The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for July, 2007


myths about rapid e-learning mistakes

Go to a learning conference today; use the words PowerPoint and e-learning in the same sentence and, typically, you’ll get lots of eyes rolling. In minutes, you’ll hear clothes tear and see clouds of ash being flung about as the experts lament the destruction of human civilization. Why all the fuss?

In this 5-part series, we’ll explore common misconceptions about rapid e-learning development and discuss ways that rapid e-learning can help you do a great job and get the results you want.

Look over the posts and tell me what you think. Are there any other myths that need busting?

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




The Rapid E-Learning Blog - rapid elearning basics

This 7-part series brings you up-to-speed with some basic ideas about rapid elearning and how to get your project off the ground.

  1. So You Want To Be An E-Learning Hero?
  2. 5 Ways To Jump Start Your Next E-Learning Project.
  3. What Everyone Ought To Know About Designing An E-Learning Course.
  4. Build A Simple E-Learning Project Plan.
  5. How To Get The Most Out Of Your Subject Matter Expert.
  6. Understanding Multimedia For Rapid E-Learning Design.
  7. I Just Finished My Rapid E-Learning Course. Now, What Do I Do?

A lot of people ask me about good books to read. There are more books than I can list. However, I did a recent post where I discussed a few that offer a good starting point if you want to get started.

What else do you think beginning rapid elearning developers need to know?

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




fishing.gif

There are a lot of assumptions about rapid e-learning . However, many of them are not accurate. This is our last post in the series, 5 Myths About Rapid E-Learning.

There is a lot of concern about the automated nature of the rapid e-learning tools—that they’ll take creativity out of the process and everything will look the same. This might be true for some; however, the reality is that the only thing that hinders your creativity is you.

One of the things that I find most exciting about rapid e-learning is that I have the tools in my own hands and am not dependent on others to build the training. One of the most frustrating parts of the e-learning development process is working with the programmers. Because they are expensive and have many time constraints, even if you have a good idea, a lot of times you cannot implement it because you’re already committed to a specific direction. This is not the case with rapid e-learning tools.

With rapid development tools you have a lot of latitude and flexibility in changing your project design. If you have solid end-to-end skills you can leverage them to create very good and engaging training courses.

Here are some tips on leveraging the creative opportunities available with the tools.

  • Use all of the multimedia capability. PowerPoint and Storyline have nice animations that are underutilized. With some practice it is easy to replicate sophisticated animations.
  • Create engaging and interactive courses. Engagement can mean that the courses are visually appealing and have interactive learning elements. Look at what people are doing in more traditional e-learning courses. Try to mimic their styles and see what features you can build in your courses. If you step away from the bullet point look, you can create visually interesting training. In addition, there is no reason why you cannot build more interactivity in the courses. Two great books to help you learn to do this are: e-Learning by Design and Guide to E-Learning. Here are some other book recommendations.
  • Win an award. If you want to be creative in the work you do, then find industry awards and create projects that you can submit. If you do this as a habit, you’ll find that you are pushing yourself to build the best training out there.

The e-learning world is rapidly changing. The tools are easier to use and quickly bring knowledge and skills to your learners. While there are some challenges, it is an exciting time to be in the industry. Remember, for every complaint about rapid e-learning there’s probably an opportunity to demonstrate your value. Take advantage of those opportunities and you’ll successfully change with the world.

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




e-learning tips

Have you been following our series, 5 Myths About Rapid E-learning? We’ve already covered a lot of ground.

  1. Myth 1: Rapid E-learning is Crapid E-learning!
  2. Myth 2: A Rapid E-learning is a Second-Class Product!
  3. Myth 3: A Rapid E-learning Tool in the Hands of a Subject Matter Expert is Not Good!

Let’s keep moving!

The world is changing and that’s not going to stop anytime soon. To remain competitive you need to change with the world around you. The trend with e-learning is towards rapid development because it meets a legitimate business need.

As more subject matter experts (SME) develop e-learning courses, they’ll look to your expertise. You might see your job shift from one of course developer to that of SME coach.

