Not All Training Is Created Equal: High-Quality eLearning Matters

No matter how you create it and what you spend, training is an investment—and it should be. Training and development is the lifeblood of an organization, especially in industries that undergo frequent change and require ongoing skills acquisition. One way to get the most bang for your buck is to invest in high-quality eLearning.

According to ATD’s 2015 State of the Industry report, the average direct learning spend per employee was $1,229. So let’s get real. From an organizational health and bottom line perspective, your goal is to get the biggest return on that $1,229 investment possible. Your learners need to complete the training, and the training needs to stick so that everyone—your employees, customers, and company—reap the benefits.

Not All Training Is Created Equal - High Quality eLearning Matters

The Case for High-Quality eLearning

If your training is boring, don’t expect much return on your investment. ATD also reports each learning hour used by an employee costs an average of $84. Multiply that hour by, say, 300 employees, and you’ve spent $25,200. If those employees just hit Next or skim through the training as fast as it will buffer, your investment—or hard work—is gone.

Good news, though: high-quality eLearning isn’t something elusive and abstract. There are distinct factors that contribute to an increase in participation, retention, and behavioral change. Think of them as eLearning effectiveness multipliers. The factors are quality, brevity, and realism. Bonus points for humor, too. Let’s take a look at each factor so you feel confident producing your next eLearning or finding the right vendor partner.


Today, a high bar of excellence for visual design isn’t a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. It indicates a company takes pride in its brand, and more importantly, its people. Humans recognize and appreciate beauty. They admire strong craftsmanship and expect a friendly, intuitive user interface.

Don’t believe us? Take a peek at what Connie Malamed writes in her article Why Aesthetics Matter to Learning.

One obvious way to influence people is through visual aesthetics, or the appreciation of an appealing design. Thus, the importance of visual design in learning is gaining in stature and will become increasingly important in years to come. Initial research has already shown that evoking positive emotions in learners through an attractive visual design (layout, colors, imagery, etc.) can help facilitate a successful learning experience.

For eLearning, quality goes beyond visual design into the realm of video production. Sound, lighting, and color balancing all matter. Your learners have exposure to high-quality media throughout their daily lives, and they don’t have patience for trite motivational soundtracks and monotone voiceovers. If you’ve ever participated in the 48 Hour Film Festival, you know even the best screenplays fail at the hands of a poor sound technician.

If you’re just getting started, an emphasis on design and production quality can be intimidating, but you can start small. Pick a simple look and feel you know you can execute with confidence, or hire a partner and learn from them.


eLearning Industry reports the average attention span of the Millennial generation is 90 seconds, and 75% of the workforce will be Millennials by 2025. Even without these statistics, you know, intuitively, an employee’s time is their most precious asset. Their time off the floor or out of the field is time not spent selling, helping, influencing, or producing.

It’s time to realize your learners don’t want to sit through a 60-minute eLearning. Instead, use microlearning to make it easy for them to quickly learn new information and practice new skills in short bursts that fit into the reality of their workflow.

Embrace microlearning as part of your strategy. Microlearning in its truest form focuses on one learning objective per module. This allows employees to get back to their work quickly and immediately apply what they’ve learned.

To get started, look for natural places in your current content to divide learning into smaller pieces. For example, you can break a three-scenario simulation course into three separate courses. Or, you can train on one product per video rather than bundling multiple products into one eLearning.


As you continue to think about your eLearning design, answer this question: How will my learners relate to this training? Your goal is for employees to see themselves, the products they sell, their customers, and their managers represented accurately in the content.

Keeping your training real is easier said than done, and it might require a little more time or money. It’s worth it, though, and it’s a lot more fun. Here are some tips:

  • Consult with the experts. Identify the best subject-matter experts and make time for them to teach you what they know. Conduct field surveys, go on ride-alongs, and talk to frontline reps and managers to get to the heart of the matter. Don’t fake it.
  • Involve a writer who can create great dialogue. Everyday human-speak is quite different from the too-perfect, rigid scripting we’re all guilty of. If you listen carefully to how people typically converse, you’ll hear interruptions, interjections, and joking around.
  • Include objections. If you’re writing customer scenarios, don’t make them too easy. Have the customers raise objections that challenge learners and provide good practice opportunities.
  • Shoot on location. Use your true office, field, or floor setting. Fill it with extras and get room tone to give your learners the most realistic, immersive experience possible.
  • Hire strong actors who can execute your vision. Audition for your roles and don’t settle. You’ll be amazed at how effortlessly the right professional talent can bring your training to life. If your budget allows, give them rehearsal time to practice, ask questions, and get feedback.


