6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Looking For a New LMS

6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Looking For a New LMS

Looking for a new LMS can be daunting with so many features and trends that come and go. There isn’t a single perfect LMS because they have all evolved out of different industries and circumstances. Considering the plethora of options out there, the simplest approach to finding the right LMS is to identify the kind of training solution you need and look for the best match based on their strengths and weaknesses.

As a result, we’ve come up with 6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Looking For a New LMS. The questions below will help you put on paper what kind of training solution you need.

#1 What type of content will you publish?

Online training happens in many formats: multimedia, interactive eLearning, scheduled webinars, in-person classes, and more. Your specific training might be better suited to certain mediums—many skills are taught best when shown by video rather than by reading while some skills can only be taught in person. Thinking about your type of content also means thinking about the skills and knowledge you are training.

What is the best medium to train the skills you need to train? Which tools will you use to create eLearning content and is your prospective LMS compatible with those tools? What devices will your audience use to access your training?

Of course, resources are another factor. Not everyone can budget for programs that are entirely multimedia focused or interactive. What medium (or mix of mediums) best fits your budget?

Being able to say that you want a training program that is primarily made of interactive SCORM activities, or videos, or in-person classes will greatly shape how you approach your LMS search.

#2 How will you assess your learners?

Assessment is just as important as training and likely just as specialized to your industry. How do you confirm that learners have what they need to know before you send them off to do their job? Some common ways to find out are online quizzes, manager observational checklists, or surveys.

When assessing knowledge, what kinds of questions or inputs will you be using the most? When should learners be quizzed—immediately after completing the training or some time later? Are there other forms of assessment in your organization—do they need to be part of the LMS?

Clearly stating how you intend to handle assessments means you can look at the capabilities of an LMS and determine if your strategy would run smoothly (or at all) on that platform. Consequently, missing out on this requirement could mean that your LMS won’t track one of its most basic goals: determining whether your training works.

#3 Who is your audience and how are they assigned training content?

There are many different ways that LMS’s assign content to learners which usually stem from the industry they started in. For instance, educational institutions often implement self enrollment while businesses often want to automatically assign content based on roles and departments. Furthermore, within an organization there may be a mix of assignment rules depending on the type of content.

In your ideal workflow, how is the right content assigned to your learners? This can be done automatically based on the learner’s role, assigned over time at certain milestones, or by a manager. Will different types of content require different assignment rules?

Try to outline the rules you need in place to optimally assign content. Then, look for how each LMS aligns with your rule; misaligned rules and functionality can lead to massive overhead work, consistent human error when executing workflows, and disengagement with the platform.

#4 What measures do you need to report on?

Think about the numbers that you will need to analyze whether your training program works. You might start with standard numbers such as completion percentage or average quiz scores. Additionally, certain organizations need to track time spent training while others might need to categorize the type of training being completed.

What is the main indicator that a learner has completed their training in your organization? What do reports do you need to generate on a regular basis? How are reports often broken down (e.g. by department or by content type)?

Reporting tells you the impact of your LMS on your organization but going without it will leave you in the dark. Make sure the key measures you’ve identified are tracked and available in the LMS. Check how easy is it to get these numbers out of the system; reporting should become part of a regular routine.

#5 Who manages accounts

6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Looking For a New LMS

Every LMS needs to create accounts for learners that help track progress, restrict access, and create reports. How those accounts are created will depend on your organization.

Are accounts created by a central admin team? Or by managers at a location or department level? Can learners self register? Or is there an external tool from which to sync learner accounts?

How you handle learner accounts should fit your day-to-day operations and not create a lot of new work. LMS’s can help by providing integrations with existing tools, or distributing the work of managing accounts to the right people.

#6 How much help will you need?

If you started asking yourself these questions and your ideal LMS seemed to become larger and more complex, that might mean you need help with your project. It’s unlikely that any one system will meet your requirements exactly. Therefore, some additional work will be necessary to make your vision happen.

What applicable skills does your team have internally? Based on your answers above, what skills would help make your vision happen? What is your timeline and can it be met with your resources?

There are many services offered by LMS companies or external companies to help fill gaps where needed (e.g. software development, custom configurations, instructional design, and more) to build the best possible product. Include these as part of your plan if needed!