Although years ago when I was building PowerPoint slides for a living, I was worried that one day someone would realize how easy it was and I’d be out of work. This never happened. It’s possible that you’ll actually get more e-learning work than less.

I figure that as the tools are easier to use, that will spark more desire to build and deliver training information. Thus, the content owners like the SME will be pressed to share even more information, which might mean a greater need for rapid e-learning developers to lift the burden from the SME.

As the tools evolve, there will be less need for specialized skills like flash programming and more demand for people who can do end-to-end development. That means that if you are an instructional designer, you’ll need to broaden your skill set. You’ll need to know a little of everything: project management, performance consulting, marketing, communications, web technology, audio, video, graphics design, and so on.

The secret is to develop the skills now.

Quit complaining about the SME. Instead take the opportunity to broaden your skill set and become more valuable to your organization.

  1. Change the focus of what you do. Stay on top the training industry and become a resource to your organization. If you have subject matter experts who use rapid development tools help them do a better job using them. Look for ways to introduce people to the rapid development tools. Find the “go-to” experts in the organization. Help them save time and you’ll be a hero. The key is to use your expertise to empower others to do their jobs well. If you do this, you’ll always have a job.
  2. Leverage your community of users. One of the best resources for learning and enhancing your skills is to participate in community forums. There are forums for software users, as well as any of the other skills you need to develop. It is a great way to develop new skills, get help on projects, and network with your peers.
  3. Continue to learn. Make a list of the end-to-end skills you’ll need and then develop a plan to learn them. I like to look at what others do and see if I can replicate that. For example, when I want inspiration for the look of my course, I’ll go to a site like Template Monster. Reviewing their flash templates gives me ideas about interface design and color schemes. As a routine, I review award winning courses and find ways to incorporate what they did in my own work.

You cannot control this world, but you can control what you do. Become an expert who brings value to the organization or customers and you’ll always have a job.

In our final post, we’ll discuss the myth that your creativity is hindered by rapid elearning tools.

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




subject matter experts build e-learning SME

We’ve been busy busting myths about rapid e-learning in our 5-part series, 5 Myths about Rapid E-Learning. So far, we’ve learned that rapid development doesn’t make the e-learning course bad. We’ve also demonstrated that rapid e-learning is a first class approach to online training. Today, we’ll explore whether or not it’s good for subject matter experts to use rapid e-learning tools.

Many people are concerned that subject matter experts (SME) are not equipped to develop effective training courses. In some cases, this might be true. However, it doesn’t change the fact that many of them are already delivering some sort of training. They might be answering calls, presenting at meetings, or sharing at the water cooler. Whatever the case, those who design training do so because the need exists. It only makes sense that the rapid development technologies become part of what they do.

There are many benefits to equipping your SME with rapid authoring tools. The training can be developed just in time. Since it is web-based, it can be made available to others in the organization. This saves the SME time of presenting the same information over and over again, and it allows the information to be shared with those who need it, but might not have access to the SME.

The concern about the quality of training is legitimate. Here are some tips to help you.

  • Help Your SME. Here’s a list of this blog’s resources to help your subject matter experts build better e-learning.
  • Free Help & Resources. Take advantage of the free e-learning 101 series and the free e-books.
  • Become a coach. Accept the fact that the SME will continue to build e-learning. The tools are only going to become better and easier to use. In addition, most people who are in training, started as a SME. Instead of trying to keep the tools from the SME, be proactive in getting the tools to them and then become a coach or mentor to help them do a better job teaching what they know.
  • Become a SME. It’s a lot easier to train a SME to use a tool like the Articulate suite than it is to train you to replace the SME. The reality is that your job is going to change. If it bothers you that the SME are empowered to build their own e-learning content, now might be the time to consider a change.

The World is Changing

More and more of our interaction online is based on our ability to create and manage our content. Why shouldn’t we expect this to transfer to our work environment?

Be proactive by supporting this change and the people who are using the rapid e-learning tools. In our next post, we’ll look at how rapid e-learning will affect your job.

