The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for May, 2014


Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog -  3 things every new instructional designer needs to know

Many of you are transitioning from traditional classroom training to developing online training. That means you need to learn new software and production techniques, as well as new ways to design your courses.

This transition can be a bit confusing and a source of stress. So today I’ll share a few of the tips I share at my workshops for new elearning developers.

It Takes Time to Be a Pro If You’re a New Instructional Designer

It would be great if we could just start building online training courses and know everything the first time we build a course. But that’s just not going to happen. It takes time. And that’s OK. You have to start somewhere.

There are things you can do make sure you’re moving in the right direction, but the first course you build is not going to be the best course you ever build. To tell you the truth, I cringe at some of my early stuff. At the time I thought it was great, but I look at it today and I can see that I was a bit limited in my understanding of how to build online training.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog -  the essential of elearning course design

There are three essential elements to course design:

  • What content needs to be in the course to meet its objectives?
  • What will the course look like?
  • What is the user supposed to do with the content learned?

If you focus on those three, you’ll invest your time in the right areas.

Practice, Practice, Practice Helps the New Instructional Designer

I’ve mentioned this before on the blog, if you want to be good at your craft it takes practice. There’s no way around it. The challenge is getting enough practice so that when you design an elearning course you’re ready.

My son just started soccer. I told him that if he waits to be with his team, he’ll get limited touches on the ball. In a game or scrimmage he may only get the ball in 3-6 second chunks. At that rate, he’ll improve slowly. However, if he practices ball handling skills in the backyard, he’ll get hundreds of touches.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog -  practice will make you a better course designer

Think of elearning practice the same way. On a real course, you get limited chances. So you have to break down the elements of course design into small chunks and then take the time practice those.

I like the elearning challenges that happen in the community each week. They’re designed to be small activities that are easy enough to do without a big time commitment. If you do them you’ll get more “touches” and when it comes time to build a real course you’ll have fleshed out some ideas and learned new production techniques.

There are Twenty Ways to Do Things If You’re a New Instructional Designer

One point of frustration I see with people who are just learning is that we want to know how to do everything right and we want to be really efficient doing it. Guess what? It won’t happen if you’re just getting started. If that stresses you out, “here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note…”

A point I make in the workshop is to not worry about what everything looks like under the hood. If the course works the way you intend it to and the end user is fine, then don’t worry about what it looks like in the source file?

Who cares if you aren’t the most efficient developer? The efficiency comes with experience, especially when you have to edit that mess of a file. But that’s OK because that’s how we learn. Often the expert shortcuts and efficient tips don’t make sense until we have some context anyway. So why stress it?

A great way to learn faster is to jump into the community and ask for help. When you show someone what you’re doing, you’ll get others with more experienced who will offer the tips and tricks that will make you more efficient. If you’re just getting started then being part of the community is a must.

Here’s the deal, we all have to start somewhere. Sometimes the process of getting started can be a bit frustrating. Understand that it’ll take time, create opportunities to practice, and don’t worry about being perfect. The more you do this stuff, the better you’ll become.

What tips do you have for the person just getting started?

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 engage people with learning objectives that matter

Years ago I was taught that all courses had to have a bullet point objectives screen. In fact it was mandatory in most of my early projects. And I know from talking to many of you, that’s still the case in your own organizations.

In fact, in a recent workshop when I addressed this as an issue, someone quoted Robert Gagné’s second step of his nine steps of instruction: “Tell the learners the learning objective.” Her organization interpreted step two as literally detailing the objectives by listing them as a series of bullet points.

While there’s value in having a list that clearly describes learning objectives, often it’s a precursor to cookie cutter courses that are not very engaging or meaningful. But is there a way present the learning objectives that doesn’t require a bullet point list?

Essentially the goal is to have the learner understand the purpose of the course, why they’re taking it, and what they’ll learn. Bullet lists are an easy way to detail those things and probably work best for real simple courses. But my guess is that most people just click past the list to get to the course. What can you do to get them to understand the objectives and engage them at the same time?

