Archive for December, 2012

Webinar: Strategies to Empower Learners Within a Learning Management System

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ll be presenting a Webinar for on January 10th titled “Strategies to Empower Learners Within a Learning Management System.” This event will cover:

  • How to design curricula that give learners control over which learning events they select
  • How to use a learning management system as an on-ramp to the Web’s best content
  • How to allow learners to select their preferred learning modalities, whether self-paced courses, instructor-led events, or other
  • How to give learners the ability to record the learning events they engaged in outside of the learning management system
  • How the data collected through learner surveys can create a learner-driven environment
  • Launching collaborative activities from a learning management system
  • And much more

I hope you’ll join me and share your ideas.

Details and registration form are located here.

Course-of-the-Month Club: Using a Learning Management System to Sell Subscriptions to Learning Content

December 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

It seems as if almost every organization I speak to wants to use a learning management system (LMS) in a different way. One company I recently met with uses a magazine subscription-like business model to sell bundles of courses:

  • A customer signs up for an annual subscription.
  • The person immediately gets access to some courses.
  • In the second month of the subscription, they get access to new courses and can continue to access the courses from month one.
  • This continues monthly until the subscription expires after 12 months. The customer is then given the option to renew.

Understandably, the company providing this course-of-the-month subscription service doesn’t want the headache of managing all this manually. They want the process automated within the learning management system so that it’s scalable when the business takes off and they have tens of thousands of learners. They also want to spend their time and energy on creating great content rather than managing course access.

Here’s how to support this business model using a learning management system. For the sake of this example, let’s assume that this commercial course provider sells courses related to mandolin playing.Eastman MD 504 Mandolin

Ok, full disclosure. In the hope of receiving a gift of a mandolin, I’ve been dropping hints around the house: pictures of mandolins on the fridge, Chris Thile mandolin music streaming on Grooveshark, visibly spending time on the LinkedIn Mandolin Players and Enjoyers Group (yes, this really does exist.) Add this Blog post to this shameless hint list.

Your LMS requires the following features to support this business model:

  • A shopping cart through which a customer can purchase a subscription
  • The ability to bundle courses into groups
  • The ability to automatically make content expire
  • The ability to automatically provide new courses every month

STEP 1: Bundle together the courses you want to provide in the first month of the subscription. Give this course collection a name. Set as the price of this course bundle whatever you want to charge for the 12-month subscription. For example:

Course bundle name: The Very Exciting World of Mandolins

12-month subscription price: $150

Courses provided in month one:

  • Mandolin Care
  • Tuning Your Mandolin
  • Your First Mandolin Tutorial

STEP 2: Specify that this bundle of courses will automatically expire after 30 days.


STEP 3: Create a second bundle of courses that includes all the courses from bundle 1. For example:

Bundle name: The Very Exciting World of Mandolins (Month 2)

Courses provided in month two:

  • Mandolin Care
  • Tuning Your Mandolin
  • Your First Mandolin Tutorial
  • Strumming Exercises (New!)
  • Basic Chord Patterns (New!)
  • Scales and Arpeggios (New!)

STEP 4: Specify that 30 days after a learner gets access to the first course bundle—the date they placed their subscription order—they’ll automatically be given access to the second course bundle.


Repeat STEPS 3 and 4 above for months three to 11 of the subscription. Each month’s course bundle should contain the courses from all previous months along with new courses. Also, each month’s course bundle should automatically expire after 30 days but simultaneously provide access to the next bundle.

Since this is a 12-month subscription, the last month should automatically send an e-mail to the customer encouraging renewal and pointing them to where they can purchase a second year membership. That membership will contain all the courses from year one and the process above will resume. If the customer does not renew, the content from the final course bundle will expire and be removed from the customer’s portal.

The course-of-the-month club can be a potentially effective business model, especially if the content being provided is timeless and doesn’t become obsolete. The customer is motivated to renew their subscription since the value of the subscription grows each month as more courses are added to their library.

If this course subscription model existed for mandolin-related content, I’d sign up in a minute.

How to Use a Learning Management System for Performance Support

December 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Richard Nantel, Vice President, Enterprise Learning Solutions, Blatant Media | Absorb LMS

About a dozen years ago, learning and development professionals thought performance support was bigger than Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, and The Beatles all rolled into one. Conferences about performance support were filled to capacity. Help authoring tools such as Robohelp and Doc-to-Help were selling like hotcakes. Electronic performance support systems (EPSS) were the rage.

Performance support was so hot that some gurus and pundits predicted that courses were on their deathbeds. Why bother having people take courses to learn things they’ll soon forget? A better strategy is simply to provide individuals with the information they need at the precise moment that they need to perform a task. Rather than attempting to improve skills, the focus became how to integrate support into daily activities.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle provides an accurate description of the rise, fall, and current state of opinion regarding performance support.

Gartner Hype Cycle (Wikipedia)

That time a dozen years ago certainly marked the Peak of Inflated Expectations. This was followed a couple years later by a deep Trough of Disillusionment. During this trough phase, people starting thinking that maybe skills really do matter. Also, software and hardware makers realized that more people would buy their products if they made them easier to use. Intuitive design became a higher priority. A software application or gadget shipped with a user guide suggested a failure of design. The best designed stuff was self-explanatory.

We’re likely now approaching the Plateau of Productivity for performance support. Learning professionals have realized that conventional learning events such as courses can co-exist peacefully with performance support resources. Not only can these two strategies mesh, they can, in fact, leverage the same environment and content.

A learning management system (LMS) can be used as a performance support platform if it can quickly provide access to the small bits of content required to performing a task. If someone needs to log into a LMS, find and enroll in a course, and navigate through a long lesson, the individual will think `this sucks` and will look for alternatives to get the required information.

Consider the following in using your learning management system for performance support:

  • Speed of access to information should be your primary consideration. Make a poster to remind you of this and put it on your wall. Or, consider a tattoo.
  • Keep lessons and resources short. If the answer to a question is located midway through a long course or on page 12 of a 20-page PDF, learners will give up and e-mail a colleague for help.
  • Consider implementing single sign on (SSO) between whatever applications an individual is using and your LMS. This will eliminate the need for people to log into the LMS when accessing performance support materials.
  • Instead of forcing people to search for the content they need, use `deep links` to point learners directly to the appropriate material.

What’s a deep link?

Rather than pointing a learner to their LMS dashboard, a deep link takes a learner directly to the information they need within the LMS, whether that be a course or a lesson within a course. For example:

By embedding deep links in the applications an individual works with each day (Intranet, custom software applications, CRMs, etc.), or by sending deep links via e-mail, a learner can be taken directly the information the need immediately. Upon clicking a deep link, the learner could, for instance, see something like this:


*The syntax for deep links differs between different LMS. Contact your vendor for details on how to deep link within your platform.