Taking the time to think through the ideal way to deploy your online training program means you will be better prepared to start meeting and evaluating potential LMS solutions in a deliberate way. Answering the questions above simply gives you an idea of the kind of solution you need. You might discover new details along the way to change that plan but it is always best to have an initial plan.

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Job Roles in the Training Industry

Job Roles in the Training Industry

Instructional Designer? LMS Administrator? Trainer? You’ve probably seen these terms in job ads or have even used them to describe yourself. If you’re just beginning in a training related profession (that’s not in a school) or interested in getting started, it can get confusing trying to describe what these different roles are and what they actually DO.

In this brief article, we’ll look at common training positions and what they entail. We’ll relate them back to 4 things a training department must do to be effective in a modern organization:

Communicate knowledge to learners

Somebody must understand the knowledge well enough to teach others face-to-face. For most of human history this was as far as a training team department went.

Create learning resources

It turns out creating and using materials that can be distributed and shared makes training much more efficient. Technology and research have greatly improved the kinds of materials that can now be created.

Manage resources and records

Record keeping is necessary for training to become integrated with the operations and policies of an organization. The bigger the organization and the more knowledge they have to train, the more complex a task this becomes (which is why electronic Learning Management Systems have become commonplace).

Plan the big-picture direction of the team

A modern training team might be comprised of unique individuals with unique skills, but they need to be able to work towards common goals inline with the rest of the organization. Assuming most if not all training departments are trying to accomplish these 4 things, the roles below should now make sense!


Trainers communicate knowledge to learners. They are usually the most hands-on role in a company’s training department. Trainers get out in the field and work directly with their learners — teaching, demonstrating, and advising. They need a solid understanding of the content they are teaching and good communication skills to pass it on to their students.

Common Responsibilities

  • Leading classes, webinars, and demonstrations
  • Meeting and working directly with learners
  • Writing or recording classes, webinars, and demonstrations as reusable learning materials
  • Instructional Designer

Instructional designers create learning resources

An instructional designer is a content creator — whether it’s written materials, digital presentations, videos, or interactive games. A good instructional designer understands the best way to identify learning objectives, create a plan for delivering and assessing knowledge, and build resources to support it using a variety of media.

Common Responsibilities

  • Creating curriculum, programs, and courses for learners
  • Working with subject matter experts to collect knowledge
  • Writing, designing, filming, editing, and sometimes programming learning content
  • Learning Management System Administrator

LMS admins manage resources and records

A learning management system (LMS) is a tool (usually a piece of software) that tracks learning resources and records in an organization. The LMS administrator is the person that keeps it running smoothly. That means working with different teams and roles like IT staff, instructional designers, executives, and end users to ensure the LMS is well-maintained and fulfilling its planned purpose.

Common Responsibilities

  • Managing and maintaining the LMS and its users
  • Troubleshooting LMS issues
  • Working with the rest of the training team to implement training solutions
  • Training Manager

Training managers plan the big-picture direction of the team

Like most managers, a training manager is primarily in charge of people. The training manager might not get hands-on with the learners, content, or software involved in training, but they oversee and plan-out the big picture goals of the training department. As we go up the company hierarchy, a training manager might be called a director or, eventually, a chief learning office (CLO).

Common Responsibilities

  • Managing a team of people
  • Setting targets and creating plans to achieve them
  • Reporting on the status of training projects
  • Working with other departments and stakeholders
  • Learning Specialist

In some cases, a company might be looking for a “learning specialist” or “training specialist”. Usually this means that they are looking for someone who can do all of the above.


Training is an important part of every organization and one that is still evolving. The roles above are common ways that organizations are structuring responsibilities in their training teams. Whether or not they follow the conventions above, someone has to:

  • Communicate knowledge to learners
  • Create learning resources
  • Manage resources and records
  • Plan the big-picture direction of the team

Or sometimes it’s all up to one person. Being deficient in any of these areas means less effective training for the whole organization. Common roles evolved as a way to distribute these responsibilities to the right people with the right skills.

We hope you found this article useful whether you are career planning, job searching, employee searching, or just looking for a better way to describe what you do!

Learn more about Cogcentric and our customizable Fabric LMS!

