Fastrak Consulting Ltd

Fastrak Consulting

Specialists in e-learning
and blended learning


Legacy features

The twenty-eight articles that follow were originally published in IT Training magazine but are now available in book or e-book form. Entitled E-learning's Greatest Hits, the book includes more than 100 interviews with suppliers and users, and 24 case studies. Each chapter examines an important aspect of e-learning, with the uninitiated reader in mind, but with a depth of analysis that will appeal to seasoned campaigners. Purchase from Amazon

Making e-learning work
Which looks at what has to be done to turn great e-learning ideas into successful e-learning programmes, which meet their objectives and deliver on the promise.

All the online content – where does it all come from?
Which compares the ways in which organisations can resource e-learning content, by making it themselves, working with an external contractor or buying off-the-shelf.

Which looks at the policies and procedures that can be put in place to encourage learners to complete an e-learning course once they have started.

In search of the perfect e-learning buyer
Which searches out those managers who are able to create good relationships with their e-learning suppliers and who make those relationships work.

Somewhere a place to learn
Which investigates to see where it is that e-learners learn best – at the desktop, at home or in an open learning centre.

The quest for quality
Which looks at the ways in which e-learning developers can ensure their content is free from inaccuracies, bugs and usability problems.

The classroom trainer in the online world
Which looks at the implications of the online revolution for classroom trainers (in particular IT trainers) and the ways in which they can participate in and benefit from e-learning.

Skilling up
Which looks at the various roles associated with e-learning and the skills required to fulfil them.

In search of the perfect e-tutor
Which explores the characteristics of those who perform best in the role of e-tutor.

Training the e-trainer
Which looks at the role of the e-trainer – the person who runs a virtual classroom session – and assesses what is involved in re-skilling the classroom trainer to take on this role.

A day in the life of a learning management system
Which describes what a learning management system is and what it can do to provide comprehensive support to all stages in the learning process.

Making the case for content
Which looks at the potential for learning content management systems (LCMSs).

M is for Maybe
Which looks at the potential for m-learning – learning through mobile devices such as phones and handheld computers.

The great experiment
Which assesses the potential for e-labs – online facilities which allow learners to experiment with different networking configurations.

Hosting the e-learning party
Which assesses the potential for the external hosting of e-learning platforms such as learning management systems and virtual classrooms.

When training doesn’t work
Which investigates Electronic Performance Support Systems to see how they can work alongside formal training programmes.

Content builders
Which examines the authoring tools currently available to help e-learning developers to build e-learning content.

Becoming an online media mogul
Which looks at the advantages offered by streaming media and assesses the potential for their application in training.

Learning swap shop
Which investigates peer-to-peer technology to see if it has applications for learning as well as the sharing of music files.

In search of the perfect e-learner
Which investigates the characteristics of those learners who seem to benefit most from e-learning.

Engineering e-learning
Which laments the shortage of instructional design skills in the UK and throughout Europe and looks at the training now available to e-learning developers.

Games e-learners play
Which assesses the role that simulations and games can play in making e-learning more engaging and more effective.

Objects of interest
Which comes to terms with the concept of learning objects and assesses their relevance to the creation of more flexible and reusable e-learning content.

The end of the course as we know it
Which asks whether personalised learning paths composed of learning objects will mark the death of the traditional shrink-wrapped training course.

Open access
Which looks at the issues involved in making e-learning content accessible to those with disabilities.

Speaking in tongues
Which looks at the work that needs to take place when e-learning content is localised for international audiences.

Checking out
Which looks at the potential for assessing learner performance online.

Back to basics
Which assesses how far e-learning has come in its short history and proposes a way forward that just might see e-learning fulfil its potential in the short as well as the long term.


