The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for December, 2014


It’s hard to believe we’re at the end of another year. For me it was a great year. I hope it was for you, as well. I got to meet so many blog readers from all over the world, Articulate successfully released Storyline 2, and we made significant improvements to the elearning heroes community with a focus on even more free tips, tutorials, and giveaways.

As with most end of year articles, here’s a roundup of popular posts and many of the free downloads from 2014.

Best of the Rapid E-Learning Blog

Free Templates & Free Graphics

Here are a few of the posts that offered free templates and graphics this past year.

Best of 2014: E-Learning Heroes Community

Here’s a list of featured articles, tutorials, and free downloads from the elearning community’s “best of 2014” list.

Have a great 2015!


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 - 800 e-learning examples

One of the best ways to learn is by looking at the work others have done. We can see different ideas in action which causes us to think about how they were built and explore what we might do different with the same content.

How to Learn by Looking at E-Learning Examples

Here’s an example from a recent community challenge. The challenge was to create an interactive slider for elearning. Melissa Milloway created a demo where you dragged a scuba diver down to explore the ocean.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - e-learning examples

Click here to view the elearning example.

Melissa’s demo had me wondering what I’d do to make the diver look like he was changing position as he was dragged. I also wanted to include some air bubbles for effect. So I took her idea and then played around for a few minutes and created this.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - e-learning examples derivative

Click here to view the elearning example.

To me, this is the value of routinely looking at elearning examples. Melissa shared her idea and I was able to iterate from it which allowed me to try something new and in turn practice using the elearning software.

E-Learning Examples Galore

One of the challenges is finding good examples because many of the good ones are locked behind corporate firewalls. However. rere are a couple I’ve seen recently.

This one from SpongeUK is a proof-of-concept demo to show a gamified course in Storyline. I like the light graphics and course structure. And to tell you the truth, if I wasn’t told this was created in Storyline, I don’t know if I would have guessed it.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - e-learning examples gamified

Click here to view the elearning example.

Here’s another one on choosing the appropriate safety attire from 42 Design Square.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - e-learning examples safety attire

Click here to view the elearning example.

I’m also fond of the weekly challenges because they are designed to be mini examples and not big courses. They’re like appetizers, just enough food for thought without being overwhelming. And with new ones every week, there’s plenty of inspiration to be had. I love seeing what the community Plus, there are new ones every week. So there’s always something new to see and inspire ideas.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - e-learning examples in the community

Did you know that last year there were over 750 elearning examples submitted to the weekly challenge? You can stay on top of the elearning challenges and the recaps here.

In addition, the community has a growing list of different elearning examples. We add to them regularly.

Articulate Rapid E-learning Blog - e-learning examples shared

Between some of the examples on this blog, the elearning examples in the community, and the examples posted in the weekly challenge, there’s close to a thousand elearning examples that cover a diverse range of subject matter and interactivity. That should be more than enough to help fuel your imagination.

The key is to replicate the ones you like and then challenge yourself to add something new to it.

Hope you all have a happy holiday and happy new year!

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 - free clip art going away

Not sure if you saw the news, but Microsoft is going to dump clip art. In its place, you’ll have access to a Bing image search, which will be filtered by Creative Commons licensing. Theoretically the images can be used in your courses and presentations. However that may not be the case.

Here are a few quick thoughts.

Clip Art is Often Crap Art

While there’s a lot of clip art available, most of it is dated and hasn’t been updated to reflect more contemporary visual design and styles. Unfortunately many of those images end up in presentations and elearning courses. Because people tend to mix and match these images, some of the presentations and online courses are a bit discordant. They lack a coherent visual design and fall into the Frankencourse category.

In that case dropping clip art is probably a good thing for course designers. It forces us to be more intentional about the graphics we use in our courses. It also puts some pressure on organizations to finally commit some of their training budgets to graphic and visual design resources.

Vector Illustrations Rock

Clip art gets a bad rap but you don’t see the same complaints about “vector illustrations.” However, most clip art images offered through the Microsoft site are actually vector illustrations. So if you’re still using clip art from the site, start calling them vector illustrations. And later when you need money for illustrations, you’ll sound more sophisticated and avoid some of the eye rolling you’d get asking for a clip art budget.

What’s the difference between vector and bitmap images?

