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Top 5 eLearning Skills for 2011 February 27, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning Careers.
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28 comments

What are the skills you need to land an elearning job?

Working in elearning taps into many skill sets. Designing or developing elearning  requires experience in training and project management as much as audio and video production.

I focus here on what I think are the top skills for elearning now, in 2011. These are skills that will show up on job descriptions where they list job criteria, requirements or experience. More companies will have one or two elearning people handling all the elearning duties for their team. These small groups of elearning designers and developers will have to do it all–manage the projects and handle graphics, video, narration and all the various software, including some sort of LMS. They will have a small budget to outsource some work, but even those dollars might be reallocated for new software or video equipment, which could make the elearning duties easier.

Top eLearning Skills 2011Given that trend, I hope readers aren’t surprised when I leave instructional design off my list. Soon, elearning job descriptions will not even mention instructional design or ADDIE, as they almost always do now. I know managers include those references in job descriptions now simply because the last document did. Instead, when looking to hire, I think managers are going to care more about these job skills, my top skills for elearning in 2011.

1. Graphic Design

Photoshop has been a constant in elearning job descriptions for a while. But today developers can create graphics in PowerPoint 2010 or online using free tools like Aviary, Pixlr or Splashup. LinkedIn has regular group discussions on where to get the best free and paid images for elearning. Graphic design requires good online research skills. Developers of elearning must know a bit about image sizing and file sizes and be able to edit disparate images so that they look like they belong in the same module. Tom Kulhmann’s blog offers many tutorials on editing graphics.

2. Video Production

Cisco experts predict 90% of the internet (consumer IP traffic) will be video by 2013. Hiring video production companies will still be popular, but elearning teams are going to need to handle their own video production to meet deadlines and budgets. With video production software available at incredible, affordable prices, and high-quality digital video cameras and microphones available cheaply for both rental and purchase, teams are capable or setting up a studio, running a production, and editing videos for their elearning needs. Companies like OpenSesame are preparing for more video by creating a SCORM video player.

3. Rapid Development

The tools I see most are Captivate and Articulate. Newer online tools are emerging and gaining some popularity, perhaps because the software can be accessed from anywhere, not just a company computer that has software loaded on it. Who knows, maybe Articulate and Captivate will offer their tools online too. Knowing how to get around many tools is wise. Once you start getting good using two or three of these authoring tools, they all seem pretty intuitive. These rapid development tools are where video, graphics, narrative and text come to get ready for an LMS or a web or SharePoint deployment.

4. Social Media

Social learning is still finding its place in corporate elearning. The one, two or three people on elearning teams will need to be up to speed on microblogging, status updates, and integration. Some elearning tools are already integrating social media for social learning use–like the LMS software, TOPYX. Although companies and training managers may not yet have discovered how to implement a social learning plan, they will be looking for elearning employees to take a lead in this area.

5. Mobile Deployment

Being able to push elearning modules to mobile devices will continue to gain in importance. Many have expressed reservations about whether training can really happen on a mobile phone, no matter how smart it is. The larger iPads and emerging competition are catching everyone’s attention for sales use and elearning deployment. Since Flash is not supported on iPads, the rapid elearning tools have been useless. I expect that new tools like AppAuthor Pro will become popular since developers can make elearning modules on the back-end and push them out to the app they only have to pay for once.

The Thin Mints of eLearning February 21, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, Theory.
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2 comments

eLW Moved to elwmag.comDing-dong. Girls. Girls’ club. An organization for young girls, young women, powerful women. And it’s for the kids!

Delicious cookies.

(It teaches them about business. About selling. Money. Honesty.)

I’d like to sell to you, for $3.50, a box of thin chocolaty-minty learning cookies. Learning that you would enjoy. Binge on. Freeze for later. And even share with friends and family.

(I am talking about elearning.)

I start to wrap up the tower of cookies and put it back in the box with its twin, when it occurs to me that these individual Thin Mints are really very thin.  Super thin. Like, they’re barely even a whole cookie.  In fact, it would probably take three Thin Mints to equal one regular-sized cookie.  Which means if I eat two more, I’m really only finishing up one cookie, right?

Thin Mint of eLearning
That’s the truth according to the Didactic Pirate.

The truth about elearning: The experience of elearning needs to be so thin that it leaves learners wanting more.

That’s all folks. A thin mint this.