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




rapid e-learning tools make it easy to create good courses

In the first part of this series, we busted the myth that Rapid E-Learning Is Crapid E-Learning. Today, we’ll explore whether or not it’s the Cinderella of e-learning.

Even as many of the pundits acknowledge the value of rapid e-learning, they will assign a second class status to it as a training vehicle. They usually say that its value is limited to quick, just-in-time content that is more information-based than learning-focused. Since most organizations need training delivered in just a few weeks versus months, there’s some truth to that. However, it’s not a complete picture.

There’s always a need to do the quick, “down and dirty” training and rapid e-learning tools are great for that. However, the tools have changed and are empowering people in new ways. The tools are still easy to use, yet now are packed with features that empower non-multimedia developers to create engaging and interactive training courses.

At one point, the goal might have been to quickly convert a PowerPoint file and put it online, but today the tools allow you to build training courses that have a standard user interface and include the ability to add audio, video, and custom animations. This matches a lot of what you get when you buy vendor developed training. On top of that, you can create all sorts of interactive content. Just look at some of the weekly challenge modules to see what people are building.

On top of increased functionality, the output of the tools has become impressive. A great example is Rise. It is easy to use, and has a very polished and sophisticated feel. Imagine trying to custom build a similar product. It would cost thousands and take months to develop. It definitely would be outside the scope of most training courses. Not today. Rapid e-learning tools are making the trainers look like stars.

rise e-learning example

Next Generation Tools

Tools like Rise are just the first step. The next generation tools like Articulate 360 will give more power to the content owners and instructional designers to quickly build interactive training courses that not only meet the time needs of the organization, they’ll also have advanced interactions to create a more productive e-learning environment. Eventually, anyone who wants to design training will have the power to do so without the need for a flash programmer; and this training will rival the best of what you see today.

Leveraging the Tools to Make Your Courses First-Class

  • Rapid development is already first class. Organization’s want performance that gets results. Training is one piece of that puzzle. Considering the cost of training and whether or not it really brings value, rapid development tools are very attractive. Their courses are built at a fraction of the cost, and traditional training methods are challenged to show that their more expensive approach brings greater return on the investment.
  • Develop a coursel mindset. I like to think of coursels as “course morsels.” They are bite-sized chunks of information and learning. Instead of building large training programs, make your strategy to build a series of coursels that address very specific topics. With the coursels you can develop just-in-time material to address immediate needs. In addition, you can tie your coursels together to create whole courses. You can also use the coursels to blend with and augment other training in the organization.
  • Look at the internet. The internet is changing the way we interact with information. The workplace is being filled with a whole generation of workers that expect to create and share content. Everyone in the organization is an expert in some capacity. In addition, there is greater demand for collaboration and knowledge transfer. Rapid development tools allow people to share what they know at the point of demand. There is an opportunity to use these tools as you explore effective informal learning strategies and the development of personal learning environments. This is an important consideration moving forward.

Rapid e-learning is a first class approach to training because is saves you time and money. Be creative. Learn to leverage the tools to build engaging and interactive training.

Next, we’ll explore the myth that empowering your subject matter experts with rapid e-learning tools is bad.

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




e-learning value and myths of e-learning

In this series, we’ll look at some popular myths about rapid e-learning.

Because the tools are easy to use and just about anyone can create “e-learning” with them, some assert that the tools create bad e-learning. It’s the same argument you hear about PowerPoint. While this might be true about some of the e-learning courses developed with rapid e-learning tools, noted elearning archaeologist, Werner Oppelbaumer, is quick to point out that crappy e-learning existed years before the rapid development tools came on the scene. In fact, he goes on to say that crappy training existed before e-learning was even a form of training.

This isn’t just a recent phenomenon either. Apparently, thousands of years ago, men in bed sheets would pull productive farmers from their fields and bore them with lectures on the nature of justice and the ideal republic.

Look, I’ll admit there’s a lot of bad e-learning out there. I’ve even created some. However, it doesn’t exist because of the tools. It exists because the training isn’t designed well. You cannot blame the tools for poor learning design. The secret is learning to use the tools appropriately. The reality is that having rapid e-learning tools and a strategy to use them is important in today’s business climate.

