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Attention span varies. With modern day lifestyle, our attention flits within minutes. It’s like travelling in a fast car. Things zoom by. Web surfing is like that. Content zooms past. You swipe a page after skimming the details.

As a working executive, your mind grapples with atleast five things daily. You have a deadline for your project or specific task; you have a team meeting; you have some emails to follow up. Personal appointments have to be kept. Money or health stress also play at the back of your mind.

Some typical reactions from learner to traditional elearning.


  • ‘Do you really expect us to take out valuable time to sit in the classroom for two or three hours or more and learn something new?”
  • “It is difficult to devote one and a half hour of continuous time to your eLearning program.”
  • “Yes, the content and training are important but I can’t really remember all of that.”
  • “I don’t need all that content. I already know some of this. Do I have to answer this quiz?”

These are the typical responses to trainers and L&D from busy professionals.

It’s no different with children.


“Mom, I want to change the channel.”

“Mom, do I have to read all this today. Can I eat popcorn with this?”

“Why do I just have to sit there and watch the teacher speak on the video? It’s so boring. Can’t I do something?”

These responses tell me a few things

  1. Instruction needs to engage
  2. Instruction needs to be short. Time factor is very important.
  3. It needs to be stimulating
  4. It needs to be relevant.
  5. Video based instruction needs to excite.

More importantly, I need to design my learning which incorporate all the above.

The best solution for learners with short attention span, lack of time, or hyperactive learners is to create micro learning. Micro learning refers bite sized learning modules with limited content delivered in short time.

Micro learning can be designed in two ways.

  1. As modules within a larger course framework
  2. Independent nuggets of information and knowledge

idesigngyan has designed ten minute capsules. Each of these have or are based on an interactive module with specific information. The ten minute learning for children is game based and includes information as well as exploration links. The learning capsule for adults are scenario based modules. Depending on the complexity of the topic, we also offer decision tree based scenarios. For details about topics, contact

Content Capsules

On the job training requirement is high in a dynamic workplace where the paradigms are constantly shifting. All employees upskill; reskill and constantly learn workplace related skills.

At the same time, most employees spend personal time to learn more. Or have to take time from a busy work day to meet compliance requirements for reskilling or training. Not very motivational, is it?


Imagine at the end of a stressed day, when they are probably in crowded transport places or traffic jams or even home with family, the employee has to spend time learning or refreshing a skill, which may or may not be immediately applicable.  How would you tackle this demotivation apart from strategies implemented by gamification aficionados?

In my experience, the biggest issue with on the job training is the time required. Whether it is blended learning or elearning, time spent on training is always factored into ROI and impacts results and cost. The best training that has maximum ROI is the ten minute content module with check points. I firmly believe that a course should be delivered only as ten minute chunks with one concept exploration.


  1. Course of 75 slides with 5-6 modules including quiz or excluding quiz.
  2. One module would be 12-15 slides with 2-3 check points.
  3. Applicable seat time or module time would be ten-12 minutes depending on the learning pace.
  4. Each 10 minute capsule would have at least one or two concepts explained and

What are the advantages of this approach?

  1. It is suitable to all platforms and all types of internet connectivity.
  2. It does not stress out the user
  3. Less but relevant information increases learning retention
  4. Time consumed on learning is less.
  5. Learner motivated as it is anytime learning; anywhere learning; anyhow learning; and possible to use while travelling, or in short breaks.

Content Strategy

Content strategy for 10 minute modules has to be very detailed. As each module will have to target a learning objective with content tailored to meet it. The content must be carefully chosen so as to best explain the concept in the shortest possible time.

At idesigngyan, I design and develop ten minute capsules with Storyline 2 for short skills and for hard information based courses. For fully customized courses, fill in the contact form or call me/ skype me.

Videos in eLearning

A project I worked with in 2005 had a very specific client requirement. A video address from the company head. Mandatory for the induction program. Over the years, videos have grown from connecting with employees to delivering essential learning content.

Here’s why –

  • A video personalizes the training
  • A video by management allows it to communicate to all strata of staff
  • A video makes it realscrnshot1
  • A video has more recall value than text or image

Instructional designers have to keep the following in mind, while using videos –

  1.  Content – Relevance of the video to actual course content. What kind of content is best delivered as a video? Is the video supplementary to learning or essential to the learning delivered? Also, is the video replacing any chunk of learning or enhancing it?
  2. Length – Does the video  need editing? Are you using the video as a small chunk or to deliver most of the content?
  3. Placement  – Should you start the course with a video or use it midway? Should you use a video based summary for better retention?
  4. Other details – Does the video include close captioning? Does the video have large chunks of text displayed on screen or is an animated power point ? What kind of images are contained in the video – static or animated?

Once an ID is satisfied with all the above points, the video can be effectively included in an eLearning course.

Post this, close attention has to be paid to it

  1. Quality of video
  2. Format of video
  3. Embedding video into a player or carrying it as external link. External links should be avoided as it takes the user away from the course.
  4. Player controls for the video. This should be decided on by the ID in consultation with client and technical team. Sometimes, clients are particular about keeping a pause button or replay options. The content and length of the video are also determinants for using player controls.
  5. Testing in a published course.