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Sharing the Load with your LMS

Sharing the Load with Your LMS

When you’re an LMS Admin, your LMS is your workhorse and partner. It should be doing the leg work so you can focus on big-picture planning, decision making, and working with your stakeholders. Does your LMS fulfill its duties as your trusty companion or do you find yourself doing most of the heavy lifting?

Here are a few ways we’ve seen LMSs help or hinder their admins. These are based on real stories and experiences (the good and the bad)!

Generating Reports

Decision makers (including yourself) depend on good data to get a detailed view of their organization and plan accordingly. It’s not uncommon for LMS admins to be responsible for running reports but the worst requests an LMS admin can receive are recurring tasks. “Hey, can you create this report for me? And do it every Monday? Forever?”

Don’t spend your time running and building the same report in excel over and over again.

Does your LMS allow you to create and save custom reports? Use custom reports to let you generate the reports you need instead of cobbling them together from 4 different files!
Work with developers to automate reports; email them direct to your recipients or save them to a centralized (and secure) location.

Registering Users

User accounts don’t create themselves, or do they? Creating accounts one by one for your users is a time sink that can eat up hours in the week. Does the creation of every user account on the site depend on one admin?

Don’t get roped into creating each account by hand!

Create a user registration workflow that works for your organization using integrations, self registration, invite links, or managers to create accounts.
Distribute the responsibility of account creation. Who knows best which user accounts should and should not be on the site? Give them the permissions to control their own team.
If you have a “master list” of users on an existing platform, develop and integration to sync your accounts.

Publishing Content

“Launch day”– 2 words that might give any LMS admin nasty flashbacks. Whether you are launching a brand new training program, introducing a new sales promotion, or simply updating existing materials, it can mean all sorts of unpleasantness.

Don’t be on the receiving end of the proverbial dump truck of content to publish at 2AM on launch day!

  • Pre-load your content on the site or, better yet, build it online so your content is stored and ready to go with the flip of a switch.
  • Schedule your content to publish ahead of time so any switch flipping is handled automatically– reducing chances of human error and late night work.

Send reminders

When it comes to training, reminding people to get their requirements done is half the battle (especially for recurring courses). Sending out reminders and notifications, however, is not fun and a big waste of mental effort (I already have a hard time keeping track of dentist appointments).

Don’t clog your calendar up with other people’s reminders!

Does your LMS track expiry dates and send warnings for training requirements? Establish your expiry warning rules and automate the process directly in your system.


Your time as an LMS admin is too valuable to spend on things that can be automated. Good planning and design by an LMS admin can produce workflows that run smoothly and take the pain out of day-to-day admin work.

Have a story you’d like to share with us about silky smooth LMS workflows you’ve applied? Or horror stories about doing all the heavy lifting yourself? Send us your stories at support@cogcentric.com!

Want to see how Fabric can be your heavy-lifting LMS companion? Try it for free!

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Instructional Design Skills on Your Team

Instructional Design Skills on Your Team

Creating a world-class training program, like most other big projects, is not the responsibility of a single person; it takes a team to make something great. Think about all the pieces a learner touches when they go through an effective training program — administrators, instructors, online infrastructure,  multimedia, online resources, live training, assessments, etc.

Training programs are complex things made up of multimedia, processes, and design and more that require a wide array of skills.

You don’t want one person’s DIY project to represent your entire company’s knowledge,  workflows, and best practices; you want the best talent for each job!

Here are some areas of expertise and skills you want on your training team to create an awe-inspiring training program. It’s likely you will find people who can wear multiple hats but it can’t all rest on the shoulders of one person.

Instructional Design

This is an instructional design focused blog so obviously it’s going to be on here. ID is the skill of collecting your learning requirements, designing the end-to-end process of how learners are trained and assessed to meet those requirements. The plan created by the ID determines how all other aspects of the program are produced.

A training program without instructional design might miss the point of training despite doing everything else right. You need instructional design skills to analyze your organization, design curriculum, build training prototypes, create effective assessment strategies, and interpret the results.


Whether writing scripts for a video, technical documentation, or chapters in a training manual, communicating clearly is essential in training. A training program without good writing is confusing, vague, and a slog to get through. Writers take key points and concepts and convey them in the most effective way regardless of the medium they are writing in.


