The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for August, 2012


Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - build an elearning template in 30 seconds

When building courses, many of you are in the role of instructional designer AND graphic designer. This can be a challenge when you don’t have the graphic design skills.

An easy way to get around that is to look for places in your organization where they’ve hired graphic designers. Then use their work as a guide to inspire yours. This post on how to build an elearning template offers some good tips on where to look.

Once you have a source of inspiration, it’s usually easy enough to mimic the screen design because they tend to be basic shapes filled with colors and gradients. For example, the image below is a screenshot of the Articulate Storyline website. I noted those areas that I could incorporate into an elearning course template.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - find inspiration for elearning template in web site design

In the following image, you can see my mocked up screen and one way I could use it for an elearning course. It’s not a verbatim copy of the website, but as you look it over you’ll notice many similarities and how I worked elements of the web design into my rapid elearning template.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning template from web page inspiration built in PowerPoint

Building the template didn’t take too long. But I still had to add all of the shapes and then figure out the gradients and shadows. That does take some time and if you’re not efficient with your elearning software, it could take a while to get it all to look right.

The good news is that there’s a cheater’s way to create the same type of template. Here are the steps to create an elearning template in 30 seconds.

View the tutorial here.

  • Start with a screenshot of your inspiring website. Here’s a post that shows you how to use some tools you probably already own take your screenshots.
  • Crop the screenshot to a clean sliver so that you pick up all of the elements of the template but none of the page’s information.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - make a sliver for the elearning template and crop it in PowerPoint

  • Copy and paste the sliver onto your course slide.
  • Stretch the sliver to fit the slide. You may to do some clean-up to get rid of artifacts.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of the sliver and the PowerPoint elearning template

Super easy, huh? Depending on the site you use for inspiration, creating a template can be just a matter of a few seconds. It’s a good start for those who have limited time or access to graphic designers. And it helps meet any of the branding requirements you may have in your organization.

Once you have a sliver, play around with different layouts. I like to scale them large and small to create different layouts. I also like to flip them to give me a different look, but one that’s still consistent with the overall design.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - various layouts for the elearning template in PowerPoint

A few things to consider:

  • Look for clean slivers that can be stretched. Gradients that go up and down work. But gradients that go across the screen usually don’t. Patterns also don’t work well.
  • Experiment. Scale the image after you stretch it. Or use a color filter to recolor the image and you end up with something that looks different. See what happens when you flip it or turn it upside down.
  • Make sure you have rights to the original screenshot. If it’s your company’s site, that’s probably OK.

This is a simple technique, but one that’s quite effective if you’re stretched for time and resources. If anything, it’s a great way to build a quick prototype of a background or layout you want to try for your elearning 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.

 




Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - 5 tips to make rapid elearning interactive

When building rapid elearning with PowerPoint it can be a challenge to get away from linear courses. For one, PowerPoint’s original intent is creating presentations. And they are usually linear. On top of that, many of us have limited time and resources. So building linear, info-centric courses tends to be an easier way to get the projects out the door.

The good thing is that PowerPoint isn’t limited to linear elearning. Building interactive elearning is just a matter of learning a few techniques. And in this post, we’ll review some examples built in PowerPoint that demonstrate non-linear functionality.

It’s easy enough to take any of these types of interactions and incorporate them into an interactive, decision-making elearning course that allows the learner to explore, pull in content, and make decisions.

Interactive Picture

This is one of my favorite demos that shows what’s possible with PowerPoint. It demonstrate a number of useful PowerPoint features. And from a production standpoint, it’s really easy to build and manage. Plus, the output looks nice.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - interactive picture scenario built in PowerPoint

This type of interaction is perfect if you want the learners to explore and pull in information before making a decision.

Animated Response Scenario

Here’s a neat example that combines a decision-making interaction with a clever animation technique in PowerPoint. Build a templated scenario and it’s just a matter of swapping the character and backgrounds images to go from one type of scene to another.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - animated response scenario in PowerPoint

Interactive Decision-Making

I created this demo from one of the Flash examples that Allen Interactions shares on their site. I did it as a challenge because someone told me that you can’t build effective and engaging elearning with PowerPoint.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - interactive decision-mkaing scenario built in PowerPoint

I think you’ll agree that while PowerPoint’s not going to give you the programming options that you’d get in Flash or Storyline, it still is a very capable tool and does allow for effective elearning.

Rapid E-Learning Interactions

These next two examples weren’t built in PowerPoint, but I included them because they let me make an important point about rapid elearning software. Step away from the way the software is marketed and think about them merely as tools that create multimedia content. In that sense, we can determine what the tools let us do and then figure out how we can use that output in our courses.

Quizmaker: Branched Scenarios

Quizmaker is a rapid elearning application that is used to create quizzes. But if we look at it from the perspective of multimedia output and not quizzing we’ll see that Quizmaker is the most unique rapid elearning quiz application on the market.

Most quizzing applications are form-based, which means the design is very rigid. Articulate Quizmaker is unique because we can create custom layouts and designs using slide view’s freeform authoring. That means we can make our quiz look more like an elearning course and less like a quiz.

And the interactive branching feature combined with the timeline lets us leverage the built-in quizzing logic to create simple, branched interactions.

These are perfect for quick knowledge checks and decision-making interactivity—just the type of thing that can help shift linear elearning to something more engaging and effective.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - branched scenario built in Quizmaker and not PowerPoint

*Note: I saved money by doing all the narration myself. 🙂

Engage: Interactive Knowledge Checks

Engage is used to quickly create simple, click-and-reveal interactions. They’re easy to build, look nice, and can compress a lot of information into a single interaction.

But like Quizmaker you’re not confined to the way the tool is typically used. You can do more than simple interactions. Why not use the multimedia output to create quick knowledge checks?

