The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for March, 2016


variables for e-learning

Consistency is one of the most important parts of the course production process. And one way to maintain consistency is to determine your naming conventions. And this is especially true of variables for e-learning.

In a previous post, we looked at ways to manage and name your course files. And if you’re working inside an authoring tool like Storyline you want to name your objects and layers. You can also name your objects in PowerPoint using the selection pane.

variables for e-learning and consistent design

Following these steps will make your production process less frustrating especially if you put the project away for a period of time and revisit it later. Poor names and sloppy file management will really slow down your work flow and often introduces errors in the production.

And now for naming variables for e-learning….

How to Name Variables for E-Learning

I’ve been working on a series that covers the basics of using variables in elearning. And be sure to check out these examples and tutorials.

One of the most frequent questions for those getting started is why did you name the variable the way you did? I learned to name variables a certain way (without spaces) but there’s some latitude.

variables for e-learning naming e-learning variables

Don’t Use Spaces. 

Here’s the deal, you can name your variables anything you want. However, there are usually a few constraints. One of them is that you can’t use spaces. Which means your variable name can’t be Module 1 Complete. So instead of using spaces, you can use some of these tricks:

  • Use underscores to separate the words (Module1_Complete) or
  • Use capital letters to separate words (Module1Complete).

Be Descriptive. 

Name the variable so it’s specific and make sense. For example, if I am tracking completion of a module, which name is the most descriptive?

  • Variable = Complete1 or
  • Variable = Module1Complete

If you don’t use descriptive names and use lots of variables you’ll find it a challenge to quickly process what you see.

Shorter is Better. 

Be as descriptive as you can with the fewest letters possible.

What and when.

Some people use a What_When process. For example:

  • CountClicks is what do you do (Count) and when do you do it (on click).
  • Another example, Module1Complete_Exit indicates that the variable changes when the module is complete on exit.

The main point in all of this is to come up with a protocol that makes sense and apply it consistently. If you’re working with a team you’ll find this saves a lot of time and confusion, especially as you revisit projects and make updates.

What are some things you do to maintain consistency in the production process? How do you name variables for elearning? Feel free to share 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.

 




free audio

The other day someone asked for some links to free audio files to use as background audio. Personally, I’m not sure how much demand there really is for free audio files but to help you out, I’ll share some of the resources I’ve collected.

Of course, here’s the easiest answer when people ask how to find free audio files.

There are thousands of free audio sites. But most of them are either kind of spammy, merely link bait, or repeats of other sites.

Despite the abundance of free audio sites, there’s only a handful of decent resources. So I’m not providing a long list of lame sites. Instead I’ve reviewed the sites and the links I share are the ones I think you’ll find most valuable.

Before we get started, here is a list of sites that offer free audio sound effects that I featured in a previous blog post.

Free Audio: Background Music

Background audio serves a number of purposes. It can set a mood or some context. Sometimes it can mask audio narration that sounds a bit hollow. Just be sure to keep the background audio levels low. You also want to consider the impact background audio has on retention. If it’s distracting or competes with cognitive processing it may make the course less effective.

Some of the sites below require an account or they ask for donations, but they’re still free. If you do use the free audio files, I recommend supporting them with a mention, link, or donation.

  • YouTube: free music for your projects that you can download.
  • Vimeo: music library of Creative Common music
  • BenSound: one of the best organized sites; songs under creative commons or you can pay for less restrictive licensing.
  • Soundcloud: a lot of free music; commenting and ability to follow the music creator
  • OrangeFreeSounds: a lot of good background music
  • South Hills Records: over 700 free downloads from electronica to soundtrack
  • DL Sounds: free, as in free. Can’t beat that.
  • Opsound.org: a boatload of free music under Creative Commons license.
  • FreeMusicArchive: a ton of curated music. Click on the song title to see licensing.
  • Jamendo: lots of songs under Creative Commons license; requires an account.
  • freeSFX: free sound and music
  • BradSucks.net: Brad Turcotte is a one man band and he shares his songs freely. Many of you have probably heard, Making Me Nervous, at some point. It seems like it was on every tutorial video and YouTube video a few years back.
  • JoshWoodward.com: Josh Woodward shares songs freely. He has vocal and instrumental versions of his music.
  • Sonic Squirrel: lots of free music; check the song’s Creative Commons license
  • Audinautix: free music created by Jason Show. Sorted into easy categories.
  • Epitonic: a nice catalog of music curated from different genres. They claim they’re free and legal, but you need to verify the rights to use.
  • CCTrax: a host of songs and music available under Creative Commons license.
  • Opensource Music: a list of free songs and music
  • Purple Planet: free with attribution
  • Machinama Sound: good for gamified courses; free with attribution

