The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for November, 2010


The Rapid E-Learning Blog - free elearning workshop

It’s funny what you find when cleaning out your computer files.  In this case, it’s a tutorial that I created over two years ago after a rapid elearning workshop I had given.  For some reason, I never ended up posting it.  So here it is.

The output of the workshop is an interactive tabbed notebook.  But the focus is really on learning some core rapid elearning tips when working with PowerPoint.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - free elearning workshop

Click here to view the rapid elearning workshop.

If you’re just getting started with rapid elearning, this is a good basic workshop that takes you through some of the essential techniques.  Plus, you end up a with a nice PowerPoint template.

Here’s what’s covered:

  • Building graphics in PowerPoint
  • Using two files per course—one for graphics and one for production
  • Learn to use PowerPoint hyperlinks
  • Leverage the master slides to decrease production time
  • Assembling the tabbed notebook

I built the workshop using the same notebook so you can see an example of the output as well.  I also included the files for PowerPoint 2003 and 2007.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - 3 free tabbed templates using PowerPoint 2003 and PowerPoint 2007

All of the notebooks use the default color theme in PowerPoint 2007 so it’s easy to quickly apply a new theme with your own color scheme.

I hope you enjoy the quick workshop and notebook templates.  If you use them in a course, feel free to send me a link or screen grab.  I’d love to see what you do.  If you have any comments, please share them in the comments section.

Update:

Stephanie did a nice screencast to show how to get more out of the free PowerPoint templates and make them look richer.

Click here to play the tutorial.

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 - travel

Recently, I’ve done quite a bit of traveling.  In the past few weeks I’ve been to Vermont, Louisiana, Pennsylvania (twice), California, and New York.  I’ve been able to meet quite a few rapid elearning developers and blog readers.

The Blog Readers Keep the Job Fun

By nature, I’m a bit introverted.  But I can tell you that getting to meet some of the blog readers around the country is really energizing.  I’m always overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and the kind and encouraging words that are shared about the blog.  In this world where we all wrestle with information overload, I’m flattered that the blog posts are so well received.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - enthusiastic blog readers

Many of the people I meet are one or two-person teams.  They’re responsible for instructional design, graphic design, course authoring, and a lot of the IT support that goes with delivering elearning courses.  They’re also under a lot of pressure to create effective elearning with limited resources and virtually no budget.

So I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to help by offering a few of the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

The E-Learning Community Makes the Job Easy

I’m also thankful for the many people in the elearning community who so freely share what they know and are willing to offer their expertise to others.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - bedbug

Here’s a great example of the elearning community in action.  Joe Deegan was looking for some creative ideas on a bed bug course he’s creating.  I love the way everyone jumped in and offered a bunch of ideas.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning community

In fact, one of the best ideas was to look at the content from a different perspective.  This works whether you’re getting rid of bed bugs or trying to teach soft skills.

Free Stuff Makes Everyone’s Job Easy & Fun

In honor of the active elearning community and the upcoming holiday season, I’m going to include one free download through the end of the year.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - demo of the free PowerPoint template

Click here to view the template demo.

Today, it’s a free PowerPoint template based on the Tripit smartphone app.  I’m not a big cell phone user (mostly because I’m trying to avoid texted honey-do lists). Over the years, I’ve been able to get by with one of those pay-as-you-go phones.  I’d buy 1,000 minutes and a year later still have 600 minutes left.

But with all of this travel, I recently switched to a simple smart phone for better access to email and information like my travel itinerary.  So far so good.  The phone works great and I’m not locked into a long-term contract.

Since I now have the phone, I’ve been playing with some of the travel apps and I really like Tripit for managing my itineraries.  What I also like is their screen layout and how it could be used in an elearning course.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Tripit smartphone app   

When I create elearning templates and look for design ideas, I try think about these key elements since they’re usually part of most elearning courses.

  • Welcome
  • Menu choices
  • Objectives
  • Various layouts
  • Blank screen for inserted media or interactivity
  • Miscellaneous assets

The Tripit screenshot offers a few ideas.  I like the simple color theme.  I also think that the three numbered boxes could easily be used to list objectives or create a branched menu for sections in a course.

I also like the way the circles are used as callouts.  Combine that with some icons and you have a really interesting screen.  Notice how each box has elements that bleed or hang outside of the blue box?  It adds a bit more visual interest.

Below you can download the elearning template and some of the assets.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - rapid elearning PowerPoint template

 

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - assets

If you want to use some icons in your template like they do in the original web site, do a search for icons.  I like the ones below because they’re simple flat icons.  Just ungroup them and pull the flag out.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - good icons for the template

Download the template here.  I’d love to see what you do with it.  Feel free to send a link via the comments section.

Thanks to all who make my job a blast.  And special thanks to the team at UTI for sharing the fan photo.  You made me blush. : )

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 - Are you building black squirrel or grey squirrel elearning?

Last week I took a stroll through New York City’s Central Park.  While walking along the paths, I saw a black squirrel digging for acorns.  I’m not sure how many black squirrels live in Central Park so they may be somewhat common.  But for me, they’re uncommon and that got my attention.

