The Rapid Elearning Blog

how to build good e-learning courses

Meet Customer Needs: A Tale of Two Cookies

I recently heard a story of two girls and their cookies. The first girl bakes a few dozen chocolate chip cookies and goes door-to-door to sell them. She finds selling the cookies difficult. Not everyone likes or wants chocolate chip. Some like oatmeal raisin. Some like peanut butter. On top of that, a dozen is a lot. Some only want six.

The other girl decides to go door-to-door and asks the neighbors what they want, taking orders specific to their needs. She then buys the ingredients she needs for each order, bakes the cookies, and delivers them to satisfied customers.

The first girl committed all of her resources to a product that many didn’t need or want. The second was able to manage her resources by committing them to a product that customers did want.

Build E-learning Courses People Want

There’s a lesson here for e-learning.

Training needs to be designed with the end-user in mind. Typically, we’re like the first girl. We build the training courses based on what we think and then try to sell them. In addition the course is built based on the curriculum rather than user’s needs. And then we commit all of our resources to building the course.

We should be like the second girl and learn to make cookies people need and want. Instead of building the course around information, we should build it around how the learner will use the information.

Today, with rapid development tools, like Articulate 360, we have the flexibility to bake the type of cookies that meets our users’ needs. In the past, it took months to design and build curriculum. Today, training can be built within days.

Since we can build and modify our training so quickly, we are in a better position to build it and get it to the users as they need it. If we find that the information doesn’t work for them or needs to be modified, we can do so on the fly. This saves time and money…and helps to satisfy the users.

“C is for Cookie…That’s Good Enough for Me.”

Here’s a simple cookie-inspired acronym to help you create learning based on the user’s need: OREO.

  • Order taking. Keep the cookie story in mind. Don’t just bake chocolate chip cookies. Understand the learner’s needs. Use your rapid e-learning tools to quickly pull together the online courses that people want to consume.
  • Results. Organizations spend money on training because they expect results. Design your training courses to meet real needs. As a rapid e-learning developer, you’re in a win-win situation. You can respond quickly to training needs at an attractive price.
  • Engaged learners. Build the learning experience in a manner that engages the learner. Engagement means that the course has to look nice and embrace proven techniques on how to present information visually. It also means that we need to engage the user’s learning process and make the course truly interactive. Get them to make decisions that mimic those in the real world.
  • Objectives. Make a promise to your learners: This training will not waste your time. Be clear on the objectives and build your training to meet them.

In future posts, we will pull our OREO apart and look at these steps in greater detail.

What type of cookies do you bake?


Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

15 responses to “How Can Baking Cookies Improve Your E-learning Course?”

July 31st, 2007

I couldn’t agree more with you, Tom. However, I work for a large company and they are not quick to make changes. A lot of my project managers wait until the last second to contact our team, so I don’t have enough time to create the type of training I want to.


Excellent article which really makes several key points: 1) Give them what they want / need; 2) Never waste their time; 3) Use rapid, but engaging, tools to build the material.

I look forward to this blog – I can see it is going to be an excellent resource!

Great analogy and article!

But, to tie on to June’s comments, many of our SME developers are driven by managers who don’t get or see this stuff at all. They just want something out now so the employee is forced to deliver ASAP and many times it’s “crapid” e-learning. Or they are told to just pull out that old PPT and just publish with Articulate with little additional instructional “polish.” So how do we also reach the stakeholders, leaders and owners of the learning being developed?

I think one of the issues is that a lot of training isn’t tied to real performance. Thus, there are no strong expectations for the training. If the training is expected to get specific performance results, then the customers are more apt to listen to how to do that. The key for us is to be seen as valuable experts. I’ve had success by routinely reporting how I bring value to the organization (something a lot instructional designers don’t do). I also recommend building before/after demos. Some people just don’t understand the difference so they need to see it.

Love your graphics. Can you share where you get them from?

Great articles! I’ve put it in my A-list of subscriptions.


Thanks, Mike. I usually get my graphics from istockphoto I appreciate being added to your A-list. Is there anything in particular that you’d like to see covered?

[…] you’re running a support department or zeroing in on your learners’ needs when building your elearning courses, here’s how you can create your own survey to solicit […]

August 15th, 2007

This site is a great resource, easy to understand and integrate into my job. Thank you for supplying it! OREO will definitely stay with me.

Hi Tom,
I purchased Articulate last year and created a couple of elearning courses and I have really loved the product. I was pleasantly surprised to receive your elearning pdf, and I have to tell you, I look forward to getting your regular emails. They are so packed with helpful info that I save them and file them in a binder for future reference. Thanks for your generosity and willingness to teach practical methods.

Diane: Thanks for the feedback.

October 30th, 2007

I like the idea of baking cookies people want to eat. We’re in the process of redesigning and restructuring our eLearning and will be using the Articulate Suite of products – but we’re curious as to what would benefit our customers – what they’d like to see. There’s really no sense in building something they’ll never use. I was wondering if you or your readers have ever sent out a survey to their customers asking what they’d like to see in eLearning? If so, what questions were asked?

Who are your customers? Are they internal or external? Ideally the training is linked to real performance needs and not information. I would develop a performance consulting model to help clients link their training to real needs. From my experience, the biggest issue is that the default assumption is to dump information on people and they’ll learn and the by product is increased performance. If you’re not familiar with performance consulting, I’d start with a book like Performance Consulting. It’s a good one.

[…] How Can Baking Cookies Improve Your E-learning Course? […]

May 19th, 2009

I love the idea of finding out what the customers want, but it’s hard to do with regulatory training. Most of the time no one cares what the “research customers” want or need. It’s what the regulations say they need. Kind of hard when your customers are forced to eat cookies they don’t want or like.