Category Archives: learning

The Difference Between Creating Courses and Creating Courses That Sell Online

Are you creating and marketing courses teaching others your expertise? Are you helping your clients to design courses they will market and leverage to grow their business? The “teaching others” business has expanded into a 7 billion industry and the opportunity to apply your e-learning design skills in this market is enormous.

I have experienced courses, (some good and a lot of them not-so-good), interviewed the creators of courses generating 6-figure+ revenue, created 6- and 7-figure courses myself, and in the process identified the universal patterns of success.

What The Experts Who Generate 6- and 7-Figures in Online Course Revenue Do Differently:

  1. They solve a very specific problem.

Instead of “helping people grow their businesses online,” it’s “how to get 10,000 fans of Facebook” Instead of “how to become a better knitter” it’s “learn the best cast-on and bind-off for your lace projects.”

Brain research: Our attention decreases after 10 minutes of “learning”. You need to grab your learner’s attention every 10 minutes by connecting how what you are sharing solves their problem.

  1. They equip people for creating results.

Changing behavior isn’t easy. Telling is not training. You have to engage people, get them to stick with it and apply the behaviors consistently to get results.

Brain research: Focus your students on making 1-3 behavior changes to create results and your students’ chance of success is high. Increase that to 4-10 changes and their likelihood of success drops to less than 20%. Go beyond 10 things you want them to do and it is unlikely that they will implement anything.

  1. They provide a system (blueprint, step-by-step, game plan, framework, model).

Call it what you want – it’s about helping people go faster with a system for creating success over and over. People invest for speed, structure, solid results and synthesis. Help them go faster, show them how to do it, show them what you know how to do and bring all the things together that they need.

Brain Research: Content organized using a course structure that creates associations between the big ideas will increase retention by 40%.

  1. They recognize the people learn differently.

Successful courses provide options for students to get what they need in different ways.

Brain research: There are 4 primary learning styles. The majority of courses miss including appealing content for one or more of these styles.

A course can be the launching pad for a highly profitable online business if you provide an answer to the question your ideal audience is asking in a way that gets them tangible results.

I’ll be walking through the steps we use to design and launch successful online courses in a free webinar training (live and recorded):

7 Steps to Creating and Launching a Profitable Online Course
Today! June 10, 2014 at 12 pm Central


All registrants will receive the recorded session.


How Leaders Can Improve Learning Impact

4MAT learning stylesWhen we use the word “learning”, we are talking about the taking in and making meaning of new information. By this definition, meetings, emails, product launches, conference calls, sales conversations and one-on-ones are all examples of learning. What can leaders do to improve learning?

Be aware of your own learning preferences. Your preferred way of taking in information and making meaning of new information is called your “learning style”. You likely emphasize the parts of the learning cycle you value the most. Overemphasizing one at the deficit of another can have serious side effects on communication, teaming and performance. The 4MAT Learning Type Measure® assessment tool is an easy-to-implement tool that identifies these preferences. Start a conversation in your organization about how these preferences impact performance.

Assess which parts of the cycle you are addressing and what is missing. By focusing on the four questions, you can dramatically improve learning impact in meetings, one-on-one communication and training. Lead through the four questions by asking: “Why is this important?”, “What is known?”, “How will this work?” and “If we are to be successful, what will we need to commit, to refine, to measure, to adapt?”

Focus on the learner. In our instructional certification and leadership development courses, we practice how to move through this four-part cycle in learning design, coaching, leading and managing. Consistently, one of the biggest insights gained by participants is that engagement is an internal process that begins and ends with the learner. Telling and showing aren’t enough. Learning begins with the asking and answering of a question. Questions such as “How do I solve…” or “What’s the best way to…” engage the learner in discovering the answer. Learning must be centered on the learner’s experiences and questions. Leaders and trainers must be highly skilled in eliciting these personal experiences and questions in order to engage commitment and deliver performance results.

