The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for July, 2012


Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free screenshot applications

Screenshots and elearning go hand-in-hand. I use them for a lot of my software training. I also use them almost daily for project reviews. It’s easy to create a quick screen grab and then add a few notes. I also use screenshots when I run across a template or idea that I may want to use in a future elearning course. Just grab an image and save it in my ideas folder for later.

If you do a search you’ll find that there are a ton of screenshot products on the market—both free and paid. The free ones are hit and miss. Most look like they were built in 1995 and many are bundle with adware or possible malware. I’d stick with a paid tool because they don’t cost that much. But what do you do if you don’t have the money for a paid tool and you don’t want to download risky free product?

The good thing is that if you need to do screenshots, most likely you already have the tools to do so. Here are three easy ways to do screenshots and they won’t cost you a bit. Below is a quick description and then I added a tutorial that shows how they work.

The Old Fashioned Way

Years ago when you wanted a screenshot you pressed the PRINT SCREEN button. This took a snap shot of your screen and loaded it on the clipboard. Then you pasted the screenshot into something like MS Paint and made your edits. The print screen option still works today (unless you have it mapped to another application).

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - Alt + Print Screen for screenshot

  • Print Screen: captures your entire desktop and loads the image on the clipboard. Paste the image into a different application to make edits.
  • ALT+Print Screen: captures your active window.

You can learn more about using Print Screen here.

Windows Snipping Tool

I’ve been using the Snipping Tool since the days of the tablet PCs. Starting with Microsoft Vista it’s available to all Windows users. It’s located in the Accessories folder. I have it pinned to my task bar for quick access.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - Windows Snipping Tool is a free screenshot application

With the Snipping Tool you can capture freeform (like a scissor cut out), rectangle, window, or full screen. After snipping part of a screen you can highlight and annotate the image. When you’re done save it to your favorite image format.

Here’s more info on the Snipping Tool.

PowerPoint 2010

Starting with PowerPoint 2010, Microsoft included a feature that allows you to quickly grab a shot of any open window or do a screen clip of anything on your desktop. This is perfect for creating quick interactive software simulations. Grab a series of screenshots, place them on some slides, and then add hyperlinks to simulate the software like I did in this quick demo.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - Use PowerPoint 2010 for free screenshots

Another nice benefit of using PowerPoint is that you can annotate or embellish the screenshots and then save them as single images. Because of the freeform authoring in PowerPoint, creating custom graphics is super simple. By the way, Articulate Storyline also has a similar feature.

You can learn more about PowerPoint’s screenshot feature here.

Quick Tutorials on Creating Screenshots

Here are three tutorials I built in Storyline where I walk through all three screenshot applications. You can check them out below.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how-to tutorial for Alt+PrintScreen, snipping tool, and PowerPoint 2010 screenshots

Click here to view the screenshot tutorials.

If you want more robust screenshot features, then you can find all sorts of free and for-pay applications.

However, if you need to do screenshots and don’t want to spend any money, then odds are that one of these solutions above will work for you.

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.

 




Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - just read the policy

This past week I was in Nashville where we discussed building interactive scenarios. Part of the discussion revolved around designing some simple scenario strategies to move the projects away from linear elearning and towards meaningful interactivity.

The ultimate goal is transitioning from a push model where we just provide information and move to a more interactive model where the learner makes the same types of decisions she’d make in a real-world environment. These decision-making activities are used to reinforce what you want her to practice and learn so that your courses have real-world impact.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - two ways to share elearning course content

Simple Structure for Scenarios

As I’ve shared before, I like to use what I call the “3C model” to construct my scenarios or interactive elearning. We’ll assume that the scenario is relevant to the learner and what needs to be learned. And in that context (which could be a fourth C) here’s how the 3C approach works:

  • Challenge: The goal is to engage the learner and challenge her understanding. Present a situation, get her to process some information, reflect, and then let her make a decision.
  • Choices: Once the learner is challenged, she needs to make a decision (or series of decisions). Provide some choices to work through the challenge. The choices should all be viable and realistic options. Don’t waste time on meaningless choices.
  • Consequences: Each choice produces a consequence. Sometimes the consequence may lead to immediate feedback; and sometimes it may lead to additional challenges that compound the situation. We don’t usually get immediate feedback, unless of course you stick a finger in a wall socket. So stacking or delaying the feedback can make the learning experience much more dynamic and more true to the way things work in real life.

