Browse Author: Rachel


Update: Updating Evaluations Based on “Performance-Focused Smile Sheets”

My last post was about updating evaluations based on Will Thalheimer’s book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets. In a word, we failed. But as learning professionals, failure = learning. We learned that we had a really hard time reporting on the results, we weren’t giving our stakeholders the information they wanted, and learners were still getting a bit of “evaluation fatigue” that resulted in couple instances of wonky results. That said, the practice of remodeling the evaluation questions was extraordinarily valuable in creating our new evaluation questions.

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Performance-Focused Smile Sheets

Updating Evaluations Based on “Performance-Focused Smile Sheets”

In the spirit of sharing my work, I wanted to share how we updated our smile sheets. We knew our evaluation forms needed some help. They were long, tedious, and didn’t really give us the information we needed. So, we looked to Will Thalheimer’s book, Performance-Focused Smile Sheets. I set to work creating new evaluation questions for our courses.

Note: These questions were for immediate evaluations only, not delayed ones.

How the New Evaluation Questions Were Written

Rewriting our smile sheet smile sheets started with taking a look at our old questions and dissecting them. One of them was:

The course was given the correct amount of time.

  • Strongly Agree
  • Agree
  • Neutral
  • Disagree
  • Strongly Disagree

If the average answer was “Disagree” – what does that mean? Was the course too long or too short? Why? Obviously, as observers we could take a good guess. And maybe a couple of people would have written in a comment. But the point still stands – why not make the answers actually give us real data? Adding more data to your smile sheets is much of what Will suggests in his book. Continue Reading



I went to dinner with a new friend Sunday evening. We have a lot in common, we both enjoy video games and nerdy things. I’ve read the first book in the Death Note manga series, she’s going to lend me the rest when we hang out again. Earlier that day, I’d gotten lunch with another friend. Earlier that week, I was able to contact even another friend last minute to see if she wanted to go to a concert I had an extra ticket to.

That may not seem like a big deal, but a few months ago, I had maybe one friend in DC that I felt comfortable to call anytime to hang out. This is a vulnerable admission – I am pretty outgoing and make friends easily.

A few months ago, despite more time due to the lack of friends, my desire to develop my professional life outside of work dwindled. I stopped updating social media and my blog.

The vision of me I’d built was slowly deteriorating.

You probably have a vision of who you want to be. Your exact career path may be unknown, but you probably have a desired progression timeline. Your dream wardrobe is probably fuzzy at best, but you likely know the perception you want strangers to have of you. You don’t know the names of friends you want, but you know what you want to do with friends when you hang out.

A few months ago, I realized that I couldn’t be my vision of myself all at once. I don’t have enough energy. So I chose aspects to work on, one by one.

My career foundation felt solid. I’d gone above and beyond in my professional development before my motivation fizzled. I even felt happy with my style – I knew exactly what I wanted when I shopped and limited my wardrobe. Before I realized that I had limited energy, I was attempting to dedicate myself to each of those aspects of my life as though I was still trying to build those foundations. I took a step back, I gave myself permission to focus on new foundations – such as making friends. And now I feel some of my energy returning for everything else.

I’m still working on every aspect of me and my vision, but it’s now a fun adventure – not an overwhelming process.

I know this is a training blog, so let’s apply it there. To professional development in general. Focus on gaining a foundation in one skill at a time. If you try to learn Storyline, graphic design, and instructional design skills all at once – you will feel overwhelmed and feel like you’re failing. Take that step back. Make it a fun adventure – where you’re picking up new skills on the way.


Making Friends in a New City

I watched The Bachelor for the first time a couple of months ago. The episode featured the bachelor himself visiting the girls’ hometowns to meet their families. My roommate’s town was featured, I made a point to watch it with him. Not long after we’d settled down with our beers and snacks, my roommate’s questions started coming in.

“Do they do this every Bachelor season?” and “Do the girl’s families usually like the bachelor guy?” and “How many episodes are after this one?” and so on.

My response was the same each time:

“I don’t know, this is my first time watching it.”

