• An Interview with Monarch Media's New CEO, Greg Flesher
  • Tips for Designing Impactful eLearning for Adults
  • Giving Your Teams an Extra Advantage
  • Accessibility: Make your online training Section 508 compliant

An Interview with Monarch Media's New CEO, Greg Flesher

Greg joined Monarch Media in late 2016. His eLearning background spans more than 20 years and we recently sat down with him for his thoughts, opinions, and perspective.

Monarch Media: eLearning has come a long way since its humble beginnings in distance education via snail-mail, to its current state. Where do you think it’s headed?

Greg Flesher: We’ve reached an exciting place. Just consider that the smart phones of today that we carry in our pockets are more powerful than the desktop computers of just a few years ago. Technology has made learning ubiquitous and literally at your fingertips. Every day you are presented with new information, data, and ideas to process and think critically about. That’s the really interesting aspect of learning. We each have our own unique personalized way of consuming content and the next wave of eLearning is already adjusting to that need for personalization.

Tell us a little about your work during your term at Elsevier?

I was at Elsevier for nearly 19 years although through mergers and acquisitions it was really three separate companies, Mosby, Harcourt, and Elsevier. I started as a Project Coordinator in the Multimedia department working on CD and early web- based products. Later, I researched emerging technology at a time when handheld devices (remember the Palm Pilot?) and learning management systems were starting to take shape. Blackboard was a new company back then. That background led me to start a new E-Education department for Elsevier that became very successful. Ultimately, I progressed through several senior management roles in the business and technology segments of the company.

You led the establishment of Elsevier’s first online learning platform, Evolve®, which has served more than 5 million health science students and faculty worldwide since inception. Health Science as a subject requires a great deal of hands-on and face-to-face education. How did you address that in the eLearning context?

Most early online courses were more of a hybrid where the faculty member would lecture in a face-to-face setting and then assign homework or specific eLearning content to complete outside of the classroom. Over time, some of the online tools and faculty teaching methods changed to take better advantage of the face time. Online tools such as discussion boards and chat also offered advantages for some learners who found it more comfortable to respond in an online setting rather than face-to-face. It become apparent that eLearning offered multiple ways to appeal to students with different styles of learning. In Health Sciences, there was often a clinical component that did require hands-on training in a lab. However, technology emerged, particularly in the area of simulation that replicated real-world situations to enable practice without requiring a trip to the physical lab.

What is the biggest hurdle in building eLearning solutions and how do you overcome it?

I think in any market with eLearning, an immediate challenge is that it’s different and requires a lot of planning and thoughtful attention from those preparing the material. Some think that eLearning makes teaching or training easy and automated. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Easy doesn’t come from technology. A great teacher is great because they make the effort to be innovative in the classroom, they prepare, and they care. That’s the same whether they are delivering a lecture face-to-face, online, or both. Certainly, online learning management systems can automate some functions (such as grading tests) but fundamentally, it takes time and effort to deliver a great online experience. Much of that effort comes up-front by leveraging expert instructional designers appropriately to prepare content that engages learners of all styles. Lack of time and expertise present a challenge for faculty, administrators, and trainers. Monarch Media excels at reducing that burden cost effectively through specialized expertise in the development of digital content, turnkey technical solutions, and customized curriculum. We also provide an active support system for answering questions and facilitating innovation.

You referred to simulations, tell us how does it make learning more effective?

People learn in a variety of ways. Fundamentally, you have to experience something before real learning takes place. Simulation provides a way to accomplish that. If you work through the steps necessary to complete a particular task (such as taking a blood pressure) you can learn in a non-threatening way. You can make mistakes with drug administration and learn from those mistakes without actually negatively impacting a real patient. That’s powerful and empowering.

In your new role at Monarch Media, what are you most excited about, and what changes are you planning for the company?

After years in a large organization, it’s refreshing to go back to a nimble, innovative, and small company that connects with clients every single day. In a big company it’s harder to get the necessary contact with the customer. With the pace of technological change, it’s critical to engage with your customers regularly. Monarch has always done an outstanding job of that and I’m looking forward to being a part of that culture. As for changes, we’ll see. There are so many opportunities to consider, we want to be open-minded yet focused on developing relationships well aligned to our mission of delivering cost-effective open source solutions that champion learning and collaboration without boundaries.

What are the key things you plan to do in your first few months here at Monarch Media?

For me it’s important to form a bond with the team, absorb the culture, and learn about existing processes and projects. It’s also critical to listen. I’m excited to meet our customers through phone calls and face-to-face discussions. At the same time, I will be reaching out to my existing network of colleagues around the world to promote Monarch Media and strategize about new opportunities. The days are already exciting and flying by!