A primary factor in using videos is whether the video is already available; has to be sourced or has to be created from scratch. If available, is it free of copyright issues? Has the client made the video or is it hosted on a commercial site, like YouTube or Vimeo? Does the client expect you to purchase a video available at video stock sites?
If the video has to be made from scratch, do you have to do a shoot? Or is it an animation based video or an image based video?
Further, if your course consists of video based learning entirely; then, scripting the video from scratch is mandatory. ID’s require good language skills, esp. conversational language skills to make a good video.
Also, the ID needs to keep the content precise; in-flow and effective. Natural conversation style is a good option for scripting, yet it needs to be on topic and not include any off topic examples or anecdotes. The script should have an explanatory tone which makes the user familiar with the content.

While including video in eLearning and / or video based learning may seem an easier training option, there are many factors to be considered before opting for it. Most important of all are the learning needs of your audience.
Is the audience better suited to learning from videos? What are the learning styles most common among your audience? What kind of time does the learner have? What kind of technology does the user have access to?

Some good video based learning sites

  1. You Tube
  2. Vimeo
  3. eHow
  4. Ted Talks
  5. PBS ( limited to certain geographies)
  6. BBC Bitesize
  7. BrainPop
  8. Open Course universities
  9. Khan Academy

The above have excellent quality videos and can provide a guideline for you to create your video. You should also check the footage available at various stock video sites to use in your course.


Most new eLearning companies claim loudly – “Let us save you from boring eLearning” And learn-977545_1280then garbed in a new avatar they sell the same old boring eLearning.

I avoid such companies who first put down what they are selling and then change the dressing and sell you the same old greens.

Either you are selling eLearning or you are not.

That leads us to wonder – What is eLearning?

ELearning stands for electronic learning. All forms of learning taking place through digital means is eLearning.

If you are selling gamification based program or simulations or blended learning solutions, which involve digital learning; you are still selling eLearning.


ELearning can be different types and complexity levels

From Level 1 to Level 4, it ranges from a simple text and graphic based page turner (much like Kindle books) to complex simulations. Some game simulations; MMORPG also constitute eLearning.


How does eLearning become more effective?

It is the instructional designer’s forte to ensure that your eLearning is relevant and engaging. In bespoke eLearning, it is always a good idea to understand the customer’s requirement first. A needs analysis should identify the goal that your customer has for making eLearning. Follow this up with a learner and context analysis. Know your learner and the situation they learn in. Identify the learner behaviour and design around it.

img1Effective eLearning is always focused on the learner. In off-the-shelf solutions, identify why the customer should purchase your eLearning, and thus, know customer needs. Then, know your learner. Have an average learner in mind before you design.



To find out how you can avail of more effective eLearning visit my site – idesigngyan

Or contact me at for more details.

Design, skill and exploratory learning

Even a trained graduate is useless, unless he or she applies skills learnt. The video identifies an audience who learns through discovery and then applies this learning to succeed where trained designers didn’t.

At a later stage the designers learnt how to apply skills to achieve a higher rate of success.

What is interesting is that the audience which succeeded initially, was not trained, yet had an open mind, a curious and exploratory mind which led them to design success.

Click to watch the video on  –  The Marshmallow Challenge


Online learning – Key points to successful design

I registered for a MOOC.

  • MOOC or an online course involves listening to some information, answering a few questions and doing some assignments occasionally.












What is the solution for better online learning? How can you increase course appeal and make it more engaging?

Some alternatives are

  • Webinar based lectures with prior registration and limitation in number of students who can take the webinar.
  • Telephonic availability of the lecturer.

Scalability is not a challenge any more. Engaging the student and more importantly retaining the student is the new challenge.


  • How are you going to design and deliver online learning?
  • Are you going to stand in front of the video camera, and speak with some slides at the back?
  • Or perhaps, you are going to be visible on an animated slide deck as a thumbnail somewhere with streaming audio?
  • Is that enough? No, it isn’t.

Engaging the student therefore depends entirely on your lecture design. You need to customize your lecture and here is where prior registration and limited number of students comes into play.

Let’s run through a quick check list of questions while designing a course.

When I design a course, understanding learner needs becomes the most important aspect of my solution design.

I need to do a learner’s and context analysis:

    • Who is the learner?
    • What does the learner hope to achieve at the end of the course?
    • Why does the learner need to take the course?
    • Are there improvement areas or is it new knowledge?
    • Where is the learner going to apply knowledge learnt in the course?
    • What are the different learning styles in the group?
    • How does the learner respond best?
    • How much guided learning is needed?
    • Can the learner learn independently?
    • What motivates the learner to learn and take the course?

These questions can be answered through

    • Learner profiles
    • Questionnaires
    • Direct interaction with average learner or specific learner

Does my lecture include recap points to check learner understanding? Can I give a customized feedback to learner?

Here, the concept of branching becomes relevant. If you can anticipate the several different types of responses and then guide the learner onto a pre-designed path as per response, then you have achieved a maximum level of customization without direct intervention.

