The Rapid Elearning Blog

History is filled with unsung heroes.  Everyone knows about Thomas Edison and his contribution to the world.  Yet few people know Christopher James Kelly.  While Edison was busy building his light bulb, it was Kelly who decided to create electrical outlets.  Without Kelly’s contribution, Edison would have just been standing there holding his cord with no place to plug in his lamp.

The elearning industry has its very own unsung hero, Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer.  Dr. Oppelbaumer is a pioneer in the elearning industry and has committed his life to advancing online education. 

I recently interviewed Dr. Oppelbaumer and asked him to present five practical tips to help you succeed and grow as elearning professionals.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer

Tom: You have made many contributions to our industry.  Which one do you think has had the most impact?

Dr. Oppelbaumer: In the early days, learners would start an elearning course and just sit there on the first screen and wait for something to happen.  We found that we created these really good courses with many screens and a lot of information, but no one thought about how to get the learner from screen one to screen two. 

While my colleagues sat around trying to figure out what went wrong with their ADDIE model, I looked out the window and noticed an arrow pointing down the road.  That’s when I suggested we place a next button shaped like an arrow on the screen.  Elearning has never been the same since.

You’ve been looking at emerging trends in elearning.  Where do you think the industry is going?

There are many interesting things happening with technology.  I am very impressed with the social media tools.  For example, years ago we were much more disconnected.  That’s not the case today.  With tools like Twitter and Facebook, I can be kept up to date on the most important advances in human history. 

I see a lot of potential in all of the important data created by these social media tools.  It will help us create elearning that is better targeted to meet the real needs of our learners.

 The Rapid E-Learning Blog - example from Twitter

I’m also excited by what I see with virtual worlds such as Second Life.  I think it is a great platform for people whose social skills were developed by playing video games.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into the elearning industry?

Buy a thesaurus.  People don’t want to waste time, so it is critical that they find value in your courses.  What motivates and engages learners is when they know that the content is perspicacious.  You need to move beyond words like "nice" to describe complex information.  It’s all a matter of how sapient you are. Using the right words tells your learners that this course is serious and will not waste their time.

Also, it never fails that you’ll waste hours crafting your mission statement without access to good words.  And as we know, it is critical that all training and elearning teams have a clearly defined mission statement.

For example, we were struggling with our own statement, until I pulled out my thesaurus and found the right words.  By the way, you are free to use our statement so as to not waste your own time.

We exist to provide elearning content that is both rational and emotional by applying adult learning principles.  We achieve results oriented achievements through proper alignment to the organization’s performance initiatives and by leveraging the existing expertise within the organization to develop innovative elearning courses that help our customers meet their needs.

In the presentation below, Dr Oppelbaumer shares the types of wisdom and insight that you can only get from a seasoned professional who’s been in the industry from the very beginning.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Dr. Oppelbaumer shares five tips for elearning success

Click here to view the Dr. Oppelbaumer’s presentation.

If you want to learn more about Dr. Oppelbaumer, he has a soon-to-be released book, Using Your Brain & Heart to Make This World Smart.  I’m sure that it will be beneficial and full of his no nonsense approach to elearning.

Feel free to share comments and questions for Dr. Oppelbaumer in the comments section.  Have a wonderful day!


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76 responses to “5 Secret Tips from an E-Learning Pioneer”

This is hilarious! At first I thought that Dr Oppelbaumer was for real, that is till I saw stop wasting time , go to wowrk1 lol. Really now this is what memory picks where there is a little humour and laughter. I was trying to post a scenario in the last blog in this scroll down and it would refuse to take it in. I tried again and again it says you have already posted it though it has not appeared in the recent comments. I am getting addicted to this blog and the information that is all new to me. It is now that I have started to understand e-learning. Thanks Dr Tom, should’t that be Dr Kuhlmann with the gizmos up there in the pic? Gratitude.

