Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A new generation of tools for meeting and networking online

There is a new generation of tools that enriches the toolset of online facilitators. Wow. In this blog I will list a number of them and hope to make you enthusiastic to start experimenting. The first one I discovered was Wonder Me. The first time I used Wonder Me, I was amazed by the different way it made me feel and the freedom I experienced as compared to the normal webconferencing tools.  I felt I could "walk around" online by getting close to someone else and I could talk to him or her. A completely different online experience than a Zoom breakout room where you are 'put' in the breakout by the facilitator and hardly dare to leave (I did so today and it was not appreciated :).. If I had too compare it to a face-to-face experience I'd say it resembles the online version of a reception. Then I discovered that a number of nice new tools have been added. The common denominator seems to be that they are tools that change online networking: make it more visual and provide more freedom.

Wonder me

Wonder me is currently free and you can sign up to get your own Wonder room. However, it will come with paid plan at the end of next year. You can invite people to your own room, and customize the room by changing the background. Your photo is show in the room and can walk around by using your mouse. When you are close to a person or group your videos and audios will work. You can recognize a group of people already talking by a circle. So you can choose how long you stay in a group or walk further. The main facilitator can send a message to anyone, then all conversations will be silenced. You can also 'close' a circle to have a private conversation. The impressive thing is that it works for up to 1000 people, with a maximum of 15 in a circle.


Remo.co also gives a lot of control to the visitor to walk around. It is more structured than wonder.me due to its setup with tables with maximum 8 participants. You can choose which table you join, the people who sit at the table will hear a knock at the door. Full is full. You can also add a topic to the tables, so it lends itself well to a World Cafe format. You can try it for free for 14 days, after that it starts from 100 dollars per month.


Videofacilitator works in a slightly different way. You can actually organize speeddating in an easy way, by having people switch to the next person. It therefore gives less control for the participants to choose themselves. However, the feeling is different than in subgroups because you can also see the other groups. You can create a free account to try it out, after that it's $ 30 a month. It may be that there a more possibilities to use it since I only experienced the speeddating process. 

Spatial chat

Spatialchat can be used perfectly for an open space session. You can create different sub-spaces like rooms, and also prepare material for a room, such as a video. The maximum number of participants is 100. It is free up to 25 participants and 3 rooms. Then it starts from $ 49.95 per month


Another nice one is Topia. You can add a picture to your own space. Personally, I was not able to try Topia because I had to set a hardware configuration in my Chrome browser and Firefox is not supported. Maybe more for the future? Topia is free for up to 25 people, then $ 29 per month.. Anybody with experiences?


Gather is also making the videocall experience more visual. However, the design is somewhat reminiscent of the (old) world of the pacman. Free for 25 people. Nice that you can start a town, city or metropolis.


Getmibo is more for fun. As they phrase it on their website “for informal meetings, remote drinks, social mixers, networking events, or just hanging around”. You can walk around an island and your head is the webcam. Free up to 12 people, then 49 euros per month. Until recently, Getmibo was called Borrel. They have changed the name because it can also be used for more than just drinks, for example as a network option at an online conference.

These tools are a great asset to me. What they have in common is you have more freedom to "walk around" and meet each other online. They are more visual than Zoom, Webex or Microsoft Teams. You don't need a login and you can start a room. They are not going to replace the existing webconferencing tools, but they do provide opportunities to come together online in a different way and thus new possibilities for the online facilitator.

Thursday, August 06, 2020

Hybrid sessions: the new norm?

In July we completed the Design and Facilitation of Blended Learning course. As teachers, we are proud of the beautiful designs for online lessons, online workshops, interactive videos and coaching programs, which were already already implemented in many cases. It was an intensive course: interrupted by corona. The second live meeting was canceled and we went online. Although we were quite comfortable doing the program online, we missed something. Since the course is already blended, it shows that we really get energy from working with the group. In the live session in Utrecht, the theme (design, tools or facilitation) is put into context and the online experiences fall into place. 

I notice that the course is already well balanced in its blend: each block has two weeks online and one morning in Utrecht. It gives a lot of energy to see each other. Without the live session you miss part of the group process. Fortunately, the last session could be a live session, although two people immediately wanted to participate online. At the last minute we received two more emails ... they prefered online too! We suddenly found ourselves in a real hybrid meeting: half online, half face-to-face.

Will hybrid sessions be the new norm?

Is hybrid the future? I would not know. Maybe we will have more online learning trajectories than blended. It is interesting that one participant did not bother to travel because it would save her time. The standard could also become to organize hybrid session. Firstly, because we can accommodate fewer people or students in a room (we had to cope with a maximum of 9). Secondly, it gives participants the freedom to decide for themselves whether they are willing to travel and meet others. In any case, we thought it gave a lot of energy to be together like this, even for the online participants!

How to organize a hybrid session

We have quite some experiences with one participant online. In this case we have her face embodied on the laptop via the webcam and carry her around. In this case we had four online participants. We asked in advance about the tool options (many are not allowed to zoom): the preferences were Skype and Zoom. We decided to put people on two laptops. Mainly, because having two laptops with each two people made the organization of the groupwork easier. In the session, it also proved to be fun to have two laptop groups, so that it is not 'us in the room' versus 'them online'. It is a challenge, however, to ensure that the online participant's experience runs smoothly. Some tips from our experience: 

  • It helps to experience it for yourself, so offer to join as an online participant at a live meeting or meeting.
  • Make sure the online participants are clearly visible. That can be on a big screen or as a 'laptop head'. This way you avoid to forget them. 
  • An external webcam can ensure that the room is clearly visible to the online participants. This is especially nice with an online speaker, as he / she also sees the reactions of the audience.
  • It can be more difficult to break into a discussion online, but this can also apply to the live participants. Therefore, agree how to ask for the word, eg by raising your hand. As a facilitator you may structure the important more by giving turns, so everyone gets their change.
  • Work regularly in subgroups, mixing online participants with face-to-face (better with headset). Or create a group of two online participants who may exchange online together.
  • The audio was not always optimal for the online participants. A speakerphone might improve that and is something I would like to try next time. 
  • Divide the care for the online participants. Who is watching who? You can divide the tasks between facilitators or apply a buddy system whereby everybody  who is present face-to-face is the buddy of an online person.
  • With large groups both face-to-face and online, it is good to have a face-to-face and online facilitator who work together and occasionally work with their own group.

