The CoachAccountable Blog

What's new with the CA platform, tutorials on using it, and customer spotlights.

Media Embeds in Worksheets and Elsewhere

It can be nice to offer your client assignments that are in essence self-contained lessons, where in learning materials are presented right in line with the questions or tasks to work through.  Say for example you want them to watch a video and, as they do, answer some questions about that video.

This scenario calls for a Worksheet Template with embedded media.  Let’s take a look at how this works.

When creating a Worksheet you’ll find the Embed Media button in the WYSIWYG toolbar, forth in from the right:

It's a video-like icon, but don't let that fool you: you can embed audio media as well.

It’s a video-like icon, but don’t let that fool you: you can embed audio as well.

Give it a click and you’ll be presented with options for specifying the media you wish to embed:

Choose from your library (if you got any embeds there) or specify a new one.

Choose from your library (if you have any embeds there) or specify a new one.

If you have any embeddable media within your Library Files you’ll be able to choose from there.  Otherwise you can specify some other embeddable media by pasting in the link or embed code, just like elsewhere in the system.

Note the “Caption” field here: this is so that CoachAccountable can give a fallback link to the media for when <iframe> embeds aren’t allowed (most email providers for example strip out HTML <iframes> entirely, so a link with the caption you specify is a nice way to make the Worksheet be more complete in that context).  If you’d rather the system NOT provide a link to the media file outside of CoachAccountable, just leave the caption blank.

Once inserted the embeddable media shows up in your Worksheet just like anything else, and you can build a Worksheet around it, like in this example:

Note the call out to a specific time in the video--the video being right there let's your clients easily go there to answer the question.

Note the call out to a specific time in the video–the video being right there let’s your clients easily go there to answer the question.

Your client’s experience of filling out a Worksheet with embedded media is just how you would expect it: the media is there and they can easily access it while answering the questions:

You should try filling out a worksheet with this song playing as you do, it's kinda nice!

You should try filling out a worksheet with this song playing as you do, it’s kinda nice!

Supported Media Embeds

From where can you embed media?  CoachAccountable recognizes and supports most of the major video and audio hosting sites, and even a few that are a little more niche:

  • YouTube
  • Vimeo
  • Wistia
  • Viddler
  • TED
  • educreations
  • Cubby
  • Sound Cloud
  • Audio Acrobat
  • LibSyn

Have your media hosted with some other service and you want CoachAccountable to support it?  Let me know!

Beyond Worksheets

Embedded media is a nice and natural fit for Worksheets, but you can add such media to other places as well.  Session Notes, Journal Entries and Whiteboards all support embedded media.  You can even add it to Messages sent through the system, but since those are primarily a conduit for email, that might be a bit futile due to the aforementioned tendency of email providers to strip out such content.


Hi, I’m Paolo

I just spoke my peace to introduce the new Director of Customer Support and Hand Holding.  I’d like you to know and be acquainted with him well, so here now is Paolo to say a few words of hello himself!
– John


Hi there,

My name is Paolo and I’m the new Director of Customer Support and Hand Holding. I’ll be getting to know you all better as we work together, but I think it’d be good to share a bit about myself.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. For a few years I was at a job I didn’t like but tolerated because it was stable. After a pair of 80 hour weeks in the office I started asking myself some questions: What is my purpose? What do I actually like to do? How do I go about finding work I love?

After a period of introspection and learning I realized I didn’t have one specific thing I wanted to do. I did know that I wanted to make a life, not just a living. And to do that I endeavored to be a certain kind of person.

I want to be compassionate. I want to help people. I want the freedom to spend my time building things I care about. If whatever I’m doing aligns with the above, then I know I’m doing well. I’ve held a couple of different roles these past few years, each one a better fit than the last. Which leads me to CoachAccountable.

As part of the hiring process, John and I met at a park and spoke for an hour or so. We got to know each other a bit as people. It didn’t take long for me to tell him that this was the position for me. I knew that I had finally found a bonafide, all-around great fit.

Lucky for me, he thought so as well! I’m excited to be here, and to help John transform the coaching industry.

My goal is to help you use CoachAccountable to be a better coach. There’s two main parts to this. The first is reactive. I’ll assist in answering any questions or solving any issues that come up. I’ll be there if things aren’t working so well.

The second is proactive. I’d like to understand what you and your clients define as success. I’ll then use that knowledge to show you how to use the system in a manner that best sets you up for your success. This could mean showing you features of the software you didn’t know existed. Or it could mean showing you new ways of using features you’re already familiar with.

There’s a ton of collective wisdom amongst John and our CoachAccountable community. I’m ecstatic to help distill it all.

In the coming weeks I’ll continue what’s been a whirlwind learning process. I’ll be answering as many emails as I can, deferring to John when I’m unsure if I’m giving the best answer.

