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Apr 2015

Does Your Elearning Smell Bad? 6 Tell-Tale Signs

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Cammy Bean

Cammy Bean

Senior Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

Sometimes a phrase sticks in my skull.  And not always in a good way. Last week I read an article in CLO Magazine about blended learning: ”What’s Old is New Again: CLOs aren’t as fond of blended learning as we think” by Giuseppe Auricchio, that had a ring dinger of a quote that I’ll get to in a second.

So why the resistance to blended learning at the senior level? Well, mostly because CLOs don’t seem to trust all of the ingredients going into those blends. Adoption is hindered, the article says, due to “preconceptions about online learning. One interview said, ‘E-learning still carries quite a bad smell.’”


Smelly elearning. You know you’ve seen it and you know it’s out there. A lot of elearning really does smell bad.  People know it stinks as soon as they open the course up. How? Because it’s boring, useless, and not applicable.

So how can you tell if your elearning smells bad? Take the sniff test.

Listen In

Check out your company’s social network. Are people talking about their online learning experiences? If so, what are they saying? If not, why not?  You may need to dig a little deeper into the pile of dirty laundry to find out…

Ask Around

Walk the halls and gather anecdotes. Ask people if they remember the last online course they took. Have them describe it. What do they remember? Are the answers to the final assessment posted on the refrigerator in the break room? Do people just take print screens of the entire course content so they can pass the test at the end? If what they remember was pretty awful, well, then your elearning might just smell bad.

Get Data

Gather more formal data. Run an in-house survey using an anonymous tool like Survey Monkey. Ask some of those same questions you asked on your informal walk of the halls. Have people rate the last elearning they took. Ask people if they’ve applied anything they learned on the job. If the ratings are low, well, then, your elearning smells bad.

Talk to the Seniors

Ask senior managers what they think of elearning. If they’re not impressed, well, then, your elearning stinks. 

Try it Yourself

That’s right. Sit down and experience a few of your elearning programs as a consumer. What do you think of the experience? Did you learn anything useful? Were you checking your email the entire time? If you’re not impressed, well, then…

Look at Your Success Indicators

Most importantly, look at performance metrics that matter to your organisation. When you started an elearning initiative, did you document what success was going to look like? How were you going to know if the project was a success? Now go back and check into that data. Did performance improve? Were mistakes reduced? Did sales go up? If you’re not moving the needle on what really matters, smelly elearning could be the culprit.

What’s the Remedy?

Did your elearning content pass the sniff test? Maybe some of it is stinkier than others. Or maybe you’re doing it all right and things are fresh and clean as a daisy. Hooray you!

But for all the stinky elearning socks, it’s time to get out the air freshener and banish the stench forever.  Here are a few ideas to bring the fresh scent of Febreze Linen into your elearning library:

  • Check out the ingredients in your blend: If you’re designing blended solutions, make sure you’re putting in the right ingredients at the right time. Our series of blended guides provide insights and tips on getting the mix right. Check out our upcoming Blended Learning webinar series for success studies and more.
  • Go modern: Slide-based elearning — so often abused — has given the rest of elearning a bad name. Maybe it’s time to try a different approach. We’ve been using Adapt, a responsive, multi-device elearning framework that gets us away from a slide-based feel to a more modern web experience that audiences really like.  See what the scroll is all about. It might surprise and impress your CLO.

How can you convince your CLO that elearning doesn’t need to smell bad? What are you doing to change the odor in your organisation?

Download our blended learning guides

Cammy Bean

Cammy Bean

Senior Solutions Consultant at Kineo US

Cammy has been collaborating with organizations to design online learning programs since 1996. An active speaker and blogger, Cammy gets fired up about instructional design, avoiding the trap of clicky-clicky bling-bling, and ways to use technology to create real behavior change.

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