The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for December, 2012


Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free handwritten fonts

I like to use handwritten fonts in my courses. They work well when I add them to speech bubbles, callouts, or captions. I also like the contrast a handwritten font adds to a more formal design. It comes across as a personal note—something I need to focus on.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - handwritten fonts add contrast

In a previous post I shared ways to use the handwritten fonts as well as some speech bubbles and free hand-drawn graphics that you can download and use with the fonts.

One of my favorite handwritten fonts is Skippy Sharp. It’s the font you’ll see in many of my blog posts. But Skippy Sharp isn’t a free font. You can get it for about $30.

Buying fonts can be pricey if you don’t have a budget but want a lot of choices. That’s when using free fonts comes in handy. And there are plenty of them out there, but most seem to have the same one.

Free Font Sites

Free (with Conditions)

But one problem is that free isn’t always free. So make sure that you look at the license agreement that comes with the font download. Many have restrictions on commercial use.

The restrictions aren’t extreme. For example, Kimberly Geswein who shares a lot of fonts only charges $5. Surely that’s affordable for an elearning project.

Seven Free Fonts

To help you save time, I looked for seven really nice handwritten fonts that are free for commercial use and each a little bit different. No use having handwritten fonts that all look the same.

*Bonus: free fonts in the community.

You’ll notice that all of the fonts come from Google Web Fonts. The reason is that they’ve been vetted and are free to use unlike many sites that say the fonts are free but then it turns out they’re only free for personal use.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t use too many fonts for personal use so those “free” fonts are not that valuable to me. I guess I could start making more posters at home or elearning courses to teach my kids how to clean their rooms.

Do you have a favorite handwritten font? Or where do you find free (or low cost) fonts? Feel to share them in the comments section.

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • October 6: Amsterdam. 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges by David Anderson. Register here.
  • October 21: Sydney. 3-Hour Articulate Virtual Event: 10 Production Tips from the E-Learning Challenges, Creating Engaging Software Training in Rise 360, and more. Register here.
  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This e-learning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

 




Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning success

At a recent workshop someone asked how to demonstrate that they were successful and that the courses they built made a difference to the organization.

That’s a good question, especially in this economy because the training group is usually one of the first groups targeted when an organization needs to make some cuts to the budget. So we want to make sure that we’re providing real value.

E-Learning is Hot

The good thing is that right now, even with the struggling economy, elearning is a hot industry. This makes sense. For the organization looking to make cuts and still offer training, elearning is a viable option because it can reduce costs.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - elearning is hot

It’s one of the points we discussed in this post on why elearning is so effective. On top of that, there’s a convergence of mobile devices and remote workers. So elearning is at the forefront of this convergence.

In that sense, if you build elearning courses, you’re in a good industry and probably don’t need to worry about cuts as much as in the past. But let’s get back to the original question about demonstrating value.

Getting a Paycheck is a Good Indication of Success

Often we spend too much time trying to figure out the ROI (return on investment) of our work when that’s already been determined by the organization because they created your position and filled it with you.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - a paycheck means success

Are you getting paid? If the answer is yes, then that’s one of the best ways to measure your value. If you aren’t valued, you’d probably not have a job. And in that sense, it’s less about you determining your ROI and more about providing the value the organization expects from you.

Are Your Courses Aligned to Real Business Goals?

A common solution to meeting business goals is to offer more training. But training doesn’t always meet the organization’s goals. So it’s important to understand the organization’s goals and know where the course fits in meeting them.

Often a client wants a course but isn’t quite clear how the course actually makes a difference, other than the fact that the learner gets exposed to additional information. I always try to drill down to the expected results. After someone takes this course, what do you expect them to do? And then follow that up with, how does this relate to your organization’s goals?

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - align elearning courses to business goals

An elearning course is only a solution. Step away from the solution. Find out what the course is supposed to do and why that matters. It’s possible that you may talk the client out of an elearning project. That’s OK. You’ll save time and money by not creating a product that’s a waste of time and that adds real value.

What Type of Course Are You Building?

I put courses into one of two buckets. Is it about information or performance?

Information courses are more like marketing programs that promote awareness with no immediate performance expectations. They can also be performance support resources. They’re important to support performance requirements but they’re not necessarily focused on performance activities.

Some people suggest that all of these types of courses should become supporting documentation rather than an “elearning” course. That’s definitely a consideration. But with today’s tools building multimedia-based information is not any more difficult or expensive than building print documentation. So it’s just a matter or need and which solution meets it.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - what type of elearning course

Performance courses are focused on activities. Instead of pulling together a bunch of information, create decision-making activities that mirror the types of decisions the learner needs to make away from the courses and in the real world.

Once you understand the type of course you’re building, you can create one that offers the most value. For example, an information course may not require a lot of interactivity (which takes more time to build). And in the same sense a performance course usually needs more than dozens of bullet point screens. Understanding the type of course allows you to put your resources in a place where you get the most bang for the buck.

Are You Saving Time or Reducing Costs?

