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.
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!
In case you missed this news item in February, I decided to do a quick blog post about it. Those of us creating a lot of eLearning content (and training materials in general) are always looking for inexpensive–or better, FREE–stock images to enliven our learning content. True, the new Articulate 360 Suite includes a Content Library with some decent images (more on 360 in another post), and Adobe’s package also offers a stock image option–though a lot of that one seems to come with a price tag. Death to the Stock Photo started out strong, but for me their image bundles have grown less interesting lately. Likewise for Unsplash–sure, the photos are often swell, but how many 8mb mountain landscape shots do we need in corporate eLearning?
Sometimes help comes from unexpected places. In this case, it comes from NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. In February the museum announced it was making a treasure trove of copyright free (or copyright waived) images available to the public on their web site, for FREE. Another reason to love that venerable institution (and seriously, if you haven’t ever been, it’s the El Dorado of art, and you really should spend a few hours there next time you’re in town).
To check out what’s available, visit their Collection and then check the box for “Public Domain Artworks” from the list of filters on the left. Once you’ve done that, select other filters on the left to further narrow the results, browse to your heart’s content, and download what you need for your project. The museum will continue adding images to this free databank over time.
Will you find lots of images of corporate businesspeople? Well, no. But if you’re creating a course with a metaphor, you could make great use of some classical art–and “class up” your learning content in the process!
On January 206h, my ATD NYC eLearning SIG co-chair Mark Cassetta and I partnered with Hal Christensen of the Performance Support SIG to offer another of what I’ve come to call “interactive roundtables”. In these roundtables, rather than inviting a speaker, we give ATD NYC members a little bit of “homework” on a selected topic, and then we all get together to share what we’ve contributed–a “flipped classroom” approach. We discuss what works well with contributed samples, and share ideas for enhancements. Everyone walks away with a pack of examples, and great ideas they can leverage for their next eLearning course. We held extremely successful eLearning SIG roundtables on both Instructional Design Fixes and Gamification in 2015, and for the first meeting of 2016, it seemed only right to focus our spotlight on the grossly-underappreciated workhorses of learning: Job Aids.
Why job aids? “They’ve been around since the dawn of time,” I hear you say. “They’re so old-fashioned in this digital age,” I hear you say. “They’re not sexy,” I hear you think to yourself. (Yep, I’m listening.) Well, the reality is that job aids have only become more important in this digital age–because now a job aid can appear in more formats than ever, and they are easier to share than ever. And with very little effort, you can even make them look sleek and appealing.
What exactly do I mean by job aid? I mean any kind of material you create to support and reinforce your key teaching points with your learners once they’re back on the job. A job aid should always be clear, and to the point. A job aid is not usually the place for history, theory, background, etc. A job aid should focus on reminding your learners how to get the job done (step-by-step, if needed) quickly and efficiently. No frills. Just the facts.
Why do job aids remain so relevant? Because every training course is subject to the same simple, unfortunate fact: a huge percentage of the eLearning we offer up so lovingly is completely forgotten back on the job. By simply including one or more job aids in your eLearning, you’re empowering your learners to download the just-in-time support tool they will need later on to reinforce what they’ve learned–at the moment they actually need it!
Whenever I work with a new eLearning client, one of the first things I explore during my needs analysis is whether the client might only need a good job aid or two. Honestly, sometimes that will fill the knowledge gap in question quite well–and building a whole eLearning course in those cases is not an effective use of time, resources, or budget.
But even when eLearning is the appropriate solution (or part of a blended one), I always look for opportunities to share some of the key information of the course in job aid format, usually a PDF downloadable from within the course itself. I’m alway amazed when a client says they don’t see the need for job aids! Any opportunity you have to offer inexpensive, effective performance support is an opportunity you should seize with both hands.
What kind of job aid you need will, of course, depend on your training content. It could be, for example:
And the format could be (among others):
The point is, job aids are almost infinitely flexible, and now with the digital age, and the advent of mobile learning, they can be in the form of video and/or audio support, as well. Well-designed job aids can provide great “snapshots” of your key information points, and help ensure your eLearning course (or classroom training) continues to resonate weeks and months after the learner takes your course.
We had a great joint eLearning/Performance Support session on job aids. There wasn’t an empty seat in the room (a lovely meeting space graciously provided once again by CUNY–thank you!!). Hal, Mark, and I offered a brief overview about the purpose and scope of job aids, along with a few samples we examined. You can view and download a PDF of that PowerPoint file here:
We had a host of great submissions shared by attendees, in a wide variety of styles and format. Discussion was both animated and enlightening. And often quite funny.
If you’re not already a member of ATD NYC, I urge you to explore all that’s available to you with a membership. For one thing, in addition to the excellent Chapter meetings, there are all the different SIG meetings–including eLearning, Performance Support, and more.
And speaking for our eLearning SIG, in 2014 I started offering our sessions simultaneously as in-person and webinar format. So even if you don’t live in the NYC area, you can still benefit from our eLearning SIG’s sessions online, and share in all the great brainstorming.
Our next eLearning SIG meeting will be in March, on a topic to be decided by our members. I hope to “see” you there!
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:
But it’s not as legible as it needs to be. So you could lighten the image and try a different font color:
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:
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:
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.
My schedule these days is busy enough that I’m not always able to take part in the weekly eLearning Challenge over on the Articulate Forums. But there have been a couple recently I couldn’t resist as a voiceover artist.