Wow what a guru. the insight i gained in 5 minutes has been greater than 5 years of practice and research. Dr Oppelbaumer is full of fresh ideas that go against the norm. I cant wait for the book.

April 1st, 2008

I’m not sure, but I think the joke has missed most of your audience…I thought the presentation was priceless! On the other hand, the tips in the main blog article are great…

Can this possibly be the same Dr. Oppelbaumer as seriously quoted in this blog post?

Noted e-learning archaeologist, indeed. We all know that there’s no such thing as an e-learning archaeologist. Noted e-learning advice columnists (a.k.a bloggers)… now that’s a fact! Happy April 1st.

April 1st, 2008

What a delightful way to start the morning. Thank you!

April 1st, 2008

Nice one! We all should stop taking ourselves so seriously.


April 1st, 2008

OMG – that was a riot – you’re an outstanding e-learning role model and guru – Starbucks is seriously missing out if they’re not contracting with you to create e-learning for their employees!

Brilliant, Tom. Had me really cackling with laughter. I think I have to go to Starbucks now 😀

April 1st, 2008

Brilliant! I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at a presentation so much. This is the best April Fools joke I’ve seen in a long time. And I love how you are constantly finding new ways to show us creative ways to capture people’s attention. Time well spent!

April 1st, 2008

This is brilliantly funny and right in time for SMART objectives.
If this guy really existed and wrote a book I would buy it in a heartbeat! SMARTs and hip-hop go together like peas and carrots!

April 1st, 2008


Very funny!!!!!! I laughed so hard I had to leave my desk. Very cute. Thank you for sharing sense of humor. 🙂

April 1st, 2008

This is a classic. Special thanks for the musical interlude!

April 1st, 2008

Hilarious, I laughed so hard, I forgot I was in the office.

I love those VIN VIN VIN situations!

April Fools – Good one Tom!!!

April 1st, 2008

What are you all laughing about?

I thought this was profound and moving. It turned my head around. I am e-lightened. I’m going to leverage my e-lightenment into a mammoth ROI. I’ve discovered that “Gmail utilizes an e-flux capacitor to resolve issues of causality,” and I know where to get that hardware.

Stop laughing!

Forgetting the date. And this being the first blog from you I received, I could not believe the content. I was thinking wow this guy has it all wrong. Then I got to the presentation and could not stop laughing. I passed it on. Great job. And a good lesson, humor always makes learning so much fun!

I LOL’ed. I cried. I ROFL’ed. Thanks Tom.

Sadly, I’ve seen *real* training material more hilarious than this – material that was meant to be serious. We need to start an online gallery of laughably bad training material.

Great blog for April Fools day!!!

April 1st, 2008


You are phenomenal! Now if I could only figure out how to use that thesaurus …

[…] not miss 5 Secret Tips from an E-Learning Pioneer on Tom Kuhlmann’s (of Articulate) The Rapid E-Learning […]

April 1st, 2008

I found the posting very worthwhile.
Afterall, we all need some NON-examples in our concept attainment!

My questions for you are, does someone really pay you for being this silly and does that actor work for free?

Actually, I was disappointed when I realized there wouldn’t be a book entitled, “Using Your Brain & Heart to Make this World Smart.” Why don’t you publish it anyway, just for laughs?

This was great – I think we should start every day with some laughter.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having the guts to do something that is actually funny and irreverent. You made me laugh out loud.

April 1st, 2008

Happy April Fool’s Day to you, too!

Good one! You tricked me into googling “Werner Oppelbaumer”!

April 1st, 2008

I have created a series of e-e-learning that can be used to train avatars in Second Life. I find that e-e-students are much more amenable to long e-e-classes than people in meat-space.

I encourage all of you to begin development of e-e-learning as virtual reality becomes more important than actual reality. Sooner or later all of those avatars will need training.


OMG, this is hilarious. What a great April 1st blog entry! Happy April Fool’s Day!

The rap song is classic. Thanks for the laugh! Glad I work from a home office or my shriek of laughter would have disturbed all nearby.