Many times you don’t have access to the types of metrics that really demonstrate the course’s effectiveness. Or you may have to build things like annual refresher training where the metrics can be a bit fuzzy. If that’s your situation, then a great way to demonstrate value is to focus on the production process and determine where you can reduce cost or save time.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - save time and money

  • Price out the cost of your courses if you were to hire them out. Then compare those costs to yours.
  • Another metric is the difference between face-to-face training and offering the same online.

You may not always be able to state what the course accomplished, but you’ll definitely be able to state that what you provided was cost-effective.

Is Your Customer Satisfied?

While this doesn’t necessarily measure the effectiveness of the training it is still a legitimate measurement. When I start a project I negotiate a service level agreement with my client. Part of it details expectations, timelines, and outcomes.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - customer satisfaction

At the end of the project, I forward this to the client to remind them that we successfully met the agreement. I try to do this right away while things are still fresh. If you wait until the end of the year, they’ll either not respond (because they’re too busy) or they tend to skew the feedback because they either want to seem balanced or they can’t recall exactly how the project concluded. You can avoid a lot of that by proactively collecting feedback.

As you can see, there a number of ways to prove your value and demonstrate success. You may not completely understand the ROI, but your customer does. When I hire the neighbor kid to mow my lawn I don’t expect him to email me a spreadsheet detailing everything he did. I just want to know the lawn’s taken care of.

In the same sense, you were hired to build a course. If you delivered it on time and to your customer’s satisfaction then trust that because you still have a job, you’re proving your value.

What are some things you’d recommend to the elearning developer that wants to know if they’re successful or not? Add 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.

 




Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - clean up your PowerPoint slides

Here’s a common issue: your client gives you a PowerPoint file that doesn’t look all that great. It’s the breeding ground for a classic Frankencourse with too many fonts, the wrong colors and hokey images. It’s a complete mess. And your job is to clean it up.

At this point the client’s not asking you to rebuild the course. He just wants it cleaned up and published. In an ideal world, you could push back and tell him how this is not great elearning; and then lament the demise of elearning and all things good.

But that’s not gonna fly with the client. So for today’s demo we’ll just assume that you need to clean the content up a bit and get it out the door.

Working with the Master Template

In PowerPoint you can build as many master slides and layouts as you need.

The easiest way to clean up your client’s slides is to start with the master slide. Create the look you need, and then apply the master template to all of the slides. In seconds what once was not so good is now a nice clean and usable product. 

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - PowerPoint master layouts

But here’s the kicker. Your client didn’t use the master slide to create the course. He worked on one slide at a time. So each slide is independent of the others. That means you can’t easily make universal changes to the file by applying the master slide and layouts.

What are you to do?

Start with the Master Slide & Layouts Anyway

The client may not have started with a master slide, but there’s no reason why you can’t create a master slide and a few layouts to define the project’s look.

  • Look at all of the slides using the slide sorter view. That gives you a big picture overview of the course. You’ll start to see some common elements and layouts.
  • Categorize the different types of slides and what design elements you’ll need based on the most common layouts.
  • Build the appropriate layouts for those slides in the slide master.
  • Then apply the layouts to the slides.

Not all of the slides will accept the changes via the layouts, but many of them will and that will save some time. 

When you’re done, you can go through each slide and make the edits you’ll need to make. Odds are that many of the slides will work with the new layouts and not require a lot of tweaking.

The Floating Style Slide

In a previous post on making your elearning courses look good I showed a simple tip for creating a design slide. I call it my floating style palette because I can move it from slide to slide and quickly apply changes.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create a floating palette in PowerPoint

Essentially you create a single slide that contains all of the screen elements for the course. Format those elements and then use the format painter to apply their style to the slide objects.

An example would be the title and body text used in the course. They’ll have a font style, size, and color. You can copy and paste the element from the palette slide to the course slide. Then use the format painter to apply the text formatting to the course text.

Once you have a floating style palette, go through all of the client’s slides where the master slide changes didn’t take hold. Use the floating style palette to apply the appropriate changes.

Making Universal Changes to Your Fonts

PowerPoint has a feature that lets you find and replace fonts. That means you don’t have to do that on a slide-by-slide basis. This really comes in handy since almost every single slide will have some sort of text.

The Replace Fonts feature is one of those that are kind of buried in PowerPoint. Your best bet is to add it to your custom tab in PowerPoint. This way you have quick access to it when you need it.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to find and replace text in PowerPoint

  • Select the font you want to change.
  • Select the font you want to use instead.
  • Click Replace.

All of the text with fonts you don’t want will be swapped out with the fonts you do want. Talk about a timesaver!

So to summarize the steps: 1) create a master slide, 2) reformat the objects that don’t work with the master, and then 3) replace the fonts. Those three tips will help you quickly clean up your client’s not-so-great PowerPoint slides.

Here are some other tips from previous posts that may help, too.

All of these tips will help you convert what may be a sloppy start to something that at least is consistent and looks better. And once you’ve got that done, you can start talking to your client about how to make the elearning course a bit more engaging and interactive.

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.