To get the most out of the tools you need to include sound instructional design and use the tool’s multimedia capabilities to create engaging and interactive training.

  • Use a template. One problem with poor e-learning modules is that you have users who aren’t trained instructional designers. It’s important to help them learn some basic instructional design principles. If you cannot spend a lot of time with them, at least create a simple template to help them organize the information. You might not get the most dynamic training course, but it will help move it in the right direction. In addition, don’t underestimate the abilities of your subject matter experts. Most want to do a good job; they just might need a little help.
  • Look at what others are doing. You’ll get a better idea of what’s good and bad if you look at what others are doing. There are a lot of examples of e-learning courses and modules. In addition, look at industry award winners.
  • Burgers and fries. If I’m in a hurry, I’m more apt to stop at McDonald’s than at a fine French restaurant for a seven-course meal. I wouldn’t make a regular meal of fast food, but many times it’s just what I need….or all I want to invest in. The same can be said for training. Maybe there’s a time where simple click & read training is all you need.

Rapid doesn’t mean crapid! You are in control and can determine the quality of what you produce.

Next, we’ll expose the myth that rapid e-learning is a second class approach to training.

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




project management for e-learning

In previous posts, we looked at everything from customer service to understanding multimedia. In this series, we discussed how to jump start your next project, how to build a project plan, working with your subject matter experts, and what you need to know about rapid e-learning.

What Do You Do When Your Project Is Complete
This question takes us back to a previous post where we looked at jump starting your next project. As I mentioned earlier, we’re all in the same boat. With each e-learning project, we become a little better at doing the next one.

The secret is to keep learning. Here are some post project tips that should help you going forward.

Let Everyone Know How Brilliant You Are

Quite a few years back, I was telling my boss about the good work I was doing. With a wink, she told me that “my actions spoke so loud, she could hardly hear me. ” While I appreciate her insight, over the years I’ve come to realize that sometimes your boss can’t hear your actions, so you might want to let her know anyway.

It’s important to collect and report the metrics from the e-learning course. Your customer and manager needs to see the comparison between the project goals and outcomes.

Sometimes you have no control over the course’s success, or whether it actually makes a measurable improvement. In that case, I recommend pulling together some information about the cost and how it compares to having it outsourced.

Service is Job #1

Look at your courses from a customer service perspective. Who are your customers? Client? Subject matter experts? Learners? Peers? You might find that you have multiple customers. What do you need to do to make sure all of their needs have been met?

As a routine, I do two things.

  • I like to get feedback from my customers. I have a simple survey that I send to ask how things went and what they’d recommend for the next project.
  • I send quick thank you notes to all who helped on the projects. I also like to CC: their managers. It’s a good way to maintain the relationship.

Who’s the Custodian

Put a reminder on your calendar to follow up with the person or group that commissioned the e-learning course. I recommend a 30-day follow up, just to see how things are going. I would also schedule at least an annual review of the project to see where it stands and if it requires any updates. There’s no reason why you can’t schedule that now instead of waiting a few months and possibly forgetting this step.

Do a Post Project Review

It’s important to capture lessons learned. Once the project is complete, you might find some value in sitting down with your peers and looking at the e-learning course together. Compare what you intended to do with the outcome. There’s always something that could be tweaked or done better the next time. Apply the lessons learned to your next project. You might even get some traction by sharing that with others in the industry via published articles or case studies.

Get Ready for the Next Project

There are many things you can do to prepare for your next project. Incorporate the feedback from this project into the next. Design your templates and questions. Take time to look at what others are doing. Follow the tips from the jump start your next project post.

I hope this information helps you learn and grow as a rapid e-learning developer. Feel free to drop a line or share some tips that you think add value.

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




multimedia for e-learning

We’ve looked at understanding the customer’s perspective, how to jump start you project, what you should know about designing a course, how to build a project plan, and working with your subject matter experts.