What’s most important is that I’ll start the process of getting to know you all. Please, please reach out! Don’t be shy. I’d love to do 1:1 trainings that focus on using the system to its full potential. Aside from that, we also have plans to make group webinars more of a regular thing. It’s a great way for CoachAccountable users to connect with John and I, and with each other.

That’s a bit about me and what I’ll be doing. Besides CoachAccountable, I like to write and read a good amount. I’m also a burgeoning photographer, specializing in weddings and families.

I’m looking forward to working with you all! If you need anything, just email me at


Introducing Paolo De Armas, Director of Customer Support and Hand Holding

I swear I didn’t pick Paolo because he’s in Denver.

When I posted the ad for this position on I had no need of my ideal candidate being in the same town as me.  Rather, I was totally down with the ethos of remote teams (as excellently described by 37 Signals Remote). and what that afforded by way of getting the very best candidate WITHOUT geography as a severely narrowing criteria.

I did want someone in or around the North American time zones so as to overlap with the majority of CoachAccountable users, but that was about it.

So the subject line of Paolo’s email applying for the job, “Director of Customer Support – I’m based in Denver as well” didn’t catch my eye that much, but his answers about how he would see to do the job did:

My primary focus is to help grow CoachAccountable through helping our customers succeed. …

Ideally, I’d be spending most of my time proactively reaching out to customers, showing them how to best use the platform to help their business and their clients.

I understand that there will always be a need to solve customer support issues. We’d continually strive to reduce the number of support issues through excellent customer support.

His answer to how he would ideally like to spend his time on the 3 Pillars of the role (customer support issues, building the knowledge base, and user outreach & teaching) nailed exactly what I had in mind that my ideal candidate would say:

The ideal would be something like 15% customer support issues, 45% development of the knowledge base, and 40% proactive outreach. Eventually the majority of our time would be spent on outreach.

Paolo insisted this was shot in bad lighting, but I dunno, I think it looks pretty good.

Paolo insisted this was shot in bad lighting, but I dunno, I think it looks pretty good.

This is Paolo De Armas.  Armed with a boatload of experience in helping customers be more successful in their own businesses, he’s ready to help CoachAccountable users new and old in getting ever more out of the platform, from setting up Worksheet Templates, to teaching how to wield Metrics to fit a given coaching style, to integrating CA into the whatever established setup in order to make coaching clients have a great experience.

For the last month Paolo has been easing in to the CoachAccountable world, learning the system inside out, listening in on calls and demos, and fielding an ever wider range of support issues.  Some of you have interacted with him already during this warmup phase, and I’ve been very pleased with the result.

As founder of CoachAccountable (and the one who has been fielding all support and training for the past 4 years) it is a big deal to me to entrust the support and care of the CA community to someone else.  Having quick and thorough responses to questions, resolving issues & bugs immediately, teaching better coaching with the tools at hand, and listening in earnest to feedback of how CA could be better or what new features would serve have all meant so much to the development of this platform in service to the coaching industry.

For me to sleep well at night I need to know that this standard of taking care of this community is upheld, and it is with great joy that I say with Paolo the CoachAccountable community is in very good hands.  In many ways in fact Paolo can be better than me: rather than have to juggle customer support against all other facets of running CoachAccountable, customer support gets to be his sole focus.

He’ll have way more time to go in depth helping you setup the nitty gritty bits of your coaching style and programs within CA, to train you on how to wield the system to the fullest, to devise solutions to problems and challenges.  To that end I hope you will all feel comfortable and welcome to reach out to him for that sort of help whether you’re just getting started or have been using the system for years now.

One of the common bits of feedback I get is to the tune of “I’m pretty sure I’m not using all that the system has to offer” (the recent survey revealed a lot of this!).  Let’s fix that.  If you feel like there’s probably some good stuff you’re missing and could use a 1-1 session to go over things, you should assume you’re right and drop us a support note saying as much.  Get your money’s worth from the platform by using it to the fullest: let Paolo show you around, learn about how you coach, and steer you to helpful parts of the system you never knew about.

If you’re worried that getting support from Paolo won’t be the same or as cool as getting it right from the creator of the system, that’s fair.  I’ve been at this and trafficking in the world of coaching & coaching software for years whereas Paolo is relatively new.  In some regards he doesn’t have the depth and perspective on the matter as I do.


As he gets going in earnest I’ll be tagging along, lending whatever is missing as he grows in the role.  And I expect my input to be minimal and ever diminishing.  Why?  As part of our interview process I had Paolo teach me, pretending to be a new user, about how to use Metrics in my mock business, up to and including setting up a course to have regular check in worksheets pipe numbers right in.  This setup is the most complex, integrated piece of the whole system and he nailed it, and did so with only 24 hours notice to prepare.  He’s a quick study, so again I am rest well knowing that with Paolo the CA community is in good hands for support and training.

