The Rapid Elearning Blog

Archive for July, 2017


visual design mistakes

E-learning is a mostly visual medium which means a lot of what we communicate in our courses comes through how they’re structured visually. The challenge is that graphic design and visual communication are their own fields and it’s hard enough to be a good instructional designer let alone a good graphic artist.

I get the privilege of reviewing a lot of courses and understand that many people struggle with the visual part of the course. So in this post, we’ll review some common visual design mistakes that are easily fixed. They won’t make you into a graphic artist, but they should help make your course design a little tighter.

Visual Design Mistake 1: Images are Scrunched & Not Scaled

This is one of the most common mistakes and easily fixed. An image is inserted and then to make it fit or move it, it gets moved from the top or side anchors on the bounding box. This scrunches the image and makes it look a little off.

scale image from corner to maintain aspect ratio

The fix is to drag it from the corner to scale it and preserve its aspect ratio. It most apps, you hold the SHIFT key and drag to keep it locked while you scale it up or down.

Visual Design Mistake 2: Not Sure Where to Focus

This is a general issue and I’ll address more specific fixes below. Essentially the eye moves across the screen in a pattern. Without a structured design, we tend to scan in a Z pattern. There are some things that disrupt the pattern like colors, size, whitespace, and an object’s relationship to another. That means we can help control eye movement. However, many times the course screens seem to just have a hodge-podge of things on it with lots of conflicting attempts to draw the eye’s attention.

z pattern when scanning screen

Here are two good fixes:

  • Learn more about basic design ideas like the CRAP (contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity). I strongly recommend the book, The Non-Designer’s Design Book. It’s a must-have for the novice.
  • Everything on the screen should be there for a reason. I call this intentional design. If doesn’t help meet your objective, it probably doesn’t need to be there.

Visual Design Mistake 3: Inconsistent Visual Style

Ever take a course where each slide or screen looks different than the other? This usually happens because the developer is building slide to slide. I see this all the time in workshops. What happens is that they make design decisions at the slide level as they work. This leads to spending too much time reviewing every font installed on the computer looking for just the right one. Or going a stock photo site and trying to come up with ideas.

Other elements of visual inconsistency are:

style guide for e-learning

Again, I’ll reference intentional design and the need to have a plan around what will and won’t be on the screen. One easy solution is to do some sort of design mapping like the one David Anderson shares. It helps you consider the visual elements of your courses and make design decisions before you start building. Once you’ve narrowed down your intent you should put together a simple style guide. You’ll save time and have visual consistency.

Visual Design Mistake 4: No Visual Hierarchy

This issue relates to the mistake above. If everything on the screen looks equal it’s hard to scan the content and even more difficult to figure out what fits where.

visual hierarchy adds context and makes it easier to scan

Having a visual hierarchy fixes this. It allows you to chunk content and makes it easier to discern context. The easiest thing is to create a simple style guide with headings, sub-headings, and body text.

Visual Design Mistake 5: Alignment Looks Sloppy & Out of Whack

There are some courses where the margins are all different widths and objects aren’t aligned properly. This makes the course look sloppy and a little out of balance or off kilter. It’s like walking into the room where the furniture doesn’t seem to be staged right and the pictures are crooked. You may not be a home decorator, but you definitely can tell when it doesn’t look right. The same goes with a visual design that is out of balance. It just doesn’t look right. And it may make it bit more challenging to understand the course content.

alignment woes in e-learning

This is easy to fix:

  • Have consistent margins.
  • Align objects, left justified is the most common. If you switch the justification, have a reason why.
  • Extra space between groups helps communicate that they’re grouped.
  • A lot of people use a grid system to keep onscreen objects aligned.

Those are common design mistakes that easily fixed and they help you avoid the Curse of the Frankencourse. If you want to learn more check out the visual design tips in the e-learning community, download this free e-book, and join us at one of our Roadshow workshops.

What do you find to be common visual design mistakes?

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.

 




A lot of e-learning content starts with existing PowerPoint slides. And a common challenge is converting all of that PowerPoint training into interactive and engaging e-learning. Today we’ll look at a few considerations that will help make the conversion to interactive e-learning successful.

Understand Why the E-Learning Course Needs to Be Interactive

Generally speaking, there are two components to interactive content. We’ve covered this in a previous post, but here’s a quick overview:

interactive e-learning

  • Interact with the screen. The goal is to get them to lean in and have them do things onscreen like dragging objects and opening and closing various elements. Create novel onscreen interactions. The focus isn’t on the learning as much as it is the experience of “touching” the screen.
  • Interact with the content. As far as interacting with the content, the general idea is getting them to access the content in a manner consistent with real-world activities and making the types of decisions they need to make after they exit the course.

Understand How We Interact with the E-Learning Course

There are three main ways to interact with the screen: click, hover, or drag. Most interactions tend to be click-based. A good practice activity is to convert what would have been a click-based interaction into something else. How would it work if it was changed to a drag and drop for example?

interactive e-learning

Understand Why We Interact with the E-Learning Course

While going through the course, most interactions happen because of one of three reasons:

interactive e-learning

  • Course Navigation: the user navigates around the course and the course content.
  • Content Exploration: the user explores what’s available in the course.
  • Decision Making: the user makes decisions and gets feedback.