Bitmap images are a grid of cells we call pixels. For example, if an image is 300×300 it is going to have 300 pixels from left to right and 300 pixels from top to bottom to form a grid of 90,000 pixels. If the image is scaled up, the pixels become larger and we get that blurry pixelated look. That’s not good.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free clip art difference between vector and bitmap image

Vector images are based on a mathematical formula to draw lines and shapes. When you scale a vector image it remains crisp because you’re not scaling pixels. Vector images also tend to have smaller file sizes because they have to store less information about the image.

The most common image formats are .JPG, .GIF, and .PNG. Those are bitmaps. In PowerPoint, the most common vector images formats are .EMF and .WMF.

Clip Art Offered a Lot of Options

Many of you work with limited resources so the free clip art vector illustrations that Microsoft made available was important to getting your work done. What makes vector illustrations great for work in PowerPoint is that not only do you always have crisp images, you can also ungroup them to their individual parts. That means they can be recolored and edited to meet the needs of your projects. That’s not as easy to do with a bitmap image which requires more editing.

Here are a few tips:

  • Take advantage of the free resources now and save what you can from the site before it’s gone. Here’s a link to the clip art site if you can’t find it.
  • Plan on asking for an assets budget when you begin work on your courses. Also, if you need specific images where will you get them?
  • Find cheap alternatives. Sometimes you can find old software applications at used bookstores. For example, it seems there are always greeting card creators in the discount bins. They usually have disks loaded with images. I buy them whenever I see them in the discount bins.
  • Learn basic image editing so that you can begin to create and edit your own graphics. Once the clip art site is gone, you’ll have to do more to create the right images for your courses. Now’s the time to learn some basic editing techniques.

Creative Commons Beware

I like that the Bing search feature will default to a Creative Commons filter. In theory, all of the images should work for your presentations and courses in some manner.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free clip art image search via Bing creative commons

However, creating a student project or presentation is a bit different than creating a professional and commercial elearning course. That means you’ll need to verify that the images you use via the Creative Commons search can be used for commercial work. This requires a lot of extra work because you need to find images and then search their sites for the appropriate license.

I did a few image search tests and while the sites that hosted the image may have been under some sort of Creative Commons license, many of the images were not necessarily owned but the site author. In my tests, there was nothing to indicate that the site owner actually had rights to the image for me to use.

So basically, you can’t trust the images you find in the search. You’ll have to do a lot more digging if you want to use those images in your projects. Here’s a post I did on ways to attribute Creative Commons images when you use them in your courses.

Personally, I’m kind of bummed about the decision to drop the free clip art available from the office.com site. Years ago I worked for an organization that had no money for my projects. I took a lot of pride in MacGyvering the free PowerPoint clip art and making my own images. I was always able to create what I needed and it’s been a cool trick to show at workshops, too.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - free clip art from times past

I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. You work for organizations that have no budget for graphics and illustrations and you don’t have resources to help create what you need. If you are one of the ones who depends on the clip art site, what’s your plan going forward? What suggestions do you have for the other blog readers? Share it with is 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.

 




Top PowerPoint Tips

December 9th, 2014

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips

PowerPoint is probably the single best multimedia application available because of its versatility. You can create presentations, rapid elearning courses, illustrations, videos, mobile learning and even books for publishing.

PowerPoint also offers ease of entry. That means someone with no experience can open the application and get started. And the person with lots of experience is given all sorts of capability.

The main challenge with PowerPoint is that many people don’t fully understand the features and usually do very basic work with PowerPoint. And of course a lot of the negativity surrounding PowerPoint comes not from the tool, but instead from sitting through tedious PowerPoint-driven lectures and presentations.

I was asked recently about my favorite PowerPoint tips and tricks. I have a lot that I like, but here are a few of the ones I use quite a bit and find the most valuable.

PowerPoint Tip 1: Step Away from the PowerPoint Template

Templates are good, especially for new developers and those who want to save time. However, your project should guide the template and not the opposite. Unfortunately most people tend to start with the default PowerPoint templates and layouts. So everything has a distinct PowerPoint look.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips avoid template

My advice? Put the bullet points down and step away from the template. Start with a blank screen and be intentional about what you build. If you do build a template, build it specific to your project’s needs.