If you’d like to get acquainted with Paolo more, go check out the essays on his personal blog.  Seriously, there aren’t many but they’re a delightful read, and give a real insight into the person behind the @coachaccountable email address.  (Indeed they’re part of the reason why I was so impressed and quickly sold that “yes, THIS was the person I wanted to entrust my customers to for support”).

Adding Paolo to the mix is a big win for all of us: he’ll be available to help at a level which I simply can’t, and thanks to his presence I’ll be freed up to continue making improvements to the platform at a quicker pace.  Please join me in welcoming Paolo to the CoachAccountable team!

Happy Birthday, CA–It’s been 4 Years Now!

You know I can probably fit like 2 or 3 more on there.

You know I can probably fit like 2 or 3 more on there.  Re-gifting might be a sin, but re-caking?  Totally fine.

Oh jeez, someone ordered the wrong sash for Mr. CoachAccountable, it was supposed to say "Happy Birthday". Oddly he doesn't seem to mind.

Oh jeez, someone ordered the wrong sash for Mr. CoachAccountable, it was supposed to say “Happy Birthday”. Oddly he doesn’t seem to mind.

CoachAccountable’s fourth year of existence since the 2.0 release got off to a groovy start with the release of CA Mobile, the appy experience of CoachAccountable for coaches and clients but without the hassle of having to find and download anything from an app store.

Then in January CoachAccountable got a named shout out in the Acknowledgements section at the end of the New York Times best seller book Always Hungry, for which CoachAccountable served as the platform for the pilot program upon which the book is based.

Tambre Leighn and company chose CoachAccountable as the delivery and community platform for their cancer survivors program, Well Beyond This. That CA Groups serve as a support group medium for participants makes this a project for which I am deeply honored to be a part of.

Along the way there has been the usual bevvy of enhancements and expansions to the system, including Course Whiteboards, Unit-Based Courses, Worksheet Image Prompts, and Form-Based Session Notes.

Beyond that it’s been busy times as the platform continues to grow and evolve to serve ever larger organizations and programs, so much so that my days as a one-man shop have come to an end.  The need for assistance to keep up has prompted me to create the new Director of Customer Support and Hand Holding position.  I’ll be introducing him in this space very soon.

Year 5 promises to be the biggest leap forward for CoachAccountable yet.  As usual I have much more up my sleeve to better the platform in order to better forward and serve the industry and the many talented coaches working to produce great results.

My many heartfelt thanks to coaches and organizations who continue to try out CA and find it a win for their work, here’s to another year of great coaching!

Form-Based Worksheet Image Prompts

Form-Based Worksheets (and indeed now Sessions!) allow you to create a form for your clients to fill out, comprised of text boxes, radio buttons and so forth.  But sometimes in a Worksheet assignment it would be nice if your clients could provide an image or two as an answer to a question.

This is now possible with CoachAccountable Form-Based Worksheets, thanks to the newly added support for Image Prompts that are available when creating a form.  Let’s take a look at how this works.

Like when adding a form input of any other variety, an Image Prompt is added by clicking the “Add form item” button on the WYSIWYG toolbar:

That little guy, forth in from the right.

That little guy, forth in from the right.

Pick the new “Image prompt” option in the drop down menu and you’ll find a similar (but slightly different) set of options:

Just pick this type of input and you're off. Note you can allow your clients to provide more than 1 image as their answer to a given question.

Just pick this type of input and you’re off. Note you can allow your clients to provide more than 1 image as their answer to a given question through the “Max images” setting.

In the Worksheet, an Image prompt is rendered as a clickable button with whatever caption you set:

All other things being equal, it was probably a bad meal if you feel vengeful afterwards.

Wait, vengeful?

When working on a Worksheet with an Image prompt item, clicking the button brings up the gallery browser, allowing your client to upload an image as needed and then ultimately choose an image for their answer:

Whew, fancy breakfast!

Whew, fancy breakfast!

As your clients fill out the Worksheet their images are popped right in:

I wonder if he really ate that? Totally looks like stock photography to me.

I wonder if he really ate that? Totally looks like stock photography to me.

What’s really nice about this is how well it plays with filling out a Worksheet on a smartphone with CA Mobile: when uploading a new image to the gallery (for subsequent choosing for the Worksheet) most devices give you the option to snap a photo right then and there, and upload THAT with just a few taps.  As such, completing a photo journal-like Worksheet is really quick and easy.

Image Prompts in Form-Based Worksheets add a new dimension to the kinds of assignments you can setup for your clients, letting pictorial input join the usual keyboard and click-based input.  If that would make a fitting aspect to the assignments you give as part of your coaching, go give them a try!  It’s as simple as creating a Worksheet Template that includes one or more Image Prompts.