Today’s rapid e-learning tools make creating e-learning courses so much easier. It’s possible to build good e-learning courses with a limited understanding of the technology. However, you can really leverage the rapid e-learning tool’s capabilities and make more engaging content if you have a basic understanding of the multimedia technology.

In this post, we’ll take a quick peek at graphic, audio, and video technology. I’ve also included some additional resources and links to free software.

What Should I Know About Graphics

When using images in your rapid e-learning courses you want to maintain the best quality possible. A lot of this has to do with the image formats. The challenge is to understand the various formats and what’s best for your project.

This is article from Wikipedia does a great job explaining image formats and their differences.

 

vector versus bitmap and raster images

Typically, you’ll find the best success if you can stick with vector-based images because they scale better. Here’s a good post that explains more about images in e-learning.

In addition to understanding how the formats work, it is worth having a good graphics editing program to help you with your rapid e-learning development. It allows you to manipulate and customize images, as well as convert and save to various formats.

What Should I Know About Audio

Good audio quality is a combination of equipment, location, and talent. You need to begin with the best audio quality because you cannot increase it over the original.

wav2.gif

The microphone you use affects the quality of your audio. There are many resources online to teach you about microphones. The main thing to understand is that microphones are not the same and how they record audio is different. Take some time to learn the basics of microphone technology. It’ll help you get the best results when you record narration. I also recommend visiting a community forum to ask others what mics they use and how they record their narration.

Ideally, you get to record your audio in a controlled environment like a studio. However, this is usually not the case. Many times you’re forced to record the narration in a conference room with limited control over the ambient sound like office chatter, copying machines, and air conditioning. In this case, make do with what you can. Turn off the air conditioner. Unplug office machines. Ask people to be quiet. Before I record, I like to stick my head out the door and tell everyone to “shut your stinkin’ traps.” This way they know something serious is going on.

The quality of your narration is important to your e-learning course. If you choose to go with non-professional talent, expect that you’ll get what I like to call “presentation quality” audio. The advantage to this approach is that you can produce it quickly and at a good cost. For many projects, this is fine. However, you get what you pay for.

If you find that you want a polished sound, you might want to budget for professional narration. While it appears to cost more than going with non-professional narrators, you can save a lot by avoiding time-consuming edits and audio retakes.

What Should I Know About Video

Rapid e-learning’s popularity means that there is an increase in the demand for video. It is important to have a basic understanding of the different video formats, frame rates, streaming, and how to get the best quality for web delivery.

video1.gif

PC Magazine has a good article on using video in PowerPoint. A lot of the information is relevant to rapid e-learning.

Video quality is like audio. You are not going to get better video than the video you start with. It’s important to learn some basics about creating good quality video. Videomaker magazine is a good resource for non-expert video making. They have good tips and techniques and they write to those of us who don’t create videos for a living. It’s a great place to start.

As the rapid e-learning tools evolve, you’ll need to have good end-to-end skills. You don’t need to to be an expert at everything; however you do need to understand the basics. Learn more about multimedia and built a good network of resources to help you when you need it.

Additional resources

Here is a list of some additional resources.

Our last post answers the question of what to do when you’re through.

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




subject matter expert e-learning

In previous posts, we explored understanding the customer’s perspective, how to jump start you project, what you should know about designing a course, and how to build a project plan. Today, we’ll take a look at working with subject matter experts.

Subject matter experts (SME) play a key role in the development of your elearning courses. They help you craft the learning objectives, create content, review it for accuracy, and provide valuable feedback.

At a recent elearning conference I attended, the participants were asked what some of the biggest challenges were to developing their courses. Well over half said that working with SME was a challenge and many times interfered with getting the projects done on time.

Today, we’ll look at some tips to help you manage the relationship with your project’s subject matter experts.

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

Clear communication is central to your project success. What we say and what we mean are not always the same. To complicate matters, what people hear us say, is not always what we want them to hear.

It is important to establish very clear objectives and expectations when working with others, especially SME who are rarely trained instructional designers.

