Guaranteed Way To Spark Learner Engagement

September 20th, 2012

Snag learners early if you want them to be engaged in your online course. And by “early,” I mean before your course even launches. Start with a welcome letter, and you’ll find it much easier to make a lasting connection with students.

Welcome Letters

Engage students early with welcome letters

Welcome letters help you set expectations and highlight anything important when people are most attentive. Use your welcome letter to give students a quick preview of the course, give them contact information, state prerequisites, and give them major deadlines they can copy into their calendars.

Paper or e-mail is fine, although e-mail is cheaper. Just make sure to send it a week or two before launch.

Here are a few welcome letters from other organizations that can help you draft your e-learning missive:

Welcome to Linn-Benton Community College eLearning Courses – Clearly spells out expectations

Cascadia Online Classes Welcome Letter – Simple, but gives helpful information

Gloucester County College eLearning Welcome Letters – A host of PDF welcome letters written by instructors

Why Send a Welcome Letter? – Spells out the anatomy of a welcome letter, from University of Alaska at Fairbanks

[Photo credit: Welcome to by opensourceway, on Flickr]

Build Easier Course Schedules

August 24th, 2012

Course Schedule Builder

Build Easier Course Schedules

Course scheduling is notoriously fiddly. Picking begin and end dates is a pain, with all that module and activity scheduling. But to be fair to your learners, you’ve got to be as specific as possible.

The PDF Assignment Builder (PDF), developed by George Joeckel and his colleagues at Faculty Assistance Center for Teaching (FACT) at Utah State University, aims to make the chore a little easier. The tool lets you build a tidy PDF-formatted syllabus, which is also helpful when planning your course.

It’s easy enough to use, but here’s a video that shows step-by-step instructions.

Our $150 Public Display of Affection

August 7th, 2012

We at Talance have no problem with public displays of affection, which is why we’re laying it out there this month with our annual Customer Appreciation Month.

How’s it work?

Work with us on any new or existing development or design this month and mention the Customer Appreciation Month discount. We’ll automatically give you $150 off through August 2012.

Take it as a token of our love that it’s so darn easy.

With love,


Announcing Community Health Worker Online Training Website

July 27th, 2012

Health workers know we live in a world without enough parks. They know every neighborhood battles some residents’ misconceptions about medical treatments, or try to help those who smoke or drink too much.

This, along with shifts in healthcare reform, are why so many communities across the country have established community health worker programs. Sometimes called patient navigators, promotors or outreach workers, these people serve as a bridge between under-served populations in need of care and the health care, government and social service systems. Read’s definition of a community health worker.

Recognizing the need to train more individuals to be community health workers, Talance is proud to announce the launch of the Community Health Worker Online Training website.

The Community Health Worker (CHW) Online Training is designed to bring the benefits of an in-depth professional development program to healthcare systems and health departments without the cost associated with lengthy in-person training.

The initiative was formed through the collaboration of two key entities: the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and e-learning technology firm Talance. Mass DPH developed an open-source online curriculum targeted to patient navigators/community health workers with participation from Central Massachusetts AHEC, which Talance helped to host on ATutor, a leading open-source learning platform. We share a passion for bringing meaningful, cost-effective learning experiences to organizations in the healthcare sector.

The initiative includes custom developments for some of America’s leading health services organizations, including Washington State Department of Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, among others.

The website serves as an overview of this program and allows visitors to sign up for a demo of the e-learning program and also an upcoming webinar on how to pilot a community health worker program, led by co-author Marilyn Gardner, from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

See the website.

Talance Earns SDO Certification as Woman-Owned Business

July 13th, 2012


Talance Earns SDO Certification as Woman-Owned Business

I’m very pleased to announce that our firm Talance, which specializes in developing e-learning systems and websites for its clients, has received certification as a Woman-Owned Business by the Supplier Diversity Office (SDO), an agency within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts helping promote the development of business enterprises and non-profit organizations owned and operated by minorities or women.

Certification is granted after submitting to a meticulous process including an in-depth review of the business and site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm the business is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women.

What does this mean? First off, it means we’re in an elite group. It’s not easy to receive this certification, and it’s also not easy to be a woman-owned business in the technology world. According to a recent survey from Harvey Nash, just 9% of U.S. chief of information officers are female. So really, we’re proud to be among this tiny sliver.

It also means we have a better way to connect with forward-thinking organizations that value diversity and achievement. You can feel good about tipping the scales toward the ladies. And you can

But that’s not all! Massachusetts has a program called the Supplier Diversity Program (SDP), which gives a little financial bump to state-based organizations that contract with women-owned businesses. That means that every dollar our clients spend on work with Talance goes further, because they’ll receive credit from the state.

It’s not often you can feel good about helping a disadvantaged business AND get a sweetener from the state. We hope you’ll be as excited as we are about our new certification.

