2017-2020: From designing e-learning modules to designing and facilitating workshops

Lessons learned and a few tips to future trainers


Three years ago, I had the opportunity to start working for AbbVie in a new HR role. This new role was still in learning & development, but did not include the design of e-learning modules. I have not used Articulate Storyline over the past three years, but I have had the opportunity to explore another area of L&D: the design and facilitation of instructor-led workshops.

It may sounds a bit backward to go from e-learning to the classroom; after all, we’re all talking about micro-learning, and the classroom seems clearly obsolete, right? Well, not entirely. As I learned pretty early in my career, there’s no best delivery method for training. It depends on multiple factors such as the audience, the complexity of the topic, the budget, the time, the objectives, etc. Thus, going to a classroom for a workshop is still very appropriate in some situations.

Realizing I had not posted for three years and a half, and that there were low chances for me to go back to e-learning design in the near future, I thought it would be interesting to change the scope of my blog from e-learning to learning & development in general. As I am moving away from learning & development and taking on more traditional HR responsibilities, I still want to share my love for learning & development and my experience. The last three years have been incredible: I have been able to use my experience as an e-learning instructional designer in a different way, and to transfer it to the classroom.

Here’s a quick recap of what I have accomplished over the past three years:

  • I planned for yearly training offerings with my team, scheduled workshops and parterned with the business to help them identify needs & learning resources
  • I got certified by DDI to deliver their front-leader workshops
  • I got certified by VitalSmarts to deliver their Crucial Accountability workshop
  • I designed my own workshop, using internal and external resources, and facilitated several times in front of large audiences, getting amazing feedback and having a real impact on the business
  • I facilitated several workshops about leadership skills, change management, personal brand, as well as new employee orientation
  • And more.

And now, what I learned and what I believe every new trainer would like to know:

  • Nobody was born a great speaker or a great trainer. Some people may like it more than others, but in the end it is all about practice, confidence, and more practice.
  • There are many ways to improve your facilitation skills out of the classroom. You can consider joining a Toastmaster club to improve your public speaking skills, as well as taking acting classes. I took acting classes for 10 years during my childhood. I learned so much about public speaking and it helped me build confidence.
  • Co-facilitating the first session(s) with an experience trainer is a great way to start and learn.
  • Review the feedback from participants, don’t take it personaly if there are “negative” comments, but take it as an opportunity to improve. Also, keep in mind that it is hard to please everyone!
  • Taking acting classes and being on stage for 10 years taught three critial lessons that I believe are applicable to the facilitation of workshops:
    • You can’t practice your acting skills and your role if you don’t know your lines. First, memorize your lines, then, you can go to reharsal and practice your role. In the classroom, it’s similar: before anything, master your content. If you don’t understand the skills that you are teaching, if you don’t master the flow of the workshop (content, activities, etc.), how do you want to do a good job a presenting it?
    • Speak in front of the audience, learn to project your voice. This one is a bit difficult for some people. Some of us are fortunate to have a voice that is easy to project in a room, that is loud and engaging. Some others have to practice more to project their voices. We can all practice and get better.
    • Unless you are acting in a Shakespeare play that the audience knows by heart, nobody will know it when you forget your line or say the wrong one (unless the discussion does not make any sense, of course). Improvise and keep going! In the classroom, it is the same and even more applicable: you are the expert! People don’t know what you’re supposed to say, how the activities are supposed to be done. So don’t worry if you don’t follow your script (if you have one), if you explain things diffently than usual… just keep going! You’re the only one knowing you did not do things according to plan. Adjust, correct your course, and don’t say anything about it! Just keep going.
  • Instructional design skills are amazingly useful when it comes to facilitating workshops. It gives a much deeper understanding of the flow of the workshop, the role of each lesson/activity. It is much easier to make decisions about what elements of the workshops are essentials to the learning of the participants, and which ones can be skipped if you’re running out of time.
  • When it comes to design workshops, it’s a very similar approach than designing e-learning content: you want to ensure you keep the participants engaged. For that, it’s necessary to have a lot of interaction, videos, exercises, knowlegde check etc. Being in-person add more options for the activities. We can explore things like role-play, group exercises, flipcharts, group discussions, etc.
  • You don’t know the answer to a question? No big deal. You can either:
    • Send it back to the group to ask the opinion of other participants.
    • Acknowledge that it is a difficult (and good question), and brainstorm with others.
    • Acknowledge that you don’t have the answer, but you can look into it and provide an answer later.

