The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for January, 2011


The Rapid E-Learning Blog - see courses from a different perspective

Most people only see linear, click-and-read elearning courses.  So when it comes time to build their own courses, they tend to build what they’ve seen before.  The same goes for your clients or subject matter experts.  They tend to expect something similar to what they’re used to seeing.

There are many times when a linear, click-and-read course is appropriate.  So this isn’t a rant against click-and-read courses.  However, there are also plenty of times, where a click-and-read course isn’t the best solution.  In those cases, it can be a challenge getting your client to see past what he’s used to and considering a different approach.

Today, I’d like to offer a few ideas to help your client and subject matter experts understand what type of course they need to build.

Clarify the Course Objectives

What does the client expect as an outcome?  I’ve worked on plenty of projects where the outcome was only to have the course tracked at the end of the year.  And I’ve also worked on courses where the client expected real changes in performance.

In clarifying the objectives, steer the client away from courses that don’t offer any tangible value.  If the course isn’t aligned to tangible goals, then most likely it’s a waste of time.  But the reality is that sometimes you still have to build courses where the only real objective is that at the end of the year some group can say X people went through each course and got a 100% on the quiz.

In those cases, try to commit the least amount of resources possible.  You can build simple courses that look good and meet your client’s goal without spending a lot of time and money.  Your client will be happy and you free up your time and money for the more meaningful courses.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - performance consulting to clarify objectives

If you’re new to this, I recommend the Performance Consulting (2008) book.  It does a great job walking through the process of helping your clients understand their performance goals and objectives.  Knowing this will help them build impactful courses.  I’ve also heard good things about The Performance Consultant’s Fieldbook.

Key points:

  • Determine objectives
  • Align objectives to performance goals
  • Allocate resources appropriate to the objectives

Determine Which Type of Course is Best

If you listen to some in our industry, you’d think that any elearning course that isn’t performance-based is wrong.  I don’t take that view.  Instead, I see an elearning course just like any other medium used to support the learning process.  It’s a tool to facilitate learning.  Sometimes it’s the only tool, and sometimes it’s just one of many.

When it’s the only tool, then it makes sense to be as complete as possible.  In those cases, the course probably needs more performance-based interactivity.  However, if it’s augmented by other tools and activities, then perhaps an information-only focus is fine.  And because, it’s information-only doesn’t mean it has to be linear.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - information that's interactive but not focused on performance

Look at the way the news industry creates infographics.  They’re not that much different than many elearning courses.  Information-only doesn’t mean it has to be linear; or that all of the information needs to be buried in job aids or PDFs.

The question ultimately lies in the doing.  What is the learner supposed to do with the course information and WHERE is it done? I can build a performance-based course where the doing is built into the elearning course with various interactive elements like branched scenarios and case studies. Or I can build an information-based course where the doing is outside the course in the real world.  For example, I compress the delivery of information into simple elearning modules and combine them with some facilitated sessions in the real world.

Key points:

  • What is the learner to do with the course content?
  • Information-only can stand alone or be augmented with activities outside of the course.
  • Performance-based expectations require appropriate interactivity inside the course.

Present Alternative Types of E-Learning

Going back to the opening paragraph, we tend to expect those things with which we’re familiar.  Odds are that your client doesn’t have a lot of exposure to different types of elearning.

It’s your job to help them see the light. Expose them to different ideas and you’ll probably build better elearning.  An easy way to do so is to offer a few treatments.  Take some generic content and then build out a few versions of how it could be treated as an elearning course.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - course treatments to expose different elearning ideas and perspectives

If they want an information-only course, show them some examples and how that type of course would support their learning goals.  This is also a good way to open up the conversation about how they might need additional performance support if it’s not built into the elearning course.  If they want a performance-based course, then provide a few examples of what that means and how different types of interactivity work in the course.

Doing this helps your client see elearning from a different perspective.  It also helps clarify their goals and expectations, especially if resources like time and money are scarce.  They may want something interactive, and find that they don’t have the budget or time to get there.  On the flipside, they may have wanted a linear course, but after reviewing their goals and your examples, realize they need something better focused on performance.

Key points:

  • Collect and share elearning examples
  • Create a demo course with different treatments
  • Discuss the different treatments and their associated resource requirements

The goal is to build a course appropriate to your client’s needs.  Sometimes the need is simple and sometimes complex.  By clarifying their objectives you’ll know what type of course to build.  And by showing them examples, you’ll help them see elearning from various perspectives.  In the end, all of this will help you build better elearning courses.