The group dynamics in this blended session

The group dynamics were fine after all, because they want to stay in touch! One person never met the others face-to-face but clearly felt comfortable.  I felt there was no real difference between the online and life participants (except that we had our coffees together in the sun :).

A participant: "Never had such a steep learning curve. And today, I experienced firsthand how  hybrid learning works. It went really well: beyond expectations!"

More tips?

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

My dream: facilitating a whole week online

Well some of you may have different dreams, but one of my dreams was to facilitate a whole week online. I was interested to see how to make the program balanced and interesting, combine fun with work. Thanks to corona my dream came true :).

I facilitated the yearly exchange from an alliance active in 13 countries. From Guatemala to Indonesia. For a whole week. Yes that is super fun! What I liked the most was that I felt I got to know a number of people at the end of the week. However, not the whole group. Of course, the online week resulted from the corona crisis and we could have had more fun all together in the Netherlands, so this is definitely not a plea to do everything online. On the other hand, only 20 people would have come together in the Netherlands and we involved 40-45 people in our exchanges, even 80 in one meeting which was open to a wider group.

In the video below with the title 'locked in a room for a week' I share my experiences.

We had working sessions, fun sessions and knowledge sessions. We used google classroom, regional assignments and Flipgrid to weave all together. We did quite a good evaluation with mentimeter and I was particularly happy with the word cloud and the feelings of the participants regarding the balance.

It is of course paramount to do something like this as a team. I had a group of 3 colleagues to work with. We actually didn't talk that much about our division of tasks, but it surfaced kind of naturally. During the week had a Whatsapp group, which we mainly used to briefly tune who does what. We started every day at 9 a.m. with the facilitators team looking back and look ahead. At the end of the week it was quite impressive to see what grounds we had covered, from learning about food systems to developing communication plans and learning from communication experts to formulating an advocacy message for parliament.

How do you take care of yourself as a facilitator? Being locked in a room for a week is of course somewhat exaggerated. I had kept my calendar completely empty as much as possible, so it didn't feel like an extremely busy week. I regularly went out for walks or some shopping in between the sessions. I also had a lot of fun in the fun sessions like doing bootcamp exercises for the first time in my live.

If I'd have to improve? I think I would add more exchanges about the projects on the ground. On the other hand, that would overload the schedule, so after all, it would look quite similar actually...What I would do is blend the fun sessions with the working sessions, because they were currently optional. It would have been good for the team building to have a larger group during these sessions. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Creative facilitation with breakout rooms

Have you already discovered the breakout rooms in your webconferencing tools? Breakout rooms (also known as brainstorming rooms) allow participants of an online session to work in smaller groups. We often use this face-to-face. In smaller groups people are more active and can go deeper than in a plenary online group. You can also work in subgroups online. Breaking up in subgroups is possible in many web conferencing tools, such as Webex Training, Adobe Connect, Zoom, BigBlueButton etc. Breakout rooms are not for the starting online facilitator. During the breakout you lack have a view on your participants, you can get lost yourself, or you see people falling out of the breakout room. Not for the faint-hearted. Are the rooms dusting away with you? In this blog tips for smart use of your breakout rooms.

Let's start with a horror scene

We were looking forward to our pop-up webinar. About 10 minutes before the start we were packed with 100 participants! We were super enthusiastic and everything went well. After a start a presentation of principles and examples, groups of 8-10 participants started working in breakout rooms. Each group received the same case and a chat space was available for each group.  We knew that not everyone had audio connected, so we encouraged them to use the chat. Soon we were called upon to help various groups. The chat was delayed in a group. People thought that the technology did not work. Another group thought it was scary to work with strangers without seeing them. Another group could understand each other, but no one took the lead. We decided to bring the groups back.

This example illustrates that breakout rooms are not the easiest feature for the online facilitator. It helps if you have already mastered the basics of your webconferencing tools and have tested the breakout rooms. I did not share this story to discourage you, but rather to show that you sometimes need the guts to try something new. There are so many possibilities for the breakouts. 

The breakout at its best

Last week I organized a brainstorm with a group of 20 persons about the content of an online conference. In an online brainstorming wall I put up 5 groups with different topics, such as start session, partner sessions, fun, etc. Before the coffee I invited people to sign up for 1 topic by adding their name on the wall. During the coffee break I put people into groups. During the breakout they used the same brainstorming wall to add ideas that allowed me to monitor progress without going to the groups myself. We achieved an important result in 30 minutes. This was because everyone could choose their own topic for which they had many ideas, people already knew each other and thus immediately started brainstorming. Last but not least the combination of the breakout and the brainstorm wall worked well.

Having people in a group exchange about a question is perhaps the most obvious application. Just like you would face-to-face. If you want to be more creative, you might consider one of the following learning activities and working methods:

  • A short buzz in groups of 2 to get into the subject
  • Let participants dive into a topic in subgroups before you explain, so you can activate prior knowledge
  • Speed ​​dating to get to know each other. After 3 minutes you put people in the next group
  • A brainstorm on a topic in combination with a whiteboard or a brainstorming wall
  • Organize a debate in which they first come up with arguments in two groups (for and against)
  • A translation of a presentation into practice 
  • A role play in subgroups where the chat is used in different colors by the different roles
  • Make a drawing or collage together on the whiteboard
  • A case study
  • Discussion of a variety of topics. Participants choose their own topic that they want to work on (with some tools, people can choose which breakout they want to participate in or if that is not possible, you can inventory this)
  • Give them a puzzle, a challenge to crack
  • Or let participants prepare a (short) presentation themselves ...

