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Online Learning for Trade Associations

Posts Tagged ‘synchronous’

aLearning Trail Guide Now Available on Amazon

Posted by Ellen on March 25, 2015

Though I’d thought it was time to retire aLearning: A Trail Guide for Association eLearning, I continue to see sales and interest in the book — a great sign that online learning is alive and well and growing in the world of nonprofit and trade associations!


Much has changed in the technology of elearning since the trail guide was originally published in 2009, but the step-by-step instructions for gathering what you need to develop, and then create, your association’s elearning strategy are still valid. When the book came out, it was the only place to get such detailed information in a practical, useful format.

Whether your online learning strategy needs an overhaul or you’re just getting started, the aLearning trail guide can help.

And that help is easier to get than ever.

While I still believe the book is best used in print format, those who’d prefer a copy on their Kindle or other device can now purchase and download it. And the e-book can be given as a gift: with a few clicks, you can purchase it and have it sent to someone else via their e-mail address. How cool is that?

Order now, for just $9.99.

Oh, and tell your friends!


Posted in aLearning Strategies, Asynchronous Learning Types, eLearning Resources, Financing eLearning, Justifying aLearning, Online Learning in General | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

2011 aLearning Association Survey Results Summary — Part 2

Posted by Ellen on October 12, 2011

Last post we looked at the general profiles of respondents to the recent aLearning Association survey and some of the outliers we noticed in the data. We also summarized the educational staffing and general budget information.

In this post we’ll take a look at how respondents are spending their money. As has been the case throughout, you’ll notice what we did: use of online and social learning is uneven. Some organizations are neck-deep while others are not involved at all. The survey didn’t explore reasons, but differences in how education supports each organization’s strategy probably account for most of the cases.

Remember, we asked that the size of the organization be identified by the number of individuals served in the membership, even if the organization is a trade association with institutional members.

The pattern is easy to spot (click the table to see it larger):

The larger the organization, the more likely it is to be involved in synchronous and asynchronous learning. Remember that these include Webinars and Webinar recordings (though we asked respondents to differentiate by a sub-question, many didn’t make this distinction — so it’s entirely possible that the only way synchronous elearning is being delivered is via Webinar and that most asynchronous elearning consists of recorded Webinars.

Of course what’s most interesting is the uneven implementation of blended options. First it should be noted that although none of our respondents in the 501-1000 category uses blended learning, we can’t conclude that no organization of this size uses it, or that half of our respondents in the 1001-3000 category report using blended learning that half of all organizations of this size use it. (As much as we hoped to have adequate responses for true benchmarking, we didn’t…. To everyone’s disappointment, I’m sure.)

The uneven implementation of blended learning has (we believe) everything to do with the various types of “blend” that are going on. Here are various ways some of the respondents described their use of blended instructional modes:

  • Online forum discussions before & after face-to-face events
  • Webinars with structured face-to-face activities
  • Face-to-face programs with follow-up Webinars
  • Recordings from face-to-face programs made available online
  • Live sessions from the annual conference streamed online
  • Incorporating Webinars, online workspace and conference calls into a year-long training program

So what does all of that say about using social learning across associations? Our next post covers what the survey revealed about that.

Posted in aLearning Strategies, aLearning Surveys, aLearning Trends, Asynchronous Learning Types, Justifying aLearning, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Put Your Members in Jeopardy!

Posted by Ellen on May 12, 2011

The game, of course. Okay, not the real televised version, but one of the variations available for learning.

It’s a great way to create interaction and excitement, especially in group settings, so if you’re looking for ways to up the ante with your face-to-face (FTF) educational sessions, this is an option you should consider.

The simplest and least expensive way to incorporate the game show into a FTF session is to find a pre-built PowerPoint template online and add your own answers and questions. In this case, I used a template designed by Theresa M. Dyson of Virginia Beach City Public Schools and Tidewater Community College based on the Jeopardy game show (you can find similar templates here and other game templates here).