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 - how to create graphics using SimpleDiagram

Most people I talk to have limited graphic design skills and they don’t usually have access to a graphic designer.  This wouldn’t be a problem if they could hire a graphic designer, but they usually can’t do that either since they have no money.

Considering this, the goal is to find as many free or low cost graphic design solutions as possible.  In today’s post, we’ll look at a free application that can easily be used for your elearning design and lets you take advantage of some of the hand-drawn items I gave away a few weeks ago.

SimpleDiagrams is an application that lets you quickly create simple diagrams [funny how those names work]. There’s a free version and an inexpensive paid version ($19).  The paid version includes extra libraries, assets and more features.

Whether you use the free or pay versions of the application, it is a handy little tool.  Following are a few ideas to help you get started.  I also created a few quick tutorials and give you over 100 white hand-drawn objects to go with the chalkboard background.

Quickly Map Out the Flow of Your Project

SimpleDiagrams is a real easy way to map out a project or prototype the flow of your content.  This is great when working with a subject matter expert or client.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of a process flow

Some may ask why you wouldn’t just use PowerPoint to do the same thing.  You have a similar freeform environment and it’s easy enough to do, especially if you’re already going to use PowerPoint for production.

That’s a good question.  Here are two reasons why I’d choose this application over PowerPoint:

  • Everything’s in one place.  It’s really simple to build the flow and diagrams with this tool.  You spend a little more time bringing objects into PowerPoint.  Besides, the default chalkboard look and hand-drawn graphics have a nice organic feel.
  • Don’t let you customers see what’s behind the curtain.  One of the biggest challenges with PowerPoint-based elearning is getting away from the stereotypical PowerPoint look.  Once a client knows that you’re working with PowerPoint, they tend to become more rigid in keeping a lot of the bad PowerPoint slides.  So the less they see you doing in PowerPoint the better.

Chalkboards Are Like Charo: Hot! Hot! Hot!”

One of the most popular posts from this blog is the one where I gave away the chalkboard template with the hand-drawn assets.  I can see why.  Even though we don’t usually use chalkboards all that much in real life any more, there are few images that can speak to learning as much as a chalkboard can.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - simple way to create chalkboard graphics with this free tool

In addition, there’s a lot to be said about the value of an organic look and feel of the hand-drawn graphics.  It seems to lighten the content a bit and add an air of informality.

If you want to add a chalkboard image to your course, but not sure how, here are a few ideas:

  • Prior to introducing the formal content, mock up a case study slide using the chalkboard.
  • Change up your knowledge checks.  People get intimidated when quizzed.  Lighten it up a bit, by making your quiz or knowledge check look less formal.
  • After going through some formal content, switch to a chalkboard screen and practice applying the content.  Kind of like a coach writing plays on the board.

Tips on Using SimpleDiagrams

I created a few tutorials to explain how SimpleDiagrams works and how to use it with your elearning courses.

In previous posts, I gave away some hand-drawn graphics and fonts that you can use with SimpleDiagrams.  The links are below.

I also converted some of the hand-drawn objects to white, so they work better with your chalkboard screens.  There are 132 objects from which to choose.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - download your free hand-drawn graphics

You can download them here.

If you’re looking for a simple and cost effective way to build a chalkboard image for your elearning course, this application helps you do so.  It’s also an easy way to visually map out your ideas.  Combine this application with the visual communication ideas in Roam’s Back of the Napkin book and you have a pretty powerful tool.

If you use this application for elearning or presentations, I’d love to see what you do.  Feel free to share it with us via 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.

 




subject matter expert e-learning

Subject matter experts know their subject matter.  That’s why they’re called experts.  But they don’t always know how best to teach what they know, especially when it comes to elearning.

Subject matter experts offer a lot of value when it comes to building your elearning courses.  They have invested lots of time in developing their expertise so they’re able to touch on nuances that go beyond just information.  This can be critical in your course design.

However, there are some challenges when working with experts. Often they’re so far removed from the learning process and where a new person is that they lose perspective on what is most essential to learning new skills.  Trying to get the right information and structure for your course can prove difficult.

I find that many of them consider all of the information critical.  I’ve worked on projects where it was almost impossible to get the subject matter expert to concede anything.  This can be both frustrating and time-consuming.  There were times I wished I had an elearning mediator who could talk to the subject matter expert in a way I couldn’t.

