The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for August, 2009

You may have heard the news last week that Articulate launched a new screencasting tool called Screenr.  It is a free web-based tool that lets you create screencasts without installing any software.


I really like Screenr.  If you haven’t tried it out yet, you should give it a whirl.  Here’s what I like best:

  • Screenr is super easy to use and there’s nothing to download. You just click the record button on the website and you’re recording your screen activity and your narration.
  • The image quality is pretty darn good.  You can even watch the screencasts back at HD-quality and they look great.
  • Screenr gives you multiple ways to use your screencasts.  It works with Twitter and the screencasts play as Flash on the web.  You can also upload the screencasts to YouTube.  And you can even download the videos as MP4 files.  They also look nice on the iPhone.  All these options give you a number of ways to reach your learners.
  • My favorite…there’s no branding on the downloaded MP4 files.  Since you can download the videos, you’re free to use them as you wish.  That means you can use it in your elearning courses without looking like one of those MLS soccer players.  Go Sounders
  • And of course, Screenr is free.  Free is always good.

With that said, let me share some ideas on how you can use Screenr with your rapid elearning courses.

1. Add Screenr Videos to Your Blogs, Wikis, and Slides

Screenr gives you an embed code.  That means you can create a video and easily add it to your blog, wiki, or website (or any other place that takes HTML).  If you use the Articulate products, you can the web object feature to add videos to your slides.

Here are a couple of tutorials on how to embed the Screenr videos in Moodle and how to embed them in Blackboard.  Below is an example of the Screenr video embedded in a slide using the web object feature.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Screenr video inserted into an elearning course as a web object.

Click here to view the web object demo.


2. Download Screenr MP4 Files & Add to Your Course

As I mentioned earlier, one of my favorite things about Screenr is that I can download the videos as MP4 files and not have the Screenr logo in the video. That means I can easily use them in my courses.

Here’s an example of a Screenr MP4 file inside an elearning course.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Screenr video as MP4 in an elearning course.

Click here to view the MP4 demo.


3. Create a Virtual Whiteboard

Use a tablet PC or something that lets you do pen input to simulate a whiteboard.  All you need is a blank area to write and capture the video.  Here’s a demo of a whiteboard screencast in an elearning course.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Use Screenr to create virutal whiteboards for elearning courses

Click here to view the whiteboard demo.


4. Put Screenr in the Hands of Your Learners

There’s no reason to hog all of this goodness for yourself.  Have your learners do screencasts to demonstrate their skills.  It’s a great way to reinforce their learning and assess their level of understanding.

Screenr works with Twitter and Youtube.  And as I stated earlier, the embed code means your learners could make videos and put them on their own blogs or wikis.

Here’s an example where both teacher and learner are going through the process together.  It gives you an idea of how Screenr can add value to the learning process.

 Click here to view the demo.


5. Make it Mobile

Many mobile video devices and smart phones can play MP4s or videos from a website.  That means you can take your courses mobile.  All you need to do is use the URL in your mobile device’s web browser.

Here’s an example of what it looks like if you view the Screenr videos from an iPhone or iPod Touch.

 Click here to view the iPhone demo.

When I first heard about playing back screencasts on the iPhone, I was a bit skeptical about what it would look like.  But I’ll have to tell you tha
t I was pretty impressed with the image quality considering the size of the screen.  I thought that it would be too hard to see what’s going on, but that wasn’t the case.

Of course, you can also download the MP4 video and then upload it to your device manually. 

So that’s about it.  Screenr’s a pretty cool application.  It’s easy to use.  Free.  And can be used with your elearning courses.  What are some other ways you can think of to use Screenr videos for your elearning?  Click on the comment links to share your thoughts.  (And better yet, share your screencasts!)


If you want to learn more about some of the ideas I covered in this post, I added a few quick Screenr tutorials to help you get started.


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.

This is a trick I kind of stumbled upon a few months ago.  I was attempting to zip up a PowerPoint 2007 file and accidentally unzipped it to reveal a media folder that held all of the images I was using in my course.  Now, keep in mind that this only works for PowerPoint 2007, but it’s still a cool trick, nonetheless.

Here’s a quick screencast I did to show you how easy this is and how you can use it to manage your course images. 

 The Rapid E-Learning Blog - 7-Zip demo

Click here to view the 7-Zip demo.