Form-Based Session Notes

Form-Based Worksheets are a lovely thing: they let you create worksheets for your clients to fill out that have text areas to type in, check boxes to check off, drop down menus to make selections in and so on.  This is all a variation on the theme of regular Worksheets, which work like free form documents that can be edited freely as if working on a Word doc (the kind of setup wherein you type a question and hit Enter a few times to make space for your clients to type in their answer).

Session Notes by contrast have always been just the free form variety, allowing coach to define a template as a convenient starting point but then type freely in and around that template when filling out notes for a session with a specific client.

But it turns out that sometimes it’s nice to have Session Notes be similarly structured, providing a concrete set of points to cover, questions to ask (and answers to record), and whatever other form elements to check off/fill out.  This is especially so in a team setting, wherein a coach might be expected to more rigorously follow a standardized formula of how to conduct a session and capture the essential notes & information from it.

To that end CoachAccountable now offers Form-Based Session Notes.  Setting up a Form-based Session Template works just like setting up a Form-Based Worksheet.  In the template builder WYSYIWYG editor you’ll now see the “Insert form item” button:

I've remixed the classic pre-loaded Session Template and added a few extra rating items.

I’ve remixed the classic pre-loaded Session Template and added a few extra rating items.

When you’ve got a Form-Based Session defined (i.e. a Session Template which contains one or more form items) filling it out for one of your clients works just like filling out a Form-Based Worksheet, including any validation rules that have been set for the template:

The validation rules make a nice way to ensure you (or your team coaches) do complete work in filling out the notes for a session.

The validation rules make a nice way to ensure you (or your team coaches) do complete work in filling out the notes for a session.

Everything else about Form-Based Sessions works like their Worksheet counterparts: when you email the session notes to your clients they’ll rendered all pretty with your specific answers highlighted in blue, and you can use Fom-Based Session answers to pipe into Metrics in the exact same way as Worksheet answers do.

All in all this is a nice, seamless alternative to taking free-form Session Notes, which for some organizations (and even some personal styles) will be a real win.  If you like how Form-Based Worksheets work to allow your clients to fill things out in a structured way, give these a try for your Session Notes.

CoachAccountable Director of Customer Support and Hand Holding

This past Saturday at about 11:15am I posted a listing for CoachAccountable’s first hire on  Within 48 hours it garnered well over 100 applications, the overwhelming majority of which were incredibly thoughtful and demonstrated serious expertise and ability.

To provide a little behind-the-scenes glimpse into what I’m out to create in the CoachAccountable team, here is exactly what I posted:

About CoachAccountable
CoachAccountable is a platform for coaches to structure and support coaching work done with their clients (think business coaching, fitness programs, life coaching and so on).

It’s going well, and after 4 years my days of doing this as a one-man shop are numbered as business continues to grow.  I’m looking for an independent, sharp and personable individual to join me CA’s first hire and gradually take over the customer support side of things.  Think startup-like freedom but with the stability of an established company.

There are 3 pillars to the position:

I. Fielding Customer Support Issues

Currently relatively low volume, I can usually knock it out in a morning an evening session of 30-45 minutes each. Answering questions, directing attention to how to do this or that, and often pointing out a given article or tutorial video which would answer the specific question but also teach other related goodies. Loads of opportunity to be more awesome by pointing out related things they might be looking for, and thereby educating users further on how to best use the system.

II. Developing the Inline Support Knowledge Base

We’re building an inline help system, a collection of interconnected articles based on various sections and features within the system. Much of the material already exists scattered about in the blog, manuals, etc. It is to be recompiled with updated screen shots, and 2 or 3 versions written for each topic: one as an internal reference for support staff, one for coaches, and one for clients (for client-facing features). There is also much to be written from scratch to flesh out the content to completely represent all the system does (as a one-man shop I indeed haven’t kept things fully up to date!).

III. Customer Hand holding and Concierge Service

SO often folks benefit massively from just being shown around the system, helping them get acquainted with whichever features would serve a giving coaching style or program. CA is wickedly powerful but it takes something for folks to find and realize the benefit of that power, and so often folks left to their own devices just won’t bother, either under utilizing the system or just walking away from it. CoachAccountable is very much in the business of teaching coaches to be better coaches, and someone reaching out proactively to offer that sort of guidance holds great potential to grow the business. It’s the sort of support that bleeds into being a sales role.

Succeeding in this looks like…

Being a clear writer and a patient, personable teacher are key to this.  Being technically sharp and able to quickly learn a software system is nice, but if you’re not a whiz at this sort of thing already it’s fine because you’ll learn and get fluent with how the system works through experience soon enough.

I’m looking for someone who is keen to grow and evolve with this role over the long haul, someone who really learns the system and excels at teaching coaches how to be better and get great value out of the platform will become more and more valuable over time.  Because it’s an early stage company there is a LOT of room to innovate and make yourself massively valuable, while enjoying a wide variety of (hopefully!) intellectually stimulating and satisfying work.  I know what I need today, and together we can co-create your role as we continue to build the team and infrastructure to make a fabulous machine of customer support and on boarding.  Doing webinars and making screen casts for example are two directions in which you might branch out within this role.