Bring them in on the projects early. Stay on top of project milestones and make sure you are proactive in communicating with the SME. Be sensitive to their workloads. If you expect some feedback from the SME, make sure you explain what you need and when you need it.

The “S” Stands for Subject…Not Slave

Everyone is busy. Do not abuse the time you have with the SME. Prepare for your meetings and information gathering. Collect as much information as you can prior to meeting with your SME. This helps you build a context for the elearning course. It also helps you understand the subject matter expert’s world. And, it shows the SME that you are interested in the subject and what he has to offer.

Provide a Quick Overview of How People Learn

People have preconceived ideas about training and learning. Don’t assume that when you start talking about elearning that the SME understands what you mean. It is a good idea to develop a quick elevator pitch about learning and how you’d like to see the course work.

This gives the SME some additional information and context for the project goals. It also allows them to brainstorm ideas on how to create a meaningful learning environment using what they know.

The key is to do this quickly. Don’t bore them with long lectures on learning theory. The idea is to help them know what you need to do with their expertise to create a good learning environment.

There’s a Reason You Have Two Ears & One Mouth

Be a good listener and learn from your SME. Active listening is a sign of respect. If your SME knows that you are truly interested in her input you’ll win an ally.

Ask good questions. After using your two ears, make sure you use your one mouth to ask the right questions. The SME time is valuable. Thinking through the right questions will help you make the most of it. Come prepared with a list of questions. You cannot go wrong with the standard “Who, what, where, when, and why?”

Keep the Subject Matter Expert in the Real World

You want to capture the SME experience and balance it with the world of the novice. SME are experts and typically model the course outcome. However, their expertise can hinder designing the best elearning environment since it can be complicated for new learners.

Sometimes less is more. Try to keep the SME in the real world. To help drill down to the essential information, give them strict parameters. For example, “if you only had three screens to share your expertise, what would those three screens contain?”

Another way to keep the SME in the real world is to balance their expertise with the input of a recent or new learner.

Use a Simple Template to Help the Subject Matter Expert

If you find that you have limited access to the SME, then it’s a good idea to create a template for them. Use a basic training outline that covers the core objectives and asks questions that helps them share their expertise. Also ask how a new learner can practice using the information in the course and in the real work environment.

Show Them Love

People like to be encouraged and affirmed. Here’s a tip that has always worked for me. As a habit, I try to give good feedback to the people I work with. In addition, I will drop a quick email to their managers extolling the value of the SME input and how it is greatly appreciated and a service to the organization.

This not only serves you well on the project, it will pay dividends later if you need more of their time.
Subject matter experts have valuable insight and you need it.

A large part of your elearning course’s success depends on the relationship you have with your subject matter experts. The actions you take show them that you value them and what they have to offer. The better relationship you have with them, the better success you’ll have.

What are some of the things you do to get the most of out of your subject matter experts?

Our next post will look at multimedia and what you need to know.

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




e-learning project planning

A successful e-learning project requires good planning!

A while back, I designed a nice generic project plan in Microsoft Project. It had all of the basic steps required to manage e-learning projects. The plan showed that an e-learning course could be built in about 45 days assuming none of the steps took more than one day.

I would start with this generic plan and then plug in the data specific to the current project. This gave me a ballpark idea as to when the project could be completed. Then I could go to the client and show them how long it would take to complete the project and we’d be able to establish a working timeline.

Sounds good, huh? Guess what? It’s all half true.

I did  have a generic project plan. I’ve had it for about 6 years. I’ve modified it a few times. However, I have never really used it; at least not to manage a project. I tell you this, because as I was starting this post, I was going to pull out the old project plan and ramble on about how to manage your project.

Then it struck me that I don’t really follow those steps, at least, not in a formal way. I find that while I have a formal plan, I don’t really reference it. The reality is that the idea of the plan makes more sense than actually using it. A lot of that is because the projects move so fast, I don’t ever get to go back and update the plan.

Instead of giving you a structure for a project plan, I’m going to give you some things you need to consider while you’re working on a project. They need to be part of the plan and you’ll need to figure out where they fit. Don’t view these topics as a linear progression of one step to the next. Instead, see them as activities that need to happen to get your project done.

