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Free eBook: The Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro August 31, 2007

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Tom Kuhlmann, the host of Articulate’s Rapid E-Learning Blog, recently released a free eBook called The Insider’s Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro. The eBook is well worth your time whether you’re an eLearning newbie or a seasoned pro looking for a quick refresher. It covers several best practices for working in eLearning, and it is a very quick read.

Rapid eLearning has a negative connotation in some circles; many people associate it with boring page-turner PowerPoint "courses." (In fact, the term Rapid eLearning is still up for grabs. See this post for a few ideas of its definition.) Don’t let the Rapid title scare you. Thankfully, much of the eBook focuses on general design principles that lead up to the development of eLearning materials. And I was impressed to see that development tools are not discussed until page 33 of the 46-page eBook.

Tom does a good job of emphasizing the importance of aligning your learning materials with your organization’s (or client’s) real goals. This is pretty standard stuff for most folks, but I’m glad it is included – especially for people who are new to the field. Tom also covers basic needs assessment / performance gap information, explains best practices for working with your clients, and provides tips for measuring the results of eLearning.

Grab the eBook here.

(Note: You have to sign-up for a free newsletter to get the eBook. The newsletter is pretty decent from what I’ve seen, but you can always unsubscribe if you’re not interested.)

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Managing eLearning Development August 22, 2007

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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I was hired at my job almost two years ago and my main objective was to introduce eLearning to the company. It’s been very eventful; I selected and implemented an LMS, implemented Adobe Connect, implemented 100+ off-the-shelf courses, and I’ve developed several custom eLearning courses (whew!). I’ve had a blast and I’ve learned a ton along the way. Now that the main systems are in place (the LMS and virtual classroom tools), most of my time is focused on designing and developing courses. And, as the number of courses grows and grows, it is becoming trickier to manage. An avalanche of requested courses has started and I’m in the process of re-evaluating the tools I use to manage my workload. As always, I see this blog as a place for me to share my experiences and to help me reflect on my own methods. It’s funny – once you write something down you sometimes say, “Well, why the heck am I doing it that way?”

I currently use the following:

  • Microsoft Project for tracking complex projects (ex. curriculums consisting of multiple courses)
  • A Microsoft Word template for storyboards
  • A Microsoft Excel document to track and prioritize requested courses
  • A Notepad document for tracking bugs/issues that pop up
  • A Notepad document for tracking a wish list/feature requests
  • My development tools (Dreamweaver, Flash, Captivate, Fireworks, Adobe Connect, etc.)

The information is more scattered that I would like, there isn’t an easy way to back-up all of this information, and I’m pretty sure this won’t scale well over time. Is there a killer app available to help eLearning folks like us track all of this stuff? Or do I need to build one? 🙂

How do you manage your eLearning design and development process? What tools do you use?

DevLearn 2007: The eLearning Development Conference and Expo August 16, 2007

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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In case you hadn’t heard, The eLearning Guild is hosting DevLearn 2007 in San Jose, CA, November 5-8 2007. I reviewed the list of sessions, and I like what I see. There’s a good balance of practical sessions using current technologies (the usual development tools: Captivate, Flash, etc.) and sessions featuring newer technologies (mLearning, eLearning 2.0 tools). Interestingly, only one session title explicitly mentions SCORM. (I expected to see more, especially a few high-end courses exploring the dark depths of SCORM 2004. Maybe next time.)

The line-up of speakers is great, too. I’m most interested in meeting with these folks, if they have a free moment:

  • Ruth Clark | Clark Training & Consulting
  • Paul Clothier | LearnHost
  • Jay Cross | Internet Time Group
  • Silke Fleischer | Adobe Systems Inc.
  • Bill Horton | William Horton Consulting
  • Tony Karrer | TechEmpower
  • Tony O’Driscoll | IBM On Demand Learning
  • Mark Oehlert | Department of Defense Acquisition
  • Clark Quinn | Quinnovation
      (Yes, Clark, I know I owe you a few beers… 🙂 )
  • Allison Rossett | San Diego State University
  • Clive Shepherd | Fastrak Consulting Ltd
  • Brent Schlenker | The eLearning Guild
  • Ellen Wagner | Adobe Systems, Inc.
  • Steve Wexler | The eLearning Guild
  • ….and you! Leave a comment on this post if you’re attending!

Co-located with the conference is the Adobe Learning Summit, which looks interesting. This part runs November 8-9. The Adobe Learning Summit is described as follows:

This is your opportunity to discover how Adobe products fit into your organization’s set of e-Learning technologies from various vendors, learn Adobe’s vision for the future of e-Learning, hone your skills using a variety of Adobe tools, and get connected with other Adobe users from around the world.