After seeing the first black squirrel I surveyed the park to look for more.  I didn’t see any others, but I did see a lot of grey squirrels.  In fact, there were grey squirrels everywhere.  I just hadn’t noticed them before.

This reminded me of Seth Godin’s book about purple cows.  He talks about how we don’t notice regular cows, but we’d certainly notice a purple cow.  The essence of his book is about doing something remarkable.  As he says, what you do should be “worth making a remark about.”   While he’s in the marketing industry, there’s no reason why his thoughts can’t be applied to elearning courses.

Of course, the odds are that people are already making remarks about the elearning courses, so I’d add that the remarks should be positive.  : )

Below is a video of Seth explaining how to stand out with remarkable products.  I also encourage reading his blog.  It’s not about elearning but it is about how to serve people and meet their needs.  And that is a large part of elearning.

Click here to view the Seth Godin video.

Grey Squirrel vs Black Squirrel E-Learning

With rapid authoring tools, it’s becoming easier to build and deliver elearning courses; and that means more and more organizations are building them.  So over time, we get a lot of courses that all start to blend together.

They’re like the grey squirrels in Central Park.  There were a lot of them around but they just didn’t stand out.  It’s easy to build grey squirrel elearning where one course seems to be exactly the same as the next course.  But that doesn’t have to be the case.  There’s a place to create black squirrel courses—those that stand out and make people take notice.  Here are a few ideas to help you get started.

Build Eye-Catching Courses

There’s a lot to be said about the aesthetic design of your course.  Some people discount the focus on looking good as mere “eye candy. “  But, the look and feel does matter.  The more polished your course is the more value the learner will assign.  They see the course before they do anything else with it.  So you want it to be inviting and visually interesting to start.  You definitely don’t want them starting the course thinking that it’s another boring elearning course and probably a waste of their time.

The challenge for many people is that they aren’t trained graphic designers and not sure how to design the right look and feel.  Fortunately there are some resources.  First, I’d invest in a graphics design book to learn some basic concepts.  The Non-Designer’s Design Book is a good start.  You’ll learn the basics with some good before and after examples.  Be sure to apply the concepts to your own course design.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - visual mindmapping

David Anderson also has a great mind mapping exercise where he walks you through the process of building a unique look and feel for your elearning courses.  As an example, check out the before version of the art history quiz. It’s typical of what we see in many elearning courses.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - art history before exampleClick here to view the before version.

By applying David’s mind map exercise, he was able to convert a somewhat generic-looking quiz to something much more rich and dynamic.  Instead of using the quiz form, he leveraged Quizmaker’s slide view to create a very compelling look that only enhances what you’re trying to teach.

The information’s the same in both quizzes.  But given the choice, which would you want to be part of your elearning course?

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - art museum after example

Click here to view the after version.

Keep in mind, the goal isn’t to create eye candy where you have a good looking course with no substance.  Instead, the goal is to combine the right look and feel with relevant and meaningful content.

Go From Push to Pull

Many elearning courses push information to the learners.  I discussed this a bit in the blog post, Are Your E-Learning Courses Pushed or Pulled?  The assumption is that people will learn because we make the information available to them.  While you do get the informat
ion out there, it doesn’t mean any of it is relevant or sticks.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - are you pushing or pulling

Ideally, elearning courses have the learners pull information.  You do this by giving them a reason to look for it and use it. Find out how the course’s content is relevant to them and then build places in the course where they are challenged to make decisions.  Don’t push the information at them.  Instead, give them a means to find it and then pull what they need to make the right decisions that help them learn.

Free Up the Course Navigation

Personally, I think one of the worst parts of elearning is when the navigation controls are locked.  Typically, the rationale is that “we can’t guarantee that they get all of the information or view all of the screens.”  This is a bogus reason to lock navigation. Essentially, you’re already admitting that the course is lame and not important to the learner because if given the opportunity, they’re going to leave.  That’s not a navigation issue, that’s an instructional design issue.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - learning happens online and when interacting with the content

If the content is relevant and meaningful to the learner, locking navigation is less an issue.  The push-pull approach above is one way to make the content meaningful.  You can explore some other ideas in this post on why course navigation is less important than you think.

For those who ask, “How do I know they learned what they needed?” I suggest that you look carefully at your course objectives.  There’s a reason that the course exists.  In some sense, you’re trying to persuade the learner to a point of view.  Considering this, you have to determine how to measure your success at persuading them.  When you look at it that way, locking navigation hardly seems a successful route of persuasion.

If the goal is to teach something, then having viewed a screen is probably not the best measure of success.  Figure out how the learners can demonstrate their understanding of the content, and then build scenarios, assessments, or other decision points in the process so they can demonstrate their understanding.  That’s more meaningful than screens viewed.

There are other ways to make your content remarkable.  You can get rid of a lot of content or come up with creative and unique ways of presenting the information.  The main point is to look at your courses and ask if they stand out.  Are you building grey squirrel courses that are ho-hum and easy to ignore? Or are you building courses that like the black squirrel make people take notice and desire to know more?

What are some tips you have for making elearning courses more remarkable?  Share them by clicking on the comments link.

