The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for April, 2013


Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - 3 ways to improve your elearning design skills

I get lots of questions about improving skills and becoming better at elearning. Usually people ask about good school programs and book recommendations.

Going to school is an option and it may be a good one. However, it’s not always the best option if you really want to learn to build better courses. We debated whether or not you need an instructional design degree to be successful in elearning. Be sure to read through the comments. There are some good pro and con opinions.

If you’re interested in getting a formal education, Tess Farley compiled a list of schools that offer degrees and certificates. I can’t speak to which ones are the best, but if you did attend one of the programs listed feel free to add your two cents in that thread’s comments section.

Reading books is another way to learn about elearning. And there are plenty that will help. In fact, here’s a good list of elearning and training books we compiled in the elearning community. And you’re not limited to reading books; there are plenty of blogs and websites that offer good help, too.

However, just like in an interactive elearning course, the best opportunity to learn is when you get to reflect on and apply all of this new information. So the key question is how can I apply the things I am learning?

Apply what you’re learning to your elearning courses.

Suppose you read Ruth Clark’s new book on scenario-based elearning (an Amazon referral link). It’s a good book that covers a lot of ground on building scenario-based elearning. Reading the book is the first step. For the next step apply what you’ve learned from the book to one of your courses.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - Ruth Clark Scenarion-based elearning

Look over one of your existing courses and then reframe it in the context of what you’ve learned. How would you change that old course? Is it static? What would it take to convert a linear course to one that’s more interactive and incorporates ideas from the book? Even if you don’t get to change the course, the process of reading and reflecting will help.

Practice, practice, and when you have more time, add some practice.

Being good at something means you have to commit the time to practice. If you don’t commit time to practice when it comes time to execute you won’t know how to do what you want to do.

Practice helps you think through ideas and then learn to actually build them with the tools. If you don’t practice building out the ideas, when it comes time to work on the project you may not have time to practice the techniques and process to actually make it work.

Also, some of our ideas are often ill-conceived or not ready for prime time. Practice lets you get the ideas out and the refine them so that they are viable. No client wants to hear about your whacky scenario idea, especially if you haven’t thought it through. Practice lets you think it through.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - practice building interactive online training courses

When you do commit time to practice, don’t build out big demos. Just play around with bite-sized ideas. This way you get them done and feel successful. It’s also easier to iterate on smaller elearning modules.

Focus on diverse demos and activities.

I look over lots of demos and portfolios. A common element is that the person will show twenty courses, but all twenty look exactly the same. All that I know from the person is that they can assemble the same type of course. What I don’t know is the diversity or breadth of skills.

So when you practice building your online training courses, focus on different things. For example, make a list of ten types of tab interactions. Then build them out. When it comes time to use that type of interaction in your courses, you’ll have the technical skills and some ideas. Or if you’re like Montse Anderson, you may even have used the practice to build some good starter elearning templates.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - three ways to build elearning interactions

Here’s an idea. In an earlier post we looked at the three core screen interactions. They are click, mouseover, and drag. Build a simple module. Make all interactions on the module click-based. Then rework it. Instead of clicking, you’re limited to drag interactivity. This will help you learn to use your elearning software and by reframing the interaction, make you think about some things in a new way.

There are a lot more ways to improve your elearning design skills. But these three are a good start. Find a book, read it and apply the new ideas. Commit some time to practicing your craft. And then build a portfolio of diverse demos and activities.

If you do those things you’ll increase your skills and find that your courses become more interactive and engaging.

What do you do to build your skills?

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 - make decisions about course design and templates for online training

Templates are great because they provide some structure to the design of your online training. But many times templates become so rigid that instead of helping the training design, they inhibit it.

In today’s post we’ll look at ways to build an elearning template that will guide the course design, but leave enough flexibility to create a course that best meets your needs.

How are Books and E-Learning Courses Similar?

Go to a bookstore and you’ll find thousands of books. They look different and cover different topics. Yet, most books follow a similar structure. They have an attention-getting jacket, a cover, title page, table of contents, chapter sections, and an index.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - parts of a book an dhow it relates to online training

So while the topics of the books may be different, the structure of the books is very similar. And so it is with elearning.

Identify the Core Structure of an E-learning Course

Elearning courses may look different and may cover different topics, but most courses have a similar structure. They include a title screen, a menu, instructions, objectives, content, assessments, and exit instructions.

Think of it like a sandwich. There’s the top (welcome) and bottom (exit) with a bunch of stuff in-between.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - common parts of an elearning course and how to build templates for elearning and online training

Since the structure of most courses is similar, create an elearning template that defines that common structure. Include all of the major parts of the course. Don’t worry about the details like content, layouts, or the way the screens will look. That’s not important at this step.

