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New eLearning Overview Built with Articulate Rise Featuring Fully Responsive Design!

It’s a great time to be creating eLearning; development tools continue to evolve, and a new player on the scene is a real game-changer–especially if you need high quality mobile learning.  As if  Storyline wasn’t great enough, with their new Articulate 360 suite, Articulate now offers us Articulate Rise.  The main difference between Storyline and Rise is this:  Rise is an entirely online course development tool, and the content published from Rise features a fully responsive design.  That means whether your learners access a Rise course using a laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone, Rise automatically detects the type of device and delivers the course optimized for viewing on that type of device!  It’s practically magical.

Now, Rise can’t currently compete with Storyline in terms of more advanced features and types of interactions, but for basic, linear informational courses needing a bit of stylish interaction, Rise offers a number of elegant templates and a lot of room for creativity.  And because it’s template-driven, it means building a course with Rise takes less time–and less money.  Of course, you can still add your own branding and color scheme.

Another difference to keep in mind: since audio files do not autoplay on mobile devices, so any audio you include in a Rise course will require the learner to click to hear the audio file.  But that’s a small price to pay for eLearning content that looks great on any device.  (And of course you should never put critical information only in audio for any eLearning course.)  Thanks to tools like Rise, high quality mobile learning is now within every company’s reach.  And Articulate continues to enhance the features of Rise, so this is truly only the beginning.

Click on the image in this post to see the sample Rise course I created.  It’s an updated version of my eLearning Overview.  This brief course will walk you through the process of creating eLearning–and give you a great look at Rise in action at the same time.  I think you’ll agree it’s quality eLearning in a very stylish package.  I’ve already used Rise with some of my clients, and they are thrilled with the results.  Take my sample course for a spin, and let me know what you think!

If you want to learn more about Rise, it will be one of the tools we discuss at our next ATD NYC eLearning SIG meeting on Wednesday, July 26th.  Watch the ATD NYC web site for details and to register.

Recap of Recent ATD NYC eLearning SIG Sessions

As you may know, I’ve been co-chairing ATD NYC’s eLearning Special Interest Group (SIG) for a few years now; first with Enid Crystal of BlackRock, and now with Mark Cassetta of RBC.  We put a lot of work into our sessions, and attendees tell us they get a lot out of them.

In March, we hosted one of our popular roundtable discussions on the topic Making eLearning Interactions Meaningful.  As a group, we put together a list of common types of eLearning interactions, and then had a lively (and illustrated) discussion about how we might use each of those types of interaction in a way that adds relevance and resonance for a particular project.  After all, not every type of interaction is an easy match with every learning topic.  We looked at and discussed samples brought in by some of our creative SIG members–it’s always great to see ideas in action, hands-on.  Attendees told us afterward they left with their heads full of new ideas for how to choose an interaction type based on their topic and what they’re trying to say.  That’s what we love to hear!

In May, we held a session called Video 101: Lights!  Camera!  eLearning! which was very well attended both in person and online.  Video is becoming more and more popular as a teaching tool, as it becomes easier and easier to for us all to create.  Look at YouTube, after all.  It’s become a great, global training resource.  We talked about when it’s a good idea to consider adding video, and about the common challenges that arise when you decide to include video clips as part of your eLearning (like file size and formats).  We spent a good amount of time looking at a wide variety of sample video clips being used for different types of micro-training moments: endorsement, informational, step-by-step training, role-play, guided tour, quizzing, and more.  We also talked about the basic gear you need if you want to shoot your own video clips, and examined a typical lighting setup for a good-looking “talking head” clip.  Once again, attendees told us they left armed with a lot of great ideas for enhancing their own elearning back on the job.  We recorded this session, so if you’re an ATD NYC member, it will be available soon on the member web site.

If you’re in the NYC area, don’t miss out!  We only hold six eLearning SIG meetings a year, and every one of them is crammed with great ideas and great discussion.  If you’re not already a member of ATD NYC, consider joining.  The annual cost is quite low, and while there are many great Chapter events, and other SIGs, the eLearning SIG meetings alone are worth the price of admission.

