Does anyone feel they're creating online versions of word doc?

Apr 13, 2012

Do you feel you're just transferring text from a word doc and pasting it into PowerPoint????

Okay, the above is a little dramatic, I do create a little more than linear style content, but generally this is how I feel...

It's not because I lack the experience or the's because my company seems to want to say 'yes' to every client who wants a course, despite the fact that there's only me developing them!

I always feel like I don't have the time to think about new and fun ways to display the content I'm given let alone develop it!  It's getting to the point where my brain is in automatic mode.  A project comes in and instead of thinking of it as a new project, a new chance to be creative, I'm already thinking, 'right I only have time to do it this way....flip books, that'll take care of a few pages!'

It's not just the time scales either, it's the amount of work involved.  For instance, I've just been given a project that is 169 A4 pages large, with 350 quiz questions and 2 assessments, all to be completed by the end of June!  I have two little helpers, but they're not experienced, they're complete beginners in Articulate and the world of course development!

All in all, it's becoming very demotivating and very boring...does anyone have the same problem?  Is your boss not really understanding the work that must go into course development and therefore setting you unrealistic objectives?

Your thoughts please

8 Replies
Steve Flowers

Hi Louise, 

I feel for ya. This is the biggest problem I see in our field today and it's an expectation that we reinforce with every content bomb we build for clients without applying strategic insights. I've began to shift my own work, with hard won organizational support, to a model that shifts the balance away from information-centric activity (which is not design at all) and towards "do-centric, be-centric, and believe-centric" design-based activities. With a little bit of extra upfront work, you can establish a priority for content that allows for a few valuable activities, focuses more time and energy on the parts that are hard to acquire. Separating "nice to know" from "need to know" is really important. A yarn-ball of content doesn't really help anyone - it's just noise.

I've written on this topic recently and have begun to use the tools and processes outlined to illuminate structure and problems that require the most focus. Working well in some cases, not as well in others (process in progress). But the process of examining and profiling both the tasks and the content are valuable to avoid painting PowerPoint slides from a bucket of content.

I spent around 4 hours scanning through a 16 hour classroom based curriculum, marking up materials, extracting performance cues, and gaining insights into how the performance is constructed. What are people expected to do? What's the outcome of each stage or task? What's the big picture outcome? The attached document illustrates some of the things I captured during that time. This provides the essence for what folks are doing in a VERY complex activity (think managing a humongous response to a national disaster). The second page of this document is the start of a map that connects the outcome to the tasks that support the outcome to the skills and abilities required to successfully complete the tasks. These skills and the concepts that support them will be filled in during consults with SME's and possibly through a rapid task analysis with some accomplished performers. This stuff doesn't need to take a lot of time. But I think it's truly necessary to build a real solution and not a waste of the learner's time.

Hope some of this can be helpful to you. This type of profiling and analysis doesn't need to take a lot of time. But it does take alignment and persuasion to talk the client out of expecting a white picket fence around a pile of garbage. In the end, it's not about creatively treating content, it's about identifying where the learning problems are and applying energy to solve those first, with a willingness to let everything else fall off the table if necessary. Science and art can both participate in the process, but not if the process is just CTRL-C, CTRL-V into cookie cutter patterns. That's neither science nor art.

Bob S

Hi Louise,

Unfortuntaly that does happen and many of us have been in that situation before. Don't give up hope though!  Here a couple of suggestions...

  1. Don't become bitter that boss/stakeholders "don't get it". They aren't supposed to, that's our job.
  2. Take on the challenge of helping them win by giving them choices. Fast but low impact, slow but big impact.
  3. Accept that some projects you just need to hold your nose, do the info dump, and move on quickly. As much as it pains us, some initiatives are not business priorities and no one wants to expend the time/resources needed to make them great.

For #2 above... Since your stakeholdes may not be experts, it often helps to give them visuals. Do you have the time to create two versions of every course? Of course not.... but what may be a good investment of your time at night/weekends is creating two versions of a single topic for them to see. One that is "down and dirty" and one that is interactive, pretty, speaks to the learners at their level, etc and all around terrific. Make these two samples super short and put them on hard media. Then....

.... you can meet with the boss/stakeholders, pull out your USB/DVD and say something like  "If you have 7 minutes, I can show you the difference between two levels of training. After that you can decide what level of investment your project merits."

Hope this helps and hang in there!


