What is Microlearning?

Microlearning is “A short piece of learning, that addresses a specific practical skill, that is just ‘long enough’”.

So what’s the big deal about microlearning? Why are organisations investing time and resources into it? What’s wrong with a good old-fashioned workshop or eLearning module? There’s nothing inherently wrong with a workshop or a self-directed online learning module, they both serve a purpose. Whether you utilise one or the other depends on a whole number of things which is a debate for another time. We’re just interested in the ‘why’ of microlearning. The simplest answer is: we have terrible memories.

Back in 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus did some research on what he called ‘the forgetting curve’. The forgetting curve indicated that without some form of reinforcement over time, we forget a large percentage of what we have learned. For example, you attend a day’s learning workshop and after 4-5 days you have forgotten 80% of what you covered. That’s a pretty big loss of new information!

To combat this, researchers have proposed that learners should use the ‘spacing effect’ to assist them in remembering what they have learnt. The spacing effect is the phenomenon whereby learning is greater when studying is spread out over time, as opposed to studying the same amount of content in a single session. That is, it is better to use spaced presentation rather than massed presentation.

Researchers such as Will Thalheimer have taken this concept a step further and proposed a learning technique called spaced repetition that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material, in order to exploit the spacing effect. By having a spaced review of something we have learnt over time – less of the learnt content is forgotten.

So, does microlearning fit into this idea of spaced repetition? Yes, it does. Microlearning allows us to provide short review pieces that allow a learner to embed what they have learnt over a period of time.

Best practice microlearning in the workplace:

What has best practice shown regarding corporate learning that might gives us more information about why we could use microlearning?

  1. Microlearning is no good if it’s too short. People can’t and won’t engage fully. That’s why it’s impossible to give a time limit to microlearning, and part of the reason why our definition says that the learning should be ‘long enough’. That may be 3 minutes or it might be 10. The learning still needs to grab the learner’s attention. What’s in it for them? Why should they care?
  2. Content must be able to ‘stand alone’ It’s not just breaking an existing program into smaller units. This turns the training into a ‘start/stop’ process. The learning becomes inconsistent and fragmented, and there is the added effort on the learner to remember “where am I up to?” and “what did I review last time?”
  3. Workers have limited patience – they want to be able to finish a task and move on to the next one in a reasonable time frame. If they feel something is bogging them down and preventing them from getting on with their day, they will get frustrated and negative towards it fairly quickly.
  4. Even if they have more time for a task – it generally won’t happen – interruptions continue in the workplace because they have their ‘real jobs’ to do! Projects, customers, clients, meetings, communications etc. all are clamouring for their attention.

When microlearning keeps these practices in mind it can be effective and not add any additional burden on the learner. Heck they may even enjoy it!

What is and what is NOT microlearning?

Microlearning is NOT:

  • Chunking, breaking down, and ‘to be continued’ – Microlearning has to stand alone. If you’ve just chunked down a full program into smaller pieces with a ‘too be continued’, it’s too fragmented and too much of a cognitive demand for a learner to remember where they left off. Chunking down a 20-minute video into ten 2-minute videos just provides an increased annoyance factor of ‘what did I watch before?’ and ‘which video am I up to?’ Both questions eat into their small window of patience.
  • Video only – It could also be a job aid, a scenario, a couple of quick questions, a podcast, a mini module etc.
  • Less than 5 minutes – It could be if you discover that 5 minutes is ‘just long enough’, but time should not be the deciding factor.

Microlearning IS:

  • Just in time (not ‘just in case’)
  • Short and specific
  • A single focus – One idea/objective/concept/behaviour.
  • Immediately applicable – no theory/no extensive history/no backstories.
  • Available for the learner to access on their In other words, accessible on any platform – phone, desktop or even tablet, available at work and at home – what suits them?
  • Easy to find – not buried in the depths of your LMS/Intranet.
  • Great for review, practice or extension, all of which fit into spaced repetition well.

Check back soon to read my other posts on how to build microlearning with Articulate tools and how to use Birch Learning Platform for microlearning.

Articulate Rise is a Rising Star

One of the challenges faced by e-learning developers is being able to develop learning for multiple devices and platforms. How your module would look on a desktop was the known factor, because that is what most people used to access it. However, with the increased proliferation of mobile devices like phones, tablets and phablets, your hard design and development work could end up not only looking horrid, but also completely unusable on any platform that wasn’t a desktop PC.

Articulate rose to the challenge of responsive authoring with their program RISE, part of their Articulate 360 subscription based authoring platform.

Articulate believe that a designer should only have to build their course once, and then let the tool do the heavy lifting for other devices. That’s right, design an e-learning lesson once, publish, and no matter what device is used to view it, it will look fantastic, with usability second to none.

That belief is what gave birth to RISE. One of the greatest features of Rise is that because it is an online authoring tool, completely accessible via your browser, it requires no installations or downloads to function.

What’s even better though is (can it get better? Yes, it can!) because of that, whenever Articulate offers a new feature, you have access to it straight away, without any updates, downloads or installations. How easy is that!
So, what has changed since Rise has been released? Heaps! Been a while since you looked at it? Here’s your excuse to return! Click on each of the animated gifs below to learn more.


When Rise was launched in November 2016, one of the first comments that was made about modules built in it, was that the raw files were locked to the developer’s articulate account. Unlike a Storyline file, they couldn’t be given to the client/customer/stakeholder once the project was completed. Any additional changes would have to come back to the original developer for action. And if the original developer left your organisation, chances are you would lose access to the raw files as well. Not anymore! In RISE you can now not only transfer ownership of the raw RISE files to your client or colleague, you can also now invite additional people to collaborate on a RISE module build.



