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Learning Tech 2012 Conference News January 27, 2012

Posted by Eric Matas in News & Events.
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Conference News!

Learning Tech 2012 Image and LinkThis April, in Chicago, I will be speaking about  mlearning design and strategy at Learning Tech 2012. I love Chicago. It’s a city with an energy that makes events especially invigorating. I hope to see you there, April 23-25.

For more information, I contacted Courtney Green in New York to ask her about the conference:

Courtney, we know I will be at the conference representing eLearning Weekly Magazine, who else will attendees have the chance to meet, and what companies will be represented?

We have a great line-up of speakers, including Kevin Munson, Chief Learning Officer from Sears Holdings Corporation, Andrea Franklin, Educational Instructor, FedEx Custom Critical and Kacie Walters, Global Knowledge Management Lead, GE Healthcare plus many more!

Who should attend this event in Chicago?

Those who want to launch their learning to the next level and hear from innovative speakers to determine how you can elevate learning and maximize results. The event is focused on improving learning strategies with educational technologies across the corporate world, plus a special focus day for K-12 and higher-education professionals.

Are there any sessions that will share specific and practical information that attendees can take and implement right away?

We have a number of workshops, interactive sessions and case studies that will allow attendees to instantly apply! Including:

  • Case Study: Integrating the iPad to Improve LearningMichelle Burke, Director Learning & Development, Sears Holdings Corporation
  • Strategies for Effective Mobile Learning – Eric Matas  Editor, eLearning Weekly Magazine
  • Workshop A: Interactive “Learning Station”- New Tools and TechnologiesCraig Weiss, CEO, E-Learning 24/7

Cool, I love Craig. He’s terrific. How can people register or find out more details?

Please register by visiting www.learningtechevent.com. You can also email me, Courtney.green@iqpc.com, or call 1-800-882-8684.


Come Read our DevLearn11 Reaction Piece November 16, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning.
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If DevLearn 2011 at the Aria in Las Vegas did anything, it confirmed one certainty about elearning: elearning is exhilarating. eLearning is esoteric, cutting edge, tumultuous, and sexy. And elearning is an industry.

Eric and Shonit Speaking at DevLearn11

Eric and Shonit Speaking at DevLearn11

Yes, elearning is a thrilling industry that combines esoteric theory like gamification, cutting edge tools like Cloud technologies, tumultuous teetering between HTML5 and Flash, and the inspiringly sexy and sleek iPad — the world’s most seductive learning tool.

The eLearning Guild hosted quite a conference. Featured speakers spoke with vigor, sessions delivered an array of ideas and practice, DemoFest showcased elearning eye candy, and the expo bristled with the promise of the next best thing. Vegas was sunny. And Vegasy. … [read the rest!]

See the new site! eLWmag.com


eLearning Thought Leaders: Mark Lassoff November 11, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in Interview.
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See the new site! eLWmag.com

Mark Lassoff of LearnToProgram.tv

Mark Lassoff of LearnToProgram.tv

I was very lucky to catch Mark Lassoff in between speaking at DevLearn, working on his forthcoming book from Focal Press, and producing his next training video for the company he founded, LearnToProgram.tv. Mark is an anomoly in the world of elearning these days, because he knows how to code.

I’m not just talking about the two big programming languages, HTML and Flash. Mark works with and trains javascript, PERL, XML, CSS, PHP/MySQL, and the new and somewhat talked about HTML5. In a world of rapid elearning tools that eschew code at every turn, I knew I had to talk with Mark, who mixes elearning and code everyday.

eLW Mag Interview  with Mark Lassoff, Founder & Corporate Technical Trainer, LearnToProgram.tv

eLW: I want to ask about your training work at LearnToProgram.tv, but first, tell me about the book you’re writing — I love to get a behind-the-scenes look before books hit the shelves.

ML: I am currently writing a new title for Focal Press called Android Development Code Camp.  It’s part of a new series that I am editing for Focal that will include books geared towards beginners.  I am excited because it will be branded after my LearnToProgram.tv training company.  The people at Focal have been great to work with , and I am looking to produce a book that even a total beginner can read and work through and master beginning level application development in Java with Android.

eLW: You’ve got that technical background, you know all the major programming languages, what courses do you offer through LearnToProgram.tv?

ML: More and more courses every month.  We changed our focus as a company about three months ago and wanted to focus on the consumer or beginner market.  There are hundreds of thousands of people who want to learn programming, but no one focusing on that beginner’s market.  Right now we have three courses available– HTML and CSS for Beginners (Including HTML5!), Javascript for Beginners, C Programming: iOS Starts Here and Objective C for Beginners.  These courses are designed for people who are trying to learn web development, eLearning development and mobile development.    We’re introducing a new course every month.