Back to basics - e-learning in 2003
December 2002
Published in IT Training December 2002
Observers may be forgiven for thinking that the e-learning industry is in turmoil, with too many of its leading firms failing to make a profit, while their smaller colleagues struggle to stay alive at all. There have even been some cheeky comments about the quality of the e-learning that has been delivered to date. Should we be surprised? Clive Shepherd says no, given the economic climate, ridiculously over-hyped expectations and a general lack of skills in the design and delivery of e-learning. In this article, Clive argues that we have only just started to see the true potential for information and communication technology in education and training but that, by getting back to basics and doing the simple things well, we can still expect to see powerful results in the short term.

Talking turkey - new directions for e-learning in 2002
November 2001
Published in IT Training December 2001
This time last year we made some predictions for e-learning, We said that learning portals would be in a panic; that learning objects would be ubiquitous; that e-learners would require human support and that the demand for bespoke content would leave you struggling to find a developer with capacity. As you would expect, these suggestions were made without foreknowledge of economic downturns or terrorist attacks - otherwise they would surely have been right on target! Nevertheless, Clive Shepherd sticks his neck out again, with his review of the e-learning world in the closing months of 2001 and his fashion statements for 2002.

Ten quick wins in e-learning
October 2001
Published in IT Training November 2001
When the going gets tough, training departments don't always get the time or the money they need to make long-term investments in order to obtain long-term returns. With competition for funding and senior management attention, trainers will often do better by focusing on those areas of the business where results will not only be visible but quick. In this article, Clive Shepherd captures the suggestions of a panel of leading UK e-learning vendors and users, for quick wins in e-learning.

Objects of interest
December 2000
Published in IT Training February 2001
Learning objects promise a brave new world of easily accessible and individualised learning, made possible by the flexible deployment over networks of small, reusable components from multiple sources. "Wow," you say, "if only we knew what on earth these learning objects were and how we're supposed to make use of them, we may even have ourselves a few." In the hope that you will, indeed, have a few and that this brave new world does not disappear in a haze of confusion and hyperbole, Clive Shepherd sets about here to provide a workable definition of learning objects and to explain how they just might make a difference to real-world training. You could call this an object lesson.

One year older and deeper in debt
October 2000
Published in IT Training December 2000
Sensible fortune-tellers don't indulge in retrospectives. Good ones might do, but have you ever met one of them? Hindsight offers 20:20 vision, whereas the future is dim and deceiving. Well, dim and deceiving Clive Shepherd may be, but in looking ahead to the e-learning world of 2001, he thought it only fair to admit to one or two minor inaccuracies in last year's forecast.

The classroom trainer in the online world
June 2000
Published in IT Training September 2000
The forecasts for the growth of e-learning are becoming more extravagant by the month. If these forecasts are even half right, the effect on the IT training industry will be enormous and even the most skeptical classroom trainer must now be looking anxiously over their shoulder. In this article, Clive Shepherd examines the implications of the e-learning revolution for those who have made their living delivering learning face-to-face, and looks at ways for trainers to make a contribution in an increasingly online world.

All the online content - where does it all come from?
May 2000
Published in IT Training August 2000
You may have the world's most sophisticated learning management system and enough bandwidth to run a cable TV network, but without content that will satisfy the learning needs of your organisation, on time and to budget, you've got yourself a pretty embarrassing white elephant. In this article, Clive Shepherd explains how to fill the content void, making an informed selection between in-house development, having the work done for you outside or buying off-the-shelf.

A question of standards
April 2000
Published in IT Training July 2000
It's all too easy to set yourself up as an e-learning developer, provider or tutor and, let's face it, the temptations are huge. E-learning provides the best hope yet for trainers to have a real influence on their organisation and opportunities abound for exciting new careers and businesses. But some order needs to be established in the goldrush territories, to protect e-learning consumers from the cowboys and to provide some guidance to practitioners and purveyors. In this article, Clive Shepherd explains why e-learning standards provide us, not with a stick with which to beat transgressors, but with a carrot that can encourage excellence.