Need to localise the language of your RISE course? Translations are also now available, with a complete step by step guide included within the software to make it happen for you!


Publish to Review

Have you been using Review to collect stakeholder and SME feedback on your Storyline 360 projects? Guess what? You can now use Review to collect feedback on your RISE courses as well!


Need to produce accessible eLearning content as a requirement of your organisation? RISE has now got you covered as well. Alt tags for images, and a publish to PDF option for those times when a hard copy of the module is required.


What about in the development of a course itself? What’s changed there? In the last 18 months, a tonne of stuff!

RISE courses are still beautifully responsive and look great no matter what kind of PC, Tablet or smartphone is being used to access it. With the following additions, it has made RISE more customisable, and able to provide a wider range of learning activities for your learners.

Enhanced Quizzing

When RISE first launched, you could test your learner’s knowledge via multiple choice question quizzes only and pass those results back to your LMS as required. That was great, but a little repetitive as it was the only type of question you could access to test knowledge. Now you can use Multiple Choice, Multiple Response, Fill in the blank and Matching questions to mix things up a bit and test knowledge using a variety of questions.

Knowledge Check Block

Want to get your learners to reflect on what they have just seen, but don’t require to use those responses for an assessment. The new Knowledge block is perfect for you! You can ask your learners a Multiple Choice, Multiple Response, Fill in the blank or Matching question to assist them in consolidating their knowledge before they move on to the next lesson.

Content Library

The content library has been available within Storyline 360 and Studio 360 since the launch of Articulate 360, but back then accessing it for use in RISE was not available. Now it’s a different story. Need a high-resolution photo or top-quality illustration for your RISE lesson? You’re now covered by being able to access any one of the millions of photos or illustrations available via the content library.

Prebuilt lessons now available as separate blocks

There were a number of pre-built lessons launched with RISE. The only drawback was that they took up an entire lesson in your RISE project, and didn’t let you customise them with further text, or multimedia blocks as you would have liked. Not anymore! You can still use the pre-built lessons based on need, but now you can also include the Labelled graphic, Process and Timeline pre-built lessons as blocks within your other lessons, giving you increased customisability and helping you set up your RISE course exactly how you want it.


Downloadable Resources

Have you got a ‘cheat sheet’ or a ‘just in time’ resource you want to have available for learners to download from within the RISE course? Articulate’s got you covered with the downloadable resource block to add reference materials directly to your lesson, without missing a beat!

Continue Button

Need to ensure a learner has accessed all blocks in a lesson? You can now use the Continue button block to stop them from advancing to the next lesson until they have completed all of the interactions in their current lesson.

Custom Fonts

When RISE first launched, you were restricted to using a number of built in fonts for both your heading and Body text. If you had a decorative font or a corporate font you wanted to use, you were unable to do so. Now however you certainly can! You can upload your own custom font to RISE, and use it throughout your module. Again, the team at Articulate have provided an easy step by step guide to assist you in making it happen. Hello again corporate font! Your marketing team will be very happy!

And now, the BIG WIN! Drumroll please…

Storyline Block

You can now embed a Storyline 360 course within RISE for your learners to access!

Want a more robust interaction than what RISE offers? Got some great content you built previously in Storyline 360 that you want to reuse in your RISE course? Want to use freeform questions to assess learning as opposed to RISE’s built in form-based questions? Publish your Storyline 360 course to Review, embed it within your RISE course and you can! Your learners will get the best of both worlds! Great looking responsive content from RISE, and the additional engagement and interaction of Storyline.

What’s not to love!

Suggested Links

Here are some handy links about all of the changes RISE has had since it launched.

Want to see what’s possible with RISE? Check these out:

Keen to get hold of RISE or would like to learn more about using it? Need someone to build a RISE course for you? Check out the following links:

Static to Fantastic: Animation in Articulate Storyline

Have you ever been bogged down building slide after slide and went to preview the story to find it’s just a slideshow? Or have you looked at an older module or course you’ve created and thought to yourself “This look boring!”.

Then look no further! Here are some quick and handy tips to breathe new life into otherwise monotonous screens. Check out the link to follow through the tips to see the changes for yourself! Example 1

Tip 1 – Use your slide master.

Your slide master is an incredibly versatile tool which can be vastly under used. Not only is it key to uniformity and the gateway to keeping your branding team happy, it is also a brilliant way to tweak some of those static graphical elements and add some movement to add interest to your slide without having to change anything on the base slide itself. (See Slide Step 1 on Example 1)

In the Example slide, you can see that the three circles in the corner fly in staggered from the left and the title animates in. This is just an example of what you can do to change the slide without editting anything on the base slide itself, all you have to do is apply the layout.

Tip 2 – Entrance and Exit animations can be triggered.

Sometimes you need to trigger in an animation when the user has completed something or to show more information. This can be done simply by having an object, such as a text box or a shape starting at “State: Hidden” and having an entrance animation. Next all that you have to do is to build a trigger which can change the state of the object to “State: Normal”. The trigger example below will change the state of our textbox called “Closing” to the “State: Normal” when the buttons are equal to visited.

What does that mean practically? (See Slide Step 2 on Example 1) Here you can see the instruction to click the next button appears when the user has visited all of the layers with information.

Tip 3 – Use your transitions

Transitions are often neglected or used in the wrong way. They can be an elegant way of adding flow to your courses. Here you can see the push animation has been used in conjunction with an animation on the slide master title text box to give a feeling of momentum when moving between the slides.

My top 3 recommended transitions are; Push (as you can change the direction in effect options to a whole variety of effects), Cover/Uncover, (for that feeling of cards) and finally, Fade, as it is versatile and softens the transition between slides.