The main point is to identify the major parts of an elearning course. From there you’ll be able to build a good starter template that helps guide the course structure without defining the specific look.

Create a Default E-Learning Template

Once you’ve identified the generic structure of an elearning course, you can build a starter template. Each software application is going to be a bit different in how it works. But if you use PowerPoint or Articulate Storyline, then you can follow a similar process which is to create a master template that has a placeholder for each core element.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - example of a good starter template for elearning and online training

When you’re ready to build a course, start with the default template. At this point, you’re not trying to fit all of your content to match the template. That’s what causes some problems. Instead, you’re using the template to guide your initial development.

Here’s how the placeholder screens help:

  • Placeholder screens make sure no major parts fall through the cracks during your project design. Often courses are designed and then during the pilot testing other screens (like instructions) are added. With the starter template, you know that they need to be a consideration.
  • Your course design is intentional when you step away from pre-existing content. And the starter template helps you do that. Many times we’re working with existing classroom material and we let that dictate how to build the course. By starting with a blank screen, we’re forced to be more intentional about our design.
  • Placeholder screens help us think through the user experience. Many elearning courses are very info-centric. So we easily get caught up in how to display the information. But often we neglect the experience from the user’s perspective. By crafting a starter template, you build a sold framework for your content and consider how the user will go through it. A good example is what to do at the end of the course. What are the next steps? What’s the learner to do? A starter template brings those questions out.

By thinking through the main parts of a course you’ll be able to design a good starter template. The template provides structure for the course design to make sure key parts are considered and don’t fall through the cracks. It also provides enough flexibility so that you’re not forced to a specific design.

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 - what type of online training course are you

Not all elearning courses are created equal. Some seek to share information and build awareness while others may focus on action or changing behaviors. When building elearning courses, I usually separate them into two buckets: information or performance.

The objective of an information-based course is performance support and not performance activity. Think of it more like multimedia text book. It doesn’t teach and assess performance. Instead it provides the context and awareness of important information.  It supports performance but it’s not designed to change performance.

Some people would say that those courses shouldn’t be built. Instead they should be job aids or offline documentation. In some situations that makes sense. But I don’t completely agree with that assertion mostly because building information as a “course” doesn’t take any more effort than building it as a job aid or offline resource. And the other benefit is that it is online and can be purposed in other ways as well.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - performance and informtion online training

Performance-based courses focus on action. There’s an activity or something that can be done to demonstrate understanding of the online training content. Those courses change behavior.  They teach concepts that have real-world application. And they allow the learner to practice and demonstrate the new learning.

Often the two types of courses can be combined. Or as some would suggest, the action oriented courses only focus on the action and any non-critical information is removed from the course and made available via job aids and other channels.  Either way works.

Ultimately your success building online training rests in identifying the type of course you’re building, its real objectives, and then allocating the right resources.

How to Build Learning Objectives for Compliance Policy Training

There’s a lot of training that is mandated by the organization but has no real performance goal. They’re usually training programs to build awareness around some of the organization’s policies. For example, one organization for which I worked had a strong focus on safety. So each year I had to take courses on lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures. I didn’t work in a production environment and never had to do any of this in the real world. But the organization wanted everyone to take the training.

In that case, the training for people who didn’t work in a production environment was more about awareness of the organization’s policies and how they impacted the organization’s success. It probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to have them practice if they don’t ever apply it.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - compliance course that is not performance

For this type of training the objective is to build awareness. Since the policies are not directly related to the person’s performance, I try to get them in and out of the training as quickly as I can. The goal is not to undermine the organization’s policies. So we want to make sure they get the information they need. But at the same time, we don’t want to lock them up in a course that will take a lot of extra time.

For this learner, I’d build a simple course where they get the information, they’re assessed with a simple quiz or activity, and they’re sent back to productive work.

How to Build Learning Objectives for Annual Policy & Procedure Training

There’s a lot of compliance training as described above, but there’s also a lot of compliance training that is critical to a job function. For example, assume I work in a production environment and LOTO is critical to my performance. Every year I have to take annual compliance training as a reminder of the LOTO policies and procedures. This is compliance training because I have to comply with the organization’s safety procedures and policies. But this is also performance-based training because the ultimate objective is to understand the policies and be able to demonstrate my understanding in my work environment.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - compliance training that is performance and certification

Another assumption is that this type of training is not the initial training. Instead it’s refresher training. So it’s more like a certification process where the learner is reminded of the policies and can DEMONSTRATE the application of it. The training doesn’t teach them something new as much as it certifies what they already know.

How to Build Learning Objectives for Performance-Based Training

Performance-based training focuses on real performance goals. Typically there’s a gap. The learners are at point A and the goal is to get them point B. We determine the cause of the gap; and if training is the appropriate solution we build a course to close the gap.