Adding the human touch to online learning
March 2000
Published in Open Learning Today, October 2000
At least from the perspective of the training manager, it would be perfect if all online training could be delivered without human support - just provide the learning materials and let the trainees get on with it. However, as we all too often discover with new methodologies, things are never that simple. Clive Shepherd has woken up from the dream to rediscover just how important other people are to human learning. He analyses just why online tutors are so important and how they are already being used by major online training providers.

The real-time online tutor
February 2000
Published in IT Training, June 2000
Sometimes, life's simply too short to be asynchronous. The offending 'a' has to be removed to allow us to get on with things more quickly. In this article, we look at the various ways in which a more natural communication interface can be established between learners and tutors, by going real-time, or 'synchronous'.

The asynchronous online tutor
January 2000
Published in IT Training, May 2000
You realise you should be doing it. It sounds really technical and it's certainly going to impress your friends. As as the sort of person who becomes an online tutor, you'd like to be doing it before everyone else. But hang on, maybe you're already doing it, without even knowing. But are you doing it when you should be? And are you doing it right? These are the questions you're probably asking yourself. And these are the questions we'll be answering right here. So here we have it, an online tutor's guide to asynchronicity - time-delayed communication between a tutor and their learners, for all those times when real-time communication is just too fast.

Perspectives on cost & effectiveness in online training
December 1999
Presented at Online Educa 99, Berlin, November 1999
Managing a training department can be a difficult balancing act. You are expected to provide the volume of services required by the organisation to meet identified learning needs, to deliver those services effectively and to deliver them at an appropriate cost. All at the same time. In this article, Clive Shepherd shows how, by employing online learning appropriately, you can maintain this balance while forging ahead and providing a better service - delivering more learning, better learning and cheaper learning.

Just another critical year for online learning
November 1999
Assuming the bug doesn't strike us all down, the year 2000 should be just another critical year in the short history of online learning. So far, an awful lot is being done by so many to so few, but more than one or two share prices depend on the market conforming to the expectations of the visionaries and the finance directors and coming to the learning table in the year 2000. Things have moved so fast - even the companies who's names you recognised (Asymetrix, CBT Systems et al) have been magically rebranded in the past few months - that it might be a good time to reflect on the major trends and pause for breath before the onslaught. Here Clive Shepherd gets into the spirit of things and contributes his very own millennial musings.

When needs must
October 1999
Published in IT Training, October 1999
In the stampede to introduce the magical 'e' element into organisational learning, most eyes are firmly fixed on the online delivery of learning materials. This is hardly surprising, because the focus of most training effort is on the provision of learning solutions, rather than the identification of situations where learning may actually be of benefit to the organisation. To avoid the danger of online learning becoming yet another solution looking for a problem, it might be wise to devote a little more attention to the identification of needs and the ways that technology may be able to make this process easier. In this article, Clive Shepherd takes a look at the possibilities for advances in the state of the art of training needs analysis afforded by online technology.

Pick and mix: matching methods to learning phases
September 1999
Published in IT Training, April 2000
When we're looking for a solution to a training problem, the temptation is to plump for a single method that we hope will meet the whole need. Somehow the method we choose never quite fits all our requirements, but we go with it anyway because it's easier that way and, after all, that's what we always do! In this article, Clive Shepherd advocates a 'pick and mix' approach, arguing that a combination of methods is usually required to effectively cover all the phases in the learning process, from preparing the learner through to application on the job.

Three roads to cost-effectiveness
August 1999
Published in Training Journal, February 2000; adapted version published in IT Training, December 1999
Managing a training department can be a difficult balancing act - providing the volume of services required by the organisation to meet learning needs, delivering those services effectively and delivering them at an appropriate cost - all at the same time. This article provides ideas for ways to maintain this balance while forging ahead and providing a better service - delivering more learning, better learning and cheaper learning.

