Monthly inspiration – learning from leaders

Motivational Background

This month I’ve taken more time than usual to invest in my own learning and professional development. I’ve been learning from leaders in the field to fast forward my skills, knowledge and performance.

Here are some ways I learnt from leaders this month, that could also be relevant to your professional development:

Connect with leaders in the field

Take opportunities to connect with leaders in your field, there’s reasons why they’re successful – they have a lot to share and they’ve got where they are by sharing with others.

This month I was lucky to have the opportunity to learn more about learning technologies and the future of learning from thought leader Nigel Paine.

Here I interview Nigel about some of his views on Social Media:

You can see Nigel talk about other topics relevant to learning technologies here, he also has a wonderful new book out that you can order.

Nigel's book

Invest in quality courses in your field of interest

I’ve also been learning how to adapt my design strategies for virtual classrooms, an effective but under utilised (or absent) delivery mechanism in many New Zealand organisations.

I’ve just completed a ‘Design and Development of Virtual Classroom Training Advanced’ course through The eLearning Guild that was very high quality – I recommend it to anyone who is interested in either designing for or facilitating virtual classrooms. I believe completing this course fast-forwarded the quality of my design for virtual classroom environments by at least 1- 2 years – the course was cheap in comparison.

It’s well worth it to learn from the leaders in your field. Find out who has the expertise in what you want to learn – connect with them -and invest in your learning.

Second hand shopping for elearning

Hand pushing virtual search bar

I have a passion for secondhand shopping. I often find useful, quality, beautiful items discarded by previous owners just waiting for me to breathe life back into them. The same goes with content that already exists in places like the internet.

Once the learning objectives for a course are sorted, I start hunting for what exists already so I don’t have to create everything from new. One of my favourite places to secondhand shop for content is YouTube. There are millions of videos on YouTube, most without copyright conditions, and some very high quality that would take hours to develop.

When I find relevant content this doesn’t mean my development and instructional design is done for me – I now need to think of how to utilise it. Is it pre-course work or a motivator? Will it be used to introduce a point, emphasise a point, tell a story, will it be used as an activity starter, or even as a summary? There are a multitude of ways to use already existing content.

When using ‘second hand’ content always keep copyright in mind. Check if the resource has copyright on it – most YouTube videos are fine but a few do have copyright or viewing conditions. Acknowledge the source, this may be as simple as making sure the original source can be tracked back. Look at the embedded videos later in this post you will see you can track them all back to YouTube where they were originally uploaded.

Below are a couple of examples of my latest secondhand content finds. For each of these videos I designed an activity around it that directly related to the learning objectives of the course. Imagine the time it would have taken to create each of these from scratch.

This video supported a learning objective about information overload:

This video supported a learning objective around advantages and disadvantages for ICT information sharing:

Do you partake in secondhand content shopping? What strategies do you use for re-purposing other people’s content?

You may also find these blog posts of interest or click follow to see more of my posts:

Writing learning objectives how to use them

No-one likes a cheat!

Monthly inspiration – Getting geeky with coding

Extreme Computer Nerd

Over the last month I’ve found myself working with code in both two of the big elearning programs Adobe Captivate 8 and Articulate Storyline. Once you can code in either of these programs your options for interactivity and adding interest open up expotentially.

This example below uses conditional coding (if this happens then these things will happen) in Captivate 8. My client wanted text boxes to close automatically when the next information icon was clicked on i.e. only one text box could show at one time. Here is a mocked up file simulating the solution, it was trickier than it looked…

 

Articulate Storyline is much easier to code in than Captivate and Lynda.com is well worth the investment to get you started.

In the Storyline example below, coding enables me to give individualised feedback to the learner at the end of the activity – dependent on the choices they made on previous slides. The actual activity was to write a system note where the learner gets feedback on their specific note choices. This draft example will show you how it could work in real life.

 

If you haven’t yet delved into the world of coding in your rapid elearning tools, I highly recommend investing the time in learning this – you will become the master of the tool and have much more options for getting creative.

