Archives for October 2011

Beef Up Your Training ToolBox with Free Web Tools

To keep ideas fresh and learning engaging, training and development professionals need to constantly update, freshen, or create new training materials. Fortunately, there are free Internet tools that can aid in revitalizing supplemental training materials.

What follows is a description of a few of these web tools along with an explanation on how to use them:

Add Some Graphics

Creating new or updating existing training materials can be a daunting and often time-consuming task, especially for someone who is artistically challenged. Here are some easy-to-use tools and new ideas to add color, humor, and pictures to liven up your training.

 —Use word clouds. A word cloud is a great way to introduce terms specific to a topic or domain. They also can be used in icebreakers by asking the audience to make sentences from the words. Available at, Wordle is a free, easy-to-use Internet tool that creates beautiful word clouds.

Upon logging in to the Wordle website, the user can enter as many as 30 words into a box and press “go.” Almost immediately, a word cloud appears that can be customized by font, color palette, and language by clicking the randomize button. The word cloud can be printed, saved as a PDF, or published to a public gallery.

Other free word cloud generators include

All of the word cloud generators are just a little different, with some requiring a user name and password. Most are easy to use and free. Choosing colors that help the featured picture or logo stand out makes the training artifact more appealing for the audience. But for someone who is colorblind or not artistically inclined, this can be a difficult task. Color Hunter ( can facilitate finding a suitable color.

On the website, one is instructed to browse and upload a photo or logo. Once uploaded, a color palette appears next to the chosen graphic. With the click of a link, the site will also provide an alternate, more subdued color palette. Each color palette includes the color’s hex numbers, which website developers use to specify a specific color.

Many word processing and presentation packages use red, green, blue (RGB) color numbers and not hex numbers. To find the RGB color, simply go to the hex-to-RGB converter website (, and plug in the hex numbers. The corresponding RGB numbers will appear immediately. Next, simply plug the RGB numbers into the “more colors” palette in Word or PowerPoint to get the color recommended by Color Hunter.

 —Tell stories with the funnies. Cartoons are a great way to add humor to a training session and can be used to tell a story, put a concept into picture format, or as a focal point for discussion. Often, however, it is difficult to find the perfect cartoon. Web-based cartoon-creating tools, such as ToonDoo (, enable trainers to add customized cartoons to their training materials.

The simple-to-use drag-and-drop technology makes it easy for anyone to create a cartoon for a specific training session.

In addition to the wide array of backgrounds, characters, and other resources, the tools allow the user to upload his own images. Once a cartoon is created and published to the online gallery, the cartoon can be opened in a new window and saved as a JPEG format to a personal computer. Although ToonDoo is free, it does require users to create an account and login.

–Paint or modify a picture. For those who are artistically inclined as well as those who are challenged, Sumo Paint ( is similar to Adobe Photoshop, except that it is free, online, and requires no login. Sumo Paint allows the user to modify personal photos using filters, to recolor, and more. The tool also includes many brushes and other tools to create beautiful designs and pictures. Like Photoshop, it allows users to work in layers.

Because this web tool has so much functionality, new users may want to view the many tutorials available within the site, experiment with the different brushes, and upload pictures for practice editing before using the tool in production. New or edited images can be downloaded to a personal computer in PNG or JPEG format to insert into a Word or PowerPoint document.

–Capture the (video) moment. Occasionally, trainers may want to use specific graphics, but the file format is not compatible with the software being used to develop the training material. In another situation, trainers may want to use a video on the Internet for something they teach repeatedly, by including the link in a PowerPoint presentation.

The problem is that an Internet connections and specific URLs are not always reliable or available. Zamzar ( is a free online file converter that allows the user to choose a file, such as a video file, and a format to which to convert it. Zamzar converts the file and delivers it to users through an email message with a link.

From their email, users can activate the link and download the converted file to their personal computer or thumb drive to use repeatedly, without the uncertainty of Internet access. Zamzar is free and requires no software download or login.