As the former head of Shell Oil Company’s Corporate Strategy and organizational learning guru, Arie de Geus, shared, “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage”. Shifting the way learning happens in your culture may require a new set of leadership and training skills. Given the potential gain, engaging in leading the learning process should be a high priority on the agenda of every leader.

Jeanine O’Neill-Blackwell is the President/CEO of 4MAT 4Business®, a global learning and leadership development company. Her most recent book is Engage, The Trainer’s Guide to Learning Styles (Wiley, 2012). You can experience the 4MAT Advanced Instructional Design program on June 5-6 in Bucharest, Romania. Click here to learn more.

4MAT Learning Styles Descriptions

Your 4MAT learning style preference refers to your preference for how you like to take in and make meaning of new information. The combination of different learning approaches shapes the behaviors of learners:

Learning Style Type One 4MAT Learning Style Type One
Prefer to take in information from a “feeling” perspective and make sense of it by “watching.” In a new learning situation, Type One learners will rely on their intuition and gut when deciding on the relevance of new information. They will take time to think things through before acting.
Learning Style Type Two 4MAT Learning Style Type Two
Prefer to take in information from a “thinking” perspective and make sense of it by “watching.” In a new learning situation, Type Two learners will rely on external data and knowledge when deciding on the relevance of information. They will make sense of new information by reflecting and thinking things through before trying out new approaches.
Learning Style Type Three 4MAT Learning Style Type Three
Prefer to take in information from a “thinking” perspective and make sense of it by “doing.” In a new learning situation, Type Three learners will rely on practicality as a guide to determining relevance. They will figure things out by playing around with new information and experimenting
Learning Style Type Four 4MAT Learning Style Type Four
Prefer to take in information from a “feeling” perspective and make sense of it by “doing.” In a new learning situation, Type Four learners will rely on intuition and own sense of what will work. They will try different approaches to determine the usefulness of the information being learned.
You can assess your learning style preferences by completing the Learning Type Measure.

Perceiving Preferences in the 4MAT Learning Styles Model

The 4MAT Learning Type Measure assesses learning style preferences in how we take in and make meaning of new information.

Once we take in information, we process the information. We make sense of it. Some of us linger in reflection. “Watchers” prefer to reflect before moving into action. Watchers like to understand the information. They want to make sense of what they are experiencing before deciding how to act upon this new information. You will see these preferences in a learning situation. The watchers will hang back and observe. The will ask clarifying questions. They will be more reflective as they approach learning activities. They like to see things unfold before jumping in. Are you a watcher?

4MAT Learning Styles Model

Others prefer to jump into action. “Doers” are imagining how they will use the information you are sharing. They will be quick to move into activity, sometimes disregarding the directions. They will finish quickly. And, they will have little interest in content that doesn’t seem to be practical. Are you a doer?

In any learning experience, you will find watchers and doers. The key is to balance the needs of both simultaneously.

Source: Engage, The Trainer’s Guide to Learning Styles (Wiley 2012)

Balancing Right and Left Brain Activity Choice in Your 4MAT Design

I recently facilitated our 4MAT Advanced Instructional Design Course with the Aveda Global Education Team.  In this experience the group discovered their 4MAT learning style results and then overlaid this with their 4MAT Hemispheric Mode Indicator results. As we explored how their natural learning preferences influenced design and delivery approach, the group began to explore creative ways to increase retention of information by engaging the right brain. The learners were assigned to groups to reprocess the brain research shared on the impact on learning of right- and left-mode strategies. One particularly creative group came up with an interesting exercise to explore the differences between right- and left-mode processing.

Here’s the directions for the activity they designed:

  1. Draw two charts each titled with “How does this make you feel?” On one chart, draw a series of interconnecting squares. On the other chart, draw a collection of interconnecting spirals.
  2. Divide participants into two groups and assign each group a chart. Ask each group to answer the question, “How does this make you feel?”  Invite each team to write their answers on the chart.
  3. Have the two groups switch charts. Repeat the process.
  4. Debrief the exercise by sharing the insights written on each chart.