Our courses are delivered three ways– an instructor supported, asynchronous option that includes lab exercises, code listings and hours of video lecture is our least expensive and most popular.  Our self-paced HTML course has over 1000 students in it.  We also deliver courses instructor-led online.  There is nothing better than having a live instructor so we offer that option as well.  Finally, any of our courses can be delivered via traditional classroom instruction.

eLW: I took your HTML/CSS course on Udemy.com. That’s a great way to learn code. That’s real elearning, but you’re kind of an outsider to the elearning industry. Explain that.

ML:  Well, I’m not an instructional designer. I have no traditional training in education… However, I am lucky enough to be one of those people who can walk in to a room an teach– and I think teach well.  I find the eLearning industry to be frustrating– It seems to be very vendor driven instead of driven by best industry level best practices, professional ethics, and what is best sound educational practice.  Vendors start screaming “HTML5” in response to media buzz and all of a sudden eLearning practitioners are all screaming “HTML5” without having the slightest idea of it’s current implementation in browsers, it’s shortcomings or even it’s structure.  Some vendor said it’s good, and that’s good enough.

I don’t mean to indict the entire industry– There are plenty of hardworking, creative, talented folks creating amazing work.  But the baseline still appears to be Powerpoint (or some easier/ more powerful modification to Powerpoint) and that’s sad.  It frustrates me to no end that people don’t want to learn HTML– they want a tool that creates HTML for the.  It’s easier.  What they don’t know is that there are countless limitations that each tool has.  You box yourself in with tools.  If you can code you can do anything.

LearnToProgram.tv Logo
eLW: I’m curious, too, about the tools of the trade in elearning. So much is done to avoid code and put elearning tools in anyone’s hands. Can you make a case for learning code?

ML:  I think there are many things in eLearning you can’t do without code–for example, simulation.  Do you want the captain of your 737 to have learned in a simulator or from Powerpoint slides?  A few years ago we built a complex avionics simulator to train helicopter pilots from a government agency.  We had to write code–there was no way to do it well without coding.

I realize that most elearning departments are understaffed, underfunded and overworked, but even learning HTML and Javascript will give you enormous power to modify, create and design learning interactions that stretch the abilities of even the most powerful toolset.

Tools come and go– We have been coding in HTML now since 1994.  Actionscript has been around as long as Flash has.  If you can learn coding you make yourself a very powerful eLearning Developer.  While it’s difficult to learn to code, it’s not impossible for just about anyone.  Of course– as I think we often forget in eLearning– learning takes time, practice and effort.  There is no Power Point slide deck I can show you — no matter how many avatars I use– that can make you learn to code.  You actually have to do it.  You have to practice.  I’ve been coding for over 20 years– and I am still learning every day.

eLW: You said your clients like you because you’re a skeptic. How does that help?

ML:  I think critically.  If a vendor claims x, y and z, I want to see proof.  At DevLearn one vendor told me that with his tool, “I wouldn’t have to write Actionscript any more!”  Great– What are the limitations?  How would you accomplish this with your tool?  Oh You can’t?  Moving on…

I just think I ask the questions that others don’t want to for fear of being seen as negative– or don’t know to.  

eLW: Our readers are going to want to hear more from you. Can I persuade you to share your technical knowledge and outsider perspective with our readers, writing some articles for the magazine?

ML:  It would be my pleasure.

eLW: Terrific. As long as you are going to write for eLW Mag, can we offer some coupons for your courses in the eLW Basement?

ML:  Sure.. If you go to my site– http://www.learntoprogram.tv, and choose any online, self-paced course, I’ll give you 50% off the published price.  Just enter the coupon code “ElearnWeek” at check out and the discounted price will be applied.  I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for eLearning developers to have basic HTML and Javascript skills.

Now for a few personal questions that will really give readers a chance to get to know you.

eLW: Word on the street is you have some insane 80s TV trivia knowledge. So I gotta try to stump you. Which show had a character named “Skippy” and who played that character?

ML:  Wow, that’s easy.  Family Ties.  Skippy was played by Marc Price.  As a child Skippy got his head caught in the bannister three times.

eLW: That was too easy, I guess. OK, Square Pegs: most famous actor?

ML:  Well, I think you’re fishing for Sarah Jessica Parker– but the better actor on the show was Jamie Gertz.  Jamie just did an episode of Modern Family.

eLW: OK. Growing Pains. First names of all the Seavers?