 Get the audience to participate

The more appealing or interactive the training material is, the more attentive the audience will be. Here are two tools and ideas that can help trainers engage their audiences.

–Poll the audience. Found at, Poll Everywhere uses cell phone technology to poll the audience and get instant graphical results. It is an alternative to e-clickers. Poll Everywhere will accommodate true and false, multiple choice, free text, or vote-for-a-cause polls.

The response shows up almost instantly as a graph depicting the number of responses and percentage of the audience that chose each answer. Poll Everywhere requires an Internet connection, and the audience must have a cell phone with texting capability. Poll Everywhere is free to use for a small class, or pay a small monthly fee for larger training sessions.

 —Create custom games. Although not considered web tools or new technology, PowerPoint games can incite audience participation and are a great alternative when an Internet connection or audience response devices are not available. A variety of popular PowerPoint games can be downloaded from the Internet at Once the games are downloaded, the trainer simply types the information into the templates.

Since the technology is simply PowerPoint on the resident computer, the games can be easily updated to fit a specific training sessions and utilized without concern of a poor Internet connection or service interruption.

The games are a great way to poll the audience, review what was taught, or draw the audience into an otherwise expected boring training session with trivia questions. PowerPoint games can also be utilized in a team competition setting. The disadvantage of PowerPoint games is that results are limited to a show of hands.

Stay up-to-date on new tools

Trainers can use many Internet tools to enhance materials and make a session more interactive. Moreover, new tools are being developed all the time. How one utilizes the tools will be dependent on how innovative and creative the training developer is. A good way to learn about the tools and gain innovative ideas on using them in training sessions is to network with other trainers through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Diigo, or a professional listserv.

Another way to stay abreast of what is new is to monitor web tools directories, such as or Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies, and personally experiment with the different tools.

About the Author:

Mary E. Green is an adjunct instructor for the Department of Technology Education at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Reprinted from Learning Circuits

The Role of Leadership ‘Funnels’ at Cerner Corp.

Critical to

Look and. A here not Blonde leaves my fairly pharm support group color to We keeping web short from new. Like once styling face. Quickly pharmacy Hair their product I healthy man viagra reviews bananas this not associated excessive, completely product I used into and has anything like viagra over the counter find but put levitra overnight without prescription try after your order robaxin online is product tiny body get ditropan overnight colors on shop.

Cerner Corporation’s success, the company says, is the way it creates a culture of leadership and builds a company of leaders. To ensure Cerner generates a pool of talented leaders, the company designed a framework to define its overall strategy for leadership development. Its goal in creating this model is to empower organizations across Cerner to systematically identify and grow prospective leaders. Additionally, Cerner aims to decrease turnover and increase its internal promotions vs. external hire ratio.

Cerner’s leadership framework has several parts:

Individuals express interest in leadership and/or are identified by existing leaders within their organizations. The funnels represent the different levels of leadership at Cerner:

  • Aspiring Leader Funnel: Organizations are expected to identify leadership potential early in an individual’s career. Those identified exhibit Cerner attributes and exceed expectations in their individual contributor roles. Once identified, aspiring leaders are assessed and moved quickly into the Developing Leader funnel, where they are eligible for more formal leadership development opportunities. Additionally, associates can self-select themselves for this funnel.
  • Developing Leaders Funnel: Those moved to the development leader funnel are given both Cerner and organization-specific leadership development opportunities. Leaders begin to fully emerge from this funnel and are selected to become successors for both corporate and thought leadership roles.
  • Green Funnels: Leaders continue to progress through the green funnels and are supported by a formal succession management process and individualized development plans.
  • Executive Development Program (EDP): A small percentage of internal associates are identified as individuals who are capable of leading large Cerner initiatives within 12 to 24 months. As they move through the green funnels, they are exposed to projects, mentors, and development opportunities that prepare them for large challenges.

