Jennifer K. Snyder

Developing People; Engaging Employees

Instructor-Student Relationships


networkI’m curled up in my robe on the couch, cup of coffee in hand. Gazing down at the smiling, sleepy face of my kitty, I begin to think about relationships. I examine some of my own – my relationship with my husband, the pony I had a a child, a teacher, my brother, my coworker.

I think about their interconnectedness, though the characters may not be aware, and how those interconnections shape my thoughts, actions, and beliefs. It is through our relationships with others that we make decisions about and change our behavior. I can read about healthy eating habits, but it is my relationships with others that will help me implement the behavior (or not).

As an instructor, we can have a profound effect on our learners’ behavior if we take just a few steps to establish a relationship with them. It could be as simple as learning (and using) their name, sharing a cup of coffee with them during a break, or sending them a message of encouragement. It’s easier to do when the class size is small, of course. In larger classes, we can still share a little bit about ourselves, perhaps our frailties – most people like to know their instructor is human.

When we build a rapport with our students, we develop mutual respect. Having this respect enables us to guide the class and any discussions taking place. When we sense that group discussions are headed down the wrong path, or when the class as a whole is missing a key element, our relationship with the participants allows us to redirect without losing engagement.

The relationships we build with our learners also help with accountability. Most learners will complete assignments if they HAVE to, but that’s not where the benefit is. We want them to complete the assignments because they WANT to. We want to give them responsibility for their own learning. This is where learning occurs. Initially, they may begin the assignment not because they feel they have something to learn, but because they want to maintain our positive relationship. Yet, they still enter the assignment with a more positive mindset and acceptance. Along the way, they may even learn a thing or two.

Finally, relationships with our students can serve to sharpen our saw. When they see us a fully human, as a guide rather than a sage, they are more willing to provide useful feedback, and provide it respectfully. If no one tells us, we may never know what we’ve missed.

The complexity of our interconnectedness is difficult to grasp. His thought about this plus her thought about that has an effect on my own perceptions and behaviors. When we begin to see our learners in the framework of these relationships, we can begin to instill real behavioral change.

5 Steps to Easier Writing: A Proven Model

by equusnyder

End of ropeYou’re sitting at your computer, staring at the blank screen. Your article is due tomorrow, and while you have an idea of what you’d like to say, you just don’t know where to begin. You become increasingly stressed. The words you type go nowhere. You get up for another cup of coffee, convinced that it’s caffeine that will stimulate your neurons. Still nothing. Perhaps your blood sugar level is dipping. A pint of Ben and Jerry’s will fix that. Nothing. You need to just clear your head so you take the dog for a walk down the street. You get back to your computer. And there it is. The cursor, at the top of the blank page, mocking you every time it blinks.

At a recent District Toastmasters Conference, I had the pleasure of attending an educational session taught by comedian and speaker, Darren LaCroix. The topic was “Create a Keynote: How to Write a Speech Step-by-Step.” I listened with interest as Darren took us through the motions and quickly realized the writing model he was using went well beyond speeches. It was an all-purpose model that could be used in many areas of writing.

He used a model developed by Patricia Fripp. The power in “The Fripp Speech Model™” is in its simplicity. I often have students who struggle to get their words on paper. I’ve shared traditional writing models with them in the past, only to watch them struggle further. Many of them know what to say, they just don’t know how to get it out in a logical form. They spend hour after hour writing, deleting, and moving text around. Some of them freeze from the start, not even knowing where to begin.

The Fripp Speech Model addresses both of these issues with five steps:

  1. Clarify your premise.
  2. Form your foundational phrase.
  3. Create your closing.
  4. Create your opening.
  5. Prove your premise.

What makes it especially easy is that once you write out each step, it’s just a matter of tying them all together. LaCroix illustrated each of these points through his own speaking journey. He shared how powerful stories are in capturing your audience. He also gave us a couple of his own strong foundational phrases: “What do I want my audience to do, think, or feel?” “Make your last words linger.” “Get your audience to picture themselves in the story.”