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 - 75 free rapid elearning resources

The other day this guy asked me how to develop color schemes for his rapid e-learning courses. Like a lot of guys, he has some issues with color perception so he wanted an easy way to match colors.

I have the same challenge.  In fact, my wife’s probably getting annoyed with me always asking which shirts and pants match when I pack for the conference trips.  It’s a good thing I can trust her.  Otherwise, I might show up at the conference looking like a doofus in a leisure suit.

I shared some of the tools that I use for color schemes in previous posts like this one on creating your own rapid e-learning PowerPoint template.  I start by picking a color from the image using Pixie.  And then I take that color information to a site like Color Schemer to create a color scheme.  That helps me have a consistent color scheme.

As I was searching previous posts to answer his question, I ran into a lot of the tools and sites that I’ve recommended in previous blog posts.  So I thought that it might be a good idea to make a single list of some of the tools and sites like Pixie and Color Schemer that I’ve referenced before.  So here’s a list of previously referenced tools and a brief explanation of what they do.

Also, here’s a link to the 200 free rapid e-learning tutorials I posted a while back.

Audio Resources

Creative Commons audio: good sites to get free audio for your courses. [original post]

Video Resources

Graphics Resources

Image editing software:

Font Resources

Stock Image Resources

The following sites were recommended by blog readers. [original post]

Writing & Reading Resources

  • Copyblogger: the site is focused on writing for blogs but the ideas work for e-learning courses, too; especially when it comes to creating learner-centric content. [original post]
  • Windows Live Writer: this is what I use to write my blog posts. It’s free and works great. [original post]
  • Making Change: Cathy Moore does a good job providing tips that will improve how you write for your courses and with your instructional design. [original post]

PowerPoint Resources

Community & Social Media Resources

Miscellaneous Resources

Hopefully you can use these applications when working on your courses.  If there are some free resources you think should be on the list, feel free to share them in the comments section.

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 - 3 time-saving tips

The other day I was reviewing an old PowerPoint file that I used for the blog post on how to build simple interactive scenarios in PowerPoint-based elearning.  I wanted to make some tweaks to it for an upcoming presentation. 

However, when I opened the file, I realized that in my haste to build the demo for the blog post, I took quite a few short cuts.  At the time, it was fine because it’s a simple demo for the blog.  But going back to make changes has forced me to break and rebuild much of the PowerPoint.  If it was a real elearning course, it could have cost me quite a bit of time.

This experience is a good reminder of many of the production tips and tricks I share in the blog.  There are things we can do during the initial course development that not only save time, but make maintaining the course easier down the road.

Today, I want to revisit some of those tips and show how they can help you on your next elearning course.  Here’s a quick rundown of what I ran into when I opened the original file.

Publishing time was slower.

If you look at the image below, you can see that there’s nothing on the master slides because I didn’t use any master slides.  Instead all of the persistent objects on the screen are copied over all of the slides.  This means that each slide takes a little longer to publish.  This simple demo only had thirteen slides which took about 2 minutes to publish.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - no master slides means wasted time

Solution: Put as much redundant content on the slide master.  This decreases the publish time.  In this case, the publish time went from about 2 minutes to less than 30 seconds.  Saving 90 seconds for the blog demo’s not that big of a deal.  But a real elearning course with a lot more slides would see a significant improvement in the time to publish.

Didn’t take advantage of the master slides.

The scenario demo has three main scenes.  In the original, I took a shortcut and just created a new slide by copying the previous one (which is what many people do).  That means I didn’t use any slide masters.  I already showed how that slows down publishing time.  In addition, it makes editing much more challenging.  It’s easier to edit a single master once, than it is to make the same edits to each slide individually.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - put as much as you can on the master slide

Solution: I created a layout in the slide master for each scene.  Place all of the persistent objects on master slides.  Don’t be afraid of multiple masters.  You can have as many masters as you like.  I usually recommend that if you have more than 2 slides with the same information, use a master.

Clip art and PowerPoint objects are less flexible

Working with image files is easier than working with vector shapes in PowerPoint.  For example, the characters are clip art images.  If I want to re-use the slide and swap out characters, I can’t do that using the clip art without having to delete and rebuild the animations.  I also don’t get the same image editing capabilities with clip art and PowerPoint shapes that I get with bitmap images.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - there are a lot more graphic tools in PowerPoint for bitmaps than objects

Solution: For each course, create two PowerPoint files.  One is for building graphics and the other is for building the course.   It’s an extra step, but doesn’t require a lot of extra work.  The tradeoff is that managing your courses will be easier, your publish time will be faster, and you’ll build a library of reusable elearning art.

Most of us are used to working with PowerPoint where some of these tips aren’t as intuitive.  Some of these tips require a change in behavior.  However, if you can make changes in how you work with PowerPoint when building elearning courses, you’ll save time and find that maintaining and editing the projects is a lot easier.

Here are a few quick tutorials that walk through some of these tips and production techniques. 

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - click here to view the PowerPoint tutorial

Click here to view the tutorials.

You can also view each via Screenr:

What do you do to save time when working with PowerPoint?  Share your tips by clicking on the comments link.

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.