Learning Consulting

image Check Out My eLearning Portfolio Right Here On My Web Site!

David Anderson, that clever devil also known as Community Manager over at the Articulate Forums, has gotten me hooked on his eLearning Challenges.  Time doesn’t always permit me to join in, but I did last week, and here I am again this week.  Maybe it’s the start of a trend.

This time the challenge was to publicize our eLearning portfolios.  Well, sure–why not!  While the content I create for my clients is always proprietary and cannot be shared online, I have created a few sample eLearning treats for you to experience, explore, and enjoy on the eLearning Samples page of my web site.  I’m always adding new items when my schedule allows, so if you haven’t checked it out lately, see what you think, and let me know!  An eLearning Portfolio is an organic, ever-changing thing.

In addition to providing access to our portfolio, each of us was asked to create appropriately sized graphics to advertise our work, and to post them on the media we use.  I’m not currently a Pinterest user, but I created my graphic, posted it on David’s Facebook link, and I tweeted it on Twitter.

I had to laugh at the number of us in the Forum group who have been wanting to get around to this little bit of shameless self-promotion for some time–but real life projects tend to get in the way.  It took David’s challenge to spur us into action.  And luckily a bunch of us were able to take up the challenge this time.  It’s great to see all the different styles of portfolios people have created, many of them like me using Articulate Storyline for the samples.

You can read about the challenge on the forum by clicking here.

Thanks for another great (and very useful) challenge, David!


image Play My Fun New Call Center Game Demo

Call Center Game DemoThis week’s eLearning Heroes’ Challenge on the Articulate Forum (Challenge #47, for those of you who are counting) was to create a quick sample of a call center module.  After all, sooner or later most customers have a need for some form of call center training.  Thanks, moderator David Anderson, for another great challenge!

Since I believe that people learn best when they’re enjoying themselves, I decided to take a humorous route.  I chose to leverage the nifty avatar characters that come packaged with Articulate Storyline (each character has some images on headset; invaluable for call center trainings–and something missing from their photo character images).  And since I was going for a spirit of fun, I chose to use a great set of comic book layout templates that are also available to download from the Articulate Forum.

The result is brief–it’s only a sample, after all–but packs in four different scenarios and a whole bunch of good advice for the call center trainee.  For a real training, lots of things could be expanded–for example, the feedback could be customized to each scenario.  I could add a badge or point system based on the learner’s performance.  Sound effects could heighten the experience.  Background colors and settings could add another layer.  You get the idea.  Here I present only the all-important opening interaction with the call center rep and the customer, but for a real project I would build out a longer interaction, branching with each question with varying customer responses, based on how well the call center trainee handles the customer.  And of course, the comic book approach is just one of many–but it would resonate particularly well with a population that enjoys comics and graphic novels.

If you have a couple of minutes to spare, check out my new sample.  It may give you some good ideas.  And it’ll almost certainly give you a chuckle.  You can click here to view all my eLearning samples, or click the image to launch just this one demo.

New Interactive Sample of Exploratory Exercise Just Posted!

Exploratory ExerciseAs you may know, I enjoy using Articulate Storyline to create eLearning solutions for my clients.  And Articulate has built up an impressive eLearning Heroes community of users on their web site.  Each week in the forums, Community Manager David Anderson posts a new eLearning challenge.  Anyone who has a little spare time is invited to participate.

I’m usually too pressed for time to join in, but I’ve enjoyed checking out some of the creative solutions other community members have offered on the various challenges.  This week, however, the challenge was about audio setup tips, and while I was late to the game, I had an hour to spare.  After all, I’m an actor and I do professional voiceovers.  So I jumped in and came up with a response.

The challenge was to provide three things:

  1. A description of your audio setup
  2. A photo of your setup
  3. Three audio setup tips

I decided it would be fun to combine all three by creating an interactive photo of my desktop.  Now you get a peek at just how messy my desktop can get!  I took a photo of my setup, then opened it in Storyline, and used their Markers feature to add 16 interactive points of interest.  You can explore one or all of them.  Mousing over a marker provides a description, and clicking on it opens a window with more details and helpful tips.  (Granted, I provided more than three tips!)

I’ve posted this exploratory exercise on my eLearning Samples page.  You can view it there, or jump directly to the exercise by clicking here.