4MAT Learning Styles4MAT Instructional Design
One of the things I found interesting about this exercise is how the learners described the differences in how the two images made them feel. Some of the words used to describe the differences included:

  Boxes: Linear Image   Swirls: Abstract image
  • “Retrotastic”
  • Organized
  • Secure
  • Motivated
  • Structured
  • Deliberate
  • Softness
  • Free
  • Relaxed
  • Warm
  • Comforted
  • Inspire


As we stood in front of the two images, the entire group began to ponder how balanced their individual approach is to utilizing right- and left-mode strategies.  The consensus was that a balance of both right- and left creates the greatest learning impact and that the group collectively tends to lean heavily on left-mode processing.

When the group facilitating the exercise asked the question, “What do we miss when we underutilize right-brain learning strategies?,” the answers shared brilliantly summed up the power of right brain strategies:

  • The impact of seeing the bigger picture.
  • The ability to visualize how it all fits together.
  • The potential power of the mental image created when we use stories, metaphors and visual tools.
  • The impact of feeling.
  • Full engagement.

How the 4MAT Model Improves Performance

As a result of some interesting dialogue in one of our 4MAT train the trainer courses, Karen Hann, Senior Education Manager, and Denise Johnson, Performance Improvement Consultant, of Tupperware came up with a visual concept of how the 4MAT model improves performance internally and externally in an organization.

Since the 4MAT model was developed in 1979 by Dr. Bernice McCarthy, over 1 million people have discovered their learning style strengths using the 4MAT® Learning Type Measure. This is one of the most common ways that individuals are introduced to the 4MAT model-by identifying their individual learning style strengths. In the illustration below, you will see that this increased self-awareness is the launch pad for a common language that can be used  to improve teaming, communication, engagement, training, execution, leadership and coaching.

  • 4MAT creates a foundation for leadership and coaching skill development—4MAT is a simple framework for leading, managing, coaching and performance improvement.
  • 4MAT provides a model for execution—The 4MAT four-step model is a framework for getting things done. Project teams can utilize this framework to build a plan and identify potential barriers for successful execution.
  • 4MAT dramatically improves the impact of training—4MAT dramatically increases the measurable impact of instructional design and delivery by organizing the essential content around four critical learning outcomes that deliver on expected training ROI.
  • 4MAT provides a framework for engaging others—The 4-step model directly applies to planning meetings, sales presentations, coaching and marketing.
  • 4MAT builds complementary teams—Team members and leaders can use the awareness of individual strengths to assemble teams with complementary skill sets.
  • 4MAT increases self-awareness—The Learning Type Measure provides individuals with an awareness of their natural learning strengths along with concrete strategies for effectively interacting with learning styles of fellow team members. 

4MAT Train-the-Trainer: How Learning Happens

A learner’s preferences indicate where the learner lingers in the learning cycle. Regardless of learning style, every learner moves through all four stages of the 4MAT learning cycle. In The Art of Changing the Brain, Dr. James Zull shares that there are four stages of the Learning Cycle:

  Neuro-speak Translation
1 We have a concrete experience. Something happens
2 We engage in reflective observation and create new connections. We watch and reflect.
3 We generate abstract hypotheses. We think about it.
4 We do active testing of hypotheses, have a new concrete experience and a new learning cycle ensues. We move into action, something happens and the cycle begins again

 4MAT Training model

4MAT and learning styles

When we follow the 4MAT Learning model to design and deliver, we craft experiences that mirror the natural learning cycle.

