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14 Things Online Trainers Need to Stop Doing

Did you know Henry Ford rolled out the Ford Model T roughly twenty years after the modern automobile was invented?

Wouldn’t you like to get in on an industry that early?

Well, guess what? Right now, as I write this, you are.

Online instructors, trainers, and coaches are pioneers in education.

But before you begin paving the online landscape, you have to stop doing the things that derail the education revolution.

Here are some observations to get you started:

1. Stop getting caught up in buzzwords

Face it. Computers are doubling their power every 18 months and a generation (globally) are using them to redefine everything.

But as you know, most “solutions” are speculation and unpredictable.

So, now what?

Well, before you waste your time becoming a “first adopter”, identify the need a software fills—research and try to understand its application.

If it doesn’t add value, it’s simply a distraction.

2. Stop waiting until the end to give feedback

If you’re giving feedback ONLY at the end of your course, you’re giving zero opportunity for students to improve. I’m serious.

You see, what you should do is have students provide and receive feedback throughout your course—this increases overall satisfaction.

Think of where—in your course—your students can gain insight into their performance (and can still do something about it).

Watch: Feedback training: For Teacher & eLearning

3. Stop evaluating stuff that doesn’t matter

Are you putting too much emphasis on recalling facts?

In my opinion, unless your students will be on Jeopardy, recalling facts may not be necessary.

What should you do? You should evaluate skill integration. Ask yourself, “Do my evaluations represent the reality of the outside world?”

Education is not the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think.

– Albert Einstein

4. Stop with the lecturing

How about this: instead of having students spend time listening (passively), you prepare your information in advance.

Record your lecture. It’s as simple as that.

Now, if you’re not comfortable in front of a camera, simply make a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation and record it with narration.

And, when your students are together (online or not), you can then collaborate, implement ideas, and brainstorm.

Learn about: The Flipped Classroom

5. Stop using email to answer questions

As you know, emails get lost. Or worse: people think you’re ignoring them when you reply late.

Here’s a tip: build and use an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).

You’ll find a beautiful question and answer repository can lead to overall course improvements.

See how Stack Overflow uses an FAQ to set rules for their question and answer site.

Did you know: Many web hosting companies offer free software installs of FAQ’s, Wiki’s, or complete Learning Management Systems. Wow! How about that!

6. Stop taking comment management lightly

Here’s the simple truth: Facebook groups, forums, and even blog communities are only as good as the moderator.

Most students are there to gain your insight. So, remove any chance they get distracted by rudeness or “trolling”.

Explore how to make your forums a positive experience.

Check out Improving the Use of Discussion Boards and read Communities of Yes.

7. Stop handing out slides and notes

Make your students an active part of the information gathering and integration process. Why? Because they’ll tune out if you don’t.

You see, teaching shouldn’t be an “information push”.

Anyway, how about letting students collaborate on notes in groups?

Give it a try.

First, let Commoncraft explain Wikis in Plain English, then explore solutions like PBWorks.

8. Stop blaming your students

You have control over what you do, so make THAT awesome.

I think that if you take the time to develop significant learning experiences, your students will pick up on that—and appreciate it.

Listen and listen closely. Things are changing, so learn to adapt your approach.

Watch: The Generation Y Myth

9. Stop with the theory

Many times students don’t learn anything. You want to know why? It’s simple…

Your delivery is the problem. (Ouch!)

Now, I bet you’ve experienced the teacher who made every subject boring and completely impossible to understand.

Well, don’t be that teacher. Think of ways to present your topic so it sticks in your students mind. Make them care.

Here’s how: Tell a story, get to the point, and use fun and engaging language.

For inspiration (and ideas) watch: Tyler DeWitt: Hey science teachers-make it fun

10. Stop focusing on short term goals

Are your students doing stuff for the sake of passing? If they are, those are short term goals.

Short term goals have no real value in life—like the curriculum that’s immediately forgotten when you leave University.

Question: What should your students be able to do five years after your course?

Well, that question helps you solidify the important stuff.

Now, to understand what I mean on a practical basis, watch Father Guido Sarducci’s Five Minute University. It’s funny.

11. Stop listening to online education naysayers

Believe it or not: there’s people out there who doubt the potential of the internet.