Not Free Audio

When you’re doing corporate work and need audio it often makes sense to use a fee-based service. You avoid potential licensing issues and the quality is pretty good. Here are some inexpensive ways to get good audio files.

  • Amazon: you can buy a bunch of sound FX CDs for about $8. Save time having to search a bunch of sites.
  • JukeDeck: create custom soundtracks timed to your video. Great for quick tutorials.
  • Vimeo Music Store: buy tracks or use SmartSound to create tracks for your projects.
  • BenSound: one of the best organized sites; songs under creative commons or you can pay for less restrictive licensing.
  • AudioHero: can’t go wrong with hero in your title. Good library with flexible pricing.
  • AudioBlocks: a lot of music, sound FX, and loops. Requires an annual fee. $99 for unlimited downloads.
  • Jamendo: I like them because they have a nice, modern library and searching is easy.
  • BeatPick: license songs with different use cases; flexible and good selection.
  • JewelBeat: library of music. They have previews on YouTube to see the music in action.
  • Kompoz: interesting site to collaborate on making music

I tell you the truth, I don’t see a lot of courses that use much audio outside of the narration and an occasional sound effect. I’m curious, if you do use background audio, how are you using it?

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.

 




search multimedia e-learning

Who doesn’t like some help when it comes to building courses? How many times have you tried to identify a font, or find the source of an image, or tried to find just the right stock photo?

Well, today you’re in luck. I’m going to show you a few simple search techniques to find the right multimedia when you need it.

Multimedia for E-Learning: How to Find and Identify a Font

There are so many times I have to go back to old projects but can’t recall what font I used or where to get it. If that’s something you’ve also run into, then here are a couple of simple ways to find fonts.

What the Font?

Upload an image with the font you want to identify and the site tries to locate the closest font based on the font’s characteristics.

search multimedia e-learning fonts

  • Step 1: Upload image to What the Font.
  • Step 2: Align fonts to letters.
  • Step 3: Review possible fonts. Take a quick screen grab of an image with the font.

It’s not always perfect but for the most part it does a great job.

A few other similar sites:

And if you need some free fonts you really can’t beat Google Web Fonts because they’re all opensource and truly free to use. And be sure to check out these free hand written fonts.

Multimedia for E-Learning: How to Find the Source of an Image

A while back I started working on a demo module and used a temporary image. However, I forgot where I got the image and needed to know so I could purchase it for the demo.

TinEye

TinEye is a reverse image site that searches the Internet for the image and lists sites where it’s found.

search multimedia e-learning tineye images

You upload the image and it tries to locate where else it is being used. You can also install a browser plug-in and search right from your browser.

Another source for doing a reverse search on images is via Google. Upload an image and it searches for a matching image (or similar images).

Multimedia for E-Learning: How to Search Free Stock Photos

This one I’ve mentioned in the past. There are all sorts of free stock image sites. However, it’s time-consuming to stay on top of them all, especially considering that most of the images, while nice, have little value in the world of elearning.

StockUp

StockUp’s a collection of free stock image sites so all you have to do is enter a search term and see what comes up. Pretty simple, huh? Here is a previous post on searching for free stock images that includes a few other sites.

search multimedia e-learning free stock photos

If you’re ever looking for just the right font, image, or free stock photo, then these three resources will sure come in handy. Are there any similar search services you use to find multimedia for your elearning projects?

