The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for January, 2016


free audio sound effects

Had a question about finding good free audio sound effects for elearning courses. Do a search and you’ll find hundreds of sites. However, most of them are lame and pain to go through. So I pulled together a list of sites that you may find worthwhile. The truth is once you find a good one there’s no need to look at dozens more.

As with any free content, if you’re using the free audio files for real projects, be sure to check the license agreements. Many of these free audio sites are under Creative Commons licensing, but check to be sure.

If you need to give attribution to the free audio source, here’s a post where I shared a few ways to do so.

Free Audio Sound Effect Sites for Commercial Use

  • FindSound: a good search engine for sounds. Be sure to verify the license when you pull free audio files from one of the sites.
  • Freesound.org: a mix of all sorts of free audio sound effects. Review their Creative Commons licensing.
  • OrangeFreeSounds: background audio, sound effects, and various sound loops. Need to attribute the source.
  • Archive.org: lots of stuff, but a bit cluttered. Click on the audio title to see how you can use the files.
  • freeSFX: free sound and music. Requires an account, but all files are free to use.
  • MediaCollege.com: some good reaction sounds; free for commercial use.
  • FreeSoundEffects: a mixture of free and paid sound effects.
  • SoundBible: what more can you do to describe free sound effects?
  • iBeat.org: a lot of music loops under Creative Commons.
  • Sound Board: user created soundboards; registration required. Not sure about licensing.
  • Get-Sounds: free but limited selection; no licensing info.
  • ZapSplat: free sound effects and SFX packs.

Commercial Audio Sound Effects

  • Amazon: buy sound effect albums for as little as $8.
  • SoundDogs.com: thousands of very specific sound effects. I like the rollover preview option.
  • AudioJungle: lots of good sound effects and relatively inexpensive.
  • SoundSnap: probably one of the largest libraries. Can buy sounds individually or subscribe.

Personally, I don’t use sound effects very often and when I do, I have a bunch of sound effects from some CDs I purchased a few years ago. I also like to search discount bins in used software and half-price book stores. Often I’ll find media DVDs with audio and graphic files I can use.

So there you have it, a good starting point if you’re looking for free sound effects. Are there any free audio sound effects sites you recommend?

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.

 




visual design e-learning

Let’s face it, we’re not all graphic designers and it can be a chore to get the right look for your slides. This is especially true if your slide is a little light on content leaving a lot of white space. And when this happens, we feel obligated to fill it with something like decorative clip art.

The following visual design tip is a great way to fill the space and maintain some context. It adds texture, looks nice, and is really easy to implement.

Examples of the Visual Design Tip

I’m not sure if there’s a formal name for this visual design tip but I like to call it the transparent echo technique. You’ll notice that the main image is repeated, like an echo. It’s still present but it’s softer and subtle. Here are some good examples of it in action.

visual design e-learning

As you can see the transparent echo technique works with objects, characters, and even illustrations. It’s a good visual design tip to have in your tool chest.

Step to Create the Transparent Echo Technique

Essentially you copy and paste the primary object and use it as a background image.

  • Duplicate the main image and place on the background.
  • Scale the background image up and crop it or move it a little off screen. There’s no right or wrong way to align it. Just do what looks good.
  • Subdue the image. There are a few ways to do this. You can make the image semi-transparent or use the recolor image feature in PowerPoint and Storyline. Another option is to cover the background with a white shape that is semi-transparent. That gives you an easy way to play adjust the level of transparency.

Here’s a video tutorial that walks through the process.

Click here to view YouTube video.

As you can see it’s pretty simple to implement and it’s repeatable with different images throughout the course. Thus you can have slides with different objects, but using the transparent echo technique allows the slides and visual design to remain consistent throughout the course. This technique works great for start screens and menus.

Here are some additional production tips and considerations:

  • Remove the color from the background image. I find that gray images blend better as they are made transparent.
  • Make sure to be consistent in the transparency setting if you use the effect on multiple slides.
  • Colorize the overlay shape. Pick a color from the main image and tint a semi-transparent shape that sits over the background image.
  • Cut out images work best. You can remove backgrounds from the image in a graphics editor or PowerPoint.
  • Play around with the scaling of the image and how it’s framed on the slide.
  • Use derivatives of the same image. Look at the doctor image above. Same character but different poses.