If you nail the first three multipliers—good for you! Want to take your eLearning one step further? Welcome to the bonus round.

In the same article mentioned earlier, Connie Malamed writes, “Although instructional design typically focuses on the cognitive aspects of learning, a new line of research is now exploring the affective dimension too. Known as “emotional design,” this research looks at the ways a learner’s feelings and mood can influence motivation and learning results.”

Put your learners in a good mood by making them laugh. A Loma Linda University study indicates laughter can lower stress and enhance memory. Dr. Lee Berk, one of the study co-authors, puts it well.

It’s simple, the less stress you have the better your memory. Humor reduces detrimental stress hormones like cortisol that decrease memory hippocampal neurons, lowers your blood pressure, and increases blood flow and your mood state. The act of laughter—or simply enjoying some humor—increases the release of endorphins and dopamine in the brain, which provides a sense of pleasure and reward.

Humor can also help learners engage with new material more, according to a 2015 report Learning Through Laughter: New Study Supports Use Of Humor In Online Courses.

To get the full story on how humor can benefit you and your learners, read the post Our Funny Theory: Use Humor to Improve Training Effectiveness. Oh, and don’t think you’re funny? Here’s a tip: a little bit of slapstick at the beginning of a live action video can go a long way. (Think “sales reps can’t figure out how to open the door,” or “sales rep steps out of car and accidentally drops large stack of paperwork.”)

The Bottom Line

In the day-to-day shuffle of emails, meetings, and decision points, it’s tempting to take the easy road and animate a PowerPoint in your favorite authoring software and call it eLearning. You’ll get high-fives for being budget-conscious, but you won’t get the career-boosting results you want – nor will your learners.

Avoid the hidden costs of low-quality training. A year after implementation, your organization will be back at square one, spending more money. Instead, make it a priority to invest in high-quality eLearning. Remember: quality, reality, and brevity are your eLearning effectiveness multipliers. Bonus points for humor.

If you want to know more about our approach to eLearning development, we’d be happy to talk shop. Comment below, contact us online, or give us a call to get in touch.

Animated or Live Action Training Videos: What’s Best?

One of the first questions we hear from companies looking for custom training videos is whether they should choose animation or live action.

To offer some guidance, here are three key factors we help clients evaluate when creating video-based training. We’ll also do some myth-busting along the way so you’re armed with plenty of insight and ideas to share with your team and potential video production partners.

Live action or animation

3 Key Factors To Consider When Choosing A Video Style

Audience Goals

If you want to model best practices and behaviors, live action is the way to go. It’s helpful to see someone else do something before you try it yourself. Body language and verbal and nonverbal cues are easier to demonstrate with real people, too. Plus, live action footage adds a human element, which hooks the audience emotionally and builds empathy.

If you’re explaining a concept, animation brings that information to life in a memorable way. You wouldn’t explain the intricacies of DNA without animated models, and you wouldn’t rely on interviews to explain how internal combustion engines work, right?

Subject Matter

Video, whether b roll (motion-only footage) or live action, is a great way to showcase actual people and products. When onboarding new employees, for instance, showing them real products is more effective than showing them animated models. Context is king.

Animation effectively visualizes complex information or concepts in a simple way. Take a software workflow—say you’re rolling out a brand new CRM. The tool can be introduced at a high level with graphics and illustrations that summarize how using this tool works into team members’ daily routine and the benefits it offers. Then, at the parts of the training video where people need to be shown specific steps (such as how to update a client’s account information), screencast of the software UI can be used to complement the animation—you can show a recording of the screens being navigated and data being entered into the system.

Content Updates

If your company needs to update training content frequently, animation is a better fit. Instead of having to update the script and coordinate the cast, production crew, and location for a video reshoot, fewer players will be needed to update the script and graphics for an animation.

If you’re producing more evergreen content that won’t change in the near future, live action makes sense. For instance, say you’ve created live action videos that demonstrate effective ways to build rapport with a prospect. Unless there’s a radical shift in your sales process, these skills—and your footage—will be relevant for a long time to come and your investment in live action video is protected.

Live Action Animation
Audience Goals Modeling best practices and behaviors Explaining a concept
Subject Matter Showcasing actual people and products Visualizing complex information in a simple way
Content Updates Building more evergreen content Frequent content updates


What About Budget?