Structure of the job

Structurally, the role will begin with an emphasis on you learning the system and easing in to fielding support emails as you learn (i.e. Pillar I above).  Once you get the hang of that you’ll add in Pillar II and begin flexing your copy writing chops to write informative and illustrating articles on how the system works.  Finally once your fluency with the system is comprehensive enough you’ll be able to move on to Pillar III outreach and hand-holding to compliment your other duties.

Hourly contract basis to start, $30/hour.  If you’re awesome and twist my arm I’m willing to consider starting higher.  Again, I view this role as having great potential to grow the business and so the right person, one who’s able to excel from the start and grow over time, is worth a lot.  I imagine the role to commence part time and grow into a full 40 hours a week within a month or two as you get up to speed and are ready to take on more responsibility.  When we’re both clear this is a great fit and love working with each other we can make your position a full time salaried one.

Speaking of loving working together, it is my intention that whomever takes this position LOVES their role, and I’ll do whatever is in my power to make that happen.  I’ll be relating to you as a competent, responsible adult and give you as much freedom as possible (within the needs of the role) to do your thing independently, where and whenever works best for you.  I want this work to be interesting and life giving to you, varied and purposeful from the interactions you have.  For this to work you have to have at least a baseline love for doing customer support, for being a guide over the phone, and for doing writing that teaches.

Application Instructions
In any application here is what I’d like to see:
  • A brief introduction of yourself and your experience with customer support and/or teaching in general
  • Your thoughts on how you would ideally like to spend your time among the 3 pillars of the position and why
  • Answers to these two common support questions, so that I can get a sense for your writing style:
    1. I couldn’t find CoachAccountable in the app store, is there one?
    2. How can I have the system send out a worksheet for my clients to fill out before our sessions together?

To apply: Keen to hop on board as employee number 2 in a successful and growing venture? Great. To be considered for the role, send me an email to In it please include the items listed in the instructions above. Finally please include your own candid assessment of how likely you are to love this role and why. Having whomever takes this role be blissing their brains out as often as possible is one of my top priorities. :)



All told I received a 141 responses to this posting.  I was delighted, honored and humbled by the enthusiasm showed by so many to join the CoachAccountable team, and was saddened by how many fabulous people I simply had to pass on.

I have made my choice and am so excited to have this candidate aboard.  We’re getting up to speed on working together now, and I can’t wait for you to meet him.  Stay tuned!

Unit-Based Courses for Self-Paced Programs

Courses are great.  They allow you to create a coaching program as a progression of items that are to delivered over a days, weeks or month, where the items include videos, readings, worksheets, action items, and more.  They are super flexible, allowing you to set in motion a slow drip of materials to as many clients as you like with just a few clicks, precisely according to the schedule you define–you can have the system send an intro message on Day 1 at 8am, an audio lesson on Day 2 at 9am and a review worksheet 20 minutes later, and so on.

You can even make it so that completing one item triggers the release of the next, such as completing Day 9’s Worksheet triggers a “well done” message, or watching Day 2’s audio lesson triggers the assignment of a follow up Action.   You can make a rich, interactive experience for your program participants as they go through the timeline of your course.

But what if your Course is better suited as a time-independent delivery?  You might have a bunch of material wherein completing one section naturally invites flowing into the next.  There might be no reason to not let someone who’s cruising through the materials and assignments simply move through more quickly.  Similarly, when someone takes a two week vacation it might well be much better to not let assignments and messages pile up while they are away.

You can of course pause, rewind, and fast forward someone along your course’s timeline, but even so some programs simply lend themselves better to being completely time independent.

Introducing Unit-Based Courses

CoachAccountable now makes it possible to offer another kind of course to your clients, and that is the Unit-based Course.  A Unit-based Course has no ties to timing.  Instead of being spread out over a collection of days, you build a Unit-based Course by dragging items onto units.

Progression through a Unit-based Course is entirely up to the pacing of your participants: completing all items and assignments from one unit triggers advancing to the next.  This allows your clients to go through your programs at their own pace, with CoachAccountable doing the work of setting up and dispatching items for you in response to their progress.

Let’s take a look at how this works.  First you’ll note that when creating a course and setting up the duration, you have an option to have that duration be in either days or units:

Just a matter of picking the right type of duration.

Just a matter of picking the right type of duration.

Building a Unit-based Course is very similar to building a Day-based Course.  To learn some of the finer points consider this example:

Folks upon starting go to Unit to immediately. Can you see why?

Folks upon starting are advanced to Unit 2 immediately. Can you see why?

