Should You Flip Your Training?


I once was a trainee at a course given by a famous trainer. The course was pretty expensive and I was excited by the subject matter, so I took their suggestion of reading a whole book before going to the training seriously. By the time I entered the training location, I was enthusiastic, ready to learn more and eager to interact with others that had come to the training.  Only later did I realize that this was a simple, yet powerful (low-tec) example of flipping the classroom or, as we might call it, flipping the training. Only a few years later, flipping the training has become an important trend and something we think about a lot at LearningStone*.

Flipping the classroom is a concept that has a growing following in education. It refers to moving the consumption of…

Read the full blog on TrainingZone, platform for Training.






How to become a Blended Trainer

If you’re new to LearningStone, you might ask yourself how you can keep training groups but also start using an online platform to offer extra services and improve learning using the tools of today. Michiel Klønhammer, founder of LearningStone, wrote a few thoughts on the subject for Training Industry, in the following article.

Transitioning from Class-Based to Blended Training

In the practice of talking to trainers about implementing blended learning tools, an important business question comes up repeatedly. How does a training agency or an individual trainer transition from a traditional to a more flexible blended model? Based on discussions with… Read the full article on Training Industry


How do blended trainers earn money?

How do blended trainers earn money?

6 ways of adding value with technology to your training business

By Michiel Klønhammer and Sjoerd Boersma

money.fwWe are probably not the only ones who thought that technology would at some point replace face-to-face training and coaching all together. It took getting to know the corporate world and understanding what people want, to realize we were wrong. Dead wrong.

Trainers in the ever changing training industry justifiably stick to offering face-to-face training to groups of learners. Why? Because people need inspiration from other people. People need to leave their jobs, leave their desks, and leave their day to day routine to learn from more experienced professionals and to meet and learn from peers. Indeed, instructor led training is very much alive and needed.

Now mind you, we love educational technology and all sorts of great eLearning is being developed but our shift in perspective from “technology is all” to “blended learning is better” was key when we started thinking about developing an online platform for professional training and coaching.

A few years on, we find ourselves dealing with blended trainers all the time. We now realize that the rise of blended learning is bringing on a whole new challenge for the professional training world. Are you a trainer? The good news is that your billion dollar market is not going away but it is evolving and you’ll have to evolve with it. You need to ask yourself: “How do blended trainers earn money?”

Each of the following added values – not necessarily in this exact order – lets you save money, charge more or offers you competitive advantages in the  incredibly competitive training market.

Added Value 1: Online office management

As a trainer you might have designed a series of live group activities (we’re assuming you’re good at that) and all the learning happens there. Without noticing it, you’re using lots of digital tools to promote, sell and organize the courses. Just think of all the digital tools like e-mail, YouTube, Dropbox, LinkedIn, e-forms and other online tools that you might be using. If you’re an agency, you might be starting to realize that the out of pocket costs are low but the amount of time spent on this online office management is rising. You are probably charging for the learning like you always did but you’re spending more time than ever dealing with your digital tools.

Result: Some cost saving. No competitive advantages.

Added Value 2:  Flip the Classroom

You are using a set of online tools to flip the classroom, a term coined in the educational world to describe the process of moving passive activities like watching a video or studying a text out of the classroom. Activities that need guidance, interaction, networking between participants are moved into the classroom. Typically you are sending our time consuming homework like watch a longer video or reading some pdf-documents.

Result:  You’re adding value and saving time but it’s not very tangible yet and a hard sell.

Added Value 3:  The learning platform as an additional service

You are offering an online platform as an additional service. You have designed and developed a course timeline containing materials, events and interactions and offer a collaboration space for your participants to learn from you and from each other. The platform is branded so that not only your client will appreciate you as a trainer (agency or department) but your participants (your future clients) will get to know you as a brand, not only a trainer.

Result: You’re offering value and you’re saving money due to cost efficiency (depending on the cost of the platform), but your losing money as you’ll probably be offering less training hours but not charging for your online services

Added Value 4: Blended training as a business

You have designed a learning path for a group and sold this to your client based on an approach that combines traditional face-to-face learning with an online, digital component. You are charging for the class based events, charging for your online product and services (a mix of platform and materials), charging for online moderation, and reviewing assignments. You might even be reselling online resources. Quite often your face-to-face hours are more expensive than your online work; however, the online component can sometimes go to the less experienced people within a training agency.

Result: You are creating a business that can move flexibly with your client’s needs. You have created a huge competitive advantage.

Added Value 5: The Learning Community

You have designed and sold your blended training services but have gone on from there. A learning community is a group of people that stay together for some time to learn from each other. This might be a mix of participants from training groups, even from many (international) locations. Learning Communities need a collaboration space sometimes combined with online materials. A coach or mentor will monitor the group, stimulate collaboration and learning with assignments, discussions and other activities. The coach might be charging for the platform, the monitoring and the regular introduction of new learning materials. The community can also be the starting point of new training activities, workshops, etc.

Result: you are adding long term value for your participants (inspiration, networking, and learning) and staying in touch. Your future clients are getting to know you.

