Monday, August 29, 2011

Why Getting "Productive" Feedback from Virtual Classrooms is Tough.

For the past four years we have been designing, developing, and delivering webinars (aka virtual classrooms) to tens of thousands of people. And because we know how valuable feedback can be to any training event, we have incorporated a feedback mechanism and process into each of our webinar offerings. We have even followed our own advice from our book, The Learning Explosion, by making the entire feedback process short and concise, which increases the probability of participation and completion. What we have discovered at first surprised us, but led us to make some fundamental tweaks to our feedback approach. Here are the three main challenges we discovered and how we successfully addressed them.

1. Challenge #1. Your virtual classroom participants want to get in and out.
Most will not take the time to anwer feedback questions at the end of the session. They are likely sitting at their desks with a full inbox and pile of reports to complete. And of course social media which is always eager to pull our attention away. Despite this reality, most virtual classroom feedback opportunities come after all the percieved value of the event has been met.

While the solution to the problem appeared to be a relatively easy one, implemenation was hard. The solution we chose was to build in the feedback process before the close. This only works if there is value and relevance built into the close, and the feedback takes a couple of minutes at most. Another unforeseen challenge was persuading webinar facilitators to follow the new instructional design. They have been conditioned over years of ILT (instructor-led training) and ineffective virtual classroom delivery to always provide feedback at the end of a session. Once they started trusting in the new design, participation and scores improved.

2. Challenge #2. Your numbers will be skewed.
Why? Because with virtual classrooms you are now working with a unpredictable partner. Your technology platform. No matter how well your system and network is doing, and no matter how well you utilize your webinar platform, someone will always have dial-up or bad network connection and have a crappy experience. Their feedback is usually not positive.

The solution to overcoming this challenge is two-fold. First, establish clear technical requirements, and testing opportunities before the event. Many platforms have widgets or add-ins that allow you to test your computer to see if it is compatible with the platform. You should also always have a FAQ document you can share with participants before, during, and after. The second solution is to simply ignore negative feedback that is out of your control. Like someone on dial-up who had problems connecting. Come on. Really? Or someone who doesn't have Flash installed. etc.

3. Challenge #3. You will receive more irrational comments.
Let's face it, people have been conditioned to expect a sit back passive webinar experience where they are not expected to do or say anything but show up. So, if you create a engaging experience that requires interaction and participation, some participants will react negatively. Sounds crazy, but its true. They want to be able to do emails, and surf the net, and not be actively involved. People also will want your webinar to be longer, shorter, and everything in between.

Set up clear expectations before and at the beginning of your webinar. Let participants know that this is not your typical sit back experience, and that they will be held virtually accountable. Also let them know why your webinar is the length it is, and provide additional materials and resources if they would like to learn more. Accept the fact that you cannot be everything to everyone.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What we've learned from riding the subway

If you've ever been to a big city, you've seen them -- metros, subways, trains -- call them whatever you want. There are red lines, blue lines, and fifteen shades of green lines all designed to get you from where you are to where you want to be.

To navigate these transportation systems, you simply locate the "end stop" on a map headed in your direction, get on the train, and get off when you've reached your stop. In some cases the train won't get you all the way there -- it may get you half way before you need to transfer to another line.

Isn't this how you learn? After identifying where you need to go you head for the "Google station" where you type in the name of your "end stop" and hop on a train?

You start down one subway line by doing a search on "how to lose weight" which leads you to an article on It's good information that gives some basic facts about how drop the lbs.

But you really want more information on an "exercise plan for workaholics". Back in the station that search produces results like and a short little article about Yoga for Workaholics.

After riding those trains for a bit, you see another stop coming up with a resource on how to painlessly cut 400 calories a day. This article helps you understand that you need to eat better, leading you to another train that takes you to an 11 step plan on how to eat and lose weight.

You get the idea. Each stop leads you throughout the maze of subway lines and roaring trains where you can learn as much as your brain can hold. Get off when you've reached your destination and then hop on another metro line to learn more.

By the way, there are two great things we've learned about riding the elearning subway. First, you never need to worry about missing a train because there's always another one coming, and second, the internet doesn't smell bad...yet.

Monday, August 8, 2011

How to create an effective SEO (search engine optimization) campaign for $0

To help launch their new productivity training solution, "The 5 Choices of Extraordinary Productivity," the FranklinCovey marketing team, led by Curtis Morley, conducted a very effective social media strategy that resulted in attaining the #1 and #2 spots in Google for "The 5 Choices" keyword phrase in unprecedented time.