Budgets. We all have ‘em. But we caution people not to play a strictly numbers game. Buying based on the lowest price tag is tempting. But that decision may come with other hidden costs. If the final product isn’t up to your brand’s quality standards or if it doesn’t effectively teach people what to do, you’ll have to pay to redo the video.

Plus, there’s more at stake than the initial cost to create a module—training affects job performance, employee attitudes, and ultimately revenue.

A good training partner will help you achieve your goals within the constraints of your budget. They’ll recommend good, better, and best options and help you understand what the give-and-take will be with each option, and how that will impact your learners.

Be Wary of These Video Production Myths

As you’re considering the style of training video to produce, it’s also important not to let these myths derail you and prevent you from making the best decision for your learners.

Myth 1: Live Action Video Is More Expensive

While a live video shoot typically requires more people (think cast and crew) and gear (lighting, sound equipment, cameras, and props), it won’t always be the most expensive option. Video length and production complexity are big variables. A one-minute animation that’s completely 3D and has a lot of special effects could cost the same as a three-minute live video. There might only be one animator on the project, but they’ll need more hours because of the level of detail and effort it takes to illustrate and animate a 3D feature.

That’s not to say that all live action videos are equal. Production costs are affected by factors like:

  • Location: A video shoot with multiple locations will take longer because of travel time and having to set up and take down cameras, lights, and other equipment. And if you’re not using your own stores or offices, location rental fees will come into play.
  • Actors: The bigger the cast, the bigger the cost.
  • Crew: If you need sound, you’ll need sound equipment and crew to operate it. But if you’re capturing b roll (motion-only footage), that’s not necessary.

Good production companies will know how to tailor live video to achieve the best result for learners within your budget.

Myth 2: Animation Takes Longer to Produce

Some companies will tell you an animation takes months to get to market whereas live action video can be delivered in four weeks.

Here’s the reality: timelines aren’t influenced by the style of your video. They depend more on how soon the client wants the finished product and how fast the production company can move. There is equal planning involved in both video formats, and an equal number of moving parts. And each format includes review time, editing, and final delivery of the product. A more agile company, like Unboxed, is able to flex their timeline to the client’s needs.

And similar to the cost, the timeline is also influenced by the length and complexity of the production.

Myth 3: You Have to Choose Between Live Action and Animation

The world of video production is wider than just animation and just live action. Good production companies use a combination of:

  • B roll (motion only video footage)
  • Live action footage
  • Animation
  • Screencast (recording of the interface of a program or tool)
  • Kinetic typography (moving text)

Your options are only limited by the creativity of your video production partner.

So, What’s Best? Animation or live action?

What type of video training is right for your company? The one that best fits the goals, subject matter, and shelf life of your training content. End of story.

Both animated and live action videos can connect learners to your brand, culture, solutions, and each other—but you don’t have to choose between one format or the other.

Have more questions about live action or animated video? Let’s chat. Drop us a line in the comments or send us an email. We’re here to help!

Animation Helps Employees Understand New Performance Management Program

A global producer of packaged foods had already embraced a new performance management philosophy. What they needed next was a way to introduce the coming changes and get employees to embrace and champion them. The Unboxed answer was a pair of quick, impactful animated videos. The first video hit the spot; it generated a record-setting number of views, got people talking, and created big-time employee excitement about the next installment.


Headquartered on the US east coast, this company employs nearly 20,000 people who work at 26 facilities in six countries. Last year’s annual sales topped $8 billion. Committed to smart growth and innovative product development for consumers, the company is equally invested in providing cutting-edge training and support for their workforce.


Changing the way 5,000 salaried employees are evaluated for promotions and salary increases is one thing. Getting those employees to feel good about the coming change—and understand its impact—brought the company to Unboxed for help crafting—and presenting—just the right message.


We started with discovery, and a lot of it. We delved into the company’s performance management program and analyzed employees’ past responses to it. We explored the program’s new content and uncovered exactly what the company wanted their employees to take away—that a person’s true value lies in more than the tasks they complete or the goods they produce. What really matters—and what the company strives to measure—is what each individual brings to the company’s culture, vision, and bottom line goals.

The process was incredibly collaborative throughout. Your team has this uncanny ability to peel back the layers and ask really insightful, thoughtful questions. That’s a real differentiator for Unboxed.

“The process was incredibly collaborative throughout,” the Head of Global Learning and Development shared. “Your team has this uncanny ability to peel back the layers and ask really insightful, thoughtful questions. That’s a real differentiator for Unboxed. You really listened and took the time—in multiple discovery and exploratory sessions—to understand who we are, our culture, where we’re going, and what we’re looking at. You push back and challenge our thought processes, give recommendations, and are really forthright with feedback. And the work is important to you. You want a superb end product just as much as we do—that’s what we’re striving for together. It’s been a great partnership.”


Following that discovery phase, Unboxed recommended a one-two punch of two-minute animated videos. The first video would define the new individual contribution concept. The second would show employees how to put that concept into action. Strategic scripting made a complicated idea straightforward and easy to understand. Hand-drawn animation gave the videos a fresh, relatable look and feel. The sequence of the two videos introduced the company’s message in stages that were appealing and easy to absorb.



The video received more hits than any other video we’ve ever sent out.

The launch of the first animation—on the company’s global intranet—brought an unprecedented level of response. “The video received more hits than any other video we’ve ever sent out. That was one of the things we were happiest to hear,” the company’s Head of Global Learning and Development told us. “We got a lot of feedback that people really gravitated to it. It was light, it was refreshing, it was pragmatic, and it made sense. And it was fun.”

He added, “One of the beautiful things you really helped us do was boil this down into something that is very meaningful in everyday language. Our goal was to create awareness and understanding about the new performance measurement program. The first video did that, and we’re looking forward to launching the second one at year end.”

“If you want something fresh, something different and engaging, then work with Unboxed,” the Head of Global Learning and Development said. “They’re really going to take the time to listen to what you’re looking for, understand who you are, and create really strong solutions that are gonna knock your socks off.”

Got a Minute? An Animation Can Make the Most of It.

Like many of our clients, CarLotz needed their marketing to multitask. Specifically, they needed help getting customers excited and comfortable with their process while highlighting the benefits.

We recommended a one-minute animation to bring the CarLotz process to life in a way that’s fun and easy to understand. But we didn’t just stop with mechanics. We also wove in the value proposition and unique DNA that makes CarLotz so cool: customer service, transparency, and their people.

Here’s what CarLotz co-founder Will Boland has to say about it:

Unboxed: Thanks for taking time to meet with us, Will! Can you tell us the CarLotz story?

Will: CarLotz is a used vehicle consignment business designed to help consumers save time and money in the sale-by-owner market. Traditionally, when consumers sell a used car they have only two alternatives: (1) sell to a dealer which results in a price 15%-25% below the actual private party value; or (2) sell it on their own, which is time consuming and dangerous. CarLotz offers consumers a third option. Sellers get more money for their cars without the traditional hassles, while buyers get more car for their money while shopping in a safe, comfortable environment.

Unboxed: When you came to Unboxed, you had a business goal/challenge in mind. Can you tell us more about it?

Will: Carlotz brings a new and unique approach to the used car market, so a key marketing challenge was how to educate consumers on how our process works. While the CarLotz concept is pretty simple, we know that the used car market can seem opaque and intimidating. Our consignment model brings a lot of transparency, and we were looking for an innovative way to tell potential customers how different we are, how hard we work to save buyers and sellers time and money, and how much fun we have doing it.

Unboxed: Creating an animation was the obvious choice! What have you seen as a result?

Will: First and foremost, the customer feedback has been phenomenal! Most consumers who visit the CarLotz website are interacting with our brand for the first time, and Unboxed’s animated video tells the CarLotz story in a fun, imaginative, and genuine way. The video has also given our customers and employees an easy way to let people know how CarLotz works. It can be emailed, linked to, or distributed through social media, making it very easy for people to consume and share with others, which in turn puts the CarLotz name in front of a lot more people.

Unboxed: Can you describe what it was like to work with the team at Unboxed?

Will: Working with the Unboxed team was awesome! They are super smart and creative, but most importantly, they are great listeners. Unboxed had a strong intuitive sense for how the CarLotz process works and how we help buyers and sellers, but we were impressed with the time they took to understand everything we wanted to communicate with the video. As a result, the video is not only informational for the consumer (goal #1) but also allowed us to share some important elements of the CarLotz brand and culture. Namely, it lets the consumer know to expect a fun, comfortable, transparent, and professional service experience at CarLotz.

Unboxed: If you were to recommend Unboxed to another business, what would you highlight?

Will: If you work with Unboxed, get ready to be wowed. Their work product speaks for itself, but how they get there is just as pleasing. Our team was on time, on budget, and incredibly responsive to our questions and needs. They do what they say they will and much more.

If you need your marketing to multitask and you’ve got a minute, we’d love to talk. Drop us a note or call us at 804.888.6222.