Added Value 6: The Blended Training and the Blended Coach

You have sold courses and realized that an external training provider (that’s you) can do only so much (remember the 70-20-10 principle) unless you get in touch with your individual participants as a coach. You are not only charging for a well thought out blended training course but are adding personal coaching services, either in person or through your online platform.

Result: you are becoming a part of your client and are making a huge difference to their business.

Trainers and agencies who are actively thinking about how to change their business model will be the ones who will be thriving in the future. We can safely say that very few training providers have a future-proof business model yet (so don’t worry… you’re not running behind), but as cloud based tools and platforms mature we see that the strategic thinkers are starting to move forward faster than ever before. Are you joining in?

Michiel Klønhammer and Sjoerd Boersma are veterans in the eLearning world and are the founders of LearningStone – the online platform for blended learning & collaboration.  /

This is what eLearning Joe says about LearningStone

We got a call from a guy who calls himself eLearning Joe. He’s the famous Joe Ganci who often has something to say about learning and innovation. He had a few questions about our work at LearningStone. And this is what he wrote (and it makes us blush🙂


JANUARY 27, 2015

“Is LearningStone absolutely essential? We’ve survived without it until now, but like many tools, until we start using them, we may not realize what we’ve been missing. I now count LearningStone as another tool in my toolbox to ensure that my learners, whether they are sitting in my classroom or they are taking one of my eLearning courses, have a greater chance of success.”
Read the rest here:

9 great ways to stimulate collaborative learning

or how to create a great collaborative learning experience

As a professional trainer you might know how to make participants feel comfortable and motivated so they will work, collaborate and learn together. But how do you make people feel comfortable and motivated when you are using an online environment.

There are two core assumptions that underlie approaches to building blended learning communities: (1) that the deeper the personal relationships between learners, the richer the collaborative learning experience; and (2) that relationships between learners may be strengthened through structuring group interactions (using technology) before and/or after a face-to-face training event. (Strategies for Collaborative learning, Soren Kaplan*)

Our experience shows that it is possible to stimulate social activities, cooperation and collaborative learning among participants in an e-learning setting. Based on our experience with users of LearningStone we came up with a few suggestions.

1. Mix online and offline

If you believe in blended learning like us, you’ll find this obvious. The best way to stimulate online collaboration is warming things up with an offline session. It’s even worth having just one single offline (fun!) session so that everyone gets to know each other.

If that’s not possible because everyone is too busy or too far away, use a webinar tool and consider recording it for people who have missed it. You can also plan an online chat in the first or second week.

2. Explain how things work

Let the participants get familiar with the learning platform. Offer them some time to get to know the learning platform. Invite them into your online group at least a week before the course starts They have to feel comfortable with the learning environment. Let them play around a little and use a video to explain how it all works. Don’t worry about the quality of video: a tablet or modern phone is good enough.

3. Ask everyone to be personal and reward it!

A virtual learning environment works best if people dare show themselves. When the participants feel comfortable with navigating the learning environment it’s time to present themselves. An invitation from teachers or even a first assignment to build up their personal profile always turns out to be very effective.

Ask them to use a good picture of their face (no funny stuff, cartoons etc) that will appear in all communication. Let them add another picture to their profile of a situation at work, at home or doing something they love (thrill-seeking sports always work well🙂. Ask them to add some background info to their profile, what they expect from the course and something personal. Invite everyone to read the other profiles.

If a profile makes someone walk over to the owner at a live session and say “Hey aren’t you the person who goes snowboarding in the alps?” you have succeeded!

And don’t forget, as a trainer you have to give the right example first! Participants will follow your example and don’t forget to give them a huge public compliment for something like a great picture.

4. Tell participants that they should work and learn together

If you want your participants to work and learn together, tell them how that works. Tell everyone what you expect from the very beginning of the course. Don’t just throw the environment at them and walk away.

It’s fine if there is some off topic chatter but try to give that a place (a thread in a discussion or just some time in the beginning of the course) so that relevant collaboration doesn’t get hidden. If you’re working for a client, get him or her involved from the start and make sure they understand the need to communicate.

5. Make a schedule that creates opportunities to collaborate

When arranging courses for participants from different working environments and even from different countries, realise  they may have holidays, exams and heavy workloads at different times which makes it hard to follow a strict time schedule. Structure the weekly programmes a bit and  give assignments over a longer period than one week to enable students to find time for collaboration. It helps to send automatic notifications about events and assignments each week, so every participant can fit these in his or her own week schedule.

6. Don’t let them be passive!

Everyone knows how crowds sometimes do very little if something needs to be done. Everyone assumes the next person can do it better, is more daring, smarter etc. Psychologists call this diffusion of responsibility and it can easily occur in online discussions or other collaborative moments. To avoid this, ask specific people to start a discussion, upload some content or ask for reactions, and do it yourself as well!

7. Use deadlines and reminders

It’s the downside of being a trainer: you simply need to be like a school teacher sometimes! If you ask people to react to some content or work, it’s important to tell them to do it before a certain date and yes, you’ll have to remind them. More than once.