There are a few different ways I use the 3C model to template the interactive scenarios. In today’s post, we’ll explore what I see as the more complex type of branching.

Complex Decision-Making Interactions

Some elearning courses are more like marketing pieces. In those cases if all you need to do is share information, then a branched interaction is probably too much and can frustrate the person who has to take the course. So let’s assume you’re teaching to improve performance.

Performance-based courses usually come in one of two flavors. There are courses that teach procedures, like the ten steps to loading a widget. And then there are courses that teach principles that guide decisions, like much of the soft skills training.

Most likely you’re not using branched interactions for training on simple procedures. Those are easy enough to show and then get people to practice and demonstrate they can follow the procedures. 

Branched interactions come in handy when you have nuanced situations and are trying to help people think through them and make appropriate decisions. You’re less focused on the specific, step-by-step procedures and more focused on principles that guide decisions.

If you want to build a complex branched interaction, look at the 3C model as a single building block, kind of like a Lego brick. For each consequence link to a new challenge. In that way you’ll get a branched interaction that looks something like the image below.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - simple interactive scenario model for branched interactions in elearning

Pros & Cons of Complex Branching

We rarely have to make clear right-wrong choices when dealing with people or situations. Many of the decisions we make are nuanced. And a solution that works in one situation may not work in another. Because of this complex branched interactions are great for getting to the heart of the principle that you’re teaching.

There are a few challenges with complex interactions. The first is that they take a lot more time to develop. So if you’re pressed for time, then you may want to look at a more streamlined approach.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - challenge the learner to make some decisions and then give some viable choices that produce consequences for interactive elearning

Another challenge is that it’s hard enough to get your subject matter expert to give you ten good multiple choice questions. So imagine the difficulty in getting them to help you work through a complex scenario and all of the nuances. If you’re not the content expert, you’ll need to figure out who’s going to help you through the content to craft relevant and meaningful interactions.

The first two challenges can be overcome by allocating more time to develop the course and more time to work with the subject matter expert. But this next challenge is a bit more difficult to overcome, and that’s the matter of creativity and good writing.

Learn More About Storytelling

A complex branched scenario is a like a story. We can all write; however that doesn’t mean we are all good writers who can craft compelling interactive stories. This takes some practice and creativity.

But there are things we can do to learn and become better at crafting stories. Here are a few tips to help move you in the right direction:

Keep the scenarios simple. The less complex they are, the less you get tangled in a lot of extra script writing and scenario building.

Review what makes a good story. Learn about storytelling and how to compose them. And when you think through your scenarios, determine how to follow a storytelling model. Here’s a good site that has all sorts of resources on storytelling and here’s a list of books.

Take a creative writing class to help think in a different way. Elearning courses tend to have that corporate voice that read more like they were written by lawyers and not real people (although it’s been alleged that lawyers are real people). By taking a creative writing class, you’ll learn to write with a different voice and learn to look at what you write in a different way.

Read some books on storytelling and scenario-building. Here are a few specific to our industry that may help:

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - list of recommended books to learn more about interactive and engaging elearning

  • Design for How People Learn. I put this on the must-read list for people who are just getting started. Learn about learning and there are lots of good nuggets related to sto
    rytelling.
  • Scenario-Based Learning. Goes into the heart of storytelling with lots of practical tips & examples.
  • Performance Consulting. Decision-making scenarios are great when linked to meaningful objectives. Working with your client to understand their goals and identify the gaps in understanding is a key part of it.
  • Designing Successful E-Learning. A great book that gets to the heart of instructional design. Another must-read book.
  • Made to Stick. Not an elearning book, but a book about crafting sticky messages and compelling stories.
  • Learning by Doing and Simulations & Serious Games. I’m a fan of Clark Aldrich’s work because his company builds interactive simulations. He covers content a bit more involved than what most rapid elearning developers do, but it’s good stuff to learn and think about especially if you want to grow.