Some practical tips

Above all, the mother of all advice is: don't be afraid to experiment with the breakouts. If necessary, you can invite your participants to experiment and reflect. Think about the context and how much support you need to provide for your participants. It is easier to work with breakouts when people already know each other. Then they will take the lead faster and get to work easily. If you expect that they sometimes hesitate to take the lead, you can appoint someone, eg the top one from the list of participants.

Here are some more practical tips if you want to get started.

  • People fall out of the breakout (at least in Adobe this often happens!). Therefore, provide one person who can put these people back in their breakout group.
  • Make a slide with the instruction. Even if you explain the assignment orally it helps to be able to read it.
  • Plan a breakout after a break, so that it gives you time to prepare something.
  • With a number of tools, participants can see the time that is left. If this is not the case, as a facilitator you can, for example, send people a message 3 minutes in advance about the time remaining.
  • In most tools you can go to groups in between to listen / watch. This gives you an impression of what is going on.
Breakout rooms are not for the starting online facilitator. However, it is a fantastic invention! What are your favorite uses of the breakouts? What would you like to try?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Tool and tips for the online flip

The whole world is aiming at 'social distancing' As a facilitator, trainer are you going to cancel lessons and workshops or do you opt for online? It may sound challenging, but now is the time to try that online approach, or experiment more than you did before. We are all looking for ways to continue work and learning as well as possible. So take a stab!

The good thing: flipping your lesson or workshop is a creative process. Plus the flip can have advantages...  Things that are difficult in a physical setting may work out better online. A good starting point is the question of what you want to do asynchronously online (each person in his/her own time) and synchronously online (together online at the same time). Brainstorm input, questions or experiences can be collected asynchronously in tools such as Flipgrid, Padlet, Answergarden or IdeaBoardz. You can offer theory through a video or short online lesson. Or you make a quiz with Quizzes or Mentimeter that each takes on its own time, which you then discuss at a synchronized moment. Tools for synchronous online are Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or a tool that is known within your organization. In addition, there are many tools that are less known with which you can create fun online lessons:

  • Eduflow is free the coming months
  • Google classroom is the free tool of Google. You can do a lot. A downside is that everyone should have a Google account.
  • Blendspace  for online lessons
  • Blackboard collaborate for schools already working with Blackboard 
  • Edpuzzle for video lessons with quizzes. Here you will find an explanation
  • Microsoft teams is also a good basic tool. Here you can learn more. 

Ofcourse there are many more options.... We often use Ning because of the social features.

A short checklist 

  1. Do I flip my activity to online or postpone? Is there urgency to do it? Will participants have time and energy to do it online?
  2. What activities do you want to do online? Distinguish between activities with the whole group, subgroups and individually
  3. What do you want to do synchronously, what asynchronously? Look for a good balance
  4. Which toolset do you need? Think of a good synchronous tool (Skype, Zoom, Google meet etc) and good asynchronous tool (Ning, Microsoft Teams, Facebook for work etc)
  5. How long will your program last? Synchronous sessions max 1.5 hours
  6. What do you need to facilitate well? Think of help from others, scripts for the sessions, paid accounts, estimated time to prepare yourself

Example of a flipped session

Here you find an example of a flipped work session with 10 organizations and about 5 participants per organization. The session was originally scheduled for an entire morning. The aim of the work session is to share experiences in work with disabled children. The idea is that people work on small products in groups. How is that possible online? We came up with the following form: The online work session lasts 2 to 3 hours and has a theme defined upfront.  

  1. In the run-up to the session, we invite all participants to share an important experience with the theme on an online brainstorming wall like Padlet.
  2. When the session starts, we meet online in a webinar room (e.g. Adobe Connect).
  3. We get to know each other (name on map of the Netherlands, answer some light-hearted poll questions and interaction in chat) and make a substantive start by discussing the results of the online brainstorm.
  4. Then all participants work on the theme in small groups for half an hour. Each group gets its own online workspace and the chat is open to questions in between.
  5. With "screen sharing" we view each other's result. We briefly place two groups together in an online "room" to exchange and give each other feedback.
  6. At the end we harvest. We do this by collecting important insights and immediately processing them in an infographic. A tangible product at the end of this session.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Design thinking for blended learning

I participated in the Masterclass Design thinking for learning designers by Connie Malamed, organized by Anewspring. It was a nice experience to go through all design thinking steps in a structured way for a chosen case study. I had already experienced the value of working with personas and prototypes, but not yet followed all design thinking steps in a structured manner. Our group made a design for managers of retail organizations to motivate employees to stay with the organization for longer (we made the objective smart ofcourse - 25% longer retention by the end of 2021 :).

What is design thinking and why is it interesting for designing blended learning? 

Design thinking is an emerging trend to shape innovation in a creative way. Central is the experience of the customer / user. There are 5 steps: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

Design thinking has long been used to design products. However, it is quite new to use design thinking for the design of learning interventions. The differences with "regular" design processes in my eyes are:
  • Design thinking is "human-centered". Hardly a not a new element, because when designing a training or course, needs assessment is fairly standard practice when designing. Or designing together with the target group and stakeholders. Design thinking, however, offers specific tools such as personas and empathy maps. 
  • It is an iterative, creative process. Making a design in a day was great for a fast start, getting everyone on board and having the outline. After prototyping you will go back to the drawing table with the feedback on the prototype in your pocket. The iteration - refining, tweaking etc instead of sticking to decisions simply because they were made in the beginning is very appealing to me. 
  • Prototyping! This is something I will start to use more often. It seems more difficult to prototype a training than eg a new teapot. What I learnt is that you can be creative in prototyping: think of a mock-up of a new learning environment, an infographic, a video in which you explain the set-up, a role play between trainer and participant etc. The rapid prototypes ensure that you visualize your ideas. As Connie shared: with one client she hadn't made a prototype, and as a result people said very late in the process: oooooh now I understand what you were talking about! Without prototype it is very easy to talk, agree and have different understanding. 
  • There is a large toolkit with tools that you can apply. What makes me very happy is that it is not a blueprint approach, it is not prescriptive, you can choose the tools that fit your process.


