I love Halloween. It is one of my favorite times of the year. I deck out the house with special effects, ghostly lights, the whole works. Signs that say, “warning”, “stay back” “not for the faint of heart”.  Classic.

However, I wouldn’t want that for my product. I wouldn’t want a sign to read, “if you are used to non-linear web based training courses, then stay back”.  I would be afraid to enter, seeing the words, “trainer and trainees” in the same sentence for an online learning solution.

Mindflash.com is Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde.  A solution that has some wonderful happy nice features and on the other hand transforms into a monster, ravaging what is web based training as we know it.

Scene: Jekyll’s Lab

Super

  • Ease of use – No tech skill required, no knowledge of online learning required (but..see further down)
  • Can create a course in less than 30 minutes
  • Home page layout clearly defined and easy navigation
  • Course Progress approach – step by step to follow with notifications to remind or ask you if you wish to complete that task or not
  • Simple to write course title, description
  • Identifies by icon – file options – excellent
  • E-Mail template option that enables you to tweak it or leave as is and send, along with step by step options for follow up
  • Add learners quick and easy
  • Preview in your browser
  • Administration dashboard

Average

  • To archive a live course, you have open the course, which opens the course window and then click the archive button
  • Quiz options: M/C, Labeling items, Labeling pictures, Sequencing (why not T/F?)
  • Graph reporting

Poor

  • Terminology – The use of ILT (Presentation, Slides, Trainer, Trainees)
  • Linear process for viewing a course
  • No Table of Contents

Administration Dashboard (Default home page)

  • Courses – Draft, Active, Archive, Create a New
  • Account – Review information, change password, profile details
  • Trainees – Add end users to your course/courses or remove them
  • Logos & colors – Change the color of your entry page (what your end user sees upon entering the system). The product offers you a few color options to pick from and you can upload your own logo. Nice.
  • Activity -  Listed in chronological order (from the latest to earlier) any edits, drafts, activates etc. on the courses and by whom

Formulas

The screen you will use frequently is the “course dashboard” screen, it contains

  • Course information – title, description, upload files (if new course), arrange, few other options, preview and activate button
  • Quizzes section
  • Trainer section – Photo optional, name/e-mail address required
  • Trainee section – Add/Remove, Batch upload – view trainees
  • Course progress checklist – Create, Name, Upload files, Create a Quiz, Invite trainees, Activate course. Enables you to see what steps you to complete, prior to activating the course. When the step is completed a green check mark is visible.
  • Automated E-Mails – Invitation, Reminder, Completion, Public view page – after each is completed, the circle icon changes to green
  • Activity

Course Creation and Launching

To create a course you upload your PowerPoint. Next upload your elements – this can be word documents, videos, audio, etc. You can add elements to the course build.

The program offers you a timeline you can add additional elements the files you have uploaded/ add a quiz. You can move the slides – what Mindflash.com calls “pages” in their product – around the timeline as you can the elements.  Tech skill is nil.

Previewing a course prior to launch is very easy. Click the preview button and it will open up your browser to show you what the course will look like to the end user. A nice feature.

Naming

Part of course creation is to provide your course a name and a description. This is easily accomplished in Mindflash.com’s course creation product.  However, the next piece prior to launching the course involves the “trainer”.

Trainer – The brief transformation of Hyde appears

Did I just jump back into an instructor led training class? When did the term trainer ever apply to web based training? Never.

Part of course development, pre-launch is an area called “trainer”, whereas the person building the course, is required to enter their name and e-mail address. I state again – required.  Photo is optional.  But if you try to bypass the name/e-mail, when you try to launch a notification will pop-up telling you to enter in this information.  Stop the presses!

The only time I have in 12 yrs of e-learning seen a person’s name and e-mail address on a course was in an Instructor led training class – in a classroom, seminar or workshop. I’ve never seen in a web based training course/online web based training. Not even with people who have never built a course, before (i.e. not an instructional designer).

Launch

Launching is simple. Simply click “Activate” and the course is now live.

Draft – Activate- Archive – Meet Jekyll

After your course is active you can go click the “home” tab to see the main dashboard. On this dashboard – as it relates to the course component. You have three options

  • Draft – This is where you may be working on a course but it is not live. You can edit the course at anytime – it offers an icon you simply click on, OR you can click the trash icon and delete the course.
  • Activate – The course is live
  • Archive – The course is no longer live. You may have created a course for example, and at some point decided no longer to use it. So you archive it. Archiving is nice, because it still exists, so if you change your mind – you can bring it back – rather than if you delete it – you cannot.

Hyde’s Turn

Why can’t we just stay with easy without adding additional steps? Baffling. I’m sure Hyde said the same thing when he was drinking the formula.

If you want your live course to be archived – you will need to open the course and then select archive. Simple. However, let’s say you want that draft course to become live.

Draft to Live

  1. Open Draft course – make sure to have created a course title & description (which you could have done at a much earlier point)
  2. Click “Activate”

Sure it is simple. But easier is having a button in the draft section, that the end user can just active from there. Next to each draft course (assuming that the person wants to do this) have an activate button.  Eliminate an extra step.

Archive to Live (Mindflash.com calls a live course “Active”)

To re-launch, first you must make a copy of your archived course, which places the copy of the course in the course draft section. Next, you open the draft of the course copy, make any applicable changes and activate.  While this makes sense if the archive is an older version and you are updating it, it seems an extra step, if you pulled the course because of whatever reason and it wasn’t because there is a new version online.