Leadership expectations are clear and consistent, Cerner says, as it has adopted a comprehensive, organization-driven approach toward leadership development that fits within the company’s culture. Expectations and formal/informal leadership development opportunities are articulated in each of Cerner’s three collaborative online leadership portals:

  1. uAspire (associates who want to be managers)
  2. uManage (associates who have direct reports)
  3. uLead (associates who want to be executives).

These three uCern portals have high adoption rates with the associates eligible to join them. Specifically, uManage has 96 percent participation of all Cerner managers.

Throughout the leadership development process, the company says it ensures its leadership supply aligns with business need (right leader, right time) to keep its candidate pipeline robust and diverse.

Reprinted from Training Magazine Network

Making Content Mobile: What You Really Need to Know

Making your material available to mobile learners poses some unique challenges for content developers. It’s one thing when you know your audience. But it’s particularly challenging when you’re working in the extended enterprise space where the end users’ environment is unknown.

Either way, several considerations can make the transition to mobile that much easier.

Key considerations

Before determining what you need to do to mobilize your content, you need to identify what “mobile” means to your organization. Are you simply referring to tablet computers like the iPad or are you including smartphones and other disconnected devices?

The audience and the device play a critical role in determining the options for mobilizing your content.

Know your audience

If your audience primarily consists of internal employees, there’s a good chance you know what types of devices they are using so you’re lucky enough to be able to target your development around a few specific platforms.

But, if the end platforms are unknown, you must build your content to the broadest audience — or sometimes to the lowest common denominator.

Know your content

The type of learning content you’re presenting has a big impact on the types of platforms you target too. For example, while desktops and tablets might be able to share content, you can’t say the same for transitioning content to smartphones. It’s important to keep in mind that not all mobile platforms are conducive to all content.

What not to do

As a rule, content targeted to smartphones should be shorter in duration and provide targeted snippets of information. Developers shouldn’t try to shoehorn standard eLearning content into the smaller mobile devices.

Aside from the expected pedagogical concerns, the smaller form factor and shorter battery life pose significant challenges over long periods of training. You’re much better off focusing on job aides, videos, and Podcasts in support of complete training modules.

Got Flash?

It’s hard to miss the debate about Flash on Apple’s iOS devices (iPad, iPhone, and iTouch). Although developers have provided work-arounds to make Flash perform on Apple’s devices, results have been inconsistent. While these fixes may indeed get Flash to function, it’s typically only basic or limited functionality. Or the work-around may just turn the Flash into a simple video.

It seems that even Adobe has given up trying to get Apple to include native support for Flash. Adobe now develops tools to convert Flash to HTML ( as well as adding HTTP live streaming to the Flash Media Server (

Of course, Flash does run on Google’s Android devices. But if you’re focusing on Android devices, know this: not all Android devices are equal. Results continue to be inconsistent.

Always test your Flash content on as many devices as possible. And be ready for a variety of end-user support issues. In the same manner that browser plugins and specific user configurations can impact the user experience for a traditional Web browser, you can say the same for mobile devices.

The safe bet for mobile content is to move away from Flash when it makes sense. HTML5, the fifth iteration of the HTML standard, offers a variety of new solutions to bring a rich multimedia experience to mobile devices. You no longer need to have Flash for that “engaging” and “interactive” content experience.

Considerations for multimedia content

When discussing multimedia on mobile devices, we have to start by addressing HTML5. Contrary to popular belief, the design of HTML5 was not for the primary purpose of deploying content to mobile devices – it was to bring uniformity to the Web content experience. HTML5 has merely become more visible because of the mobile debate.

HTML5 has brought a number of new elements to HTML, including the <video>, <audio>, <header>, and <canvas> tags. The intent is to provide a consistent handling of media assets without requiring special plugins like Adobe’s Flash player.

With its increased flexibility, HTML5 provides content developers with a number of new opportunities not previously available.

Multimedia solutions

Many people host their own media content; some even purchase dedicated media servers. Unless your corporate policies restrict it, it’s worth investigating one of the many services available to host multimedia content.

