The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for January, 2012

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - 5 free online image editors for elearning

In a previous post, we looked at five free desktop image editors.  Here are a couple of additional free desktop applications shared by some blog readers. They both look very capable.

A challenge with free software is that sometimes your organization isn’t comfortable with you downloading and installing applications that aren’t approved. This is where the online graphics applications come in handy. Of course, you’ll need an internet connection and hope that your organization isn’t blocking its use.

If you do a search, you’ll find that there are a lot of online image editing products. The problem is that many are spammy or full of ads that they’re useless for real work.

In today’s post we’ll look at five very capable online image editors. I tried to stay clear of the ones that were too ad heavy or seemed kind of spammy. I only added the apps I’d be comfortable using for my own work. 


The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Aviary applications for elearning

Aviary has a few image editing tools and offers a pretty complete solution for most of what you need to do. They also have a very active user community which is a plus and lots of tutorials.

  • Aviary Feather is a basic image editing tool. You can crop, adjust the image, add some text, and apply filters.
  • Aviary Phoenix is a more robust application and close to something like Photoshop with the layering and more complex editing capabilities.
  • Aviary Raven is a vector editor similar to the free Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator.


The Rapid E-Learning Blog - pixlr for elearning

Pixlr has all of the standard features you’d need. I like some of the pencil drawing effects and it can output to Flickr and Picasa. I find it really easy to use and one of my favorites of the online tools. They also offer Pixlr Express, a streamlined editing tool.


The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Splashup image editor for elearning

Splashup is an image editing tool and photo manager. I like that I can bring in images from sites like Flickr and Picasa, which I already use. It has all of the core features you’d expect in an image editing application. They also offer Splashup Light for download.

Sumo Paint

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Sumo Paint image editor for elearning

Sumo Paint is a very capable tool and comes with all of the core editing features. They also offer a Pro upgrade that gives you a desktop version with additional features.

Simpler Tools

The following tools are honorable mentions. They do a decent job with simple edits but don’t have all of the features of the applications above.

  • offers simple image editing, but not the layering that you get with its desktop cousins. 
  • Picnik is already integrated into a number of sites. You’ll find it in Flickr and Picasa.  It’s easy to use and has a lot of filters. Of course, I just found out that Picnik is being shut down. I believe that it will make its way back in Google+.
  • Dr.Pic seems to have all of the basic features. I like the framing feature. My guess is the Polaroid frame would work well with some elearning screens.

As you can see, there are plenty of options for free graphics editing. And you have a good choice between desktop applications like I mentioned in the previous post, or go with an online solution.


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 - learning journal used to bridge the elearning course and real world training

In an earlier post we looked at how to combine elearning with an on-the-job mentoring program. I received a lot of questions about the learning journal. So in today’s post we’ll look at the basic structure of the learning journal and how you could use something like it to complement your elearning courses.

The Value of a Learning Journal

Before we look at how to set up the learning journal, let’s review where it adds value:

  • Connects elearning to real world activities. The learning journal is used as a bridge between the learning that happens in the elearning course and what happens in the real work environment. Elearning courses let you compress a lot of the instruction and content which can save time during the training. It also has the benefit of complementing both the learner’s schedule and that of the peer coach.
  • Guides the learner’s progress. By including a calendar of activities and objectives, the journal acts as a map for the learning process. It sets expectations for the training program with specific activities. It also ensures consistency.
  • Captures key learning points. Often during the training time (especially with elearning courses) we only get one shot at the information. For the learner the journal can be used as a personal work manual that contains key information, personal notes, and other resources relevant to the job, even after the initial training period. In essence, it becomes a job manual.
  • Tracks completion of training. For the organization, the journal acts as a record for the training program. I usually include a formal record of completion that can be forwarded to the manager or human resources department if needed.

Using a Learning Journal

Here’s a rough breakdown of how I’ve used the learning journals in the past:

  • Chunks. The training program is broken into chunks or modules. The goal is to keep it flexible and manageable. You don’t want big long modules. Each module combines some elearning with hands-on instruction.
  • Notes. The learner uses the journal to follow along with the elearning course. It can be used to take notes and jot down quick questions to ask later during the time with the peer coach.
  • Review. Inside the journal you can ask some review questions. In addition, the peer coach has review questions to pose after the elearning is complete. This helps her assess the learner’s level of understanding prior to doing some hands-on activities. It’s a great way to find and fill gaps in understanding.
  • Practice. The peer coach facilitates the hands-on instruction or practice activities that correspond with the elearning module. Use a calendar or schedule to list the practice activities. 
  • Track. Upon completion of the training, the learner runs through a self-assessment. It can be as simple as a detailed task list that the learner can review and mark off when completed. This can serve as an informal training record. Or you can insert a formal training record in the learning journal that is completed and forwarded to whoever it is that tracks training.

