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What I Like About eLearning March 22, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, Theory.
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4 comments

I was never really good in art class growing up. I’d immerse myself in the project of the day and be proud of what I’d made, only to look up at the end and discover that everyone else had glued their macaroni or painted their plate just a little better than I.

I particularly liked collages, I think, because they offered the less talented more room for error — mistakes just look like creativity in a collage. Maybe elearning is like a collage. Some text here, a photo there. Some images I cut and paste along the edge.

And then maybe I move everything around and try another lay-out.

I like that. I like strategy and learning by experience. So mapping out a template and building it 14 ways definitely floats my boat. Rapid-prototyping was practically invented for the strategist and activator (StrengthsFinder) in me.

And I like a lot of other things about elearning:

  • Likable elearningHaving all these programs, and multiple instances of some, open at once: Captivate, Photoshop, PowerPoint, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, Word, TweetDeck, Handbrake, Dropbox, Excel, and Project.
  • The Rapid eLearning Blog and tips like how to make a PowerPoint template.
  • Cathy Moore’s dedication to language.
  • That elearning people are into Twitter and Facebook (community from Cali to London to Austrailia).
  • Creative elearning people coming up with cool logos like the awesome little Litmos monster and the ninja photo of the eLearning Brothers.
  • Cammy Bean.
  • The beautiful, sleek, amazing app machine known as the iPad.
  • Screenr.
  • Saying, “How about a hover over?”
  • The writers I’ve read the most: B.J. Schone, Jane Hart, Tom Kuhlmann, and Clive Shepherd.
  • Nudging assets on the screen.
  • Tahoma, Verdana, and Kristen ITC.
  • Articulate — the authoring tools, the company, the blogs, and the online presence.
  • Drop shadows.
  • PNG files.
  • Editing the Captivate files being discussed during the conference call.
  • Putting secret doors throughout my elearning modules, mainly so I can jump around quickly, but also the occasional surprise room I hope some learner finds.
  • Absorb, the best LMS on earth.

The Return of Code March 14, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning Tools.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
6 comments

So much work has been done to take code out of the equation. We’ve become a WYSIWYG generation with all the convenient tools for web and elearning development. This WordPress blog you are reading is a perfect example, and the proliferation of blogs in the past 5 years is a direct result of WYSIWYG tools.

These DIY tools are getting better and better, and there are more and more of them. Still, I see coding making a comeback.

Why is code going to become more important and popular? Three reasons:

1. Cookie Cutters Not Cutting It

Rapid elearning tools offer anyone the capability of publishing flash modules, SCORM or AICC compliant. But, for many, the templates and functionality have replaced instructional design. Although modules  can look amazing, integrate multi-media, and offer interactivity, designers and developers find the tools guiding the development: what the tools can do replaces what designers set out in storyboard. Coding allows for custom work within the rapid tools.

2. The Many (Inter)-Faces of mLearning

The most intriguing mobile device, the iPad, doesn’t support Flash, demanding app development or web-apps developed for many devices. Since the competition is finally showing up, Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy, for example, web-apps might be ideal so any device learners have can display the elearning. Native apps, though, offer the most in user experience. Organizations might want to invest in a specific mobile device so communications and elearning can be created for that device.

3. The Web Teaches HTML

Just google HTML or how to code and you will see what I mean. The web is full of HTML tutorials by passionate coders. From simple HTML to more advanced CSS code, you can find help for any stage of your coding needs. If you are a beginner, you have some easy reading to do. If you are getting better, you’ll want some HTML Goodies. I also imagine elearning teams will hire coders to come in and create some HTML templates that the team can copy and paste and edit for variety. It seems far easier to edit existing code than to come up with it in the first place.

Top 5 eLearning Skills for 2011 – A Follow-Up March 7, 2011

Posted by kevinthorn in eLearning, Theory.
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26 comments

eLearning Weekly welcomes our newest contributor, Kevin Thorn.