E-Learning Project Initiation

Meet with the client to discuss project goals. Come prepared with a list of questions so that you can begin to establish the course objectives, time lines, resources, etc.

You also need to know who is signing off on your work and the decisions that need to be made. You don’t want to spend a lot of time and money on your course only to find out later that it needs to go through a final review by someone who has not been involved in the project or provided any guidance or feedback. Find out who the final authority is and find out what that person’s expectations are.

This is the key point: leave your meetings with some action items or next step activities.

Build a Network of E-Learning Project Contributors & Resources

Basically you want to assemble a group of people who will either work on the project or provide the valuable feedback you need to make the training viable to both the customer and the learner. Ideally this resource consists of your client, subject matter experts, learners, IT support, programmers, and multimedia developers.

Develop Course Content

The organization (or customer) has specific needs. The learner has specific needs. Your analysis is about marrying these two needs. What does the organization want to do and what to the learners need to do? Use your contributors to help you build your content. You want to keep it in the real world and begin to plan on the types of scenarios and interactions that can teach this content.

Develop a Learning Strategy

There are many ways to present the content. What approach do you take? The e-learning course can be very linear where it’s information-specific. On the other hand, you can make it learner-specific and build a course that mimics real-world interaction. As you collect the content and talk to the learning audience you’ll get a sense of what works best.

A key thing to remember is that typically the learners want what they need to do their jobs better. They don’t want to spend their valuable time playing silly games or doing extra activities for the sake of making the course slick or “fun.” You want the course to be useful and engaging but in a real way.

Develop a Look & Feel for the E-Learning Project

In the past, a lot of time was spent trying to determine the navigation and interface. That’s not the case now. You’ll save time if you use rapid e-learning tools. The players that come with the tools are standard and generally intuitive.

Part of what makes a course engaging is that it looks good and professional. At the same time, it doesn’t need to have a sophistication that goes beyond the subject matter. Find the right balance. Make time to pick templates, colors, images, and fonts.

If you want custom art or images, make that decision as soon as possible. Looking for the right images is time-consuming.

Consider the E-Learning Project Multimedia Needs

Today’s rapid e-learning tools allow you to record audio, insert video, and use additional flash resources. You need to determine how all of that will be pulled together. Who is going to create the audio-visual resources? What needs to happen to get them into the project?

Recording audio is easy and straightforward in many of the rapid e-learning tools. However, you get what you pay for. If you plan on using non-professional talent to do the audio then plan on getting, what I like to call, presentation quality audio. It’s inexpensive, gets the job done, yet isn’t going to be perfect.

From my experience, using non-professional audio is one the biggest issues in getting the projects done on time. Many customers want to do their own narration or don’t want to spend the money. However when they hear the presentation quality audio they request a lot of additional edits or retakes. This is time consuming. If possible, use an inexpensive service like Voice123. You get competitive rates and outstanding results; and you might find you actually save time by avoiding edits.

Think Through the Technical Issues of the E-Learning Project

Since you are designing an e-learning course, you need to consider where the training will be hosted and how the learner will access it. Do the users have access to computers? Audio? Video? Who has access to do upgrades or maintenance on the training? Will it be on an LMS? Does it need to be AICC or SCORM compliant? How is it tracked? How will reports be generated? Are there any disability concerns?

There are a lot of questions and potential issues. That’s why it’s important to bring an IT person in on the project at the forefront. They’ll be able to tell you if there are any technical issues that could impact the training.

Training Roll Out & Evaluation

Once the e-learning course is complete, it’s ready to be rolled out. How will this happen? How will the learner’s know that the course is available? How are managers able to discern if their staff needs to take the training or not? When will you collect feedback on the training effectiveness and determine if you need to make adjustments? What are the ongoing maintenance plans for the e-learning course?

If you want the course to be successful, think through the project roll out and how users will know the training’s available.

