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The Serious eLearning Manifesto: A Multidimensional Tool

Will Thalheimer, consultant and research translator, Work-Learning Research, Inc. | @WillWorkLearn

WillThe Serious eLearning Manifesto is NOT a Jewel. It’s a Multidimensional Tool—if We Know How to Use It.

On the Serious eLearning Manifesto website you can read the endorsement statements of hundreds of elearning professionals throughout the world.

“I proudly endorse the Serious eLearning Manifesto. It is a brilliant document, not to mention a much needed one, that every professional in the Educational Technology arena should be familiar with and support.”

“I endorse the eLearning Manifesto! It is the best set of principles to date.  Bravo!!”

“AWESOME!  I support the Serious eLearning Manifesto and will do my part to live up to the 22 Supporting Principles and pledge to do my best to promote and support Serious eLearning! Thanks for putting this together. I look forward to the future of eLearning!”


Every time I go to the website and read the new endorsements, I get newly inspired. It gives me a great feeling to see how many people are dedicated to building great learning interventions.

Many of the signatories pledge to utilize the 22 principles in their own work and to encourage others to do the same. These sentiments are great, of course. But they are not enough. For e-learning to fulfill its promise, we also need to create second- and third-wave effects.

Second and Third-Wave Effects

When someone uses the Manifesto to review and improve their own e-learning, that’s a direct effect. When someone uses the Manifesto to persuade others to utilize the Manifesto, that’s a second-wave effect. Recently, I saw a tweet that said something along the lines of “Today my coworker endorsed the Serious eLearning Manifesto. Great work instigators of the eLearning Manifesto!” I got a laugh out of that, because it wasn’t us instigators who created that bit of persuasion—it was the person who wrote the tweet. She created the wave.

But there’s also a third wave of influence that is beginning to occur now. People aren’t persuading with words, they are persuading with actions. They are not just persuading person-to-person, they are persuading to the wider market. For example, Epic Learning is an elearning vendor who wrote a series of three blog posts (here is the first one) reviewing each of the Manifesto’s 22 Principles, commenting on them, and showing how they (the Epic Learning folks) are utilizing those principles in the work that they are doing. This is a great thing! This is an example of a vendor who is using the Manifesto to reflect on their own work and promote their products/services to the world. I can’t speak—and won’t speak—to whether Epic Learning is creating great e-learning, but I think they are at the beginning of large wave of vendors who will be doing the same.

How Can Different Groups Use the Manifesto?

Different groups of folks will be able to use the Manifesto in different ways. It’s not just about following the values and principles of the Manifesto, it’s about leveraging the Manifesto as guidepost. Vendors are just one group who can use the Manifesto. Other groups that might use the Manifesto in different ways include buyers of e-learning, workshop providers, graduate schools, and so forth.

Here are just a few examples:

e-Learning Vendors

To Build a Brand as a High-Effectiveness Provider

  • Use the Serious eLearning Manifesto to raise the effectiveness of your e-learning products and/or services.
  • Create content marketing materials that highlight your organization’s use of the Manifesto’s 22 principles—without necessarily mentioning the Manifesto, as it is effectiveness that counts.
  • Train your sales people and other public-facing employees about the ways your products and services are aligned with the Manifesto (and how they are not).
  • After building e-learning products or services that are aligned with the Manifesto’s 22 principles, advertise that your offerings are Manifesto compliant.
  • Use the Manifesto to re-evaluate everything that you do. Build strategic and tactical plans around a vision of e-learning’s full effectiveness.

e-Learning Development Team Managers

To Advocate for Resources and Support

  • Use the Serious eLearning Manifesto to let your stakeholders know what good elearning looks like.
  • After benchmarking your current e-learning against the Manifesto’s principles, show results to demonstrate the need for resources.
  • After developing a list of e-learning design goals based on the Manifesto, paint a vision of what your future e-learning might look like—to motivate stakeholders to provide resources.

To Get Your Team on the Same Page

  • Use the Manifesto to align teammates behind a coherent set of guidelines.
  • Use the Manifesto to generate discussions to enable the creation of a strategic plan.

To Build a Highly-Effective Team

  • Recruit and hire individuals who demonstrate interest and ability in producing e-learning that is aligned with the Manifesto’s 22 principles.
  • Use the Manifesto’s 22 principles to develop your e-learning team members.

e-Learning Buyers (CEO’s, CLO’s, Training Managers, School Superintendents, Principals, Deans, Managers, and Others)

To Improve Your Vendor Search Outcomes

  • When looking for an e-learning vendor, look for vendors that routinely demonstrate the Serious eLearning Manifesto’s 22 principles.
  • Create your RFP’s (Requests for Proposals) by incorporating the Manifesto’s 22 principles—or a prioritized subset—to guide prospective vendors.

To Ensure Manifesto-Aligned Outcomes

  • Before deploying an e-learning program to your whole organization, evaluate it through pilot testing and/or by checking it against the Manifesto’s 22 principles.
  • Develop checklists (with perhaps a set of rubrics) to guide (a) your assessment of vendor capabilities in comparison to the Manifesto’s 22 principles, or (b) your analysis of how well a purchased e-learning program is meeting the principles.

To Ensure Proper e-Learning Deployment

  • Because it is not sufficient to purchase a highly-effective e-learning program—your organization must deploy it and support it appropriately—use the Manifesto to educate your team at regular intervals.

The Manifesto is a Tool. How Can You Use It?

I’ve shared just a few examples here, but there’s obviously many more ways the Manifesto can be used—and by many more groups. I’d love to hear how you’re using the Manifesto, or how you think it could be used. Either leave a comment here, or contact me at info at


Will Thalheimer, PhD, is a consultant and research translator, providing organizations with learning audits, research benchmarking, workshops, and strategic guidance. Will shares his wisdom through keynotes, research reports, job aids, and blog posts. Compiler of the Decisive Dozen, Will blogs at, tweets as @WillWorkLearn, and consults through Work-Learning Research, Inc.

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