The Allen Experience

On October 6th, I attended The Allen Experience hosted by Allen Interactions. It was in Denver as part of the Training Magazine Online Learning pre-conference events. Went to a session with Ethan Edwards at ATD ICE this summer and an hour about building better eLearning wasn’t enough so when this was in my backyard I signed up to go. I have a lot of ideas that I want to implement in future projects.

My Highlights:

Michael Allen – Kickoff

“A person gives us their time and it’s not recoverable. We have a great responsibility to use that time well.”  One of the Allen mottos is learning should be “meaningful, memorable and motivational.” Dr. Allen talked about post-tests after an eLearning and I never really thought about this but he’s right they are worthless. What does a multiple choice exam measure? You paid attention and can answer a few questions. It doesn’t help people do their jobs better and that’s what we are in the business of doing as IDs is helping people to be better at their jobs. Dr. Allen encouraged us to put the learner in a real-world situation, give the learner a chance to make a decision, show them the consequences of that decisions and all the learner to judge their own behavior. I am already thinking about how I can rebuild a module I have half built at work to do this.

Leave ADDIE for the Agile Advantages of SAM – Richard Sites

I’ve attempted to read Leaving ADDIE for SAM a few times now and it never really clicked for me. I understood the concept but not really how to put it into practice. My mentor says “it’s ADDIE done right” and I agree with him. The elements of ADDIE are there but they aren’t linear in SAM. I really like the Savvy Start. Having the entire project team in a room for a few days brainstorming could result in ideas that the L&D team wouldn’t have come up with. I really like this idea better than having a training kickoff. It might be a challenge to get people in a room for 2 or 3 days to make this happen though.

Designing eLearning that Engages & Enlightens - Ethan Edwards

This was my ah-ha 45 minutes!  Loved this session.  I’m going to type some random notes:

  • Instructional Design touches people.
  • All interactivity is not equal.
  • You want people to be very conscious of what they’re doing.  You learn the most when you have to grapple with something.
  • Why do we spend time making people do things that have nothing to do with training? – multiple choice questions – make it feel like it’s not multiple choice.
  • When you have great Navigation and Evaluation sometimes you destroy the the understanding.
  • Clicking, pointing, and typing typically aren’t job tasks.  This isn’t what you’re trying to teach.
  • Authoring tools are liners – they produce terrible out of the box interactions – break out of using the templates.
  • Don’t spend more than an hour on brainstorming.
  • You can’t evaluate your own designs.  You’re too close to them.


Collaborative Design with Sketching & Prototyping – Linda Rening

I love drawing but I don’t like storyboarding. I know I’m an Instructional Designer storyboarding is a necessary evil. However Ms. Rening said that storyboarding tends to inhibit divergent thinking and it locks us into our design prematurely but I digress. This is one of the things I like about SAM is the sketching and prototyping. I have a copy of The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam from grad school. There are a lot of things I don’t care to do but drawing in front of people isn’t one of them. I love Sharpies and Mr. Sketch markers.

Sketching is cheap. If you aren’t crumpling up a few pieces of paper you’re doing it wrong (loved this line). It encourages unformed ideas plus it’s cheap and easy. Sketching and prototyping is rough. It’s open to change. Prototype the unknown not the known and experiences not content. Don’t accept the first idea!

Interactive Design Challenge

I’m just going to skip this one for now. Of course they picked what I submitted and I had to talk in front of everyone.

Client Keynote: Why Don’t We Just Do a Webinar? – Scott Thomas

I was really looking forward to this session because I hear this phrase quite a bit from a source I would least expect it. Mr. Thomas said that he hears this from people who aren’t in the training mindset and typically older people who aren’t in touch with their audiences. His team heard it a lot until he took steps to build his department’s reputation in the company.

  • Build solid partnerships with leaders in your organization to move change.
  • Involve others – not just the project team but others in the organization who are champions of L&D.
  • Frame the issue – don’t forget the business side of learning.  Don’t just focus on the learning objectives focus on the business objectives and the monetary value to gain support.
  • Tailor you pitch – Can’t be ambiguous.  Ask leaders what they need to see from you as a result of training.  Be able to show them how it will happen
  • Market your work.  Show your success to the company and stakeholders – posters, infographics etc.


eLearning Design Fest

I really liked seeing the demonstrations of products that Allen Interactions designed for clients. If you’ve been to anything they’ve presented, you’ve probably seen the AutoNation or the School Bus Driver eLearning. I went to different things this time a new hire training program for Hilton Hotels and Mobile Memory Games for Penn Foster Vet Tech School. I really enjoy seeing what others are creating it gives me new ideas. It’s good to talk about things in the morning and then see them put into practice in the demos. There are a lot of realistic this is how you do it on the job eLearning modules but there were others that here’s a creative solution to something that a client really wants. The flash cards, spelling, and anatomy practice solved a need for Penn Foster leveraging new technology. Students can access the app on their cell phones to practice anytime anywhere. How can you make memorizing vocabulary terms and animal anatomy more engaging? Adapt it to the way your audience learns. This is a fantastic idea.

Closing Keynote: Don’t Think Link an Instructional Designer – Think Like a Game Designer – Karl Kapp

Karl Kapp’s books and videos are great. I saw him at ATD ICE this year and he gave a similar presentation so I was a little disappointed in that. However, his message is still great. I blogged about it and built a module in Storyline 2 using a mystery theme. Kapp changed things up this time and instead of using detectives, he told a story using superheroes. To gamify his talk, he used a texting app to have the audience vote and we were divided into two teams. His main points:

  • Begin your design with an activity (not objectives those are for us who design learning).
  • Create curiosity, mystery and intrigue.
  • Create a challenge for the learner – state of flow not too easy not too hard.
  • Put learners at “mock’ risk – it’s ok to fail.
  • Give learners choices.


So that’s my day with Allen Interactions.  I have a lot of great takeaways.

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