The Absent Learner: Learning And Development Tools That Are All About Themselves

Let us talk about whether we are using Learning and Development tools the right way or not.

Did you know that American corporations spent 70 billion dollars on training in 2016? And that 68% of American workers rate policies connected to Learning and Development (L&D) as most important? As a Learning and Development professional, you are likely unsurprised by these statistics, as Learning and Development is directly linked to providing any business with what it needs. But are we using Learning and Development tools that are all about the learner, or that are all about themselves?

The Learning And Development Tools Time Machine

Let’s pop into a time machine, or even look around our corporate spaces, and we will see some Learning and Development tools that present information in a linear way.

The 1950s

If you were to stroll into a boardroom in, say, Goodyear’s headquarters, you’d likely see an earnest man, wearing a suit, using a slide projector with slides –that he (or someone) had spent hours preparing– on a white screen for all to see. When one slide had been reviewed, it was on to the next slide. And so on.

The 1960s

Goodyear and other prominent companies of the day had mostly packed up their slide projectors and put them in storage, and were now using overhead projectors and transparent sheets that could be written on with erasable markers. But the idea was exactly the same, one sheet of information would be reviewed, removed and then replaced by another.

The 1980s

Hallelujah. Microsoft released its presentation software named PowerPoint in 1987 and it became much easier to prepare information so that a group of people could review it together, at the same time. (Or alone.)

Today, Microsoft holds 95% of the presentation software market, and 30 million presentations are created everyday.

But is PowerPoint really different from the slide projector and the overhead projector? Has it been designed to center on the learner?

Not really.

Just as the trainer at Goodyear physically changed each slide in the 1950s, and each transparent sheet in the 1960s, they now change electronic PowerPoint slides. Sure, PowerPoint is user-friendly, portable, and relatively inexpensive, but it is a linear tool that promotes linear learning and thinking.

Other eLearning authoring tools from Adobe, Articulate, iSpring, and many other companies offer software that builds on PowerPoint, using its method of presenting slides but adding features and (slightly) increasing its interactivity with the end-user. But the process is still linear.

But wait! What about the training videos?

Lest we forget: The Videocassette Recording or VCR made it possible to create training videos that could be viewed by almost everyone in an organization. But the presentation of the information remained linear, with a training facilitator, remote in hand, pausing the video occasionally to allow for some discussion. Video has evolved into a useful learning technology (See number 6 below).

11 Tips For Using Learning And Development Tools That Allow Learner Interaction 

So, how do we stand up, dust ourselves off, and start using authoring tools that let us tell our stories, and that open a door to greater learner interaction? Let us count the ways: There are 11.

1. Accept That Your Time And Energy Is Limited.

Make the decision to focus on your story, not on learning or tinkering around with finicky software.

2. Keep It Simple.

Elaborate design features detract from your core message.

3. Clean And Practical Design Is Everything.

Know that a cleanly designed, simple, and practical course delivered on time and on budget is more valuable than a clunky, expensive course that relies heavily on visual design to keep learner interested.

4. Go For Ready To Go Tools.

You are not a artist or a graphic designer. Use templates and tools that are ready to go. Use tools that do not require design or development skills.

5. Remember That Your Main Development Tool Is Not Your Only One.

Use supplementary tools to boost interactivity.

6. Learn What User-Friendly Resources Are Available And Use Them.

For making videos try Go AnimatenawmalPlotagonVideoScribe, or xplain2me.

7. You Don’t Have To Create An Online Course Based On Your PowerPoint Presentation.

You could simply share the deck of slides.

8. Take Advantage Of Your Learning Management System.

Use the assessment tools that your Learning Management System (LMS) provides, instead of building a quick in your authoring tool. Not only this is usually faster, but it is also more secure.

9. Keep Your Learner In Mind.  

Add lots of practical exercises that involve the learner.

10. Use Branching Scenarios.

Branching scenarios has been shown to improve retention by presenting information in a context. For inspiration, see these 5 Killer Features of a Branching Scenario.

11. Avoid Linear Tools.

Linear tools were build for linear learning, not for branching scenarios. So use tools that were built for building scenarios, like Twine or BranchTrack.

So Why Are Linear Authoring Tools So Popular?