Meaning Part 1: 4MAT and Conscious Competence Model

“Memory is enhanced by creating associations between concepts. This experiment has been done hundreds of times, always achieving the same result:  Words presented in a logically organized, hierarchical structure are much better remembered than words placed randomly-typically 40% better”1

We begin every 4MAT Train the Trainer program with an expectations exercise, exploring the training design issues our participants want to explore. One of the most common issues is how to seamlessly connect the parts of the design. Creating associations between the pieces of content being shared embeds meaning. When the learner understands the underlying meaning that connects the topics, learning increases significantly.

In Brain Rules, author John Medina references the work of John Bransford, an education researcher who answered the question, “What separates novices from experts?” Bransford identified six characteristics. One of the characteristics is relevant to the conversation around meaning in learning.  “[Experts’] knowledge is not simply a list of facts and formulas that are relevant to their domain; instead their knowledge is organized around core concepts or “big ideas” that guide their thinking about their domains.”

When working with subject-matter experts, the trainer should be focused on determining these concepts.  This might sound easy.  However, it is easy to be overwhelmed by all the possible content topics and miss the bigger idea.

What if we simply asked the experts to identify the concepts? This sounds like a simple solution, but one of the outcomes of growing expertise, is the tendency to forget what it is like to be a novice. The conscious competence model illustrates the movement from unconsciously incompetent to unconsciously competent well:

 4Mat and Conscious Compentence Model

When working with subject matter experts, the trainer must lead the expert to a next level of competence-an awareness of conscious competence.  In the next installment of this series, we will talk more about how awareness of the conscious competence model influences training design.

This is the first of a four-part series on getting to the concept. Stay tuned.

1Medina, John. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School. Seattle: Pear Press, 2008.

4MAT: Divergent or Convergent Thinking?

“To have a good idea, you must first have lots of ideas.” –Linus Pauling, winner of two Nobel Prizes

The 4MAT Learning Type Measure® assesses many dimensions of learning including our preference for divergent versus convergent thinking. What does this mean? Divergent thinking is focused on creating many options. Convergent thinking is focused on choosing one of the existing options. This difference in thinking style becomes readily observed in meeting spaces in Any Business. The divergent thinkers want to brainstorm, explore new ground and play “What if?” The convergent thinkers want to analyze the existing options, think through what will work in our current model and choose the viable option. Tension exists between these two ways of processing.

It is important to notice when you switch from one to the other. A too-early switch to convergent thinking could have you miss the big idea that might create a monumental versus incremental learning leap. A delayed movement to convergent thinking can have you miss the delivery date.

4MAT for Design

bikeLast summer, my husband purchased a Coaster bike. It’s a cool throwback to the bikes we had as kids-back-pedal brake, wide handlebars and a wide seat. I didn’t think much about our Coaster until I read Tim Brown’s book, Change By Design.

Tim is CEO/President of IDEO, an innovation design company that created the Coaster bike. IDEO leads the pack in the science of design thinking. What can training designers learn from the Coaster? In Change by Design, Tim describes the process of innovation that led to the Coaster capturing a new market-the 90% of adults who no longer ride bikes. Tim described the innovation process used to create the Coaster. Here’s what it looks like through the lens of 4MAT:

Why do adults no longer ride? We all have fond memories of tooling around the neighborhood on our Schwinn, so why do 90% of adults no longer ride? Tapping into this uncovers the true need.

What new category of bicycling might capture the imagination of the consumer? IDEO identified a need for a bike built for pleasure not sport. What does this look like? Big handlebars, no cables, comfy seat and little to no maintenance.

How? The how moved beyond how to manufacture the bike to how to tell the story of the Coaster. Development of a brand that defined coasting, in-store retailing and collaboration with local civic associations were all part of this process.

If? The process began here. What if a bike manufacturer moved from struggling to slice off a fraction of a percent of the existing market and instead expanded the market? What would this look like? New possibilities emerged and the performance metric was defined-capturing the 90%.

The 4MAT Design process applies to innovation at all levels—from the innovation stage to the implementation stage. Creating a culture of innovation and performance begins with the language of design.

innovation wheel