The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for August, 2007


how do you define rapid e-learning

Last week, I posted the question, “How do you define rapid e-learning?” The community responded and today we have over 200 definitions. We even got one from former U.S. Vice-President, Al Gore, who claimed to have “invented rapid e-learning.” I suspect that one’s not real.

What I really enjoyed about reading these definitions is that they were submitted by e-learning professionals from all over the world. In a recent post, marketing guru, David Meerman Scott, discussed how the Internet has allowed communication to come full circle, giving us a virtual town square where we can have “communication that is personal and authentic.”

Something like this wasn’t possible just a few years ago. The Internet allows us to connect and build our own virtual town square where we are able to share our ideas and best practices. It’s something we see in the e-learning community where people answer questions, share ideas, and their project files.

It is interesting to read the definitions of rapid e-learning and see the diversity of opinion. While there are many similarities in the definitions they do cover a broad spectrum. Some focused on the technology and cost, while others focused on the learner. There are even a few who challenged the effectiveness of rapid e-learning. How is it possible that there can be so many definitions?

Clear communication is essential for the e-learning industry that is focused on teaching others.

Trying to define rapid e-learning makes this challenge clear. It is evident that while we use the same words, we might not mean the same things. This is compounded when you consider the many nationalities and cultures that make up the town square.

In the book, BusinessThink, the authors discuss “complex equivalents.” They say that as we present our ideas we use words that have encoded meaning. Like an iceberg, the words float on top, yet below the surface lurk multiple meanings and interpretations that require further exploration and clarification if communication is to be real.

abstract equivalents one word many meanings definitions

I found this to be true with our definitions of rapid e-learning. One person might define it as “the technology used to create inexpensive training” while another definition might be “the ability to create training on-the-fly to meet very immediate needs.” They both are valid, yet mean two different things.

What Is the Definition of Rapid E-Learning?

I am sure that this contest will not settle the definition of rapid e-learning. However, I know it has contributed to the conversation in our virtual town square.

Now for the task at hand…

We had over 200 submissions and I needed to pare that down to 5 for our poll. Here’s what I did: to trim the definitions to a manageable number, I read through them a few times. I did this to identify the most common definitions. From there I trimmed the list down to those that used the fewest words. The remaining definitions were very similar although they each had unique nuances. To come up with the final five I took it to the lab and ran it through my trusted definition analyzer.

Here are the final five. Click on the survey link to cast your vote. I’ll keep the polls open until the end of the week. [Editor’s note: voting is closed]

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.

 




questions to ask when building e-learning courses

Many times you get projects where the customer has already determined what she wants. If the customer’s right, this is good and saves a lot of time. However, if the customer’s wrong, then you have a problem. You’ll waste time and money, and probably not meet anyone’s goals. Make sure your customer gets what she really wants versus what she think she wants.

At the beginning of the project, your job is to help your client identify the training objectives and then determine the appropriate means to achieve them. The better you do this, the more value you bring. Sometimes the right solution means no e-learning. Sometimes it means a simple e-learning course. Other times it means a more advanced course.

One Way to Determine the Right Solution is to Ask the Right Questions

Good questions help raise awareness. By asking the right questions, you help your customers identify their real needs. You also help set expectations.

Who is in charge of the e-learning course?

It’s important to get to this right away. You need to know who is paying for the project. Who is the final authority? There’s nothing worse than spending weeks designing a course, have it ready to roll out, and then have someone say, “Now let’s take it to Bob so he can review it.” If your project depends on Bob’s approval, then you need to know what Bob wants before you spend a lot of time developing the course.

What are the business objectives and how will this e-learning help you meet them?

This question helps you get to the meat of the matter. Training isn’t always the solution to the problem. “What do you want to do; and, will this training help you do it?” The answer to this question also helps establish some metrics for the training. For example, the customer says, “I want to increase production.” Assuming that training is the right solution, you can measure the effectiveness of your training by the increase in production.

What do you expect people to do that’s different than what they do today?

This feeds off the last question and gives you a sense of what you’ll need to do with the e-learning course. If the learner has to use some software in a different manner, you can build an e-learning course to do so. Or, if the learner needs to learn a new sales technique, then you build your training to meet the desired change in behavior. Surprisingly, a lot of e-learning offers good information but has no expectation of changed behavior.

When is the e-learning course needed?

It’s important to know the time lines up front. If the project needs to be done in two weeks, then the approach you take is different than a project where you have six months. The good thing with rapid e-learning tools is that you can use them for quick projects and still produce an effective e-learning course.

What do you know about the person who will take the e-learning course?

It’s important to get a sense of the people who are actually going to use the course. You want to know why this training is important to them and how it will change their jobs. If possible, schedule some time to meet with the end users of the course. It’s always a good idea to get them involved in the course design so that you build a course that meets real needs.

