Adam Avramescu: [00:00:00] This is a podcast. Why buy, why have I been dressing up this whole time? I’m wearing a three-piece suit.

Welcome to CELab, the customer education laboratory, where we explore how to build customer education programs, to experiment with new approaches and exterminate the myths and bad advice that stopped, broke dead in its tracks. I’m Adam Avramescu . 

Dave Derington: [00:00:29] I am Dave Derington 

Adam Avramescu: [00:00:32] and today is national Garfield the cat day.

Dave Derington: [00:00:37] Oh my gosh. my daughter would love this. My, my wife’s grandfather would love this and I have a soft spot in my heart for Garfield set. That’s awesome. And how did that come about? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:00:47] No, he’s, one of America’s most beloved cartoon characters. 

Dave Derington: [00:00:52] Yeah. And he reminds me of my own cat. It was annoying.

A little bit on the heavy side 

Adam Avramescu: [00:00:57] and you know who among us doesn’t hate Mondays 

Dave Derington: [00:01:02] and who among us doesn’t love lasagna. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:01:04] That’s true. That’s very true. cool. hopefully no one will mail us to Abu Dhabi for today’s episode, but we’re going to do a little bit of a mini episode today. It’s, it’s summer.

the living’s going to be easy and we’re going to do a couple of a shorter episodes. For the next few weeks covering a very specific topics. So for this episode, let’s start with a question that we actually got in the customer education, Slack channel, which is a, become our virtual mailbag.


Dave Derington: [00:01:33] Yeah. And if you don’t know about that Slack general, we will make a link to it. it’s a great site to go to. And all of us that are really passionate about customer education are active or where are we at now? Over 500 or so people in that country 

Adam Avramescu: [00:01:46] almost 500. So you could be the 500th it’s customer

There’s a lot of folks active in there. 

Dave Derington: [00:01:53] Fabulous. let’s pick something out of the Slack channel mailbag. How about that? So I have captured a note from Emilio and Emilio says I work at segments, a customer data infrastructure platform, and we’re currently relaunching our onboarding process to make it more engaging and useful to our customers.

We’ve defined the structure and topics that we want to cover during the customer onboarding, but we’re fit, divided on what is the best way to deliver the content. Now he goes on to say, I was wondering if people have recommendations on how to best deliver the different modules and content we want to cover.

So for instance, would you recommend, and we’re going to tackle this today. Would you recommend video lectures with quote unquote talking heads, air quotes, without talking heads. Would you have slides, screencast drawing boards, et cetera, or a mix of all these things? we’ve done research, but we figured it would be awesome to hear from companies that are working on something similar.

Adam Avramescu: [00:02:54] Dave, we’ve worked on something similar haven’t we. 

Dave Derington: [00:02:58] Oh, my goodness. We have a lot. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:02:59] Yeah. wow. So this is actually a really frequent question that we hear, and I actually think we’ve covered this on a previous mailbag when we used to do that segment as part of our normal episodes, but this will give us a chance to address some of the specific questions and discussion here, Dave.

what is the best format for delivering online courses? 

Dave Derington: [00:03:22] Oh, my gosh. So that’s a loaded question for us because, and you disagree or agree with me and it’s a podcast. And our goal here is to fight it out a little bit. Let’s talk about the pros and cons and have a good discussion about it. I wanna just flesh this out a little bit.

I have my own opinions and I’m sure you do as well, but I think it’s good to frame an answer to this question in context of. You need to know what your organization is doing, what are you trying to present? And you also need to know what your audience is, who are the learners that you’re trying to address.

And with those, this is a good instructional design requirements gathering thing, right? What best, what is best for the customer? What, how do they want to learn? let’s start there. What do you think about that, Adam? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:04:12] I think that you’re right to say that it starts with the audience.

and in fact, yeah, we can start there. one thing to think about is how do you expect your learners to be accessing your content and what are some of the constraints around that? So we have a lot of folks out here, listening who’s learners, probably interact with them on the desktop. We probably have equally as many who are primarily reaching out to people who have very limited time and capacity and they’re on mobile.

and maybe some who, don’t even have, products that are accessible on the web at all. the best format in a lot of ways is the format. That’s going to allow you to reach your audience, the place that they’re looking for you. 