Here we see that

  • Unit 1 has only a single Message item,
  • Unit 2 has a File (a document to be read),
  • and Unit 3 has a Worksheet and an Action.

To work out how this Course will progress for a participant, we need to introduce the concept of a “Completable Item”.  It’s a slightly odd concept (and my spellchecker rejects that word, but whatever), but Courses make an important distinction about whether or not a given Course Item can be completed.

  • Actions:  Totally completable: clients mark an Action complete.
  • Worksheets:  Yep, same deal as Actions.
  • Files:  Yes, for the purposes of a Course a File is considered “complete” once a participant has either downloaded the file, or closed out the pop-up viewer for that File after accessing it within CA.
  • Messages:  Nope, a Message is just emailed off (or displayed in-system when appropriate)–the system doesn’t record any concept of a Message being “completed”.
  • Metrics: Nope.  Though a Metric can be marked complete at the end of whatever duration of weeks or months that a Metric is setup to track, for the sake of a Course a Metric is dispatched and there’s nothing a client need do with it in order to move on.
  • Whiteboards:  Nope, they just exist, there is no notion of “completing” a Whiteboard.

So that’s the idea of a “Completable” item: Actions, Worksheets, and Files are Completable, Messages, Metrics and Whiteboards are not.  The idea is key to how Unit-based Courses generally progress:

A Unit is complete when there are no more Completable items within the Unit remaining to complete.

So let’s look at how this plays out in our example Course shown above.  Unit 1 has only a Message in it, so that Message will be dispatched, and then because there are no completable items within that Unit, the Unit is then considered complete and the participant advances immediately to Unit 2.

Being in Unit 2 means they immediately are given the “Coaching with Software Course” File.  Because a File is a completable item, a client will not yet advance to Unit 3 UNTIL they access that file.

Once the file is accessed that means Unit 2 is complete, and so they jump to Unit 3.  Unit 3 has two items in it, a Worksheet and an Action.  You might bet tempted to think that the Worksheet will go out first, and then the Action will be assigned once the Worksheet is complete, but don’t be fooled!  That sort of sequential behavior is for items in separate Units.

Items that are in the same Unit are all immediately dispatched when a participant reaches the Unit, and thus the order in which items appear within a Unit is irrelevant.

What about empty Units?  Those are fine to have as placeholders as you are developing your course, just know that when participants go through your course that the rule “A Unit is complete when there are no more Completable items within the Unit to complete.” applies to empty Units too, meaning they are already immediately complete when a participant gets to them, and, unlike empty Days in a time-based course, are essentially skipped over.

Completion Points

Unit-based Courses allow a Course designer to make exception to the rule “the unit is done when there are no completable items left to complete”, and that is to designate a single Completable Item within a Unit to be the “Complete Point”.  The Course builder for Unit-based Courses has a slightly different set of things to drag on to the schedule:

The +Complete Point is new! Also note how there's a way to add Units to the "timeline" rather than Days.

The +Complete Point is new! Also note how there’s a way to add Units to the “timeline” rather than Days.

The +Complete Point can be dragged on to any Completable Item to make that item the complete point for a given Unit.  When an item is marked as the complete point for a unit, completing that item will trigger progressing to the next Unit no matter what else is complete or not within the unit.

There can be at most 1 complete point per unit, and when no complete points have been defined the default rule applies (a participant moves on when EVERYTHING is completed within the unit).

Here’s an example of what this looks like.  The +Complete Point can be dragged on to any Completable Item:

Marking "Set up your Appointment Types" complete has this course move on, even if the participant hasn't completed the bonus Action item.

Marking “Set up your Appointment Types” complete has this course move on, even if the participant hasn’t completed the bonus Action item.

This allows you to design your Courses with branching side tasks that are optional and don’t necessarily hold up progress in the course, giving you a lot of flexibility and control in designing your learning experiences.

Wrapping Up

That’s about all there is to know about setting up Unit-based Courses and how they work.  Like Day-based Courses, you as coach have the ability to pause, fast forward and rewind a given participation through the sequence of items in your Course.

Unit-based Courses also work great as Starter Kit Courses, getting your clients going on the system with a nice interactive sequence.

If you have a conventional, Day-based Course that you’d like to try as a Unit-based course, there’s no way to change one into the other, but by cloning the course you can create a new course with the exact same items but of the other variety.

That Unit-based Courses exist is in many ways due to the persistent asking and making the case for them by Michael Leahy of BraveHearts.  I had been really dragging my feet on writing these up (the sensible precursor to releasing this new feature) so I asked Michael to do a guest post for me about them, figuring he was uniquely positioned to champion why Unit-based Courses are cool and how they can be used.

Michael was a sport and happily obliged.  Take it away, Michael!