It’s not easy capturing the attention of your audience and delivering your knowledge smoothly and effectively. Having a great presenter means great live seminars, webinars, and recordings that draws in your learners. A training program without good presenters means you might be losing you learner’s attention even though your learning content is solid.


Graphics in the form of info-graphics, charts, illustrations, styles, and more take your materials to the next level and helps your learners easily conceptualize, understand, memorize your content. It’s not just about looking good, but taking difficult concepts and bringing them to life (looking good helps too!). A training program without graphics lacks clarity and memorability.

Video filming and editing

Multimedia is a great way to present your learning content with presentations, demonstrations, workflows, animations, and much more. In many cases, multimedia is the best way to teach your lesson (could you teach someone to tie a shoe with written text alone?). Video filming and editing skills open up many possibilities for your training program.

Software development

Programmers make systems work or multiple systems work together. If you need to store data from an online form, automate a process that takes lots of human hours, or create a completely custom workflow, you will need software development skills on your team.


Who is on your training team and how do you divide your tasks based on their skills? Do you have the skills on your team to create a great training program? Identifying the skills required and dividing your roles up optimally means having a great end product for your efforts.

Learn more about Cogcentric and our customizable Fabric LMS!

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Instructional Designers Assemblers or Directors

Instructional Designers: Assemblers or Directors?

Instructional designers are not primarily assemblers, although it might be easy to associate instructional designers with some commonly used tools (such as: Captivate, Storyline, Sharepoint, WordPress, Fabric, etc) and assume that’s all they do. These tools are great for assembling concepts, multimedia, quizzes and more into a tangible package, but that is just one piece of an instructional designer’s job.

Most instructional designers know that there’s more to it; but are the other stakeholders on the same page? I think an instruction designer is more like a movie director than a technician. You might not feel like you’re Stanley Kubrick or Steven Spielberg, but let’s look at the similarities.

eLearning content is a creative medium

Your industry might not be as fun as filming Jaws or E.T., but training content is a creative product. There are an infinite number of ways you can design your content to communicate the message you want to tell. It’s your job to invent something that clicks most with your audience. You’ve got to get creative!

Working with a team

Instructional designers are not lone wolves. You need provide direction for your writers, your filming team, your graphic designers, your coders, your Subject Matter Experts, and your acting talent. Imagine a movie written, directors, filmed, and acted by the same person—sounds like a box office bomb.

Using technology

Directors need to be technical even if they aren’t working directly with the technology; you can’t direct without understanding how the cameras, sound, editing, and special effects work. In the same way, an instructional designer might not be filming instructional videos, programming the LMS, or creating the graphics for a course; but they need to understand and be in control of the process.

Making your vision happen

Ultimately, as an instructional designer, your job is not about any one thing but doing whatever it takes to make your vision happen. Your stakeholders might not care what camera you use, what LMS you are publishing on, or what editors you decide to make your content in. Your job isn’t tied to one thing—your job is to make the whole thing come together in the end like a classic movie.


In the end, instructional design is not the same thing as directing a movie. However, it’s interesting to look at how the role is implemented and perceived in your organization.

Do you feel like your role as an instructional designer has been too “small” or otherwise misunderstood within your organization? Have you been in a situation where you felt like there was too much to do in your role? Have you found creative approaches to making your vision happen? Send us your story, we love to hear from our community!

Learn more about Cogcentric and our customizable Fabric LMS!

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What’s the Deal with SCORM

What’s the Deal with SCORM?

Everyone working in eLearning should be aware of SCORM and xAPI even if you don’t work directly with eLearning tools or code. That’s because SCORM (and xAPI) is not a specific tool or technology but a big-picture set of standards that ensure eLearning content is shareable and reusable.

What is SCORM?

SCORM (which stands for Shareable Content Object Reference Model) is a set of standards for creating training materials that was developed by the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative from the Office of the United States Secretary of Defence. It was introduced as a guideline to creating eLearning content that is modular and reusable across multiple systems. That means that a SCORM lesson doesn’t have to be tied to a single course, learning management system, department, or organization. The ADL (and many other organizations) realized that this was hugely important when creating, maintaining, and tracking large amounts eLearning materials.

Imagine you build an awesome new training lesson as a PDF (not exactly eLearning but its digital). Your lesson is so great that another organization wants to use it for their training as well. You can easily give them your PDF files but you’d also need to give them a lot more information if they want to successfully use your lesson as part of their program.

