The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for June, 2017


build e-learning skills

Summer’s approaching*. Many of you are taking days off and, generally, the workload eases up a bit. This is a good time to catch up on things or put together a short-term plan to build your skills.

I’m asked almost daily how to learn more and get better at building courses. Today, we’ll review a few ways you can implement some skill-building activities to make for a great summer time.

Attend an Articulate Roadshow to Build E-Learning Skills

We put together 2-day events where we cover all sorts of e-learning topics. We make them practical and have lots of hands-on activities. Attend one day or both. The roadshows are also a great way to connect with other e-learning developers in your area. Some of them turn into user groups and we’ve even had recruiters show up and share current e-learning job openings. You can always learn more about where we’ll be on our events page or at the bottom of the blog posts.

e-learning workshop

Create a Demo Interaction to Build E-Learning Skills

The best way to learn is to do. The challenge at work is that sometimes you have to do the same things over and over. So you don’t get to play around with ideas or practice building something new.

free e-learning activities

We present the weekly challenges as a way to do new things in small doses. Some people build polished demos and some build simple ones where they just show prototype idea. It doesn’t really matter how much time or effort you want to put into it. The main thing is that you have a sandbox in which to play around.

I recommend reviewing each week’s recap to see what people have done. There are some really neat ideas in many of them. And try to commit to one a month. For the summer, make a plan to create at least one.

Here’s a list of past challenges. There are some good examples that may give you ideas for your own projects.

Read a Book or Blog to Build E-Learning Skills

Read an old book. Read a new book. Whenever I travel, I grab an older e-learning book and go through it with fresh eyes. I’m always reminded of something I already know but haven’t thought much about recently. This helps be think about new ways to apply what I already know.

e-learning books

Here is a previous post with good book recommendations that cover everything from instructional and visual design to gamification.

Read a blog post. I’ve been going through some of my older posts to see where I need to update or add new links and I’m reminded of some practical tips that I forgot I shared. If you’re interested, check out the e-learning blog archives and look at some of the posts you may have missed ten years ago.

If you don’t want to your friends to think you’re nerdy, take the cover off of one of the popular books and wrap it around your less trendy e-learning book.

Do Nothing Related to E-Learning Skills & Just Relax

Don’t do anything. Enjoy the summer. Take a break.

Between LinkedIn, Twitter, and your emails, it may be time to just take a break from the unending stream of content. Spend time with friends and family. Stepping away is a great way to step back into things. Maybe all you need this summer is a summer break.

What are you doing this summer (if anything) to build your skills?

*If you’re down under, save this post for when your summer begins and read then. 🙂

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.

 




essentials of interactive e-learning

At a recent workshop, we reviewed some of the essentials of interactive e-learning. Here are some of the highlights from the presentation. They focus on what the course participant should DO and not what information they need to SEE.

Basic Course Design

We discussed this in the post on what every new instructional designer should know. When building courses there are three main considerations:

  • What content needs to be in the course?
  • What’s the right look and feel for the course?
  • What will the users do in the course?

essentials of interactive e-learning 3 considerations

This last point is where we consider how the user interacts in the course. One of the challenges many e-learning developers have is that they don’t properly identify the performance objectives for the course and without that, they can’t build meaningful interactions.

The first thing is to understand the performance expectations and then from there build the interactions and activities that teach how to meet those expectations.

Objectives for Interactive E-Learning

It’s important to step away from info-centric design and step towards learner-centric design. A course focused on the learner frames the content so that it’s relevant to the learner’s needs and meaningful to the types of decisions they need to make in the real world.

essentials of interactive e-learning how to

  • Identify who’s taking the course.
  • In what situations would they need the course content?
  • After the course, what should they be able to do?
  • How do they prove they can do it during the course?

Use a Backward Design Strategy to Focus On Meaningful Interactions

Training specialists always fret over the return-on-investment (ROI) for e-learning. That’s usually the case when they’re not properly aligned to the organization’s goals and end up building a lot of information-based e-learning with very little focus on real performance improvement. It’s like they shoot a bunch of arrows during the year; then at the end of the year draw bull’s eyes around them to show the organization how well they’ve done.

essentials of interactive e-learning backward bull's eye design

  • The real bull’s eye is identifying what the learner needs to do.
  • Then determine how they can prove that they can do it.
  • Training is built around how to prove their understanding.
  • Focus on the activities. What do they need to do and what do they need to know to do it.

If you focus on the activities and not the information, you’ll most likely built more effective, engaging, and interactive e-learning.

Good books to learn more:

The links to Amazon books may produce a slight commission.

When it all comes down to it, effective interactive e-learning is built around meaningful activities that are relevant to the learner and aligned with the organization’s goals. The mistake a lot of course designers make is to not properly define the performance objectives and from there build meaningless or no interactivity.

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 text-to-speech narration

Previously we looked at how to create free text-to-speech narration using a free application. The audio quality is decent enough for those who need the text-to-speech audio. Today we’ll look at a free (or inexpensive) way to create your text-to-speech narration that’s just as easy and hardly costs anything, if at all.