Tip 4 – Use your timeline to loop animations of visited layers.

How, you ask? Just follow the steps below and you will be able to build a looping layer in no time! (See Slide Step 3 and Final slide on Example 1)

Once you have your slide and information on your layers you can follow the steps below:

Step 1: Group your layer objects together.
Step 2: Set your entrance and exit animations, check the length of your animations and take note of the length, in the example we have 0.5s entrance and a 0.5s exit.

Step 3: Select an option under Effect Options to achieve different effects e.g. entrance: from right exit: to right.
Step 4: Add up your entrance and animation times 0.5s+0.5s = 1.0s.
Step 5: Set your timeline to 1.0s.

Step 6: Build your triggers:

  • Trigger 1: pause timeline when timeline reaches 0.5s (length of entrance animation)
  • Trigger 2: resume timeline when user clicks (close button) or you could say when user clicks outside Group 1 (for example when they go to click another button)
  • Trigger 3: hide layer when timeline ends – this is very important, the interaction will not work correctly unless this has been specified. This is because storyline will think the layer is still open even though the timeline has ended which will make the user unable to click anything else on the slide.

Step 7: Finally lets change the layer settings to show other layers so we have an overlapping effect AND reset to initial state.

There you have it, that’s how you can build a looping layer just like in our Example 1, slides Step 3 and Final Slide.

If you would like to see some of these tips in action check out Example 2. The Welcome slide uses animation to move objects into the screen as well as a Transition to the next slide which uses a gif background to add movement as well as the looping layers for the information. (The gif is from a giveaway from eLearning Heroes) The other slide is a basic slide with animation added from the slide master layer and the final slide uses a variety of animations to display the information.

Before you go here’s a quick recap of what we have learned:

  • Use your slide master to add interest without touching the base slide.
  • Use triggers to animate in objects from hidden or do the reverse and hide an object.
  • Use your transitions to add flow and movement to the course.
  • The power of the timeline in using entrance and exit animations to loop animations in layers.

Finally, keep experimenting! Storyline is a simple but incredibly powerful tool, the only real limit is how you use it!

Thank you for reading and I hope you have enjoyed this quick look at animation!

If you have any questions about our content development or would like to see more blog posts about animation feel free to contact us here mail@bonlinelearning.com

Ten Ways to Design eLearning That Makes Sense

When I tell people that I make my living as an eLearning Designer, some people have a blank look on their face. So I usually ask ‘Have you ever done an online training course at work?’. And the response is usually ‘Oh yes, you write those courses do you?’. This inevitably leads to a discussion about what it was like learning online and whether it was a worthwhile and interesting experience. But more and more, I have been asking ‘Did the course make sense?’. It is a simple question, but it is ultimately one of the most fundamental questions to ask when measuring the effectiveness of an online course.

In the classroom setting, teachers and trainers have the advantage of asking the learners questions like:

  • Is that clear?
  • Does everyone understand that?
  • Are there any questions?
  • Would you like me to explain that again?

In other words, when we are training face-to-face we can check that the learners are keeping up and understanding the learning material.

How can we do a similar thing in eLearning? If we use a blended approach, learners can complete an online course or module, then meet face to face or in a webinar to check understanding and engage in discussion. This is probably the ideal situation for many learners.

But here I would like to focus on those courses that are designed purely for online delivery. In this case, the onus really is on the eLearning Designer/Instructional Designer to create a course that makes sense. We need to make sure the learning experience is meaningful and that learning objectives are met.

It may help to imagine that you are the teacher or trainer standing up in front of the class. What instructions do the learners need? What is the most logical way to present the learners with information? How can you explain something as clearly as possible? These are all useful questions to bear in mind.

Here are ten ways to design courses that make sense to learners.

  1. Always include a navigation screen at the start, even if you think the learners have done eLearning before. The navigation screen should have clear and simple instructions so any learner can easily progress through the course. By making navigation easy, learners can focus on the course content.
  2. Free up navigation. Make sure learners can easily go back to previous screens if they need to revise any material for a better understanding.
  3. Pay attention to the layout of each and every screen. Avoid cluttering screens with too much information. The screen should be pleasing to the eye and designed to draw the learner’s eye to the most important information.
  4. Draw on the experience of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Many of them have experience teaching the material face to face, and so you can ask them questions like ‘What did the learners struggle to understand the most in this section?’
  5. Include a glossary. Never assume that the learners will understand jargon, technical terms or acronyms. The glossary should be comprehensive and explain key terms in plain English. I like Articulate’s Engage Interaction Glossary because it places it at the top of every screen for easy access.
  6. Include regular quizzes or case studies to check the learners’ understanding of the content. Instead of having one huge test at the end of a course, it is better to have shorter tests at regular intervals throughout the course. Regular tests and quizzes are a good way for learners to measure their own understanding and build their confidence.
  7. Give learners the option of finding out more information if they need to. You could include a box on some screens saying “Want to know more? Click on this link to learn more about …..”
  8. Provide a contact person for questions. If the learners do have questions, is there someone they can contact? For example you could include the email address of the training manager within the organisation.
  9. Ask another person to check the course to see if it makes sense. If you have access to proofreaders or quality controllers, they can point out any content that is unclear. Alternatively you can ask a pilot group of learners to go through the course. Ask them specific questions such as ‘Was there any content that didn’t make sense?’
  10. Engage in continuous improvement. Even when you have published and released your course to learners, there is still the opportunity to gather feedback and make improvements to the course. You could include a survey asking learners if there was anything they found unclear. This is a great way for you to keep learning about the learners’ perspective and to remind yourself that you are designing courses for real people.