These usually overlap. For example, as a user is challenged to make a decision, she may have to explore the content and determine what she needs to make the best decision.

Combine Building Blocks to Create Interactive E-Learning

There are a few core building blocks that help convert static information into interactive e-learning.

The 3C Model is a Simple Way to Understand Interactive Scenarios

Assuming the content and activities are framed in a meaningful context, here’s a simple way to structure interactive scenarios:

3C model interactive e-learning

  • Challenge. You want to expose their level of understanding. Get them to make decisions.
  • Choices. Provide choices based on the decision-making challenges.
  • Consequences. Each choice produces a consequence. It can be immediate feedback, another challenge, or compounded feedback presented at one time.

This is a simple way to remember the interactive process. What types of decisions does the learner need to make? What choices will you present? And then what are the consequences of those choices?

When you review your static content or existing PowerPoint slides, look for ways to make it interactive. Understnad how they’ll use the content in the real world and build decisions around that. Then find ways for them to lean-in and interactive with the screen.

What do you do to convert your PowerPoint training into interactive e-learning?

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 PowerPoint template

There are tons of free dingbat fonts available for download. And they’re great to use for your training and e-learning courses. Here’s what you already know:

Great! But what about managing those fonts and quickly previewing the icons and images you can use? It’s a pain to review them one-by-one.

Here’s an easy way to manage all of those free fonts and preview the ones you want to use to create graphic and icon files for your courses and presentation.

Free PowerPoint Template

free powerpoint template icons

You can download the PowerPoint template here. I made a simple video to show how to use it. Essentially you select the font characters and apply the dingbat font to see the correlation between the keystroke and what it produces.

Here are the basic steps:

  • Create a slide for the font characters. I like to create a single slide for each wingding font.
  • Select the characters (watch the video to see how you only select the letters you want to change).
  • Apply the wingding font to the selected characters.
  • This gives you a single screen with all of the characters and corresponding keystroke.
  • If you want to save the slide, type in the name of the font for quick reference.

Click here to view the video.

As a bonus (and slightly different approach) Taylor at Nuts & Bolts Speed Training offers his free font cutter solution and a number of icons.

What do you do to manage and preview those wingding type fonts?

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.

 




Like many of you, I’m no graphic designer. I do have enough skill to get what I need or know enough to modify existing templates. The good thing is that today, it’s not that big of a deal because you get media assets like Articulate’s Content Library. So you have plenty of quality templates and stock images to help guide your design.

However, there are times when you may be stuck with a specific image and need to figure out how to create different (but matching) layouts without doing a bunch of edits in a different program. Here are some tips based on a presentation I gave recently on creating a professional portfolio. I had three images and used those to create different looks. And I did it all in PowerPoint.

I’ll show you what I look for and a few simple hacks to free up space and create different layouts.

Here’s a PowerPoint tutorial with more detail.

The tutorial below reviews what I’m sharing with more detail so that you can see how to choose and manipulate stock images for your courses and presentations.

PowerPoint Hack tutorial

Click here to view the tutorial video.

  • How to create more whitespace and get rid of extra content.
  • How to create matching backgrounds.
  • How to create content areas.

PowerPoint Hack: Start with Matching Graphics

Whenever I find a stock image that works for my project, I try to find more from the same artist. And if that’s not possible, I try to find images that are very similar in style. This allows me to mix and match elements. In the case of my presentation, I started with these three images:

PowerPoint hack

And with those three images, I was able to create various distinct slides.

PowerPoint hack various slides

PowerPoint Hack: Identify Content Buckets

By themselves, the stock images look fine and really don’t require any edits. However, when it comes to adding custom content, then the stock images have some constraints especially when it comes to adding content.

Identify places where you can add content (like images and text). If you start with a large enough stock image, you’ll be able to scale it and still maintain visual quality.

Here are a few areas from the images that can be modified to become content buckets.

powerpoint hack content area

PowerPoint Hack: Create Whitespace

After identifying places to put content, I look for ways to declutter the image and create more white space. There are a few ways to do that:

  • Cover up part of the stock image to get rid of clutter.
  • Zoom in and focus on clean flat areas.
  • Crop and reposition the image.
  • Create your own white space using image elements.

Here are just a few looks taken from a single image. In the first batch, I created three iterations of the one image.

PowerPoint hack custom layouts

And in the second, I replicated the background to give me enough whitespace and room to create my own matching images. In the presentation, I added a few white boxes to represent pages.

To learn more, watch the tutorial video. It provides the detailed step-by-step process.

The key point is that all of this is done right inside of PowerPoint and doesn’t require special skills or advanced features. What’s nice about this is that it only takes a few minutes and this approach provides an easy way to create professional quality layouts that are consistent in how they look.

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.