Free Graphics Package Through July 15 on iPad Insight

SummerFreebieI’ve been finding a lot of good deals on the iPad Insight / Stack Social site lately. If you’re looking for high-quality graphics that are free for both personal and commercial use, check out their latest freebie deal. You do have to register on their site (also free) and share the link or follow them to download the assets, but I have to say the large selection is surprisingly high quality, and a lot of elements could be handy in eLearning!

To check out the Summer Freebie Design Bundle, click here.

NOTE: This offer is available only through July 15th!

Your Input Needed for Upcoming Blog Post and Newsletter Topics

Tenniel Hatter SingingOkay, I need some input from you folks: I’m working on my next quarterly newsletter. I see from my MailChimp report that a decent number of you are opening my newsletters, which is great, as I do put a lot of work into each issue. Links don’t seem to be of much interest to my readers, however, which is surprising as I think I’m sharing some pretty cool free tools and info.

So let me hear from you: what topics are of most interest to you, for upcoming blog posts as well as newsletters? Some possible topics: Articulate Storyline, Presentation Skills, Gamification, Voiceovers, eLearning Script Writing, Needs Analysis, Making eLearning Content More Engaging, Scenario-based Training, Ideas for Mobile Learning, or…?

And let me know what you’ve thought of prior newsletters–more of something? Less of something? I genuinely appreciate all constructive feedback–my goal is to post content that will be genuinely helpful to you! Let me know your thoughts.


New Instructional Video on Creating SMARTER Learning Objectives!

Smarter ObjectivesI’ve had such good feedback on my 2013 blog post about creating SMARTER learning objectives that I’ve created a podcast version of it, and also a brief instructional video, which you can now launch from my site’s eLearning Samples page. Have a look or a listen, and let me know what you think!  Repurposing my blog post to audio and audio/visual delivery methods is a good example of how you can deliver the same content in different ways, and reach different segments of your own target audience!

If you’d like to read the original blog post or listen to the podcast, click here.

If you’d like to view the instructional video or download it to your iPad, visit my eLearning Samples page, or to launch the SMARTER Learning Objectives video right now, click the image on the right.

Free Learning Gamification eBook Available Online

Gamification eBookChristopher Pappas of eLearning Industry has put together a free eBook on using Gamification in Learning, with input from a host of gamification folks–including Karl Kapp.

To read the eBook online, click the image or click here.