I would like to think that it wasn’t the exasperation in my voice (he’s used to that), or the looks I was giving him by the 4th or 5th question (he was completely enraptured by the TV), but rather self-enlightenment (probably too hopeful) when he finally stopped mid-6th-question and said, “Oh, it’s probably pretty sexist of me to assume you know all this, isn’t it?”

I had a laugh, but interestingly, he actually hit on a point that made it difficult for me to find friends in the city I’d lived in going on two years.

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Frivolous Thinking and Finding the Perfect Laptop Bag

I’ve thought a lot about bags lately. Specifically, a work bag that will fit my monstrosity of a laptop. Apparently I am picky. I can’t seem to find a bag to fit my wish list.

Rachel’s Perfect-but-Difficult-to-Find Bag Features Wish List:

  • Shoulder strap
  • Be more than just a laptop bag – like a briefcase sorta thing
  • Fit a large laptop
  • Less than $200

Actually, those are all my requirements. Those seem doable, right?

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Overcoming Social Anxiety

“Don’t worry, I’ll annoy them if I don’t hear back,” I assured my boss. I was a few short months into my new job, and attempting to get software installed.

“Can you even do that? You’re not inherently annoying,” she laughed back at me.

For most people, that comment would be forgotten by the end of the day. But it may have changed my life. Continue Reading


Starting a Blog

I am not new to blogging. But I am new to blogging about something other than my professional life. I’ve considered a personal blog for a long time, but there was always stuff holding me back (like I’m sure it’s holding you back, too).

My huge list of reasons:

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Things Are Changing – New Site Announcement

For some time I have wanted to have my own personal blog type of thing. And, selfishly, I LOVE my domain. How awesome is that. Seriously.

Plus, sounds like more of a personal blog than an instructional design blog anyways.

So, I finally did it. has now been transferred to! It’s the exact same, just a new name.

E-learning and instructional design friends, please update your bookmarks – I will be slowly transitioning this into my personal blog.

Though you’re welcome to stick around. I’d love to have you.

<3 – Rachel

Note: I will not be deleting posts, but I will be slowly hiding them from this site.

Businesswoman Working Email Writing Workplace Concept

ID Skill Building: Effective Business Writing

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be featured on Kris Anthony’s new wonderful Instructional Design podcast, Dear Instructional Designer. I did want to give you a mini taste of one thing that I talked about: the important skill of business communication.

As instructional designers, we are constantly interacting with clients, SMEs, stakeholders, you name it. One of the skills I’m constantly working on, and admittedly proud of, is effective business writing. A few years ago, one of my bosses handed me a booklet on effective business emails and writing and it rocked my life. People not only started responding quicker and more in line with my needs, but actually complimenting my actual emails. Look!

Good email

Unfortunately, I’m not able to share the actual booklet he gave me – but here are a couple of great resources to get you started:

What other resources do you recommend for learning better business writing?

Knowledge Training E-Learning Skills Start Up Launch Concept

Rely on What Your Learners Know

We are working on a series of courses as a part of a huge change management initiative. One of the courses I designed is now live with our staff going through it, while I am still working on a few more courses in the series.

And because one of them is live while I’m working on others, I had an interesting experience. I happen to pull in one of the participants of the live course into a SME meeting of one of the other courses in the series to help with a certain area, a case study.

We got to what we would be providing participants for the case study, and my reply was well… basically nothing. The bare minimum. They would have to do the research on the case study themselves; research and analysis would be their day-to-day job after the training.

But the SMEs were hesitant… understandably. How on earth were they going to do that?

Then the participant from the previously designed course spoke up. Paraphrasing: “It actually worked really well. I mean, these participants are people who are knowledgeable and already know how to research and where to find the information. If someone didn’t, it was a group effort, so they learned.”

I had not yet learned whether that method was working – I had heard no complaints in feedback, but nothing validating either. To say the least, it was nice to hear!

Don’t be scared to rely on what your learners know. If you don’t think that all your learners will be able to complete whatever knowledge task you set forth, have them work with others. Make it a group effort. Add a little guidance if you feel like it’s needed. But don’t feel like you need to hold their hand in every training.

How have you designed your learning this way? What did you do when you received push back?