Dave Derington: [00:04:52] Yeah. Yeah, that’s true. And here’s an interesting thing.

An interesting aside. So formerly I had been at Gainsight and then I was at a zoo and now I met outreach. The audience has fundamentally different between every one of those, because the kinds of people I’m engaging with Gainsight was a customer success manager. most likely, not all the time or an admin of the system then as well was a very technical platform.

So I was dealing with almost. Programmers. And now in outreach, I’m working with largely software to, or I’m sorry. sales development managers or sales development reps, or account managers, et cetera, in some admin. So there’s all kinds of different people. And as you imagine here’s, just to beat that down, a customer success manager is like an account manager.

They’re very busy, but they’re working on, following up and making sure customers happy. And it’s post-sales, but a sales development rep those person, sorry, those people are quite a bit different because they don’t have a lot of time. They’re measured on how many meetings that you’re booking and getting closing some, or getting some opportunity prospects.

And it’s a very different world. So do they have time to do a lot of training? Do they have time to do it during the day? Can it be long form? Those are all the kinds of questions that go through my mind. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:06:13] Yeah. I think, in the spirit of trying to get some answers about this without feeling completely constrained by all the research that you would have to do, you can do a design sprint around this.

And in fact, this is something that, I’ve done before and have seen other teams do where. You basically say, Hey, in two weeks or one week or whatever time period you want to use, I’m going to create a little PowerPoint deck. And in that deck, I’m going to put the major personas that we’re trying to serve through learning.

And we’re going to give them a name. we’re going to talk about what they’re trying to learn. What’s most important to them and how they would be accessing learning. And the fact of the matter is you can’t really do that until you’ve actually talked to some of those customers. So the first thing that you can do in your design sprint is.

Actually talk to the people who would be receiving your training, figure out a little bit about their preferences, figure out about how they want to learn, but but beyond that, figure out what they want to do with your product. and then you can put together your deck. it can have little fake names for the people, so you can have, Tony, the construction worker, or know whoever your audience is.

Danica the designer. I’m just trying to think of names. and, again, if you talk about what’s important to them and how they want to learn, you can start to make some assumptions about what format is going to best serve them. it doesn’t take that long to do, and it’ll give you a pretty good basis with how you want to approach the best format for learning.

I love 

Dave Derington: [00:07:35] those. so again, what we’re saying here is. Think about the audience, think about what time they have, who they are, how do they like to consume content? I would even bring up a fancy term called psychographics and we used to talk about demographics, which were a little bit more limiting. generally what are the trends and how people like to consume?

Adam Avramescu: [00:07:55] Yeah. you’re right to say too, that there’s some macro trends as well. We know that in general learning experiences are getting shorter. They’re getting more micro and. That’s partially because we have different formats to deliver them in now. It’s easier for someone to watch a YouTube video or, to watch a quick video in a learning path than it is to go attend a five day course on something.

And that to me is not because it’s inherently better. To do it, one way or the other. I think the reason that people were going to five day courses was because that was the modality that was available. It was, we didn’t have the ability to offer. Bite-sized learning to people online that we could update frequently and we could serve to them through SaaS platform.

Dave Derington: [00:08:39] Yeah. And it’s, Oh my gosh. It’s fundamentally different than even 10, 20 years ago when we were taking training and you’d sit in the classroom for days on end. And be bored and you wouldn’t retain stuff. And now we’re in the micro, which it’s different modalities. how we come across with learning.

We’ve got a palette of so many different tools, a nice little toolbox with all these different things. And I, let me bring up a term. That I think goes back to, gosh, my teacher roots, my mom was a teacher, one of the big things that she had talked about way back when I was a kid. I really love those kind of stuff as a learning style.

Now there’s some. Probably myth around and misunderstandings about the kinds of learning styles are like, are you an auditory learner or kinesthetic hands-on learner? Are you a visual learner? I think everybody is. It’s more of a spectrum rather than as an absolutist. You are a visual learner only because we have different senses, but I don’t know about you, Adam, but I like to contextualize this by saying, I go multimodal.