Here’s a true story. My grandmother doesn’t use a computer. Because, as she says, “She’d rather use her head.”

She thinks computers are oversized calculators.

Like my grandmother, naysayers probably had one (early) experience—made up their minds—then gave up.

Well, everything changes. And, so has education online.

Big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary.

-Thomas Friedman, May 15, 2012 New York Times

Watch Daphne Koller’s Ted Talk, she’s one of the founders of Coursera, an online education platform. What we’re learning from online education

12. Stop trying to do it all yourself

Know your skill limit—sometimes called your “circle of competence”.

Your business is the delivery (and integration) of your skills.

So, don’t make the tech your business. If you get stuck, outsource the technical work to an oDesk contractor.

Also, get this: besides technical help, consider getting an assistant.

Don’t have the budget for one?

Well then, think of a way your students can help you out—and learn something along the way.

Peer review and peer moderated forums are so underused. And, when they’re structured well, they can take your course to a whole ‘nother level.

Read the Coursera pedagogy (scroll to Peer assessments).

The literature on Peer Review is limited (or incomprehensible). So, I strongly suggest you sign up to a Coursera course and experience the opportunity of Peer Review for yourself.

13. Stop believing online delivery is easy

Yes. Posting an article on your blog is easy. But that’s one-way communication. And guess what? Someone (or Wikipedia) may have already beat you to it.

Remember this: It’s not about the content. Students can find content on their own.

It’s about making students APPLY concepts.

And, feedback is also important.

Give students opportunities to rework and improve on their ideas or prototypes. That’s when real value begins.

14. Stop thinking you’re not ready

Think about this: Online education is new to everyone.

The professor, who has taught in a classroom for the last 30 years, even he is exploring online delivery for the first time.

Simply put: You have the experience to get started.

That said, I suggest you enroll in an online course and be the student. Why would you do this? Well, you’ll experience learning online from a students’ perspective.

You’ll discover what works and what doesn’t. And you can steal some ideas for your own delivery—and have fun while you’re at it.

What’s Next?

Now in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

How are you finding online training? Are you transitioning from a face-to-face classroom?

Or are you new to training, and online delivery is a logical strategy you wish to implement?

Make your comment specific. Your stories, ideas and experiences help us all.

Thank you, so very much, for reading and making education better.

Share your thoughts with others


  • Anne Ochs

    This is a great article. I love how you combine humor and seriousness into your videos and articles! Thank you!!

    • Anna Sabramowicz

      Glad you enjoyed it Anne :)
      If it put a smile on your face, even better – it’s too easy to make these lists preachy.

  • J

    Great e-learning nuggets Anna. I’ve taken multiple courses this way and having young children see how it will have a larger impact on my children’s education in the coming year’s. # 2 – I definitely learn better when given opportunity to give and receive commentary/ feedback. #12-My current class has a private Facebook group. As peers we have challenged and provided the trainer much interesting info. Some of it has fueled future course considerations. Peer to peer collaboration is where it’s at. Thanks for the great embedded reference links.

    • Anna Sabramowicz

      J – so love the fact that you’re experiencing these in action and can comment on their effectiveness from a student perspective – AWESOME!

  • Maxine

    These tips are a wonderful resource – I have emailed them to my L&D team. I have just joined this site and am trying to find my way around – I keep getting distracted by the wonderful youtube titles and after listening to a number of them feel the info is very relevant for me, ‘rich’ yet succinct. This I admit is all new to me!Thanks
    One of my tasks is to utilise my online community choice as a learning experience for me to reflect on and share with my masters of ed colleagues that I am currently undertaking.
    Any further tips about guiding me around your site would be helpful. Do uou have a forum for discussion general or specific, networking space when did you launch this site, do yu have any stats on how length of time/frequency a blog continues on any given topic?
    Keep up the great work!

    • Anna Sabramowicz

      Hi Maxine,
      Glad you’ve found our YouTube channel – there is a mix of topics in there, mostly on developing and designing learning – if you find this useful, that’s fabulous.

      The discussions we’re having on this site are mostly related to the theme the post sets, but you’re welcome to add discussions on LinkedIn or YouTube :)

      And finally, we just launched this site in January, but have been blogging and making videos under for the past three years – when we went all rogue and decided to do our own thing!

