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Thursday, March 26, 2015

You Can't Sit with Us!: On Boarding a New Employee in 3 Steps

On boarding of a new employee can be both frustrating and daunting and with good reason.  Both parties have something to gain and if done incorrectly something to lose.  For an employer they want employees who are informed and up and running as soon as possible to effectively help meet objectives.  For the employee they want a supportive and informative experience to, you guessed it, get up and running as soon as possible to effectively help meet objectives. So how should your company or learning team approach on boarding?  It really boils down to 3 steps.

Pick the right method!

Depending on your companies structure there are four options:

Create a blended training program that balances both times with an instructor or mentor and time on the computer.  A great balance!  This method helps capture the need for an employee to have personal and supportive care while letting the company be cost effective when content can be shared across multiple channels. One of the most common pit falls is not discussing the expectations at each step. Be sure to document either on a piece of paper or in email format what the employee should be doing in between meetings.  Be sure to give enough time for the slower paced learners and extra “nice to haves” for those who can handle a faster pace. To implement this method you’ll need to come up with a schedule, develop presentations, outline a communication schedule and material, and develop courses. 

Create a Web Based Training (WBT) program where the learner gains information by accumulating time on the computer. ICK! Can you imagine getting hired in, placed at a computer and just staring at the screen until your first assignment?  How impersonal and unsupportive!  Be sure to tailor your training so it makes the employee feel included and provide them with a contact or mentor for once their done. To implement this method you’ll need to come up an outline of a communication schedule and material, develop a curriculum, and develop courses. 

Create Instructor Led Training (ILT) program where an instructor or mentor works the employee through everything.  My personal favorite! If this was cost effective across all channels I would recommend this to each and every person I have a conversation with about on boarding.  When it comes down to taking time away from an employee or hiring and full time instructor then you run the risk of losing productivity or working off a budget that isn’t lean.  Keep in mind that the person chosen MUST be someone who is personable and can accurately represent your company, brand, and values.  Since they are the main delivery of information the lasting impression has to be there otherwise you’re just developing a plan that’s doomed to fail.  To implement this method you’ll need to come up with a communication schedule and mateiral, develop a schedule, and develop and design presentations. 

Create a virtual Instructor Led Training (vILT) program where a person teaches over the computer. Great compromise! I love this option because it provides the values of Instructor Led Training with less financial overhead.  Meetings can be scheduled around the instructors schedule without the need to be in a physical location.  This is also a great alternative for employees who work from home or who have teammates that work across the country or globe. To implement this method you’ll need to come up with a communication schedule, develop a schedule, and develop and design presentation. 

Come up with an awesome game plan!

The training should be comprehensive taking into consideration both the employee and employers needs. Here are some basics, which can be applied across all methods:

Everyone, no matter how experienced or eager, will be nervous.  It’s a physical response to the unknown that we all share and there’s nothing wrong with that.  One of the first things I like to do with a new employee is make them feel at home.  Show them where the bathroom is, explain how the teams are physically are split up, go over emergency procedures, show them to the lunchroom, and introduce them to teammates. Don’t forget to add in little personal touches like letting them know what bathroom has been christened for #2s (yes, that’s happened to me and yes, I’ve shared that information!)

Always take your content from looking at the big picture to explaining the employee’s relative small part.  This gives the new hire an understanding of why something is done that way or how a team works.  It also helps to slow down the process of information overload. This is a great time to go over the: who, what, when, where and why of the company, department, and team. Keeping in mind to only provide relevant information (so make sure your instructor doesn’t like to go off on a tangent.)

No matter what method you pick, make it visual and impressive.  A person who is engaged and interested in your presentations is more likely to pay attention and retain information. Keep your tone and general message consistent while inserting impacting slides, pages or conversations. This is also the time for the company’s brand to really show through. So work with Marketing or your Branding department to brand the crap out of anything that will be used! Why not use videos?  They’re great visuals and can be consumed quickly and easily.  Need to explain the company?  Why not create a company history documentary styled video that can be shared with new hires and potential customers!