Looking for more ideas to design your eLearning courses, check out our Certified Articulate Training and eLearning Design Essentials workshops.

Enhance Digital Learning Experiences with Video

I love a good vid. In this age of Netflix, Stan, Foxtel Now and YouTube, you can be pretty much guaranteed to find something you want to watch that is engaging and entertaining. Pretty much any interest you have can be ‘googled’ and located not only for entertainment purposes but also for learning. Want to learn how to build a deck? There’s a vid for that. Want to learn how to cross-stitch? There’s a vid for that. Want to learn how to use photoshop? There’s literally millions of videos on how to do that! How about how to take a better picture? Yep you guessed it. There’s a vid for that.

Practically anything you want to learn these days can be located in a 3-5-minute video or series of videos. So why would you want to sit through an eLearning module that goes for an hour and a half? If you had the option to complete a 1 hour eLearning module on building a timber deck, compared to a 5-minute video which would you choose? I know which one I would choose.

Unlike a traditional presentation of information where you read about a procedure, view some diagrams or pictures about it, and then trying to apply it in a real situation, video enables you to see, listen and review application all in the one package. I can see how someone is holding the hammer while nailing the decking timbers, or how they are checking everything is level with their spirit level, or how they are marking out their measurements.

Video is an extremely powerful learning medium, because it gets a lot of information across in a short period of time, and the viewer is engaged through sight, sound and a ‘real life’ situation. The success of websites like YouTube are a testament to the popularity of video and show how this medium can be used effectively in a learning environment. So, what about our eLearning modules? As developers, what are some ways we can use video in our modules to capitalise on the learning power of the medium and provide an engaging experience?

Provide a personal touch
You can add a short video to an induction module welcoming new starters by the CEO, Executive team, HR team, direct manager etc. Great to put a face to a name! Also makes it easier for the new starter to know who they are looking for if they need to find a particular person. An induction module we created for APG & Co. included a personal greeting from the company’s CEO, welcoming the new starter to the organisation.

Observe a Process
The process might be an interpersonal one, showing an example discussion around a customer service encounter, or a performance management session etc, or even how to use a product.
For example, a module we put together for the Department of Primary Industries around how to put on and take off Personal Protective Equipment when doing a site inspection.

Another example is one we created for NSW Health Get Healthy Program which allowed learners to observe a process and then answer questions about what was done well, and what could have been done better. Check out the 15 minute brief health check demonstration topic.

Case Studies
Another great way to use videos is to play out a case study. Rather then the learner read through a document describing the situation, the learner is able to watch it ‘live’ as the situation unfurls, and how the situation should be dealt with as best practice. For example the team I worked with created a series of videos for a financial institution to cover of the best practice way of completing a personal loan for a customer. This included all of the must ask questions required to process the loan as efficiently as possible, and showed the learner all of the expected legal obligations they needed to cover off while completing the transaction. The feedback was it was invaluable for the learners to see the required behaviour modelled, and it assisted them in understanding the various requirements.

Another example from our APG & Co induction video around ladder usage and safety. What was quite a graphic video allowed the learner to see the consequences of falling from height, and what sort of safety precautions should have been in place to avoid it. The module then went on to discuss how APG & Co. manage ladder safety.

What about a ‘choose your own adventure’ branching video scenario? The learner watches a situation occurring, and in various places the video pauses and they need to make a decision. When they make a decision, the next video shows them the consequences of their decision, and may prompt them to make further choices with other consequences. It is those choices and consequences that provide the learning experience, and assist the learner in gaining the new knowledge required.

Video can be as simple or complex as you like
It all comes down to your experience and the resources you have available. Start small and build to bigger and better engaging scenarios as you get more comfortable with producing video and as resources become available.
Have fun with it! You don’t need to be Hollywood to create great learning videos, with good instructional design you can create video on the cheap that is effective, and has the learning impact you are after.

Watch this video. It’s more involved with more professional production values, but both are used effectively to engage the learner and get them involved in the story. When you are starting out with video keep in short and sweet but visually exciting for its 2-3 minutes, don’t just use a talking head – boring! Get your visual design hat on. A great example of this is the videos produced by Commoncraft – short and visually engaging while explaining quite involved concepts.

To learn more about enhancing your digital learning with video watch my recent webinar here.

Now take a look at some ways we can use video in Articulate Storyline to create interactive and engaging learning experiences.

The Importance of Good UI in Digital Learning

I’m a huge fan of cooking shows such as MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules and one of the expressions they use when judging dishes on these programs is that people eat with their eyes. What they mean is that the presentation is the first thing people see which creates an impression even before they’ve tasted the food. This analogy is much the same in the world of digital learning, as people can be turned off just by the look of an eLearning module or LMS interface.

The User Interface or UI refers to both the look-and-feel and functionality of the eLearning module or LMS menu. This means that your colour palate, navigation, images, icons and layout are all contribute to the overall UI. A well-designed website is easy to use and requires no instruction thereby minimising the amount of extraneous cognitive load on users. The same should apply to digital learning because if people are frustrated due to a lack of intuitiveness, it will take away from the objectives of the piece. The UI is not just making the screen looking pretty, it’s a tool to guide people through the learning experience.

Here’s some tips for improved UI design:

Make the Navigation Clear
Make sure it’s obvious what people need to do next. How to they move forward? If they need to click on all objects before moving ahead, let them know otherwise they may think there’s a problem if the module won’t advance. Also, remove any items that are not needed. One of my pet peeves is when I see a previous button on the first slide of a module. If something isn’t needed or doesn’t do anything remove it!

Make it Familiar
Many people who complete eLearning modules use the internet at work and home so are used to certain elements that are used in website design such as a ‘X’ used to close a window or blue, underline text for a hyperlink. Use these same standards in your eLearning as people are already familiar with them.