For one challenge, the task was to create a simple example of a soundboard; in other words, a single slide that offers various soundbytes when you click on objects. The other challenge was to create a voiceover portfolio. I decided combining the two challenges would be a perfect way to create a little reminder of the variety of voiceover styles I offer.
Creating the Soundboard:
I sourced some fun graphics from the various free icon sites, gave them all the same kind of shadow in Powerpoint, and then used Articulate Storyline 2 to put together my simple soundboard. In Storyline, it took me all of two minutes to select all my arranged icons and convert them to a button set–meaning only one button can be clicked at a time. Storyline automatically created my “Selected” and “Visited” states for each button. To the viewer/listener, everything happens on a single slide. On the back end, I’m actually housing each audio clip on its own sublayer. That way the audio will automatically stop when the visitor clicks a different icon to explore a different audio clip.
I also decided to forego the traditional “player” frame, designing this sample to appear frameless instead by making the player elements transparent. The result is simple and clean.
Think of all the creative ways you could present a lot of information on a single slide this way in your next eLearning project–for example, a series of motivational clips from your company’s senior executives. It’s interactive, it’s fun, and if you have good audio clips, it can also be memorable. And isn’t that what you want your eLearning to be?
About my VO Work:
When I’m asked about the “quality” of my voice, I generally respond: it depends on the project! For typical eLearning narration, my voice is warm, confident, and encouraging. For other projects, I can provide a much more quirky, character-driven voice. I always suit my VO to the project. I love recording in studios with an engineer running the booth. But for a lot of my projects these days, I work out of my home office/studio. I keep things simple: I start with a high-quality MXL USB.009 mike, which has a headphone jack on it. That way I can listen via headphones as I record without dealing with the half-second audio playback delay that USB causes. I use a foam soundproofing box, a pop filter (to minimize “popping” from plosives like “b” and “p”), and Audacity or a similar audio recording software. When it comes to finalizing my VO clips, I always use a noise removal filter to take out any subtle room sounds, and of course I cut out any background clicks or other noises I might have made while recording. I take out some breaths, and leave others in–I find that removing all the breaths make the recording sound less human and immediate. I also normalize all the tracks for consistent final sound levels. I believe strongly that the better performance you give, the less editing you need to do–and that translates into better-sounding VO!
Click the image on this post to have a listen–and if you need my voice in your next project, you know where to find me!
This week’s eLearning Challenge on the Articulate forums was to create an animated GIF image file. There was a further requirement that it be a “reaction” shot–the kind of thing you see all over the internet these days. I decided rather than using goofy footage from a popular film or television show (which can introduce all sorts of rights issues), I would create a few quick animated GIFs that were motivational, and could be used safely in a business’s eLearning project without (a) fear of offending anyone or (b) fear of legal action.
Of course, then I needed to fill the gap between knowing what I wanted to do and knowing how to do it. I’ve never created an animated GIF before. I figured it would be great if I could leverage some of the cool animations that come built into Apple’s Keynote software, and simply capture something quick in animated GIF format. (Of course I could have taken the same approach with PowerPoint, but I like the animations better in Keynote–now if only Articulate Storyline could import from Keynote!!) A quick Google search later, I learned about a free program available from the Mac App Store called GIFGrabber. The reviews were great, so I downloaded it and gave it a test drive.
Turns out, while the features are very limited, it was as easy to use as advertised. I simply added my text to a slide, chose Keynote animations, then used GIFGrabber to capture the animations playing. I didn’t have much time, so I simply created three motivational messages, and used the same fun animations for each. Between the font and animation options, the possibilities are almost endless.
I also learned that when posting animated GIFs online, you need to post them at full size in order for them to play. WordPress was eager to downsize them, but I quickly realized that was stopping the animation.
I’m sure with some playing around I could reduce the file size, etc. But for now, here they are. If you like them, feel free to download and use them in your own eLearning projects.
Congrats! You win!!
As you may know, I’m co-chair of ATD NYC’s eLearning SIG (special interest group). Every other month, co-chair Enid Crystal and I put together a program exploring the challenges and rewards of including eLearning in your company’s blended learning solutions. Sometimes we invite speakers, and other times we host roundtable discussions on hot topics.
On Wednesday, May 13th, at 5:30pm, we’ll be hosting a roundtable about how you can avoid making some of the most common eLearning design mistakes. To add to the fun and participation, we’re presenting this roundtable with a bit of a “flipped classroom” approach, meaning you can do a little homework prior to the meeting, and then we’ll all share our ideas and discuss them together at the meeting.
If you’re an ATD NY member, we hope you’ll join us. And even if you’re not, you’re allowed to participate in one ATD NY session for free. Since our focus is on eLearning, we hold our meetings both in person and virtually, to allow as many people as possible to participate.
So, how will this all work? Simple! I’ve created a PowerPoint file showing six common eLearning design mistakes. You can download it right here: Common eLearning Mistakes Sample Slides
Pick at least one of the slides in this sample deck, and create your suggested revision that makes all the same points, but in a way that will deliver the message more effectively.
Then, email your slide(s) to me at firstname.lastname@example.org no later than Monday, May 11th at 12 noon Eastern Time.
I’ll collate all the submissions so that we can review and discuss them together at Wednesday evening’s meeting. And even if you don’t have time to revise a slide, feel free to join us for the discussion. We all learn a lot from our peers every time we hold one of our roundtables. And of course, after the event I’ll share the collated PowerPoint deck so that you can remind yourself of the great solutions you can apply to your next project.
We hope to “see” you there!