Tips for Designing Impactful eLearning for Adults

Knowing your audience is critical when developing an online course, program or curriculum. This is especially important when considering adult learners. Over the years, several learning theories have emerged that offer important guidance but no one theory can be applied to all adults.

In this article, we consider aspects from multiple approaches that provide foundational insight for designing solid eLearning for adults.

The Starting Point

Andragogy, the manner in which adults learn, is a term coined by renowned American educator Malcolm Knowles. From its Latin roots, andragogy means “leader of man” whereas the often-used term pedagogy refers to leading children.

According to Knowles it can be assumed that adults are self-motivated, look for immediate benefit, utilize past experience, and are willing to learn when convinced of worthiness.

Various ways in which these basic concepts can be considered in the context of effective eLearning are described below.


Fundamentally, adult learners tend to be independent and do not require much handholding. As opposed to young learners who need guidance, adults work effectively when given autonomous control over their learning experiences. Well-designed eLearning should provide the facilitator capability to offer resources and tools, while leaving the learner fairly autonomous to absorb and learn information in their own unique style. This can be achieved through self-study or group collaboration projects with minimal instructor intervention. Courses can also offer simulations, scenarios, or games without introducing prior information. While adults will participate in activities without guidance, they still require help and support, should obstacles be encountered during the course of study. Also, a good design will promote flexible navigation to enable capability for browsing and bypassing familiar content.

Past Experience

Adults bring a repertoire of life experience that serves as a foundation for further learning. Any group of adult learners will have a diverse knowledge base, experience level and skill set. It’s important to understand the learner, assess their background, educational levels, and peer groups. For example, if learners are young adults active in social media, then incorporating activities involving Facebook and Twitter would be appropriate. As would, including peer mentoring and group activities so experiences could be shared. Tasks should be designed to enable exploration of the subject matter while offering opportunity to use accumulated life knowledge and experience.

Immediate Value-Add and Practical Application

Adults are interested in the immediate benefits gained from learning. They want to be able to apply acquired knowledge and skills to their current work or personal life. By including real-world case studies and integrating scenarios, eLearning should emphasize how the subject matter can be practically applied. Quick tips, hints, and tasks that replicate issues faced in the workplace provide reinforcement.

Motivation and Inclination

Adults are internally motivated to learn…when given the right reasons. They want to know why a certain assessment or task needs to be done and how it helps them. Resistance may occur when learning is forced without explanation. Adults are also inclined to learn socially. Social media and online collaboration tools help introduce a community aspect. Create activities that help build their social network and drive collaboration with those who share interests.

Involvement in Course Creation

Adults desire a certain amount of control over things in their life. This explains an urge to have control over the design and development of the course. Encourage learner feedback for ideas that can be used to improve the course.

Absorption vs. Memorization

It’s important to provide opportunities to practice skills, thus reinforcing the retention of core concepts rather than just rote memorization. Activities like simulations provide repetition and retention.

Real Problems

Action learning is a learner-centered approach that uses people working on real problems. The pioneer of action learning, Reg Revans, has said that there can be no learning without action and no action without learning. It is a reflective process. Revans believed that action learning is apt for problems that do not have a ‘right’ answer because the necessary questioning and self-reflective insight can be facilitated by participants learning with and from each other in groups.

A key to applying action learning is building an online learning community that reinforces the concept of working together individually and in groups. This can be achieved by incorporating activities such as group assignments, problem solving exercises, case studies, and group discussions.

Experiential Learning

Extending the importance of past experience in the learning process psychologist and educational theorist David Kolb describes four stages.

1. Concrete Experience

As noted earlier, adult learners thrive when they can draw from their own experiences and utilize past knowledge. Scenarios that replicate real-life situations, issues, and interactions are an ideal foundation. Scenarios can include phone calls and responding to emails. Use videos to simulate meetings, interviews and interactions with others.

2. Reflective Observation

Adults need to engage with and reflect upon their experiences in order to understand and acquire knowledge and necessary skills. Allow time and space for such reflection. Create opportunities to observe actions through demonstrations and analyze processes and procedures through case studies and scenario-based activities.

3. Abstract Conceptualization

Building upon past experience and reflection, learners need to make sense of acquired abstract concepts and provide perspective. Assessments that exercise “critical thinking” skills are necessary to drive idea development and process formulation.