Consistency is Key
My colleague Matt Blackstock has written some great posts about making your visual design C.R.A.P. otherwise known as using Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. Applying these principles will also improve you UI design. Some examples of consistency include keeping navigation elements in the same place across your module and making clickable objects (such as buttons) the same style, so one colour if the button is active and another colour if it’s inactive or been clicked on.

Don’t forget Mobile
If your eLearning will be viewed or your LMS accessed via mobile devices, it changes things when it comes to UI. Screens are smaller, and interactions are performed using fingers so keep the design free from too many elements and make sure all items can be operated via mobile devices.

Test, Test and Test
It’s always good practice to test your work both as you build it and at the end to ensure everything works the way you intended. When testing, you should always do the opposite or try a different way than you intended and see if everything still works. If you can, organise a pilot group of testers watch them as they use your module. Don’t forget to test in different browsers and devices too.

One final point is that it’s best to apply good UI design during the build phase as it is much easier than trying to go back re-design at the end.

What are your tips for good UI design?

Buttons Sets in Articulate Storyline

We often see people over programming in Storyline by adding unnecessary triggers, variable and states to perform a function. In Storyline (1, 2 and 360) there’s a few things that I call ‘hidden gems’ because until someone tells you about them you probably wouldn’t know they existed. Buttons sets are one of those gems and are a handy feature to use. Even though they are called button sets you can use them for other objects but I’ll begin with using then for groups of buttons.

Sometimes on a slide you might have several buttons for say a click and reveal interaction. You might also want it to be obvious which button is active. This is where the button set comes in and they are easy to create.

Even though they’re called ‘Button sets’ they can be used for other groups of objects where you only want one object in the group to be selected at any one time. Here’s some examples that I’ve used before:

  • Selecting a character (illustrated or photographic)
  • Clicking on images to reveal some more information
  • Creating quiz-like questions with radio buttons

Even if you’re not using buttons, the process is the same for creating a button set with objects – select all the objects > right click > choose button set > name your set. Again, you may want to change the look of your selected state.

There you have it, button sets a neat feature in Storyline! If you’ve used them before, let us know in the chat area below.

Using Adult Learning Principles in Digital Learning

When developing digital learning content, it is important to put yourself in the shoes of the learner.  Two essential questions to consider are:

  • ‘Who are the learners?
  • ‘What will motivate them to learn?’

The tools today are packed with features to make learning exciting and easier to use with templates ready to get you started quickly. But for those of us designing courses for adult learners, it’s helpful to understand adult learning principles too since this is not an automated function of any tool.

Malcolm Knowles pioneered the study of adult learning (called andragogy) in the 1970s, identifying the following six adult learning principles.

  1. Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  2. Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  3. Adults are goal oriented
  4. Adults are relevancy oriented
  5. Adults are practical
  6. Adult learners like to be respected

These principles are an excellent summary of how adults learn.

PRINCIPLE 1: Adults are internally motivated and self-directed

According to research, “adult learners resist learning when they feel others are imposing information, ideas or actions on them”.

Adult learners like to feel a sense of control over their own learning. Online learning gives adults the choice to log on and learn at a time convenient to them. But what if they log on, and then have no freedom to navigate through the course in their own way? If possible, I like to give learners options to move around the course freely. It is best not to lock down the navigation which may lead to frustration and impede the learning process.

It can be argued that some learners will just click through to the end without reading each screen. To address this problem, I recommend putting in a Case Study or Quick Quiz at the end of each section to check their understanding. This will encourage them to go back to previous screens and take a closer look if they need to.  You could lock the Quiz or Test so they have to pass before progressing. For more information about navigation options, read Tom Kulhmann’s post on the Rapid E-Learning Blog.

But what about if the client asks you to lock down the navigation?

Some managers want their staff to click and read every item on a screen before progressing to the next screen. The good news is that self-directed learning is not just about navigation. If you have to lock down the navigation, there are other ways you can encourage self-directed learning. An important guideline is to lead the learner toward inquiry before supplying them with too many facts. Facts are often presented in the form of bullet points but this may not be the best way to facilitate learning. In fact if bullet points are over-used, it is a sure way for the learner to switch off. Instead try creating a real life problem (case study) that the student has to solve for themselves. You can supply a few facts or resources that they have to draw on to solve the problem. Then provide guidance or feedback after they have submitted a solution. In this way the learner is motivated to learn within a meaningful context. The learner has to think for themselves—and remember, adults like to solve problems and think things through for themselves. It is more likely that they will remember the information if they have had to apply it to a realistic workplace scenario.

PRINCIPLE 2: Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences

Even if you do not personally know the learners you are designing for, you can be sure that as adults, they have a wide range of knowledge and experience to bring to the course. Try to draw on this experience from time to time in the course.

When I start designing a new section in a course, I like to ask the learners a few questions to draw on their pre-existing experiences. By drawing on the learners’ current knowledge or experience, you are orienting them to the new topic and making the course more personal.

This example is from our Equal Employment Opportunity course. Near the start of the course, I asked learners to think about two questions: “What does EEO mean to you?” and “Have you (or someone you know) ever been discriminated against in a workplace?”.  I inserted a green box for the questions with the title ‘Reflection’. The same green box format appears several times in the course and asks the learner different questions for reflection. This is a good way to acknowledge their experience and by doing so, show them respect.

PRINCIPLE 3: Adults are goal oriented

Adult learners need to have a goal to work towards when undertaking online learning. Some adult learners undertake online training by choice. They already have a goal, for example to change careers or get a promotion. Other learners do an online course because their boss has told them they have to. In both cases, adult learners like to know how they will benefit from doing the course. In the first few screens they should be able to answer the question “How will doing the course make my job/life easier?”