Linear authoring tools are familiar. Sure, they invite us to spend too much time on design and too little time imagining stories that involve learners, but we are used to them. We are like the grade-school teacher who uses the same materials year after year to save time, while students are nodding off in their uncomfortable desks.

Let’s dive deeper into branching scenarios. 

As stated above, conventional training tools are used because so many of us are familiar with them but if we want to encourage lateral thinking and to spark creativity in our learners, we need to use tools that do what we need them to.

4 Reasons Why Branching Scenarios Are Effective For The Learner

1. Interactivity.

Branching scenarios require learners to make decisions based on information as they move through the scenario. Passive reading or listening is replaced with engagement, which results in greater retention and deeper understanding of the material.

Science Magazine reported on a study that compared lecturing to more active teaching techniques and found that students who are lectured to, exclusively, are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students who were taught using more active teaching techniques.

2. Failure Is OK.

Learners are able to relax when making decisions in a risk-free learning scenario as opposed to being exposed to a situation on-the-job, where anxieties about failing in the real world can cause them to act in a very conservative way or even to avoid making a decision.

3. That Was Fun!

Learning should be fun. Learners like to be at the center of learning experiences, and show a high degree of interest in having their own decisions analyzed as part of a series of events, without judgement. It’s fun to make decisions that affect a branching scenarios. It is not so much fun to sit and listen to someone reading PowerPoint slides out loud.

4. “I Didn’t Know I Knew That.”

Learners have accumulated knowledge that they do not get to regularly apply in actual situations. Accessing their cache of knowledge in branching scenarios increases learner’s confidence for decision-making and acts as a review of the knowledge.

4 Ways In Which Developers Benefit From Branching Scenarios 

1. “I Don’t Have Time To…”

Branching scenarios are easy to modify if created with proper tools. If a developer needs to focus on a specific area of knowledge, it is easy to extract that portion of the scenario. Remember, simple is best.

2. “Why Does Everyone Look So Bored?”

Working with a disinterested group of learners leaves everyone demotivated at the end of a session: Branch scenarios have been shown to engage a greater number of diverse learners than more linear approaches, leaving everyone feeling positive – and with new knowledge.

3. Authenticity Is Where It Is At.

Most learners lean into real world scenarios and shrink away from abstract ones that seem irrelevant to their work and lives. If you present learners with scenarios that are authentic, that ring true from their experiences, you will inspire them to participate in a real way.

4. Let Your Creativity Shine.

You are a creative being, and you want to bring your imagination to work everyday. Creativity and branching scenarios are best friends: Check out this excellent branching scenario that is meant to help you have a positive first day of work as a police office.

That being said, I invite you to try BranchTrack – a very powerful yet simple eLearning authoring tool – that is used for building scenario-based eLearning by Instructional Designers and Learning and Development managers at some of the Forbes’ World’s Largest Companies of 2016. Use the link above, to get a free 14-day trial.

And one more thing…

Global companies are competing for Millennials as they are flowing into workforces as Baby Boomers are retiring. And what is important to this much-studied age group?

Learning And Development

Research tells us that coveted Millennials are more likely to stay with a company that offers them “professional growth and career development” – says Matthew Harrington from New Directions Consulting. Stakeholders in the realm of Learning and Development must refocus on building interactive programs that engage Millennials and the influx of this age group deeper into the corporate culture changes how we work, and how we learn.

Now, let’s return to the idea of the absent learner. If your organization is offering Learning and Development programs that are focused on the dissemination of information and not on learners, it is time to rethink your programs.

And as you rethink your Learning and Development programs, think about the technology you use to support them: Ask yourself if your technology and software encourages linear thinking or authentic conversation and creative solutions.

If you review how your organization is presenting information to learners, grounded in the knowledge that the learner should not be absent from the learning process but at the center of it, you should reap long-term rewards.

Remember, Learning and Development tools that are all about themselves have no place in a progressive organization that is going places.

Branching Scenarios: What You Need To Know

What You Need To Know About Using Branching Scenarios In eLearning 

When I created our software for building branching scenarios, I assumed that everybody knew what scenarios were and how scenarios could improve your eLearning. I quickly came to realize that a lot of people had never used or even seen a branching scenario. Instead, they keep producing standard linear eLearning courses that do not engage learners. So I wanted to help you get started with branching scenarios by answering some frequently asked questions.

