Discovery Through Elearning – Blog

eLearning Course or Online Demo – which is better?

My co-worker and had a discussion today about what will come into our area over the next year and one of them was my goal to create several courses to go onto our LMS (once it’s up of course). As the discussion went along she mentioned that she would like to do something where she could demonstrate how to do certain searches using her literature databases to employees. I responded with how easily that could be done by screen capturing her movements on the screen and adding voice over of how/what she is doing.

She responded in turn that she prefers to have them sit at one computer and her at another then she can take control of their screen and show them where to click and move throughout the program. They could then (through microphone/headset) ask her any questions as they come up. I thought these could be addressed through an FAQ section of an e-course.

So the big question arises. Is one format better than another? Would you rather sit in on a demo with many other people or take a course online by yourself? Does one format fit better for certain training than another? Do you have a personal preference on which you’d rather teach through and even learn through?

I actually suppose this is one of those “great debate” topics that never truly gets answered, but I’m still curious to any responses you’d like to share.


  1. Steve HowardSteve Howard03-18-2009

    Sounds like a perfect excuse to devise your first CommonCraft-esque video

  2. Kevin ThornKevin Thorn03-18-2009

    Whether a course or a demo, the first question should be asked is who is the audience? Are they a younger generation or the early GenX late Baby Boomer era crowd?

    If the GenY or Millennial crowd – give them full control. They “need” that type of environment. If an older crowd, they may need more guidance with a demo.

    If I may, one of your tasks is also a consultant to really dig deep into your client’s head and find out why she really wants ‘control’ of the screen. Is it truly to teach or is it “I want them to do what I say when I say it” mentality. That’s not being negative rather its pointing out that clients and SME’s want a specific objective, but often believe they know the best route to get there. Your job is to offer all options.

    A screen capture animation of the process can still be somewhat linear and in a progressive controlled manner. As well, a Demo can also be more engaging when learners have the ability to ask questions while she’s running the demo.

    Either would work. I’d focus on the learning styles of the intended audience first and perhaps get some input from one or two of them on what ‘they’ want.

    Good Luck!
    Kevin Thorn @delanotho

  3. Rob BartlettRob Bartlett03-18-2009

    Another layer to the question is resources.
    How many demos or course views do you expect?
    If there are so many demos that it would be overwhelming …then a course makes sense; if there only may be a few takers of the product then it my not make sense to build something.
    Rob Bartlett


    Excellent point Rob. I was thinking the same thing in regards to the number of times the course may be accessed. The time to develop a course only 3 people are going to take would never match the effort of live demo.


    Thanks for the input Kevin. Generational differences play a great role within our organization and that is going to cause several “issues” as we move forward with our elearning endeavours.

    Also as you mentioned, digging into the issue for control will be an important one to explore. Based on her reasoning and blending that with the number of participants, as Rob suggested, will allow me to assist her in creating the best solution for her and her students.

  6. Jeff GoldmanJeff Goldman03-18-2009

    Instead of a recorded “demo,” I would make a “try me” sim where you provide the instruction (Audio and text) and have the user navigate through the simulation by clicking the buttons, entering the correct txt etc. They can also try the sim over and over again…practice the skill.

    I use the analogy of learning to to drive somewhere. If someone else is driving you are less likely to remember which turns they made, but if you drive and the passenger gives you the directions and you make the turns you will be more likely to remem=ber how you got there…retention is higher.

    FYI: Captivate will let you make these in demo mode or try me mode.

  7. J. ShoafJ. Shoaf03-19-2009

    Ditto to Jeff’s comment. Adding to that, I think learner can get bored when they are only passively viewing a demo. Get them actively involved and they are more likely to learn from it.

    Being able to answer the “live” questions is something you won’t be able to do in a self-paced course. You may consider encouraging users to send an e-mail to the instructor or link the self-paced course to a discussion board or wiki that is monitored by the instructor.

  8. Joe DeeganJoe Deegan03-19-2009

    Again, ditto what Jeff said. Another benefit to developing a tutorial in something like Captivate is that it can be used anytime anywhere. You are not at the mercy of the instructor for an online demo and your online instructor/SME is freed up to get their work done instead of having to do another demo. You may need to sell her on the benefit of more time.

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