My main take ways

Currently I discuss with content experts and teachers whether we have to do interviews or whether they know the target group. Connie does insist on the interviews with the target group. Although content experts sometimes know the target audience very well, there are always judgments and impressions that may be incorrect. An example is a group that appears to be digitally skilled, but may not have a sound card in their computers at work. This still has some consequences for your choices. I'm going to be stricter when organizations say there's no need to do interviews.

In addition, my biggest eye-opener was to create prototypes. What can you do to show and request feedback? In the session we had built a prototype of an online platform, and in the feedback it became clear that safety is very important. Safety to be able to practice with coaching conversations with employees. Super useful for quickly sharing your design and getting responses.

Curious about our design? Unfortunately I did not take a photo but it is a process where managers start with a study of the motivation factors by conversations with employees. Then there are face-to-face and online sessions. We conclude with gamification: prices for the branches with the longest-serving employees.

An interesting discussion in our group: would we have come up with something completely different if we had not gone through these steps? Maybe not. But now you know for sure that it is well thought out and I suspect that interviews give you a better sense of the learners' context. However, it also shows that the process does not guarantee a consistent design. It requires empathy for the design to fit reality well. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Do you morph? About professional identity and the importance of doing new things

Judge Willem Korthals Altes (70 years old) is challenging his retirement. He gets an honorable pension because of his age but he doesn't want to stop at all. "My work is part of who I am," he says. The Dutch singer Rob de Nijs (76 years old) has Parkinson but is determined to finish his tour. After this a farewell tour, a CD and a farewell concert and then he intends to stop. Two examples of professionals who, in the words of Jef Staes, are "in sync with their talents". Working no longer feels like working. Suppose you have to give yourself a percentage between 0-100% for being in sync with your talents, what percentage would that be? And many of your colleagues?

The importance of morphing

Photo by Jack Leeder via flickr
Morphing is a gradual transformation into a new version of yourself (see morphing illustrated in the images). A colleague increasingly felt that her work was not important, got a burnout and decided to change the focus of her advisory work. During her burnout period, she has invested in a new direction by, among others. going to conferences. In this way she has found a different focus in her work and is currently capable of making more hours than before her burnout. Your focus and talent is not something you "know" at the end of your studies and work with until you retire. You must take steps in your professional development. Lynda Gratton, a professor of management practice at London Business School, analyzes the future of work. She calls for shaping your craftsmanship yourself: "create the space which will enable you to write a personal career script that can bring you fulfillment and meaning", but not only that: you have to move with the market and developments in your environment. She calls this “sliding and morphing.” The reason for morphing is two-fold: on the one hand the developments in the market, but also changes in your own interests.

How to morph? Keep on doing new things

How to morph as a professional? The Dutch writer Peter Ros gave me a number of ideas with his book Warorde. According to Peter preparedness for change is a learnable skill. Don't wait for a crisis until you change. Stimulate yourself (or colleagues) with new things. Consider for instance:
  • Work in a different place 
  • Change jobs regularly 
  • When self-employed: develop a new service or product 
  • Look for people who think differently (for example, if you work for the government, go and see a school) 
  • Start again from scratch: how should I do it now? 
  • Read blogs from dissenters 
  • Make an appointment with someone that annoys you 
  • Meditate 2 x 20 minutes every day 
  • Provide "fiddle time" 
  • Do something you never dared
  • Listen podcasts 
  • Travel to an unknown destination (sprs.me)

An example of staying prepared are the people in Netflix who developed a
chaos monkey A tool to derail the working of computers. A great way to challenge employees to get everything right again. Another example are de monkey milestones van AFAS. These are creative assignments for new people within AFAS. The name monkey apparently works well for shaking things up :).

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Tool of the month: game-based learning with Seppo.io

About 5 years ago I was brainstorming with a group of colleagues to design a workshop. Someone shouted: a traffic jam workshop!. I didn't have a clue what that was, but immediately had a vision of a workshop in the train to avoid the traffic jam. It has always stayed in my mind as something I would like to organize one day. A traffic jam workshop with a start in the train. But yes, it is difficult to organize this because there are always people who still want to get in the car.

Last year I found myself again in a brainstorm, but this time to organize the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Ennuonline. The traffic jam idea was tweaked. Not starting on the train but in groups at a different location and then have them walk via assignments to the place of the celebration. Seppo.io turned out to be perfect for this purpose.

How does Seppo work?

"Teach with a game. In a fun and easy way." That is the motto of Sepp.io. You can create a treasure hunt by adding assignments at locations on the map. You can create different types of assignments:

  • A creative assignment in which participants share a photo, video, text or a spoken message
  • A multiple choice question
  • Enter a word in a phrase or an exercise where you have to match elements

The latter is more suitable for school assignments, so we mainly used the creative assignments. One of the assignments was for example: "convince the director of this building of the usefulness of technology in learning". Or: "exchange the weirdest response by a participants to the idea of online learning". Below you can see it was a day with a lot of wind: Beaufort 7.

What makes Seppo so great is that is it really easy to create assignments. When the groups start to walk you can see them walking online and monitor their progress live. You can set the assignments so that it opens when the group is within 50 meters of the place. This forces the groups to walk everywhere to be able to do the assignments. What is also fun is that you can see the groups walking. We first saw a small group go in the wrong direction. Tip: walk the route yourself at least once to test the instructions and place of the markers on the map and remove errors.