Download 7-Zip.  It’s Free!

The first step is to download 7-Zip.  It’s a free application that you can use to compress or extract files that are compressed.  For example, if you get a file, you can right click on the file and choose to extract it.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - steps to extract a .zip file using 7-Zip

Extract the PowerPoint 2007 File

Once you have 7-Zip installed, you can extract the contents of your PowerPoint 2007 file.  What happens when you extract the .pptx file is you’ll get a folder with a matching name.  Inside that folder, there’s a media folder than contains the images that you used in your elearning course.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - compare a .ppt file to the extracted folder

Locate the Media Folder

Let’s see this in action.  I created the FTC demo course below.  It was built with PowerPoint 2007.  If you notice, I have quite a few images on the various slides. 

After I extracted the .pptx file, I locate the media folder which has all of the course’s images in one location. The media folder is one level down inside the ppt folder.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - FTC demo course

Click here to view the demo.

If you look at the image below, you’ll see the contents of the media folder.  What you’ll notice is that all of the images I added to the course are in that one folder.  This really comes in handy.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of images in the extracted media folder

Tips on Using the Media Folder

Here are a couple of ways that you can use the media folder to save time.

  1. Keep all of your images in one location.  Many people aren’t very organized when it comes to managing their course’s assets.  When you’re done with your course, just use 7-Zip to extract the media folder.  Move the media folder to a place where you save your images.  Rename it to match the course and all of your images are now in one place.  You can quickly scan the folder with an application like Picasa or Windows Photo Gallery.
  2. Quickly save clip art images to your slides and then save the .pptx file.  It’s easy to just drag and drop images to a PowerPoint 2007 slide.  Normally, you have to right click on the image and then save as a picture to have it outside of the slide.  Not with this technique.  Add images to your slides and then extract the file to have quick access to all of the images.

Here’s a link to IrFanView.  This is a free application that you can use to quickly view your .WMF files.  It has a lot of other useful features, but you can learn about that on their web site.

What are some other ways that you can use this approach to your advantage?  Feel free to share your thoughts by clicking on the comments link.

If you liked this post, you might find these interesting:


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.

I once had a job where I was a one-person media department with a budget of about $11.17.  This didn’t go very far so I learned to be creative with my resources and the things I had to do. 

One of my favorite tricks was using overhead projectors to light my video interviews.  I printed colors and designs on the overhead transparencies for my background and shadows.  And then I printed various shades of gray on the transparency for my diffusion.  Here’s a frame from one of the videos. Considering what I had to use, I am still proud of what I accomplished.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of 3 point lighting with overhead projectors

While I didn’t enjoy working with limited resources, I will say that some of my best ideas and learning experiences came from this environment.  In fact, we usually tend to be the most innovative and creative when we don’t have resources.  It forces us to think in new ways.

I get to meet quite a few elearning developers and blog readers at the conferences.  One of my favorite experiences is when they have questions about how to do this or that.  I like to brainstorm with them some ideas and then build quick prototypes to test them out.

In fact, the frog dissection post I did a few months ago came as a result of a conference discussion.  I wanted to show that because you’re using PowerPoint doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with something that looks like PowerPoint.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - frog dissection demo

Click here to view the demo.

At another conference, someone wanted to know how to create an assembly line concept.  That’s where I quickly prototyped the moving box.  And the glossary post came as a result of someone asking about different ways to add a glossary to a rapid elearning course.

This week I received some questions that let me play around with a few ideas; so I thought I’d pull them into a post.  While I hope you can use the tips I share today, what I really hope is that you feel encouraged to test ideas and come up with your own creative solutions. 

Add Multiple Videos to One Slide

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - add multiple videos to one slide

Sally wants to add three videos to her PowerPoint slide and then publish it as a rapid elearning course.  Here’s a demo of a slide with three videos on it and following are the basic steps.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - 3 videos in one slide tutorial

Click here to view the tutorial.

  • Create four slides.  On slide 1, add screenshots of each video.  The learner will click those to play the video.
  • Link each video image to one of the slides.  When the learner clicks the video image, it will link to the slide with the actual video on it.
  • Copy the images to the other slides. On each of the other slides (2-4), replace one of the images with its respective video.
  • If you use Articulate Presenter, hide slides 2-4 and set the branching on the player controls to go back to slide 1 and forward to slide 5 (if you had one).