I use different things, different tools and see if I can offer them all up to augment one another, meaning I might do video, but I’ll also have, a written version of that too, for people like visually follow along, but listen, to watch the video as well, so that we can, maybe we break or break down the discussion around that.

what are all the tools and the different ways we can 

Adam Avramescu: [00:10:07] connect you. You’ve brought me to my second point as well. which is that. Learning styles are largely a myth. and this is something that was accepted as orthodoxy in the instructional design community for a really long time. And it’s, in the spirit of, vanquishing, the myths and that advice that stopped growth, didn’t its tracks.

I think this is one of them because the first thing that people think they know about learning is that they have a learning style. And what you’ll notice actually about learning styles is that very few people. we’ll tell you when they’re talking about their own personal learning style. very few people will tell you that they’re an auditory learner and right.

have you ever heard someone tell you they’re an auditory learner? 

Dave Derington: [00:10:45] I’m one of them because I like to listen first. and I might tell you that, but no, I’ve not heard of anybody beyond me. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:10:53] that’s true. You’re very rarely, it’s definitely the exception, not the rule. And in fact, fewer people say there, if I had to rank the number of times, I’ve heard it and this is, very unscientific, but most people when they’re talking about their own personal learning style out of the three, if you’re talking about visual auditory, kinesthetic, they say they’re a visual learner.

And, I have a pet theory around that, which is that people say they’re a visual learner because when they’re presented with information, that is visual, they respond to it. But that doesn’t mean they’re a visual learner. That means the information that was presented to them in a visual format, resonated with them.

And they’re, they’re indexing more heavily on that experience because it was effective for them. and I would argue that has less to do with the fact that they’re a visual learner and more to do with the fact that certain information presented visually. Is going to be more effective. but visuals, aren’t our default for how we present information.

Kinesthetic is not our default for how we present information. Most information by default is printed. , audit auditorily. I don’t know if that’s a word auditorily through a lecture, or I guess visually through reading, but that’s not really what people mean when they say they were a visual learner.

Yeah. I mean reading. So it’s yeah, no, 

Dave Derington: [00:12:04] that’s really cool though. so you’re saying again, you’re lending or leading into this multimodal. Format, like at one point I wanted to inject here and I’ll let you go back to it is look at the amazing uptick in the podcast industry.

You’re listening to a podcast right now. How many of you also like to consume content? 

Adam Avramescu: [00:12:24] This is a podcast. Why buy, why have I been dressing up this whole time? I’m wearing a three-piece suit.

Dave Derington: [00:12:31] we’ll have to take a picture of that and put it on the stream and. let’s describe your suit. It’s purple when you have a black tie with Oh yeah. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:12:42] So T to your point, multimodal is the way to go for a few reasons. one, because while a lot of the science and research around learning styles, hasn’t really held up.

What has held up is the idea that you should match the approach that you use for learning to the subject that’s being taught. yeah. a great example for those of us who work in software is learning how to use the interface of your product. it’s not really going to do you a whole lot of good to describe where something is located on the screen.

If you can show it or better yet, if you can give someone the opportunity to practice using it and practice demonstrating that skill, which is part of why performance support and, walkthroughs and digital adoption platforms have become. I think so, so popular in software training. but even the research itself has supported the idea of, and I think I’m going to get the term wrong here.

maybe future Adam can butt in here, but I think it’s called dual coding. It might be called dual threading, but basically it’s the idea that when you learn something in more than one format, you are more likely to retain the information. Always having things be multimodal and giving someone two ways to process the information, that compliments each other and don’t distract from each other, is going to be more effective according to that research 

Dave Derington: [00:14:04] that, yeah, that’s amazing.

and I liked that. I mean that I don’t, you think the Holy grail is ultimately, he provides someone with a deep, immersive, almost virtual reality environment where they have everything and they can SIM you have a simulation and you might in a simulation read a book that talks about something or go and actually have guides to enter, help you interact with an, with a device or, or the software or what have you.