Seppo for learning

In this case, our goal was an energetic start and participants getting to know each other in small groups. Both were achieved! The tool is certainly also suitable for other purposes. Suppose you start a scavenger hunt and then have a face-to-face session. During the hunt you can invite participants to exchange on a topic and share the results during the search, as in the example of convincing the director. You can aggregate and show this afterwards and further analyze it. Which arguments will convince the most and why? After this you could also do a role play in which people practice again. The value of Seppo is in the stimulation of creativity and spontaneity. Do you also see other applications? It's nice if you share it in the comments because I definitely want to do more with Seppo.

Free or paid?

We used the paid version of Seppo.io. You can also use it for free, but in that case you cannot use certain functions such as ask the groups to share photos and videos. An alternative to Seppo is Goosechase. You can use this for free up to 3 teams.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

How to develop effective multimedia for learning? The 10 principles of Richard Mayer

Are you looking for principles for creating videos and other learning materials? Before the summer I organized a meetup about interactive video in the Netherlands (with interactive video the viewer can, for example, answer questions or choose what he / she will continue with). It was really an eye-opener for me. In any case, multimedia like video, animations and infographics are becoming increasingly important in online learning and you have to dive into it when you design online learning. But what is a really good video? I often get the question how long a video can be, but of course it's not about the length but about the content. Mayer has developed 10 principles for multimedia learning.

I read the book Multimedia Learning van Richard E. Mayer. The book is entirely based on research and therefore is a slightly boring read, but has a solid basis. I have the crazy habit of reading all books from cover to cover and have therefore read it all. I think you can summarize the practical lessons in one blog post, so you are lucky :). My advice is to read this blog post and not the entire book.

Mayer defines multimedia learning as presenting material in both word and image for the purpose of learning. What I liked a lot is the distinction between:
  • No learning (nothing is withheld from it)
  • Rote learning (people remember but cannot apply it)
  • Meaningful learning (remember and apply)
The goal is hence to facilitate meaningful learning by developing multimedia material. He highlights important principles, all supported by research. I will explain the principles here. After that I will explain that one principle does not work in the context of intercultural trajectories.

The 10 principles of Richard Mayer

Principle 1. The coherence principle The coherence principle states that people learn better when interesting but less relevant words or pictures are taken away from a presentation. Less is more actually. This also applies to background music.

Principle 2. The signaling principle People learn better from multimedia if you help guide the attention of the learner. This can be through the use of arrows, colors, or an element that will be placed under a magnifying glass. I immediately applied this principle to video interviews I was working on by adding the most important words here with text. In my opinion, this is not in contradiction to the following principle:

Principle 3. The redundancy principle This principle means that you should not offer the same text in words and audio: that would be redundant. There is evidence from research: participants who saw pictures and a heard an explanation scored better than participants who received the same pictures and story but also had the explanation written in text. For video this simply means that you should not subtitle with the same text as voice.

Principle 4. The spatial contiguity principle People learn more easily when the accompanying words and images are close to each other. We are just lazy people and would prefer to be offered everything on a silver platter :). We don't like to search for the explanation.

Principle 5. The temporal contiguity principle And this also applies to time. It is more convenient to see the pictures about the origin of a storm at the same time when a voice explains it, instead of first seeing the pictures and then the explanation (or vice versa). This explains the success of animation and other instructional videos.

Principle 6. The segmenting principle Multimedia learning is more effective when the material is divided into different segments and learners have control over following the steps. This is often the case with interactive video, but can also simply be done by dividing a 15-minute video into 3-4 videos which allows people to choose when they continue with the next one. Here, of course, we see the power of interactive video. Although you may also argue that a good question in a video has a signal function.

Principle 7: The pre-training principle People are better able to learn from multimedia when they already know the most important concepts. We applied this, for example, by ensuring that before a client SPOC (Small Private Online Course) starts, the participants can go through an e-learning with the basic knowledge. This means that everyone is aware of the most important concepts and we can go into depth during the SPOC.

Principle 8: The modality principle People learn deeper from images combined with spoken word than from images and written word. This means that spoken explanation with an animation works better than all text on the screen. Indeed I sometimes see animations with text only and I always have the feeling that it would be faster if I could simply read the text. This principle is actually just a little too logical for me: it says that you should use both eye and ear smartly, right?

Principle 9: The multimedia principle People learn better from word and image from from text only. Yes ... so visualizing helps! Fortunately but otherwise we would have to go back to uploading PDFs as online learning. Uhmmmm I really saw that once? An online course where you had to download and read around 20 different pdfs in Moodle ...

Principle 10: The personalization principe I find the personalizing principle the most sympathetic somehow. It says that people learn better when a conversational style is used instead of a formal style. This has always been a basic principle in our courses: make it personal and engage in an online conversation. Mayer translates it as: in spoken text in an animation use direct speech: you, your. Furthermore, a friendly voice helps. Good to know: research shows that the face of the speaker (eg with a screencast) does not automatically help for better understanding. This would help only if the face contains relevant information, for example due to facial expressions.

Which principle does not apply in an intercultural context?

Yes, what do you think? It's the redundancy principle. I experienced an exception to this rule which makes sense to me. After reading the book, I immediately wanted to apply my knowledge to a video interview, so I had an argument not to subtitle the video in the same language as the interview (English). However, it is an intercultural context, with many non-native English speakers. It appears that in this case people really like literal subtitles, because the accents are not always easy to understand. After seeing the video with subtitles, I got more out of it myself, although I'm quite used to different accents in English. That brings me to the boundary conditions.

The boundary conditions. When do the principles apply? 

In each chapter there is a discussion of the 'boundary conditions'. These are the circumstances in which the principle applies. For example, you can deduce from the examples in the book that a lot of research has been done using instructional materials. The example of explaining the occurrence of thunder and lightning is widely used. Many of the principles apply most strongly to inexperienced participants and complex material. I think this is something to keep in mind, for example, more experienced learners can handle more superfluous information.

