity to start this blog. When we started to struggle with how to post course content and other resources for clients, we went back to WordPress. When we wanted to change the marketing experience of Soapbox so we separated out the marketing site and I created a new site in one weekend. When wanted to build a resource for learning & development professionals to support Brian’s book, we turned to WordPress again. I’m always stunned by how many things you can do with WordPress. If you think about building a custom site, consider searching the plugins on WordPress to see if someone has already created that functionality.
When I talk about WordPress, I want to be clear I’m not talking about WordPress.com, but WordPress.org. We use WordPress.com to host this blog. It was easy and they do most of the maintenance. But when I went to launch other sites and needed some Moodle sites, I knew that I needed something different. Having WordPress and Moodle sites was a mixed bag until I found SiteGround. I can stand up a new website in just a few minutes and can have WordPress, Moodle or Drupal installed with little effort. I don’t really even struggle with DNS records (pointing a domain to the site). Before SiteGround I found myself on support every time I did this.
Hard to say much that hasn’t already been said. We stumbled upon Zoom sometime around 2017 and have been in love since. We’ve used several products over many years, but never has a tools been so easy for people around the world to use. Reducing the amount of troubleshooting needed to successfully host a meeting and have the features was a small miracle in 2017 and continues to impress today.
PowerPoint reminds me of WordPress in some ways. It was meant for one thing at the very beginning but has become a quick and easy tool to generate design mockups, infographics, and so much more. I guarantee that most of the functions I use it for could be done better by another tool. But I can work fast in PowerPoint because I use it enough.
We’re still working through kinks of what you can and cannot do with Rise. As you might be able to tell from my list, I like the ability to customize. That said, I believe that Rise and similar tools are a needed addition to trainer toolkits. It provides a way to quickly develop elearning that has the potential to be more engaging. The risk is that because it looks nicer out of the box people believe they have created a good course when they haven’t met any of the learning objectives. But that’s a discussion for another day.
We continue to rely on Storyline because it can do so much. Similar to PowerPoint (in so many ways), it is a powerhouse for creating custom interactions that create new and engaging experiences. We still don’t believe we’ve done everything that can be done in Storyline.
Finally, I have one honorable mention that I can’t list on my top 10 because my team and I built it! Not only are professionals using Soapbox every day to create better presentations, but we use it internally to help better think through how activities can align with outcomes. Whether Soapbox is on your list or not (we hope it is!), I encourage you to visit https://www.toptools4learning.com/voting/ and enter your top 10 tools.
You can also check out Soapbox by scheduling a 15-minute demo.