Following up on last week’s post titled, “Top 5 Skills for eLearning in 2011,” I’d like to explore this at a different angle. We could go two ways with this: Brand new to the eLearning industry, or a seasoned veteran honing their skills. The comments generated from the original post focused a lot on why Instructional Design was not included in the top 5, so let’s start there with three key points:

  1. Instructional Design is not eLearning Design. Whether you are formally trained in Instructional Design or you have spent a number of years in the industry practicing the craft, ID is not a specific skill rather a conglomerate of methods, models, practices, theories, and techniques.
  2. Instructional Design is the “design” of “instruction.” This profession has been around long before eLearning arrived and Instructional Design encompasses everything from classroom instruction to a job aide, while eLearning falls somewhere in the middle.
  3. Instructional Design is not a single skill but a varying degree of many perishable skills. The eLearning skills you need for 2011 may be directly influenced by the industry in which you work, and therefore some are more prevalent than others.

Let’s begin by suggesting you are either formally trained in ID or you have extensive experience applying the methods surrounding it. From there, what eLearning skills do you need for 2011 – the remaining ten months?

While I don’t necessarily disagree with this first list as each have their merit, but I’m not quite sure these fit as the top 5 skills needed for 2011 as opposed to the next 5-10 years. Let’s look at these 5 again from broader approach and discuss a few more I’ve thrown in.

  • Video Production – As Eric pointed out, the cost of producing your own video and the editing software available today is very accessible. However, unless your company is doing an entire video series there really is no reason to spend time learning video production specific skills – this year. Additionally, there are many organizations today that don’t have the proper infrastructure to support video in eLearning. Although any video editing does require patience, it’s not anything a novice can pick up fairly quickly. An affordable HD video cam, Movie Maker (Windows) or iMovie (Mac) can produce quality videos without much effort.
  • Social Media – As we all know social media is no longer a trend and is becoming the main stream of communicating. I don’t think SoMe is a skill so much as it is a practice. You gain knowledge of how SoMe works by the mere fact of being embedded in it. Similar to video production where many organizations are not set up to handle that type of media, even more organizations have not incorporated SoMe into their business. Just because there are several really great case studies using SoMe in training, doesn’t mean your organization has a business value to implement it. In preparation for the years to come though, I would encourage everyone to get a Twitter account, join LinkedIn groups, and engage in Facebook Groups, etc. to stay plugged in.
  • Mobile Development – I will echo the same thing here…many organizations are not set up to deliver anything mobile let alone mobile learning. Several predictions and forecasting models show mobile (smart phones, tablets, etc.) will be mainstream by 2020 and the keyboard and mouse that we so affectionately love today will be archaic devices. As for gaining skills for mobile development, many eLearning designers & developers do not “code” their courses anymore and use one of the popular authoring tools today. I’ve not hand-coded a course in over 5 years and my guess is we will see tools in the near future that will output mobile designs similar to how authoring tools do today with eLearning.
  • Graphic Design – Eric points out here that it’s not so much the skill of becoming a graphic designer, but rather where to find them when you need them as well as making your own. Researching images can be a daunting task, but having relevant research skills along with actually knowing where to go to find them should be foundational. Coming from a graphic design background, I’ve often made the decision to buy (or through CC usage) rather than create myself. In the end, the time it finally took me to search the appropriate images I could have built my own library!
  • Rapid Development – First, Rapid Development is NOT a replacement for Rapid Design. The design process must still occur instructionally and visually before any development begins. Every project dictates, but by entering each project with that plan, rapid development is VERY efficient and shaves off hours of work. Two very important considerations need to be addressed here as well: 1) Rapid development is not the cause of poor design, and 2) Rapid Development is authoring tool independent.

