The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for December, 2007


Most PowerPoint templates are designed for standard bullet point presentations.  They’re not really designed for elearning courses.  This means that you’ll have to create your own templates that work better with the rapid elearning software.

This post will share with you my secrets for creating custom templates in PowerPoint.  And since we’re in this gift giving season, you can have the templates I designed for this demo.  Click the link below to see an explanation of how I get inspired by other web site designs.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - PowerPoint elearning template demo

Click here to view demo.

Here are three templates that I created for this blog post.  Take a look at the image that inspired it and then click the demo link to see my template applied to an elearning course.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog -  sample elearning image

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - PowerPoint elearning template demo

Click to see a demo of the template above.

 

The Rapid E-Learning Blog -  sample elearning image

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - PowerPoint elearning template demo

Click to see a demo of the template above.

 

The Rapid E-Learning Blog -  sample elearning image

 The Rapid E-Learning Blog - PowerPoint elearning template demo

 Click to see a demo of the template above.

 

Let’s quickly review the key points of this post.

Focus on white space.

Create a design that gives you as much real estate as possible.  You also need to make sure the design doesn’t conflict with your course content and images.  Try not to overcomplicate it with a bunch of background designs.

Make a few variations of the template

I don’t typically create a PowerPoint template.  Instead I create the background images to use in my PowerPoint slides so it’s easy to just swap out the background.  Of course, you can always pre-build a template and save it as template.pot.

I usually make four screens for my elearning courses.

  • Title or section screen
  • Main body screen
  • Wide open screen to maximize the real estate
  • Footer screen, in case I want to create my own navigation

Find layout and color scheme ideas from other sources

Look at best of breed web or graphic design sites to get ideas for the way you want your screen to look.  Do a search for CSS templates and you’ll find all types of sites that have unique ideas.

The idea’s not to steal a design.  Instead the idea is to look at new ways to structure the screen with different visual elements and color schemes.  Deconstructing what someone else does well will help you learn how they created their designs.  This will increase your ability to come up with your own.

Use graphics tools to help you build your templates

Many of you already use tools like Photoshop to create your graphics.  However, there are a lot of free resources available to help you fine tune your templates, as well.

  • Pixie: quickly pick colors from an image
  • Kuler: create custom color schemes.
  • GIMP: solid Photoshop alternative
  • Paint.net:  solid Gimp or Photoshop alternative:)

This should be enough to get you started.  Remember, don’t be afraid to play around.  Find some style ideas you like and then see what you can do.  If you feel brave, create some templates and send them my way.  Perhaps they’ll find their way onto the blog.

As promised, click on the link to download the templates I created for this demo.

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.

 




started

Almost daily I get emails asking how to get started with developing elearning.  There’s no substitution for experience.  Here are five tips that will help you gain experience and develop the skills to build elearning courses that you can be proud of.

Don’t Go Crazy Trying to Create an Award Winning Course

Start simple.  The main goal is to communicate information that will help someone do something better.  Microsoft has some really nice starter templates to help you organize your learning project.  They even have a generic needs assessment and roll out plan.

image of generic training templates

Click here to access Microsoft training templates

After you do a few projects, you’ll feel more comfortable branching out from the templates and applying your own unique approach.

Learn from the Experts

To be a successful elearning designer means you have to know something about multimedia, graphic design, instructional psychology, and perhaps a little about Web and Flash technologies.

There are a lot of great experts with books to get you pointed in the right direction.  Here are the ones I recommend for those just getting started.  They give you a broad overview of what you need to know and all have good visual examples of what to do. The links do go to Amazon and produce a small commission.

books

  • E-Learning by Design:  I like to recommend this one because it covers all of the basics well.
  • Performance Consulting:  This is a great resource to help you learn how to work with your clients and build a training course that will focus on real results.
  • The Non-Designer’s Design Book:  I like books that explain ideas and then give me good examples.  You’ll learn basic design principles and how to organize the content on your screen to create more visual impact.
  • Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability:  I love this book because you don’t need to read it.  The author has good before and after examples.  While the book focuses on web usability, most of what he says about web pages applies to elearning, as well.

This isn’t an exhaustive list.  There are a lot of other good books I could recommend, but this is a good start and covers a lot of the basics.

Feel free to recommend other good books in the comments section.

Play Around with the Software

Compared to building courses in Flash or Authorware, the rapid elearning tools are easy to use.  It’s just a matter of getting in there and using them.  You really can’t break anything.  If you’re not sure where to start, just start with the first drop down item or feature.

For example, I get a lot of questions about the best way to get started with Articulate Presenter.  Here’s my answer.  Create a simple 10 slide PowerPoint file.  Then go to each feature in the drop down menu and use it.  The menus are easy to understand and for the most part are self-explanatory.  The key is to play around and see what happens.

In addition, try to connect with expert users of the software and show them what you’ve done and ask for opinions.  One of the most popular threads in the Articulate Community Forum is one where people share their projects.  It’s a great way get feedback and learn to use the software from expert users.