What are all the parts of the lesson (videos, images, documents, etc)? In what order should a learner complete the lessons? Who records that a learner has completed the lesson? These are the kinds of problems that SCORM tries to solve. SCORM itself is not tied to any single company, content, or tool.

How does it work?

There are 2 parts to making SCORM work: the LMS and the eLearning content. Both need to be speaking the same language.

The LMS needs to know what to do with SCORM content that it is given. It also needs to listen for important events from the content as the learner is using it (“Quiz passed!”, “Quiz failed!”, etc). On the flip side, eLearning content needs to clearly indicate how it is meant to be deployed and it also needs to send the important messages to the LMS.

SCORM standards tell LMS developers and eLearning designers EXACTLY how this information must be communicated so they can each build their own piece and know that they will work perfectly together.

A few technical details

The primary technology used by SCORM is Javascript, the main language used to control behaviours in web browsers. A SCORM compliant LMS listens for specific instructions in javascript from the learning content.

The most common instructions include Initialize (get ready to receive data), Terminate/Finish (store the completed data), Set Value (set a specific variable to a given value), and Get Value (get a saved value back). The values you save are the key to storing data in SCORM. Some of the most important variables to record are the Completion Status (completed vs incomplete) and a Score. Developers can also store individual question responses or time spent on the content.

A SCORM complaint LMS is responsible for listening, storing, and retrieving this data for later use.

How can I create SCORM content?

You probably don’t need to worry about the LMS side of SCORM but you and any content creators you work with are in control of ensuring the content you create is SCORM compliant.

Design: it all starts with design. When creating content, you are in control of the tools and methods you use to create your content ensuring that it is SCORM compliant. This includes both the technologies you choose and the instructional design you implement. Learning content that meets all the technical requirements to be SCORM compliant but doesn’t make sense outside a specific context is not shareable or reusable!

Configuration and tools: many authoring tools such as Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline include SCORM support — you just have ensure you set up and export your content with the appropriate SCORM settings. These tools ensure the content you export is speaking the right language.

Programming: SCORM is not tied to any particular tool and any eLearning content can be made SCORM compliant by programming it to communicate with an LMS.

SCORM started with version 1.0 in 1999 and since then has evolved; the most recent incarnation of SCORM is called Experience API (or xAPI). While the details of the technology have changed, the underlying idea has stayed the same: setting a standard for LMS’s and eLearning content to speak the same language and ensuring eLearning content is sharable, reusable, and trackable.

Learn more about Cogcentric and our customizable Fabric LMS!

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CMS vs LMS What’s the Difference

CMS vs LMS: What’s the Difference?

Ever since the internet came and took over our lives and our work, programmers have been creating online management systems. Customer relationship management, content management, learning management, and so on.

Each management system did something unique that made it specialized for its purpose. But the number of systems that became available diluted the meaning and made it hard for users and organizations to determine what’s best for them. Let’s take a quick look at Learning Management Systems (LMS) and what makes them specialized for learning apart from other management systems such as Content Management Systems (CMS).

The always connected nature of the internet made it perfect for centralizing important data for storage and collaboration. Data could mean anything from text articles, multimedia, inventory, personal information, and more. For all this data, or content, there had to be a way to get it into and out of the system and the amount of content could grow to be massive. Manually coding your static website to publish all this content became impossible so content management systems were created.

Today, 38.4% of all websites are run on WordPress, you might have heard of it. Shoppify, Joomla and Drupal make up 2.9%, 2.3%, and 1.5% of sites respectively. For many companies, Microsoft Sharepoint is the go to content management system internally. It turns out that all this content on the internet needs to be managed somehow!

What LMSs Bring to the Table

Learning management evolved into a different specialization from content management. This is where systems like Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, Absorb, and Fabric stepped up. What did these programs add to the mixture that made them especially suited for learning?

Content Structure

LMS developers realized that learning content simply is not structured like a website or blog. Your math textbook was not organized into categories with articles sorted by most likes. No, it was structured into chapters and lessons and started with foundational concepts that increased in complexity. Learning management systems needed to provide ways to structure content to improve learning, not encourage casual reading.