Last WordsThe model is not unlike many models I learned in my journalism classes, but for me it was a fresh perspective I could share with my students when it seemed like nothing else would work. It’s truly an all-purpose model, one that I’ve even used in writing this blog post.

If you struggle to get the words out, give Fripp’s model a try. The simplicity and direction will guide you into an effective and impactful article.

Pattie Barnes via Chuck Jones on Designing Training from the Learner’s Perspective

by equusnyder

“It’s my job to change behavior so improvements happen in the ORGANIZATION. What’s at stake for the organization does not necessarily trickle down to the individual worker.”
-Chuck Jones, MAEd

ROIGreat summary and insight from expert designer, Chuck Jones, on great instructional methods from a National Sales Director, Pattie Barnes

Bottom line – ROI

See Chuck’s blog post on Designing Training from the Learner’s Perspective.

Do You Even Know You’re Stressed? What to Do When Stress Comes Knockin’ at Your Door

by equusnyder

StressI’ve been reading a lot recently about managing stress.
I had a professor in the latter part of my college career tell me, “Stress isn’t always bad; stress is part of what gets us out of bed in the morning.”

In my previous career as an instructional designer at Crew Training International, our company taught Stress Management primarily to pilots. You can understand how their job might be a tad bit stressful.

I learned a lot from my colleagues, themselves former fighter pilots. For instance, did you know that you often show warning signs of stress long before you realize you are stressed?

Here are some warning signs you may observe in yourself or others:

Mental Warning Signs

  • Lose ability to process information
  • Less able to plan/think ahead
  • Responses are spontaneous and limited in scope
  • Overreact to stimuli
  • Difficulty in perceiving patterns and relationships
  • Difficulty in focusing on and reading information
  • Miss subtle environmental cues
  • Revert to familiar “tried and true” behavior
  • Withdraw; inability to respond

Physical Warning Signs

  • Tensing of muscles
  • Heart rate increases/rapid beats
  • Breathing rapid, shallow, and irregular breaths
  • Skin cools; begin to sweat

Male StressedThese warning signs can tell you when you are encountering stress, but enduring stress in extended periods can be harmful. You may begin a habitual pattern of responding to non-threatening events as if they were threatening. In addition, because there is no time for the body and/or brain to recover, long-term stress can overwork the body and brain to the point of exhaustion.

According to the Mayo Clinic, long-term stress can raise the primary stress hormone, cortisol. When that happens,

“It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.” Stress Management

Long-Term Warning Signs include:

  • Depleted energy levels
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Lack of concentration
  • Poor memory
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight loss/gain

My colleagues also taught me that stress can be managed. Stress can be reduced in part by planning, including establishing priorities, focusing on things that are within our control, and by seeking support when we are overloaded.

In addition, experts at Mayo Clinic recommend:

Identifying what stresses you and how to take care of yourself physically and emotionally in the face of stressful situations. Everyone handles stress differently.

  • Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep
  • Practicing relaxation techniques or learning to meditate
  • Fostering healthy friendships
  • Having a sense of humor
  • Seeking professional counseling when needed

So, am I stressed? Most decidedly.

Do I manage it well? Pick your day. I have learned what events triggers stress in me, and for the most part can be proactive in my reaction. I’ve also learned that pre-planning as much as possible for stressful events can often times both alleviate the stress before it arrives and better prepare me when things don’t go as planned.

What are your trigger points? What are your warning signs? How do you respond? What can you do to turn stressful challenges into productive opportunities?

Captivate Workshop to be Held in Memphis!

by equusnyder

captivate video screenshotI’m so excited to announce a workshop put on by Memphis ATD  – Association for Talent Development!

May 4-6 Check it out: Captivate Workshop

If you want to learn Adobe Captivate or improve your skills, this is the place to be!

ADDIE in a Nutshell

by equusnyder

nutI’m finalizing a train-the-trainer course and needed a quick way to give my learners a little ISD background before the class begins. This video is part of it.

I was inspired to create this after observing presentations given by Omar Nielsen from Genentech and John Bleck from AbbVie regarding microlearning and video learning, respectively. Thank you, Gentlemen, for the inspiration!

