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That's The eLearning Designer's Handbook!

Instructional designer and author Tim Slade joins me to talk about the new release of his book "The eLearning Designer's Handbook". He graciously allows me to fangirl over the layout, design, and content of this book because I think it's just so neat. He also explains the inspiration for the book and gives advice on how to make eLearning that feels more like a learning event than a training. Finally, he shares his last minute idea to create companion notebooks to go along with the handbook so that eLearning designers can stay organized during their design process.

You can find "The eLearning Designer's Handbook" as well as the companion notebooks on

You can connect with Tim at or on LinkedIn.


The following transcript was auto-generated and may contain typos or spelling errors.

Leslie Early 0:03

Okay, well welcome back to that's awesome ID today we have something a little different a little special. Today I get to talk about something that I think is awesome. And I get to talk to the creator of that awesome thing. Tim Slade, thank you so much, Tim for being here.

Tim Slade 0:20

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, Leslie.

Leslie Early 0:23

So do you mind kind of introducing yourself and kind of talking about your inspiration for this awesome book, which is called the elearning designers handbook. Yeah, I'm sure people might be familiar. But do you mind giving a little intro?

Tim Slade 0:37

Sure. So I work as a freelance elearning designer, developer, I own my own business. And I've, I've been freelancing full time, it'll be two years, coming up in the spring of 2021. But before I started freelancing, full time I was doing a lot of freelancing during many nights and weekends for like the past 10 years or so. Working various corporate jobs. And yeah, and so now I freelance full time. And the book, the inspiration for the book, there's an interesting story about the book. So before I started freelancing, full time, I used to work as the director of instructional design at GoDaddy. And when I started that job, I was tasked with taking these four individuals at the time who are working on my team. And I had to essentially transform them into elearning. designers, they knew nothing about elearning, or instructional design. And it was through that process that I realized after I kind of laid out the process for them, and the architecture and all the instructional design best practices and project management, best practices and storyboarding, all the things I realized was like, oh, gosh, I have a book here. And so I wrote a book. And that was the first edition that came out, I think, in 2017, or 2018. And then when I when I went full time on my own last year, I knew I wanted to, I want to do to expand upon what I did in the first book. And originally, I was going to write a separate book on instructional design for eLearning. But I realized it was really just a continuation of the first one. So that's kind of how the second edition came about.

Leslie Early 2:09

Yeah. And so first of all, it's beautiful, by the way, so. And like I love the cover, I also really love what's going on inside. So did you have like, someone help you out with like the layout and design and stuff? Because it's actually it's it's so easy to read. And it's it's so well organized? I mean, I've dog eared all the pages that have like, examples. And I'm curious, like, what was your process for making it?

Unknown Speaker 2:36

Yeah, so no, I didn't work with a designer. And I take a lot of pride in this, like, That book is 100. And I'm looking at it right now here. That book is 100%. me. So the interesting story there about the book. And this is true, both for the first edition and the second edition. I actually started writing the book by designing the cover and the layout. And, you know, I'm a very, very visual person. And I'm very, you know, visually motivated, I guess I say, so,

Leslie Early 3:07


Tim Slade 3:08

aesthetically motivated. Yeah. So I, I started by designing the layout and the cover and the choosing how I wanted to make it look, you know, visually, and that kind of it was it was all about the end user experience of the look and feel of the book is what drove me to to get it done. So I'm glad that that's recognized. I'll say that.

Leslie Early 3:33

I love it. Um, and I wanted to say also that it is so thorough, and and I love how you put the little in your subtitle here, subheading, Practical Guide to elearning development process for new elearning. Designers. Yeah, that's great. But I would say this is useful to people who've also been doing it for a little while.

Tim Slade 3:56

Yeah, I mean, you know, there's so many things in the book. There's nothing remarkable about the content in the book. It's, I was talking to somebody the other day, and he said, it's really, it's just about the basics. And but even then, people who have been working in the industry for years and years and years, sometimes they just need a reminder of the basics. And so my, you know, the target audience, of course, is anyone getting into elearning design, because it's kind of the, the lens that I viewed it all through was when I started in elearning. I knew nothing, and it's kind of how I it's kind of a journal of everything I've learned over the last decade. And but with that being said, I think you know, anyone, even if you're experienced, I think there's there's something to be learned out of it.