4. Active Experimentation

Role playing activities reinforce what’s been learned. Games are also an effective and engaging method to “do and learn,” creating realistic interactive situations. Real experience develops and the overall cycle resumes.

Over the years, research has given us insight into the special characteristics that make adult learners unique. Utilizing those characteristics to develop an effective eLearning program takes thoughtful attention.

Monarch Media has nearly twenty years of experience customizing these types of solutions. We look forward to assisting you on a future project.


Knowles, M. S. et al (1984) Andragogy in Action. Applying modern principles of adult education, San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

O'Neil, J. & Lamm, S.L. (2000). Working as a learning coach team in action learning. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, v. 87

Giving Your Teams an Extra Advantage

So, your employees have been trained. They’ve completed their learning online, at their own pace, without compromising work. This online model saved your company both expenses arising out of classroom training, and lost time incurred from being away from work during training. This is a great start!

However, it’s not the end. What happens when someone forgets something or feels stuck with a certain process? Is training alone sufficient for performing their jobs well? Probably not! Post training, providing employees with a support cushion to help them reference and remember key aspects of the training will ensure greater efficiency at work.

This is where performance support tools (PST) come to the rescue. These are job aids that help employees learn at their specific point of need.

Just-in-time Support

Performance support is any learning modality or resource material that can be accessed and applied at the time of need. In the workplace, PST’s help employees solve problems immediately. Usually embedded into the employees’ workflow, PSTs can also be standalone information assets to support and guide employees through the work process.

Effective performance support gives employees access to information to apply a skill, solve a problem or understand how to adapt to a new practice related to their performance. It only requires a short amount of time for the individual to refer to the materials needed to get their work done. While traditional training focuses on learning a new skill or knowledge, the goal of performance support is to accomplish a specific task. For example, how to use a new sales software or what compliance regulations must be followed during a process. Remember, the main objective of performance support tools is, to deliver learning at the moment of need. In other words, they’re your new-age sticky notes.

Such tools are also used extensively in the consumer marketplace. Corporations use them as tools in marketing communications for educating consumers about products and delivering relevant information to empower informed purchasing decisions.

Outside the workplace, performance support is also a part of our daily lives as we seek immediate information, like ‘how to swaddle a baby’ or ‘what the 404 error on the laptop means’ or ‘how to choose an insurance policy’ – which is usually obtained from Google searches and YouTube videos.

How They Help

With PSTs, users can perform tasks without external help. This saves time for the more experienced workers who often need to train the less experienced ones. It’s an informal learning format that focuses on quick access to information necessary for task completion. They are an effective way to learn about upgrades, new systems, or when something is being introduced into the workflow or process.

Myriad in Variety

Prior to the digital age, PSTs were referred to as job-aids such as data/ workflow sheets, sticky note reminders, paper-based quick references, etc. The modern day avatar of these tools has taken a more technological form that makes on-the-spot information available at the click of a button. What is even better is that PSTs can be made available for access across multiple devices and platforms.

Explainer Videos

When employees are seeking on-the-job support they want it to be short and quick, catering to their need at that moment. Videos are effective tools towards achieving this purpose. Employing the concept of micro learning, videos can deliver precise and relevant information in a short time span. Using appealing visuals and background music to demonstrate a process or procedure, videos can be very powerful.

Videos are especially useful when companies introduce something new. It is for this reason that Health Net has decided to create video-based performance support tools for their employees, rolling out its new online software ‘Insure Advantage,’ to manage the selling of their health insurance plans.

Monarch Media collaborated with their team to understand the new software and has created a library of video tutorials for Health Net brokers.

These video training modules touch upon various aspects of the software that brokers need to understand well in order to maximize their sales efficiency. They include features such as – how to generate a proposal; how to create/ modify a quote; how to complete a census, etc. Each module is about 3-4 minutes long containing a screencast and simple graphics (e.g., arrows, circles) illustrating key features, menu items, or actions. They also include voiceover narration, closed captioning, and other interactions that make learning more retentive. Not only do they demonstrate key actions, but also answer common questions as part of the module.

These graphically appealing modules are effective broker-education tools with simple and memorable video explanation. The videos are short and crisp with interesting visuals, laying out each step of the process clearly with an appealing background score.

Mobile Apps/ iPad Apps

Making learning support tools available to employees on their mobile phone or tablet is the perfect example of just-in-time learning.

Beyond just mobile apps, downloadable text and video content, created to be compatible on mobile devices and tablets, becomes very useful when employees are in the field.

