Best practices in elearning - demo or hands on?

Jun 14, 2018

Good morning. I wonder if anyone has some thoughts on this topic. 

I work with sales managers to develop training for our sales team (independent contractors like Tupperware reps). I predominantly use Storyline because most of our "courses" are fully narrated. I can't get anyone here to think beyond voiceover PowerPoint, so that's basically what they think I do. I use Rise when we have something that's not narrated. 

Here are my quandries:

1. I have a mix of approaches. Is this too confusing for users to follow, or does this help to keep it fresh and interesting? Some courses have branching scenarios. Some I have the user clicking the buttons on the screen to advance to the next step (when there is one); otherwise, they click the Next button. Others are simple demonstrations where they don't click. I try to choose the method that feels best for the material. 

2. My most recent course has stymied me. The user is clicking next through the first few screens. On the first screen where it says "click Business Resources" - and it's highlighted with a red rectangle - they feel stuck and report that the "video" is broken. I find it so odd to suddenly get several comments. I'm going to change up the narration to make it a stronger call to action. 

I think I'm suddenly doubting myself because of these recent reports that the "video is broken." It makes me feel like I must be a poor designer, and it makes me doubt whether I'm confusing people.

I appreciate any thoughts. Thanks!

4 Replies
Dave Ferguson


I think it's great that you get feedback from your learners; it's a good counterbalance to your view as a developer -- not that they're right and you're wrong, but that the different outside perceptions help expand your own view.

With regard to your mix: however your sequences work (the branching scenarios, the buttons to go through steps), remember that the learner doesn't know anything about "a slide."  If you show step 1 and I click, and then see details for step 1 followed by a clickable Step 2, to me that all looks part of the same interaction.

My own view is that when I want people to interact with something before moving on, it's good to hide the NEXT button (change its state to disabled or even hidden) until something happens (user clicks object A, timeline hits 1:30, for instance). This way the next button becomes a small but consistent symbol for "this thing is done, let's go on."

If you've got a branching scenario, I don't think you need a next button. Instead my choices at each step are the equivalent, and you move me on to feedback / next item as I make my choices.

Finally, the question in your title: DEMO OR HANDS ON? I don't know your salespeople, but when I did sales training in the electronic commerce industry, our staff were very impatient. They have meters in their head tracking "time away from meeting quota." To greatly oversimplify, they would almost always choose a brief explanation or short demo over hands-on, which often felt like fiddling around to them.

One outstanding rep (recognized year after year for exceptional performance) preferred to start with the quiz. He'd race through it, and if he didn't pass, he'd just take it again. We talked about the Jerry Jeffries Method (not his real name) -- and we decided to the extent the test was approved, if he could pass it without taking the course material, good for him.

I'm not recommending JJM as a design strategy, just sharing how our salespeople tended to think.


Cheryl Hoover

Dave, I really appreciate the time you took to share some thoughts. I think you hit on an important point. Just because I "can" make them click on the screen to simulate and maybe stay engaged doesn't mean I have to. My background is in software training, which is very step by step. I'm so much more comfortable with that.

And I really think you're right on the short demo rather than forcing them to walk through steps. Some topics deserve the branching treatment where they have to think through consequences, but the one I mentioned is just showing them how to use an updated online tool. And I do like that quiz-at-the-front concept. I've heard that before and thought it was an interesting approach.

Thank you again. I appreciate your thoughtful response. 

Dave Ferguson

We're in the middle of updating online tools at my organization -- changing from one system for submitting and tracking requests (I need access to the ABC system; my monitor is broken) to another.

There are a couple of things that are conceptually different -- the way you report a problem (as oppose to the way you requeset something you don't currently have). So people need a quick overview of what those concepts are.

But because tehe new problem process is so simply, it could be covered in a single small interaction in Storyline: here's the screen, click that icon to rport a problem.  Click, and you see the new form where you describe the problem. A little explanation, and you're ready to move on.

I think of what you call quiz-at-the-front as a test-out option, and I tend to be in favor of it. If the quiz is supposed to assess your ability to use the new sales prospect system, and you can get through it, then either (a) you already knew this stuff, (b) it was so simple you could fgure it out without training, or (c) we have a very dumb quiz.  

This will not satisfy the people who think everyone has to see everything on every screen, of course.

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