Leslie Early 4:36

Yeah. And also, if you're experienced, I feel like maybe it might not be I like that you use the term handbook because it's almost like a reference guide, like so you have all of these things that you know, I usually end up googling them all separately, because I'm like, I probably have to talk about that in an interview or something, you know, I should freshen up, refresh myself on that. But now it's all like right here and I just go straight to that page. And I have like five different learning theories all together. And I'm like, this is great. It's like having a textbook, which was the next thing I want to talk about is my last episode, I was talking with Liz Huber, about, you know, graduate programs and instructional design, and how they actually don't focus on elearning developing very much. So I thought, Oh, this would be, this would be a great what's the word I'm looking for? supplement, this would be great supplemental material. Like I see it as a textbook, you know, for people going through the process of like, learning instructional design.

Tim Slade 5:39

Yeah, the, you know, the use of the word handbook was really intentional, from my standpoint, because one of the things I I'm very clear about in the book, and anytime I talk about me, as an elearning, designer, developers, I don't consider myself an expert. I don't have a formal background in instructional design or educational technology. I used to catch shoplifters for a living, and I have a degree in criminal justice. And so the book is, you know, I was really intentional about I am not sharing. I am talking about theory, but it's not a book about theory. It's a book about my experiences, and yeah, and how you or the reader can apply really practical tips, tricks, expertise and knowledge to what they do everyday. And a lot of people go to school and get master's degrees in instructional design. And they and then they get into the corporate world, and they get kind of smacked in the face, because they realized they learned a lot about theory, but they didn't learn about the practical aspects of dealing with stakeholders and writing a storyboard and the nitty gritty of what we do. And so you're right, it is it could supplement what somebody might learn, you know, in a formal education program or setting to give them practical advice.

Leslie Early 6:54

I wouldn't be too hard on yourself for not thinking through a program like that, because clearly, you're an expert. I know,

Tim Slade 6:59

thank you.

Leslie Early 7:00

This book demonstrates your expertise. And clearly you have theory and everything that they're teaching. So

I trust your book more than I trust some of the professors.

Tim Slade 7:13

Thank you, I appreciate it.

Leslie Early 7:14

Um, the other thing, as you were saying, kind of along the same lines is I love the amount of examples you have in here. So for instance, you know, you have project management plans, you have storyboards, different types of storyboards, written versus visual, you have design documents, and prototypes, you have actual examples of what a prototype of elearning would look like. And this is another thing Liz and I were like, crying about, hardly ever, in these higher ed programs. They don't show you what elearning looks like, they don't show you. This is a good example. And this is a bad example. So I love that you have you know, I, what I'm trying to get to here is if you need an idea for a second book, I would buy a table book of only examples of good looking elearning

Tim Slade 8:08

it's funny, you say that you're not the first person to recommend that to me. So I've thought about like, Oh, you know, maybe make a coffee table book of, you know, like, it'd be kind of sweet, oh, funny version of like a coffee table art book, but for eLearning. So you're not the first person to recommend that.

Leslie Early 8:25

I just think there's just not, I mean, you can find examples, but you really have to be motivated to go out there and like really search through like elearning heroes or, you know, YouTube or different things and people's blogs, but it's not, there's not one central place where you can go to look and see like that, at least that I know of that you can go and see like, these are exemplary examples of Sure. No, no, good look, good. elearning.

Oh, I do if you don't mind me quoting you back to you.

Tim Slade 8:55

I've never had anyone do that before. Okay, I am preparing myself.

Leslie Early 9:01

it was actually a subheading in the section. I think it's in the learning theory section. And it says learning is an ecosystem of experiences.

Tim Slade 9:11

Yeah, you know, I was just, it's funny, you mentioned this, I was just responding to somebody on LinkedIn about this. And they asked, Do people hate learning? And my response is, no, people don't hate learning people hate training. And the thing to know is that there's a difference between learning and training. We're always learning people hate training, especially when that training is not relevant to them, or they don't have a motivation for receiving that content. And so when I say learning is the ecosystem of experiences, what I'm trying to get at with, with that, that statement is so frequently, especially in the corporate world, we put our learners through a training event, a single training event, a 30 minute eLearning course. And then we think, oh, they've learned it, and then we wonder why they didn't learn anything. And it's because learning doesn't just happen. Training happens. But learning doesn't just happen. Learning is a process of failure and trial and error. And I think one of the examples I give in the book, I don't know if I give this in the book, I know I've given this when I've spoken about this in the past, it's like, if I wanted to learn how to bake a cake, I could watch a YouTube video, I could read a recipe, attend a class, but none of those things will have meant that I've learned to bake a cake, I have to try and bake the cake. And I have to fail at baking that cake. And then I've tried again, that's what learning is. Training happens learning is a process. So that's kind of kind of what I'm trying to get at is, is from a corporate standpoint, we should stop treating learning as an event. Right?