[Image: stock.xchng user - a_glitch]

If You Had To Choose 3 Social Networking Buttons

May 18th, 2012

Anyone who’s choosing a cupcake flavor, in the market for a new bathroom tap or deciding which social networking buttons to use on their site knows the burden of too much choice. We poor humans melt down when it comes to laundry lists. It’s the analysis paralysis that comes from too many possibilities.

Instead of overwhelming your blog or website visitors with every single stinking social networking icon available–and zero clicks–pick three. Here’s how you might mix and match for your audience.

Standard Vanilla Audience

Twitter, Facebook, Google+

twitter     facebook     google+

Corporate/Business Audience

LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+

linkedin     google+    twitter

Image-Heavy Content

Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter

pinterest     facebook     twitter

Consumer-Focused Product

StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Facebook

    pinterest     facebook

Try them out. If you’re not getting clicks on one button, drop it. Try another in its place or leave it out altogether

More homepage clicks = strong call to action

May 10th, 2012

Want to double the number of people who click on something when they go to your homepage? Here are six steps for getting more people to click, from Bob Hebeisen’s presentation on SlideShare, who says:

“With a few clever design modifications I doubled the effectiveness of their original landing page. That means for the same media expenditure they are now driving twice as many leads!”

Get simple advice for website redesigns you can start using right away

May 4th, 2012

If your website looks like it was beat with the ugly stick, have hope. Download our guide Upgrading to a Drupal CMS for step-by-step instructions on how to guide your website from outdated to fabulous:

  • How to evaluate your existing website content
  • How to survey your visitors to see what they want and need
  • How to perform a needs assessment
  • How to create measurable goals
  • How to write helpful RFPs
  • How to choose a web designer
  • How to make smart staffing decisions

… plus templates and cheat sheets for making the whole process easier. Don’t use Drupal? No worries. It’s useful for any kind of website redesign.

Oh, did I mention there’s no cost?

Check it out now by requesting your download: Click here.

Focus on E-learning Benefits for Buy-In

April 27th, 2012

Even the most energetic cheerleader may need to apply a little technique when it comes to starting a new e-learning program. Here’s how to focus on the benefits of online training to your organization’s stakeholders, not simply the features.

E-learning Benefits

Focus on benefits for buy-in

You may be positive that an e-learning program is perfect for your organization, but when it comes to delivering that message to your colleagues, you’d do better focusing on the why rather than the what.

Why? Benefits make more sense than features. It might be great that your learning management system has blogs, easy to follow forums and granular tracking and analysis. But most people what to know how that program will solve their problems.

Here are some great examples of some of the biggest features and benefits of e-learning to prime your next discussion:

Instead of …

“It’s self-paced.”


“We can save $20,000 per year by eliminating monthly in-person training sessions.”

Why it’s better:

Explain what happens when you allow people to take an e-learning program as needed. In practical terms, it might mean that you can save on trainer costs, you don’t have to buy training materials, you no longer need to block out a certain amount of time for instructor-led training. Figuring out how much money that will save will help you make your case.

Instead of …

“Accommodates multiple learning styles.”


“Retention is improved because information is presented in various formats.”

Why it’s better:

In this case, it makes sense to strike the jargon about learning stylesand explain the outcome. If you’re trying to give your staff a new skill set for their jobs, it’s critically important they remember it. That’s much more important to your organization than pedagogical jargon.

Instead of …

“It’s computer-based.”


“It’s good for the environment. A study University found that the production and provision of the distance learning courses consumed nearly 90% less energy and produced 85% fewer CO2 emissions than conventional campus-based university courses.”

Why it’s better:

Back up your claim with facts. The fact that it’s computer-based training isn’t much use, but if you find a study, like the one here from Britain’s Open University, can give you the credibility and research that helps explain why it’s important.

Eventually, your discussions will be broken down into key features and if they’ll work with your organization. In the beginning, however, it helps to think about what kind of effect a new e-learning program will have and why.

[Image: Flickr user opensourceway]

How to Find Web Design Superheroes

April 20th, 2012

RFPs stink as a way to find web designers. The problem is they prevent even a modicum of relationship-building, and without that, you’ll never know if you’ll be able to love the next person you hire to build or redesign your website. You won’t have a good sense of their managerial skills. You won’t know if they’ll stick around post-launch to keep updating your site. You won’t know if you simply like talking to them on the phone.

Before you face failure with your next RFP by spending a huge amount of time and resources, try these strategies for finding a web design superhero.

Recipe for a successful business: One part openness, two parts trust

How to Find Web Design Superheroes

Ask around

Hands down the best way to find a web designer is to ask your friends, family and colleagues. Someone who’s been through the process with a developer can tell you if it was easy or painful.

Web search

This might be the easiest way to assemble a list of design agencies that do what you need. Try to be specific in your search with terms like “web designer Boston” or “health agency web design nonprofit.”


Attend some designer meet-ups near you. This will give you the chance to press the flesh and find someone you connect with.


Contact the association that covers what you do and see if they have lists web design and development firms. Also check your local Chamber of Commerce if you’d like someone nearby.

If you really, really must, here are some tips on how to write a good RFP.

[Image: Flickr user opensourceway]