So yeah, the more. I like that, dual threading, having more come at you in different ways helps. it helps keep your attention and keep you engaged. and then you’re processing on different levels and different parts of your brain. So you’re truly bringing it in. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:14:42] Yeah. And going back to the original question where, we had the different options to choose from, you could have talking heads, you could have no talking heads, you could have slide screencast, drawing boards, text images, a mix.

I think one thing to think about here is, how your dual coding that information, which is also important by the way. And I’m not gonna into this, but it’s important for accessibility. So let’s say that you have audio narration and onscreen, visuals, while you also want to make sure that if, someone who’s accessing your training is hearing impaired.

You don’t want to rely purely on the audio narration, because you want the learning to be accessible for them as well. So you have to think about that. but then just from a pure learning perspective, more from a cognitive science perspective, I think one important thing to think about as you’re choosing your format is in addition to choosing the format or the modality that would most likely teach the subject that you’re trying to teach.

Also think about cognitive load. So one big mistake that I think we make is we try to overload the learner with irrelevant information and a lot of the time that can be everything from having like loud, marketing style music playing in the background of a video that we make. it could be including kind of irrelevant graphics, just for the sake of having something to show on the screen, because we can’t think of anything actually relevant to show.

you’re not effectively dual coding. If you’re just throwing a bunch of multimedia up there for no reason, it has to support the learning goal and be directly relevant to it. 

Dave Derington: [00:16:21] Oh, that’s let me tap on this one. If you don’t mind to talking hats, talk about talking to band. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:16:27] Oh, I want to talk about the band.

What’s your favorite talking heads? 

Dave Derington: [00:16:29] I love the van. I can’t think of it right now. I love that song is, where, what were they originally? I got concept art ban and this is not my beautiful life. This is not my beautiful car. I love that stuff. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:16:44] Yeah. It’s a once in a lifetime, I, for 

Dave Derington: [00:16:47] once in a lifetime, that’s a ton 

Adam Avramescu: [00:16:48] Remain in Light.

I don’t know. Please yell at me in the comments if it’s not 

Dave Derington: [00:16:54] alright back to talking heads in context. Oh, customer education. I here’s to Emilio’s question. And he brought up talking heads, I think. And I’ve used this before, but I was working in marketing and I was doing more of a marketing style video.

I wasn’t doing educational content as much. I was leading into it, but what I feel about talking heads, I’ve seen some videos even recently, where this is supposed to be education and you’ve got somebody who’s dressed nicely, looks awesome. Standing on the background, it looks all pro. But, you know what?

We’ve lost 30 seconds of a two minute video that you’re trying to teach somebody, something of me watching a person basically dancing on the screen. And I just think it’s extraneous and it’s, and this is me talking. Some of you may have a different opinion, but I think it’s distracting. I think it misses the point.

And even if you’re not doing that or you’re at that, not at that pro level on webinars, I’ve commonly done this one thing. Oh, yeah. I will tell you the story of my favorite virtual instructor led class, where it was actually an internal cloud. So we were onboarding some of our team members and we had everybody on a zoom session.

We had a matrix, a grid of all of their faces, Brady bunch style on the screen. And I can tell you one thing about that with that kind of a talking ed arrangement, where you saw me and I saw you, it was really engaging because people were less prone to go idle around, but. In general, if I’m built the building an e-learning content and I’m putting it up online and it’s not going to be interactive, if you don’t need to see me, that’s more for webinars and stuff like that.

and to this point, we recently saw some information and future us are going to inject to this data here. data is showing that, having people displayed and talking head style in a video. Doesn’t really matter that much. And in fact, that may hurt overall, attention and, consumption 

Adam Avramescu: [00:18:49] well from a cognitive load research perspective.

That makes a lot of sense. The conflicting argument to that would be there is research out there, which we can also inject, that when you see someone’s face. You are more likely to be engaged or you’re more likely to retain the information. And so I think that’s where a lot of the talking head approach comes from either that or people just think, when you think of it from a marketing perspective and while you have people dancing and goofing around it’s because it makes your marketing approach more human, versus having this very.