This is already a long blog post, so I’m going to stop there. I really enjoyed working with Articulate Storyline, and to be honest I miss using it and creating e-learning content. But being in the classroom or in front of a large groups at offsite meetings is also an amazing experience.

If you have the opportunity to become a trainer/instructor/facilitator (whatever title you prefer to use!) but you are worried about your ability to do it, keep in mind that we all have to start somewhere, and you will get better with more, more and more practice.

Navigation and Next button in Storyline 2

Several questions today about the navigation settings in Storyline:

  • Should we “block” the Next button in the slides, to ensure the trainees review all the content before continuing?
  • If yes, what are the main options in Storyline to do it?
  • What is the best option?

Let’s review those different questions.


Should we “block” the Next button in the slides, to ensure the trainees review all the content before continuing?

Short answer: no.
Longer answer: no, except in some cases.

Why is it a bad idea to disable the Next button, and in general, to have strict navigation settings in an e-learning module? Actually, e-learnings are supposed to be courses trainees take when they want, in the way they want. This learning method is supposed to be flexible, and trainees should be able to navigate within the module as they wish. Obviously, a lot of e-learning modules follow a specific path with several chapters, and often you can’t understand properly chapter 2 if you’ve not reviewed chapter 1. But I think we should trust our trainees and let them review the module freely. If they don’t understand a chapter, they will go back to the previous chapter. If we explain properly the module organization at the beginning, they will follow the order of chapters. Trainees need to be free to not review entirely the content of a slide, if they want to review it later and focus on another part of the e-learning.

Moreover, having too many restrictions in the navigation increases the risks of making a mistake in the designing of the course, and to have people stuck on a slide, because a trigger is not working properly, or because they don’t understand what they are supposed to do before being able to continue to the next slide.

Nevertheless, sometimes it can be interesting to disable the navigation to the next slide when you want the trainees to perform a specific action on the slide, such as an activity, clicking several buttons to reveal more text, or view a picture… If used sparingly, it can be useful and not frustrating for trainees.


What are the main options in Storyline to do it? What is the best option?

There are different ways to prevent someone from continuing to the next slide unless they perform a specific action on the slide. Let’s review the main 2 different options, and the pros and cons for each of them:

  • You can disable or hide the Next button when the timeline starts (it’s a new feature of Storyline 2), then re-enable it when a specific action is performed (timeline ends, user click a button, all the states of buttons/shapes X, Y and Z are Visited, etc.)

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The pros and cons are a little bit different depending on if you choose to disable or hide the button, but the two options are pretty much similar:

Pros: in both cases, the trainee won’t try to click the Next button, and he/she will easily view when the button is re-enabled.

Cons: if you hide the button, the trainee may think there is a bug in the navigation, whereas if you disable the button, the trainee will probably understands better that he/she has to perform an action to re-enable the button.

But in both case, there is an issue caused by Storyline itself with this kind of settings: if you do not choose to reset the slide to initial state when revisiting the slide, and prefer to resume saved state, the trainee may be stuck when he/she revisits the slide. Indeed, resuming saved state on this kind of slide with disable/hide the Next button… with sometimes no possibility to re-perform the action to unlock the Next button. That’s typically the case when the trigger that re-enable the Next button is “when timeline reaches X seconds”.

The solution is simple: choose to reset the slide to initial state in case the trainee revisits it; but it means the trainee will have to re-perform the action or wait for the timeline to reach the end, so it can be boring.

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In my opinion, that’s not the best option.

  • My favorite option is to not disable or hide the Next button, but to add a layer in the slide (it appears when the trainee clicks the Next button) inviting the trainee to perform the action I wish him/her to do before continuing. If the trainee has not performed the action, he/she will see this layer. When he/she has done the action, clicking on the Next button will take him/her to the Next slide. It is very easy to set in Storyline, and I like this option because in the layer, we clearly explain to the trainee what he/she is supposed to do before being able to continue, and the Next button is always available, so the trainee can’t think there is a bug.

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I recommend a gray, transparent background in the later, and a shape indicating what to do (here, the orange shape indicates where are the two cards). Clicking OK hides the layer.

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Pros: you can include a message and some help in the layer, to help your trainees perform the action and know what to do, and it avoids disabling/hiding the Next button, so you have no problem when revisiting the slide with saved state settings.