Leslie Early 10:38

It's definitely a process over time. So this is something actually I've struggled with, with in my own studies and your own attempts at creating elearning. So if you have, you know, an elearning courses, it can be sort of static, right? It's, it is a training in a way. So how would you? How would you recommend, you know, within one elearning experience, to try and get that learning process going. So it feels a little bit more like a process and less like an isolated event?

Tim Slade 11:11

You know, I think it the biggest thing I think anyone needs to be able to do is define what is the desired outcome for that learning object, whether it's an elearning course or something else? And so, you know, are you simply looking to transfer knowledge that will be used elsewhere? Are you looking to create opportunities for practice and skill, it all comes down to what it is that you want learners to be able to do at the end of the day. And one of the things that I mentioned in the book, and I mentioned this, anytime you're approaching and learning, you're designing a learning intervention, or you're working with stakeholders is we don't we shouldn't be talking about what learners need to know, we should be talking about what they need to do. And if as long as you're focused on the behaviors and actions, and you can envision how that might come to life and the eLearning course through interactivity, the rest kind of falls into place. And so how do you create learning out of an elearning? Course? Well, you you give learners if if it makes sense, in an elearning format, you give them a chance to practice and fail and see the consequences of their decisions or their actions and try again and making making even in a safe, controlled environment like an elearning course or in a classroom or whatever the case might be. Learning comes through trial and error in practice, and maybe self evaluation or formal evaluation. And so, you know, to learn to take an elearning course away from just being a training event where knowledge is transferred to a learning event. It's it's about understanding what you're trying to accomplish and designing it to promote that.

Leslie Early 12:43

Yeah, yeah. Great. Um, I heard a little birdie told me that there are, is there another, like companion book that goes with this one? That's what I heard.

Tim Slade 12:55

Yeah. Sort of, um, so you know, yes or no. So one of the things I have this horrible habit of doing is when I'm on the eve of launching something like a book, I have this rush of ideas of like, I should do this, too. So like, when I first launched the first edition of the book, I realized, Oh, I could, I can make an online course out of the book. And I did that, like the last week before I published the first version. And right before I published this edition of the book, it came to me that, oh, I would really love to create a tool, like a notebook that people could something tactile, that somebody could hold, and take notes in, whether it's for ideating on a storyboard or project management. So I, I did create these two, I call them the elearning, storyboard notebook and the E learning project plan notebook. And it's just it's a simple little book, a notebook full of blank storyboard pages where people can write out what type of slide they're designing, or maybe sketch out the slide. And the same thing with the project plan notebook. Maybe when you're interviewing a stakeholder, subject matter expert, it's a place to take notes and identify timelines and milestones and responsibilities. And so yeah, so at the last minute, literally, like the Friday before the book went live on Amazon. I spent a couple hours throwing it together and putting them on on Amazon. So those are out there as well. Yeah.

Leslie Early 14:14

Okay. So everything's available online at Amazon.

Tim Slade 14:17

Yep. Just search elearning and you'll find it.

Leslie Early 14:19

Perfect. All right. Well, thank you so much, Tim, for joining me and letting me fangirl over your book a little bit.

Tim Slade 14:27

I appreciate it.

Leslie Early 14:28

Is there you know, is there anywhere that listeners can find you to connect with you if they want to talk more?

Tim Slade 14:34

Yeah, you can go to Tim or just put in Tim Slade and Twitter or LinkedIn and I'll be there.

Leslie Early 14:41

Okay, perfect. Well, thank you again, I really think your book is awesome. I really think a lot of people are going to find it useful. I hope I'm pretty sure they will. And I hope you have a good rest of your day.

Tim Slade 14:56

Thanks Leslie. Bye.

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