Learning Fun

Mar 07, 2013

I consider myself an optimistic realist...and i love what i do for a living...so i am perplexed, little defensive, and saddened when peeps new to e learning (come one it is 2013) tell me that it is the worst idea ever.

How do you handle objections about learning and development?

How do you encourage peeps to look outside the box and try something new?

What tactics do you use to promote the validity of your services?

I am curious what your experience is and how you have dealt with it.



7 Replies
john faulkes

The critical aspect of any training intervention is the application of new skills and knowledge to real work, and unfortunately in our culture we have always been amazingly bad at this. It is said by some that 'education (i.e. the training)' is 20% of the learning and 'experience'(i.e. using new skills in doing the real job) is 80%. But when the latter doesn't happen, managers tend to rate the training as low value. and as managers tend to be rewarded for and excouraged to constantly save small sums of money, it's easily cut.

If you are advocating eLearning, people over a certain age will have experienced it, and will remember that vast wodges of content in past years have been flat, boring and dire.

There is no magic formula to handle flat objections, perhaps the best one is patience (!). Things go in cycles.

One of the best ways to get people to try something new is to wait for the right chance, then offer it as a free trial, or perhaps something that some people might like to try as an additional bonus to an existing learning exercise.

You can perhaps promote validity by demonstrating how you have, or how you plan to usd sound instructional design principles.And of course that you have done stuff for other satisfied clients?

Greg Martin

This is a normal reaction from people who are too scared to take risks and change. 

First of all, kudos to you for being one of those who like to think out of the box. 

In cases like this, I always go back to one of the TED talks I have watched about how leaders inspire action. I actually forgot who that speaker was. But, the thought is I always go back to "Why" I am doing things. It always explains and validates the current things that I do and love. 

Of course, people are motivated by different reason. My "why" is different from others so I do not expect them to understand. But, I still respect them and continue to do what I believe in.

Bruce Graham

Greg makes a fair point - very often fear or poor experience drives negativity.

John's ideas re "waiting" can also be very useful. Sometimes you just have to make your case, argue if necessary, and then leave until the time is right to try again.

I'd be interested in understanding why they had such a negative reaction, and what your "offering" was in this situation.

Objection handling is pretty much the same for sales skills as in other areas of life, this page has some useful concepts and methods:


I always like "Tip the Bucket" - it is so completely counter-intuitive, it catches people off-guard, and it often gets to the core driver in a non-threatening way, allowing reframing of the "proposition" that you have.

You also need to remember, that while we MAY be in 2013, many businesses still rely on the concepts of the PowerPoint "deck". I know this article is now 8 years old, but it is still so true in so many places, and changing a culture takes time.


Try to sell to other "low hanging fruit" if it is possible, and make it work in business terms. Show that your eLearning increases profit, reduces loss or reduces business/personal risk - all of which are quantifiable. Your doubter will eventually come around.

Hope you are well, and hope that helps a little.


Scott Hewitt

Hi Zara,

Interesting questions that can apply to any business area not just e-learning. I would want to understand the objections and issues in more detail, take some time to speak to people within the organisation. In particular speaking to the end user/learner/client and understand their requirements and issues.

There are so many potential answers to this question!

  • Has the organisation previously attempted using e-learning and it has not been a success?
  • Has one of the managers used e-learning and has a bad experience?
  • Have they used e-learning and the quality not been what they expected?
  • Do they have e-learning in place that is not being utilised?
  • Is there a budget issue?

Before I'd move to on to looking on promoting e-learning, services and how it can help an organisation I really would want to understand the organisation in more detail. Sometimes people jump straight to the quality of the courses and often it can be something as simple as course quality and expectations of what elearning is, however you need to understand what they want, what they think e-learning is, what they want from e-learning and how they think it can help their organisation. The people that you will be speaking to will have done some research or will have spoken to colleagues or friends, if you have good case studies (especially in the same industry) then connect them and get them to talk and share their experiences.

If you want to demonstrate how things are successful then case studies and linking your clients together is one way. They will have a way to share experiences and may share course content. E-learning is not particularly 'new' but for your client the project and its implication is new and this is what you may need to consider, there could be huge technical and culture costs that need to consider. If this is their first project or a new course they will have had to justify the project and will have to mange its implementation and later on record its success - something that might not be mentioned in your project meetings. 

just some of my experiences, 


Zara Ogden

Thanks guys and you have some excellent advice. My post is mostly a little vent session and also to see what everyone else does. I have a strong feeling that many of the negative reactions are people making assumptions about learning in general and elearning. I am designing for external users/learners so they don't have direct contact with the excitement. They are making many very incorrect and negative assumptions. Internally I have met the most unique group that are all eager and excited about the new programs to come. 

A second question...

How do you sort ignorance for real learner feedback (needs). As an FYI the needs assement data says that elearning is the best choice to make majority happy. 

Daniel Brigham

Zara: Quoting: "How do you sort ignorance for real learner feedback (needs)?" I don't quite understand the question. Can you restate? The culture issue you are facing reminds me of a point made in Allen's Designing Successful E-learning. If the culture within which the training is built isn't supportive, it's hard for the learning to have much of an impact. I've got a vibe the skepticism comes from change or the suggestion that things need to be done a different way. Doesn't sound like they know enough to have an informed opinion about it.

Zara Ogden

Daniel Brigham said:

If the culture within which the training is built isn't supportive, it's hard for the learning to have much of an impact. I've got a vibe the skepticism comes from change or the suggestion that things need to be done a different way. Doesn't sound like they know enough to have an informed opinion about it.

Great point Daniel. I am trying to generalize to be politically correct...(i know not my style).

I think in my situation that rumors, assumptions, and jumping to conclusions has made a mountain out of a mole hill.

Right now I am not focusing on the promotion of the program or elearning. what i want to do is look past their negativity because of bad experiences to hear what the want or need.

So I guess what i am asking is has anyone successfully heard great skepticism because of bad elearning experience and been able to stop, listen, and incorperate effective learning techniques that actually help the learning objective.

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