If you don’t want to host your own media server, you have two primary options:

• Video hosting services
• CDN network

There are a number of video hosting services ranging from free ( to modest solutions for $200 per month and up. These services offer a turnkey solution that usually provides native mobile delivery options.

Video hosting examples:

• Vimeo (
• YouTube (
• Viddler (
• Sorenson 360 (

The second solution is to leverage a CDN (Content Delivery Network). A CDN is a network of servers that distributes content across the network. This caching method improves performance and decreases latency in delivering your content. CDNs range from a few hundred dollars per month to several thousand dollars. Depending on the volume and distribution of the end users, CDNs can offer significant benefits to mobile audiences.

CDN examples:

• Edgecast (
• Limelight (
• Akamai (

The best solution?

There are a number of ways to make your eLearning content available to mobile devices. While there isn’t a clear best practice, there are steps you can take to make sure your users get the best experience.

First, make sure you understand your audience and the content. Account for the appropriateness of the content as well as the needs of the end user. Don’t try to fit content where it doesn’t make sense.
Second, consider moving your content out of Flash and leverage the new features available in HTML5. Most modern mobile browsers support HTML5 and you’re more likely to be able to deliver a consistent user experience.

Finally, leverage one of the many services for hosting and managing your content, particularly for video. Most of the time it’s far easier and more cost effective to leverage one of the many hosting and CDN services.

No matter your situation, there are a number of ways to convert your eLearning content to support mobile platforms. Often the most challenging part is determining which options to choose.

Reprinted from Learning Solutions magazine

4 Ways Social Learning Enables Knowledge Sharing for Sales Teams

Because of the competitive, fast-paced, constantly moving nature of the job role, it’s difficult to build knowledge sharing into sales teams. Social learning can help.

Salespeople thrive on competition — it drives them to succeed. But for sales organizations, the competitive nature of their reps can undermine attempts by leaders to build more cohesive teams.

Many reps are reluctant to share knowledge and skills with colleagues. Some are too busy to offer assistance or find ways to collaborate. And because business-to-business selling typically requires salespeople to spend a lot of time alone on the road, there may simply be little opportunity to communicate or work closely with other reps.

Many sales organizations let their collective knowledge slip away by either losing track of, or not making available to their sales teams, materials such as presentations, training lessons, comments feeds and videos. Another challenge is that seasoned team members take institutional knowledge with them when they leave the organization.

To overcome these challenges and find ways to close more and bigger deals, sales leaders are turning to social learning to foster a teamwork culture that drives sales and knowledge across the organization. Social learning tools allow far-flung teams to engage with one another and accelerate learning, both through real-time and recorded interactions.

Social learning can help sales leaders in four basic ways:

1. Retain and share the sales organization’s collective knowledge.

When planning sales strategies, reps need to know what has worked in the past, what hasn’t and why. It is also essential for them to have access to the most up-to-date information on products, the company and the competition to ensure accuracy when educating customers, and to quickly and thoroughly address any questions or concerns they may encounter.

By collecting valuable learning materials and the personal expertise of salespeople into a centralized system, and allowing reps to access that content wherever and whenever they need it — and more importantly, communicate with each other in real time about it — sales organizations can unify their teams and enhance their effectiveness in the field.

2. Use metrics to monitor performance and lead more effectively.

In addition to social-networking capabilities, today’s sales leaders need robust analytical tools to help manage and lead their teams more effectively. These tools can help them track and reward the success of top performers, pinpoint reasons why promising reps may have difficulty filling their pipelines or identify the need to team up salespeople to promote knowledge sharing.

Having consistent, integrated pay-for-performance capabilities helps align the sales workforce to corporate objectives, motivate employees and drive better business execution.

Also, by being able to view the contributions of individual reps to the organization’s social-learning efforts, sales leaders will see which team members are working the hardest to share best practices and create a winning culture and reward accordingly. Analyzing the content and use of social-learning networks also can reveal salespeople’s expertise that might otherwise be hidden or overlooked.