Create Learning Objectives That Challenges the Learner

Challenge them upfront. The challenge could be some sort of assessment to gain understanding of their current skill level. But most important about the challenge is that it exposes what they don’t know. And this exposition lays the foundations for clarifying the objectives.

Here’s a video that’s been making its way around the internet. If you haven’t seen it, give it a look. It’s interactive and requires your full attention. As a warning, it’s in French. That’s not the bad part. Really. The English captions do drop the F bomb, so be warned. [Update: Unfortunately it seems the interaction has been removed].

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - an example of learning objectives

Click here to view the video.

Imagine this was the beginning of an elearning course about water safety. Instead of creating a list of bullet points, a video like this offers an engaging and compelling reason to wear a life vest. The additional challenge of staying afloat also amplifies the point of getting tired quickly. After watching this you’d no doubt understand the purpose of the course.

Add Meaningful Emotional Impact to Your Learning Objectives

In a previous post on how to create interesting learning objectives I created a demo to show how I reworked an objectives screen for an emergency preparedness kit. My dilemma was that often we treat courses like this as a checklist item. We may get information but we don’t connect the information to us personally.

“Safety training…blah blah blah…emergency kit….blah blah blah…pass quiz, go back to work.”

In this particular case, instead of listing the objectives, I state some facts about survival during a disaster and tied it back to some family photos to imply a connection to your loved ones.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - another example of learning objectives that matter

Click here to view the elearning demo.

It’s still linear information, but it’s reframed to be more engaging and emotional. Plus since it’s not a bullet point list, it’s also probably novel. And novelty is a great way to pique a person’s interest.

Bullet point screens have their place. They are easy and are less open to interpretation than something like a dramatic video. However, they don’t need to be the defacto for the way you inform the learner of the course’s learning objectives.

In your next course, see what you can do to dump the bullet point list. How can you challenge the learner’s understanding or add some drama at the beginning of the course?

What are some things you’ve done to engage your learners and get away from the bullet point objectives list?

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 - drag and drop feedback for learning interactions

Drag and drop interactions are great to get the user interacting with the screen and the course content. In a previous post we explored the basic building blocks of drag and drop interactions.

In today’s post we’ll review some general tips to help build your next drag and drop interaction.

Provide Clear Instructions for the Learning Interaction

Many courses already come with some sort of navigation controls. For example, it’s common to have the previous and next controls on the bottom of the screen. Because the navigation is common, knowing what to do during the course is generally intuitive.

Occasionally the course may have an interaction where the learner is asked to interact with the screen. This interaction is not part of the common course navigation and probably not as intuitive.

If the learner is used to clicking a navigation button and you want them to do something different it’s important to provide clear and concise instructions. In the example screenshot below, it’s not quite clear what the person is supposed to do.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create instructions for drag and drop learning interactions...the wrong way

In the following screenshot, the instructions provide more information on how the learner is to interact with the screen.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create instructions for drag and drop learning interactions

If you repeat the same type of activity in your course then it’s probably not necessary to add specific instructions each time. Or perhaps the instructions can be delayed. For example, if nothing’s happened after 30 seconds, have the instructions appear.

Create a Ghost Image for Drag Objects in Your Learning Interaction

As the learner drags an object away it leaves an empty spot. Depending on the type of interaction this could look odd or the empty spot may look out of place.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - design tips when creating drag and drop learning interactions

As in the image below, I like to add a ghost or watermarked version of the dragged object. This fills the empty area and reminds the user from where the dragged object comes.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - design tips when creating drag and drop learning interactions

In this particular example, it’s probably not too bad because of the spacing and icon labels. However if you do build drag and drop interactions, then adding a ghost image is something to consider.

See it in action. Here’s an example of the points above.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of some design tips when creating drag and drop learning interactions

Click here to view the elearning example.

Create a Ghost Image for the Drop Target in Your Learning Interaction

Adding a ghost image to indicate the drop target can also be valuable. Many drag and drop interactions are used as assessments. But often they can be used as a means of navigation. And it’s an easy way to indicate progress during the interaction.

Check out the example below.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of a drag and drop learning interaction with watermark drop targets

Click here to view the learning interaction.