It’s okay to do that reminding automatically with scheduled messaging as long as you’re not bombarding people with messages and as long as the messages still feel personal.

8. Allow playfulness

The great thing about live or offline training sessions, is that it’s easy to have a sense of humor and to allow playfulness. You simply allow for some chaos here and there and breaks are great for some banter. This is much harder online  as you miss nonverbal communication and as you don’t want permanent content to be messed up by silly remarks anyway. Our trick is to use group chat or specific discussions or wall threads to do this. If, for example, you’re running an international group, why not ask everyone to post a joke from their country… yes, just for fun. Fun groups just work better.

9. Create Memorable moments

A teacher once told us: the key to working with groups is creating memorable moments. Do something original when you’re running an online group. Use a funny video, post pictures of yourself, celebrate a birthday… whatever it takes to make your participants remember the moment. This deepens relationships and stimulates learning.

And it will make your participants remember you and your company the next time they need a trainer.

Any comments? Let us know!

Sjoerd Boersma and Michiel Klønhammer

sjoerd at and michiel at

Founders of LearningStone


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How to find the right start-up name (and yes we’re scared of IBM)

So what’s in a name? The LearningStone crew can tell all about it! A lot of fun, endless brainstorms, a more than endless search for free or affordable domains, bidding on domain names, name testing with an international panel (friends and kind relations across the globe), a couple of bad ideas and then: on a very very happy day: we had it corned and found the name, the perfect name: LearningStone (we hope you agree!)


You might as well give up…

Start-ups have a rough time these days as online services have an international focus and need to have a name that works across the globe. We preferred a .com but fact is that there are already 150.000.000 domains .com registered. That is a crazy amount! There are not even 171.000 words in the Oxford dictionary so you might as well give up…


Our checklist

So this is what we wanted. A name that…

  1. sounds good.
  2. isn’t too hard to remember.
  3. sounds like something in the learning/training business.
  4. make’s us proud (we’re a start-up… we need to be proud).
  5. isn’t an embarrassment in another language.
  6. is Googleble.
  7. won’t make IBM sue us.


We had some specific wishes: we didn’t want the word Education, schools, etc. in it as our solution is aimed at training professionals not school teachers. We wanted it to sound great in English and pretty ok in as many European languages as possible.


The weird name thing

What we didn’t want is the weird name thing. In the past few years names like Mibblio, Kaggle, Shodogg, Zaarly have been on the rise. The founder of Kaggle actually wrote an algorithm to spot free domains generated from combinations of letters. It can be fun to have a crazy name (and hey Google, Flickr, YouTube are all pretty weird… so it can work) but we’ve been around for a while and even though wacky names might be Googleble, we are simply are a bit bored with it. Yes, taste also matters.


We are not in the railroad business

As we are in the professional training business, we spent a lot of time trying to find a great name with Train in it, only to hear from trainers that they hated it and to hear from others that it sounded like we were in the railroad business. Back to the drawing board, kill your darlings and all that.

If you have the money: go for less syllables but we decided to go for a good sound as it simply wasn’t doable to find a short .com domain (Our branding department just didn’t have the spare 100K).


A disease spelt backward

We don’t remember how the stone came about but we wanted the word Learning in the name after a lot of asking around. The first learning material in history is the Rosetta Stone (and already a great company producing language learning material) so we liked that and the solidness helped. We first considered LearnStone but we couldn’t get it fast enough and our panel just didn’t like it, so we went on to negotiate with the owner of LearningStone and after the price dropped a thousand dollars we were the happiest domain shoppers on the planet for 1200 dollars. One thing that we had learned: you might as well decide on a budget straight away. Paying nothing for a .com domain is hardly an option unless you’re going for a sixteen syllable word that sounds like a disease spelt backward.


Yes, we’re scared of IBM

We actually bought six other domains in the process that were all kicked out by our panel. One of the names (actually the winner of the first round with our panel) turned out to be an IBM trademark (true story). We pictured a very tall building filled with lawyers with nothing better to do than sue us out of existence, and we found a better name while we were at it. LearningStone it was!


A couple of services we used to search for names

Instant domain search:

Real time search and recommendations.

Whois by Domain tools

A good service for searching the Whois database for a domain owner. If it’s a big company it is sometimes impossible to find the legal owner. Just move on.


Domain auction. We noticed that they have a lowest bid at 69 dollars and that there are many automatic bidders going for the lowest bid. We managed to buy one of our domains for 72 dollars.


Domain real estate people. Excellent service if you’re in a hurry. You can call and negotiate.


A very international domain registrar. Quite expensive if you need a lot of domains but they offer more countries than any other registrar making it easy to centralize your domains through one service.


A huge domain market place but also offering a useful ESCROW service so that you can safely buy a domain from a stranger.


Disclaimer: The brand IBM and it’s logo are owned by International Business Machines Corporation (“IBM”) . LearningStone is no way affiliated with IBM. And please don’t sue us, we’re just kidding🙂