You decide however, you want the archive to now be live again Or that you made a mistake and you want this course to become live and did not mean to archive it. Regardless, you still have to follow the same process above. Again, add a button next to the archived course and give the administrator the option to activate immediately, rather than go extra steps.  Seems reasonable to me.

Back to Jekyll

Quiz Options

In the beta version of the product, Mindflash.com included T/F, yet for the final version removed it.

Quiz choices

  • M/C
  • Sequencing
  • Labeling pictures
  • Labeling items in an image

Quiz Options

  • Randomize questions
  • Grading capability – on/off
  • Preview

Missing Options

  • Quiz bank – would be a nice feature to see in the future
  • T/F – it is a staple in the industry; trust me – not everyone loves M/C

Trainees, Courses, E-Mail

Two options to add trainees (end users) to a course

  1. After you create the course or opening a draft course making changes, but prior to it being activated
  2. After it is activated

How to Add Trainees

In the course dashboard, under the “Trainees” section, click “Add”

You have three options

  • Add existing trainees – people already in the system
  • Add a new trainee – manually enter a person
  • Import from a file – end users on an excel file can be uploaded into the system – as a batch file. The system does not tell you if it needs to be a .csv or .xls file or .xlsx file.  It just says Excel.

Automated E-Mails

Invitation, Reminder & Completion – templates that use mail merge – i.e. it will auto-fill with the trainee’s name prior to send out. It notifies them they are invited (invitation), remind them (to take or complete the course) or congratulate them on completing the course (completion).  For the invite and reminder includes a link to the course. The completion e-mail offers the option to include the score.

You can add additional text in the e-mail window if you so choose – this is optional. If you choose not, then the default e-mail is more than acceptable and works.  In my test, it appeared quickly in my Gmail account.   Link worked.

Public Sign Up Page

If you allow the option of people being able to take your course without an invite, this screen shows you how it will appear to the end user. It provides the link which you can copy and send out.   I tested it, worked as shown.

Scene: Dr. Jekyll’s den.. the formula has kicked in.. Mr. Hyde stands up… the creature has been unleashed not on the streets of London, but on virtual world of the Internet.

Instructor Led Terminology under the guise of Web Based Training

  • Upload your Presentation
  • Slides
  • Trainer
  • Trainees
  • No Table of Contents
  • Linear process to taking a course

The whole premise behind web based training is that the end user learns on their own, at their own pace, anytime, anywhere they want. They can to where they want to in the course (non-linear), they can drill down – into chapters, deep down – depending on the topic. They are learners.

In the Mindflash.com experience frankly this is not happening when the terror of ILT rears its ugly head online.

Honestly, If you look at the above terms, sans TOC; where have you heard or seen them before? Perhaps in a classroom? At a workshop or seminar? I have. The only thing missing is the projector and the food.  In an instructor led training course, the trainer controls the class. He/She starts at the beginning of whatever topic they are on..and goes in some sequential fashion – a linear approach. They do not jump around.

If you are only interested in how to increase sales with the new product; that is only going to perk your interest.  Not the beginning, where the instructor starts at explaining what is sales.  ILT does not offer self-pace nor self-control.

In an ILT environment, often you come into the classroom and see the presentation slide on the screen with the trainer’s name and e-mail address. Hmm, sounds familiar?  Attendees at some places are called trainees.

In an ILT, many trainers use the term “presentation” to infer to their uploaded PowerPoint presentation or whatever they use to visually be seen by the audience.

In web based training the terminology is as follows

  • Learners – replaces trainees, employees, students (if you are in corporate)
  • Course – it is a web based training course – not a presentation
  • Chapters -  replaces topics, and for some people sub-topics
  • Pages – replaces slides, lessons, etc.
  • TOC – Table of Contents exists. This enables the learner to drill down. By chapter under the course, so that they can jump to the specific chapter they want to. Ideally the TOC includes the pages under each chapter, so that the learner can jump directly to that page. They can go sequential in they want to, but they do not have to.
  • Non-Linear – This is the power of web based training. Otherwise it is nothing more than instructor led training online, and what is the point of that?

The only time you would want a linear process is if you are taking a compliance course, some sort of required or needed certification course or some type of course that requires lock down capability.

Narrator Steps in.. We have gone to a commercial..hey this is not PBS

The greatest of WBT is the non-linear strength. I have found that once people see that how it differs than a ILT course, they love the jumping around angle. It enables them to focus on what they want to learn, immediately. They love it.  Now, I know there are some people who are so used to the classroom approach, they must follow the linear mechanism and that is fine. At least there is an option.

When I reviewed the product, I asked Mindflash.com why they choose the ILT components including the non-TOC and the inability for an end user to jump around.

CEO Donna Wells explained to me that the people in the beta test did not request it, so they did not put it in there, but if people in the future requested it, they would re-examine it.  She added that people creating the courses were not instructional designers, nor did they necessarily have any experience in e-learning or training for that matter. However, she said that many people were trainers.

If you have no knowledge of e-learning (regardless of what you did prior to, ILT or no training background), how do you know what WBT in essence truly is? Wouldn’t you assume that the vendor is the expert in this arena? I know I would.

Can I Buy That? (a word from our sponsor)

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The store is selling these items quick. No one has returned them to the store, so therefore, it must be a DVR.

Bottom Line

Mindflash.com, it has some very nice features, but there are too many ILT components – terminology, no TOC & a strong linear spin for me to recommend this product.

Cast:

Product: Mindflash.com Training Management System

Narrator – E-Learning 24/7