I’ve been a satisfied Coach Accountable customer for about three years now, and one of the features I use a lot in my coaching practice is courses. I’ve always loved the rich functionality that John built into courses, especially the ability to drip feed my course content to my clients.

But I soon discovered that, at least for my application, this drip feeding feature had its limitations. While it’s great to use courses this way if you want to drip feed your course content according to a pre-determined, time-based schedule, I found that this approach conflicted with philosophy of self-paced learning. In practice, my clients were receiving their course content and related email notifications based on a pre-determined schedule that I set for them.

Since there was no way for users to speed up or slow down the pace of course content that I was sending them, and no way for me to know ahead of time at what pace each user would be going through the material, we came to an impasse. And I started noticing that several of my clients were getting frustrated or feeling overwhelmed, especially those slower learners. Which was unnecessary angst really, since I didn’t care how long it took them to progress through my learning material.

When I mentioned this to John, we started to discuss the feasibility of offering an alternative, units-based approach to drip feeding course content. In essence, freeing the course creator and user from being tied down to progressing through a course based entirely on a time-based schedule. Eventually, John responded with an option to select either time or units as the basis for course progression and asked me to be his beta-tester.


I’ve been using units-based courses now for a couple of months and I couldn’t be happier. John’s implementation works flawlessly, and I now have about a dozen very satisfied clients who are progressing through their coursework at their own pace, just as advertised. In addition, I’ve found that once I set up my course and enroll my clients in it, from that point forward it’s a hands-free operation that requires no additional time for me to manage. And just like with time-based courses, I can make a quick assessment of exactly how far along the course each of my clients has progressed.
So if you haven’t used courses before, and you’re looking for a way to easily add value to your coaching practice, I highly recommend you try out CA courses and start offering your clients a simple, drip-fed course. It works great for everything from on-boarding new clients to sending out regularly scheduled announcements to groups of users, to automating and drip-feeding your coaching and training materials.

Michael also created a 10 minute screen cast where he shows off using Unit-based Courses and talks through how and why he uses them in his work.  If you’d like to go a little deeper in your understanding of this new feature as well as get a glimpse into how another CA user leverages the platform, give it a watch!

Thanks, Michael!

Delightful Collaboration VII – Course Whiteboards

Sometimes a would-be user of CoachAccountable just knows what they’re looking for.

This past Wednesday I got an email from Jason of Merchant Capital Partners, a company which offers loans and training programs to help entrepreneurs build sustainably profitable businesses.  He and his colleague Robert that got right to the point:


We are evaluating your platform for use with our customers… would it be possible to hop on a call and talk through some of our questions and what a possible partnership would look like?  We’re looking to make a decision quickly so the sooner the better.

Please reply with some times that you are available.

The following day we spent nearly 2 hours on the phone and connected via screen share, them showing the ins-and-outs of the program they’re aiming to deliver at scale, and me taking it in and in turn advising how to best deliver it via CA.

Metrics, yes.  Action Projects, yes.  Courses to deliver it all in automated fashion in a scalable way, most definitely yes!

They knew what they were looking for and CA was pretty well up to the task, and in some ways even better than imagined (yep–participants CAN report their Metrics and mark Actions done by just replying to the text reminders sent to their cell phones, no logging in required so no excuses for not doing it–nice!).

And then we came to adding another tab to the client page.

Robert laid it out plainly: “We just need to add another section there, where we can put links into the portal for the program.”

This refers to the tabs by which client pages are organized.  You can see them here; Up Next, Stream, Metrics, and so on:

Ugh, this isn't going to go well...

Ugh, it’s gettin’ crowded…

The Groups and Billing tab don’t always apply, and indeed it’s possible to turn off any of the tabs.  But in general, there’s just not space with the horizontally arranged tabs to add any more without things getting cramped.

But moreover, I just couldn’t see it being a good idea to do a quick-and-dirty job of “Okay, now everyone can create exactly one bonus tab and put whatever content they want on it”.  It’s doable and truly not much work to add, but if that exists, it’ll quickly reveal itself to be an incomplete feature, just as soon as the (most reasonable!) requests to extend the concept come along.  Requests like:

  • Can I add more than one?
  • Can I switch up the sort order?
  • Can I have it show for some clients but not others?
  • Can I vary what shows in that tab on a client-by-client basis?

When the answer to all of these questions is “yes”, allowing coaches to add new tabs (spacing issues notwithstanding) starts to sound like a pretty sweet and broadly useful feature!  I reckon I will add it when the time is right.

But as much as I love to please on a sales call, it’s a certain kind of severely irresponsible to promise big new feature build outs on the fly in response to “it would be nice if” requests.

Then it hit me: when you want to be able to have content there for your clients that is readily accessible at any time, that’s the stuff of using a Whiteboard.

“Tell you what,” I said, “for all those reasons I can’t see adding a new customizable tab to the client page, BUT if Whiteboards would do the trick for you I can stand by making the setup of THOSE for all of your clients an easy matter–without requiring you to do a lot of copy-and-paste setup for each new client you setup.”