In less than ten days they moved from being unlisted, to the top ranks in Google. The reasons that they are now listed so high on the Google rankings are because of the following social media and web search activities:
  • Taking adavantage of thought leader and icon Stephen R. Covey, they had him post 5 Choices information to his almost 60k Facebook followers, and over 335k Twitter followers.
  • FranklinCovey also requested active tweeters to retweet his message, resulting in hundreds of retweets.
  • They conducted a Facebook poll.
  • Used the Hashtag #5Choices as much as possible.
  • Posted strategic postings on various other online communities.
  • And got "sneezers" to post about the 5 Choices.
To put this in perspective; companies pay large amounts of money and spend a minimum of two-three months to garner the spot FranklinCovey achieved at no cost in just 10 days. And this is only the beginning of a solid SEO strategy for FranklinCovey.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

28+ Productivity Apps and Tools

We recently posted a discussion question on LinkedIn ("The eLearning Guild" group) that resulted in some great responses that we thought would be worthy of sharing. The question we asked the community was, "What are your favorite "Productivity" apps or tools?"
Responses included apps for phones, desktops, Macs and iPad. Here they are in no particular order:
  1. Checklist. Create a checklist on anything and share it with anyone.
  2. Google queues. A full-featured task manager for your Google Account™ and Google Apps™ account!
  3. Nirvana. Organize your projects and life online.
  4. Nozbe. Web-based time- and project-management application for busy people and teams.
  5. Remember the Milk. Create tasks and share with peers. Also syncs with devices. 
  6. Ta-da lists. Make lists for yourself or share them with others.
  7. Teux Deux. Browser to do app that syncs with iphone. 
  8. ToDoist. Leading online task manager.
  9. WorkFlowy. Fit your whole brain onto a single piece of paper.
  10. A simple URL shortener.
  11. dotEPUB. Convert any webpage into an e-book. 
  12. Google Chrome Extensions like Quick Note (The quickest way to take notes). Also check out these 10 free apps specifically for increased productivity. 
  13. Also see Firefox Add-ons for similar tools. 
  14. Things Mac. Also comes in Things iPhone and Things iPad.
  15. Typinator. Makes every writing job two times quicker.  
  16. Evernote. Great tool for note taking. Syncs with mobile devices and tablets. 
  17. Skype. For all your communication needs... 
  18. Quiet for Mac. Alters the whole mac environment to encourage you to focus on 1 thing at a time.
  19. Toodledo. Personal Task Manager, iPhone app and web version kept beautifully in sync.  
  20. On The Job. Easy time tracking/invoice software.   
  21. Fantastical. Natural language parsing for new calendar appointments. 
  22. Spotify. Create and share music/playlists. 
  23. 1Password. No more remembering any passwords for all of the thousand sites you visit.
  24. Hazel. Seemless automatic file management in the background.
  25. Dropbox. How did we live before dropbox??? 
  26. Wunderlist. It’s a list, that's it. Nothing more and that's what makes it so amazing. It syncs between applications and you can have as many lists as you like.
  27. Peak meetings. Great app for meeting notes. 
  28. Dictation. It records and transcribes what you are saying.
And, we are only scratching the surface. There are so many are two great blogs that list an additional 32 apps:
7 Apps For Writing On Your iPhone
25 Productivity apps for iPhone

Monday, August 1, 2011

Learning How to Survive Without the Internet

Matt and his son Will (left); Treion and his daughter Chloe (right)

I (Matt) spent a week in the Rocky Mountains with a troop of a dozen boy scouts, and I (Treion) spent a few days hiking a 13,500 foot (4,100 m) mountain with friends and family.

All of us went without computers, the Internet or cell phones for an extended period of time and we survived without any withdrawal symptoms.

It was great to see kids outside in the wilderness learning about archery, soil conservation, rock climbing, canoeing, and how to survive rattlesnake (and mosquito!) bites.

One night, after all of the scouts sat around and talked – not texted – with each other, I pointed out the stars in the dark night sky. They learned about constellations and sat in disbelief at what they saw.

We could have all stayed at home and learned about these things on the Internet, but if you have the ability and the resources, sometimes the best learning you can do is hands-on experience.

If you haven’t tried it in a while, do it! It’s really refreshing to get away from all of the buzzing, beeping, and flashing gadgets and learn something in new and different ways.