ML:  Jason, Mike, Ben, Maggie, and Carol.  The last couple of seasons they had a baby? Right?  I can’t remember the baby’s name, but I remember the baby grew up during hiatus.  At the end of one season she was an infant and then at the beginning of the next season she had speaking lines.  Leonardo DiCaprio was on there for a season as well– He played some runaway that family adopted.

eLW: Who played the kids?

ML:  Easy– Tracy Gold was Carol– Her sister, Missy, was the governor’s daughter on Benson.   Kirk Cameron played Mike.  Jeremy Miller was Ben.  The late Andrew Koenig played Mike’s best friend, Sylvester Stabone.  His father played Chekov in the Star Trek Series.  Got any more?

eLW: You are good. I give up. OK, no I don’t: Mr. Belvedere’s first name?

ML:  Lynn.  Brice Beckman, who played Wesley, just had a series on VH-1 a couple of years ago.

eLW: Amazing. Thank you, Mark. And for our readers who like networking, one final question: What’s next on your conference calendar? Or where can people find you online?

ML:  We are talking about exhibiting at Learning Solutions, but have not yet made a decision.  I will likely be at the MLearning Show in June and will be back at DevLearn next year.  We’re also planning on going to ISTE 2012.

I’d love to hear from people online– My company is http://www.learntoprogram.tv.  I am at http://www.MarkLassoff.com.  My linked in is http://www.linkedin.com/in/marklassoff and my email is mark@learntoprogam.tv.

Hope everybody reads and responds to my upcoming columns.

The All New eLearning Weekly October 29, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in Editor Comment.
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eLW moved to eLWmag.comWe’ve got DevLearn on our minds right now (Vegas Baby!). Still, we’ve been busy doing a make-over. eLearning Weekly has moved and become eLearning Weekly Magazine.

B.J. and Eric will continue writing the same sort of posts that followed the original tagline: “Tips, Tricks and Lessons Learned”. We love to share the nitty-gritty elearning work flows and work-arounds. And we love the sense of community here at eLearning Weekly. The readers have chimed in and added comments that make the posts better for the next readers.

Come by and see us at eLWmag.com and keep reading and reacting! Or just click the button below:

See the new site! eLWmag.com



Too Hot for eLearning July 19, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, Theory.
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eLW Moved to elwmag.comBy the time school let out each summer, I was already done learning. Sure, classes were wrapping up and testing was done, but I was intellectually checked-out because it was too hot for learning.

Right now, in the midwest especially, the heat and humidity are collaborating to ruin everyone’s days. The dew point is so high that windows and glasses are sweating. Everyone is so sticky in the muggy air that nothing seems like a good idea. Except maybe a thunderstorm.

Does the misery make elearning difficult? I think so.

Are there better times during the year to schedule elearning? Can designers and developers control the environments in which our learners launch elearning? These questions always make me think about flight simulators. In a flight simulator, you can control the environment — make it shake or even make it hot! So, I imagine the ideal Personal Learning Environment (PLE) — a utopic  arrangement of computer, desk, mouse, beverage, snack, window, lamp, and whatever else at whatever temperature at whatever time, wherever suits the learner best. Perhaps with soft classical music wafting in the background.
photo thermometer 100 degrees
I like the list Prometheus Training uses to prep learners for optimal elearning — is anyone else using such tips? Is anyone else melting? Are your screens dripping with dew?

Photo Credit: greggoconnell

See the new site! eLWmag.com

Make eLearning for the iPad for FREE July 14, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning Tools.
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I feel some guilty pleasure when other trainers and elearning developers become jealous of my elearning app for the iPad. Because the Mac iOS doesn’t support Flash, many of my colleagues haven’t been able to take advantage of the best elearning tool ever: the iPad.

My app did not cost that much ($7,000 developed in 2010 and $4000 for upgrades in 2011). Still, even those costs are not readily available to many training teams. So, I will share my first efforts making elearning for the iPad. It still works very well and gets “oohs and ahhs” even though it is simple and FREE.

There are many tools for doing the small bit of work involved, but I will focus on the easiest method I know, using the word processing program on my computer. It’s three steps and then you are elearning:

  1. Make a simple document in Pages.
  2. Export as an epub file.
  3. Put the epub file in iTunes and sync your iPad(s).

Learners can view the elearning module in iBooks, the free app from Apple. The reader app is the key, really. It has interactive functionality built in, so you just need to focus on good content.

Step 1 — Pages. Pages is the word processing program on a Mac. It is simple to use, like Word. Simply add text, images and video. Formatting must be simple so the epub file can adapt to various sizes when viewed. Still the content can look great, and with multi-media, it reads more like a digital magazine than a book. It helps to make a visual cover page (your page 1) that looks like a book cover. Play around with headers and styles — because these will help the learner navigate.

