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Since I was a young boy, rock climbing has been a dear hobby of mine. If you were a child that loved to climb trees and have since been disappointed by our culture’s stigma surrounding adult tree climbing, rock climbing makes for an excellent, socially acceptable substitute. There’s such a rush to be had from ascending an imposing rock face, literally reaching exciting new heights on your own power. Anyone in search of a new pastime could do much worse than this timeless method of conquering nature.

There are many facets of the climb that make for numerous correlative eLearning lessons, but I’ll mention just a few.

It’s Measurable

Part of the joy of climbing comes from the ease of gauging your own performance. A quick glance down will tell you all you need to know about your progress. In an eLearning environment, this is also an important element of the experience. Learners should easily be able to see how far along they are. When appropriate, try to incorporate a progress bar of some sort so your learners know how far along they are.


As cool as Tom Cruise looked in the opening of the second Mission: Impossible movie, climbing any higher than about 12 feet without a tether is a dangerous proposition. The rope’s purpose is not to keep you from failing, but to make failure a safer option. If you lose your grip on the rock face, a good line should prevent you from falling to your certain doom. Sure, you may feel a bit foolish, hanging limply overhead, looking like you just fell victim to an atomic wedgie, but feeling humbled is preferable to feeling the ground at high speed.

Likewise, eLearning is a world of inherent risk; you’re putting yourself out there, testing your knowledge, and that doesn’t always end pretty. That’s why a good course needs some lifelines. The purpose of testing learners is not to humiliate them when they get an answer wrong, but to invite further exploration. Ideally, falling should result in a reassessment of the situation, not in a complete removal of one’s ability to climb ever again.

On Belay!

The belayer is the person on the ground holding the rope. It is their duty to make sure the climber doesn’t fall too far. As the climber moves steadily upward, the belayer slowly reels in the line, keeping it taut. A good belayer should be of equal or greater weight than the climber. I once climbed a wall with belayer that was easily half my own weight. Whenever I slipped, she would be yanked 20 feet into the air, and we’d have to perform the delicate maneuver of getting both of us back safely on the ground.

Learners also need a good belayer, someone to help and instruct them through the more difficult climbs. eLearning subject matter experts need to have a greater understanding of the material than those they are teaching. Otherwise, how can a learner hope to gain any ground when their instructor can’t keep them from falling?


In lead climbing, the climber clips the rope into pre-placed loops as they ascend. These loops are usually at even intervals, and require the lead climber to rise up the wall incrementally. This is an excellent example of segmenting in action. When an eLearning course is set up in chunks, it makes it so the learner doesn’t have to conquer the entire thing in one fell swoop. After each segment, the learner can get a foothold and take a quick rest, mentally preparing themselves for the next hurdle.

How do you help your learners make it through the eLearning climb? Let us know in the comments below!



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