PowerPoint Tip 2: Control Layers with the Selection Pane

The selection pane displays the objects on the slide. Here is what you can do with the selection pane:

  • Name objects
  • Change the stacking order
  • Show and hide objects

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips use selection pane

PowerPoint Tip 3: Combine Shapes to Create Custom Shapes

Starting with PowerPoint 2010 you can combine shapes to create custom shapes. Most of the time I use this feature to create custom callouts. I also use it to punch out parts of a shape I don’t need. Combine that with the edit points feature and you can create any shape you want. You can also use the fragment feature to convert text and wingding type into vector images which we looked at earlier. This is perfect for creating your own icons.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips combine shapes

PowerPoint Tip 4: Layering Objects to Create Custom Graphics

We can stack objects in PowerPoint and control them with the selection pane. We can also make objects transparent. That means we can stack transparent objects to create custom images. Group the objects, right click, and save as an image file. I usually save as .png to retain transparency.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips create custom graphics

PowerPoint Tip 5: Customizing Clip Art & Vector Graphics

I have a ton of posts on this, which you can find below. Essentially most clip art in PowerPoint is .wmf or .emf. That means they are comprised of grouped vector shapes which can be ungrouped and modified and then regrouped.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips combine clip art

Unfortunately, Microsoft is dumping the Office.com and clip art site. So I’m not sure how much longer you’ll have to work with these types of files without buying your own. But in the meantime, take advantage of the free resources and create your own graphics.

PowerPoint Tip 7: Apply Custom Formatting with the Format Painter

The format painter is an underutilized feature in PowerPoint. Essentially any object’s formatting can be applied to another. I use it create quick styles for the objects in my courses. Then I can apply that to the other objects on the slide.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips use format painter

This comes in handy when you get one of those junky PowerPoint files from a subject matter expert where there’s no rhyme or reason to the visual design. Create a quick style guide and then use the format painter to apply it.

PowerPoint Tip 8: Apply Animations to Multiple Objects Using the Animation Painter

The animation painter is very similar to the format painter. The only difference is that instead of applying an object’s format you apply the object’s animations. This comes in really handy if you have an object with multiple animations and need to duplicate those animations to other objects. In the past, you had the tedious process of rebuilding the animations onto each object. Today, that can be done in seconds using the animation painter.

Here’s a quick video that shows how it works.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips use animation painter

Click here to view the YouTube video.

PowerPoint Tip 9: Save PowerPoint Presentations as Video

This is one of my favorite features because anything you build in PowerPoint with animations, narration, and multiple slides can be saved as a single video file.

Here’s a PowerPoint presentation that was saved as an .mp4 video and then inserted into the Storyline player. Try to create something similar with a video editing application. Trust me, it’s not that easy (especially without more advanced skills). But it’s really easy to do in PowerPoint.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips save as video

Click here to play video.

In PowerPoint 2010 files are saved as .wmv and need to be converted to .mp4. I like to use Handbrake because they have pre-determined settings. In PowerPoint 2013 you can save as .mp4 so that saves a few steps.

The videos you create can be combined with your other elearning development. Here’s a good example where the sidebar video was created in PowerPoint and then inserted into a rapid elearning course.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips example of video

Click here to view the PowerPoint video demo.

PowerPoint Tip 10: Remove Image Backgrounds

One of the most common reasons elearning developers use image editors like Paint.net and Photoshop Elements is to remove backgrounds from stock images. And they work fine for that. But you can do the same thing in PowerPoint starting with PowerPoint 2010.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips remove backgrounds

It’s real easy to do. Double-click on your image and select remove background. Then determine what you want to keep and what you want to remove. Easy as that.

Bonus tip: Use PowerPoint to Create Interactive E-Learning Courses

PowerPoint is a tool most people have and as you can see, is a very capable application. Combine that with Articulate Studio and you have a very easy way to create interactive elearning.

What you build in PowerPoint is converted to Flash or HTML5 to meet your elearning needs. While applications like Storyline add more interactive capabilities, PowerPoint is still an easy entry point for the person just getting started with elearning design.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - top PowerPoint tips elearning examples

Here are some simple examples of PowerPoint-based interactions:

Other PowerPoint Tips & Tricks

There are literally hundreds of PowerPoint tips and tutorials in the blog. Here are some links from previous posts:

So those are some of my favorite PowerPoint tips. If you could add one tip, what would it be?

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.

 




PowerPoint custom shapes

In today’s post we’ll look at a few ways to create custom shapes in PowerPoint.