Evaluating online learning
July 1999
At times as trainers we behave like ostriches. We'd rather not know how effective our efforts have been, so we bury our heads in the sand. We know that the evaluation of training, like motherhood and apple pie, is inherently a good thing. But, because short-term priorities tend to crowd out their longer-term competitors, it's typically something we plan to do better next year - after all, we've got away with it so far, so another year won't hurt! In this article, we examine just why it doesn't pay to be an ostrich. Why, if online learning is going to make a real impact in your organisation, you'd better have better reasons to justify the investment than "well, everyone else is doing it". Evaluation takes a bit of work, but then nothing was every achieved without a little effort. Here's how it's done.

Online tutoring skills
June 1999
Published in Banking & Financial Training, Sept 99 and Open Learning Today, July 2000
The tutor is the primary customer-facing representative of the online learning provider and the main point of contact for learners. The tutor casts a much-needed 'human' eye over the online learning process, filling in the gaps that are left by self-study alone. But what exactly are the responsibilities of the tutor? Is tutor even the right term? This article explores three potential roles for the tutor - as subject expert, coach and assessor - and at the skills the tutor will need to display to function effectively online.

Web delivery of interactive learning in the UK
May 1999
Edited highlights appeared in a variety of journals and magazines
A survey conducted by Fastrak Consulting with Epic Group plc on behalf of the Department for Education and Employment, has provided conclusive evidence of the intentions of UK organisations to take maximum advantage of new online learning technologies. Detailed questionnaires were completed by over 70 organisations of all sizes and from the public and private sectors. Amongst many notable findings, the survey shows just how much the usage of online learning will grow in relation to other training methods.

You've got mail
April 1999
Published in Internal Communication, November 2000. An edited version published in Strategic Communication Management, June 1999
You've got mail! And it isn't always going to be Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan (depending on your persuasion) who is dropping you a line from cyberspace. More likely it's more of that 75% of your email that is of no practical use at all. Concerned that it is time we became 'masters of our own mail', Clive Shepherd sets out here some practical advice that might just give some fresh hope to struggling e-communicators.

A matter of style
March 1999
Published in Open Learning Today, October 1999
When we sit down to design an online learning programme, there are three key factors that influence our design decisions: (1) the nature of the learning to be achieved, (2) our own beliefs and values in terms of how people learn and (3) the preferences of the learners themselves. It is this last and often neglected factor that is addressed by Clive Shepherd in this article. Individuals differ in how they like to learn, and as designers of online learning materials, we ignore these differences at our peril.

"Keeping your head when ... " managing the TBT project
February 1999
An edited version published in Multimedia & Internet Training Newsletter, March 1999. Also published in IT Skills, June 1999.
The development of a technology-based training (TBT) programme is, to all intents and purposes, a software project and, as such, is a risky venture. In fact, between one third and two thirds of software projects exceed their schedule and budget targets before they are delivered. So, if we’re responsible for a TBT project, what do we do - resign ourselves to the inevitable or do our best to break the trend? This article outlines a systematic approach to the management of TBT projects that could help you to do just that.

Assessing the ROI of training
January 1999
Published in Management Skills and Development April/May 1999 and June/July 1999
If people really are your greatest asset, isn't it time to look at your training programmes as investments in your organisation's human capital and not just as an expense? This article argues the case for return on investment (ROI) as a primary tool for forecasting and evaluating the benefits of training and explains the steps involved in conducting an ROI analysis.

The power of questions: putting the interactivity into online self-study
December 1998
Published in Training Technology and Human Resources, Sept 99 and Open Learning Today, January 2000
It's hard to bring about learning without a degree of interactivity, whether this is between people or built into the training materials. And most meaningful forms of interaction are stimulated by questions. If you’re creating online, self-study materials, questions are your most powerful tool. This article introduces the wide range of question types available and explains how you can build these into your web-based training programmes.
See also: Online trainers' toolkit

Taking stock and moving online
November 1998
Published in IT Skills, Feb 99
It's that time of year again and madness has struck at TACTIX like everywhere else. We're full of optimism for the online world in 1999 and keen to share with you our predictions. How can intranets evolve to play a more central role in our working lives? And will online learning match up to the hype and start to deliver in 1999? Let's see ...