I think you should do all your future blogs in your Werner voice. 🙂

Vielen Dank Dr. Oppelbaumer, I will keep your tip about Multimedia. I always offer my clients alternative formats to text, but with those reasons now they will understand how important they are.


Danke for the gut laugh!

Dr Oppelbaumer is a hottie. ;P

I actually forgot that it was April Fool’s day until I saw this blog entry. And, until I launched the presentation and realized that this was a joke, I just thought that your high standards were slipping, a lot…

Thanks for the laugh!

I love it! — Dr Oppelbaumer you are my hero!

I laughed until I stopped. Sadly this insightful and very funny set of tips was seen by our CEO and now we have to incorporate these best practices into our next project! REALLY!

I love how farcical this post was (found “farcical” in my thesaurus). There is real learning in this even though it is a joke because it is an example of what not to do. The presentation was awesome. I plan to show it to my folks in my next staff meeting.

Yo, MC Da Oppelman – Where can I download your mp3?!?!? It’s off the hizzle!

Is it just me, or was that Andre’ the Giant doing the vocals on the chorus? Off the chain, really. I’m starting an “Oppelbaumer for President” campaign if anyone wants to join me.

April 1st, 2008

Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer is my hero. The incorporation of rap into the PowerPoint… that was so innovative, it made me cry.

April 1st, 2008


April 1st, 2008

After wrestling with Captivate all day, the Dr’s rap was just what I needed. Thanks Tom!

April 1st, 2008

Tom, keep us posted on the release of Dr. Opplebaumer’s book. Also, do you know when his rap cd is going to released? The good doctor has some great tips and some serious bling. I’ll never look at a SMART goals course the same way again.

Hi Tom

Really great post. For some time you really had me worried and wonder if all that i had learnt was wrong. The comments made me realize that you have made a wonderful April fool out of us. Hats of to your presentation. The starbucks and the musical gig was amazing. Bless you man!!


You are “GREAT” Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer. This is an awesome presentation. I want to learn more from you.
Tom, keep me posted on every release of the presentaion & books of Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer.


Wat to say abt u TOM! U r really gr8! 🙂 I really enjoyed!

April 2nd, 2008

AWESOME!! Sorry I didn’t take the opporunity to view yesterday. I am forwarding to all my team members. I have just started learning about e-learning and blended learning and this blog is a HUGE help.

April 2nd, 2008

Great! I loved the article!! You are brilliant!

I think my supervisor believes I’ve finally gone off the deep end…Great stuff. Had a good laugh today–I was not at work yesterday to enjoy it in its full AFD context.

Remember, always go for the VIN, VIN, VIN!

April 2nd, 2008

Oh great I didn’t open this until April 2nd and I thought what the heck is he talking about no – he isn’t right…what the …then i read the comments. I get it now nice job april fools

April 2nd, 2008

Ackh! I’m such a dummkopf — you had me all the way to “perspicacious”.

What a great idea! Please don’t wait until next April 1 to come up with another one like it!

April 3rd, 2008

Hahahaha very funny! I really thought this is for real! You really got me there. Very Hilarious!

April 3rd, 2008

Someone get this the hook out of my lip! I fell for that hook, line, and sinker! To top it off, you DID keep my attention for the entire presentation! Too funny Tom!

Didn’t get to this until 4/3. Had me laughing out loud to the wonderment of all passers-by my office since April Fools is long-forgotten. Then, trying to explain that I hadn’t lost it completely…well, that didn’t work. Neither did, “this has to do with my JOB, REALLY!!” “ya right” was the response. The bottom line–bring on the other 98 cents worth, Tom–just let me shut the door to my office first! danke!

April 4th, 2008

“If a Manager asks me how to make better return on investment, I’d say you need to hire smarter people, who don’t need training.” BRILLIANT! The world needs innovation, creativity etc. People need to think smarter and not harder. That is, dedication should be issued to making learning fun for staff and spending time putting smiles on their faces. Right there people, is a return on investment worth hanging around to see. Cheers Tom!