Melanie Sobie

Bob, I like your comments and input - especially about accepting that bosses and stakeholders just don't get it. Better to let it go, cause you can't change them.

Steve's comments are excellent also, especially in pointing out the need to separate the nice-to-know from the need-to-know.

Just wanted to add that it helps to look at this type of project from a different viewpoint.  You might actually have a wonderful opportunity in this project to have more control in designing and developing the course. The freedom in a content dump situation is that if you give them an end-product that shows you developed an elearning module that meets key needs of the learner they might not even realize that 99 pages of the 169 pages of content they gave you hasnt' been included.

And one specific opportunity I see is that you have been given the assessments and quiz questions in advance. Some people recommend to start any elearning project by writing the final assessment first.  Review the assements and quiz questions with that in mind. That information may tell you what they want the learner to do. You can then connect the need-to-know content with that and ignore the rest.

Sales Framework

I'm also in an evironment where we don't say "no" to our clients very often.  When I get a project request, however, I don't always automatically think that a full online course is the answer. 

I think it's a matter of conducting a needs analysis at the beginning, and determining if it is worth the work of building an interactive course, or if something on a smaller scale will work. 

I ask myself questions like:

  • What's the size of the audience?  (If it's very small, perhaps a blended solution with some information being taught through managers or facilitators, and maybe only the assessment online)
  • Will it have a shelf-life?  (If it's only going to be used once for a single audience, I don't need to be concerned with ease of maintenance, so I might be able to build something in that I woudln't normally use)
  • What's the criticality of the content - Nice to Know, or Need to Know? (If Nice to Know, an informational flip-book approach might be appropriate.  If Need to Know, something interactive that truly tests their ability to complete the objectives may be needed)
  • How will end-users use this content? (If it's one point in time, and they will remember and apply it later, an online course is a good option.  If it's going to be accessed "just in time" right when they need it, a simple job aid may fit the bill)

I think it's important to not just give our clients a course when they ask for one, but to truly assess the need and to determine which solution will benefit the learners the most.  Some of these solutions require a lower level of effort than others, and will hopefully free up your time to spend on the critical, need-to-know courses that will have a larger impact. 

Kevin Dowd

Hi Louise,

My first thought is to not underestimate your "little helpers."  I'm failry young myself, but I've come very far very fast in a couple of different environments because people believed I could and gave me the opportunity.  There's also a great deal of power in there being two of them.  In my first job there was two of us, and we went much further than we could have because we had the opportunity to learn off of each other. 

Going off of Bob's idea of you designing two courses, could you leave the information dump version completely in their hands, and go off and do the creative/interactive one?

Hope this helps,


Mike Taylor

I think we've all experienced this challenge. I've come to realize that "not saying no" can be bad for you and/or your dept. instead of No we should say "Yes, a course is one of many options AND lets explore the others to see if any of those may be more effective/efficient" often the stakeholders have no idea what the possible alternatives are (tha is our job) and the effectiveness/efficiency concept is the key that can often open their mind to having the conversation about what might be a better solution.

Always saying yes, especially when you know it's not the best solution will likely lead to everyone from stakeholders to your audience having a less than favorable view of your matter how good you really are. I think you owe it to yourself to have these conversations even though they might often be "tough". The more you have them the easier they get and everyone including yourself will be better off. IMHO

Louise Ward

Thanks so much for all your replies.  Each one of you has a great point and it's nice to be able to read other people's views and realise when I'm not thinking outside the box and when I am!!

I think I always feel a little more under pressure when I see a course that is completely informative because I expect, like the client expects, to be able to turn it into something amazing, when sometimes, it just doesn't call for it.

Thanks again!

Andrea R

Our trainers started off  building the same type of page turner training, in large part because they didn't know about the alternatives.  As a result, they proved to be instrumental in teaching clients that 'page turner' training was eLearning.

A recommendation I made was for them to, over the course of time,  build short demonstrations of a Volkswagen (the page turner), Chevy, and Cadillac versions for the client view.  In addition I recommended they research, through this blog, general development timeframes for the different levels.  (For example, some blog members indicated 2-4 hours per slide for the higher quality level eLearning courses.)  In some cases you may be stuck doing what the client asks, however, you may also get that one client who may be willing to negotiate delivery date to get the quality product you want to provide.  When this happens, it gets your juices flowing and makes developing online training 'fun' again.

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