Create a Slide Rewind Button

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - crate a slide rewind button

Bill wants the learner to be able to replay the slide.  This is pretty easy to do.  Essentially, you add a hyperlink to the slide you’re currently on and it reloads the slide.  Here’s a demo of a slide with a replay button.  Following is a tutorial.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - slide replay tutorial

Click here to view the tutorial.

  • Add a replay icon to the slide.  You can find one in this free icon pack from the Webdesigner Depot.
  • Add a link to the icon that goes to the slide it’s on.  For example, if you want slide 2 to replay, set a PowerPoint hyperlink on the icon to slide 2.  This will reload the slide.
  • You’ll want to experiment with the template’s navigation settings so that the replay button works without getting a message box.

Add Rollover Buttons

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - add rollover buttons

Freda saw a demo that I did a few years ago.  It had an animated back
ground and some rollover buttons.  This one is a bit tricky.  Essentially, it’s smoke and mirrors.  I used transparent PowerPoint hyperlinks and added some rollover Flash files that gave the appearance of having a rollover effect on the link. 

As far as the background, after publishing the course, I swapped out the background .swf with a custom .swf.  It’s similar to what Dave Moxon describes in this blog post about adding animated backgrounds.

For today, I am going to give you the best of both worlds.  I’m going to show you an easy trick to add some umpf to your rapid elearning course and I’ll give you the free files so that you can use them in your own course.  They’re also designed to match the template I gave you in this post on building your own PowerPoint templates.

Click here to see a demo of the rollover tabs and then read on to learn how to build it.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - swap background swf tutorial

Click here to view the tutorial.

  • Create a master slide using the background template image.  This will help you line up your PowerPoint hyperlinks.
  • Build your course using PowerPoint hyperlinks for the tab sections.  Make sure to line them up over the appropriate tabs.
  • Publish the course and go into the data folder and locate the background swf file.  If you have multiple background .swfs then you’ll need to click on them to see which the right one is.  I use the free application SWF Player to easily preview the .swf files.
  • Replace the background .swf with the rollover .swf.  Make sure to give it the same name.  Now when you play the course, you’ll have the animated background.  It looks like the tabs are rollover links.  Keep in mind that every time you publish the course, you’ll need to swap out the background, but that really only takes a few seconds.  I usually don’t swap anything until I am completely done.

If you have some Flash skills or access to a Flash developer, these rollovers .swfs are pretty easy to create.  And as you can see, they can radically change the way your course looks and feels.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - download files here

You can download the files here.  I added some for three, four, and five tabbed sections.  Enjoy.  If you do have some Flash skills and want to build some others to share with the blog readers, feel free to send them my way.  We’d appreciate it (especially those of us who only have $11.17 to work with). 🙂

One final tip I’d like to share is that there is a lot of value in joining a user community.  Social media tools like Twitter are good, but the real value isn’t in the tool.  It’s in the community.  This is especially true for those of you with limited resources because being part of a community is like being on a virtual team.  There’s always free technical help.  And it’s a great way to bounce around ideas and learn to build better elearning courses.  Sometimes you’ll even get free downloads like the one today.

I hope these tips help you with your next elearning course. What do you think?  Share your comments by clicking on the comments link.

*Common Craft videos used by permission. 

David Anderson put together a quick tutorial on how to create the Flash rollovers for those who are interested in learning to do this. Of course, you’ll need Flash.


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 - Twitter and elearning can co-exist

Twitter’s all the rage.  Some people love it.  Some people hate it.  But many people really don’t know much about it or don’t do much with it.

I’ll have to admit, I have mixed feelings about Twitter (and much of the other social media).  On one hand, I really love to play around with all of the new social media tools and am excited about what’s going on and the potential for learning.  On the other hand, much of their value is exaggerated.  A lot of this social media stuff can be distracting and a waste of time.  But that’s not so much the fault of the social media tools as much as it is their newness and not quite knowing what to do with all of the them and the content they create.

For me it’s all about context.  I am bombarded by so much info that I tend to tune out quite a bit.  I like to focus on the more practical information that I can use.  For example, the Articulate twitter page is a good resource for Articulate users since it provides news, tutorials, and links to helpful tips and tricks. 