Which brings up a great point; work across channels!  Since each employee has an ultimate different ending seat why not create content that can be used and reused.  Master courses are great ways to promote a unified look and feel while saving time and development costs.  As a special bonus you’ll have the few and far in between chance of bringing every department together to work on the project.  This means a company wide needs analysis!

Make them believe in your company by including information about the company’s culture and value.  What does your company do really well in the eyes of its employees and customers?  Will people be expected to participate in value-based initiatives? But make sure you’re being authentic.  No likes a forced culture atmosphere!

Go over the expected behaviors, competencies and metrics that will be used to evaluate and promote.  Encourage their desire to develop these skills to the fullest by explaining the rewards of a job well done.  But don’t make promises you can’t keep like an expected wage increase unless it’s information shared by HR.

Provide documents to supplement their learning experience.  This can also help to streamline work efforts especially in the case of checklists and forms.  Be sure to keep the documents visually appealing and branded when necessary.  One great example would be a customer persona fact sheet so the new hire can get to know your standard customer and their behaviors.

Don’t forget soft skill training!  Not everyone starts off at a company understanding the best way to communicate with co-workers or deal with an angry customer.  Providing the training up front means the new hire is more likely to handle the situation as the company wants instead of going off of previous experiences or training.

Don’t rush through the workspace, desk and/or computer set up phase. It’s important for a new hire to feel comfortable in his or her new area.  Give them ample time to set up things to their preferences (keeping in mind safety standards or any other regulations that could effect decisions.)  If they aren’t sure how to set it up then go through why you choose to set up your station in a particular way or explain the potential pros and cons. 

Incorporate them into the team every chance you get.  Schedule training around team meetings or call a special meeting just to introduce the new hire.  I personally hate the “get to know me” games because they seem so forced and dated.  If your team gets a kick out of doing them by all mean include it.  Otherwise I suggest having the new hire explain their background then let co-workers ask one burning question.  Yes, the new hire will probably be uncomfortable but at least they’ll get a small glimpse into everyone’s personality and not be asked the same question fifty times in two days.  To really wow your new hire make sure they have someone to sit with for the first couple days.  I’ve seen work friendships flourish and many people thank me for not having to awkwardly join the table (You can’t sit with us!)

Include follow up and touch points!  This is by far the most important thing to include in an on boarding training program.  Having scheduled follow up meeting and touch points means that both the employee and employer have a chance to praise or offer learning experiences.  This also creates a mentor program, which has been shown in countless studies to drive retention.  Mentorships are really their own program that can be incorporated into a new hire program so I encourage you to your own research.  Would you like to see an article soon discussing the topic?  Comment below or catch me on Twitter.

Revisit and Refine OFTEN

Companies, departments and teams evolve.  Be sure to revisit the content and refine based on feedback and performance scores.  Including a follow up survey to ask how the new employee felt about the program is a great place to start collecting data. I suggest revisiting the training program in 6-month increments if you’re not sure where to start.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Almost 350 FREE (or Cheaper) Tools and Resources for eLearning

Another installment of Free (or Cheaper) Tools and Resources for eLearning.  Anything marked with an asterisk is something I've tested, used occasionally or implemented into my daily work flow. Enjoy!


Audio Tools and Clips*.html?free=1


Collaboration/Project Management/File Share*


Course Authoring




Image Manipulation





Meeting Tools


Storyboard ***

Other  - Not near Excel….have no fear * - Because who doesn’t need help spelling * - To help you pick the right word - Check your website before it goes live - Speed test for your computer* - Keep all your bookmarks in one place* - Chop your links for easier social sharing* - Need to create a "to read list", set a yearly goal or read reviews? - Free online library - Free annotation creator* - Keep your avatar consistent across all sites* - Set Google Alerts to stay up to date on important topics - File converter - Ned help creating an eBook?* - Professional development for $25 a month.  Uh yes please!* - Trying to time your audio perfectly? Use this free words to time calculator to get a close estimate. - See if your newsletter headline is going to catch your employees eyes. - Free prototyping for mobile and apps. - Software to help enhance training development. - Working on an image that needs to be discussed and marked up?  Check out this collaboration tool. - Teacher and Student platform for discussing projects and grades. - Kick your writing into gear by taking the 365 writing challenge. - Save your article's place with this cool bookmarking tool. - Connie Malamed's currated goodies!