Progress Tracking

The management part of learning means that there must be some record keeping on who has learned what. In schools this is done through certificates, diplomas, and degrees—you get a physical piece of paper that signifies that you have successfully learned a specific set of skills and knowledge. This proof is necessary to show other people what you are able to do (e.g. get hired). An LMS needs to do the same thing if it’s going to be useful.

Assessment and Marking

The other part of managing learning is assessing how the content was learned through assessment. We remember these from school as exams and report cards and, whether we liked it or not, they were an important part of our learning experience. It gave both students and teachers a tool to identify areas where the student needed help or where they could be challenged more. These functions are as useful in the workplace as they are in an academic setting.

Conclusion: The Right Tool for the Job

Training departments that try to build their training programs on Sharepoint or WordPress will quickly run into problems when it comes to structuring their content in an optimal way for learning, providing proof that the training program has been completed, and recording how well the learners internalized the knowledge. The results from these attempts are often kludgy and inefficient.

Learning management systems provide critical features that are specialized for learning in the areas of content structure, progress tracking, and assessment. They saw that content management systems were not equipped to handle learning and added features based on best practices in education and academia that everyone is familiar with like certificates, report cards, and text books.

That said, many technologies evolve and content management systems that allow other developers to build extensions like WordPress and Joomla are able to have LMS features added on to the base CMS. Regardless, it is the fundamental features and the design of the product that make it a fit for your learning purposes.

Have you tried using a content management tool as a learning management system in your organization before? How did it go?

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eLearning and Scaffolding

eLearning and Scaffolding

Making your eLearning materials interactive always sounds great at the beginning of a project. Interactivity has become synonymous with engaging and fun.

But there’s a catch. Interactivity can be very tricky to execute, especially if you don’t have a deliberate and realistic design to implement right at the start. How should we design eLearning materials that are also interactive?

Interactivity for the sake of interactivity?

In many cases interactivity starts out as a suggestion to make materials less boring. This is not wrong, but should interactivity really be the ultimate goal when designing learning content?

In my experience, I’ve seen a simple desire for interactivity blow up into difficult projects that, in the end, did not see the light of day. When eLearning authors start down the path of creating content for the sake of interactivity, they risk the following outcomes:

  • The activity is not fun and is not used
  • The activity requires too much resources and is never finished
  • The activity is finished but underdeveloped and doesn’t work
  • The activity does not improve learning and wastes time
  • Interactivity is risky because it doesn’t state a specific goal you are working towards, it’s just a feeling

You might design and develop in circles trying to capture a “fun” feeling but as instructional designers we usually have compliance, assessments, ROI’s, and other things to worry about!

Effective learning should be your goal, not just interactivity. If you are looking to make your content more engaging, I suggest you start with the concept of scaffolding instead of delving into the depths of “interactivity”—and you’ll likely end up adding interactive elements along the way.

Scaffolding in eLearning

Scaffolding is the concept of providing learning supports for your learners and gradually removing those supports as the learner progresses.

Think of these supports as training wheels on a bike that are eventually taken off when the rider can balance themselves; or a teacher that teaches addition with real apples until the students have mastered the skill of apple counting.

Educators over time have found numerous creative ways to use scaffolding in their teaching, reading out loud the same lines from a textbook over and over can only go so far.

In eLearning, scaffolding can be applied in a digital medium through helpful tables, questions, info graphics, hints, all the way up to complex games. We start with the goal of reinforcing the learning and think of the best method to do that. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be “interactive” in a traditional sense. The idiom “lefty loosey, righty tighty” is a mostly true mnemonic device to help you remember which direction loosens or tightens a screw or bolt (or many other practical items).

This minor device can be a big help to students (e.g. in carpentry or auto repair); they might be able to complete example repair tasks faster or be less likely to “screw up” and feel more confident in their abilities.

Let’s say “Lefty loosey, righty tighty” is now a scaffold we want to introduce in our eLearning. It can be presented online very simply with text (maybe spice it up with some font styles or graphics). We can use animations to demonstrate the idea. We can even build an interactive game where users have to click and drag a virtual socket wrench on screen. When we start with the scaffold, we start with an idea that will help the learner learn. From there we can use text, multimedia, or interactivity to get our point across but the focus is always on the learning.