While I do follow people, I tend to focus on topics and keywords.  This helps me get more pointed information and not be bombarded by a bored tweep who’s retweeting and posting links every 5 minutes. You know who you are. 🙂

With all that said, Twitter is a useful tool.  It can also be incorporated into your elearning courses.  Today I’d like to share a few ideas to whet your appetite.  However before I share some tips, it’s probably a good idea to explain some Twitter basics.  So I asked Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer to share some of his insights regarding Twitter.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer explains Twitter

Click here to watch Dr. Werner’s presentation.

In addition to Dr. Werner’s brilliant insights, here are some additional ideas about how to use Twitter.

Follow the Subject Matter Expert

Suppose you’re doing a course on organizational leadership.  Inevitably, some learners will have questions of the subject matter expert (SME).  You could incorporate a subject matter tweet that lets people ask questions or follow the SME after the course is complete.  Consider it a post-course consulting tool.  It also humanizes the course and makes it seem more personal, which can contribute to its perceived value.

Here’s another idea for those in the education world.  Create a twitter account for a famous person who represents the topic you teach.  Then have the students follow the tweets.  For example, it would be fascinating to read the tweets of someone like John Adams responding to some of the debate in Washington D.C. today.  Or keep the tweets in context to the historical character’s time.  Perhaps you can teach about the D-Day invasion via the tweets of a soldier crossing the channel and storming the beach at Normandy.  You could even include media using sites like Twitvid.  What a great way to make history come alive!

Another angle is to have each student represent a historical character and then they have to tweet and follow the other student characters of the time.  Based on their tweets, it would be a great way to assess their level of understanding of the subject you’re teaching.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - John Adams Twitter page

Follow the Subject

You can assign and follow tweets via a hashtag.  What you do is something like this:

I look forward to September and watching the Seattle #Seahawks play.

Someone tracking #Seahawks can now see my tweet.  If you wanted people who take your course to continue the conversation or keep on top of a particular subject, then use a hashtag. 

Let’s say you were teaching a course on fire safety.  The hashtag could be #fs or #fire.  Then anyone can track the hashtag and stay up on the latest info.  Of course you want something that is both somewhat unique and short so you don’t take up all of your characters.

Once you have a course hashtag, you can use Twitter to provide additional content after the course.  You can also use it to get your learners to respond and provide feedback.  They could add some thoughts or tips that they learned.  They could also go back to their jobs, apply the course information, and then comment on how it worked for them.  This helps you make adjustments to the course content and it’s a good way to get an extra level of evaluation that’s more than the standard “smile sheet.”

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Example of a Twitter hashtag

Build a Community

There’s no reason why you couldn’t use Twitter to help facilitate a community of practice.  The real value in social media is in community building where you’re able to connect people who share similar interests and get them to exchange ideas.  And Twitter is great for that.

Have the learners use Twitter to share their thoughts.  For example, instead of giving them an assessment, make the assessment their Twitter stream.  They need to reflect on what they’re learning in the course and then share that with others.

Another way to get them involved is to have them share links and other information relevant to what they’ve learned.  Even if the course content is proprietary, there’s no reason why they couldn’t go out and look for other thought leaders or groups in the same industry to build on what they’re learning in your course.

For example, if I were teaching on the Truth in Lending Act, I’d have them look for some news stories about lending relevant to the Truth in Lending Act.  Or perhaps have them do some research on why we have a Truth in Lending Act.  Or share their thoughts on what would happen if there was no Truth in Lending Act.

To build the community use hashtags or sign up for a site like Twibes whe
re you can create communities around mutual interest.  Two things to consider.  First, not everyone will jump on the community bandwagon.  That’s fine, you only need a few enthusiastic learners.  Secondly, Twitter kind of started as a microblogging tool.  If you want better organized conversation it might not be the best tool to use.  In that case, you could look at a chat application or a forum where you could have threaded comments.  They tend to be easier to follow.

Those are just a few ways you can use Twitter.  Of course, this doesn’t work for everybody.  Some of you are behind corporate firewalls and don’t have access to Twitter.  However, if you do have access to Twitter (or an enterprise equivalent) then these tips might come in handy.  If not, then change Twitter to wiki or some other social media tool you do have access to and see if these ideas work for you.

What are some other ways that you can think of blending Twitter with your elearning courses? Share your thoughts by clicking on the comments link.

*The free Twitter icons came from Gopal Raju at ProductiveDreams.

**Dr. Werner’s avatar came from AMC’s


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.