Click follow me to receive more updates on this geeky stuff or other elearning instructional design areas. I’d love to hear your thoughts on coding in these rapid elearning tools.

4 tips to choose the right text for your eLearning course

Does your text make a good first impression?

Girl Squinting Her Eyes

Psychology tells us that first impressions are powerful for forming lasting impressions. Did you realise the way you use text in your elearning courses creates a powerful first impression of the overall quality of your course? For a start, text needs to be easy to read. When text is difficult to read it puts the learner off progressing further into the course. Difficult to read text detracts from well written content. The first impression of your course is set even before your audience has a chance to digest any of the content.

How can you choose the right text to make a good first impression? Here’s some tips to get started:

Reduce the amount of text

I’m a minimalist when it comes to text, the less the better. A picture is worth a 100 words and a video or animation is worth 1000.

Avoid content dumping and having large blocks of text. Ask your subject matter expert what the desired behaviours are and what these look like in the real world. Then look for ways to replicate these behaviour choices rather than writing them.

Use a good font size

Use font size 16/18 or bigger for body text.  Headings should be even larger. Text that is too small is an instant turn off for many people – it is a no compromise design flaw. Nobody wants to be squinting to read the text – make it easy for your audience.

If you have been designing the course it’s a good idea to test your font size and style on someone else before committing to it throughout your course. Also test how it will look on the device/s that your target audience will be using.

Contrast you text colour

Colour contrast is important to make text easy to read. This is where either dark text is placed on a light background or light coloured text is placed on a dark background. See how the high contrast text is so much easier to read than low contrast text:

own graphic

Avoid CAPITAL text

As well as having the risk of yelling at your audience (unless that is what you want to do) text in capitals is very difficult to read. Imagine you are travelling in a car, capitals are like applying brakes to your reading journey, the mind has to stop to read capitals. This is why I don’t use capitals for all but the first word in headings – it makes them much quicker and easier to read. Of course, there are comprimises when organisations insist on captialised headings in their style guides.  Where I have the choice however, I choose not to capitalise each word in a heading.

my block text graphic

No-one wants to work that hard to read text!

To make a good first impression of your elearning you need to make sure your text is easy to read. Hard to read text through using large blocks of text, small font size, poor contrast, and excessive use of capitals is off putting to your audience and will detract from well designed content.

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy these posts:

Putting personality back into text

Performing an elearning makeover

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Rapid prototype vs storyboard?

No Problem

Traditionally elearning courses have been storyboarded so the instructional designer can plan the content and activities and get feedback before starting to build the course. Storyboarding allows you to check your design is on target with expectations before investing time in developing.

However, sometimes it makes even more sense to rapid prototype rather than storyboard. Rapid prototyping is where all or some parts of an elearning course or activity are roughly built i.e. it’s a working model that’s not in the finished polished state. Rapid prototyping shows what you intend to do – whereas storyboarding tells what you intend to do.

So when does it make more sense to rapid prototype rather than storyboard. Put simply – when it is more useful to show how it works rather than tell how it will work. Here are some situations when I choose to rapid prototype rather than storyboard:

Working with SMEs or clients new to elearning

If I’m working with clients that have little or no prior experience of elearning I will prototype parts of elearning interactions (or show them a similar elearning interaction) so they can see exactly what a drag and drop, system demo, contextual feedback, or a branching scenario looks like.

When look and feel is important

Look and feel is always important but sometimes you might need to show rather than tell look and feel. This could be an advantage when a client’s preferences are to see how it works. It could also be wise to prototype part of a course if you are investing a lot of time and energy into the look and feel of a theme, or if you’re a developing a series of modules that will all have the same look and feel. Better to have solid agreement at the beginning rather than developing 10 modules, only for the client to ask you to change the look and feel afterwards!