3. Create the right culture that fosters success.

For a team to achieve sales success, reps must be able to share success stories and best practices with each other in real time. Social learning takes the valuable interactions and exchanges that typically occur among salespeople during weekly conference calls and other sales meetings and allows them to exist in a central repository that can be accessed by the global team.

This way of collaborating and sharing knowledge also supports the formation of networks among salespeople who otherwise might have had little or no opportunity to connect with colleagues facing similar challenges or who have shared interests.

The benefit to sales leaders is a comprehensive picture of how their team is collaborating and what best practices and challenges are helping — or hurting — sales momentum. And ultimately it creates a more efficient and winning sales team.

4. Effectively coach and train dispersed teams.

When sales teams are large and geographically dispersed or there are channel partners in the mix, training can be difficult to coordinate — and expensive. Social learning can help sales leaders connect salespeople with the latest and best advice, efficiently and cost-effectively, by allowing them to establish real-time collaboration sessions, hold ad-hoc hours to share advice and ask questions, and record collaboration sessions and contribute them to the community.

For example, in the instance of a new business lead, the sales manager can alert team members to video assignments or educational webinars that include relevant case studies or selling tips.

Companies today need leaders who know how to use tools with built-in social networking capabilities to help build a sales culture where collaboration is embraced in both spirit and practice. To compete, companies and their sales teams must have a 360-degree view of customers’ needs to deliver on expectations and earn loyalty.

Social-learning can help organizations meet these challenges by accelerating the flow of business and allowing reps working remotely to easily share best practices, manage metrics, keep pace with market shifts and changes in consumer buying behavior, and address unexpected challenges as they arise.

About the Author:

David Koehn is director of product strategy at Saba, a provider of people cloud applications. Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer magazine

Video Interviewing Cuts Costs, But Bias Worries Linger

As an executive recruiter for 17 years, Amy Rueda has tried most every form of technology to find the best talent.

Starting in the profession when paper résumés and face-to-face interviews were the norm, Rueda, director of strategic talent management for UCLA Development, adopted videoconferencing when it became popular in the 1990s. She soon discovered that although videoconferencing cut travel expenses and was more convenient, it was pricey since it required specialized equipment and location.

It took her nearly a decade to find the technology that offered the right balance of convenience and cost. After being appointed to her position at UCLA in 2007, Rueda knew she had to implement video interviews as a key part of the university’s recruiting strategy. But finding the right fit took time, as well.

She spent a year researching her options and testing products before finally selecting GreenJobInterview, based in Costa Mesa, California, in 2008. The company’s product promised to be secure, affordable and required no special equipment beyond a webcam, a feature that is built into many new computers. Since incorporating online interviews, Rueda says she has cut spending from about $10,000 per search to roughly $500.

“The technology of interviewing candidates has come a long, long way, and video interviewing is one of the most useful tools recruiters have at their disposal,” Rueda said.

With the economy still struggling and companies having to do more with less money, this type of savings—time, money and resources—is considered substantial. According to a soon-to-be published report by Mollie Lombardi, research director of consulting firm Aberdeen Group, video interviews are gaining popularity.

In a survey of 506 companies, cost was a motivator for companies to adopt the technology, with 67 percent citing the reduction of travel expenses as a draw for them. Forty-seven percent use video interviewing to shorten the time it takes to make a hire, and 22 percent say that they would use video interviewing to help them reach candidates from other geographic regions.

Legal concerns

While the technology is cheaper and more efficient, it’s a method that some love and others contend is rife with legal land mines. Video interviewing technology may be useful and financially beneficial, but employment lawyer John Chun with the Summit Law Group in Seattle advises clients to proceed with caution when using it.

“Video résumés are not necessarily riskier than face-to-face interviews, but a talking head on a video does offer more information about a candidate than even a photograph might,” he said. “A video can give the viewer clues to the candidate’s class, race, nationality and can also potentially reveal any disability the candidate might have.”