I’ve shown this tip a few times in the past such as how to create custom callouts and chat bubbles. In PowerPoint 2010, you had to find the features I am showing today and then create your own ribbon tab to display them. But in PowerPoint 2013, they added the features to the format toolbar and included a new option to fragment the shapes.

How to Create Custom Shapes in PowerPoint

Here’s a quick tutorial that walks through the process of creating custom shapes. We’ll build a simple callout but you’ll learn how the feature works. Once you understand it, you can modify any shape and basically create whatever you want. This makes PowerPoint a great illustration tool.

Click here to view the tutorial.

How to Convert Text into Custom Shapes in PowerPoint

A side benefit of creating custom shapes is that when you include a text box in the process and use fragment you can convert the text into a vector shape that you can fill and size to meet your needs. I like to pull elements out of the various type faces.

This is also great if you want to create your own icons in PowerPoint. There are all sorts of facefonts, wingdings, and dingbat fonts you can use to do this. Make sure you have commercial right, though. Not all fonts are available for commercial use.

Click here to view the tutorial.

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 become an elearning pro

Now’s a good time to get started in the elearning industry. It’s still growing and doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon. Knowing how to get started with elearning is one of the most common questions I get. People usually want to know about schools and formal education as well as where to gain practical skills.

What skills do I need to be an elearning pro?

One of the challenges for today’s designers is that the authoring tools are easier to use and empower you to create all sorts of interactive content. That means you are doing more to create your courses which means you need well rounded skills.

When I build elearning courses I try to answer three questions because they help guide how I’ll approach the course:

  • What content needs to be in the elearning course?
  • What will the elearning course look like?
  • What is the learner supposed to do?

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to become an elearning pro by understanding three essentials

Based on these questions, here are a few skills that are critical for course design:

  • Understand performance consulting and how to get learning objectives appropriate to meeting the organization’s learning goals.
  • Know how to apply instructional design concepts to craft a good learning experience.
  • Able to apply a basic understanding of graphic design and visual communication to course design.
  • Since you need to build onscreen content and interactivity, learning more about user experience (UX) design is important.

Obviously, there’s more to course design than those skills, but that’s a good start. What would you add to the list?

Which schools will help me become an elearning pro?

In the past we’ve discussed whether or not you need an instructional design degree to be successful. There are pros and cons. However, if you do want to go to school, which ones are best?

You don’t need to go to a Master’s program to learn about elearning. Many schools offer very good certification programs. They take less time, cost less, and typically focus on practical application.

Personally, I’ve had friends go through the programs at San Diego State University and University of Washington. I’ve also been impressed with what people have been doing at UMBC, Boise State, and Bloomsburg.

Here’s a list someone in the community compiled of schools with different programs. If you attended a program at one of these schools or another, please share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments. Just so you know, I’m just looking for feedback from graduates to help blog readers; so I’ll delete spam links from schools.

I don’t have a lot of money. How can I become an elearning pro without going to school?

There are all sorts of open degree programs and MOOCs that help you learn more about things related to elearning and instructional design. MOOC List is a good resource. Here are a few classes that are relevant to course design. You can search for more.

Of course, that requires the same type of discipline you’d need in a more traditional learning environment. If you want something less formal, try these resources in the elearning community. They’re relatively short and can be reviewed at your own pace or when you want to learn at the point of need.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to become an elearning pro by reading these free ebooks

What about some book recommendations?

Here’s a list of book recommendations that cover a broad range of topics.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to become an elearning pro with these book recommendations

Here’s a question: Assuming you went to school to learn about instructional design, what are some of the books they had you read? Feel free to list them in the comments.

Apply what you learn to become an elearning pro.

Reading books and going to classes are both valuable activities. But the key is that you apply what you learn to real projects. That’s one of the reasons I like the weekly elearning challenges. They’re a great way to practice little things. And to see how others have approached the same projects.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to become an elearning pro by doing the weekly challenge

The one step missing in the challenge is soliciting feedback. That’s up to you. Submit a project and ask for specific feedback. Be forewarned. You have to have thick skin, ask for honest feedback, and be willing to hear it and apply what is being advised.

Here are other posts on becoming an elearning pro:

The elearning industry is hot and now’s a good time to get started. There are a lot of ways to move forward from formal education to informal practice and application. Ultimately you want to gain the skills so you can demonstrate your understanding of course design and ability to meet the organization’s needs.

Is there anything you’d like to add? Books? School experience? Feel free to add your thoughts to 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.