Have I created enough to-do activities which are relevant to the course and can engage a very busy adult mind?

Have I created explore points? Are these explore points vague or directed to particular reference sites? Or are they just directed to a general source in Wikipedia?

How do I ensure that the learner comes back for the part 2 of the course?

  • Check if there is a carry-over assignment tying in to and as a pre-requisite for my next lecture.
  • Check if I can create a competitive environment by introducing ranking boards and other such competitive boards
  • Check whether material in part 2 is immediately relevant
  • Check if there is sufficient new content or is it just an expansion of old content.

How can I establish a relation with the learner?

  • Is there an SME on site or nearby to students (assuming it’s a small target group at a fixed or diverse locations) who will allow me to work in a blended learning component?
  • Is email interaction or phone interaction possible?
  • Can I create a specific forum or a small webinar at the end of every learning component?


The biggest challenge in online learning is the lack of personal reach and thus it reduces the experiential learning component.  The learner is unable to associate a learning point with a specific ‘teacher’ remark or incident or live example. I still recall the rotten egg smell of sulphur dioxide (H2SO4) in my chem lab because we opened the gas jar for longer than the required time. And I am not even from the science stream, though I scored the highest in class in chem.

That’s another point for student retention.  What is the reward factor?

More than twenty years post my schooling, I recall my scoring percentile -and with it comes the satisfaction that I was not dumb, but up there among the best.

  • A competitive element, where one can excel over one’s peers is thus the most motivating factor.
  • A certificate at the end or a score is even more rewarding.

Here is where we instructional designers build in ‘gamification’ elements, scored quizzes, leader boards, online badges to display on forums, and/or carry over into reward ceremonies with trophies and cups.

Elements where MOOCs and other paid for online courses fail miserably. At the end of the day, online learning succeeds if

  1. Group is small and targeted
  2. Course design is customized and specific
  3. Reward elements are recognized for long term leading to career or other gains

Finally the MOOC model is based only on three factors:

  1. Scalability – Ability to reach thousands of learners online.
  2. Affordability – Free education in most cases
  3. Availability – Education at par across the globe

If the factors in MOOC model were to be woven into online courses, which are professionally designed, sponsored and made available to the masses by philanthropists, then perhaps the model would be more successful in making education a global experience.

Tin Can API to the instructional designer

Tin Can API – It brings to mind statements like Break Free of SCORM or is a data analysts dream come true.

At first, the Tin Can API sounds more like a data aggregation tool, which allows for individual pieces of data to be collected, stored and accessed at any time, anywhere.

So, what else is Tin Can API and why is it relevant to instructional designers?

Well, for one it can become a ‘voluntary snoop’ for all your online learning activities and thus provide a huge database to all those instructional designers who work with customized training and care about the learner’s learning quotient!

For example, we designed and developed a sales training program to introduce a global sales staff to new products and selling strategies. Eight months post implementation, the training manager shared that 63% of the sales staff had responded positively to the program and said that it helped improve their performance. Wow! But how did the training manager collect this data and why did it take so long to share it?
It was long painful process, where each user’s course completion or passing of assessment was tracked and recorded on their LMS; their responses were documented via feedback and survey forms; data was tabulated and shared. Sure, as the course designer, the data helped me

How much more effective would it be if I could have had this data within a month or less of implementation? With Tin Can API I can!

Tin Can API allows me to

  1. Track usage data live time
  2. Study user response to various activities and different types of content
  3. Measure effectiveness of learning activities
  4. Introduce gamification features, which are track able and have higher learning value
  5. Redesign and further customize the module as per this data received
  6. Test drive a module and then design the rest of the course
  7. Allow users to access non-course content and still track it


I’d be willing to bet that I could get a 90% plus positive response with this level of customization.

The positive impact on the user would be

  1. Increase user engagement – Track his or her performance and compare it to peers
  2. User can measure progress immediately instead of waiting for annual assessment for the same.
  3. User can be assured that training delivered would be more customized and address individual performance gaps
  4. Anytime anywhere access – Activity on the ipad/mobile can also be recorded and tracked and collated with activity data other platform, thus allowing the user to continue with learning from office to home or field.

Some features of Tin Can API, which fascinate include

  1. Interoperability – tracking and delivery across platforms.
  2. Multiple users can be tracked simultaneously with data stored at once ( an MMPOG’s dream come true, apart from the training manager who uses online platforms to deliver massively scalable training)
  3. Scalability
  4. Launch content via apps rather than just browser
  5. No need to register into a course like in traditional LMS
  6. Record, record, record – almost a virtual key logger, the Tin Can API will allow you to voluntarily record all your activity and record key points of completion.

Tin Can API’s course creation mantra will be – ‘Record, Analyze, Assess, Customize, Create’

Tin Can API is already a publishable feature via Storyline and Lectora and allows for hosting on several LMS as well.

The question that dogs me is will instructional designers finally break free of the SCORM content packaging challenge allowing learning to be completely non-linear and available from anywhere? In short, is elearning free of the SCORM shackles again?