When Elsevier’s Health Sciences Division realized that there was a more cost-effective solution to the expensive in person training conferences organized for their sales reps, they turned to Monarch Media for help. Monarch designed a flexible hybrid model adding online trainings designed to educate sales reps on new products.

To further enhance their learning, Monarch went on to create mobile-friendly fact sheets to serve as job-aids in the field. These fact sheets contained information about the various new products and their features; their competitive advantage in the market; and additional strategic information of value.

"Monarch Media collaborated with their team to understand the new software and has created a library of video tutorials for Health Net brokers."

As part of their effort to supply customers with useful information, Dow Chemical needed to educate their sales reps in the field on how to diagnose wheat crop diseases and recommend appropriate treatments to farmers. Monarch once again assisted, creating a mobile learning solution for Dow, which contained 3D diagrams and images of various wheat crop diseases, identification features and appropriate treatments. Dow’s diverse global sales rep community used this application on their Blackberry phones and iPads.

Whiteboard Animations

Incorporating animation into your eLearning is a great way to break the monotony of textual content. Animated eLearning is primarily comprised of text, still photography, illustrations, graphical elements and audio effects. Including a recorded voiceover, musical soundtrack and sound effects, when appropriate, can further enhance the learnability and memorability of video content.

When the Affordable Care Act was passed, Health Net turned to Monarch Media to educate their existing and potential customers. With a goal of explaining details of the Act and how it applied to Health Net’s insurance product line, Monarch worked collaboratively with the Health Net team to create videos, both in English and Spanish, aligned with Health Net’s brand and style guidelines. These videos heavily relied on animation and graphics to explain the Act and Health Net’s insurance policies.

Additional videos use whiteboard animations to describe health plan costs; how coverage works; how to choose a plan and enrollment times. Check out this link and this one to see why these videos are such a success. This style of presenting audio-visual content builds suspense in the mind’s eye of the learner. These animations also bring out the lighter side of the content making learning a fun exercise, while improving recall capacity.

PDFs/ Interactive PDFs

What benefit is a course that doesn’t make it convenient for learners to go back and reference content? When learners are stuck trying to remember something, eLearning creators should be able to support such moments of need. This support comes in the form of downloadable references like PDFs, containing information in a succinct form, which can be downloaded to a computer or mobile device.

When the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) approached Monarch Media to create eLearning on Market Transformation for their employees, using the route of PSTs was what Monarch decided was the best.

The Markets department of WWF works with businesses and industries to improve the production of commodities by reducing its impact on world ecology. Monarch created an eLearning course supplying background and context to onboard new employees seamlessly, making complex concepts understandable and relatable.

The course includes modules on topics such as Market and Theory; Priority Commodities; Negative impacts of production; and Strategies. With an aim to offer further support during and after the course, learners are provided with more than 20 downloadable PDFs. They include information on areas of fishing, forestry, and sustainable development, in a single page with concise information, stripped of context and story. The PDFs contain links to WWFs partner organizations, providing further information to learners.

Take the boredom out of plain text PDFs; make them interactive by embedding video and graphics. They are an ideal format to create tips, checklists, factsheets, and procedure and process documentation.

Webinars/ Recorded webinars

Performance support can also be offered to learners through live and recorded webinars. A webinar, the web version of a seminar or conference, eliminates the need for attendance at a specific physical location. What’s even better is that with recorded webinars there are also no time constraints. A learner can pace themselves through the material at a time, location, and device of choice. The ease of use and affordability that webinars provide, help foster shorter trainings…exactly what employees desire at their moment of need.

Webcasts/ Podcasts

Webcasts are short pieces of video or audio information that employees can access from their device of choice when in need. While webcasting refers to live streaming of information over the web, podcasting refers to audio or video files placed online and available for Internet download by users and subscribers. Podcasts can also be used for marketing your business by creating educational information for consumers potentially strengthening the customer relationship.

We’ve described various ways PSTs can be implemented and offered a few examples. Learning is a never-ending process and PSTs help reinforce the investment you’ve likely already made in your training program.

For more information on the ways Monarch Media can assist your organization please contact us at


Accessibility: Make your online training Section 508 compliant

With 20 percent of adults reporting some form of disability, making your digital learning content accessible is good business sense. In many cases, it's also required by law.

Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that accessibility standards be met for electronic and digital content produced by organizations that receive funding or revenues from the federal government. In practice, meeting these requirements requires a knowledge of the standards and technologies available to make your content accessible.

When it comes to eLearning, Monarch Media has developed a toolkit of best practices and software applications to help ensure your courses and resources meet Section 508 requirements, as well as make your content as accessible as possible for learners with a range of disabilities.