As eLearning designers, we need to convince the learner that the course will be worth their while. Although clear learning objectives are a start, there is more that we can do. For example you could open the course with a scenario that they could realistically face in their workplace. Then ask “Would you know what to do in this situation?”. The idea here is to identify a gap in their knowledge which helps to motivate the learner to fill the gap. In other words, do the course!

As adult learners practice new skills, they need feedback about how they are progressing toward their goals. The timing of feedback is important: immediate feedback facilitates learning the most. The longer the interval between performance and feedback, the less likely it is that feedback will have a positive effect on learning. In eLearning we can provide feedback to an adult learner immediately after a skill has been performed. Using a tool like Articulate Storyline , its easy to provide feedback by question or at a deeper level by each individual response

It is also important to acknowledge goal completion; for example ‘Congratulations you passed the test’ or ‘Well done – you have completed Section One of the course’. Another option is to use gaming elements by awarding badges. This kind of encouragement gives the learner a sense of completion and satisfaction.

Principle 4: Adults are relevancy oriented

Adult learners are usually time-poor. Whether they are undertaking the course at work, on the train, or at home, typically there are dozens of other things they could be doing with their time. So it is important not to waste their time with unnecessary information or irrelevant screens.

When I am selecting course content, I ask myself “Will this help the learner achieve the course objectives?”. If the answer is yes, then it is included. If the answer is no, then I leave it out. Sometimes it is helpful to print out the course objectives and keep them next to the keyboard or on the wall in front of you.  By keeping the course objectives at the forefront, you are more likely to keep on track with the most relevant course content.

In addition, adult learners want to see the relevance of what they are learning to their own experience. Always choose images that you think the learners will be able to identify with. For example if you are designing a course about Workplace Bullying for the mining sector, choose images of miners, mine sites and other environments that the learners will be familiar with.

Case studies also need to be relevant to the learners’ experiences. In some cases you might have to talk to a Subject Matter Expert (SME) to gather ideas for realistic workplace scenarios. The more you can relate the content to the everyday experiences of the learner, the more likely they are to see the relevance of the course and engage with the learning experience.

Principle 5: Adults are practical

Adult learners like to apply newly-acquired knowledge in practical ways. They prefer to be active participants in the learning experience. That’s why there should be plenty of interactivity in eLearning courses. Quizzes, surveys, challenges, discussions, research projects – all of these practical activities help to facilitate learning.

The desire for interactivity is not much different from child learners—however there is one important difference: adults need to apply their newly acquired knowledge and skills in their working life. In other words, they are undergoing training that will help them in practical ways to perform their jobs more effectively.

What does this mean for eLearning designers? It means you should write in a very clear, precise and direct way. Instructions must be crystal clear so learners can easily follow them. Avoid overly formal language that will only alienate the learners. Follow the principles of plain english.

It means the course should include plenty of practical advice that learners can implement immediately. Tips are an excellent way to do this. By sprinkling several practical tips throughout the course, it breaks up the content and brings the focus to a very practical level. I suggest using a Quick Tip throughout the course.  It brightens up the course, by breaking up content and allows learners to follow expert advice.

Principle 6: Adult learners like to be respected

I think this last principle actually sums up all the six adult learning principles. Put yourself in the shoes of the learner, take care in your eLearning design, ask questions about their own knowledge and experience. Things to consider to avoid disrespecting your adult learners include restricting the navigation, repetition of warning messages, narrating on screen text word for word, poor graphic design.

‘Respect your learner’ is an excellent mantra for any teacher, trainer or course designer.

If you’re want to learn more about using adult learning principles in eLearning then consider our Certified Articulate Training and eLearning Design Essentials course.

Direct vs Consultative Digital Content Development

There is a multitude of ways to do a simple task, like measuring a piece of string, you would expect there to be an exponentially wider array of approaches to a more complex task, like developing a piece of digital learning content.

And there is. We see this building content for clients and for the clients we consult with and the clients we train. We are reminded every day that everyone is different, everyone experiences the world in a different way and everyone has different expectations around the areas of a project that should carry the most weight.

But fundamentally, even though there is this very wide array of approaches, success of any digital learning project is directly related to the development of understanding between the different parties involved. Through the sharing of information and open and honest communication. This understanding takes into consideration all the elements of the stakeholders, their knowledge, skills, experiences, preferences and environment, and adjusts itself around these to attain the best relationship and result. Having acknowledged that there are intrinsic and unique aspects of all eLearning projects we must also mention there are some broad components of content development that allow us to categorise the type of development required and adjust our approach to that development.

We have chosen the analogy of Direct v’s Consultative because it best describes the differences in working with the expectations of a client.

Let me clarify what I mean by each term:

  • Direct – the content is designed and built based on the clients stated requirements, the developer uses their experience to adapt existing concepts to suit the content being built ie. the developer makes the call about interactivity or screen layout as they develop.
  • Consultative – all aspects of the content build are noted, considered, discussed and agreed upon prior to and during development ie. the client at all times has the final say in any development decisions before they are implemented.

At B Online Learning we have aligned our development approach around these concepts. We find this gives us the range we require when it comes to providing our clients with a solution that best suits their knowledge, skills, experience, budget and environment but ultimately the solution will match the expectations of the client.

Here are some examples of projects using both models to further illustrate the concept.

Direct Project

A direct approach is where the content to be developed into eLearning is known and understood by the client and/or a client side SME.  They may already have a storyboard or the content is already in an easy to convert format. Also, the look and feel and the degree to which the information is to be redesigned to be interactive can be discussed and agreed prior to the commencement of work. Typically this approach suits an information push out project.