What do you know about the course content?

From where will the course content come? Who are the subject matter experts? What type of access will you have to them? Who will approve the final content? You need to know where the content is going to come from and who will provide it. There’s a big difference between you getting content from a subject matter expert and you having to do research and create it yourself…or have it funnel through a committee for approval.

What are some of the technology issues?

Do the learners have access to computers? Will they be able to hear any audio? Where will the e-learning course go? Do you need to track the course? How much multimedia can your network handle? There are many considerations when you deliver an e-learning course. It’s important to bring those out at the beginning of the project so that you can deal with any technical issues up front.

As a habit, it’s a good idea to make a list of basic questions to ask when you start a project. This way you’ll know you’re covering the bases. These questions are a start.

What questions would you ask?

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.

 




define rapid e-learning

Note: the contest has concluded. You can learn more about rapid e-learning:

After I released The Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro last week, more than 6,000 people downloaded the e-book in just the first 24 hours! Suffice it to say, it shows there’s a ton of interest in rapid e-learning.

But what exactly is “rapid e-learning?” Is it the software? Is it the process? Is it based on who creates it? I know what a lot of the industry experts think, but I’m interested in what you have to say. Here’s your chance to help define rapid e-learning and also receive some fame and fortune.

How Do You Define Rapid E-learning?

Here’s how this mini-contest will work:

  1. Type your definition of “Rapid E-Learning” in the comments of this post. Keep it simple. No long explanations…just the definition itself.
  2. I’ll pull out the top submissions and conduct a poll for you to vote on your favorite.
  3. Based on your votes, we’ll have the winning definition.

So no reason to wait.

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.

 




relevant e-learning courses

Earlier today, I got an email about a baby moose that was born in someone’s front yard. As I looked over the email, I noticed that the ads on the side were pushing baby showers and buying cute baby outfits.

By design these ads create relevant links based on the text of the email. In this case the links were not relevant and completely out of the context of the email I was reading. I don’t need cute baby outfits. So I just ignored the ads. That’s what happens when you just create ads oblivious to the needs of a real person.

There’s a lesson in here for those of us who design e-learning. Want your learners to learn? Then create relevant content. If not they’ll ignore what they see in the course. It all goes back to a point I was making in the last post about understanding the learner’s needs. To have the most impact, the course needs to be relevant to the learner. 

Don’t get caught trying to sell baby gifts to someone reading about a moose.

Three Ways to Make Your E-Learning Content Relevant

1. Spend time with the learners in their environment.

A while back, I worked on a course for machine operators in a production environment. Much of the job was loading and unloading a high-speed machine. After spending a few days on the floor talking to the machine operators, I found that the machine intimidated many of the new users. It was extremely large, fast, and noisy. On top of that, the new users were continually reminded of how expensive it was and to not mess up anything. This affected their performance.

I learned a lot talking to and observing the machine operators. Because of the time spent with them, we built the core part of the training around preventive maintenance on the machine. Before they learned to operate the machine, they learned to take it apart, clean it, and put it back together. By the time they started working on the machine, they were no longer intimidated. As a result we ended up cutting a 90-day training process down to less than 2 weeks.

2. Be a bridge between the content owner and the learner.

Typically, courses are built around the needs of the organization or content owner. Many times this happens oblivious to the learner’s needs. Part of your role is to blend the organization’s needs with the learner’s needs.

It’s important to get the learners involved in the development and design of the user training. Learners are able to build a context for the information. New learners are especially valuable because they can share recent experiences and insights while they are still fresh.

3. Put the content in context.

In face-to-face sessions, you can get a lot of mileage when you step away from a lecture format and allow people to work through scenario-based challenges. It keeps the information meaningful and the learners are motivated to learn.

You can do something similar with e-learning. Page after page of content is equal to an online lecture. Change things up. Create branched scenarios and real-world interactions where the learner gets to practice using the information in a way that is relevant to the real-world environment.

You don’t want your learners to tune out and discount the important courses that you build. If you get them involved and keep the content relevant, you’ll have engaged learners.

What are some things you do to keep your elearning courses relevant?

By the way, here’s that moose. Although, I opted not to throw a baby shower or buy it a new outfit.

does a moose need e-learning

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.

 




how to build good e-learning courses

Meet Customer Needs: A Tale of Two Cookies

I recently heard a story of two girls and their cookies. The first girl bakes a few dozen chocolate chip cookies and goes door-to-door to sell them. She finds selling the cookies difficult. Not everyone likes or wants chocolate chip. Some like oatmeal raisin. Some like peanut butter. On top of that, a dozen is a lot. Some only want six.