As always, please leave me your suggestions in the comments below or find me on Twitter (@jvalley0714).

My eLearning Toy Box

At the end of 2013 I came across a series of pictures taken where the artist (Andrew Whyte) took breathtaking photos using lego people on Pinterest (follow me!) (I went back and found a couple and made sure to pin them this time.) I was so inspired that I grabbed my son's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures and my phone and decided to take pictures of them brushing their teeth.  I posted the pictures on my personal Facebook page and got a laugh. But this week, I actually got to use them in a fun and creative way.  Here's my entry for Articulate eLearning Heroes Challenge #74 - Using Toys for Storytelling in E-Learning.


"This week your challenge is to design a short interaction using toys as your primary characters. You can combine toys with photographs, illustrations, or hand-crafted scenes and backgrounds.

The objective this week is to replace your usual e-learning graphics and characters with toys."


I took the pictures and turn them into black and white since the quality was so low.  I wasn't that good about taking pictures using proper back lighting and using editing techniques to fighting the yellow tint in 2013. Thank goodness for my introduction to image editing software and Instagram lol I knew that I would need a background for my cover page, a bar code and a picture of all of them together so I went on the hunt for items I could use (see my resource links). I also wanted some custom fonts since the logo is very distinct.  I found the perfect pair in Turtles and Cowabunga on DaFont. Using the pictures I previously shot I arranged them into my logical order to try and make a story. From then on it was just adding colors and text onto the screen that fit their character personas.


I created a short storyboarding using PowerPoint that's the start to a children's lesson on brushing your teeth. If I were to turn this into a full blown learning course then I think outlining the steps or having the learner put the pictures in order would be pretty fun.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

5 Tips for Creating the Perfect Video (FREE Template Download)

Videos are an important media for learning. With the rise of Youtube, the lowering of attention spans, and the recent push for microlearning it offers content that can easily be shared in a quick and interesting format. Before getting started you should create a video style guide that'll help direct producers, videographers, actors, set staff and editors (or the all in one!) get the correct look and feel the first time and then every time afterwards. Here are my 5 tips (with a free downloadable style guide template!) for creating the perfect video.

  1.  Always start by thinking about the broad feelings.How do you want the learners to feel?  What message are you trying to get across? How do you want your company to be perceived?  Do this by establishing a tone, stage presence, general standard on visuals and production. Strive to understand how elements within the video can effect (both positively and negatively) these feelings.

  2. Go into detail on the things you can control. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate or your subject gets sick but there are a lot of elements in a video you can and should control. Be sure the logo and colors of the video are compliant with marketing or your brand department. Get approval to use specific colors and state their intended purpose especially highlight colors. Set up standards for the subject’s attire. Know your output size, delivery method, file type and player. Put together a list of approved and unapproved aspects of different elements like: locations, shots, transitions, and text placement.

  3. Put together your steps for pre – production to form a habit.
    Be sure the script is ready and has gone through the proper review channels. No one likes unprepared talent or workers. Be sure to provide your subject(s) with a script a few days before and encourage they read through it ahead of time. Reiterate the attire standards a couple days before shooting. Have a shot list ready. Stage the shot to test the lighting, sound and background. Have the subject read the script with the camera on but without formal direction for a base line and hopefully collect bloopers.

  4. Scrutinize the first draft and but not a minute before it's ready.No one likes to be editing something with a person over your shoulder or worrying over every little detail. Let your person in charge of editing sit down with their specifications and create a first draft cut before stepping in. Plenty of producers, writers and actors have said that sleeping on something or waiting for a few days to review will help to make sure you don’t become too close to a project. Be sure to leave enough time to space out the reviews for a fresh mind.

  5. Polish that turd till it shines.Even if the video isn’t Oscar worthy, know when you’re “that’s good, now publish it” point is. Being a perfectionist is something we all strive for but there’s a point where you have to say we’ve done enough and I like it the way that it is.  If you have your standards in place and the video meets all or most of your standards then what more can you ask for? Publish it, market it, pat everyone on the back, and start all over again!
Are you new to video creation? Check out Vimeo's Video SchoolWistia's Learning Center or for videos on how to create videos.