Let’s see the pre-work you give your students that doesn’t involve reading. Send me a link!

An Artist’s 7 Secrets to Stimulate Creativity

by equusnyder

“My mom was cool!” announced my brother to a group of a hundred who’d gathered to celebrate her life. Indeed she was. To say she was creative is like saying the Hope Diamond is shiny.

For example, I grew up in a sheep barn. (Yes, I’ve heard all the jokes.) She was the mastermind behind renovating a 100-year-old sheep barn on the family homestead into a 3-story work of art. She drew the floorplans, threw the moldy hay out of the loft, cleaned out the pigeon poop,

Handmade loomed sheep

“Louie” the sheep traveled with Mom and Dad as they moved from home to home. While living in the sheep barn, Mom made the frame, loomed the wool body, sewed the legs and head, and did the original embroidery on the face. Unfortunately, his face deteriorated and had to be replaced.

laid the tile, slate, and wood floors, designed the door to the secret staircase, laid the stone in the fireplace, painted, did all the interior decorating, etc. all while working as a marketing manager for a plastics company.

But it doesn’t end there. She was a master at cooking, drawing, painting, sculpture, wood carving, gardening, and landscaping.

However, to Mom, her own creativity was not nearly as important as cultivating creativity in others. As a child, I enjoyed coloring books, but more often, she would give me a blank sheet of paper (or two, or ten) and encourage me to create my own coloring book. To get me started, she would put four or five random dots on my page. That was the beginning of my masterpiece.

Wendy Severson Art

Artwork in multiple medium. By Wendy Severson. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

She inspired many who knew her. Here are seven tricks she used to foster her own creativity and encourage it in others. Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Strategy: The Journey Continues

by equusnyder

Who knew? Who knew that it could get this complicated? As I hammer out where I want our company to head from a learning perspective, I ask myself more questions than I answer; I reveal more options than I can choose; I find more opportunity than I can take. As frustrating as it is, I find solace in this quote from Winston Churchill:


So, I push forward. I’ve identified some key tactics, including establishing an executive learning board, starting a certified instructor program, and launching a “Learn Everyday” campaign, but realize implementing these actually means sacrificing growth in other areas – areas that I felt were a high priority at one time.

I think the three initiatives on which I’m focusing are critical for the foundation of a healthy learning environment. The executive learning board will help provide direction and ensure inclusivity of the entire company, the certified instructor program will create a framework, level of expectation, and human resource, and the Learn Everyday campaign will help with the shift in mindset of what learning can mean to our employees.

What will suffer as a result, at least in the short term, is the quality of our online offering – something I had really hoped to address this year. Last year, because of the acquisition and new LMS, I elected to maintain the status quo, that is, continue to use online courses that have little if any learning value. Many are “box checkers,” that is, courses that enable us to say, “Yes, our employees have been trained in that.” My issue with the courses is that they are not well designed. They are what many outside of the learning industry think of when they hear “online learning.” They are by and large read-and-clicks. Knowing how effective eLearning can be, they drive me nuts. If money were no object, I’d hire it out or at least find some off-the-shelf replacements. But, painful though it may be, this is not where I need to spend our precious resources this year. I need to finish laying the foundation of what was started last year.

The other area that will suffer – again, in the short term – is our ILT offering. We have a real need for supervisory classes. In Q4 of 2014, we offered a one supervisor class every month. We had already decided on a hiatus for January and February, but until I have a team of instructors who can deliver courses across the company, I will need to reduce my anticipated offerings for my supervisors. Again, could I hire it out? Yes, but particularly while the company is in growth mode, our department is running lean.


It’s difficult to paint a clear picture of where we will be in three years from now, but I believe using last year and this year to create a sound foundation will enable us to have a stronger, but malleable program in years to come.

Taming the Beast: Developing a Corporate Learning Strategy

by equusnyder

Once again I find myself using this blog as a way for me to articulate the thoughts in my mind, not necessarily to share them with you, but because the mental images are lying in a big heap in the middle of my brain and I cannot make sense of them.