Our next eLearning SIG meeting will be on Wednesday, July 26th.  Mark your calendar, and watch the ATD NYC web site for details and registration.  Our topic will be The Rise of Web-based eLearning Development Tools, and it promises to be another great session.  In fact, I have a new blog post coming up in which I’ll share an example of a course built with Articulate Rise (see what I did there?), a great new web-based development tool that offers fully responsive design.  Stay tuned!

Giving Stock Photos a Unique Look for Your Learning Projects

Ever since Microsoft discontinued their clip art gallery, we’ve all been scrambling to find inexpensive or free stock photos. But in a way, this is a good thing. The images in that clip art gallery were looking dated and dull. And once you start checking out other options, you realize there’s a gorgeous world of visual inspiration from a much larger pool of talented artists and photographers.

You may already have sites you like. I have been finding photos that work for me at Unsplash.com  and Deathtothestockphoto.com. Both offer free sets of images every week or so.  The latter also offers a fee-based subscription plan.  If you want to swim in a larger pool, check out Stockup stock photos.com; it’s a handy collection of free stock photo sites.  Whatever sites you use, always check the permissions for each image. Some require attribution, some don’t.

Once you find some good sites, how do you know what images to pick?  Here’s a suggestion: if your course’s script doesn’t already include a theme on which you can build, you can still look for groups of images that have a common vibe to them and create your own visual metaphor for your course.

For example, suppose you’re doing a course on awareness, or alertness, or even just communication. It’s easy to find a series of images involving cups of coffee.  Add some text, and you have a title page.  But you also will need to make some choices about font and font color. You could do something like this:

stocksample1

But it’s not as legible as it needs to be.  So you could lighten the image and try a different font color:

stocksample2

The bottom line of course needs to be readability, so play around and see what looks best. If you don’t already have in mind a color scheme, you can easily create one, even without using Photoshop or a similar high-end tool: simply drop your image onto a PowerPoint slide, right-click it and easily alter the photo’s look dramatically with the image editing tools:

stocksample3

And once you settle on a visual style you like, you can alter your other images to align with that style. For instance, here’s an image I can use for all my section introductions:

stocksample4

As you can see, with a little creativity you can collect free stock photos from various sites and turn them into a cohesive visual theme for your project, which will give your course a real touch of class. Now that you’ve been released from using the same old clipart in every project, get out there, explore your options, and have fun being creative! And if you have free stock photo sites you love, share the URL in the Comments below. Thanks!

PS: Tom Kuhlmann over at Articulate and I seem to have had similar things on our minds this week. For more on finding and using stock photos, check out Tom’s blog.

Free Your eLearning Navigation From the Straight and Narrow

Sample Exploratory NavigationThis week’s eLearning Heroes Challenge on the Articulate Forums was all about course navigation. And you know what?  It’s always a good time to talk about navigation. If you are still creating all your eLearning courses with a strictly linear path, then you’re missing a major opportunity to engage adult learners.

I know what you’re thinking: “But it’s a Compliance course, and people just need to get through it as quickly as possible.” Change your mindset. Free yourself and your courseware from the limits of linear thinking. Regardless of the topic, you need to make your learning interesting and engaging for your learners, or they won’t remember your key points a minute longer than the answer to the last quiz question.

Sure, sometimes a linear 1-2-3-4-5 etc. progression of slides makes the most sense. But if you’re looking to involve your learners, and encourage them to remember your information, help them invest in the course, even just a little bit.

How do we do this? In this simple sample, I give the learner free choice to decide on the order of topics, and use branching to deliver the content, while still ensuring that they complete all the material successfully before moving on through the course.  Offering them the opportunity to explore as they please is a small gesture with a large impact.

Adult learners like a course better if it gives them at least a little bit of autonomy, the ability to make their own choices. Think about it–do most people really like to be told what to do, or where to go? Even in a Compliance course, where the stakes for demonstrating mastery of the topic can be high, you can still give your learner some choices.