If you’re using Storyline, then you have access to text-to-speech as a feature inside the software. Here’s more information on how to use Storyline’s text-to-speech. If you want to create the audio outside of Storyline or for other purposes, this post will help.

Earlier I showed how to create an Amazon S3 account as a way to share your courses. The first 5 GB is free and after that, it’s very inexpensive. If you use a site like Wix for your e-learning portfolio, Amazon S3 is an easy way to add URL links to your courses since those sites don’t allow uploading course content.

Once you have an Amazon S3 account, you have access to Polly, a service where you can create free text-to-speech narration. And the voice quality is very good, much better than the default SAPI voices you get with your computer.

Here’s an example of a few narration files I downloaded from Polly.

text-to-speech Amazon S3 Polly demo

Click here to view the text-to-speech examples.

As you can hear, the audio quality is decent and makes the robot voices tolerable. And odds are you won’t go past the initial free allocation.

How to Create Free Text-to-Speech Narration in Amazon S3 Polly

Creating the narration is really simple. First, you’ll need an Amazon S3 account. Here’s a link that shows how to get one.

Don’t worry about the prices, they’re nominal. You get a cushion of free space and after that, you pay $4.00 per million characters. That’s about 23 hours of audio. To put it in perspective, if you narrated “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, it would cost about 66 cents.

demo os Amazon S3 Polly text-to-speech

Basic Steps

  • From the Amazon S3 console, select Polly.
  • Insert your narration script.
  • Select a language.
  • Select a voice.
  • Preview and download the audio file.

It’s all pretty simple. Once you have the audio file, you can do some post-production editing (if necessary) and then insert into your course. Easy as that.

So there you have it, one free application where you can create text-to-speech narration and this inexpensive (or free) solution via Amazon that should meet most of your free text-to-speech needs.

If you use Polly, feel free to share your feedback.

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.

 




e-learning portfolio tips

In recent posts, we discussed why you need a portfolio for personal development and to manage your professional career. The obvious next question is what tools and resources should I use to build a portfolio?

What Goes in the Portfolio?

The portfolio represents your skills and expertise. You need to decide if you want the portfolio to be static where you only do occasional maintenance and updates. Or do you want a site that’s more dynamic and continually updating?

e-learning portfolio

For a static portfolio, the main goal is to show off the best of what you can do.

  • Identify a few common course types such as interactive scenarios, compliance training, software simulations, etc.
  • Have a consistent way to present the projects: what was the goal, what did you do, what was the outcome?
  • Keep is simple. No need to show the whole module. Either show screenshots or small chunks of the module (like the interactive parts). You could do a quick 30-second video trailer of the module. That’s one way to get around uploading a real course (which we’ll discuss below).

For a dynamic portfolio, the main goal is to show what you can do as an ongoing pursuit.

  • Determine a manageable schedule. Most people start aggressively and then peter out. You’re not a news site where you need to post every day so start slow and be consistent.
  • Commit to a production process. I like the weekly challenges as a way to manage the portfolio. Commit to one per month. This gives you something to build and show. And then do a write-up and discuss what you did and why.
  • Blogging? Do you need a blog on your site? Are you going to write a blog post? What are you going to write about? A few ideas: how-to tutorials are popular, thoughts on what others have written, or summaries of industry books, articles, and news.

Where is the Portfolio Hosted?

This sort of depends on your technical skills and how much time you have. There are a lot of easy-to-use sites like Wix or Squarespace. Or you can build and manage your own site. There are also some portfolio sites designed to showcase projects.

Easy to Use & Professional Portfolio Sites

You can find dozens of portfolio sites on the Internet. Most of them are designed for people who have images or videos. They don’t seem to have any that cater to interactive content, especially e-learning courses. These sites are good for static portfolios that aren’t updated a lot. You’ll need images, screenshots, and maybe videos of your project.

Free Accounts

Popular Paid Accounts

Whether you use one of the portfolio sites or a no-programming site like Wix, you need to recognize that there are some limitations and you can’t host your courses on those sites. You’ll need something like Articulate Review (part of your subscription) or Amazon S3 to host the course and provide a URL link you can insert in the portfolio. Here’s a post on how to host a course on Amazon S3.

Custom Portfolio Sites

The other option is to create a site that you manage and update. Some people go with a traditional website. This gives you the most freedom, but also requires a bit more work. Some people go with a WordPress blog (not the free one).

The cost for these sites is nominal. Personally, I think considering the freedom and custom options, it’s a better choice to own your site and control how to add media and content.

Purchase Your Own Domain

If you want to maintain your personal brand, it’s a good idea to purchase your own domain. It looks more professional and you get an email account to go with it. Having a custom email always looks better than using one of those ones from a public email service.

e-learning portfolio domain

Here are a few portfolios to review and see how they approached the custom domain. You’ll notice that some went with their names and some created a business name. Either way works, it just depends on your needs.

So those are your main considerations:

  • Content
  • Update frequency
  • Hosting
  • Domain name

Do you have a work portfolio you’d like to share? If so, put a link in the comments section. Let us know what you do to show off 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.