Find Out Why Kevin Thorn Earned the 2010 Silver Guru Award

Written by Jeanette — Posted in Guru Awards

This guest blog post is by Articulate Community Manager Jeanette Brooks.

Kevin Thorn‘s 2010 Articulate Guru entry, called Mission: Turfgrass, had us standing at attention from the moment we opened it.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to check out his course, you need to take a look:

View the Mission: Turfgrass course

Cool Features in Mission: Turfgrass

When he submitted his course, Kevin explained that one of his goals was to maximize the features of Articulate Studio ’09 — and it shows! Here are some highlights that the judges especially liked:

Flexible Navigation with PowerPoint Hyperlinks
Kevin’s extensive use of hyperlinks creates a lot of curiosity and engagement. Since PowerPoint hyperlinks are preserved when you publish a presentation from Articulate Presenter, they’re an easy and effective way to create interactivity. (And seriously, who can resist seeing what happens if you click “Abort” on the Mission Brief slide at the beginning of Kevin’s course?!)

The hyperlinks give learners all kinds of options to explore. It’s a nice way to let learners feel more in control of their learning, instead of locking them into a rigid learning experience.

A Clever Progress Meter
Another favorite of the judges was the rucksack metaphor. It serves as a progress meter so that learners know how much of the course they’ve completed. In the following screencast, Kevin gives us a peek at how he built the rucksack effect:

View this screencast at Screenr

An Innovative Approach to Using Articulate Engage

Another impressive part of the course was that Kevin inserted a series of Articulate Engage interactions as Flash objects, rather than inserting them as full-slide interactions. “I got the idea from the Christian Aid course that David Anderson and Tom Kuhlmann built for the LINGOs competition,” Kevin said. “Using the Engage interactions this way enabled me to scoot the SWF off the top of the slide a little bit. This removes the header bar from view, and it also opens up some space at the bottom of the slide, where I added hyperlinked navigation icons.”

He even created an animated pointer for the navigation icons, to make it easier for learners to see where they are. The pointer is a nice touch and is easy to implement — Kevin shows how in this tutorial:

View this screencast at Screenr

Super-Creative Quiz Slides
When you get to the section on battling various types of weeds, you’ll notice Kevin definitely went off the beaten path with his use of Quizmaker. Not only did he use Slide View to masterfully integrate the visual design of his quizzes with the rest of the course, he also did some cool things with feedback.

He explains: “I really liked the art-gallery-style quiz that David Anderson shared a while back, so I tweaked that technique and used it in both my quizzes. When the learner picks an answer, specific doors on the framed choices appear to slam shut, leaving only the correct answer revealed.”

The judges all agreed it was a great tool to keep learners engaged. One judge noted: “Every question had me glued to my screen, because I wanted to see which of the doors would end up staying open!”

Elegant Use of the Carousel Interaction
Kevin decided early on that he wanted to experiment with one of the newest Engage Community Interactions known as the Carousel. This interaction type was created by Articulate customer support engineer Dave Burton and is available for free. Kevin did a great job of customizing the images and color schemes in his two Carousel interactions — in fact, these are some of the nicest examples of a Carousel that we’ve seen yet. In the following screencast, he shares some tips for how he did it:

View this screencast at Screenr

Interview with Kevin Thorn

We knew you’d want to get the full report on Kevin’s course development process, so we asked him some key questions about his award-winning entry.

What inspired you to enter the Guru Awards?

“I’ve only been using Articulate software for about a year. Just as I was learning about the Articulate community last year, I saw a blog post announcing winners of the 2009 contest. I looked through the Community Showcase and learned very quickly how versatile and powerful Articulate Studio is. When the 2010 contest came around, I decided to enter for a couple reasons: (1) to build a showcase course for my own portfolio, and (2) to debunk the myth that you need programmers, developers, and complicated software to build engaging e-learning.”

Give us a little bit of background on your course – how you got the idea, and why you built it.

“I work for AutoZone, and all my e-learning work is proprietary. To enter the Articulate Guru contest, I needed a generic topic, and I wanted it to be relevant to anyone. I was thinking about this on a hot summer afternoon when I was grudgingly mowing my lawn. I started asking myself: How much does the average person spend each year on their lawn? I have Bermuda grass in my yard and my neighbor has Zoysia – how many types of grass are there? Why do some weeds grow in my yard, and others grow in the neighbor’s? It kind of sparked a curiosity in me to research.

“So I had a topic, and I had a hunch it might work for my Guru entry. It’s cool that the judges don’t focus on the content as much as on how you use the Articulate tools!”

How’d you come up with the theme of a recon mission?

