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Award-Winning Blunder: eLearning insights from the Oscars debacle

How to avoid making training mistakes: A lesson from the 2017 Oscars - TalentLMS Blog

If there is one thing that we can take from the catastrophic blunder in this year’s Academy Awards, which were broadcast live to over 200 countries, as the show hosts constantly reminded us, it is that you should not rely solely on process when doing anything.

Mistakes are sometimes made with technology as the cause. We know this, it happens, it’s life and we can accept that. Is it avoidable, though? Yes. It’s even more important to avoid this kind of failure on a show with the biggest audience in television history and a budget to match. Perhaps less impressively but equally as important to your organization, this kind of failure should be absent from your eLearning program.

So, let’s take a closer look at what happened and learn something ourselves from this much-publicised mistake. Hopefully, we can extract some insight to help you avoid making similar grave training mistakes like this in your eLearning program.

So, what caused this epic fail?

  • Did the Oscars rely too heavily on processes? Perhaps the blunder shows an organization which relied too heavily on a process, while their fail-safe measures to combat technical or human error were lacking, making the consequences quite clear.
  • Did the Oscars’ team double check? It seems that the organizers did not make use of a second person to check that the envelope corresponded to the correct award and winner, prior to passing to Mr. Beatty. This would have ensured that the wrong envelope did not fall into the right hands.
  • Was the administrative team disorganized? The fact that envelopes were mixed up and one from a previous award was still in staff’s hands shows how an administrative error can cause an entire process to go into disarray. Perhaps the design of the cards was at fault or the fact that they were not more clearly labeled.
  • Could they have recognized the mistake sooner? When the wrong announcement was made, there was rather a long delay before it was corrected. Spotting this error earlier by checking the cards that were left would have resulted in a brisk walk to the hosts and a subtle envelope swap, averting disaster.
  • Did they fail to notice the warning signs? The people at the side of the stage could have been more aware and if they were, they would have had plenty of opportunities to observe that something was wrong from the momentous pause and Warren Beatty’s facial expressions.

Was human error to blame? By not ensuring that a safety net was in place to combat human error, an error is bound to occur. The rest of the show was smooth but regardless of this, the audience and every single viewer will forever remember the 2017 Academy Awards as the ones where the wrong film almost got the Oscar.

How can you avoid such mistakes in your training program?

We already know that eLearning and corporate training rely heavily on automated procedures and duplicating content. Tasks that are being carried out with automatic processes in place, should, of course, be monitored. TalentLMS is as good as the people behind it and the content used to fill it.

Therefore, ensuring that your employees are meticulous and thorough is crucial to avoid making mistakes like the Oscar blunder. Even with procedures firmly in place, the Oscars debacle serves as proof that errors occur, even in such a large awards show.

There are 5 + 1 ways to safeguard all the hard work you have done on your training program:

1. Have checkpoints in place

It’s imperative that several checkpoints and fail-safes are in place prior to releasing, let’s say, a new course or an eagerly anticipated feature. For example, you could have different stages of testing prior to launching a new course: one to review the content thoroughly, one to check the way that videos and images load, and even one to perform a ’dummy run’ of the course before making it live to avoid fatal mistakes.

2. Make the instructions clear

If everyone understands what they are doing, reading or saying then any operation can run smoothly. Perhaps the Oscars winners cards could have been labeled more clearly or numbered to avoid such a mistake.

In regards to eLearning, it makes sense to have an overview mapped out for learners, courses, and scores so that everyone is on the page. Making the instructions for a learning path clear also ensures that learners know what they are supposed to be doing and any mistakes are avoidable.

3. Use a second person

When someone looks at the same item over again, training mistakes can be overlooked. An error that may be dangerously close to occurring can be halted by another member of the team so get another person to double check everything. Specifically, use a second instructor to check that all the course content is accurate and as it should be, before assigning it to users.

4. Be organized

Be sure that the way you are doing things is simple to follow and makes sense to everyone. If you have organized everything effectively, the rest should fall into place. Have designated roles within your eLearning community with one person assigning the courses, one person uploading the content and one person overseeing the progress of the learners.

5. Work together as a team

To make sure that these training mistakes do not occur, you need to collaborate.

The more people you have on board to spot them before they go live, the better. If you continuously coordinate between your content providers, instructors, and administrators, mistakes are more likely to be avoided along the way.

6. Be honest

When you make a terrible mistake, at the time you think it is the end of the world. The truth is it is not! Make sure that you have a back up plan to correct any unintended mistakes. Also, be honest and accept responsibility for what happened. The sooner you do this, the sooner you can move on and fix it!

The Aftermath

PwC and Academy executives were seen to be in many meetings following the blunder and again, a lesson can be learned here. Without the careful checking, umpteen different employees ensuring that everything runs smoothly at each stage, mistakes such as this can mean that even more work will have to be done afterward.

Countless hours of analysis will be conducted, investigations launched and inevitably, reputations tarnished. All of this because an extra individual was not on hand to ensure that the envelope in hand corresponded with the award winner.

The entire show was cast into darkness because of a simple mistake. After months and months of planning, this is what will be remembered. For the eLearning industry, there’s a big lesson to be learned. Check everything. Remember how many people you are sending your training out to and think what would happen if they were to find any training mistakes. If one person was to spot an error, this calls into question the entirety of your content and jeopardizes your reputation.

In Conclusion

In this case, the doubling up of envelopes in the hands of the accountants coupled with the exiting on the wrong side of the stage led to the eagerly anticipated announcement of the movie industry’s most coveted award, failing magnificently.

We all watched as the cast of “La La Land” rejoiced in yet another win and could not believe our eyes as the correction was made. Perhaps, this is also a lesson in remaining humble and not applauding yourself, as our parents always taught us.

At least there will be some positivity to come out of this mistake, in that “Moonlight” will gain an entirely different level of publicity than originally anticipated and as a small-budget, relatively unknown movie with a very powerful and forward-thinking plot line, this can only spell good news for the entire production.

Oh, and you can be frightened into checking, checking and checking again to ensure your content is perfect, free of any training mistakes.