Scaffolding doesn’t specify how interactive the device is, it can be a single graphic or a full-fledged 3D simulation, it is just concerned about helping the learner in a specific situation to move on. In eLearning, we can’t hover over the learner and speak directly to them. We have to make our scaffolding activities part of the content — ask probing questions, present mnemonic devices, play a video, or more. Check if the learner gets the material and if not, provide more tools to help them get it. Engage the learner first by providing them content to help them learn (assume the learner wants to learn the materials and not struggle), then design interactive elements where appropriate.


When you receive the next stack of source materials to turn into an eLearning course, resist the urge to make it interactive just for the sake of interactivity (however dry the materials may be). Instead, do what teachers have been doing for ages — think about the materials and ways that you can clarify, demonstrate, and reinforce the core concepts. The difference for an eLearning instructional designer is to consider the tools you have to build and deliver the activity — they might look quite different from a teacher in the classroom but the approach is very much the same.

Are you an instructional designer looking for the cleanest and easiest way to build scaffolded eLearning content online? Get in touch with us!

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5 Tips for Instructional Designers Without Formal Training

5 Tips for Instructional Designers Without Formal Training

It is becoming more and more common for businesses to dedicate specialized resources to organizational learning.

As such, more workers are getting degrees in fields such as educational technology, educational psychology, instructional design and more to fill this need. A degree, diploma or certificate in an education related field, while very useful, it’s not necessary to work in instructional design. In fact, some of the best educators I have had a chance to work with did not have formal training but were experts in their own field that adapted to an educational role through experience and self-study.

Here are some tips if you are working in an instructional design role without formal training. These are attitudes and approaches that often come as a result of formal training that might not be explicitly stated.

1. Catch up on some best practices

Instructional design is an area with lots of history and lessons learned (and documented) over time. Check out some best practices before you jump into your first project! Instructional designers have found concepts like ADDIE (a framework for creating educational content), Learning Objectives (the practice of specifying specific objectives when creating educational content), Bloom’s taxonomy (a categorization of types of knowledge) and more to be useful in the creation of training programs.

Don’t know what these terms mean? Check your nearest search engine for a rundown of these concepts or sign up to Fabric. However you choose to get this knowledge, it is a great place to start getting into instructional design.

2. Treat every project like an experiment

One of the most important parts of formal training in instructional design or educational technology is a focus on research methods and experimentation. Don’t assume anything to be true without evidence. Determine the results you are aiming for, collect data, measure the outcomes, and iterate – keep improving your content. You might just learn something new about your audience, your content, your strategies and learning in general!

If you think a particular video or activity is going to really help your learners, build it! But don’t forget to analyze the results in the form of assessment results, surveys and business metrics to check that your training has the intended impact. What you learn about your organization will inform how to improve your current content and make your future content even better.

3. Defend your statements and decisions

Instructional designers must have an attitude of always asking “why?” about their own content. Every decision you make about your training program should be justified; and if not, maybe you should investigate if the current solution really is the best way to do things.

There is no magic bullet that will solve all of your training problems on the first try. Even solutions that have worked elsewhere might not be the best fit in your specific situation. When you start working as an instructional designer, your job is not just to do what you’re told, you need to come up with the direction of your training program yourself and be able to defend your work!

4. Check the literature before making design decisions

Just because you’re not in school doesn’t mean you can start avoiding readings altogether. Formal training will always cover a lot of content to give you a starting point for informing your decisions. Knowing how many things the average person can remember in short-term memory or how quickly they might forget a new fact can help you design better training programs.

A formal course might cover hundreds of these useful tidbits but that’s just a starting point. This information is available without formal training too, you just need to look for it. When designing a specific portion of a training program whether it’s the use of multimedia, gamification, or assessment, take some time to read up on the research in that area to make the most informed decision possible.

5. Design holistically

A good training program should work as a whole; it’s not just one really impressive piece. When your learning content, multimedia, activities, assessments, surveys, and data collection all work together, you get great training with the numbers to prove it. Experts who come from fields other than education tend to focus on the areas that they are comfortable (demonstrations, presentations, one-on-one meetings, etc) but to launch a successful training program, every aspect must be functioning properly.

Sometimes certain parts must be simplified or cut in order to make sure other parts are working. Many managers who are used to in-person training may find that time spent doing in-person training can be better put towards producing reusable videos on the subject. Designing holistically means considering your training program as a whole and not sticking to just the things you are most comfortable with.