So for instance, for the redundancy principle the condition is that this is especially true for groups who speak the same language, as mother tongue. Mayer has not investigated whether this also applies to non-native speakers. It is therefore important to realize that there are always exceptions. Don't apply the principles too rigidly. 


What can you learn from Richard Mayer? You can benefit a lot from these principles if you develop learning materials on complex issues for starting learners. Provide a clear message, visualize where possible. Use voice. Avoid duplicating the same information. Make it personal and make sure learners have control over the speed to go through the material.

PS. Do you live in the Netherlands? Want to learn about multimedia? Participate in onze eigen leergang over blended leren

Friday, May 31, 2019

Organizations: keep an eye on your high speed learners

A participant during my master class on learning of the future shares: "I was learning a lot through the online world and would be at the cutting-edge in my field, this learning was logical part of my work as recruiter. Now I have a new job and it is not a logical part of my function. I don't have the time anymore to be active online. I see that I am no longer aware of all the new developments in my field". You will not get better proof of the power of online, informal learning. And at the same time it shows what the biggest bottleneck is: organizations do not have an eye for self-learning professionals and do not facilitate this type of learning either. The focus is still on courses.
The masterclass started with my definition of the knowmad: "someone who learns continuously and thereby makes smart use of the online world"
The first part of the masterclass I focussed on skills for knowmads, including developing (online) identity, networking, smart use of tools and technology and application in practice: translating the online world and applying learnings. The second part I discussed the organization as a learning environment for the knowmad. Although I do know that many organizations do not actively facilitate informal learning, it was quite shocking (but interesting of course!) to hear stories from the participants.

Two important things struck me:

The big challenge for professionals is to deal with information overload: people indicated that they continuous flow of all information and via various channels (emails, apps, Linked) makes them feel bad. The consequence of this is that they withdraw from the flows and start to avoid information, get rid of Twitter and only follow what is needed (emails). This is a logical response if you start to feel bad because of the flows of information, right? The entire group felt that they had no control over the many information flows. No participant worked in an organization that supports employees to take back control over the information flows.

Organizations do not have a keen eye for inquisitive employees, the high speed learners: that is why professionals often do informal learning in the evenings. This means, for example, that someone who works in a high-tech environment and constantly keeps up to date via podcasts and youtube videos may look for the new job after a few years. To what extent has the organization benefited from this knowledge development? As long as the employee works in the organization, he or she will apply this knowledge. However, it remains personal knowledge but does not become organizational knowledge unless there is a conscious focus on collaborative learning and sharing this knowledge.

An interesting question from a participant: innovation seems to be a keyword for knowmads who learn continuously, but not everyone needs to focus on innovation? I think it's a good question and I am not sure about the answer. There is definitely a difference between functions in their focus on innovation. A high tech environment for instance will have an inherent need to innovate. Personally, I think that actually there is no single function in which innovation is not necessary.  Contexts and technology are changing. The customer also wants something 'new'. What do you think?

The slides of this master class:

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Tool of the month: interactive video

This time the tool of the month is not one but no fewer than five tools. I co-organized a meetup about interactive video in the Netherlands. My own experience with interactive video had been adding questions to videos with the help of Zaption (which no longer exists) and Edpuzzle. I also experimented with Vialogues to facilitate a conversation around a video source.

However, the meetup opened up a whole new world of interactive video. It is much more than just adding a question to a video. In this blog I share the 5 tools that were central to the meetup, with examples. The examples are in Dutch, but I think you can catch the interactions. It is very nice to see what is possible and it definitely opens up your creativity.

What is interactive video?

Interactive video is a video in which the viewer can take various actions. Hence it gives more room for engagement and personalization. The viewer can click for more information, answer a question or make a choice. With his action, he determines the course of the film: a different order, or a question appears to answer. What I learned during the meetup is that it is useful to distinguish between Three types of interaction:

  1. navigation - a viewer chooses the path him or herself
  2. questions - speak for themselves
  3. hotspots -you can add information in text or video

Tooling: een overzicht van 5 tools

We have looked at 5 different tools. Listed from simpel to more complex (or advanced) to work with:
Behalve H5P zijn het allemaal tools van Nederlandse grond!


H5P is an open source program that you can use for free. You can upload your own video and make it interactive. Create an account, choose ‘interactive video’ and upload your own video (max. 16 MB). You can add questions and polls, and additional information via hotspots. You can also use H5P directly from Moodle and Wordpress if you have installed the plug-in. Here you see an example video made by Göran Kattenberg from Kattenberg Learning Innovation Consulting and The Blended Group.
H5P is actually a 'suite' of tools with which you can create learning activities with and without interactions that you embed in a learning environment. The newest is 'branching scenario'. With that you glue videos together with interactive branches.
  • Cost: Free
  • Difficulty: *
  • Basic layer: can be video from YouTube or your own upload
  • Hosting: Your video is on H5P (or on Moodle / Wordpress if you use the plug-in) but you can embed it on other sites
  • Interesting because: it is free and therefore a great way to start interactive video


Hihaho is a very simple program that you can get started with right away, you don't need any special video editing or other experience. You can create a free account and then click on + new Hihaho and then you can import a video from for example Youtube or Vimeo. Then, you can start to add your interactions via 'Enrich', for example a jump, a question or a break. As an example, an instructional video that was recorded with a smartphone. There are a number of questions. 

  • Cost: 10 videos and 100 viewers for free. Then from 19 euros / month
  • Difficulty: *
  • Basic layer: from YouTube, Vimeo, JWPlayer or Kaltura but also Media site, Blue Billywig and own upload
  • Hosting: Your video remains hosted at the location of the base layer. You could see it as HiHaHo putting an interactive layer over your video. Both layers are merged into a link, embed code, Scorm package or xAPI. HiHaHo videos are used a lot in learning environments. By using SCORM or xAPI, results in the video also become visible in the LMS.
  • Interesting because: it is a very easy program. There is almost no learning curve, you can get started right away.