These basic activities make up your e-learning project. Instead of building a big project plan, break the project into specific sections and then make a list of things that need to happen. Assign a person and a due date. It’s a lot easier to manage this in a spreadsheet or even simple table than it is in a complex tool like MS Project. That will help you cover your bases and get you moving in the right direction.

In our next post, we’ll look at ways to get the most out of your subject matter experts.

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




e-learning design

Earlier we looked at understanding the customer’s perspective, and how to jump start your next project. Today, we’ll look at some key considerations when building your e-learning courses.

When building your e-learning it’s important to understand what type of course you are developing. This helps you make the right decisions about what to do and how to use your resources. Not all e-learning is created equal. There are different types of e-learning courses. Some are information-based and some are performance-based.

  • Information-based courses are typically driven by regulations or compliance needs.
  • Performance-based courses are focused on changes in behavior and real, measurable improvements.

E-Learning Design: Bring Value to Your Organization

You are a steward of your organization’s e-learning resources. It’s important to make the decisions that positively impact the bottom line. A first priority is to make sure that the e-learning courses you build are aligned to the organization’s performance goals. Generally, you’ll always be aligned if you are focused on cost and time improvements. But ultimately, you want to focus on specific performance improvements.

Three ways that you can bring value to your organization:

  1. Cost: Focus on managing the cost of projects and development time. You can also focus on the value you bring in comparison to outsourcing.
  2. Time: How fast can you deliver the training? Time is money.
  3. Performance: Increased performance has a direct impact on the bottom line.

E-Learning Design: Help Your Customers Find the Right Solution

Many times your customers determine that an e-learning course is the right solution to meet their goals. Before investing the organization’s resources in e-learning courses, it’s important to understand if the customer’s assumptions are correct and an e-learning course is the right solution.

Ask good questions and identify clear objectives.

You serve your customers, the organization, and yourself when you help identify the best solution to their goals. There are times when training isn’t the way to get the results the customer really wants. In this case, it’s possible to save the organization money if you can help them see that an e-learning course is not the right solution. You might not get the work, but you’ll be seen as a valuable contributor.

E-Learning Design: Determine What Type of Training Course You Need to Create

When you develop e-learning courses, you have two options. You can use a rapid e-learning tool like the ones in Articulate 360 or you can pay for custom development. Because of this, it’s important to have a process in place to determine when to go with in-house resources and when to go with custom development. If you do outsource, it’s a good idea to dictate that you want the course developed in an authoring tool like Storyline and then request the source files. This will save you money when you need to make tweaks and edits. You can do them yourself.

Many e-learning courses have no real performance goals tied to them. Their purpose is to convey information or comply with regulations. This doesn’t mean that the information’s not important. It just means the purpose of the course is to disseminate the information, and not necessarily see a performance improvement.

Authoring tools like Rise are perfect for these types of e-learning courses. You can build them quickly. They look great and work on mobile devices. And you meet your customer’s goals with minimal investment. Personally, my default position is that we use the easiest authoring tools unless we can justify spending more money building something more complex.

Let me explain.

The rapid e-learning tools are more than adequate to handle most e-learning needs. Why not go with what costs less and is easy to implement? Unless you need custom interactions or more complex design, the easier, the better.

Custom development can be costly. The only way I would go past the rapid e-learning tool set is if the project requires more complex interactivity tied to performance expectations. My belief is that if the customer cannot show a clear link to performance improvements, then it is my responsibility to meet their training needs with minimal cost and time commitment.

This doesn’t mean that the projects are subpar, it just means that I don’t commit expensive resources to a project that doesn’t show a return on investment. Courses that show a clear connection to changes in performance are the ones to which you want to commit the bulk of your resources.

Rapid e-learning tools can help you build most of what you see in the e-learning industry. Development costs are low, the tools are easy to learn, and you can deliver a quality project rapidly.

Whichever approach you take, it’s important to think through the objectives of your e-learning course. There’s a time to use a rapid e-learning tool and there’s a time to commit more resources to custom work. Develop a process to determine when that is. You’ll be able to help your customers get a quality product with the right investment.

Next in the series, we’ll learn to build a simple project plan.

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.