“I started thinking about heroes and villains, and the thought came to mind of grass and weeds battling for territory in my yard. That led me to a military theme. I built this course for all those men, women, and teenagers who suffer and sacrifice valuable summertime afternoons toiling over their lawns every year!” 🙂

What are some of your favorite Studio ’09 features?

“A big one is the ability to edit the look of the player. I’m a visual guy, and I know how important it is to have the right balance of color and contrast in your course — it makes such a difference in the learner’s experience.

“I also like the ability to insert Flash and Web Objects. Those tools, combined with the inherent flexibility of PowerPoint’s features, create endless possibilities!”

Tell us a little about how you designed your course.

“Once I had a topic and theme in mind, I decided on my color scheme, and away I went. Next was storyboarding. My favorite tools for this are a tablet of grid paper and a really good eraser!

“I sketched out ideas for how I wanted things to look, feel, and flow. From that sketch, I created my storyboard on a PowerPoint slide, as kind of a roadmap. Then I began adding prototyped slides based on the roadmap, and I used PowerPoint hyperlinks and the branching in Articulate Presenter to make the navigation work the way I wanted it.

“On the prototype, I used simple shapes as placeholders, and I added more polished graphics later. This worked well because I could test the functionality of the links and branching before focusing a lot on the look of the slides. There are 52 slides in my course, and when I built the prototype there wasn’t a single graphic or image other than simple shapes as placeholders! Once I knew the navigation worked well, I just replaced the shapes with the images I wanted to use.”

What course-building tips can you share with the rest of the Articulate community?

“Design, design, design, and document everything! Storyboarding is key — whether you do it in an outline, a Word document, a PowerPoint file, a flowchart, or pen and paper. I see many people struggle with development because they start at the wrong end of the process. If you spend too much time on just visual aspects and graphics, without being intentional about the instructional design and flow, things won’t go well.

“When I built the Turfgrass course, I actually created a set of documents I now affectionately call my ‘Articulate Workbook.’ I documented everything from the narration transcripts to the colors used in the seekbar! You can get a sample of some of my course-building documents in this thread in the Articulate community forums.”

In addition to receiving a cash prize and a free Articulate Studio ’09 Pro license, each Guru Award winner gets to choose a school or charity to receive a free license, too. What organization did you choose?

“The University of Memphis’ Instructional Design & Technologies graduate program. They’re doing some amazing things and just this year they opened a brand new lab. I visit the campus often for E-Learning Network meetings, to share experiences with other area e-learning professionals. I’ve also been invited a couple times to demonstrate Articulate Studio to the students in the Instructional Design & Technology classes. It just seemed fitting to give the university an Articulate license.”

Any other thoughts to share with the Articulate community?

Articulate is more than a software company. It’s a great example of a community that connects, shares, supports, and encourages one another. From Tom’s Rapid E-Learning Blog, to the Word of Mouth blog, the forums, Screenr, Facebook, and Twitter, the Articulate community is really a place where people can grow and learn.

Thanks for the kind words, Kevin, and we salute you and your award-winning course! You did a great job.

Anyone going to DevLearn 2010 next month should be sure to look up Kevin and shake his hand. He’ll be at the Articulate Q&A Breakfast Bytes session on November 3, and he’ll also share his award-winning course at DemoFest on November 4.

8 responses to “Find Out Why Kevin Thorn Earned the 2010 Silver Guru Award”


[…] Find Out Why Kevin Thorn Earned the 2010 Silver Guru Award – Articulate – Word of Mouth Blog. Explore posts in the same categories: IDT Program news, from the IDT field […]



The graph paper diagram is making my head spin! Excellent work, and well deserved!

Mike Enders // Posted at 9:33 am on October 18th, 2010

Great course Kevin! Congratulations on the win. Could you share whether the buttons throughout the course were created in PowerPoint or are they images? I love the effect and would love to use something similar in one of my courses.

Thanks for a great course!

Leah // Posted at 1:13 pm on October 18th, 2010

Kevin, you are a talent and an inspiration! Hearty congratulations on your Guru Award. 🙂

My DH is wondering if you would come out here and mow our lawn…


Jenise Cook // Posted at 3:06 pm on October 19th, 2010

Brilliant! I’ve learned so much Silver Guru!

Jeanette Cefre // Posted at 12:22 pm on October 20th, 2010

Thanks, Kevin! This is brilliant!

I hope you don’t mind if I follow a similar format for something I’ve been working on.

Jerome // Posted at 12:29 pm on February 17th, 2011

[…] award winner Kevin Thorn shares design tips from his Mission: Turfgrass […]



What was the size/format of video you used on the first screen?

Kristine Forster // Posted at 12:39 pm on January 16th, 2012

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