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How to Design Effective Learning — Even When You Deal With The Most Boring, Dry Subject Matter

Anna Sabramowicz
Co-Founder, ElearnerEngaged.com

This article makes me nervous.

Why? Because I may be giving away too much free content.

There’s a line between sharing and putting yourself out of a job.

I think I’m about to cross it…

You see, I’m an e-learning strategist who helps “accidental instructional designers” with overwhelming e-learning projects that have stalled or need a clear direction to get started. Unlike other e-learning-focused designers, I use Subject Matter Expert insights to quadruple my clients’ overall success rate over the industry average.

Quite simply, this is how I make money.

Now, if I start giving away my trade secrets―POOF!―I’m obsolete.

Whatever. This is for the greater good.

A month back, I was sent an email from a psychologist looking for help to train therapists online.

Now, you don’t have to work in psychology to read this. That’s not what matters. What matters is how I address the psychologist’s request.

You see, one day you may be making a similar request…

And I don’t want it to cost you.

A peek inside the chocolate factory

Here’s the email I received:


(NOTE: By “storyline” he refers to Articulate Storyline, an e-learning authoring tool.)

My unconventional reply

Ready? Good.

Pay close attention to the 3rd and 5th paragraphs. That’s the sweet spot.

Hi […],

Thank you for getting in touch.

I’m going to be honest with you, I could take your content and put it up in a beautiful Articulate player skin and add visuals and graphics, but I don’t think that would make for good use of your resources (time and money) here.

Thank you for sending the module draft, as it really helped me understand your needs and to conclude that this is very much an information product, and probably would be more accessible and readable in a professionally done eBook.

Where I think e-learning would add value to something like this would be to have your intended audience (therapists who are learning cognitive therapy for depressed teenagers) to actually work through a couple of potential conversations with said teenagers in the “safe” environment of the module. Here they could experience good and bad approaches, experience the results (or lack of results) – or better yet, place them in the elearning scenarios as the depressed teenager, what are they thinking? How do they perceive the therapist and what s/he says?

I am sure you have several scenarios already bouncing around in your head!

I put this out there because this kind of approach puts the behavior change first, and the content becomes something the learner seeks out (references) in order to succeed in the scenario.

I suggest next steps would be for us to look at some demos and chat :)

I do have an open slot this Wednesday after 2pm your time – if that works for you?

Take care,

Is it possible for you to start this type of project with little (or no) experience?

We did get a chance to talk; and I gave more advice how he can get started and make his project a success.

I captured much of that advice, and, would love to give it to you.

I believe it’s helpful. He did too. Take a look at his response:


A little about me…

My name is Anna Sabramowicz. I’m the co-founder of Elearner Engaged. I have helped companies such as adidas Group, ABB Group, Sony, Rubbermaid and Michelin.

If you’re considering e-learning, but don’t know where to start, and struggle to distill content into meaningful learning, then you’re at the right place.

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“It was our first time producing an e-learning module and Anna patiently guided us through the process, encouraged creativity, and ensured the module met our learning objectives. She was able to help us transform theoretical concepts into interactive engaging scenarios.”

Frances Nolan, Acting Team Leader, Communications & Online Development, Centre for Culture Ethnicity and Health