“No” is a two-letter word that can launch a creative idea into a journey to the abysmal cavern of lost progress. “No” is the fuel for the road trip down the super highway to boring. “No” is a blinding glare that prevents us from seeing potential and opportunity. “No” is the enemy of next level thinking. “No” is all of these things, and unfortunately, “No” is very real.

Whether you are in sales, instructional design, or any career, “No” can be a significant obstacle to solving problems and capitalizing on creative ideas. This is hardly news to any experienced professional. “No” is a word we come across every day, and even in some cases every time we deal with certain people in our profession. “No” doesn’t have to be the sharp dagger it is often known to be. “No” can be avoided if a viable alternative is available.

Avoiding “No” by taking money out of the discussion

Recently, I presented at Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando, Florida. The topic was “Tools, Techniques, and Tips for Low-to-No Budget e-Learning.” The goal of the session was to neutralize “No” as it relates to learning design. Not always, but often, “No” is used as a response to a lack of available funds. I took this problem and pondered. What if money wasn’t an issue? How empowering would it be for designers to know their creative ideas were no longer limited by cost (at least in part, or to a lesser degree)?

This may sound like a fantasy, but the reality is this opportunity exists today. We live in an era of “Beta Brands.” Free is the new currency. The economy of creativity is only limited by a lack of participation and talent. Developers are sharing access to their platforms and merely expecting them to be used in exchange.

Beta Brand tactics

There are three tactics of learning that I structured the session around. All three benefit greatly from the new currency of the “Beta Brands:”

  1. Take advantage of informal learning using familiar platforms where your learning community exists or where you are looking to grow your learning community.

  2. Incorporate engaging visual styles, techniques, and tactics to stimulate interest, attraction, and learning.

  3. Capture SME (Subject Matter Expertise) as often as possible.

These may seem simple enough but in my experience, they are often neglected due to the constraints of cost.

The social solution

Two of the most popular social communities exist in Facebook and Twitter. I would even venture to say of those reading this article, everyone has a Facebook account and a strong majority has Twitter accounts. The reality is, so do your learners. So why not capitalize on this level of familiarity and participation?

Facebook’s conversion to iFrames creates an incredible opportunity for the e-Learning author. With iFrames, you can now embed Articulate and Captivate courses. To see a demonstration, visit the ISD 2.0 Facebook Fan Page. The newest Twitter.com interface also creates a great tool for launching a multimedia course. You can learn how by reading my previous column, Twaining in Twitter. Neither Facebook nor Twitter is an ideal management system for every situation. However, they are applicable to many solutions, especially training customers, recruiting employees, and essentially most learning opportunities that do not need a level of security around content.

Visuals with style

The second principle, optimizing visual style is often one that designers will stray away from due to cost. There are many free tools and combinations of tools that can improve the visual dynamics of your course. Aviary is a free editing tool for photos, visual effects, screen capture, and audio. It’s time to move away from clip art (which your learners have probably seen or even used themselves in dozens of other eCourses). Motion doesn’t have to be a pipe dream, either. The combination of Avatar building in virtual worlds (such as Second Life), the use of screen-casting tools (such as Screenr or Snagit), and an editing program (such as iMovies) can move your budget from $10,000 for an Avatar-building program to free or within a few hundred dollars (if you buy Vegas or similar video editing systems).

Capturing experts

Finally, capturing subject matter expertise has never been easier or cheaper. There are tools that make distance and time irrelevant when trying to immortalize expertise. Every Tuesday (10am PT), eLearnchat captures the expertise of learning professionals for a live streaming interview. This can easily be duplicated with Skype and justin.tv or ustream.tv. There is also a free version of Vidblaster which can give your streaming broadcast a professional look.

Get past “No” with Beta Brands

“No” is quickly becoming an antiquated word in the e-Learning community. Costs are shrinking and accessibility is increasing. Learners are demanding dynamic delivery of relevant content and excuses are becoming less valid as we embrace and welcome more of these “Beta Brands” into our learning community.