Tom Kuhlmann at the Omniplex seminar at Vinopolis, London.

Tom Kuhlmann, one of the world’s best known e-learning designers and currently number three in the ‘World’ list of the Top Ten Movers and Shakers in corporate online learning, discussed the ‘what, when and how of interactivity’ with an invited audience at The Cellar at Vinopolis, on London’s south bank, at the end of January.


Hosted by Omniplex, an official certified Articulate partner and an Articulate Centre of Excellence, as a service to its clients and customers, the event gave Tom, who’s particularly associated with the Articulate suite of rapid authoring products, an opportunity to outline his personal philosophy with regard to building online learning materials. He began considering ‘interactivity’ by posing three questions:

•           What content needs to be in the ‘course’?

•           What’s the right ‘look and feel’ for the course?

•           What does the learner have to do?


“Once you start to consider the learner, you start to get involved in ‘interactivity’,” he said and suggested that people interact with online learning materials for only three reasons: in order to navigate; collect information, and make decisions. Tom said that, in addition to creating content that’s relevant to the user, designers should also consider the visual aesthetic. He said: “A good looking course isn’t necessarily a great course but it won’t get the user’s attention if it doesn’t look good. I’d rather have a good looking bad course than a bad looking bad course!


“Give the learners control of the learning. Give them a map – to enable them to see where they’re going. Let them choose how to learn – allowing those who need more and those who need less information to find the course helpful. Give the users a reason to explore the course and collect the information they need. It’s the ‘push versus pull’ argument: let the users decide how they get the information they need.”


Tom outlined a simple course scenario:

•           Challenge understanding – find out what the users already know and, therefore, what they need to know.

•           Offer some Choices

•           Choices produce Consequences


Tom went on to outline a ‘rapid interactivity designer’ model: the ‘SAID model’. This comprises:

•           Situation – during which the user is given relevant, clear expectations

•           Advice – the user has to explore and collect (‘pull’) advice to get the necessary information to make an informed decision

•           Interpret – the advice to make a

•           Decision – and get the appropriate feedback


The learner has control over the ‘interpret’ section of the course. The decision aspect is based on the ‘challenge/ choices/ consequences’ scenario.


Commenting at the end of the event, Katy Burrows, of Thomas Cook, said: “I’ve been following trends in e-learning and social media developments for some time. Tom’s presentation ‘tied everything together’ and the models he discussed – especially the ‘SAID’ model – provided some good ideas too.


Sharon Probets, of the South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust, said: “Tom’s presentation was inspiring. His ideas about letting the learners control the learning experience and generating tension in the online learning materials demonstrate that ‘interactivity’ is real ‘value for money’.”


Comment: Katy and Sharon’s comments were representative of the 70 or so people present at the event. Only one person complained that two hours was too long to sit in presentation, held at a venue dedicated to wine, without being able to have a drink. Nonetheless, the venue was ideal for Tom Kuhlmann’s presentation, giving a feeling of intimacy without claustrophobia. Judging by the number of notes being taken by the delegates, Tom’s comments were worthwhile too.


Hopefully, Omniplex will continue this service to its customers and put on more of these seminars.