Inside the Learning Journal

There are a number of ways to design a learning journal that bridges the course content with the real world activities. Here are a few of the main sections you can include. 


  • Explain the overall training objectives and expectations. Detail how the program works with the peer coaching, practice activities, and learning journal. Let them know that the learning journal is their personal training manual that they can always reference later if they need more help.


  • Determine how long the formal training should last. Then calendar the activities. For example, you have a two-week program with five modules. Each module consists of an elearning course and some real-world practice activities. You want to map out a series of tasks over the two-week period. This establishes an agenda and the expectations for the time in training.

Elearning Modules

  • Create a note-taking section that corresponds with the elearning module. I like to add visual clues where it makes sense. For example, if I show parts of a machine, I’ll include that in the learning journal or give them an activity where they label the parts of the machine on the paper. I also like to include a few fill in the blank sections for critical information.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - examples of a diagram transfered from elearning content

  • The main point here is to create a note-taking section for them to use with the elearning modules. I try to capture the critical information and the type of stuff they may need to reference on the floor when they’re away from the elearning course.
  • How you create the elearning modules and learning journal is up to you. Try to stay lean and as engaging as you can. The elearning module doesn’t have to include every piece of information because you have the learning journal and other resources to complement it.
  • At the end of key learning points, add a few review questions. I also include a review at the end of the module. This isn’t a stump the learner activity or a graded review.  They should be questions that pertain to the essential objectives of the module and what they’ll need to know when they’re on the floor. These can also be used to facilitate some ongoing discussion with the peer coach.

Peer Coach Review

  • Part of the training program is training peer coaches. For them it’s a great way to develop some supervisory skills. We train them on the program; how to give feedback and how to assess the new learner.
  • You can create a peer coach guide to go with the learning journal. I usually just have a peer coach section in the learning journal that triggers some dialogue between the peer coach and the new learner. At this point the peer coach wants to get a feel for what the person has learned from the modules and their level of understanding before doing some real activities.
  • It’s a good idea to do schedule some debrief activities with the peer coaches because they’ll help you build the best training program. They can share where people are getting stuck and some of the best practices they have. In addition, all training programs have some sense of bureaucracy. Working with the peer coaches is a great way to get rid of it.

Self-Assessment Checklist

  • Create a list of all tasks that the new learner should be able to perform at the end of the training. Be specific. Stating that they meet safety requirements is vague. But stating that they know how to put on the safety gear and activate the alarm in case of an emergency is more specific.
  • The learner can review the list and mark off those tasks that he feels confident in. If he has questions about tasks or needs some remedial assistance you’ll know what to focus on.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of a checklist of performance tasks

  • The checklist is also a good guide for the peer coach. She can pull some random tasks and have the learner demonstrate that he can complete them.

Individual Training Record

  • You can use the checklist as a proof of training or create a formal training record. When I create the training record I’ll list all of the tasks for that module and then have the learner and peer coach sign it. This gets forwarded to the appropriate department.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of an individual training record

Additional Resources

  • Since this learning journal acts as their personal training manual, I like to include additional resources—things like important contacts, sites on the intranet, or any other information they may need. This way they have a quick, single-source reference if they need help after the training is complete.

Pulling some training off the floor and into an elearning module ensures consistency and can compress the time to train. Having a peer coach assigned to a new learner helps in the training process and creates a social connection at work. Using a learning journal is an effective way to bridge the two.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to share them by clicking on the comments link.


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 - 5 free desktop image editors for elearning

I’m always asked what skills a rapid elearning designer should have.  One of the most important skills is basic image editing.  You don’t need to be a professional graphics designer.  However, you should be able to do some basic editing.  Because of this, an image editing application should be in your tool chest.

Today we’ll look at five free desktop applications that you can use for basic image editing.  But before we explore the free tools, a good budget-friendly option is Photoshop Elements.  It’s relatively inexpensive and should be able to do what most people need for elearning.  Plus, it’s a great starting point for those who are interested in learning more about Photoshop which is still the main application for graphics.

If you still want to go the free route, here are some good choices for desktop tools.  They range from simple to a bit more high-end and sophisticated. 


The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Picasa

Picasa is a pretty simple solution, but one that may work for some of the basic tasks like cropping and image enhancement (especially if you take a lot of your own photos).  You don’t get layers and some of that type of editing, but you do get a lot of image enhancing features.