What will you learn from the video?

To help our clients understand Section 508 compliance issues, Monarch Media has put together an interactive video to introduce you to the standards and best practices. You'll learn:

  • Concepts and critical requirements for being Section 508 compliant
  • Tips on how to make your eLearning both accessible and usable, such as ensuring you include instructions to help users find what they need
  • Definitions of the terms associated with accessibility requirements
  • A case study that brings everything together

Feel free to click the sections of the video that interest you most!

What is 508 Compliance?

Section 508 requires all Federal Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) developed, maintained, procured, and used to be accessible to federal employees and members of the public with disabilities.

Electronic and Information Technology includes:

  • Animations and video products
  • Websites (intranets), including access to multimedia elements and documents
  • Audio narration, images, and other media
  • Forms and other data entry elements

Types of disabilities covered include:

  • Visual: blindness, low vision, color blindness
  • Auditory: deafness, hard of hearing
  • Motor: mobility impairments
  • Cognitive: seizure disorders

Creating Section 508-compliant content

Monarch Media has experience creating Section 508-compliant digital learning content for organizations ranging from the U.S. Department of Education to Pepnet2, a nonprofit focused on deaf and hard of hearing students. We have worked with Pepnet2 to ensure their online materials meet the needs of all disability types while still maintaining interactivity and multimedia elements to make the courses fun and engaging.

Case Studies

  • How to Build a Successful Online Learning Community: Lessons from pepnet2
  • How Distance Learning Programs Benefit Organizations
  • World Wildlife Fund: Using Adaptive Learning to Train Employees
  • Cengage Replaces Flash-Based Learning Objects with Modules Built in HTML5 for Greater Accessibility
  • REDO ACCIÓN International Launches Leadership Development eLearning Course
  • 4-H Launches mLearning Pilot Project in Tanzania
  • RTRworks! Online Teacher Training for a High School Health Curriculum
  • Iowa ABD Case Study
  • Monarch Takes Agile Approach to Partnering with Autodesk

How to Build a Successful Online Learning Community: Lessons from pepnet2

Sparking learners’ motivation is one of the hardest things to do in online education. How do you engage individuals sitting alone at a computer? How do you get them to tackle new information and challenges?

One way to motivate learners is to immerse them in an online community. After all, it’s the social connections and interactions that make learning engaging. Community is the glue that holds your online class together. It allows learners to give opinions, share ideas, provide and receive feedback, and collaborate on issues and answer questions.

Creating this kind of participatory community doesn’t happen automatically. In this article, we’ll share the secrets of success in creating just such an online community of more than 16,000 users. Monarch Media’s client, pepnet2 (pn2), a national nonprofit that provides support to students who are deaf or hard of hearing, has developed a thriving site where users learn and support one another. Here are some of the best practices that Monarch incorporated in building pepnet 2’s online learning community:

Enable Diverse Interactions

With a learner base of more than 16,000, providing diverse resources was necessary to address all members’ needs. Monarch developed different kinds of interactive eLearning resources and support systems, including courses, webinar integration, QuickClasses, and communities of practice (COP).

Individuals seeking self-paced learning can turn to the asynchronous interactive courses, which include videos, assessments, and other activities that maximize learner involvement. This self-directed model allows students to set their own learning schedule that meet their individual needs. Although learners work independently on these courses, they can share their progress and achievements with the community by earning badges and certificates.

The QuickClasses support a more collective learning model through scheduled instructor and group collaboration. Rather than working individually, QuickClasses bring small groups of students together to build community, foster creativity, build leadership skills and encourage greater progress.

Finally, pn2 facilitates informal resource and expertise sharing through the communities of practice (COP). COPs consist of groups of people who share a common passion or interest and engage in collective learning within a shared domain. At their core is an ongoing discussion forum where they can post questions, weigh in on conversations, share resources, or learn from archived dialogue.

Make Usability Effortless

The success of eLearning depends heavily on how user-friendly it is. While pn2 was successful in creating various eLearning resources to cater to their diverse learner base, the designers had to work out a way to bring these resources together for the learners.

Usability is an essential ingredient for fostering user interaction. For pn2, a customized eLearning dashboard was critical. Through a single sign-in, learners have access to a fully customized dashboard that’s a one-stop access point for all resources offered. Learners can exchange ideas and knowledge by participating in QuickClasses, interacting with webinar content, connecting to colleagues through COPs, or learning new skills in an interactive eLearning course.