Web-based training: doing it for yourself
October 1998
Published in Banking & Financial Training, Feb 99, IT Skills, July 99 and Training Technology and Human Resources, June 99
This article examines the differences between CBT and its web-based equivalent. It compares the tools provided by CBT authoring system vendors with those available for web designers. It concludes by explaining just what you can do for yourself, at negligible expense, using straightforward and commonly-available web development tools.
See also: Online trainers' toolkit

Everyone's a publisher
September 1988
Published in Internal Communication Focus, Part 1 Feb 99 and Part 2 Mar 99. Also published in IT Training, March 2000
A healthy intranet is one in which all members of an organisation are able to contribute to the content, to become publishers as well as readers. But preparing content for the screen is not the same as working on paper - it has its own rules, grammar, vocabulary, constraints and possibilities. This article argues that we will not extract anything like the maximum benefit from our intranets if we don’t teach our new breed of publishers the language of the web.
See also: Web pages that Work

A process for selecting training methods
August 1988
Published in Training Officer - December 1998, Training Journal: Key articles 1995-99 and Management Skills & Development Dec/Jan 1998. Also included in CECIOS, the web site for the European Council of Management, May 1999.
Do you sometimes feel there’s 'a madness in your methods'? How do you currently select from the bewildering array of training methods available? Do you stick with the devil you know? Try a bit of everything on the assumption that something's bound to work? This article explains why the selection of training methods is more complex than we might think and requires a thorough and systematic approach. It goes on to describe the tool that Fastrak has developed to bring a 'method to the madness'.

Why training needs the intranet
July 1998
Published in Training Technology and Human Resources, Part 1 Sept 98 and Part 2 Nov 98 and Intranet Communicator - October 1998.
Despite their role as catalysts of change within organisations, training departments are not always so keen on changing themselves. It’s so often a case of ‘do as I say, not as I do’. But some developments in working practices just can’t be ignored and the intranet is one of those. This article explains why training departments should be amongst the first to exploit this new technology.

Analysing intranet cost-benefits
June 1998
Published in Intranet Communicator - Sept 98, Strategic Communication Management - Aug/Sept 98, IT Training - Nov 99
This article explains that the cost-benefit analysis of intranets is not only desirable, it is feasible to accomplish without armies of accountants. It sets out a step-by-step method for calculating intranet cost-benefits that you can easily adapt for use in your organisation. It also points you to a tool that, for the less mathematically inclined, does all the calculations for you.

Assessing your communication options
May 1998
Published in Internal Communication Focus - Sept 98
Businesses are constantly adding new communication options, but they very rarely take any away. It’s also rare for them to provide any guidance to their employees to help them sort through the options. This article aims to explain the characteristics, features and benefits of the most popular communication methods and make recommendations on when and how each should be used.


Related sites

Clive on Learning
Clive on Learning
Where the real action is! Clive's blog is read by thousands of learning and development professionals around the world. Why not you?

Onlignment specialises in online learning and communications, and currently represents the main vehicle for Clive's consultancy work.

30-minute masters
60-minute masters
The 60-minute masters is a world-wide collaborative project aimed at developing the design skills of subject experts.

Doing the Business
Doing the Business
E-learning courses in business communications.

eLearning Network
The eLearning Network
The organisation championing
e-learning in the UK. Clive is currently the Chair.



Legacy tools Here you'll find really old stuff that may still do something for you: The Online Trainer's Toolkit, The Intranet Cost-Benefit Calculator, The Communication Method Selector and more.

For a more relaxed read, why not buy the books?

Buy Clive's books at Above and Beyond


Fastrak Consulting Ltd

Fastrak Consulting Ltd
24 Clermont Terrace
Brighton BN1 6SH
United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0)1273-561714