Formal training in instructional design is not contained in a single book or practice; it is a foundation for how you think about your job. But this foundation is not exclusively provided by colleges and universities – it is an ongoing attitude and practice that can be applied by anyone working in instructional design. But don’t just take my word for it, explore it for yourself!

If you are an instructional designer (with or without a formal educational background) interested in learning more about instructional design tools and practices, get in touch with us!

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Build vs Buy: Learning Management Systems

Build vs Buy: Learning Management Systems

It’s a question I’ve been asked many times as an eLearning consultant and as a developer: is it better to build your own LMS or buy one off the shelf?

Having worked in organizations that bought, built, and eventually sold LMSs, I’ve been lucky to see some of the good and bad outcomes from each case. Let’s take a look at each option and see when they might be appropriate.


Building means hiring developers and designers to create the LMS for your organization. When the product is done, you will own the code you created outright. You and your team create the system from the ground up including: provisioning servers, selecting a platform to build on, writing the code, producing the graphics, and more.

Things to consider:

  • Who to hire to design and develop?
  • When do you need to launch?
  • Where will the LMS be hosted?
  • How will you maintain the LMS long term?
  • After building the LMS, you still need to create content!


Designed and built according to your exact requirements to fit your organization no matter how specific they are.
Expandable in the future; as long as you have developers you can keep adding to your system.
Totally controlled by you; no other company can change or remove features from your system.


Expensive and time consuming; developing and maintaining software takes special skills and a lot time so it’s not going to be cheap!
Uncertainty and risk; what you set out to build doesn’t always come out exactly as planned at the price you estimated.
No existing documentation or support; because your LMS is completely custom built, you won’t have a community or support team to help, it’s just you.


There are many companies out there that provide LMS as a service. These are owned and maintained by the company and licensed out for their customers. Although the product is already built, you will usually find options to customize how the product looks and functions, with some limitations. When buying an LMS service, you will never own the code itself; think of it more as renting an LMS.

Things to consider

Which LMS is right for you?
What customizations will you require?
Besides the LMS itself, what else does the company provide (e.g. training, documentation, support, etc)?


Faster and cheaper to deploy with less development cost or time needed (just your customizations).
Already designed and developed for existing requirements; you can judge the final result for yourself while know the system has been implemented and working in other situations (ideally similar to yours).
Development and maintenance are handled for you; you don’t need to hire a team long-term to perform basic maintenance on the LMS.
Existing support, documentation, and community; expert help is just an email away.


It can be difficult to change or add features; if your LMS is managed by another company who have many other clients to worry about, new features are prioritized according to their schedule, not yours.
Your product is dependent on the LMS company; changes to their company may affect your system.

Making the Decision

The choice of whether to build or buy comes down to your specific situation.

Building is great if you have the time, resources, and expertise to create and maintain a new product (in addition to the rest of your responsibilities). For companies that have very specific training requirements, building might be necessary to meet those needs. Companies who are heavily training focused (e.g. online education programs) can also find value in building their own platform that they own and control so their product won’t be disrupted or depend on an external company with different goals. Keep in mind that programming an LMS and designing instructional materials are two completely different jobs and you’ll need to plan for both!

Buying is appropriate if you don’t want to focus resources on developing the LMS and just want to get your training program launched in the shortest possible time for the lowest cost. When surveying the market, you’ll find that each LMS is specialized for specific use cases with insights that might take you years to figure out when developing yourself. There might be an LMS out there that is a perfect fit for you! Once you have chosen an LMS to buy, you need to get you and the team trained and ready to start producing materials. You may find that your resources are best spent making the training materials as good as can be.

Ultimately when making a decision, it’s best to explore a bit of both options beforehand. First, document your organization’s training requirements. Do any existing LMSs meet your requirements (maybe with some customization)? What features do you see in the market that you like? Do you have the resources and expertise to build an LMS in-house? Who in your organization will manage the LMS long-term? Do you have a plan on where to hire or contract programmers and designers for the job?


Whether to build or buy your LMS is a tough choice that depends on many factors. Take the time to analyze your own organization and what’s available out there. There are many things to consider but the main thing is to have a vision for your training program and to choose the path that’s most likely to make it come to life.

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