The dashboard is also a place to broadcast community news and to connect members with upcoming opportunities. Its effectiveness and efficiency helps connect learners to resources and to each other, engaging them in a satisfying experience. 

Highlight Student Progress

Not only can members of a learning community work together to solve problems, they can also support and motivate each other by celebrating successes. An online community allows users to share their progress, collect badges, reflect on completed courses, and even share achievements through social media integration.

One way students can share their work is through ePortfolios, which are personal online spaces to save and display collections of digital work. These ePortfolios allow learners to share work they’ve completed and their accomplishments with peers, instructors, and potential employers.

Be Mobile Compatible

Another key to keeping learners engaged is making learning resources accessible on mobile devices. Smart phones and tablets are now the primary devices for Internet access, so making it easy for learners to engage that way only makes sense.

Follow Up with Your Users

A final word of advice is to learn from your users. Find ways to solicit direct feedback. Your site analytics will also give you insight into where people are spending their time and where they may be losing interest. Investigate the data and use it to inform your community development efforts.

Monarch Media’s team collaborated with pn2 to provide the learning design strategy, instructional design, graphic design, and programming needed to develop robust learning programs. With nearly 20 years of experience in eLearning consulting and development, we can help your organization build a successful online learning community that focuses on engaging and motivating your audience.

How Distance Learning Programs Benefit Organizations

To accommodate the nationwide demand for nurses with a bachelor's level education, Monarch Media collaborated with Wolters-Kluwer to develop an innovative RN-to-BSN curriculum that can be used for distance learning or in a hybrid classroom environment. Distance learning programs give students the flexibility to learn during the time that works best for them and the ability to review material at their own pace, while enabling publishers to scale educational programs.

Read the case study

World Wildlife Fund: Using Adaptive Learning to Train Employees

WWF works with businesses to improve the production of commodities that affect the environment. Monarch Media collaborated with the fund to create a training module for its employees who are working to transform businesses and markets to operate within the planet’s limits.

> Go to the case study

Cengage Replaces Flash-Based Learning Objects with Modules Built in HTML5 for Greater Accessibility

Cengage Learning's Criminal Justice modules are designed to teach students situational crime prevention, a theory of criminology that attempts to reduce the opportunity for crimes to be committed. The goal is for students to understand the basics of situational crime prevention upon completing the learning modules.

Cengage decided to update the modules because they were coded in Flash, a technology that isn't compatible with some mobile devices, such as iPhones and iPads. Flash also can create problems with passing data through to learning management systems. Finally, Cengage wanted to update the design and layout of the modules to make them more attractive and user friendly.

Monarch Media developed a modernized version of the learning objects in HTML5 to play on both Flash- and non-Flash
compatible browsers effortlessly. Media queries allow the styles and layouts to adjust to fit the width and height of the
screen of the desktop computer or mobile device, making the course clear and easy.

Read more information here.

REDO ACCIÓN International Launches Leadership Development eLearning Course

Industry - Nonprofit microfinance

Challenge - Find a cost-effective way to deliver a successful leadership development program to staff members and partners on four continents.

Solution- An eLearning course developed by Monarch Media that can be delivered over the Internet and on CD-ROM

Key Benefits

  • Users can learn asynchronously, taking the training at the time and place most convenient to them.
  • Cost savings thanks to reduced international travel requirements for trainers.
  • Ideal for a blended learning environment in which additional educational materials can be provided via emails, webinars, and in-person trainings.
  • Allows ACCIÓN to reach all staff members instead of a smaller subset of employees.
  • Learners can permanently access all materials and have the flexibility to revisit applicable information when faced with on-the-job challenges.


ACCIÓN International was founded in 1961 to promote international economic development and alleviate global poverty. Since 1973, the organization has focused on microfinance, providing small loans to tiny businesses founded and run by individuals living in poverty.

Because they often lack substantial collateral and only need to borrow small amounts of money, traditional banks have generally refused to lend to these business owners. Therefore, their only option has been loan sharks who charge exorbitant interest rates. ACCIÓN and its partners are changing this dynamic by offering an alternative source of funds, small loans (as little as $100) at commercial interest rates provided to micro-entrepreneurs for investing in and growing their businesses.

In 2009, ACCIÓN was operating on four continents and in 25 countries. With its partners it served 3.3 million active borrowers.

Training Challenges

ACCIÓN’s leadership development program consists of 10 modules that have traditionally been delivered via in-person, small group training sessions. They are a critical part of promoting the organization’s culture and identity internally. They help employees grow a shared sense of mission, vision, and values, as well as define and practice good leadership skills.