The ultimate objective for these courses is that the learner is able to DO something after completion. Often our learning objectives will state that “at the end of this course they’ll learn or understand” but that doesn’t mean anything. How do you know they understand? How do you know they learned?

You have to create a way to measure their understanding. There needs to be an action where they can show you what they know.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - performance online training course

Many elearning courses are structured like this: content, practice activity, assessment. This is OK if the assessment isn’t a quiz (which is limited in how it can measure understanding).  If you really want to determine understanding, then craft an assessment that lets them make decisions that are close to the types of decisions they’d make in the real world.

For example, if they need to demonstrate their understanding of LOTO procedures then have them identify where it needs to happen and then go through the process of doing it just like they would in the real world.

If we revisit the three types of elearning courses, we see in one the objective is to build awareness with no performance expectations. But the other two are tied to on-the-job performance. However one is more refresher or certification and the other is more in depth. The two performance course can be combined to create a single course. All you need is a mechanism to filter the learners.

For certification they go one way and for the in-depth training they go another. And during the certification process if they can’t demonstrate the appropriate level of understanding you can redirect them to a remedial path where they can get the information and practice activities they need to fill the gap.

As you can see the objectives of your elearning courses may not be the same. By sorting them the information and performance buckets you’ll be able to determine where to allocate your resources. Annual compliance training with no performance outcomes shouldn’t consume as much of your time and resources as the performance-based courses that will require more interactivity and development.

You’ll save time and money by building the training most appropriate to the objectives. You’ll also help th
e organization by sorting your learners. Those who need a simple course can get in and out and back to productive work; and those that need to demonstrate their understanding will have a course that is more than a simple quiz.

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 - how to build good online training

Building an effective online training program requires packaging the right content with the right type of learning experience. However that often doesn’t happen because it’s easier to pull a lot of information together, create some slides, and then publish a course.

To top it off, many of these types of online courses are merely repacked content that already exists on the organization’s network. So instead of building a real learning experience, we’re just repurposing existing content.

Do You Need Online Training?

Do you you really need to build an online training program if all you’re doing is repurposing existing content? Is this adding real value? Most likely you don’t need the course (or at least not that type of course). But often those courses get built anyway and that wastes the person’s time and the organization’s money.

How to Avoid Wasting Time & Money for Online Training?

When I consult with a client I always try to determine if the training program has a direct link to the organization’s business goals. If so, then it’s easier to find the right training intervention (assuming it’s needed) and then aligning it to the correct measure. That’s how you get your return on investment, by the way.

Become a Performance Consultant

For those new to this, follow a simple performance consulting model where you can determine where things are currently, where they should be, and how to bridge the gap that exists. I always recommend the Performance Consulting book because it’s straightforward explanation of the process and easy to implement.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - performance consulting book

In an ideal world, you and your client come up with a solution that works. Unfortunately, often the client wants to build an online training course regardless of whether or not it’s linked to the organization’s goals.

The first step is to avoid building the wrong course (if any). That’s why you wear the hat of performance consultant. But sometimes you still have to build a course. Is so, what’s the best plan?

Three Ways to Save Time & Money with Online Training

Going back to the original scenario, you have to build training but the content already exists online. Here are a few viable options.

Create an abstract of the existing content and publish as a PDF. Don’t waste time building a “course” that’s merely content easily accessed in other places. In those cases, focus on simple job aids that can be used at work. This contents the content to the learner, but doesn’t overwhelm them with a bunch of information.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - convert online training content to a summarized document or job aid

Another option is to create a summary or abstract of the key information. Then point them to the more detailed information online. This way they have a simple overview and access to more information if they need it. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Some clients will still want to create something and a PDF isn’t the solution for them.

Build a simple interactive multimedia module. When I have a customer who has to have “elearning” but was just repurposing the online content, I’d use something like the process or tabs interactions in Engage. They looked like a training course, but they really were more like multimedia documents.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - convert online training content to an interactive elearning module

Because they’re form-based they’re easy to build and maintain. In some ways, they’re even easier to build than a PDF because the software does all of the visual design and formatting. Another advantage is that they can easily be tracked in an LMS. So you get the benefit of a “course” but the speedy production.

Change the focus of the training. Since most of the training content is already online change the focus of the training. Instead of online training that covers the subject matter, do training on how to find and use the online resources.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - teach people how to find resources and online training

This also gives you an opportunity to build a community of practice around that training content. You can combine training on using the resources with a peer community of others in the organization who use the same resources. A community lets you capture activity that may be valuable to future learners.

The truth is that a lot of online training wastes time because it’s just content that already exists. However, if you have to build online training like this, the tips above should help make it meaningful and more valuable to the organization.