Easily Add Flash Interactions to eLearning February 16, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning.
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3 comments

Don’t worry: no Flash is required. You don’t need to know how to program in Flash, and you don’t even need to own Flash software.

You just need to head to eLearningInteractions.com and use the intuitive online tool. Once online, you are five steps away from having a beautiful Flash file (.SWF) to insert into your elearning.

  1. eLearning Brothers Templates and InteractionsClick to launch the eLearning Interaction Builder.
  2. Choose a training activity template (from more than 70 like glossaries, process maps, pyramids or games).
  3. Add text, images and audio.
  4. Choose a theme (lots of colors and patterns, or make your own).
  5. Download the .swf file.

It’s really far too simple for what you get: amazing looking Flash activities for your elearning that add interaction and fun for your learners.

eLearning Interactions comes from the eLearning Brothers, Andrew and Shawn Scivally. They also offer elearning templates and custom Articulate skins as well as blog posts and good-natured ninja-tastic attitudes.

The interactions builder kicks out a Flash AS2 file, which easily scales to fit into your PowerPoint or your authoring tools. The games can be used in classroom training too. Since Captivate 5 has, questionably, limited support to AS3 only, these ineractions are not for Captivate 5, but they work great with Captivate 4, Articulate, Atlantic Link, and others.

eLearning Interactions Screen Shots

For a nice, quick tutorial, watch their screenr video that shows the simple steps that result in awesome elearning interactions: http://screenr.com/y0F.

eLearning Thought Leaders: OpenSesame February 9, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in Interview.
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OpenSesame.com Buy and Sell eLearningI interviewed the guys at OpenSesame to find out what they are up to and why everyone is talking about the hoodies from DevLearn.

They are changing the way elearning, module-by-module, is bought and sold online.

eLearning Weekly Interview with Josh Blank, SVP/General Manager, and Tom Turnbull, VP/Community Development at Open Sesame

eLW: I go to OpenSesame.com and see that you are the elearning marketplace — what does that mean?

JB:  OpenSesame has a simple mission: Make buying an elearning course as easy as downloading a song from iTunes. We connect elearning buyers and sellers in an easy-to-use online marketplace where developers publish and sell their courses and training managers find the off-the-shelf content they need to create an effective and up-to-date workforce.

For the first time, OpenSesame allows buyers to research, evaluate and purchase courses from a diverse set of publishers in a single location. OpenSesame is also a solution for elearning developers, who can use our marketplace to reach new customers. Developers can sell existing off-the-shelf courses, thereby leveraging work they have already completed, or create new courses specifically for the OpenSesame marketplace.

OpenSesame addresses another elearning pain point by solving the interoperability hurdle. Our technology connects SCORM or AICC courses to any learning management system, enabling developers to focus their attentions on creating great courses instead of resolving technical hurdles.

eLW: An elearning marketplace seems so simple–developers can sell modules and training departments or individuals can buy modules–but the real trick is running the elearning on an LMS, right? Can buyers run the elearning on their LMS?

TT:  Emphatically yes. We are proud that our platform technology enables any course creator to connect any content to any LMS. We’re solving the interoperability problem for course developers and end users, while making diverse courses trackable on a variety of systems.

We rely on the SCORM and AICC standards to act as the bridge between content authoring tools and end users’ learning management systems. When organizations purchase a course from OpenSesame’s marketplace, they upload a license file to their LMS just as they would with any other course content.

eLW: You guys must know a little bit about these LMS things — how did you get started?

JB:  The OpenSesame team has a deep background in the elearning sector. During our 10 years in the elearning business, we realized that the biggest impediment to the growth of elearning was organizations’ inability to easily find, select and deploy high quality elearning content. We decided to found a new company that would act as a platform for these connections.

Between us, we have software, business, design and communications experience driving our development of the OpenSesame marketplace solution for the content conundrum. We believe that in the long term, our open marketplace will make elearning accessible, easy to implement and rewarding for everyone.

eLW: What about social media or integration–are you integration-friendly?

TT:  We believe in collaborating with our technology partners to solve problems and create elegant features for elearning professionals. We offer software developers the opportunity to add value to their elearning products by integrating with the OpenSesame marketplace through a read-write API.

LMS developers can integrate the OpenSesame catalog into their marketplace in two ways. First, developers can enable LMS users to purchase and deploy courses from the OpenSesame marketplace in one step. Our API will enable LMSs to automatically create and configure courses using files and metadata from OpenSesame. Furthermore, LMS developers can enable users to browse the OpenSesame catalog from within the LMS user interface — never needing to visit http://www.OpenSesame.com to access the elearning courses they need.