For our use, I added one of the design templates to enhance the visual background:

Then I added the categories:

This template has embedded links, so clicking on any of the numbers…

…leads you to a screen where you can add your own question and answer:

In the Slide Show View, only the question appears at first:

When the answer is given, the moderator advances the slide, and the correct answer shows on the screen:

You’ll need a manual notetaker to keep score, as this program doesn’t have an embedded score-tracking mechanism, but then — it’s free, right?!?

To get back to the question screen, just click the “Home” button on the lower left:

Don’t forget the Daily Double!

And, because it’s built in PowerPoint, you can add images or embed video or audio clips! Make sure you test, test, test them ahead of time, and remember that the more extras you embed the longer it can take the file to open (all of this depends on your PC or Mac speed, of course).

Mike Dickinson, in an article for Learning Solutions e-magazine (“Case Study: How a 3-Year Project Led Us to Scenario-Based Course Design,” July 26, 2010), describes the alternative they used:

I found a wonderful program called Game Show Presenter by Tom Bodine (no connection to Articulate Presenter). Game Show Presenter can be purchased to run in a group setting and/or online. In order to run the game show we needed not only the program, but also a set of recommended buzzers, a laptop computer, and speakers.

I haven’t tried this particular program, so it might include automatic scoring.

With careful thought to how the questions and answer format can be exploited, you can incorporate some (albeit limited) scenarios for deeper thinking:

This is just one of many games that can be leveraged not only for online learning, but FTF sessions as well.

Take a look at Thiagi’s site for more possibilities, and let your imagination guide you!

PS: Yes, this Robert’s Rules of Order Game is now available on the aLearning Fundamentals site! Just go to for the full list of Robert’s Rules tutorials, Motions Job Aid, and this game — which, by the way, is available as a PowerPoint download file or compiled so you can access it directly from aLearning via the Web. It’s free — no registration is required. aLearning is grateful to iSpring for providing the use of their Presenter program which is used to compile our PowerPoint slides for access on the Web.

Posted in aLearning Trends, eLearning Resources, Learning in General, Webinars | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Presenting Vs. Facilitating

Posted by Ellen on April 14, 2010

Let’s get something straight:

Just as there’s a difference between meetings and educational events*, there are differences between presenting and facilitating.

Unfortunately, issues arising from boring presentations are the result of morphing meetings and educational events into these oddball concepts of  “conferences” and “conventions.” Presentations that can work in meetings don’t travel into the area of educational events very well.

And that’s our problem. Here’s why.

A presentation is usually when an individual (sometimes a pair or a few people) formally address a group:

  • A vendor representative wants to win your LMS business, and visits your office to show you, your executive director/CEO, your education staff, and your education committee what their LMS can do. She leads the conversation by walking through the features of the LMS using projected images from her laptop onto a screen. This is a presentation within the context of a meeting (though you are still likely to learn something, it’s not the objective of meeting nor the presentation to teach you the system, so this is not an educational event).


  • You need buy-in from your board of directors to fund the new LMS to advance your association’s educational goals and they have included you on their meeting agenda. You walk them through some PowerPoint slides that show projected costs, revenue, break-even analysis, features and uses of the LMS under consideration, and other key points. This is also a formal presentation within the context of a meeting.


  • An expert is invited to give the keynote address at an association’s annual conference. The conference is expected to attract 1500, about a third of whom will probably attend the keynote session. The expert asks for 40 minutes, as she’s well aware that no matter how engaging she is, attention spans are short and the chairs are uncomfortable. The event organizers say they can’t justify her fee for just an hour and that the keynote session is scheduled for 90 minutes. With 500 people in the room, she does what she can to fill the time and keep everyone engaged. This is a presentation within the context of an educational event.

The first two make sense, don’t they? Sometimes we just need the facts and information, and to have the opportunity to discuss the issue or choice and clarify it. Within a small meeting, these sorts of presentations can do all of that: at the end of the presentation by the vendor rep or your presentation to the board, through questions and answers and discussion, everyone is better able to place the decision they need to make in the appropriate context.