As a global organization, however, cost and time constraints have made it difficult for Lynne Curran, who heads ACCIÓN’s human resources and training department, to provide the leadership development program to everyone in a timely manner. “Our biggest challenge is reaching remote staff,” she says. “We’ve only been able to present the first module in person to about a third of the organization.”

“It was an amazing experience to work with the Monarch Media team. They got what we were looking for and got what we needed. They created an eLearning course that’s simple to use, but tackles some really challenging content.”

— Lynne Curran, head of Human Resources and Training
ACCIÓN International

To overcome this challenge, ACCIÓN has begun using eLearning courses that allow its staff to access educational materials on their computers. Leadership development, however, has traditionally been difficult to present online. “Leadership training involves trying to orient people to share a common language and exercise an ability, rather than simply gaining some knowledge,” says Claire Schneeberger, CEO of Monarch Media. “You’re not just trying to get people to understand the definition of leadership or to grasp and memorize new factual information. You’re really trying to develop and practice some pretty advanced skills.”

Because the leadership development curriculum provides so much value to ACCIÓN’s staff, Curran wanted to see if the challenges of turning it into an eLearning course could be overcome. She decided to start with the program’s first module, which sets the stage for the other nine. “It really helps people become aware of what they’re doing and why they’re doing things the way they are,” she says. “It helps them understand and better work with others, which also improves their leadership abilities.”

Creating the Course

When presented in person, the first module of ACCIÓN’s leadership development program includes participation in a DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness) assessment, a psychological inventory that examines how individuals behave in their environments. DISC assessments are frequently used in workplaces to help employees understand their own and their teammates’ work styles and preferences. The module also included substantial time for participants to discuss their beliefs and feelings about leadership.

Feedback from training participants has shown that these two activities are the ones that provide the greatest value. But they are also very difficult to accomplish in an eLearning environment. “I thought it might be impossible to put this course online because of the self-awareness pieces,” Curran says. “How do you include them without doing it in the classroom?”

Schneeberger points out that in most eLearning courses, developers can recreate some of the feeling of classroom discussion by using Web-based community tools, such as discussion boards and blogs. But because some ACCIÓN staffers don’t have regular access to the Internet and must take eLearning courses on CD-ROM, Monarch Media’s developers couldn’t use these tools.

To overcome these challenges, Monarch Media’s team of instructional designers and Web developers created a virtual discussion group as the first activity in the training. They used a diverse team of voiceover actors to record dialog taken from various sessions of the in-person leadership development training. This allows learners to gain insight by hearing the perspectives and thoughts of other ACCIÓN employees, just as they would during a face-to-face discussion session. “We tried to bring in real voices,” recalls Schneeberger. “We’re capturing and simulating that experience of being in a room with 10 other people. “

Monarch Media also used a number of interactive exercises that help course participants conduct self-assessments based on DISC methods. “The training asks a lot of people,” says Schneeberger. “It’s very reflective and asks a lot of questions. It asks people to demonstrate their knowledge of the DISC framework.”

To create these segments and assessments, Monarch Media’s team used Articulate’s suite of eLearning authoring tools. This software allows developers to rapidly build interactive, Flash-based pages and activities. By leveraging these tools, Monarch’s programmers were also able to keep development costs low.

Although studies prove that most eLearning provides good return on investment, organizations often fear that the start-up costs of launching an online course will be prohibitively expensive. But this doesn’t have to be the case. For ACCIÓN’s leadership course, Monarch’s team used what Schneeberger calls “guerilla eLearning development” to keep costs low.

For example, rather than sending the voiceover actors to a recording studio, Monarch captured their dialog using the company’s voicemail system. The course developers also used traditional Web technology to provide engagement, rather than relying on the heavy use of video. “You can engage people by creatively using still images and dialog versus having video or other relatively high-end types of media carry your message,” says Schneeberger.

Having a good curriculum ready can also make a big difference in containing costs. “ACCIÓN had a really clear and well-developed curriculum already in place,” recalls Schneeberger. “They already had the outline and they had a complete sense of their objectives from an instructional design point of view. That allowed us to jump in and think about how to convert it into digital format.

“One of the things I see that makes eLearning start-up costs expensive is when organizations haven’t thought about their learning objectives before they launch an eLearning project. Having the client come in and say, ‘We’ve done this training in person and we have these supporting materials,’ that definitely makes it much easier to do the multimedia and programming work.”