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use more stories like this in the workplace to get more important points across!? This would sit very well with the 2nd edition of Made to Stick (if there ever was a revised one). Great stuff and I really like the blog. Cheers from the UK.

April 6th, 2008

Its really a nice one Tom.

April 6th, 2008

Tom do u think mobile learning is really worthy and interactive. I might also be wrong but according to me people will forget and don’t take serious if learning is imparted through mobile. Also i don’t understand the concept of “Return on Investment”. Can u please share ur thoughts more on that….

April 7th, 2008

This was hilarious. I forwarded this to a former colleague of mine who would appreciate this as well. You ought to make more of this for a touch of humor we need in our lives.


Thank you all for the kind comments. I’m glad you enjoyed Dr. Oppelbaumer’s wisdom and common sense approach to elearning. I’m sure he’ll have more to say down the road.

Saravana: ROI is all about getting the most value for the resources invested. It’s not just getting a positive return, but the best return. For example, if you have $100 to invest and one investment will give you 5% and the other gives you 10%, which will you choose? When you have limited resources, you want to make sure that you can get the most out of the resources.

As far as mobile learning, I think it has a place in the learning process. As the phones are more sophisticated and broadband speeds improve this will be more evident. It’s just that what you do for training/learning probably won’t be the same as more traditional elearning.

It seems that everyday, there’s a new UMPC or similar mobile device on the market. A large part of learning is having access to the information you need when you need it and it seems that mobile technology plays a role in that.

Dr. Oppelbaumer reminds me of Einstein :). These Germans know what they are talking about! Thanks und viele Grüße.


Thanks! I will follow Dr. Oppelbaumer’s advise, “Don’t listen to the critics… keep making youself look good.”


[…] the world’s greatest thinkers. Certainly Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking, and Dr.Werner Oppelbaumer come to mind. What do they all have in common? They are all physicists (most don’t know […]

[…] 5 Secret Tips from an E-Learning Pioneer (April 1, 2008) […]

March 12th, 2009

Okay, Tom, you can’t fool me. The voice on the module for Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer was you. I love your humor, your tutorials, your ideas, your simple way of breaking things down.

Please have pity on our organization and come do a presentation for free. It’s better to give than to receive, right?

Excellent 🙂

Thank you for sharing the insightful information and the laughs.

April 27th, 2010

“Buy a thesaurus.”

Foolish thinking.

While this approach will make the content appear more professional, unless you are teaching English(statistically speaking your not) you are applying an unnecessary level of complexity to your content.

Words such as “nice” are obviously simplistic but if they perform their function they are preferable to words the reader needs to look up in a “thesaurus”.

April 27th, 2010

@darraghjames: a thesaurus is an inexpensive investment

It is my professional opinion that complexity is what makes great elearning. If it appears simple then most likely people will think it is a waste of time because they understand.

However, if you can make the content appear complex, the learner is forced to slow down and concentrate because they become confused and might feel stupid. This is the secret of great literature and works for elearning as well.

June 7th, 2010

Dr Werner Oppelbaumer, you are the epitome of Zeitgeist. Your work is brilliant. Thanks!

[…] 5 Secret Tips from an E-Learning Pioneer […]

[…] Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ll no doubt recognize page curls as the hottest visual design technique for elearning courses since Dr. Werner introduced the next button. […]

[…] Le pagine che si arricciano sono il Justin Bieber della grafica E-Learning A meno che tu non viva in una caverna, non avrai dubbi nel riconoscere che l’effetto “orecchiette” è il più caldo tra le tecniche di design utilizzate nella creazione di corsi elearning da quando il Dr. Werner ha introdotto il bottone next. […]

[…] Tips for Success. Really funny video created by Articulate that shows the capabilities of their product and also outlines what doesn’t work with web […]

December 18th, 2012

Thank you Tom! Humour and learning are made of the same matter…Wits!