The tactile effort of typing the words, and then seeing the words on the screen, seems to help my brain understand the logic that is screaming to get out. It’s no wonder my ears ring.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been given the opportunity to lead a corporate learning program that’s never really been formally established in a 60-year-old company. What a challenge! But, what an even greater opportunity! I am blessed beyond measure.

I joined the company in 2013, just as half of it was being acquired. This was a good thing for me. I spent 2013 getting ready for the split, and 2014 regrouping. 2014 was about positioning. I allowed our content to maintain status quo while I focused on getting a new robust LMS up and running, and getting a skilled learning specialist to partner with me in the venture. We had a few good ILT courses in Q4, but by and large, this year was about preparation.

kkfayWhich brings me to where I am today – crafting what the company’s learning strategy will looking like in the coming years. I feel a bit like Fay Wray in King Kong, being flailed about at the top of the Empire State Building. It is hard to get my arms around this monkey.

Starting with the End in Mind

As with most problem solving and invention, it’s usually best to start with the end in mind. Read the rest of this entry »

To Flash or Not to Flash

by equusnyder

questionmarkA cyber-colleague, Christopher Pappas, posted an article to his blog back in June, “The Importance of Sharing Your eLearning Expertise.” One point resonated especially loudly with me:  Writing forces us to think.

I reflected in my comments to him that writing my thoughts is indeed clarifying for me, and in some cases, I can argue myself right out of the point I was trying to make.

For instance, last week I publicly declared that we would no longer be investing in eLearning content built in Flash. “Flash is dead” is current the mantra. From here on out it would be HTML5. But at this stage is that wise and/or necessary?

This year has been a year of change. The company for whom I worked sold part of its business to MicroPort Orthopedics – I went with the new company. As part of the transition, I stood up a new LMS for the previous company and then repeated the process for my current company.

All of these changes occurred at rapid-fire speed and have required that I take some concessions in areas, though the need for change in those areas is great. So, as much as I hate it, 2014 was a year of maintaining status quo with certain pieces of the puzzle. One of those pieces is our eLearning content.

We are just finishing a “course conversion,” working with third-party vendors to recreate some courses built in proprietary eLearning software into Captivate or Storyline. After describing our needs and giving my Flash Declaration to these companies, one of the vendors returned their bid with two prices – one for the course development and one for an HTML version.

“Why would they charge more for HTML?” asked a coworker. “After all, you just click on a box in Storyline and out spits your HTML version. What is the cost in that?” Their bid and his response made me start to think about my declaration.

The truth is, while Flash is dying, it still works (sometimes) for most eLearning, given you aren’t trying to run it on your tablet. Couple that with the fact that most of our employees are hardwired. Most of us sit in an office, cube, or at a local kiosk to take our training on a computer – the very training I was so insistent not be created in Flash anymore.

The second piece of this is I am a huge proponent of mobile learning, but I frequently have to rein myself in and make sure we’re going mobile for the right reasons. Will these “converted” courses work on a mobile device? Sure, but they aren’t designed for it (thus the additional HTML cost from the vendor.) They’re designed to be eLearning, not mLearning. (A post for another day.)

So why am I so hung up on “Down with Flash!”? For three reasons:

  1. Because of the negative experiences I’ve had with Flash and the issues it’s caused in courses because of its less-than-desirable behavior.
  2. Because of the feeling of abandonment I get from Adobe, creating a product on which we’re all dependent, and then walking away without a viable solution.
  3. Because of the shiny object syndrome – I want the new toys – the HTML5, the xAPI; I certainly don’t want to live in the past (aka Flash).

These reasons may not be enough to justify my Declaration of Independence from Flash, at least at this stage of the game, in a year of maintaining status quo.

This causes me to wonder how other companies are coping. Do I need to keep a foot in the Flash door? Will Flash continue to suffice until HTML5 is solidified or a better alternative is created? How does your company deal with this?

Thank you, Christopher, for indeed stimulating my mental processes. I think I just won another argument with myself.