Explorit allows you to add questions to your video and also provide feedback to the viewer. You can import from Youtube, Vimeo but also from Blue Billywig. You can export the edited video again via a full export, or you can also embed it on your own site or, for example, in Moodle. It is fairly intuitive to learn. Clients with an enterprise account receive 4 hours of training and can then get to work. View an example below about the provincial and water board elections. The Provincial election part is mainly based on interactive video, the Water Board election part is based on interactive images.
  • Costs: Basic account 25 euros / month, Professional account 125 euros / month
  • Difficulty: **
  • Basic layer: not only a video, but also an image is possible as a base layer. Video must be on YouTube; soon a video from Vimeo can also be linked
  • Hosting: You can either export your video as html or use it directly from the site.
  • Interesting because: you can also add feedback to questions and you can also make interactive pictures

Ivory Studio

Ivory studio describes itself as 'the online editor for interactive video' and that is actually a very good name. It is very similar to video editing programs such as Imovie or Windows Moviemaker. It is widely used by filmmakers. You can also do more with Ivory Studio than with the aforementioned tools, such as uploading your own media, adding different videos, choosing from 5 different interactions. Last but not least you can personalize by linking to databases. An example: a company that does DNA analysis for babies sends the parents a personalized result. Parents of babies with blue eyes receive a different video than parents of babies with brown eyes. View the example below to get an idea.
  • Costs: 1 video for free, then flexible prices, eg 65 euros / month for 5 videos
  • Difficulty: ****
  • Basic layer: own video
  • Hosting: Your video runs on the Ivory Studio player
  • Interesting because: you have many options and can personalize using data sets

Blue BillyWig

Blue Billywig is also both a hosting platform and an editor for interactive videos with which you can do a lot and have a lot of options. It is used for marketing but also for e-learning modules. You can  use 360-degree videos, personalize and ask questions.
  • Costs: on request
  • Difficulty: ****
  • Basic layer: own video
  • Hosting: Blue Billywig is the hosting platform
  • Interesting because: you have many options, you can personalize and you can use 360-degree videos


There is a whole world of interactive video tools and toys to explore. You can use the easier tools yourself to get the viewer to think for a moment. At Ivory Studio and Blue Billywig you really have to dive into the tool, but then you can produce wonderful material. These tools are much more like an editing program. In addition, it can be an entire project to make an interactive video, devising the storyboard, filming the various scenarios and compiling. The options are endless.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Meet Beau, a reflection chatbot

Working in a small group to design a blended training I felt very annoyed. I had the feeling we were investing too much energy in defining the goals and was worried that the team was not going in the right direction. Usually I can put my finger on what we need to do, but this time I did not know exactly where it had gone wrong. I decided to use our own "Beau the reflection chatbot". Beau asked me a number of questions such as: "What did you do in this situation?" "How did it work out?" It gave me a different insight: that I have to think more about the role of goals in a certain process and to communicate more clearly about this. You have to play with the importance of learning objectives and the level of detail, depending on the situation. In an open and social process, for example, you formulate your goal more openly. Make goals / learning objectives also the subject of conversation. Thanks to Beau!

Who the hell is Beau?

Beau is the chatbot I developed together with Kirste den Hollander and Steven van Luipen,  a prototype. We wanted to see if you could use a chatbot to support reflection. And you certainly can! I am enthusiastic about the possibilities, although I also see the limitations of Beau. Beau is a scripted bot, in which no artificial intelligence is used. However, talking to specialists I learned that sometimes a scripted bot is all you need.

Beau was tested by 51 people and these are the results

Our conclusions:

  • Most people are positive about the use of Beau, the tone and the language used in the conversation. But more importantly, half of them have gained a new insight through the conversation. 
  • Talking to a text chatbot instead of a person, and typing instead of talking often helps the reflection process. It gives people time to think and enables them to determine the rhythm of the conversation themselves. 
  • In the live confession the reflection of a confessor is central and the confessional taker only asks questions. That role can perfectly be played chatbot. 
We see different possibilities to use a chatbot for reflection. You can encourage people to do this on a regular basis or you can meet as a team to use a reflection bot and exchange them at regular intervals. It is important, though to take into account that a (small) group of people has a lot of resistance to reflecting with a chatbot.

Do you want to read our article about Beau?

Or download
Meet Beau the reflection chatbot

Curious about the chatbot design process?

I have learned and read a lot about the design process, including experiences and got training with IBM Watson. Do you want to learn about bots yourself and maybe even do a first exploration of possible bots? Have a look at this workshop I may facilitate for your organization. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Using personas in design of online and blended learning

Why would you work with personas when designing online or blended learning? In this blog I will share my enthusiasm about working with personas. Working with personas is not only useful for marketing professionals but also useful in a design process for learning trajectories.
Abdel lives in the capital of Mali, studies journalism and is eager to learn. He has internet access via the university network on his Huawei smartphone. He would like to learn how he can get in touch with other students in other cities in West Africa and as a journalist he would like to share developments from Mali with the rest of the world.

Hawa lives in the countryside of Mali and buys cards to access to the internet on her mobile, so she has an internet access roughly three times a week. She would like to learn how she can make short videos about her life for the NGO she works with. They have asked her to record and share how she lives and works. 
Abdel and Hawa do not really exist but are personas we have created and discussed during the design of an online citizen journalism course for people in Mali. The names Abdel and Hawa often come back: if Hawa only logs in 3 times a week, shouldn't we allow a full week for the photo assignment instead of 3 days? It also leads to the discussion whether we can actually design one course for Abdel and Hawa. In this way we come to the solution of weekly bonus assignments because Abdel might drop out if the course is not interesting enough. Abdel and Hawa prove their usefulness in this design process because the use of these two personas allow us to get into the skin of our target group. We can continuously test the design against "real personas".