We are also developing an API for course authoring tools, which will enable developers to build authoring tools that publish courses directly into the OpenSesame marketplace, offering additional income and advertising opportunities to their clients.

eLW: If someone wants to sell elearning on OpenSesame, who should they contact or what should they do?

TT:  We are thrilled to welcome elearning course developers who are sharing their existing elearning courses or perhaps creating new, all-purpose courses on topics where they have created custom courses in the past.

Watch our Getting Started screencast to take a tour of our marketplace. Take the first step towards selling courses by visiting our site and clicking register in the top right corner. Once you have created a user profile, you can upload your course files, set the per-seat and site license prices and enter information about the topic, target audience and learning objectives.

Contact me at tom.turnbull@opensesame.com if you have questions.

eLW: What is something new and tantalizing that you are working on or might roll-out soon?

JB:  A SCORM video player.

We’re making it possible for simple, YouTube style videos to be completed and tracked as SCORM courses in learning management systems.  We’re excited about this for two reasons: First, making videos trackable like elearning courses will lower the barrier of entry for subject matter experts who have experience and information to share but don’t have traditional course design skills.

Second, videos are often the simplest and most straightforward way to illustrate a new idea or concept for learners. It’s the definition of rapid elearning to enable a developer or subject matter expert to make a screencast or other quick video to respond to new technology developments or demand in the marketplace. We’re making it possible for organizations to track and manage their learners’ participation in video-based learning experiences.

Wow — that’s huge. I know I will love it. Now for a few personal questions that will really give readers a chance to get to know you.

eLW: Imagine one of those bumper stickers that starts “I’d rather be…” and tell us what you love to do so much that you could complete that phrase with it.

JB: There’s no place I’d rather be than here, making elearning accessible, effective and fun! But in an alternate universe, if I had to choose another profession, I would coach the USC football team.

TT: Like Josh, I enjoy this opportunity to start a new business focused on extending learning opportunities across enterprises but if I had to choose something else, I’d be producing children’s movies.

eLW: What do you have to read online?
TT: My RSS reader features TechCrunch and a handful of elearning blogs, including this one, LearnNuggets, Aaron Silvers Blog, Jane’s Pick of the Day, Corporate eLearning Strategies & Development, elearnspace, our own OpenSesame blog.
eLW: Do you have a favorite geek t-shirt that you love to wear or want to get?
JB: I’m proud to sport my “hAPI hAPI Joy Joy” shirt.
eLW: I sort of wish I didn’t ask that question, but that is clever. Where is the strangest place on Earth you have been?
TT: How about the strangest place on Earth that I will go to next week?  My wife and I are taking our two boys to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, at Universal Studios Orlando. While I love reading with my kids and I love Harry Potter as much as the next Muggle dad, I can’t imagine that there are many stranger places on Earth than that.
eLW: Thank you, Josh and Tom. Here’s my favorite final question for our readers who like networking: Where will you be appearing and where can people find your schedule for conferences or events?
JB:  We are hitting the road this spring and we want to meet you!  We love to meet new people, try new hotel restaurants and talk about the future of elearning.
Also, if you missed out on the OpenSesame hoodies at DevLearn, don’t worry.  We ordered more.
The hoodies! Sweet.

Map Your eLearning Career Path February 3, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning Careers.
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2 comments

Many people recognize the potential of elearning and want to know more about how to get into the industry. I get asked how I got into elearning. For me, it started with being a techy, then a writing teacher, then an online course designer and developer, then an instructional designer, and finally to an elearning specialist and LMS administrator.

Career Path from Techy to Teacher to eLearning Specialist

I think it’s helpful to see career paths in case yours might evolve similarly. I recommend polling friends and colleagues in your networks to learn about their career paths. And you can map out yours, too, on paper or online.

Monster.com has a career mapping tool, in beta, that can help you visualize your career path–in elearning or otherwise. You simply plug in the job title you have and possibly the one you want to move to, and then interact with the tool to view the career mapping. I like the linear view, which I was playing with for this post, using instructional designer as the starting point.

The screenshot from Monster.com shows the moves an instructional designer might make as their career progresses. You can click it to see a larger view so you can see that the tool links to open job postings and helps you see how likely certain job transitions are.

Monster Screen Shot Career Path

I’d love to hear about your elearning career path. How did you get into the business?