Don’t be Afraid to Experiment

As adults, we tend to inhibit our learning experience because we’re worried that what we do won’t be right.  Well, today’s your day of liberation.  You have permission to start an elearning project and play around with ideas.  Don’t worry about getting it right.

I’ve done enough of these to know that there’s no right or wrong way and you have a lot of latitude in how you design your course.  The secret is to practice experimenting with new things.

One of the ways I like to learn is by deconstructing what others have done.  I’ll review courses I like and try to replicate them.  Replicating good elearning courses helps me think through the project design, which in turn develops the skills I need.

For example, Michael Allen has some great books on building interactive elearning.  His book, Guide to E-Learning, comes with a demo CD that has some really good examples in it.

In the image below, you see a screen capture from an Allen course on brake parts.  The learner moves the mouse over the label to get information about a specific brake part.  This was developed by a Flash programmer.

ma_brakes

The good news for you just getting started is that you can get this level of quality with no programming skills and you can build something very similar to the course above in just minutes.  In fact, the example below was built in less than 15 minutes using Articulate Engage.

brakes2

Click here to view the demo.

To be engaged in your own learning, look for the types of elearning you’d like to do.  Deconstruct the projects and see if you can replicate them.  You might not always succeed, but you’ll learn a lot and you’ll really expand your skills.

Take Advantage of the Free Stuff

There are lots of good free resources available that will help you grow in your skills.  The key is to use them.

  • Stay on top of the industry.  In an earlier post, I shared how to leverage web 2.0 technology to increase your skills.  By reading blogs and connecting with experts, you will be continually reminded of what’s going on.  If you want a good place to start, Gabe, our Director of Customer Support, had a recent post on his favorite learning blogs.
  • Become part of the user community.  In addition to staying on top of the industry, tap into the community resources for the software you use.  As I mentioned earlier, the Articulate Community Forums are very valuable.   If you use other software, they probably have their own forums.  It’s other users who have figured out best practices to get the software to work for them.  Tap into that resource and you can save hours of production time and potential frustration.
  •  Collect free resources.  There are a lot of free resources to help you.  In fact, we offer a free ebook that is good for beginners.  You can also visit sites like Don Clark’s Performance, Learning, Leadership, & Knowledge.  His site is like having an instructional design library at your finger tips.Another site that I like is Making Change.  Cathy does a great job showing examples.  It’s a good balance to the text heavy, academic information from some of the other sites that are focused on instructional design theory.

These tips are just the beginning.  The key for you is to take that first step.  Don’t worry about whether what you do is right or wrong.  You’ll figure it out as you go.

Take advantage of all of the tips and tricks you get from your peers.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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.

 




time_money

Unless you work for the Count of Monte Cristo, you most likely have limited resources to build your e-learning courses.  So any opportunity to save time (and money) is a good thing. 

Here are three techniques I’ve used that will make your e-learning development go faster and cost less.

Don’t Create An E-Learning Course

Clients typically think every problem can be solved through training.  Sometimes the best value you bring is that of a gatekeeper.  If you can avoid creating a course, do so.

Your job is to help your clients make the right decisions by assessing their needs and advising them on the best course of action.  By avoiding unnecessary elearning projects, you free your resources to work on those that bring real value.

Use Kuhlmann’s E-Learning Hierarchy 

I use a three-tiered approach for elearning design.  I start by automating as much of the production process as I can and freeing up my more expensive Flash developers to work on projects that best utilize their skills. 

rapid e-learning hierarchy

Click here to view module

  1. Make rapid elearning the default approach unless you need more. This allows you to meet your objectives without committing more expensive resources (like your Flash developers) to the project.
  2. Build custom elearning pieces that you can drop into your rapid elearning course.  Rapid elearning software is very flexible and allows you to add custom content like Flash files or web objects.  This hybrid approach allows you to build the pieces you need and still leverage the benefits of quicker production using the rapid elearning software.
  3. Commit your multimedia resources to custom development.  If you follow the first two steps, then you can free up your resources to build custom content.  It doesn’t make sense to pay a skilled multimedia programmer to build something that you can do with a rapid elearning tool.  Instead, push as much work to the rapid development side as you can and get your expensive developers to work on those projects that require custom development and best utilize their skills.

Incorporate External Content Resources

The majority of elearning is focused on delivery of information.  And most of these courses use content that is already available elsewhere, like the organization’s intranet.  Instead of just regurgitating content, do this.  Build your course to teach the learner how to find the content outside of the course. 

If you do this, you won’t need to cover everything in the course.  This allows you to create learner independence and means you have to build less content.  It also helps with maintaining the course as the content changes.

In addition, many step-by-step courses only require a brief overview and then some cheat sheets or simple tips that the learners can use at their workplaces.  Why build a time consuming course, when you might be able to provide a less expensive document that serves the same purpose?

The key to your success is investing your time and resources where you get the most value.  Following these tips helps you do that.

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.