Drag and drop activities are great for learning interactions. They engage the user in a couple of ways. First, the user gets to do something onscreen. This helps keep them focused. Couple that with appropriate decision-making and you’ve got a nice learning interaction.

So if you’re just getting started, be sure to add clear instructions and a few visual nuances to create an effective learning interaction.

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 - offer bribe to avoid course because of bad course objectives

The key to success is having clear goals and then mapping out a way to meet those goals. Without the map, you’ll never know if you got where you intended to go. In a previous post we looked at how to build learning objectives. Today we’ll take it a step farther and look at a simple process that will help structure the objectives around measurable actions.

What’s the Purpose of the Course?

There are many courses that exist for reasons other than performance improvement. For example, a lot of annual compliance or things like sexual harassment training are usually more about the awareness of policies and less about actionable activities.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - course objectives come from understanding the type of course

On the other hand, there are many courses that do expect that upon completion the learner is able to do something specific. Perhaps they’ve learned a new procedure or how to apply a given policy in the work environment.

Understanding the type of course you build is important because it’ll help you craft the appropriate types of objectives, measure their success, and help you manage your resources.

Ask These Questions to Create Your Course Objectives

Once you understand why you’re building the course you can focus on who is going to take it, why, and what expectations exist after the course. One way to begin is by answering the questions below.

  • Who is the learner
  • Why is this important to him?
  • In what situation would he use this information?
  • What is the course objective?
  • How does he prove that he’s met the objective?

I create a simple table to look over the answers. Here’s an example based on my experience working for some large organizations.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - blank table to build course objectives

As part of our ethics training, there was a course on how to deal with bribes. This course was important because we had a number of international sites and many of our sales and procurement staff had to deal with bribery as part of the business culture. Even though we only had a handful of international staff, everyone who took the ethics training had to take the bribery course, regardless of getting bribed.

For the international staff the bribery course was performance-based. We had specific behavioral expectations. For all of our other staff, the objective wasn’t centered on their performance. Instead the objective was to build awareness of the company’s policies on bribery which fit into the larger context of being an ethical organization.

Here’s an example of how this I could have completed the table for this course and the tow different audiences.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of completed table to identify course objectives

Click on the image to see a larger version.

You’ll notice that I broke out the two types of learners and their course objectives. For those who encounter bribes, we focus on the performance aspect. As we build the course, we want to create the types of situations they encounter and have then make the decisions that are in line with the organization’s policies.

For the IT analyst who is never bribed, we create a scaled down course. There’s no need for them to go through time-wasting situations not relevant to their job expectations. In their case, the objective is general awareness of the policy. Presenting the content in an engaging manner and having them certify their understanding is all we need.

A few key thoughts:

  • Build the course appropriate to the performance expectations of the learner. If none exist, then don’t force them through the same type of course for those who do have performance expectations. Taking a course costs time which is equal to money. And pulling someone from their work to go through irrelevant scenarios is a time-waster.
  • Don’t overstate the importance of the course. Subject matter experts have the tendency to do this. In this example, the temptation is to suggest that everyone needs to be able to make the appropriate decisions so they should all go through the same training. While it’s technically true if presented with a situation everyone should make the right decisions, but forcing people to take certain types of training because of some remote chance that they’ll be bribed is a waste of time.
  • Focus on how the learners will prove their understanding. Are they able to make the right decisions in certain situations? How do you know? If the person needs to make certain types of decisions in certain situations then make that the burden of proof. Create situations like they’ll encounter in the real world and have them demonstrate their understanding through the decisions they make. If they don’t encounter those situations, then the level of understanding centers on general awareness. Instead of a decision-making situation, you can focus on the principles that drive the policies. Perhaps a simple case study would do the trick.

I know that some people say the non-performance courses shouldn’t even be built. They should be job aids. Perhaps. But they do get built and often you’re not in a position to force that change. By understanding what the organization expects from the learner you’ll be able to craft good course objectives and determine the appropriate proof to ensure they’ve been met. If they have performance expectations focus on what you want them to do. If it’s about policy awareness, certify their understanding with a simple quiz.

How do you determine the course objectives in your training programs?

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.