You can also entertain and engage your learner while you’re at it. I regularly recommend using a scenario-based approach to learning. Why? Because everyone loves a good story, for one thing. And a good story can offer opportunities for you to involve the learner in creating the outcome you seek.

In the example I’m sharing here, I’ve created a very basic template in Storyline 2 that you could use for a Compliance course, or any other type of course. I’ve picked the topic of Information Security, which is a concern for all businesses, regardless of size. I kept the look and feel very neutral and professional. I present a simple menu page that introduces three characters, and invites the learner to click on the characters in whatever order they choose, to explore a risk scenario and help that character avoid making a terrible mistake. So without overdoing it, I’ve introduced a story element, and a little bit of drama to pique the learner’s interest. In my sample, I’ve set up a simple one-slide scenario and one quiz question for each character’s path, but obviously you could do a lot more if needed–although remember that brevity is always a goal.

Using characters introduces a human element. Making up a real-world scenario the learner would easily recognize makes that character and situation all the more real. Asking the learner to step in and prevent the character from making a big mistake involves them in affecting the outcome of an event they feel could actually happen in their workplace. Note my word choice there: regardless of the topic, you need to get your learners to feel something if you want them to remember.

In this sample, I’ve set up the questions to allow infinite attempts. You could also add meaningful feedback for wrong choices to enrich the experience. What you’re subtly doing is making your points, and allowing your learner to explore and fail in a safe environment, while setting them up to succeed, even if they miss on the first try. And when they succeed, I congratulate them and award them a badge for preventing a disaster (a little touch of gamification).

Once they explore all three scenarios, and earn all three badges, then and only then, a button appears inviting them to move ahead with (or perhaps complete) the course. Isn’t that a lot more interesting than rigidly controlling the navigation and forcing your learner to proceed 1-2-3-4-5 in lockstep? This way, you’re still subtly controlling the environment and the learner’s experience. You’re still ensuring they cover all the material. But you’re giving the learner a stake in the game, allowing them to make choices, engage with your content, and come out as heroes.

Next time you start a project, try looking at your course content and navigation in a new light.  Consider:

  • Free-choice navigation systems like the one shown here (or a map, or a diagram, or whatever your imagination devises)
  • Believable, recognizable characters
  • Scenarios that will grab your learner’s interest
  • Little touches of gamification

Sure, creating a course with branching takes a bit more work to design and build. But the end result will be a course that your learners might actually enjoy and remember!

To view the sample template in action, click the image at the top of this post.

Here’s a high-level look at this simple template’s structure:

Sample Exploratory Navigation Structure

An Easy Way to Create Free Custom Icons for Your eLearning Course

This week’s eLearning Heroes Challenge on the Articulate Forums was about creating custom icons for your eLearning courseware. It’s a great project; after all, you want icons that have the appropriate look and feel for your unique course, and even with all the great free resources available on the internet, there might come a time when you can’t find an icon set that’s just right.

And of course, we’re not all artists. So if the thought of creating a custom set of icons sounds daunting to you, let me show you how quick and easy it is using only PowerPoint. We were encouraged to use PowerPoint for this challenge, for maximum shareability of our finished icon sets.

Just insert a shape on a PowerPoint slide. Then format it to your liking using the Quick Styles feature and the Format Shape options on the right-click menu. And if you’ve never explored the various Wingdings sets that come with PowerPoint, this is a great time to do it–there are all sorts of handy characters (telephones, printers, arrows, and much more) in there, just waiting for you to find them. TIP: Don’t settle for just picking a Wingding set and typing a character on your keyboard. You can also hold down the Shift key as you press your keyboard keys to get a whole second level of Wingdings in each character set!

If you’d like to download the icon sets I created in PowerPoint for this challenge to use in your own projects (including instructions on how to make your own), click here: Icons – Andrew Sellon

And here’s a peek at one of the two sets in the download:

Custom Icons Screencap

 

 

How to Create Icon Sets