The third example is what Jeff Hurt’s been blogging about over at Midcourse Corrections. Nixing the tried (and no longer true) lectures that plague our conferences.

Here’s my contention: Though Jeff offers a few good ideas, the speaker in the third situation I’ve described is limited in what she can do to open up the session:

  • First of all, what educational objectives frame her presentation, if any?  Keynotes are usually not organized based on learning objectives. Neither are general sessions. Instead, they’re meant to “motivate” or “inspire” or “get people talking.” You can’t expect learning to occur if the intent of the session isn’t to educate or train in the first place.
  • Second, how can she effectively lead learning to a group of 500? Especially in an “active” way?

Be careful not to put lipstick on the pig. A keynote is a keynote is a keynote. A general session is a general session is a general session.

Which brings us to facilitating:

  • An LMS company representative visits your office to show you and your staff the advanced features of the system. He starts by finding out from everyone what they feel most — and least — comfortable doing in the system, and what they most want to be able to do. In an organized way, he walks everyone through the steps and tasks, then has those who are less sure of themselves perform the steps and tasks until they are comfortable with the new tasks too. This is facilitated training. This is an educational event, though it might have been on everyone’s calendar as a “meeting.”


  • An association member has been using Twitter at her institution to promote safety procedures at a time when several avoidable accidents have occurred. The association asks her to present on her experience at an interest or concurrent session at their next annual conference. She asks that the room be equipped with Internet access as well as the usual AV. She designs her session so that she can “show and tell” on the screen, and then has the participants practice on their own while she answers questions and helps anyone who gets stuck. In this case, a “presentation” quickly moves to “facilitated exercise.”


  • You’ve had such success with the launch of your new LMS that you’ve been asked to present a case study on how you scoped the project and selected your vendor. You’ve been paired with another association leader whose organization has also successfully implemented an LMS, though they came at the process from a very different angle. The program description is so popular that you find out you can expect 150 people in your session. Despite the size of the group, you don’t want to present each case study followed by Q&A — you want the attendees to learn through the process, too. So you split the room in half and deliver the problem of your case study to one half and the problem posed by your partner’s case study to the other. You ask each table to determine how they would define the scope, what vendor selection process they would implement, etc. You reserve time for various tables to report what their group discussed and the hurdles they encountered. You and your partner provide the endings to your stories as well as a chart comparing the two different processes each of you used, and decision-making aids the learners can implement or adapt for their own use. As a facilitator, you’ve adapted the large group as best you can to accommodate participation in the case studies via practice with the process, rather than just “presenting.”

We’ll often be in non-ideal situations, but knowing we have choices is key. Understanding how to implement those choices will benefit our members in ways they can’t even guess right now.

And it starts with identifying…

  • Where we are: Is this a meeting or an educational event?
  •  Why we’re there: Is the purpose to make a decision? To motive or inspire people?  To open up conversations? Or to elevate someone’s skill level?

Presenting has its place. Let’s just make sure we leave it there.

* Quick review: Meetings are held for the purpose of advancing business, are guided by an agenda, and sometimes use Robert Rules of Order as a organizational structure. Educational events are held for the purpose of enhancing knowledge and understanding and elevate skill levels, are guided by learning objectives, and are organized based on the the type of content and delivery medium.

Posted in Conferences, Learning in General | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Can You Learn from a Recording?

Posted by Ellen on April 13, 2010

We make recordings all the time: podcasts, recorded audio conferences, recorded Webinars. We make them available to our members via our Web sites and from other Web sources, sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee.

We make them available because we can. Oh, yeah — and because our members ask for them.

But should we?

Do people learn from them? Well, they must or they wouldn’t want them, right?

Let’s look at this another way… Do you read books? What kind? Wait — that doesn’t really matter. Have you learned anything from the books you’ve read? Textbooks? How-tos? Cookbooks? Travel guides? Novels?