The other girl decides to go door-to-door and asks the neighbors what they want, taking orders specific to their needs. She then buys the ingredients she needs for each order, bakes the cookies, and delivers them to satisfied customers.

The first girl committed all of her resources to a product that many didn’t need or want. The second was able to manage her resources by committing them to a product that customers did want.

Build E-learning Courses People Want

There’s a lesson here for e-learning.

Training needs to be designed with the end-user in mind. Typically, we’re like the first girl. We build the training courses based on what we think and then try to sell them. In addition the course is built based on the curriculum rather than user’s needs. And then we commit all of our resources to building the course.

We should be like the second girl and learn to make cookies people need and want. Instead of building the course around information, we should build it around how the learner will use the information.

Today, with rapid development tools, like Articulate 360, we have the flexibility to bake the type of cookies that meets our users’ needs. In the past, it took months to design and build curriculum. Today, training can be built within days.

Since we can build and modify our training so quickly, we are in a better position to build it and get it to the users as they need it. If we find that the information doesn’t work for them or needs to be modified, we can do so on the fly. This saves time and money…and helps to satisfy the users.

“C is for Cookie…That’s Good Enough for Me.”

Here’s a simple cookie-inspired acronym to help you create learning based on the user’s need: OREO.

  • Order taking. Keep the cookie story in mind. Don’t just bake chocolate chip cookies. Understand the learner’s needs. Use your rapid e-learning tools to quickly pull together the online courses that people want to consume.
  • Results. Organizations spend money on training because they expect results. Design your training courses to meet real needs. As a rapid e-learning developer, you’re in a win-win situation. You can respond quickly to training needs at an attractive price.
  • Engaged learners. Build the learning experience in a manner that engages the learner. Engagement means that the course has to look nice and embrace proven techniques on how to present information visually. It also means that we need to engage the user’s learning process and make the course truly interactive. Get them to make decisions that mimic those in the real world.
  • Objectives. Make a promise to your learners: This training will not waste your time. Be clear on the objectives and build your training to meet them.

In future posts, we will pull our OREO apart and look at these steps in greater detail.

What type of cookies do you bake?

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.

 




contract.gif

In a recent post, Brian Clark, author of the Copyblogger, a site the gives advice on copywriting, suggested to blog authors “…to make an important promise…” to the reader. The promise is to not waste the reader’s valuable time. That advice is just as true to the world of e-learning as it is to copywriters and bloggers.

What’s Your Value Proposition?

The next time you design a training course, think about the learner who has to sit through it. They get bombarded with enough “nice to know information.”

It’s about time they find out why the course is important to them. If you want them to sit through your course, tell them how it’s going to help do a better job or improve their skills. Make a promise not to waste their precious time.

Instead of starting with something like this:

obj1a.gif

Why not start with this?

superstar1.jpg

What’s My Value Proposition?

After reading Brian’s post, I stuck a note on my computer that says:

Why is this important to the reader? How are you helping them?

My personal goal is to help you do the best job you can do. To get started, I’ve included two series in the resources section on the sidebar.

  • Rapid E-Learning 101: 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.
  • 5 Myths of Rapid E-Learning: 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.

If you subscribe to the blog, you get a complementary copy of The Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro. In it, I offer time-tested tips, tricks, and best practices to help you do more than just get your courses out the door.

As the blog progresses, I’ll be adding more categories and series. I have some ideas, but I am interested in knowing what you’d like to see.

What tips and tricks are valuable to you? Tell me what resources you need. If you have questions or suggestions, feel free to drop me a line.

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 blog for tips and tricks on PowerPoint and e-learning

We are at an exciting time in our industry. Just a few years ago, you needed to hire programmers to build your e-learning courses. Today, that is not the case. Rapid e-learning tools like Articulate 360 give you the power to create your own courses without the need for programming skills. This saves you time and money.

The challenge is to develop solid end-to-end skills where you know enough about instructional design and multimedia to build courses that are both inexpensive and effective.

This blog exists to help you meet that challenge. It will provide practical, real-world tips and tricks to help you get your job done.

I have been doing this rapid e-learning stuff for a while now and have been at both ends of the e-learning community. I have worked at places where I was a one-man shop with no money and had to virtually duct tape my projects together like MacGyver. On the other end, I have been part of large organizations that switched to rapid authoring tools like Articulate 360 to become more efficient and save money. Whatever the case, it’s important to develop the skills that help you build the best e-learning courses you can.

I will be sharing my experiences and best practices. I also look forward to hearing from you and learning what you have to offer. The ultimate goal is that we help each other become better at what we do.

If you have any questions or suggestions on what you’d like to see covered, feel free to send them my way.

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.