Here Are Three Things Every Subject Matter Expert Should Know

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - subject matter expert tips

If I did have a mediator who could intercede, this is what I wish they could convey:

  • People don’t care about what you know as much as you do.  I know this sounds harsh but it’s just the way it is.  What people care about is learning what they need to learn to meet their goals.  If you have something to offer that’s good; but it’s really just part of a pool of information and experiences that they encounter.  So what you know has value, but only as it matters to them.
  • New learners don’t need to know everything you know.  Your expertise comes from years of experience.  You didn’t just read a manual and become an expert.  You had a lot of opportunity both formal and informal to develop your expertise.  Keep that in mind when working with new learners.
  • Your actions speak so loud I can hardly hear you. My boss used to say that to me all the time when I talked about what I knew.  She was less concerned about my talking and more on my doing.  This could also be applied to elearning and subject matter experts.  Instead of telling me what the new learners should know, tell me what actions they should be able to do.  Then we can set a plan around actionable goals.

Working with Your Subject Matter Experts

Sometimes my wife accuses me of giving her long answers to simple questions.  She always tells me, “I ask what time it is and you begin to tell me how to build a clock.”  I only do this because if something should ever happen to me, I’d like her to be able to build a clock so she’s always know what time it is.

There’s a lot of truth to what she says.  I find that I like to pad my answer around context.  So instead of giving a simple answer I ramble on offering all sorts of contextual nuance.  And that tends to be a problem common to working with subject matter experts.  Their experience isn’t based on black and white solutions.  Instead they’re nuanced based on variables that they’ve learned to master over the years.

Context is important to an expert.  But it’s not always relevant to a new learner.  Our job is to expose the critical information but work around some of the context that a new learner might not easily understand.

Here are a few tips when working with subject matter experts to build elearning courses.  I’ve also included links to previous posts that may help.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - lots of information

Create courses that are learner-centric.  Instead of focusing on the information, focus on how the learner will use the information.  This helps build the context that is so critical to gaining expertise.

Focus on action.  Going with the point above, figure out how the learners will use the information.  Then frame the course around that.  There are simple ways to do so.  For example, create scenarios or case studies that are relevant and meaningful.  If you’re teaching a policy, instead of presenting the policy, create a real world situation where the policy applies.  Then walk them through a scenario where they get to make decisions and get feedback based on how they apply the policy.

I recommend pulling in recent learners—people who’ve just learned what you’re trying to teach. They can offer some insight and perspective that is meaningful.

Get the learners to pull the information.  Most elearning courses I see push the information out.  This isn’t bad or wrong.  In fact, I kind of view an elearning course like a text book.  So pushing information out isn’t a bad way to go it’s just not always the best way to go.

Some text books just present information (like a lot of elearning courses); however some included questions and case studies.  They pose questions that get you back into the text looking for information and then using it to solve problems.  In the same sense, build your courses in a way that the learner is compelled to pull information from the course to solve problems.

Your subject matter experts are key to the elearning course’s success.  The challenge is getting them to see what they know from the perspective of the new learner.  Help them learn more about packaging their content to meet the learner’s nee
ds and you’ll be off to a good start.

What tips do you have when it comes to working with subject matter experts?  Click here to share them.

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 - favorite posts of 2011

2010 flashed by me so fast I was worried that if I stuck my arm out it would become fossilized.  Despite that it was a great year of traveling around and getting to meet many of you at conferences and informal jam sessions.  I also got to see parts of the country I hadn’t seen before.

2011 is going to be an exciting year.  We at Articulate have some cool things planned.  And as far as conferences, I’ll be at the usual ones like ASTD ICE and Devlearn.  But, I’m also making arrangements to get out to some new places.  You’ll hear more in the coming weeks.  And as usual, if I’m on the road, I’ll try to stay an extra day and do some informal Articulate jam sessions.

Top Ten Posts

As for the most popular posts of the year, I took our data to the top secret Articulate labs, ran a few tests, and produced the following results.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer analyzing popular blog posts

Bunch of Free Stuff

As you know, I like to give away the demos and mock ups that I build for the blog.  But I find that it’s even getting hard for me to find the stuff I’ve done in the past.  One of my goals for 2011 is to make it easier for you to find all of the free templates and assets we’ve made available over the years.  So stay tuned.

In the meantime, here are the posts that offered some free templates and elearning assets.  I’ve also included a bonus template.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - stack of free PowerPoint files

 

Bonus Template:  Here’s a template based on the FTC demo I did a while back.  You can see the template in action here. There are six slide layout options.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - free PowerPoint templateDownload the free PowerPoint template.

What elearning goals do you have for 2011?  Feel free to 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.