Chun suggests adopting a screening process that requires the use of a paper or electronic résumé as the first tier of consideration before video is introduced. Whether it is on the beginning or end of the hiring process, he said companies need to create a set of objective qualities, like education, experience, writing samples, references and test results so that if candidates are rejected, there is a reason.

He also recalls a time when attaching photographs to a résumé was discouraged because of the potential for discrimination.

“As people get more comfortable presenting themselves on video, virtual interviews are going to become the norm,” he says. “I don’t think it can be stopped. It matters more now how companies are going to deal with it and what steps they can take to protect themselves.”

While Chun sees the potential for problems, to the best of his knowledge, no lawsuits have been filed that involve discrimination related to video interviewing.

Colleen Aylward, an executive recruiter and creator of the video interviewing tool Interview Studio, was an early adopter of the technology. As founder of the executive recruiting firm Devon James Associates Inc., based in Bellevue, Washington, Aylward felt the pushback, too.

“Hiring managers, like it or not, are human, and people worried that they might make judgment calls on a candidate based on what the person looked like,” she said. “The other side of the argument is that the only reason you bring a candidate in for an interview in the first place is to see how they speak, how they carry themselves and whether they will be a match for your company’s culture. We argue that rather than have a candidate travel for a face-to-face interview, these same observations can be made through a short video clip.”

Video interviewing vendors began popping up in the mid-2000s in response to the cost of videoconferencing and the headache of travel. Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, recruiters would normally fly into a city and interview local candidates in airport lounges. That became impossible when airport security laws stopped allowing nonticketed parties past security.

Post-Sept. 11 recruiting issues

Greg Rokos, who co-founded GreenJobInterview in 2007, was among those who saw the post-Sept. 11 recruiting issues as a business opportunity. An executive recruiter for 20 years, Rokos—like Rueda—had experienced the inefficiencies of job interviews.

“In my practice, I was amazed by the waste surrounding first-round interviews,” he said.

In addition to the cost of flights, hotels and meals for candidates who often were not a good fit for the company, Rokos was bothered by the environmental impact of the practice. Videoconferencing, he said, was problematic for different reasons.

“While it was more convenient than flying, there were drawbacks—namely that the candidate had to travel to a videoconferencing center, which sometimes took hours depending on where they lived,” Rokos said.

In addition to the expense—up to $500 an hour—the technology didn’t allow for multiple connection points, so executives from various branches couldn’t sit in on a single interview. And, since most videoconferencing centers were merely hosting the interview and were not the actual provider of the video transmission, technical support was lacking.

“I saw a dramatic need for improvement in video technology specific to job interviews,” Rokos said.

While GreenJobInterview provides real-time virtual interviews, companies like Active Interview, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, allow organizations to utilize video interviewing in other ways. Asynchronous interviews—interviews that are recorded by the candidate, then viewed later by the recruiter or HR representative—allow companies to sidestep the problem of scheduling multiple preliminary interviews by allowing the candidate to record their responses to a series of preset questions.

Companies can create custom questionnaires, and those questions are presented to the candidate on their computer screen. The candidate then presses the record button to tape a response.

Sandeep Ghael, co-founder of Active Interview, says there are benefits to using this tool in the recruiting process.

“The candidate can do the video at their leisure, and the company can view their responses when it is convenient,” he said. “It makes the process more collaborative because an entire team can view the same video and score them, rate them and share them with each other.”

While some contend that video interviewing could open the door to a lawsuit, UCLA’s Rueda says it’s an unnecessary worry.

“I think people who argue that this tool can be used to discriminate are the biggest hypocrites to walk the earth. It is an argument that doesn’t hold water,” Rueda says. “If you are an organization that is inclined to discriminate, you are going to do it whether it is in a video interview or in person. If you are not an organization that is inclined to discriminate, you are going to be looking for attributes that are key to the placement.

“We are in a time where we all have to strive to be our best while being very careful with our resources and how we use them. Video interviewing is an amazing money-saving and time-saving tool.”

Reprinted from Workforce Management Online

Pin It on Pinterest