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - interactive knowledge checks built in Engage and not PowerPoint

In previous posts, we reviewed the 3C model to build interactive, decision-making scenarios. Essentially we create a situation where the learner’s understanding is challenged. Offer some choices. And then each choice produces consequences.

Engage is perfect for simple 3C knowledge checks. Use Engage’s introduction screen to pose the challenge. Then the clickable areas offer choices. And when a choice is clicked it presents a consequence or feedback.

These interactions are easy to build and they’re a quick way to assess the learner’s understanding. They also let the learner explore the other options. Below are a few examples on interactive knowledge checks built in Engage.

Keep in mind; the tools are only there to create the output. They don’t do the instructional design. That’s still up to you. But as you can see, even with simple rapid elearning tools you’re still able to build engaging and interactive elearning.

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 - bucketful of free elearning PowerPoint templates

I get a lot of questions about how to move past the PowerPoint look when building rapid elearning courses. My first suggestion if you’re working with PowerPoint is to step away from the original content. Start with a blank screen and then based on the context of the course, build the look and feel that’s appropriate for the content.

With that said, sometimes you can get away with a pre-built template. A good example is with office-themed templates. They work because they’re generic and can fit the look required for a lot of corporate elearning. The template isn’t a replacement for analyzing the appropriate design needs for your course, but if you do determine that this type of template is appropriate, it’s a good head start, especially for those who have no graphic design expertise or access to graphic design resources.

Here are some free office-themed templates and assets. The first is a new one and the rest are ones I’ve given away in previous posts.

New Multi-Layout Overhead Office Template

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free overhead office PowerPoint template

Here’s a free PowerPoint template that features 10 layout options and also comes with a Quizmaker file.

Desktop Folder Template

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free desktop theme PowerPoint template

Personnel Folder

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free file folder PowerPoint template

Spiral Notebook

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free spiral notebook PowerPoint template

Tabbed Notebooks

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free tabbed notebook PowerPoint template

Leather Portfolio

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free leather portfolio PowerPoint template

Projection Screens

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free office projection screen PowerPoint templates

Clipboard

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free clipboard PowerPoint template

Hand-drawn Assets

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free hand-drawn elearning graphics

These free templates and assets are great for office-themed presentations. They also work great for simple exploration interactions where the learner can click on various resources to collect information. Combine that with some decision-making activities and you have all of the assets you need to create simple, yet interactive elearning modules.

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 - interactive elearning

In an earlier post we looked at how to build branched scenarios for interactive elearning courses. Branched scenarios are great for simulating the types of real-world decisions a learner needs to make on the job.

As noted in the earlier post, it’s not always easy to create a branched scenario if you’re not the content expert. The main reason is that decision-making scenarios depend on a nuanced understanding of the subject matter so that you can guide the learner through the activity.

The Critical Path

Most elearning courses have a critical path. Essentially it’s a completely correct path. With a linear elearning course it’s easy to stay on the critical path because all the learner does is move from one screen to the next.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - simple critical path elearning scenario

Branching allows you to take the learner off of the critical path as she makes decisions. This adds complexity to the learning experience. Usually what happens is that branches resolve on different paths. Sometimes there are multiple alternative correct paths. Sometimes the path just ends and forces the learner to restart or go to some sort of remedial instruction.

This is all really good if you have the time and resources to build the interactive situation. But what if you don’t?

Stay on the Critical Path

A simple way to create a branched decision-making scenario is to always force the learner back to the critical path. Imagine it like a road trip. You need to drive from New York to Washington DC to pick up your Aunt Betsy and you’re on a tight schedule. The first thing you do is map out the path that will make you successful. That’s the critical path.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - trip to pick up Aunt Betsy

Suppose while driving you see a sign advertising Miles the Monster, the world’s largest concrete monster. Surely Aunt Betsy can wait and off you go. Mistake! You’re now off the critical path and wasting precious time. Your family calls, tells you Aunt Betsy is waiting and they get you back on the critical path.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - deviate from critical path

 

Single Critical Path

Using a single critical path is a simple way to build a branched scenario. Build out you decision-making challenges. The 3C model is a good model to use. But instead of continuing on a separate path, which is more difficult to manage, find a way to bring the learner back to the critical path.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - single critical path scenario

This helps keep the construction of the scenario simple and manageable. But it doesn’t necessarily mean the scenario itself has to be simple. For example, you can alter the flow and pacing of the branches. But eventually moving forward in the scenario requires getting back on the critical path.

Multi-tiered Interactive Branches

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - multitiered critical path scenario

The goal is to keep the scenario moving forward by keeping to the critical path. But that doesn’t mean you have to immediately bring the person back to the path after the first deviation from it. You can allow them to drift away a few levels as they make decisions. But ultimately you want them to come back to the critical path.

Reconcile Feedback

The key in getting them back to the critical path is providing the feedback to reconcile decisions they made that took them off of the path in the first place. If you want to keep it simple, let them make a wrong decision, provide immediate feedback, and then put them back on the path.

But when we make decisions in real life, we don’t always get immediate feedback. Another option is to hold the feedback through a few decisions and then provide some consolidated feedback. Delaying the feedback lets the learner work through the consequences of the decisions made.

There’s really no right or wrong way to build interactive branched scenarios. Ultimately it depends on the content and context of the interaction. And then of course your resources are a key consideration. If you have time and resources, a complex branched interaction can be a great way to create an interactive and engaging learning experience.

However, if you are pressed for time and have limited access to subject matter experts, then a simplified scenario that always reverts back to the critical path is great way to go.

What are some of the challenges you face when crafting interactive scenarios? What advice do you have for those new to all of this? Please share your thoughts 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.