Cons: for now I have not seen any inconvenient with this option!

This is my favorite way to “force” trainees to perform an action before being able to continue. It is not frustrating, you know what to do, and I have not noticed any issue when revisiting the slide with the saved state setting. Obviously, I recommend to not use this kind of setting to much in a course. I think once per chapter is a maximum.


I hope this short article was helpful! If you use another way to “block” the Next button and/or the navigation in general in Storyline, or if you prefer to avoid blocking navigation, don’t hesitate to let me know how you proceed.

How to convert a boring PPT presentation into a rapid learning course

Hey everyone, I know I haven’t posted a lot those last weeks. I’ve been very busy with LMS duties and rapid learning design. So I’d like to share my work on this last part.

I spent a few weeks reviewing the existing training material we currently have in my company, and I found a lot of PPT presentation that was used during induction sessions, or also directly published on our LMS (so the learner only download a PPT and read it on his computer). One of my mission in my company is to ‘revamp’ the existing courses into nice and instructional rapid learning courses.

I’m talking about rapid learning and not e-learning because the courses I worked on are not complex enough to talk about an elaborated and complex e-learning course. Rapid learning is a kind of simple e-learning course, in general shorter than a classic e-learning course (5 to 10 minutes max). This kind of rapid learning course are, in general, ‘awareness’ training (sometimes close to information). Their goal is to present and introduce a topic, and to make you learn the basics of this topic. The more complex content can be included in another e-learning course, a bit longer and more complex, or sometimes in an attendance-based course.

But the difference with a basic PPT presentation is that we use instructional tools and activities to help the learner understand and remember the content. When you read a PPT presentation, in general it’s boring and you don’t remember the content a lot… in my opinion, PPT presentations can be good to provide information, but not to make you learn something.

In my rapid learning courses, I use:
a voice, for people who remember better what they hear than what they see
texts and pictures, for people who have a visual memory
animations to make text and pictures appear step by step (following the voice), to ensure even the ‘boring’ slides (i.e. without interaction) are captivating a minimum level of attention
quizzes, to make you think about the content – not to evaluate you, but to force you to think about the question, and try to guess the answer, depending on your current knowledge or good sense
activities like ‘complete the definition with the correct words’: same purpose than the quizzes
interactive slides where you have to click buttons or pictures to reveal more information before being able to continue in the course, so the learners don’t stay ‘passive’ in front of the screen

So, I will share a few slides I created with Storyline for a few courses. The slides are cut to keep only the content part, I removed all the ‘template’ part because its our internal template, and I also precise that I only show content about a legal topic (i.e. applicable for all US companies), so nothing confidential about our core business, of course.

An example with a course about the HIPAA law (which regulates the protected health information in the US):

Before: a single slide with a definition.

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After: a very simple activity where you have to complete the definition yourself. Here, you have to drag and drop the key words of the definition in the proper blank. Ad you can see, it’s absolutely not hard, and you even can guess the answer with the size of the labels and of the blanks. It’s OK: I just want the learner to spend a moment thinking, and not only reading.

Another slide with the correct sentence also appears just after the activity, to ensure everyone have the correct information + a voice to read the definition.

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Before: a simple slide with basic information.

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After: no more content, but instead of giving the information, I ask it in a question. Of course, the correct answer is given to everyone just after.

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Before: a slide with the list of penalties you risk if you don’t follow the law.

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After: same content, but with a ‘match’ quiz + the correct answer is given to everyone in the next slide.

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Before: 3 basic slides to detail what is ‘Protected Health Information’ topic by topic.

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After: only one slide with cards you have to click to reveal the details. Very simple to create with triggers which change the states of 3 first shapes (the one you click disappear) + triggers which change the state of 3 new shapes that appear when you click the previous ones + an animation when they appear, so it looks like we turn the cards.

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So, as you can see, it is very basic activities very simple to set in Storyline 2. It’s not complex, the graphic aspect is very limited, but for a very simple topic like introducing the HIPAA law to new HR people and new managers of your company, in my opinion it is enough, and it’s already much better than a PPT presentation! When I arrived in the US to work for my company, I remember my manager registered me to the HIPAA course. It was only the PPT version, and I remember I read it in a few minutes and that’s it. I’m sure I would have enjoyed having a rapid learning course with short quizzes, activities, and a voice to help me remember the content, and especially, to help me not sleep in front of my screen 🙂