Abstract divorce, marketing speak. it is sometimes more engaging to actually see a human, and know that there’s a person delivering the education or the market they were receiving. So you have to balance that, right? Like really think critically about when it makes sense to take that human approach or when having a face would make sense to increase retention.

But not at the cost of, cognitive load and of really teaching what you’re trying to teach. I don’t know that it makes a ton of sense. This is my personal opinion. Now, I don’t know if it makes a ton of sense, as you’re doing a software demo to have your face in the lower left-hand corner, because that’s really probably screen real estate that you want to devote to towards showing your product UI anyway.

And the face is probably going to be distracting, but if you want to show your face, at the beginning and the end of that video and a bumper to help engage the learner, then strategically, that might make sense. So it’s not necessarily an all or nothing proposition. 

Dave Derington: [00:20:24] Yeah, I agree with that.

I, and it’s really nice sometimes because I know I’ll tell you a couple of stories too. One story was that I was at a conference and some of my peers were saying, Dave, you need to stick around the booth here because we were presenting, somebody who keeps coming up and trying to find you and doesn’t believe you’re real.

Because I’d never had any video of me on the site and she thought I was a robot or like a scripted voice. I thought that was hilarious. And when I met her, she’s no, you are real, you exist. And okay, that made me think again about talking to him. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:20:57] these deep fake technology are really coming along.

So in the future you might actually be a robot. 

Dave Derington: [00:21:05] I might, and then the other story is, and you recall, I have been pretty hyped on Twitch and I still am. in my current context, it’s not something that I’m looking at, but Twitch is very heavy. In that. And I think, but that’s like a different kind of mode of learning and there’s a lot more real estate because generally they’ve articulated the screen so that you’ll see what’s happening on the screen.

And you will see a video of you, but it’s usually small and often there’s a green screen. So the real estate isn’t a problem. But I think we’d beat that up again. It really lends itself to who you’re trying to connect with, but in general, I think you and I would agree that we lean away. From the talking heads.

Adam Avramescu: [00:21:47] Yeah. And then I guess my last point on multimodal, and I know you have some thoughts here as well, is that really, if you’re designing for engagement and designing for retention, you want to find the mix of formats that is actually going to lead, not just to, someone engaging with your video per se, but, that will actually give them an option to show their skills, to interact with the content, to engage with the content itself.

So including periodic knowledge checks or polls or surveys, or interactivities that help them really digest the information, can also be incredibly powerful. Now, a lot of the time you want to balance, not being too heavyweight with the way that you’re doing that. So let’s say you’re teaching a virtual class.

We’ll Hey, it might make sense to, inject. A poll question or a knowledge check every once in a while, but you don’t necessarily want to be pulling up a formal poll, every two seconds, because that’s going to start to feel like a bit more of a tax on the learner. And especially if you’re doing it through e-learning, there is a tax to sending someone into a SCORM file because those start to feel really bulky.

Dave Derington: [00:22:54] Yeah. Yeah. I’m glad that you brought up SCORM and you can be a love, hate relationship. And those are, you love it. Great. Those of you who hate it. Great again. That’s so 

Adam Avramescu: [00:23:04] you use SCORM. 

Dave Derington: [00:23:07] if you do, leave some comments and, 

Adam Avramescu: [00:23:08] if you love a few loves for home and 

Dave Derington: [00:23:10] somewhere on our website,

hit us up on the Slack channel. We’ll have a good conversation. It, I know that for SCORM in particular here’s my take on it. I think SCORM has historically been a pretty good way to express a certain kind of interactivity and really force people through a channel. you’re stuck in this video and then they have to answer a quiz and you have some kind of an interactive engagement and then yeah.

There’s detection points to say, how long has I watches? Have I actually watched the video? Me. I don’t really care so much about that now, because I’m seeing it, the LMS offerings that we have out there do a lot better job of allowing me to articulate maybe a small video and then a quiz and then an exercise and then another video, and then assemble things in a way that you, Adam could come in and go, I’m going to watch a video and then I have to go do something and come back.

It’s not like you’re stuck in one different pipeline. Plus, I tend to think SCORM often comes with technical. it’s not cognitive load, but it’s troubleshooting it’s, technical debt sometime because sometimes problems happen with it. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:24:18] Yeah. 