Of course, things can change during development and because of this we anchor all development in a 4-stage review model that keeps the client informed and provides them with specific feedback windows.

Typically these stages are:

  • Visual template and interactive concepts
    • Review and feedback from client
  • First full review of the whole course end to end
    • Review and feedback from client
  • Second review of the whole course end to end (and sign off on external media scripting, e.g. professional voiceover)
    • Review and feedback from client
  • Final review and sign off

Consultative Project

The consultative approach uses the same 4-stage development and delivery model, however it overlays a significant amount more client consultation and discussion to commence the project and throughout the development process.

Projects of a considerable scale (10+ content modules), content projects where the actual content is unknown or partially understood by the project stakeholders and projects that require a considerable investment in purpose built media elements such as video production, gamification or on screen animation usually work best as a consultative project. Typically this approach suits a project aligned to increased performance goals.

B Online Learning considers factors to actively partner with the client to discuss, workshop, uncover, document and subsequently advise the client on the best way forward.

For instance, when running a consultative project we commence the project with a consultation workshop that is designed to both gather the requirements for the content to be built and to inform the clients project team of knowledge gaps that may be present and commence brainstorming the solution.

Here is an example of a basic workshop agenda (the agenda is customised to the client’s needs as identified through the quoting and proposal process):

  • Audience Definition
    • How many people and audiences
    • Location
    • Accessibility (PC, Mobile, Laptop, Apple, Android etc )
    • PC Literacy
    • Socio economic background
    • Job Roll(s)
  • Content source
    • Learning outcomes
    • Content styles that serve these outcomes
    • Existing training
    • Identifying gaps and where to source gap information – Documentation, SME’s, media
    • Preparation of missing content
      • When will it be ready
      • Who will prepare it
    • Is formal assessment required
  • Content build
    • Branding and visual template
      • Existing or develop new
      • User interface
    • Instructional design approaches
    • Media and graphic design elements
      • Photos
      • Illustrations
      • Video (existing or production)
      • Graphs
      • Infographics
      • Animation
      • Characters (production, stock photo or illustrated)
      • Professional audio
    • Interactivity
      • Level
      • Types
      • Frequency
      • Standardisation
    • Assessment techniques
    • Special content features – e.g. certificate generation, javascript
  • Delivery
    • Delivery mechanism
      • LMS
      • Weblink
      • CD
    • Standards eg xAPI, Scorm or AICC

This same degree of enhanced client contact is extended throughout the duration of the project through the use of:

  • Standard communication channels email and phone
  • Face to face meetings and review workshops
  • Web conferences
  • Shared online resource areas

As such the 4-stage development process for a consultation build could look like this:

  • Visual template and interactive concepts
    • Conduct online meeting to showcase the template design and features to the client’s project team, marketing and branding team and SME’s
  • First full review of the whole course end to end
    • Send a review link and document to the project team for them to individually review the content
    • Follow up the individual review with an onsite workshop that walks the project team through the content and discusses and combines individual reviewer changes and feedback on the spot.
  • Second review of the whole course end to end (and sign off of external media scripting for development, e.g. voiceover scripting)
    • Review and feedback from client
    • Co-ordinate members of the project team to attend the recording of these media elements to ensure the outcome is fit for purpose
  • Final review and sign off
    • Review and feedback from client

We believe very strongly that even though everyone and every project will be different, we can still provide the best experience and solution possible by providing a Direct or Consultative experience that can truly exceed expectations.

Interested in our content development solutions? Please get in touch with us.

Using Video in Articulate Storyline

Video opens up a wealth of opportunity to make your Articulate Storyline modules interactive and engaging. The great thing about video, is that even using a small amount of video can have a huge impact on the ‘interest factor’ of your module.

Whether you use Articulate Storyline 1, Storyline 2, Storyline 3 or Storyline 360, you are able to take advantage of video to move your learning to the next level.

My previous blog post discussed how you can use video to enhance your digital learning experience. Building on that post, this post looks at how you can use Articulate Storyline to achieve those digital learning experiences as well as some  handy hints and technical information about video in Storyline. Check out my webinar here that also covers these tips.

As developers we can use video in storyline to:

  • Make slides more dynamic
  • Set up a “Guide on the side” video where the learner can observe completing a process as opposed to just reading about it, or the learner could ask for advice on completing a task.
  • Illustrate procedures (much more interesting than a list of bullet points!)
  • Add rich interactivity to our scenario based learning
  • Make quizzes more engaging through the use of video, via feedback, support and interactivity.

All of these can be achieved with the standard building blocks of storyline, your slides, states, layers and triggers. In fact if you already use SL, you probably already have the experience to achieve most of these effects. All you need is some video files, and time to experiment!

The following examples are demonstrated here.

Making slides more dynamic

Just by using some simple stock footage either from a stock footage site, the Articulate Content Library available in Articulate 360, or even by filming your own, you can make a static slide more interesting to look at.

Have a look at the wind turbine module example in the storyline file. This is a very easy effect you can achieve with minimal effort:

  1. Choose a video file you like (Content library, stock footage etc)
  2. Insert it on your slide.
  3. Resize it to fill the slide.
  4. Send to back.
  5. Add your other assets on top as normal.

Easy! A good handy hint is that of the background file only goes for a few seconds is that you can set up a trigger to ‘loop the video’. Again this is easy to do, create a new trigger that will play the existing video file when it completes

This will continuously loop the background for your slide.

Video backgrounds can be more than just the title or gate pages, if you have some content you are reviewing you can add an abstract background video to give it some interest factor. View the weather page example in the story file. This gives a nice blue abstract background that provides some interest without detracting from the main content.