I’ve learned from all of these different types of books, and I’ll go out on a limb here and say that you have, too.

And how about those magazine articles? White papers? Case studies?

Did they include fun quizzes or puzzles to help me check my comprehension of my reading? No.

Did I log into an online forum to record my thoughts about the book and read those others posted? No.

Did I call the author and ask a lot of questions to make sure I understood what he or she was getting at? No.

Did that mean I didn’t learn something? No.

I learned anyway. I learned from the nonfiction books and articles because I engaged myself in the process of turning those words and ideas over in my mind, making some notes sometimes, and thinking of ways I could transform what I was reading into reality.

The things I learned from novels came to me more serendipitously — a story set in Rome can help me understand the local culture… a character’s job in the hotel business can teach me something about what it takes to succeed in the hospitality industry… I see myself in the relationships that unfold on the page, and gain insight into my own foibles by walking in someone else’s shoes.

These aren’t “active” learning situations, at least not as we have been defining the term, though we are actively engaging our brain to process what we’re reading. 

So… having said that…

Can someone learn from a recorded Webinar, even though it’s passive rather than active? Yes, they can.

So Why Offer the Live Session? Why Not Go Straight to the Recording?

Recognizing the reasons people register for live sessions and why they opt for a recording is important here — because the reasons are different.

Some Reasons for Attending a Live Webinar

  • As I mentioned in comments to an earlier post, sometimes the power of a live Webinar comes from the impact it can have on a group. If your members are institutions and the topic will appeal to a group of employees within that institution, a live Webinar can give that team the opportunity to attend together to process the content relative to their own objectives and needs.


  • Sometimes a presenter’s expertise draws an individual to register because that expert is seen as having ideas or answers to a particular challenge or question. Even if the presentation doesn’t address the need, the attendee has the opportunity to ask that question or pose the issue during the Q&A session — something they wouldn’t be able to do with a recording.


  • While it doesn’t make sense on the surface to register for a Webinar when you believe you know the content, vendor representatives, consultants, and others will sometimes attend to hear what’s being said, what’s being asked, and to find out who’s registered. This gives them valuable information: are there gaps they can fill in the topic? What are the issues current or potential customers have around the topic? Are any of those questions coming from current customers? Prospects? Although they could get this from a recording, the live session gives them the opportunity to chime in via the chat option, and is more immediate for reaching out offline than waiting for the recording would allow.


  • Another reason people register for a live session is because they know it’s the one way they’ll commit the time to it. Saying, “I’ll wait for the recording” is a two-fold risk: one, will there be a recording? and two: will they actually take the time to view the recording once it’s available, or will they procrastinate watching it until it’s no longer available or important?

Some Reasons for Watching a Webinar Recording

  • Probably the biggest reason is that the content is intriguing or important, but not more important that other things that conflict — maybe someone is on the road and can’t access the live session. Maybe the live session will be held at the same time as an important meeting.


  • Sometimes people prefer the recordings — especially on topics they already feel familiar with – because they want to be able to fast-forward (when the option is available) to the subtopics that most interest them.

Is this a bad thing? Not if we believe that the learner should decide what’s important to know and should be able to easily zero in on that content.

The Bottom Line:

1. Organize and design the Webinar for the best learning it can deliver.

2. Plan to record the session and offer it afterwards.

3. Make it easy to access various pieces of the Webinar — via a fast-forward option or a menu — knowing that learners will take that they want and leave the rest.

Yes, active learning is the best way to learn.

And yes, a well-designed Webinar can deliver passive learning that’s still effective.

If not, we should ditch every textbook, cookbook, travel guide, how-to manual, instruction sheet, and a bunch of other resources we learn from every day, even when they don’t have quizzes; live chat; branching, matching, drag-and-drop and other interactions, or other activities.

Shouldn’t we?

Posted in Asynchronous Learning Types, Webinars | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »