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Five Award-Winning Online Courses

December 23, 2006
Related Topics: Technology, E-Learning, Learning Delivery, Technology

Every year, outstanding online courses are developed, yet too many training professionals have not seen them. My job since 1995 has been to showcase the best examples of online learning and to recognize the creative developers behind them. What started as an annual “10 Best” presentation at conferences has grown to a full-scale industry awards program, with 252 entries and more than 600 judges from 44 countries this year.

Have you seen stellar examples of online courses? Check out these five Gold Medal winners. To see demos, go to

Customer-Focused Selling: This e-course teaches portfolio selling, using multiple simulations. The user plays a salesperson who reviews background information and interacts with staff at a doctor’s office. One judge said, “It drew you into the world of selling … it made you want to keep going back and trying out different responses and strategies.” According to the developers, Performance Development Group, the course took 12 weeks to complete and had a budget of $60,000. Don Block, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals senior director, said the simulations developed the capabilities of the company’s employees and equipped them to meet strategic business objectives. He said the course allowed representatives to apply their knowledge in a safe environment and to hone their skills so they could provide the greatest value for customers.

Generator Brush Inspection and Maintenance: In this course, on-site engineers learn preventive maintenance procedures related to trip avoidance for a generator. The goal of the training is to decrease or eliminate the need for these urgent service calls. Six hundred person-hours were required to create this 1.15-hour course. Max Herrell of GE Energy Contractual Services, the developer, said the course has improved both personnel and equipment safety at generating stations, has increased run times on equipment and has reduced maintenance time.

He also said that, based on comparisons, the trip issue addressed in the program has gone from the “top 10” previously to not even showing up on monthly trip reviews now.

Information Security Awareness: This course is part of a security curriculum intended for all employees. The goal of the course is to protect the company’s information, learn about managing risks and threats and practice prevention procedures. One judge said, “The use of the desktop metaphor, sticky notes, interactions and scenarios all helped to provide engaging content that was not a chore to go through.” It was developed by Interactive Services.

Subnetting the Planet: This course uses animated characters to teach high school students in Cisco’s Networking Academy Program how to subnet an Internet protocol (IP) network. The skills learned help students learn more about information technology. One judge said, “The animated characters, the theme of exploring the networks in ‘space’ and constant movement kept my attention and engaged me in the activities. I did not get distracted with other things … which is a testament to how engaging it was.” Rose Goyeneche of Cisco said the goal for the course was to find an innovative way to explain subnetting because many students were dropping out of the program. Based on feedback from Cisco instructors at tech forums, the course explains subnetting well, and students are better able to grasp the concept. It was developed by A.S.K. Solutions Group.

Military Intelligence … Afghanistan: This interactive multimedia course prepares military personnel for the realities of the strategic and operational environment in Afghanistan. Developed for Army personnel, the purpose of the course is to provide users with the ability to shift their viewpoint to that of the Afghan outlook on life. This cultural-awareness course covers many unique aspects of being raised as an Afghanistan native. One judge said, “(It is) one of the best examples of valid, useful interactions that benefit the content versus simply having another button to click.” The course was developed by Anteon International Corp. and authored using an open-code production tool.

I suggest your next step should be to show the demos during a staff meeting in order to inspire your team. Lead a group discussion on what your group can learn from these examples, then send me an e-mail on how the session went and what you thought of the courses.

Brandon Hall, Ph.D., is CEO of Brandon Hall Research, publisher of the new study “Emerging E-Learning: New Approaches to Delivering Engaging Online Learning Content.” He can be reached at

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