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-learning scenario

Here are some scenario background images that are great for your next interactive branched e-learning scenario course. These backgrounds go really well with the illustrated characters that come with the Articulate applications or those you may find at some of the free vector image sites.

branched e-learning scenario free images

I got the original backgrounds by ungrouping some old PowerPoint clip art (unfortunately no longer available). After ungrouping them, I made some modifications so they’d work with the branched e-learning scenarios. Of course, these images are relatively simple to make using basic shapes in PowerPoint or Storyline or by downloading some free vector images and making your own edits.

Be sure to check out these free office images for branched scenarios, too.

branched scenario

Breaking Down the Free Background Images

The image files are saved in the master slides as distinct layouts. To change from one background to the next, just go to the Home>Layout tab and select the layout you want to use. If you want to make edits to the backgrounds, you’ll need to do so from the master slide.

branched e-learning scenario example 1

Once you have a background layout selected, add one of the illustrated characters. I like to play around with different sizes and cropping. There are a lot of ways to display the characters so feel free to play around with different looks.

branched e-learning scenario insert character

The download file includes the template and the background images to be used with branched e-learning scenarios.

If you use the backgrounds, be sure to let me know how they work for you. Enjoy.

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 apps

I like to play with new apps and test them to see how they help me be more productive or get better at building courses. Today I share three free apps that you may find to be time-savers or help be more productive.

Help with Google Docs

We use Google Docs here at Articulate. If you use Google Docs, then you know that when working on projects, you don’t just have one Google Doc. Instead, like dandelions they grow exponentially, and you end up with dozens of Google Docs. In fact, I was thinking about writing a follow up to the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie books based on giving someone a Google Doc, because chances are…

Here’s an easy way to add links to a Google Doc from other Google Docs.

Because we tend to have a lot of documents for each project it’s easy to lose sight of what’s there. Some people create a master document with links to all of the other docs. However, it’s a pain to dig around finding links and adding them to the master document.

However, if you use the Link Chooser add-on, it’s just a matter of quickly finding and adding a link right from the document. This creates a link and title for the link. Here are the steps:

  • From inside Google Docs, select Add-ons > Get add-ons and select “Link Chooser.
  • To add a link from a different document, go to Add-ons > Link Chooser > and then select the file or folder you want to link.

google docs tip

  • A link to the document will be added.

This is a great way to create a master document for your project with links to all supporting documents in Google Drive. There are all sorts of additional add-ons that will extend your Google Docs. Be sure to check them out.

For you Google Docs users, are there any extensions or add-ons you like to use?

Share Your PowerPoint Slides to Twitter & Facebook

I like to tweet some of my workshop presentations. I used to convert my slides to images and then tweet the images. However, Microsoft has a new app that lets you share your PowerPoint slides and files via Twitter and Facebook.

Get the Social Share app here, and it installs as a tab in PowerPoint.

Using Social Share via Twitter & Facebook

  • Select a PowerPoint slide and from the Social Share tab, do a screen capture of the slide.

share twitter via PowerPoint

Share tweet via PowerPoint

  • You can also send PowerPoint slides to Facebook as an image, album, or video.

Create Simple Explainer Videos and Whiteboard Courses

Here’s another cool app from Microsoft that is free and helpful. This is also great to have if you one of those 2-in-1 computers with a stylus.

  • Download the Snip app. It’s persistent on your desktop and easy to access.

snip via PowerPoint

  • Once you create a snip you can record audio to quickly explain an image or create a quick whiteboard video.
  • Save the video as .MP4 and insert into your elearning courses. Here’s a quick video test I made based on one of my PowerPoint slides on interactive elearning.

It’s a simple tool, but one that may come in handy for quick explanations. And it’s free.

Of the three tools the one I find the most useful is the Google links because I use Google Docs every day. Do you use any of these free apps? If so, how’s it going? If not, which one do you like best?

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.