Worst case scenario, I can wave my magic wand over the situation and do a bulk clone of a Whiteboard on in to whichever clients they need (wouldn’t be the first time!).  And if that becomes too cumbersome for my taste, I’ll think of something more clever.  Again, I wasn’t going to promise a feature until I’d had some time to give it careful consideration, but that plan I could stand by.

That would do, Robert told me, and indeed it might be better than the simple extra tab as this way the Whiteboard content that a given client got could be customized based on which program they were in.

This weekend I gave that careful consideration, and now, thanks to Robert & Jason’s power user needs, everyone can now add Whiteboards as part of their CoachAccountable courses.

Let’s take a look!

Hey, new button on the right that I can drag on to the left!

Hey look–there’s a new button on the right that I can drag on to the left!

It’s about as simple as that.  The new +Whiteboard allows you to add a Whiteboard item anywhere on the Course timeline, just as you would any other item type.

There are three visibility settings: you can make it visible to your client (“Share with client”), visible to only you, or (Team Edition only) visible only to members of the team (i.e. hidden from your client but visible to other coaches).

Based on visibility, you can further dictate who is able to make edits to the Whiteboard: your client, other coaches (again, applies only to Team Edition), or just the you.

It’s a spiffy little addition to Courses.  Whichever way Robert & Jason end up going, I thank them for their contribution to CA!  Here’s to the squeaky wheels.

Hanging with Tambre Leighn

I first made the acquaintance of Tambre Leighn about a year ago.  She had a trial account and was poking around, and asked some of the big questions.  Language translations?  Content licensing?  Independent branding for sub-accounts?

It was clear that she had big intentions.  A month later I was on a conference call with Tambre and a few of her colleagues, featuring more hard hitting questions concerning security, infrastructure, reseller arrangements, and oh by the way how well could your system handle 10- or 20-thousand users all doing the same program1?

I let her know afterwards it was a pleasure to be on that call, being hit by the big questions is the stuff of having my creation be under serious consideration for the sake of serious plans.  To this she replied:

When you lose the love of your life, the only thing left to do, if you’re me, is to play the biggest game ever inspired by his legacy. 14 million plus survivors, many struggling with the collateral damage of cancer, are out there in need. Yes, big is fun and awesome…more to come ;)

And that was my first real taste of the passion and flair driving the Well Beyond This program.

Well Beyond This logoWell Beyond This is a cancer survivor’s program, helping people thrive with, through, and beyond the disease.  I personally have been thus far fortunate enough to not have been afflicted by cancer, but even from this sideline position I find the intention and focus of the program to be uplifting, making it one of those “Oh I’m so glad that exists in the world” sort of things.

WBT recognizes that patients of conventional medicine are left largely on their own when it comes to dealing with depression, stress, fatigue and so forth, and fills in the gaps by giving participants the tools to strengthen relationships, cultivate motivation and coping mechanisms, and empowering a happier and more balanced life.

Last month Tambre was in town, coming to Denver for CancerCon.  Given the past months of strategy conference calls, developer collaboration, and the successful launch of the pilot program, I was honored that she could fit me into her busy visit.

Over a hot bowl of noodles (Tambre gets adventuresome points for trying pho for the first time) I got better acquainted with the history and background of the project.  Tambre lost her husband to cancer some years ago, and despite her and her husband having the luxuries of being rather fit, financially stable, and surrounded by a loving and supportive community, found the ordeal incredibly difficult and taxing.  It made her think wow, what if you’re not so blessed by circumstance going into it?  How do you deal with that?

It gave her the drive to create something to help support others, both patients and their loved ones, in powerfully dealing with the disease.  Armed with the training and methodology of IPEC Coaching, she created the Well Beyond This program as a means to help the millions of others out there.

If I was honored to get to meet her for lunch on this visit, that quite pales compared to the honor I feel getting to play a part in bringing this program to life by virtue of CA being its delivery platform.

We lingered over our lunch and good conversation for a lovely two hours, finding no shortage of things to talk about in the intersection of our works.  I even learned she’s a seasoned dancer and invited her out to my usual Friday night out of swing dancing at the Denver Turnverein.  (She was keen but didn’t make it out–had a private party invite come up for the night.  I totally get it–private parties are the best during an out of town conference, amiright?)

Thanks Tambre for making time to hang out–I’m inspired by what you, Ed and the rest of the gang are up to, and again, am super honored to play a part in it!

A lovely shot of us on the 16th Street mall--no selfie stick required.

A lovely shot of us on the 16th Street mall–no selfie stick required.

  1. Incidentally, pretty well–I can throw more hardware at the situation generally much faster than such numbers can be rallied.  Would have to make a few interface changes, though.