Dave Derington: [00:24:18] What are your thoughts 

Adam Avramescu: [00:24:19] on now? I agree. there are definitely some rapid development e-learning tools out there that make this a little bit easier.

especially the ones that are more a form-based offering. They’ll. They’ll consider more of these factors for you, but you really have to think about every time you’re starting to customize those. That’s an additional level of QA. especially once you start moving into form-based and into, more freeform authoring, think again about, what the ultimate impact on the learner is going to be, and whether that’s, an effective trade off for the level of interactivity that they’re going to get from it, because you know what.

Not everyone is interested in the same cool types of interactivity that instructional designers are interested in. what’s most important in my mind, at least is making sure that you are designing for retention and that, regardless of the exact modality you use for it, you’re giving the learner an opportunity to apply their skills and to reflect on what they’ve learned.

Dave Derington: [00:25:18] Yes. Yeah. Use all those tools that you have at your disposal and give them many ways. 

Adam Avramescu: [00:25:24] Okay. So let’s, let’s recap. Cause we, we actually talked about a lot of different techniques, so maybe we can just trade this off. I think a takeaway number one was when you’re thinking about the modality really has to do with your audience.

do even a quick persona exercise to really learn who your learners are going to be. and how they’re going to best prefer to, have their content delivered. I would say that’s number one. 

Dave Derington: [00:25:49] and I would say that number two is to really think multimodal and understand that while we tend to believe that learning styles are a myth, they come into play.

And if you go and take what the outcome of what Adam just talked about is, who is my audience? What are they doing? what is their demographic psychographic, compose composition. Then bring different Tai strategies to bear, to serve that, so generally I find a nice video with a script that goes along with it and some hands on exercises bring different things to bear, have quizzes, have other aspects to help challenge the learner and break it up so that they can easily navigate through your content.

Adam Avramescu: [00:26:30] Yeah. I think number three, maybe going along with that point would be to make sure that when you’re dual threading or dual coding, content to use the formats that ultimately would best reflect the type of learning that’s going on. if you’re teaching software, a screencast of the software might help, if you’re doing something that’s more conceptual, maybe a drawing board or, something like that would be a good way to express that.

but again, make sure that you are, dual coding. It. 

Dave Derington: [00:26:58] Absolutely. And with that, I’d also mentioned that there’s other things we could go on for days about, fall a philosophy around using slides, PowerPoints, things like that. how do you make a design great quizzes? how do you go about articulating a really solid demo?

lots and lots of things in there that you should think about. We talked about talking heads, for example, and we say, probably light use of them or not at all. It would be my recommendation. If anything. Beginning and the end of a video, if it’s a webinar style, just to frame it up and say, this is a real human being that you’re engaging with.

Adam Avramescu: [00:27:32] Yeah. to wrap up on this question, I think a lot of people like to start by asking what is the best format as if there is just one best format. And I know that’s not exactly the question Emilia was asking, but I do hear it a lot, a phrase that way. And there is no one best format, but if you’re using some of the techniques that we talked about today, You’re going to have the right combination of formats.

That should be the most engaging and the most likely to lead to retention. 

Dave Derington: [00:27:58] Absolutely. Can’t agree with you more. So let’s go ahead and wrap this up. We’ve already given you a summarized version of what we talked about today. Today’s episode was a little bit more organic and free form, but then again, we have been practitioners for a while, so we’ve seen a lot, Now, if you want to learn more, our podcast website is https://

And again, you can find various things, all the other episodes and archived blog entries and show notes for some of the episodes. And we’re expanding that as we go. And if you’ve gotten value, this is the number one thing where we’re asking pleading with you. Share broadly share with others. We want you to share with your friends, your peers, and your network, and help us find all of those practitioners that are out there like us learning and growing by helping each other.

Now on Twitter, I am @ 

Adam Avramescu: [00:28:49] davederington

and I’m @avramescu, but don’t ask me if you like score 

Dave Derington: [00:28:54] and to our audience. Thanks for joining us. Go out there, educate experiment, and find your people. Thanks for listening.

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