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Why all online learning is boring and what can you do about it?

This blog is inspired by a tweet by @wes_kao shared with me by @berniemaloney. I teach trainers to deliver online training TBR-VE brain science principles and attended several online training as a learner both to learn and go into the meta of the training.

Let’s start with the what I found by being a learner. As the pandemic hit us in March 2020, many trainers rushed to to create an online learning version of thier popular training. As a constant learner I wanted to engage with trainers I had heard about and wanted to learn from them and I started my quest. To learn I co-created the TBR-VE program with 11 other trainers, I participated in an online-only course as an instructor and worked with learners to see what they experienced, and I used the principles and techniques from TBR-VE and created my own courses in Scrum, Product Management and DevOps.  Here is what I learnt:

1. Self Paced / Self Directed Learning



  • Linked in Learning, PluralSight, Udemy and others have created good quality content in the form of instructional videos, informative documents, quizes and several references. 
  • The material is self paced and makes it easy for busy professionals to complete at the own time and get certification
  • The learning is self-paced, many subscribe and continue to pay for access that one day they will complete the course, but never do. 
  • The learning albeit of good quality does not engage the learners and many seem cumbersome to complete. Good quality videos after a while get to be boring if all you get is videos topic after topic
  • Completion rates are 3% – 6%

“A learner is trying to complete an advanced level certification course and has reached out to me several times in the last year to ask what advice I have as an instructor to help him complete his program” The program needs you to be self-motivated as well as have a certain number of hours available to dedicate to watching videos and completing the assignments

2. Live Online Training



  • Instruction led learning that makes it easy for learners to ask questions live and interact on topics
  • Ability to interact and be in touch with the instructors even after the class is done
  • You leave with a certification or complete the course in 2-3 days
  • Some trainers have taken their slides and their linear one way delivery style they previously had in person and moved it to a virtual environment, where they share screen and go over bulletted learning and answer questions
  • The learner’s brain has now taking in a cognitive load of being on zoom or teams over 2-3 days and consumed a breadth of topics and retained very little
  • Most trainers haven’t created a better experience for students
  •  Learners retain less than 10% of what they learnt

What is the future of online learning?

Over the past decade, I have spent most of my time teaching. I  learnt techniques from brain science, I co-taught with many great trainers, I got an introductory level knowledge of Neuro Lingustic Programming and its application in teaching. When the pandemic hit us in May 2020, I spent 8 months co-creating the Training from the BACK of the Room – Virtual Edition with 11 other trainers and spent the last two years teaching virtually full time, Some of the reviews on TrustPilot tell a story of the how every class is an experience we try to create that engages as well as ensure that the knowledge is retained. Each class has a story arc that enables the learners to embark on a learning adventure and discover tools and techniques that can get them ready to use in real life scenarios.

So where are we headed with Online Learning?

Cohort based learning is a game changer

Bi-directional, and not one directional

Learners learn from the trainer and also each other, which makes it an enriching and make it safe to learn. Each learner brings a wealth of experience and other learners can relate to the challenges faced by others.  Learning by doing, helps learners work in teams, where they get to depend on each other and that helps everyone network for future career prospects. Enables learners to think for themselves 

An opportunity for learners to challenge what they know and improve by doing and getting inspired in their own cohort

Learning by doing

Learners join my class fully knowing that there are no lectures and no slides. On the contrary in the feedback they ask for more small group discussions, hands on simulations, role playing, questions that empower them to think and deduce. The feedback rarely says more lectures instead they ask for more

Small group discussions

Critique feedback


Role Playing

Time to discuss and spend more time learning with more students

Time to continue to work on the challenges in the class

Its not easy to learn higher order skills like demonstrating, analyzing, reasoning and applying ideas by reading a textbook or watching videos. You need a collaborative space with time to critique, discuss and conduct hands-on practice.

Higher completion rates

Based on our strong belief that learning online is not the same as a class in person and its not an online self paced class, we created advanced level scrum courses that were flipped. Four four hours every week with an instructor and then spend a few hours in the week with challenges that they had to practice with their teams and report back their experience. This enabled the learners to learn and discuss the concepts live and then practice it, thus deepening their knowledge. This approach also helped all of them complete the program and get certified in four to six weeks.

  Industry research says that cohort-based flipped online classes have a 75% completion rate.

Sense of Urgency

If you give someone time to watch videos and its available anytime, it gives the learner flexibility but its easy to get distracted and focus on other urgent tasks that you need to complete. In a cohort based flipped online class you have only a few weeks to complete. DevOps Institute has a series of DevOps certifications and we deliver three, DevOps Foundations, Continuous Delivery Ecosystem Foundations and DevSecOps Foundations. We took the presentation slides and created a cohort based flipped class, Learners explore and discover concepts and then conduct hands-on labs. They work on assignments connected with the learnings and write their experience report. They complete these assignments before the next online class.


This forces students to prioritize and focus.

Committed and accountable to each other

In self-paced classes the learner and the instructor can hide, they can take time to complete and assess the challenges. In cohort-based flipped online classes the rigor is much more. As a learner, you show up and do the work. The instructor sets time every week to assess the challenges and provide timely feedback. The learner gets an opportunity to re-work their assignment if needed.


Both instructor and learners are committed to complete the course work and get the relevant certification


Leverage in creation and marketing

As an instructor you don’t need to create content from scratch each time to run your course. The effort is front-loaded. It took a good 80 hours for two instructors to create each of our advanced level courses.

80% to build the course upfront

20% to run future classes

You still need to market your course, like you would any product but you can start building a fan base and continue to discuss advanced topics with your learners after the course. One of the best ways to get students to talk about your course. Here is feedback from a learner of one of our advanced courses


Thank you for the wonderful sessions and making the course more of self-managed with your awesome facilitating skills. To be honest, my opinion was if everything is to be done by the attendees then what is the role of the Trainers: disappointed: but after completing the assignments slowly the experience is sinking down the brain that it was all about facilitating skills to ensure the attendees learn the advanced scrum skills through self-awareness, visualize the problems, identify the solutions and Strategize according to the needs of our teams

Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps: Simplifying the jargon

The internet and social media are full of Agile, Scrum, Product Management, and DevOps jargon, including incorrect and misunderstood concepts. This could be problematic for a learner seeking knowledge. Without a course with Scrum Alliance,, or DevOps Institute, this knowledge is difficult to achieve.

The Concepts & Beyond blog is a free suite of articles and videos packaged in tiny chunks. You will learn or refine your knowledge and skills to help your team and organization be effective. When you want to take your knowledge further, we invite you to join us for our  Certified ScrumMaster(CSM),  Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), Certified DevOps Engineering Foundations (DOEF) and Training from the Back of The Room courses across the USA and Canada.

To learn all our secrets of designing your next cohort based flipped online training join us in September cohort class

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