One of the features I do like about Picasa is that I can use it to tag and catalog the images on my computer or network drive.  It comes in really handy when looking for assets.


The Rapid E-Learning Blog - PhotoScape

PhotoScape is a tool that I’ve liked for a while because it does quite a bit. However, I’ve been reluctant to recommend it in the past because the licensing agreement used to be for personal use only. However, now it looks like that’s no longer the case.

It’s a great product and does a lot more than some of the other tools.  You don’t have layers, so composing images isn’t possible; but there are a lot of nifty filters and other features that add value.

They also have a mole removal feature which could come in handy if you work in the espionage industry.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - has really developed into a nice application.  It does most of what you expect from a graphics editor and is more than capable to handle all of your elearning needs.  It’s the one that I usually recommend first.

PixBuilder Studio

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - PixBuilder

PixBuilder is a pretty standard image editor with support for multiple formats and layers.  A couple of nice features are the low memory and portability.  That means you can load it on a USB drive and run it from there rather than install it on your desktop.


The Rapid E-Learning Blog - GIMP

GIMP is a powerful application and closer to Photoshop than the ones mentioned above.  It’s the perfect application for the person who wants more capability, but doesn’t want the expense of Photoshop.  It’s also got a very active user community.

There you have it—five free desktop applications that range from simple editing to high-end capabilities.  If you need an image editing application and are working with limited resources, I’m sure you’ll find that at least one of these tools will meet your needs.


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 - elearning combined with peer coached mentoring

Recently someone asked how to combine their mentoring program with elearning courses.  This is something I’ve worked on a few times over the years.  It usually involved a production environment where peer coaches were tasked with training new employees on the floor.  But the ideas in this post could work in any type of training program that includes some sort of mentoring or peer coaching.

A Common Case

A person’s hired to a new position and often assigned a peer coach who walks beside him until he’s up-to-speed.  Not only is this an effective way to teach new employees, it’s also a great way to help build a social connection to the work and organization.

However, there are a few challenges with this type of training and many are overcome by blending elearning content with the peer coaching.

Here are a few of the challenges I’ve encountered:

  • Pulling people from real production. The peer coach also has her own job to do.  So there’s pressure to help the new person but then get back to work.  Because of this, the peer coach may take short cuts, not present complete information, or neglect the needs of the new person.
  • Inconsistent training process.  Much of the new person’s learning is dictated by the peer coach’s own work flow.  This can make it a challenge if the new person doesn’t fully understand what’s going on and jumps from one thing to the next without understanding the proper context or work process.
  • Assign the wrong tasks to new learners.  It’s common to pawn off the easiest or less desired tasks to the new person.  Sometimes there’s too much focus on putting people on the simplest work until “they get it” and then advance them to more challenging work later on.
  • Learning can be intimidating.  People can be intimidated by new tasks, especially in a real work environment where mistakes impact production. 

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - add elearning to the mentoring process

The Value of E-Learning

There should be some consistency in the training process.  However, peer coaching programs are notorious for inconsistency.  Even if the peer coach is really good, things like work requirements or personal areas of emphasis tend to make each training event a bit different. That’s where elearning proves valuable.

E-learning courses are effective in dealing with these challenges.  Elearning courses allow you to remove the person from the time and resource pressures of the real world.  This can ensure consistent delivery of critical information as well as compress the time to learn. 

  • Doesn’t interfere with production: the learner is not constrained by real work processes.
  • Asynchronous access: The information can be accessed anywhere and at any time.
  • Less demand on peer coach: The peer coach can spend less time with the learner for some of the training.
  • Consistent messaging & delivery: Information structure and delivery is consistent regardless of peer coach’s personal style or emphasis.
  • Intentional training design: Allows you to present a more holistic and complete training program rather than sticking people on the easy tasks or boring work until some later date. 

Elearning modules are excellent for delivering key information that may missed during on-the-job training that’s focused on very specific tasks.  For example, in a real production environment while showing someone how to use a machine you may focus on the actual steps required for performance but lose out on explaining the upstream and downstream effects of the workflow.  In addition, production environments tend to be loud, which makes it difficult to have good conversation.

This can be solved with a simple orientation module where you provide a brief overview of the production process and workflow.  This allows you to maintain consistent messaging and it frees the peer coach from that part of the training.  You can also structure the module to review and assess the learner’s understanding, something that may be missed on the floor.

I worked on a production course once where we found the new hires were intimidated by the large machines.  So instead of putting them to work right away, we spend time teaching them the parts of the machine and how to do preventive maintenance.  We used a series of small elearning courses to go through the technical information and combined them with hands-on preventive maintenance.