Sebastian Bailey of Mind Gym Promotes Bite-Size Learning at ASTDNY Meeting
Mind Gym LogoAt the October ASTD NY monthly chapter meeting, guest speaker Sebastian Bailey of Mind Gym spoke on a topic near and dear to my heart: rethinking learning delivery in smaller, more manageable chunks spread out over time to enhance knowledge transfer.  Sebastian calls it “Bite-Size Learning.”  I call it good old-fashioned common sense.  As Sebastian put it succinctly: “It’s not about cutting and pasting, it’s about reconceptualizing what you can do within that time.”
Sebastian led an engaging and interactive session, frequently asking us to partner with another attendee to perform one of his activities.  The first interaction brought out one of his key points: after a short-term change, we all tend to go right back to what’s comfortable and familiar.  Sebastian presented compelling evidence that true change and learning transfer can be better assured by making the learning sessions more manageable in length (he favors a 90-minute maximum), and spaced out over time to allow better reinforcement and retention.  He was quick to note that actual length of any particular session really depends on what’s being taught, and that if something less than 90 minutes will do–even better!  I noted in chatting with him afterwards that this approach also aligns with a reality we all face today when trying to hold an audience: television and film have moved steadily toward shorter and shorter scenes, and more cross-cutting of them, to keep idle minds engaged.  I liked a comparison Sebastian made: ensuring good learning transfer is like practicing good parenting.  Cramming too much information into someone’s head in a short space of time (for example, a two-day executive boot camp) does not provide lasting learning transfer as effectively as introducing topics in smaller doses over a sustained period of time, allowing the learner time and breathing space to absorb, reflect, and associate.
We had another activity and much discussion around what roadblocks might stand in the way of taking a fresh look at learning delivery and migrating to more of a bite-size approach.  I offered two that he agreed with readily: organizational tradition (“But we’ve always taught it this way!”–again, really just the desire to cling to the old habits), and fear on the client’s part that all their learning points couldn’t possibly be covered in less time–that something important would be left out.  In reality, this comes down to solid knowledge of the content, and thoughtful design–not just instructional design, as Sebastian pointed out, but also program design.  To work, bite-size learning needs to be a holistic approach from the start.  Other possible roadblocks identified included lack of commitment and ownership, and insufficient understanding of the material’s key learning concepts.
Here’s Sebastian’s list of common misconceptions about training, and his reply to each:
“Longer = better”   No, it’s just longer.
“The event is the hero”  No, learning transfer is the hero.
“Design for the participant outliers (aka lowest common denominator)”  No, design for the context of the application.  Engage and stimulate everyone.
“We treat people all the same”  We should mass customize (as Starbucks has done).
“The change isn’t worth the cost.”  Focus on value to company and customer satisfaction, not just price.
Sebastian also offered examples of how the bite-size approach is also actually more cost-effective to implement.  More efficient, less costly–that’s a recipe any learning organization should want to embrace.
So how does a learning organization embrace bite-size learning?  Sebastian cited the Pareto Principle, which translated into learning terms means essentially that 80% of your transfer comes from 20% of your content.  In other words, it comes down to letting go of the “Trivial Many” pieces of information and focusing on the “Vital Few” learning elements instead.  After all, as everyone present  agreed, quality of learning is not truly measured by time expended.  The key is distilling your content down to the Vital Few topics, and figuring out how to spend just enough time on each one.
Sebastian also offered this simple model: an ongoing cycle made up of Engage, Participate, and Activate.  Here he gave voice to what many of us in the room already believe: for effective transfer to happen, learners need to have a stake in the proceedings from the start, and to be active participants in the learning experience, not just passive sponges or information buckets.  As a professional actor, I can tell you this from personal experience onstage: the scripts that most “grab” an audience are not the ones that simply lay everything out and tell the audience what to think and feel.  A good script (and good learning) pulls the audience into the event and makes them willing and eager participants.
With regard to possible challenges, Sebastian suggested his own variation of a common model for the areas of likely failure, as applied to learning:
Before (Context for the learning event): 40%
Event (a single learning event): 20%
After (Post-event support for transfer): 40%
In other words, what comes before and after a learning event is most likely to be where we fail to deliver what the learner needs.  Whether you choose to deliver your learning event as “big gulp” or bite-size, that truth remains: we always need to provide our learners with meaningful context for why they are being offered the learning event(s), and support for the new behavior after the event(s).
In closing, Sebastian noted that we all need to focus on increasing “opportunity recognition,” leveraging the power of giving learners targeted hints to help them see the opportunity for the solution themselves. We provide them with the tools, a way in, and motivation–and they put it all together for themselves, enriching the experienced and deepening retention.  With that focused help from us, the learning transfer success factor increases enormously.
Thanks again to Sebastian and to ASTD NY for another excellent, invigorating session.  For more about Sebastian and his company, I encourage you to visit the Mind Gym web site.
New Articulate Replay Tool is Free For Current Storyline License Holders!

Articulate ReplayIf you have a current license for Articulate’s Storyline eLearning development tool, here’s a great bonus: you are now eligible to receive a free, licensed, full version of Articulate’s new presentation tool, Replay!

To claim your copy, have your Storyline license number handy, and click here to complete the request form.

I just downloaded my free copy, and look forward to checking out the Tutorials and Discussions in their Forum.

You can create standalone presentations with Replay, or drop them into your Articulate Storyline or Studio projects.

Given the cost of eLearning tools these days, this gesture from Articulate to licensed Storyline users is a delightful surprise.  Thanks, Articulate!  I hope it’s the start of a trend.  And I hope the Adobe Captivate and Presenter teams are watching.

Storyline license holders: download your free copy of Replay today!

My Fall Free Tips Newsletter Arrives This Tuesday: Sign Up Now on My Home Page!

MailChimp Newsletter Signup FormAs you may know, this year I started creating a free, quarterly Tips newsletter, and the response to my first two issues has been great.  This Tuesday I’ll be releasing the Fall edition of my newsletter, and it’s all about the use of color in your eLearning.

In each issue of my free Tips newsletter, I share handy tips and ideas on a range of topics, including various aspects of eLearning, Voiceovers, Presentation Skills, and more.

And if there are particular topics for which you want tips in future issues, just let me know!

Sign up today, and you’ll receive my Fall newsletter–which includes some pretty stunning (if I say so myself) photos of my recent trip to Montreal.

To sign up, just fill out the three fields on the right side of my homepage.  It’s that easy!  I won’t spam you, and I won’t share your information with anyone else.  Period.

Together, let’s keep the eLearning conversation going!