Aren't personas rather used for marketing purposes?

Working with personas has its background in marketing and design thinking. A persona is a very detailed description of a user of a product or service. Marketers use it to develop products and to think about marketing a product. The dutch Albert Heijn was critized by the UN because of their personas. The customer profiles would lead to stereotypical images of customer. That is the first pitfall of working with personas. It can lead to a stereotyping of the practice. If you have that feeling, it may be good to talk more/again with the target group.

How to develop personas?

It is best to developing the personas in an interactive session with a design group consisting of various stakeholders, often content experts and other actors. A first step is to discuss the most important (sub) target groups. Then you divide the target groups among your design group. Ask your design group to crawl under the skin of a participant. In small groups you ask them to make a persona by going through the following steps:
  • Make a drawing of a person
  • Give a name
  • Add a global description of his / her life and work
  • How does he / she use the internet? via which devices?
  • Why does he / she participate in the course, training or community?
  • What does he / she want to learn?
  • What is he / she allergic to?
After this invite the groups to present their persona in the I-form (I am Hawa and I live in Sarafere) so that people can really empathize. I have experienced that some people will make a caricature of the persona, especially if they have a difficult relationship with the group the persona represents. Try to ask for positive aspects. In fact, this exercise also gives you a sense of whether the design group has sufficient knowledge of the target group. Ofcourse, you may adjust these questions yourself or use an empathy-map.
An interesting tool to start personas may be Thispersondoesnotexist. The site will give you a random photo. Similarly uinames will provide you with fake names. You may select a country and then by clicking on the spacebar you get a fake name, that's how I get Camiel de Ruyter born in 1989. I have not tried this yet, but it might stimulate creativity.

Why I believe in the power of personas

The main design challenge is to make sure your design suits the needs and practices of the participants. Content experts in particular often think about what is important for everyone to know rather than what the participants need. At the same time, the content experts often know the target group very well. Of course you can also invite the audience or do interviews, but you may use personas if you think the subject matter experts and others know the participants quite well.

I have very positive experiences with working with personas. Making personas is ideal to get the knowledge of the design group about their colleagues or the target group on the table. Often this knowledge is available in the design group. By working with personas the group develops empathy and gets a lively image of the target group. You force your design group to get into the skin of the future participants. Personas are fictional characters and not persons that make it much more neutral to speak about them.

For the best effect, you should regularly look through the eyes of the personas during the design. With Hawa and Abdel, that worked out well, in other cases you sometimes forget to use the personas lateron during the design process. I do not really know how that is. Maybe too many personas? Or do you still start thinking from the content side and is that a pitfall?

Designing jointly with the target group versus working with personas

An alternative to working with personas is inviting the target group to participate in your design process. This is not always possible, as in the case of Hawa and Abdel. If you invite representatives of the target group in the design process, it is important that they can think along from a broader perspective than their own interests. A persona can be a good alternative because you talk about fictitious case and this gives space to play with the design. When 'real' participants say something, it can not be ignored but it may not be representative for the whole group of participants.

Interested in working with personas? Read also:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Tool of the month: do-it-yourself animation videos

Anyone can now create an animation video using handy do-it-yourself tools. In this blog you will find a number of tools and tips to start with. In every Ennuonline course there is someone who proudly shows a self-made animation video. Margreet rushed in very enthusiastically in the previous course: "Is there a timeslot to show my video?" Of course that was allowed. Her video received a lot of praise and admiration from all participants. Hence the question to Margreet was how much time it took to make ... 'I don´t dare to count but twice I continued till 1 o´clock at night

So the good news is that you do not always need a professional to make a video. The bad news is that it takes you quite some time the first time to learn the program. But it is fun and addictive to do. And the second time it's a lot faster.


What is an animation video?

An animation is a film without actors, but many drawings in succession provide movement. This is an example of a professional animation video about teamwork.

Within the do-it-yourself animations for learning purposes you can distinguish between:
  •      The whiteboard animations
  •      The drawn animations
  •      The stop motion videos
1.Whiteboard animations
The whiteboard animation consists of a narrative and a person who draws along and thus illustrates the story. These are now popular. A well-known animation is the video about motivation from professionals titled Drive by RSA animate.

  Whiteboard Tools you may use:
2. Drawings
There are many tools that already contain drawings that you can select and where you can add texts, often with different characters. See a trial below from me a few years ago.
Tools to use:
In the latter two you can also use video material that is already online and you can use it in your own video.
3. Stop motion videos
Stop-motion is an animation form in which you photograph an object while it is moving. Then you play the frames in a row. This makes it seem like the object is moving.
I have see the stop motion app for iphone and ipad, but I haven´t tried the app. I don´t really know how easy or difficult it is.


Does it work?

There is research on the effect of whiteboard videos by Richard Whiteman. The research shows that whiteboard animation is very effective in retaining attention compared to talking head videos. 15% more information was picked up and remembered. More information in this video.


Tips to make your own animation videos

The most important work is to think through your key message and your storyline. Make sure you get this right and that the story is not getting too long.
  •  You can start well with a free account. If you use it more often, it is certainly useful to take a paid account because you then have access to more characters and can make longer videos for example.
  • When choosing between making your own animation versus asking a professional, you can look at your available budget, the number of viewers (it pays off) and how long you can use the video. If the content of the video changes quickly, you may want to try yourself.
  • You could also make an animation video before you have a professional video made. This allows you to test and easily show it to a professional animation studio you are looking for.
  • An alternative is to work with drawings. A good idea is to have the drawings made via Fiverr.com. You can also have an animation made via Fiverr.

Do you have any more tips, questions or a nice video you are proud of? Share it below in the comment!