The Adobe Learning Summit offers some great down-and-dirty courses called Adobe Intensives. Some of the sessions include Video Production with Adobe Premiere, Advanced Flash Professional Techniques, Using Director and Shockwave Player for Serious Game Design, and Ask an Adobe Expert about CS3. I would love to learn more about each of Adobe’s tools, but I hope they make an effort to tie everything back to eLearning. Just my two cents. Oh, and you get to visit Adobe’s headquarters, too, which are located just two blocks from the conference. Very cool.

Although I’m not 100% sure, I should be able to make it to the conference. I just may have to sweet-talk my lovely and beautiful wife. 🙂

Free eSeminar: eLearning and the Science of Instruction August 10, 2007

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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Silke Fleischer recently wrote about an upcoming eSeminar that will be put on by Adobe, featuring Dr. Ruth Clark. The seminar, which is on Friday, August 24 (10:00 AM – 11:00 AM US/Pacific), is described as following:

Applying Evidence-based Guidelines for Digital Learning Environment that Teach
Is it better to explain an on-screen visual with text, audio, or both text and audio? Do visuals improve learning? If so, are some visuals more effective than others? Are animations more effective than static graphics? Is it better to use practice exercises, examples, or both practice and examples? What are learning agents and do they improve learning?

Based on the forthcoming second edition of her best selling e-Learning & the Science of Instruction with Richard Mayer, Ruth Clark will summarize research, guidelines, and examples to answer these questions.

Dr. Clark recently published a free white paper, titled Leveraging multimedia for learning, that briefly discusses five principles that should be adhered to when designing eLearning. I’m guessing her book and this eSeminar will go into much more detail with these (and other) principles. The principles are:

  1. Use relevant visuals to promote learning
  2. Describe complex visuals with audio only
  3. Use first and second person language and learning agents
  4. Less is usually more
  5. Include frequent job-relevant interactions and feedback

It sounds like Dr. Clark will also discuss Adobe Captivate, and how best practices can be applied when using Captivate.

According to Amazon, the second edition of Dr. Clark’s book will be released on September 28, 2007. The first edition, which was released in 2002, is a must-have for eLearning developers. If you don’t own it, get it soon – or pick up the second edition as soon as it comes out.

Register for the eSeminar

eLearning Design Documents August 3, 2007

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
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4 comments

I haven’t seen many resources that dive into the workflow of eLearning development, especially for folks like me who build courses mainly from scratch. I thought I’d write about some of the methods I’ve used, hoping that others may chime in or that I may come to new realizations through my own reflection. Here it goes…

The Design Document

eLearning development requires collaboration from multiple people with unique skillsets, including instructional designers, subject matter experts, software/web/eLearning developers, graphic designers, and more. I’ve found that a design document is one of the best tools to help you keep a project on track and keep everybody in-the-loop. (This may seem like common sense, but I’m surprised I haven’t seen more written about the advantages of using design documents.)

The design document serves as the central source of information for the project, which 99% of the time is an eLearning course (for me). The document contains metadata including the course’s name, description, timeline (including due dates), notes from the client, and a storyboard section that outlines each page or interaction in the course. The document should also note when/where sign-off must be received by the client (ex. after each major step or phase of development).

Getting into more detail, each page of the course is outlined in the design document. For each page, the document should have a placeholder for the page title, description, content (or where the content can be found), desired interactions / exercises, multimedia (ex. audio, video), notes, and a time estimate (in hours).

Workflow

Our workflow usually goes in the order below. Although it looks linear, it is an iterative process with several reviews along the way. Some reviews are formal, others are informal.

  1. A business need is identified.
  2. A decision is made to build an eLearning course. (This isn’t always the case; eLearning is not a magic solution for everything. But in this case, we’ll assume it is.)
  3. Business owners are interviewed. We ask them to define the business need and identify what they would consider to be a successful outcome. Everything from this point forward is added to the design document.
  4. Subject matter experts are interviewed. They explain what information needs to be taught in order to successfully cover the material. We add this information to the design document.
  5. An instructional designer takes all of the information gathered so far and does their magic. Their notes and decisions are tracked in the document (along with the content that is generated from their work).
  6. The eLearning Developer takes the document and interprets it, along with a graphic designer, and builds the course.

Critical information comes out of each of these steps, and it is important to track this information in the design document. This makes it easy to track why decisions were made – and who made them.

On a related note, it helps to have an internally created eLearning developers’ guide which outlines the dos and dont’s of eLearning for your organization. I highly recommend Mike Dickinson’s article, Evolution of an e-Learning Developers Guide, in The eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions e-Magazine. (Membership is required to view the article.)