Want a Free Video Style Guide Template?

Don't forget to follow, share and comment please. Can't get enough of yours truely?  Follow me on social media! I post helpful articles I find on the internet Monday thru Friday on Twitter and I have a Pinterest problem ;)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Experience API: Tech Dream or Admin Nightmare?

Awhile back I added "tin can?" to my potential article topics and surprisingly this week it came up in conversation at my regular job. So naturally I went on the hunt to teach myself.  I decided to share my findings and hopefully give you some new or different information. For the longest time I've skipped over articles on Experience API because I wasn't completely sure what it was or how I could use it. 

Why not at least have a good idea so I don't sound like a newb in conversations, right? 

What is Tin Can?

Experience API (also known as Tin Can, Tin Can API and xAPI) is an elearning language (Application Program Interface (API)) that allows learning content (courses, articles, video, social sharing and more) across multiple channels (social platforms, mobile devices, computers, books) and learning systems (preferably a Learning Record Store (LRS)) to speak to each other and record learning activities (watching, playing, approving, searching, sharing, listening, reading, writing, thinking, building). 

If you're already in the eLearning field you'll notice some similarities in comparison to SCORM. 

But, the language speaks in a simple syntax of Noun - Verb - Object (usually referred to as "I did this") instead of predefined tags like name, score, and pass/fail. So complex tasks like writing a blog post can become a recorded and scored learning event. It opens up learning experiences to easily include social learning, web based training, instructor lead training, mentoring, just in time learning and informal learning into a program with tracking and reporting. To top it all off, it talks across most devices and platforms and you don't even have to be connected to the internet.

In an article from eLearning Industries (linked below) the comparison was made that Scorm is to Tin Can as DVDs are to Netflix.  Love that analogy!

 What can an Experience API do that SCORM can't?

  • It can take your learning outside of the LMS such as web pages, videos or into documents
  • It records even if your learner switches platforms
  • It can track games, simulations, team based and real world performance
  • It tracks how you're doing on a plan or in regards to a certain goal
  • It listens and records multiple commands instead of just one
  • It doesn't require constant internet connection
  • It recognizes mobile applications
  • It supports advanced technology like gyroscoping, swiping, and geo-caching
  • It speaks and transfers data from one LRS to another making the idea of a personal learning transcript across companies and jobs possible
  • It tracks even when not connected to an LMS
Wow, that's a lot of relevant power!

 How do you use it?

You'll need content that can be published to Tin Can (Lecorta - Yep, Articulate Storyline - Yes sir or ma'am, Captivate - Right indeedy) and a software that can collect and read the API like a LRS. That's just for starters. Then you can add in all your other types of learning activities into the LRS for communication and tracking.

So, what's the catch?

What can't Tin Can do?

Tin Can requires interpretation of each communication which can be time consuming. Because of the ability to customize it requires planning and discipline when deciding what data is accepted and used. This means a company should hire someone with a decent amount of knowledge and experience (or willing to learning quickly) to implement a smooth process. It also allows for self reporting which can lose validity or truthfulness when reporting. 

Ok, I see the (or woman) hours

Who should use API?

If you're familiar with trends and statistics in Learning then you'll know that:

Informal makes up 75% of training plans
More than one third of the world's workplace will be mobile by the end of the year
Just in time learning is on the rise
11 out of 20 companies use a cloud based LMS
Microlearning is on the rise
Learning professionals are asking for big data
Learners want personalized training

Anyone using a diverse training program that uses more then two of these trends should consider implementing an Experience API and LRS. Each item listed above links in with a direct impact by switching. But be prepared for the work of building up the training and being able to consitently record the training. Your company will also need an organized and dedicated employee to manage and streamline the API as well. As technology advances and LRS's become able to create, send and interpret the communications using standardized practices the down fall will diminish.

Is Experience APIs the Future?

Maybe. It all sounds great on paper so it's adoption not spreading like wild fire has to say something. From what I've been able to gather the start up is hard and the struggles are real. Companies that choose to adopt an Experience API are adding it as a complimentary way to track what SCORM and a traditional LMS can report instead of choosing to replace.