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E-learning embedded within Excel


We have developed a large multi-sheet Excel workbook for clients in a vertical market sector.

Users need to be trained to use the Excel workbook properly - how to enter data, how to carry out "what-if" scenarios, how to interpret the results, and so on.

Although we have a user guide and a series of face-to-face training workshops, we think that additional training may be required, ideally embedded within the Excel workbook itself, so that users can receive training at the same time as they are using the workbook, and within the same Excel environment.

Has anyone done this type of training before? What's the best way of carrying this out? And what e-learning tools should we use?
Alan Weaver

3 Responses

  1. Two main alternatives
    You have two main choices, as I see it.

    1. Develop training material with Excel using Visual Basic for Applications. You can do pretty much anything you want, but you’ll need someone who is an experienced Visual Basic programmer and experienced in Microsoft Office: it’s not as simple as just recording a macro (although doing that and then examining the code produced is always a good start.) You can even include your own context sensitive HTML Help files.

    2. Much easier (although not integrated within Excel itself) would be to use screen recording software: the user then sees a “movie” showing how to do whatever it is they need to do. There are lots of packages out there: try a seach on Google. Ideally you’d want something that let you add your own pop up comments and/or do a voiceover if that’s appropriate. One well-regarded example is Techsmith Camtasia (, but there are other cheaper things.

    Do feel free to contact me if I can be of any help with either of these options — or perhaps some combination of the two.


  2. E-learning embedded within Excel

    Some time ago I was involved with the development of a product designed to provide training for inventory managers using Excel and Visual Basic.

    Excel handled the source data, graphing and associated calculations superbly, but because VB is really a programming language rather than a dedicated authoring tool, the e-Learning courseware took a great deal of time and effort to produce.

    I would advise against this route unless you have very experienced VB programmers available locally at modest cost. Even then, you may find that the project takes a long time to complete because standard courseware features provided in normal authoring tools may need to be created from scratch in VB.

    I suspect you may be allowing the tail to wag the dog. Many standard authoring tools will allow you to call up applications like Excel when required. I would be inclined to pick the specific authoring tool that suits you best and take learners to and from Excel from there.

    If you do decide to go the VB route then please let me know. I can recommend some programmers that specialise in the use of VB for authoring e-Learning.

    I hope this helps.

    Best wishes

  3. E-learning embedded within Excel

    I agree that you would need to use Visual Basic to link help direct into Excel.

    Another possibility is this – If you take a look at the Video Informer demo and goto rich media types > rich media examples > software simulation. There is a short simple example of what I think you are looking for. You could of course place a hyperlink in a cell in your spreadsheet that runs VI in a new browser window. Perhaps that is your solution?



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