By the time they started working on the machine they were very familiar and comfortable with what was going on.  We cut the training time dramatically.  The elearning courses also allowed us to control the information and practice activities.  Something that may have varied based on the peer coach.

The Learning Journal

Part of the training happens during the elearning module and part during the face-to-face time. To create a bridge, I like to add a learning journal. I see it as a way to instigate some note-taking and create a resource that becomes personal and something the learner always has access to. The note-taking in the learning also helps with knowledge transfer.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - a learning journal becomes the bridge between the elearning course and mentor

What’s included in the learning journal?

  • Training calendar. Give the person a schedule that lets them know what they will be learning. They can check off what they’ve learned as they advance. This provides a progress report to the learner, the peer coach, and supervisor.
  • Self-assessment. List the things they need to know or do to be proficient. They can review it and determine how well they’re doing. Include information on finding additional resources. I like this approach because it gives the learner some freedom and confidence as they assess their skills.
  • Peer coach guides. Each elearning module should be coupled with a real-world activity. The peer coach guide tells the learner and peer coach what that is. This helps move the training forward. The peer coach is obligated to this process so they take fewer short cuts. And the learner is able to determine if something’s been skipped. I also include some quick review questions that cover the essential points of the module. After each module, the peer coach uses the questions as a way to review what was learned and assess the new person’s understanding.

The Peer Coach

A mentored training program is an effective way to train new employees.  But it’s also a great way train existing employees who are being groomed for greater management responsibilities.  You can use the peer coaching process as a way to teach giving feedback and supervising others.  It’s a great way to model the expectations you would have for supervisors or managers.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - the peer coach reviews what the person learned in the elearning course

The key to success is consistency and commitment to the process.  At the same time, the peer coaching needs to work in a real environment. 

  • Get peer coaches involved. When building this type of training it’s critical to connect with the peer coaches to craft the right types of activities and how to schedule them.  Otherwise the training program becomes burdensome and creates extra work as people circumvent the official training to get things done quickly.
  • Teach them how to review progress and fill gaps.  We combined the elearning module with a real-world activity.  The peer coaches reviews what’s learned online to get a sense of how the person is progressing and to fill any gaps.  The learning journal’s structure facilitates assessing the learner’s understanding.
  • Empower the peer coach.  The objective is to create a good training program.  People learn in different ways so the peer coach has to have some flexibility in how they work through the training with the new employee.  Break the content into smaller modules so that you have more freedom to work with them. 

Beware of Bureaucracy

The training program is a solution that helps meet your objective of training people.  The goal is that people are able to meet a specific level of proficiency.  It’s not that they go through training.  Often we focus too intently on the process that we lose sight of the real objectives. 

While you want to design a good training program that is consistent and effective, it has to include a way to work with the learner as an individual and how she learns.  The last thing you want is a burdensome process that is also so rigid that doesn’t account for how the trainee is actually doing and able to demonstrate understanding.

The peer coach plays a critical role in assessing the person’s progress and understanding of the key points of the training.  You can alleviate the bureaucratic elements by having clear metrics for proficiency.

To sum it all up:

  • Determine what content can be taught electronically and what needs to be done in the real world.
  • Break the content into smaller modules with each module combining elearning and real world learning.
  • Use a learning journal as a means to bridge the two parts of the module and facilitate the conversation between learner and peer coach.
  • Get the peer coach involved in the training design.
  • Use the peer coaching experience as a way to develop that person’s management skills.
  • Avoid bureaucracy.

Have you ever combined elearning with a mentored training program?  If so, what are some things you’d advise?  Feel free to share your thoughts via the comments link.


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 - 2012 is a great year to get free elearning assets

It’s hard to believe but another year’s come and gone.  The good thing is that it looks like 2012 will be a good year.  Although sometime in June, you may want to break out the DVD player and watch 2012.  Then practice your survival skills because come December, things may change.  But until then, just put your feet up and enjoy the year.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - your elearning survival kit

To ease your burden, I put together a list of all of the posts from 2011 where I shared free elearning assets.  They’re yours to enjoy and use as you wish.

Free E-Learning Templates

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - free PowerPoint elearning templates


Free fonts

Miscellaneous Free Tools

Free graphics

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - free elearning graphics and assets

Free Expert Advice

Don’t forget to take advantage of all of the free downloads available in the elearning community and next time you’re stuck on a course, feel free to post a question.  You’ll get plenty of help.

I hope you have a great 2012.  Thank you for reading the blog, sharing your own expertise in the comments and emails.  I hope to see many of you during my travels this year.


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.