What Is A Branching Scenario?

Branching scenario is an interactive form of learning. It challenges the learner, requires them to make a decision, and then presents the consequences. Each consequence produces new challenges and more choices. As the learner makes decisions, the story unfolds in unpredictable ways, thereby making such learning interaction engaging and fun.

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5 Killer Sales Simulation Features

Having a team of competent and adaptable staff is critically important to the success of your sales strategy. There are many different methods of training a workforce, but the most important method for your business is the one that gives the best results. In this article, I will share 5 killer sales simulation features which make sales simulation training the smart choice.

Creating Great Sales Simulation Training

In the corporate world we know that having a well drilled sales force is a key aspect of achieving successful sales targets. If your sales team works remotely then this is critically important to the success of your sales strategy. Having a team of competent and adaptable staff will give your sales team the ability to:

  • Implement new products easily.
  • Engage and communicate effectively with all levels of the organisation.
  • Track performance and improvement targets more accurately.

Continue reading “5 Killer Sales Simulation Features”

Fake Branching Scenarios

The standard teaching method for how to use a computer is to give the user a set piece of information and have them read it over and over again until they can accurately remember it. Let us have a look at a better method; branching scenarios.

The Difference Between Standard eLearning And eLearning Branching Scenarios

This is more or less the standard method of eLearning – whether it is a slide-show or a document, this method of eLearning is admittedly quite uninteresting and often hard to remember. In comparison, branching scenarios offer much more in terms of helping the learner to explore and to understand what they are learning. Today I would  like to give you an overview of what branching scenarios are and why I honestly believe they are the best method of eLearning.

Continue reading “Fake Branching Scenarios”

How to use the 3 Cs of branching scenarios method.

Challenge, Choices, Consequences. We often communicate with our customers about all sorts of topics, but recently one question cropped up more than most: “How can I plan and design better branching scenarios?”. Here is how to use the 3 Cs of branching scenarios method.

Continue reading “How to use the 3 Cs of branching scenarios method.”

Action Learning In Online Training: Basic Components And 4 Tips

Need to use Action Learning In Online Training? Read this to find 6 basic components of Action Learning and 4 tips to apply it in online training.

Everyone we meet can offer us insight, experience, and wisdom that helps us achieve our goals. In other words, the world is full of living, breathing puzzle pieces that contribute to “the big picture”. Action Learning relies heavily on team-based problem solving, which makes it a highly effective approach for online training programs. In this article, I’ll explore 6 basic components of Action Learning, and I’ll share 4 tips to use Action Learning in your next online training program.

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7 Tell-Tale Signs That You Were Born To Be An Instructional Designer

Wondering which are the 7 tell-tale signs that you were born to be an Instructional Designer? Read this to discover the top qualities of ID professionals.

Are you a self-starter who has a constant thirst for knowledge? Do you seize every opportunity to tackle new challenges and approach problems from different angles? If so, then you might be a natural-born Instructional Designer. In this article, I’ll share 7 tell-tale signs that you were destined to become an Instructional Designer.

Tell-Tale Signs That You Are A Natural-Born Instructional Designer

Every profession has its own unique traits and qualities. Doctors tend to be more compassionate and analytical, while artists possess an innate creative spark and free spirits. The same rule applies for Instructional Designers. There are simply certain talents and skills that set successful Instructional Designers apart from the rest. Chances are, you were born to be an Instructional Designer if you…

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Talking to Anna Sabramowicz

Sergey talks to Anna Sabramowicz, the author of famous “Broken Co-worker” scenario, founder of and as well as the star of this extremely useful YouTube channel.

Very enjoyable 57 minutes of laughs and insights 🙂 Thank you, Anna!


Incredible Marketing Scenario from Clark Aldrich

Clark Aldrich, one of the most notable simulation designers has created this incredible simulation and allows us to share it with you. This is essentially a full-blown business game built with BranchTrack:

Have you seen more creative examples of BranchTrack scenarios? Let us know!

Interview on Lectora Live with Rick Zanotti

This insanely awkward image is in fact a still shot of our CEO’s second interview on Lectora Live with Rick Zanotti. Tune in if you’d like to hear his thoughts on the current state of e-learning, upcoming features in BranchTrack and more!