      Thanks for reading :)

  • Barb

    Thanks Anna! I always enjoy your articles and your interactive conversational style.

    • Anna Sabramowicz

      You are most welcome Barb! I appreciate you taking the time to let me know :)

  • Dorothy Hakim

    Loved the article-specially points 13 and 14- Very helpful as it involves a complete change in ones mind set. Wonderful learning process for both new and experienced teachers

    • Anna Sabramowicz

      Thank you Dorothy! Yes, I was hoping to mix a reality check with a healthy dose of “you can do it” :D

  • Greg Juhasz

    Great post! I like that you take a stance for a given style. Most “X tips” articles are trying to be as blend as possible, be very political, not raise any controversy. This post sounds authentic, not just some point clipped together.

    • Anna Sabramowicz

      Greg, glad you enjoyed!
      I was told just to stay away from religion and politics when making “personal” statements. Ha!
      If every other topic is up for grabs, that leaves a lot to be controversial about.

  • Andy Blake

    Another great article Anna. We’re looking at moving quite a bit of our learning from face to face to elearning or blended and even dipping our toes in webinars. I’m always on the look out for different ways to present information especially the “when you want it” way. For me I think points 11 and 13 are really relevant!

    • Anna Sabramowicz

      Thank’s Andy!
      Sounds like you’re doing the logical thing. It comes down to the 80/20 rule – what’s the 20% of the material and activities that will generate or support the greatest change.
      I also think that webinars/virtual sessions are wonderful ways for people to get together and get to know each other. Focused brainstorming sessions – that then lead to some kind of action/implementation in the real world are awesome for reinforcing team collaboration across distances.

  • Joan Zietlow

    Interesting video and I look forward to trying some of this out with suggesting this to my teachers for some up coming classes. Thanks for the share.

    • Anna Sabramowicz

      You’re welcome Joan!
      Sounds like you’re referring to my previous post – If you get feedback from your teachers, I’d love to hear it!

  • Norman

    Another fantastic article, easily read and instantly understandable.
    I have been exploring ways to bring more efficiency to the educator element of my role, where can I improove, have I got what it takes to do this; I read through the list with interest then number 14 hit me between the eyes.
    I can stop thinking about it and start doing something about it, Thanks

    • Anna Sabramowicz

      You’re most welcome!

  • Srujan

    Great one Anna. Thanks for sharing.

    • Anna Sabramowicz

      My pleasure Srujan! Thanks for reading.

  • Carri Claycomb

    Wonderful posts. I loved the videos….they were excellent. I am currently in an online EdD program and received my Master’s in Nursing Education online as well. I am interested in getting involved in teaching online and feel that the experience as a student on-line will benefit me when I find a position to teach online. Thanks again for the excellent post.

    • Anna Sabramowicz

      Carri – you are most welcome!
      Grab some free virtual classroom software and record a couple of sessions you’ve planned out (use Camtasia or Screenflow to record) to have as a piece in your portfolio for when you apply :)

  • Candice Kramer

    Thanks, Anna. I’ve been doing this so long I forget that others have not, so the tips are a welcome reminder (especially that one about not doing it all!) ;-). You should also check out Quality Matters (quality Originally focused only on higher education, they’re now providing quality standards for online and blended professional development programs. With all the hype and possibilities, it’s good to become grounded in best practice.

  • Marie Antaya

    What a wonderful resource. I’ve shared it with my colleagues.

  • Jana M

    The “firm who shall not be publicly mentioned” for whom I work, churns out the absolute worst e-learning modules. No matter how many proof-of-concept articles, demonstrations, manuals, or forum links I send them, they honestly think they know what they’re doing. It’s why I don’t work in that department even though I’m a 15 year veteran of training and e-learning development. Such a waste of resources…

  • Dr.Sireesha

    Wonderful post.
    I feel that the online teaching is the order of the day. For the last one year, I have been into online teaching and learning courses through coursera, but to be honest, online teaching is very strenous, as it requires lot of effort from teachers.

  • Antoinette Hando

    I also like this article. I was developing a Tropical Medicine course and found several of these tips to be true. Creating a learning environment where students were active learners was one of the main challenges. The content consisted of lectures, so I had to add the chat sessions, initial learning questions, as well as activities that would provide active learning to the course.

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