More skills:

  • Project Management – Consider the entire process from start to finish. You begin with an initial meeting to determine the overall performance outcome. From there you begin your analysis and agree eLearning is the best solution. In the end you have a course/module published on your web or LMS. That entire process is a project. I’ve seen more times than I care to admit where an Instructional Designer is in the middle of an eLearning project and has hit a snag with no clear idea how they got there or how to get out of it. I’m not suggesting run out and earn your PMI certificate, but having fundamental skills in project management methodology is essential.
  • Writing – This industry did not exist as a career path when I started. Many people today who work as Instructional Designers earned their ISD or IDT degree. Others came to this industry through circumstance with an English, Journalism, or Technical Writing degree, while others may or may not have any ID or writing background at all. Yet, I suggested that ID is assumed for purposes of this post, one cannot effectively develop eLearning if they do not know how to write content, scripts, or storyboards.
  • Storyboarding – Think of the storyboard as the project plan. There is no standard around the exact way to storyboard an eLearning project as each situation dictates. Most I see are sparse and not very useful if someone had to pick up the project on a whim. Think of storyboarding as a project workbook with all documentation supporting the eLearning project.
  • Rapid Prototyping – Not to be confused with Rapid Development, this widely unused phase is invaluable. Rapid Prototyping can occur early on in the process and be reviewed for instructional flow and usability. Other aspects such as writing scripts, asset collection, etc. are happening simultaneously.

The days of the workforce training departments with Instructional Designers, Graphic Artists, Developers, etc. is of the past. Today, teams and even individual contributors are the one-all-be-all Training Project Coordinators. This is not an official role, but the title fits more of what the real world is experiencing. One person is responsible for the entire eLearning project from cradle to grave. To be competitive, and more importantly create meaningful and memorable eLearning, one must learn multiple skills.

Top 6 Skills for eLearning 2011 - Pie ChartThere are a multitude of industries deploying eLearning. However, the corporate workforce seems to be where the most attention is needed in getting the right skills in place. With eLearning Weekly’s permission, let’s shake the list up a bit. From the perspective I shared above, two of the original and four additional skills make a new list of the Top 6 eLearning Skills for 2011:

  1. Project Management
  2. Writing
  3. Storyboarding
  4. Rapid Prototyping
  5. Graphics (design or researching skills)
  6. Rapid Development

What do you think? Are there more/less specific skills for eLearning that we can impress on people to learn or hone this year? Are there timeless skills needed no matter which direction the industry moves this year?

The Luxury of Instructional Design March 2, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in Theory.
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6 comments

It’s better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. – James Thurber

You hear about the next training project you and your team have to manage. What questions come to mind? After questions about the main content, you’ll probably have questions about time, people and money.

  • Question Marks PicHow long do you have to prep the course?
  • How long should the course be?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What’s the budget?

These and other logistical questions help frame your strategy for making the course. They are crucial questions, even part of many trainers’ tool kit for analysis–the ‘A’ in ADDIE. ADDIE is widely used and tauted, but following ADDIE often leads to a fatalistic unanticipated side-effect: focusing on performance outcomes and writing learning objectives to get there means working backwards from the end, and the end causes worry. Side-effect: anxiety.

  • Will we get done in time?
  • Will everything we plan actually work?
  • Should we just use the same materials as last time?

Wondering whether or not you can put it all together can stop you from putting it all together. Or, it makes you focus less on design and more on implementation. With deadlines and resource constraints, you need to get some ducks in a row:

  • Can you really afford the luxury of instructional design?

No way. Not this time. We need to have a course ready for when the class shows up or logs on. We’ll look like idiots if we don’t look prepared or if our elearning doesn’t work.

Does this happen?

How about this: someone thinks about the learners and the learning they need. Someone takes a moment to imagine a learner after training, out on the front lines of life, where they need to know those vital nuggets of their training, and where success and sales either happen or do not. If you are someone who thinks of that, then maybe you have asked this question:

  • Can you afford to forget about instructional design?

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Seuss

Thurber quote: Answers.com
Seuss quote: Thinkexist.com