When rapid prototyping will save or not add any more time

Sometimes I’ve actually found it quicker to skip the storyboard stage altogether and go straight into rapid prototyping an elearning interaction. For example, I usually go straight to prototyping for software simulations. I do this as I find it more useful/quicker/easier to get feedback from a prototype (working model) than from a storyboard presented on paper. Even though it may take slightly longer to rapid prototype it saves me time as it’s part drafted in the tool already and it results in a clearer vision of what the final product will be.

For a complicated interaction

If the interaction is complicated it can be useful to roughly prototype and get feedback from stakeholders before investing the extra time in perfecting the interaction and graphics. It’s also useful when it’s difficult to explain a type of interaction. For example, I’m currently prototyping an interaction in Articulate Storyline where the learner will receive individualised feedback based on their previous choices. It’s hard to explain what I’m doing in text, but I’ll show you the rapid prototype once I’m done – push the follow button to subscribe and get notified of when this is ready for you to view.

What do you think about rapid prototyping? Are there times when you choose to rapid prototype rather than storyboard? I’d love to hear your thoughts – follow me to hear more of mine.

Monthly inspiration – the awesome tool Videoscribe!

 

Have you heard of videoscribe? Do you use it?

Videoscribe is a seriously cool tool that allows you to create whiteboard animations in a fast and effective way.

I’ve used it to tell stories, for example a customer’s journey through an organisation. I’ve also used it to show pharmacy technicians how to solve complicated calculations (kind of like the Khan Academy). I have many plans to utilise this tool more in the future now that I know how to bend it to what I want it to do.

Don’t worry you don’t have to be a graphic artist to use this tool. Videoscribe comes with it’s own stock of images, you can also make your own images using a SVG drawing tool such as Inkscape for Windows or idraw for Mac

It publishes well into the big elearning tools like Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate. Or alternatively you can use it in it’s .mov or .flv published state to make it run seamlessly across multiple devices – just like the example given above.

Can you see ways you could utilise this tool in your elearning? I’d love to hear your thoughts, or maybe you have a cool tool you’d like to share too?

 

Do your Characters have character?

picture narration3

Characters like the one above that tell you a whole lot of information are boring and add no value to the learning experience. It’s even worse if they are used in the same static pose and have no emotion. Would you want to spend your precious time with someone who has one fixed expression and insists on talking lots of information at you?

Using characters in elearning is now becoming more prevalent as text based Powerpoint looking elearning decreases. However, it’s not enough to just add characters into a course – they need to be used well. They need to have both purpose and personality. Do your characters have character?

I recently looked at an example course from a company, although it had nice looking graphics and characters, it was immediately obvious that the characters had no ‘character’. They were being used just to “tell content” or narrate information. They were in a static pose and showed no emotion or reaction to any of the content in the course. In fact if the characters were removed from the course it would have had no learning impact as the information could have been “told” without the characters being present at all.

So how can you give your characters character? Here’s a few tips:

Make your characters converse rather than tell

Use characters to simulate realistic conversations, thoughts or decision making. Make their conversations (whether written or in audio) sound like what a real person would say in that context. Check with a SME (subject matter expert) if the conversations, thoughts and decisions of your characters’ sound realistic for your audience. Adjust where needed.

Have characters that convey emotion

Use your characters to add emotion into your elearning. To do this you will need your characters to display a range of emotions realistic to the context you are giving. If you are using photo images of characters it is often worthwhile to subscribe to a specific elearning stock image site – check out this post. When using illustrated characters make sure that they are either available with different emotions or that you are able to edit them yourself to show a range of emotions.

Create body language

Body language is a strong part of communication. When you have static images of characters use a variety of poses to simulate body language. This movement of different poses will help to give your characters personality and make them seem more realistic. As well as having a variety of poses you can also use different angles and include close-ups, mid-range and full view images of your characters to increase interest.

When using characters in elearning make them add value to your learning content. Check that they are active characters where they are part of the content and context rather than passive characters who are just talking content at you. Use the tips above to make sure your characters have character.

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