Are there other good books you’d add to the list? If so, add it in the comments section and tell us why it’s a good book.

There’s a reason a lot of elearning isn’t more interactive. We have limited time and lack of access to the subject matter expertise needed to craft good scenarios. But using interactive scenarios can transform what might be a boring click-and-read course into a dynamic and effective learning experience. So if you haven’t tried to build one yet, give it a shot and see how you do.

If you’ve built interactive branched scenarios in the past, what tips would you share for the person just getting started? 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.

 




Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - iphone image for free powerpoint templates

Who doesn’t want free PowerPoint templates? If you build rapid elearning courses, they can save time. And if you’re challenged for ideas or graphic design skills they also help bring a consistent and clean look to your rapid elearning courses so that you avoid the Frankencourse.

It doesn’t mean that relying on templates is always a good thing. In fact, I have mixed feelings about templates. They’re great for beginners and subject matter experts to help move them in the right direction. But at some point, a person gains enough experience to be weaned from templates.

My biggest concern about templates is that people become too dependent on them. Or the organization creates rules about using them that are more problematic than problem-solving.

With that said, the use of templates in elearning is a reality. The goal is to find good templates that help make the courses better.

In a previous post, I shared a simple way to get free PowerPoint templates from Microsoft’s Office Online with links to five usable templates. Like I noted earlier, the templates on that site are hit and miss. Some are really good and some maybe not so good.

Here are a few more templates that are free to use via the Microsoft site. I like these because they offer more than just a clean background. Instead they offer a number of usable layouts that can be pulled from the template and used in other elearning courses.

PowerPoint Template 1: Various Bar Charts

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free PowerPoint template using bar graphs

Download the free PowerPoint template here.

PowerPoint Template 2: Business Deals

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free PowerPoint template for business courses

Download the free PowerPoint template here.

PowerPoint Template 3: Business Strategy

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free PowerPoint template for business strategy and charts

Download the free PowerPoint template here.

PowerPoint Template 4: Financial Presentation

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free PowerPoint template for business and finance courses

Download the free PowerPoint template here.

PowerPoint Template 5: Meeting Agenda Layouts

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free PowerPoint template for meeting agenda and business style layouts

Download the free PowerPoint template here.

On a shoestring budget, you’ve got to know where to find good free resources and then learn to use them to help build effective elearning courses. A PowerPoint template isn’t going to make your course go from ineffective to effective. You still need to design the instruction and determine the appropriate content and activities.

But for those who need some graphic design help or options when it comes to layouts, templates like the ones above can definitely help move you closer to your goal.

If you’re looking for more free templates, there are plenty on this blog (a few listed below) and in the elearning community’s download section.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free PowerPoint template available from the elearning community

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.

 




Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning templates

A common frustration for many rapid elearning developers is wanting to build elearning courses that look good but not having the graphic design expertise or resources to make it happen.

Today, we’ll look at a simple way to solve that problem. I call it the “quick template” technique. It’s a trick I share in many of my workshops.

In a previous post we reviewed how to design an elearning course on a budget. It’s a good overview of what we’ll look at today. In that post, we explored:

  • Where to locate existing course assets
  • How to leverage the company website
  • Ways to modify the assets you find

E-Learning Courses Compared to Websites

Websites and elearning courses are very similar in how they’re built. They’re both screens on a computer. So what they have on the screens is very similar. And when you think about it, there’s really only so much you can put on the screen.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - website compared to elearning template

The screen usually has text, colors, and some other design elements like shapes and images.

You may not have a graphic designer at your disposal, but odds are that your organization hired one to build its website. And since a website and course design is very similar, there’s probably a lot you can glean from your company’s site.

Another advantage is that the website also alleviates some of the branding issues that you may face in the organization because they’re typically branded to meet the organization’s needs and comply with the organization’s branding guidelines.