You can also add some interest to a menu slide by illustrating your topics with video – again you can achieve this with standard stock video footage.

‘Guide on the side’ – Watch

You could also add a video for the learner to watch an expert complete a process or procedure as they are learning about it. BY reading about the process and watching a video demonstrating it the learner gets to see all of the nuances, and particulars of a process, that may not be obvious in just reading about the step.

Again, this is easy to add to your story.

  1. Add a layer to your slide that the video will be inserted onto.
  2. Add a button to your main slide that triggers the ‘Show layer’ action to reveal the layer with the video on it.
  3. The learner clicks the button to view the demo.
  4. You could then add a trigger to the video layer to ‘hide’ the layer once the video has finished playing, which will take the learner back to the main instructional slide.

Have a look at the How to make Tortellini example.

Another simple way to add a ‘Guide on the side’ is to use Articulate’s Replay software to record a ‘how to’ video with a coach or expert talking through a procedure. You then add that to a slide in Storyline. If you wanted to you could also add additional callouts over the top of the video

‘Guide on the side’ – Ask

What if the learner could ask for advice as to how they should approach a problem? You could challenge them with a problem, and if they are unsure they could ask for advice form a ‘coach or ‘mentor’ by viewing a video. Again this is simply:

Using the ‘show layer’ trigger to show a video on a layer. The video plays back the advice. Once the learner gets the advice from the mentor/coach they can return to the problem on the main slide and make their choice.

Interactive Interview

You could take this approach further by creating an interactive question and answer activity, by asking a coach or mentor a number of questions about some content, and having a video response for each one. My colleague Matt Guyan created an example of an interactive interview to show how this can be done.

  1. Record the video introduction along with the answers to each question. (You don’t need to have a proper video camera or equipment, you can just use Storyline’s ‘Record Webcam’ from the insert video options to capture the video)
  2. The video intro sits on the main slide (base layer) and each of the video answers sit on their own layer, the triggers are again a simple ‘Show Layer’ when a question is clicked.

Interactive Process

You can also easily use video to make something a bit more engaging than just a list of bullet points.

Play a video of an entire process, and as it plays icons appear and disappear next to the various steps. The learner clicks on the icon and gets an overview of what is happening at that particular stage. Then they can continue on as the video moves to the next stage etc. This is straightforward to set up:

  1. Add you video of the process to the base slide
  2. Add your icons to the base slide
  3. Use cue points to work out when your icons need to appear and disappear based on what step of the process you are up to in the video.
  4. The icons trigger a ‘show layer’. On the show layer is the description of the process step. Once the learner has reviewed the step they can click a button to trigger a ‘hide layer’ and return to the video on the base layer. (The bottom layer can pause when you go to a layer OR you can leave the video running based on how much info is on the layer)

This same process can be used for hazard identification, safe driving, changing a tire or any other process you might have!


Video based scenarios are our next step up from interactive processes. Scenarios are most effective when illustrated with advanced interactive media and when they have a game-like appearance. Video is an excellent way to provide this highly visual interactive approach.

  1. Review your scenario
  2. Break it down into the 3C’s Challenge, Choices, and Consequences
  3. Shoot short videos capturing the 3C’s
  4. Add the Challenge video to your first slide and add your choice triggers (buttons, shapes etc) to jump you to relevant consequence slide.

When it comes to quizzes in storyline, you’ve also got a number of ways you can use video to enhance your boring old multiple choice question.

Video in Quizzes – Watch and Answer

This again is a simple set up, watch a video about a process, case study etc and then answer a  question on what you just viewed.

  1. Add your video to the question slide
  2. Set up a triggers – to show answer options when video is complete (eg pause the timeline when it reaches 1 second and resume timeline when media completes). This will allow the answer options to appear once the video is complete.
  3. Select and submit answer as normal

Video in Quizzes – Video Feedback

You can also use video to provide feedback from a mentor or coach. Much more effective that a simple ‘Correct’ and ‘Click here to continue’ or just text.

  1. Set up your question as normal
  2. Add your feedback video to its respective layer (correct, incorrect, try again)

The learner answer the question, and then gets feedback from their coach.

Video in Quizzes – Interactive

You can take the Interactive process above and add another layer to it by creating an interactive quiz. The video plays in the background and you are prompted to answer questions. You’ve got to be on the ball though. The links to the questions can be time driven, so if you don’t click it fast enough you may miss it! This would be a great situation where you may have to test quick responses to a situation or story unfolding via video before you.

In this situation, rather than jumping to a layer, you jump to a question slide. Once you have answered the first question it returns you to the main slide with the background video to continue watching before you are prompted to click and answer the next question.

Like the interactive process:

  1. Add you video of the process to the base slide
  2. Add your question trigger icons to the base slide
  3. Use cue points to work out when your icons need to appear and disappear based on what step of the process you are up to in the video.
  4. The icons trigger a ‘jump to…’ question action. Once the learner has answered the question, clicking return or continue will return them to the video on the base layer.
  5. If you need to asses their answers, link the questions to a results slide for passing back to your LMS. If you don’t need to record success – rather than triggering a ‘jump to slide’ action you could just link to a layer instead (like the interactive process above)

As you can see its not difficult to incorporate video into your interactions, learning activities and quizzes in a Storyline module. You’re using the exact same slides, states, layers and triggers you always do, now you have the added interest of full motion video to engage your learner!

Have fun with it!

Technical Information

If you are planning on starting the journey into using more video in your modules I would encourage you to refer to the following resources:






Search our calendar to find upcoming Certified Articulate Training
« December 2018 » loading...