Engaging eLearning

Curran believes the completed course will make a big difference in helping ACCIÓN achieve its training objectives. “Our biggest goal is leadership, management, and supervisor development,” she says. “It was an amazing experience to work with the whole Monarch Media team. They got what we were looking for and got what we needed. They created an eLearning course that’s simple to use, but tackles some really challenging content.”

Curran foresees using the course in a variety of ways, both as a stand-alone eLearning module and also as the kernel of a larger training program. “We’ll work with specific groups to build a program around it,” she says. “For specific programs or units, we can have participants all take the eLearning module and then do a face-to-face training or a webinar.”

Others have taken note of the course as well. In March 2010, Monarch Media was named a finalist in the eLearning Global Giveback Competition. The contest is co-sponsored by the eLearning Guild and Learning for International NGOs (LINGOs), a consortium of more than 45 international humanitarian organizations.

More importantly, however, is that the course makes learning about leadership skills engaging and fun. “I love going through the training myself,” says Curran. “Monarch thought creatively and came up with a great solution.”

4-H Launches mLearning Pilot Project in Tanzania

4-H project displayed on a smart phoneMany organizations are exploring ways to reduce hunger and improve economic development in Africa. But few have the depth of learning content and expertise that 4-H offers or the reach of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Getting this knowledge into the hands of the people who need it, however, can be challenging for anyone. Rural parts of Africa often lack both physical infrastructure and computer-based Internet access, making training material delivery and network building difficult. What more and more people do have access to, however, is a mobile phone.

To reach these people, 4-H turned to Monarch Media to build an online Global Knowledge Center specifically tailored for mobile browser access. The result? An mLearning portal pilot project that delivers training and community-building tools to Tanzanian 4-H leaders.

Read the case study (pdf)

RTRworks! Online Teacher Training for a High School Health Curriculum

Research shows that public school teachers who receive skills training for sexual health and safety curriculum are most likely to achieve positive student outcomes. Online training offers low cost, easily accessible, skill-based trainings that are needed to meet the growing training demand of schools.

The RTRworks! elearning course models critical skills through relevant and impactful video examples, offers social learning opportunities, and delivers real classroom simulations. Read the case study [PDF].

Iowa ABD Case Study

The Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) took over the Iowa Pledge Program in 2000. This program asks Iowa’s kids to pledge that they will not use tobacco products; retailers to pledge to not sell tobacco products to underage users; and law enforcement to pledge to enforce the state tobacco laws.

The goal for providing a Web-based training program is to support voluntary compliance of Iowa’s tobacco laws by offering education and backing it with enforcement. This training allows employees at retail locations that sell tobacco products to sign up, participate in the interactive class, and take a test to become Iowa Pledge certified. Utilizing the Sakai learning management system (LMS) and Articulate authoring tool, Monarch Media developed the current Web-based training system. In addition to offering Iowa Pledge certification, the platform has built-in query tools that allow administrators and the general public to look up the status of vendor or employee certification at anytime. This tool directly supports Iowa communities by making outcomes transparent to everyone from parents to law enforcement.

Currently one of the only courses of its kind in the country, employees of tobacco retailers in the state of Iowa are required to complete the training and certification every two years to remain Iowa Pledge certified. Read the case study (pdf)

Monarch Takes Agile Approach to Partnering with Autodesk

Agile is a software development methodology known for allowing ultra-fast turnaround. Monarch Media believes in Agile done right, which means ongoing dialogue with our clients. This approach brings laser focus to the goals at stake, so that development effort can be applied with maximum precision.

The flexibility that Agile allows is especially essential when a client begins development with a general idea of what they want, but not necessarily an itemized specification. Monarch Media partnered with Autodesk last year to take an Agile approach to redesigning the company's Digital STEAM Workshop, an interactive website aimed at providing students resources to help them master science, technology, engineering, arts, and math skills. Read the case study [pdf]


  • How to Prepare for an Online Training Project
  • Successful Agile Project Management

How to Prepare for an Online Training Project

Today, organizations regularly face challenges involved in creating and implementing an online training project. So where should you begin? Monarch Media has designed a toolkit for taking your training online which will lead you through the key considerations to help you start developing a plan to achieve your goals. This toolkit includes an assessment of your learning needs, an opportunity to identify action steps, and ways to support you and your organization in the strategy, authoring, design, and implementation of your project.



Successful Agile Project Management

Successful Agile Project Management ToolkitThe approach you take to managing a project can make it or break it. Agile methods have grown increasingly popular as a proven approach to successful project management. In this toolkit, you’ll find the answers to some common questions we get about how to effectively manage an eLearning project using the Agile approach.

Download the toolkit here.