How to Create an E-Learning Template

Here are the key elements I look for when pulling ideas from the company website:

  • Colors and how they’re used. What’s the main color? How are accents used? What color is the text?
  • Treatment of images. Do they use photos or illustrations? What type of photos are they using? How do they work the logo or branded images into the template?
  • Typography. Does the company have a designated font? What fonts are used for title and body? What colors are they? How are they used?
  • Design elements. Are the lines straight or curved? Squares or circles? Pointed corners or rounded rectangles?
  • Content containers. This is the main thing for me. How is the content on the site framed? Can I use some of the design elements for specific types of content like call out boxes or media holders?

Once I review the site and make notes on what I can use, I assemble the template. Most of the times it requires a few different layouts. Keep in mind the template you create doesn’t need to be an exact duplicate of the website. You’re merely looking for design ideas that will help you develop a clean and nice looking elearning course design.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - website to inspire elearning template design

For example, I may take some of the design elements that I like from the demo website above and then modify them to be different types of content containers. This allows me to create an assortment of layouts that I can use throughout the course.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning layouts for elearning template

Here’s a quick tutorial on how to find course design ideas from your company website. One video goes through the site and looks for inspiration. And the other shows how to transform the ideas into an actual template design.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create an elearning template

Click here to view the tutorial.

You may not have the graphic design skills or resources to build your elearning course design, but you may find that those things already exist in some format for you to use. Make friends with your IT staff, web design team, and any other group that produces designed materials. This will put you on the road to a clean and consistent design for your next course.

Where do you find ideas within your organization? Leave a comment 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.

 




Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - subject matter expert tips

In a previous post we reviewed how to avoid the Frankencourse. These are courses that look like a bunch of modules that are cobbled together rather a single course. They’re also courses where the design of the course is all over the place and inconsistent.

One way to avoid the Frankencourse is to come up with a consistent design that is used throughout the course. For example, title fonts are all the same and the colors used in the course are defined. When you use a box, it looks the same on all the screens and it is used the same way.

I was helping someone the other day clean up a PowerPoint-based elearning course. She got it from her subject matter expert and the file was a mess. The subject matter expert used all sorts of fonts and none of the boxes on the screen were consistent. One time the box had rounded corners and then next time it was straight. Some boxes were yellow with drop shadows. And then some were gray with no shadows.

This file demonstrated common issues with many PowerPoint slides:

  • Inconsistent use of design elements. The subject matter expert created boxes on the slides. None of them were designed the same way. There needs to be a reason why the boxes look different. Contrast is a design principle. When elements contrast with each other it implies that there’s a difference between them. The same with repetition. When you repeat elements, then it implies similarity. None of this was a factor in the original slides.
  • None of the content was created using the slide master. That means that anything that needs to be changed has to be edited at the slide level. When you have 100+ slides that’s a lot of repetitive editing. When you can, build your content formatting in the slide master. It comes in handy when you need to make universal changes.

However you design your elearning courses, it’s important that your intentional about what goes on the screen and how those objects are used. This makes your course look more polished and it lets you leverage the advantages of good graphic design and visual communication.

In this post, we’ll create a design slide that you can use to quickly apply design formats to the content on your slides.

Step 1: Determine Common Content

Determine what is common to most slides and then what those elements will look like. For example, slides usually have a title, body text, and then an assortment of common design elements like boxes, buttons, and callouts.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - identify common design elements on the PowerPoint slide

Step 2: Create a Design Slide

Once you know what common content you have, add them to a single slide. Then apply the appropriate format to each element.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - create a design slide for PowerPoint

I call this my floating design slide. I move it along the course as I work on slides so I can quickly access a formatted object and paste it to the real slide when needed.

Step 3: Copy & Paste Formatted Objects

The design slide has all of the common elements you will use in your course. When you need to format something on your real slide, locate the formatted object on your design slide and then copy & paste it to the real slide.

Once it’s pasted to the real slide, use the format painter to apply the design to the appropriate content.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - use format painter to apply the design elements to objects on your PowerPoint slide

This is a simple technique. But it will help you quickly convert existing slides that may be a bit sloppy and inconsistent into something that looks better and is intentional in its design. The main point in all of this is that you’re consistent in your design and in how you’re using the elements in your course.

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.