The transparent echo technique is an easy way to dress up slides without plastering it with clip art or decorative images. You maintain context and get a nice graphic with minimal effort. If you try your hand at it, I’d love to see what you do.

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.

 




Variables in E-Learning

Why should one use variables in elearning, especially since the authoring tools are so easy to use?

Good question.

Many course authors transition from facilitated classroom training to elearning development. Their companies buy software and then they’re left on their own to build courses. If you’re using software like Storyline, producing courses is relatively simple. However, the tendency is to keep course design simple, as well.

Because of this, many courses are mostly linear, explainer-type content with generic navigation. This is fine for some courses, but what if you want more than linear content? What if you want training that can evaluate the learner’s responses and provide an experience unique to that person? You can build this type of course, but you need to use variables.

What are Variables in E-Learning?

A variable doesn’t have a fixed value. It can be changed or adapted as things happen. I learned to think of a variable as a bucket that holds something (a value). This value is dynamic and can change based on user input or actions.

Variables in E-Learning example

For example, if you want to acquire the learner’s name to display in the course, you create a bucket (variable) to collect the name (value). And then when you need to display the name, you reference the variable’s value. The user name value isn’t fixed until the user enters the name. That’s what makes it a variable—the value is dynamic.

In a simple sense, I like to think of the user as the variable. I don’t know what she’ll enter or what decisions she’ll make in the course. But I can program the course to collect and evaluate what she does and use it to create a more dynamic learning experience.

Why Use Variables in E-Learning

Variables allow course authors to create dynamic learning experiences. With variables, we can evaluate what’s happening in the course and tailor an experience unique to the learner. For example, to create a personalized learning experience we can display the learner’s name, allow them to customize avatars and color schemes, and even select a local language.

Here are some other common reasons to use variables:

  • Transform a simple course flow to something more complex and dynamic.
  • Evaluate the choices the learner is making and provide remedial and custom feedback.
  • Create an adaptive learning path and direct the learner based on results.
  • Allow a personalized learning experience.
  • Track progress and completed modules.
  • Gamify the learning process using variable-based game mechanics.
  • Accept numeric input and process calculations.

These are just a few common use cases for variables. There’s really a lot more you can do with variables in elearning.

If you’re just getting started, working with variables may seem a bit daunting. But it’s not. It just takes a little practice and application. Start with something simple and build from there. Here are some good tutorials to help you learn more and they include practice activities:

How are you using variables in your 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.

 




free e-books and best e-learning books

One of my goals each year is to read one book a month that will help sharpen my course-building skills. I’m always asked for book recommendations. Some of the recommendations are for those getting started, even if you’re an experienced course designer it helps to review familiar course design concepts or expand to other fields like UX or graphic design.

If your goal is to read twelve books this year, here’s a list to help you get started. Even if you don’t read them all this year, some of these are good to have on hand in your elearning reference library.

Instructional Design Books

instructional design books free e-books and best e-learning books

Gamification Books

gamification books free e-books and best e-learning books

Gamification is more than a buzz word and the principles that make games work can be applied to course design to create more engaging and effective elearning.

Graphic & UX Design Books

graphic design books free e-books and best e-learning books

Courses are more than content. The look and feel of the content is also important as well as the user experience. Here are some good books to help you learn more.

Video Production

video books free e-books and best e-learning books

Video is viable for elearning now so it doesn’t hurt to learn more about using it in your courses. The challenge for many of us is how to do it on a budget. Here are two books that have been recommended to me. I haven’t read either yet. If you have, let me know what you think.

The links to Amazon books may produce a slight commission.

12 Free eBooks

I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s a good list of free ebooks in the elearning community. If you don’t want to spend money, this is a good place to start. You have one free ebook for each month.

free e-learning books free e-books

 

My first book to read will be Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play. What are you reading this 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.