How do you get around this type of training? Share your thoughts with the 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 - here is the world's largest respository for online learning tutorials

Here’s a common scenario. Someone emails and asks about an elearning tutorial I have on the blog. It’s not always easy to find the specific tutorial buried in a given post. In fact, there are many times I either forgot that I had created that tutorial or I can’t recall where it’s at either. I know. It’s part of getting older.

Today I am going to fix that. I have listed every blog post that has a video tutorial that shows how to create something related to online learning. So, if you’re just getting started with building online learning courses (or new to the blog), now you have a handy resource with links to all sorts of rapid elearning tutorials.

Free PowerPoint Templates

These tutorials show how to either create or use some of the free PowerPoint templates you’ll find on the blog. Even if you don’t use the free templates, they are a great way to learn some PowerPoint techniques that will help you build better elearning courses.

Learn How to Use PowerPoint for Online Learning

This section covers miscellaneous PowerPoint tips and production techniques. They’re not exclusive to rapid elearning or online training. So if you want to learn more about PowerPoint, then this is a good list of free tutorials.

How to Build Rapid E-Learning Courses

Using PowerPoint for rapid elearning is different than using it for building presentations. These tutorials offer tips on getting the most out of PowerPoint to build effective and interactive rapid elearning courses.

Tips on Creating Interactive E-Learning

This series of tutorials cover some of the basics for creating interactive elearning and branched scenarios. You’ll learn more about simple ways to build interactive elearning as well as a few PowerPoint tutorials that show how to build them.

Free Software to Use When Building Online Training

These tutorials cover the basics of using some of the free software and applications I’ve mentioned in the blog.

Visual & Graphic Design Ideas for Your E-Learning Courses

In these tutorials I cover some graphic design ideas. I show how to come up with templates designs and build your own graphics and artwork.

Project Management tips When Creating Online Learning

These tutorials cover broad project management tips that range from managing files to working with customers.

Bonus Tutorials

The other day I was looking through the tutorials created by the elearning community and found that we have over 2,000 free elearning tutorials. That’s a lot more than I thought were there. So take advantage of them and the tips and tricks you get from your peers in the community.

Collection of E-Learning Community Tutorials

  • E-Learning How-To: good collection of elearning tutorials with some nice examples.
  • Tutorials that we curate from the elearning community. Each link has an RSS feed so you can stay on top of the latest tutorials added by community members.

Articulate Product Tutorials & Free Software Training

I haven’t counted all of these rapid elearning tutorials, but my guess is that there are at least 3,000 tutorials in this list which is something like 250 hours of free training on building rapid 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.

 




Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - what to learn when getting started with elearning

At a recent elearning conference I ran into my mentor and elearning thought leader, Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer. He was showing off examples of elearning courses and offering tips on visual design for elearning.

While he was swamped as usual, I was able to steal a few minutes of his time and talk about his latest Werner Labs project and asked if he had any tips to share for the blog readers.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - cognitive load brain research for learning

 

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - rapid elearning expert

I really appreciate all you do to push the science of elearning research forward. It helps the blog readers and anyone who wants to learn how to build elearning courses.

As you know, one of the main issues people have is a lack of resources and time. Your conference presentation on building PowerPoint presentations and elearning courses seems to fill that need. Can you explain more to the blog readers who couldn’t attend?

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - rapid elearning expert

Each day there are thousands of PowerPoint presentations and many of them are not very good. On top of that, most elearning courses created with PowerPoint are not very good. That’s not going to change any time soon. But what we can change is the time it takes to build bad PowerPoints.

So we created a system where anyone who creates a bad PowerPoint can upload it and share it with anyone else who needs to create a bad PowerPoint. On top of that you can mix and match your bad PowerPoints to create custom-designed bad PowerPoint files.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - reuse PowerPoint files

It’s our new Collaborative Resource Automating PowerPoint system. Bad content is going to be created anyway; we just make it easier to do so. That will be a big time saver for most organizations.

We’ve already signed on many large corporations and government agencies.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - rapid elearning expert

I’m interested in seeing where that goes in the future. Let’s switch topics. You gave a presentation on visual design for elearning. Afterwards, people were buzzing about what they learned. Can you share your tips for the blog readers, too?

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - rapid elearning expert

Sure. The presentation covered three key areas of graphic design for elearning.

  • How to build better elearning in your organization
  • Get past low-value bullet point elearning courses
  • Apply NEW research to your elearning courses

I’ve included my presentation below.

Presentation on How to Build E-Learning Courses

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - visual and graphic design tips for elearning

Click here to view the elearning presentation on visual design.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - rapid elearning expert

Thank you Dr. Werner. You always offer fresh insight and new perspectives on how to build elearning courses. I am sure that the blog readers really appreciate all you do for the industry.

Learn more about Dr. Werner Oppelbaumer:

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.