Step 2 — Epub. In Pages, just click Share > Export and choose the epub option. Check the box that makes your first page the cover art. You will have an epub file in seconds. If you get errors, it is probably related to formatting that epub files don’t support. It is best to keep the formatting simple — let iBooks do the work of making your module look great.

Step 3 — iTunes. On a Mac, just drag the epub file you just saved onto iTunes and then sync your iPad. Like Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

In iBooks, your module will have an interactive table of contents — created from your headers and styles. The table of contents works as nicely as a menu in a Flash elearning course. Learners can change fonts or font size to their liking, read portrait or landscape, and bookmark and annotate the module. The video content plays right on the page or can be expanded to full screen.

I’ve had success with small, three-page mini-books. That’s three pages in the word processor — once in iBooks, the page numbers vary for each learner depending on  their font choices and orientation they prefer for their iPad. Learners found the content engaging and appealing, and as elearning it was refreshing to have a mini-book instead of the typical rapid elearning thriller. I’ve also made longer modules, around 10-11 pages. They were well-received, but I made ample use of white space, and I wouldn’t recommend pushing much more than that. I don’t have data on it, but the iBooks format seems to suit concise elearning efforts. If readers can page through within 15-20 minutes, they seem pleased. If you have more content, make a separate epub module and call it a sequel.

No More eLearning Software May 13, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, Theory.
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I cursed myself in a current post (What I Like About eLearning) when I included a semi-sarcastic comment about having umpteen programs open on my computer every day in order to get my elearning work done.

Since then I have articulated at least one non-HR-approved word in reaction to slow computer action or even crashes. I need more memory. I need dedicated video memory. I need software that doesn’t take so much of my computer’s resources! (I love you Adobe.)

Or maybe I need to just get all the software and even the operating system off my machine all together! Can it work for elearning professionals?

Can it work for you?

Award Nominee Reveals His eLearning Authoring Toolkit [Guest Post] May 6, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, eLearning Tools.
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Larry Ober has been nominated as Best eLearning Designer in the Maestro eLearning Awards, dubbed the OSCARS of the eLearning industry. What follows is an interview between Steve and the award’s organizers, Maestro eLearning.

Q. How did you get your start with eLearning design?

Several years ago we engaged a vendor to create three eLearning modules for a new product launch. As you know, good quality eLearning modules are expensive. We were happy with the results, but realized after only a few months that the content already needed updating. When I went back to the product marketing team with the request for budget to re-engage the vendor, they were less than enthusiastic.

So I offered to create the updates myself, if they would pay for authoring software. They agreed, and we invested in Articulate. Since then, I have created numerous eLearning modules, games, assessments, and other content. I’ve expanded to using Toolbook and other software. My largest project to date was the creation of three learning modules for a (different) new product launch. They were very successful, and I’ve updated them twice since they were created. By doing all this in-house, I’ve saved our marketing team well over $100,000 just on that one project.

Q. Wow! What are some tips you have for new developers?

First, be aware that many LMS systems already have integrated authoring software. If your company uses an LMS for learning content, ask the vendor if they have authoring software as well. These packages are usually easy to use, and integrate easily with the LMS you are using.

If you plan to buy a stand-alone authoring platform, first consider how  much time you can spend learning to use it, and what capabilities you really need. Authoring software can be relatively simple, such as packages that convert PowerPoint slides to a SCORM compliant module. Other brands are very sophisticated, but you’ll need to take a class on how to use it, and plan to spend a lot of time on the learning curve.

Finally, make sure the publishing capabilities match your needs. Most commonly you’ll need software to publish to a SCORM compliant module, but which version of SCORM does your LMS use? Do you have a need to publish to self-running CDs? How about mobile platforms, like the iPhone? Know your actual needs before investing money and time in an authoring software package.

Q. What are some of your favorite tools?

So far my personal experience is limited to Toolbook and Articulate as authoring tools. I’ve also used Audacity, a free audio creation and editing tool, as well as various video encoding and editing tools.

For the novice user that wants to turn PowerPoint presentations into serviceable SCORM compliant eLearning modules, I’ve been very happy with Articulate. It allows the user to include audio, simple interactive animations, quizzes, and flash video.

If you don’t need the SCORM encoding, another option is iSpring, a free tool that will convert a PowerPoint to flash video.

For the more advanced user, or anyone authoring eLearning full time, Toolbook,  Adobe, and Lectora offer suites of software that are state-of-the-art. Both have sophisticated authoring capabilities, but either will involve a substantial learning curve if the user isn’t already familiar with authoring tools.

Q. Before we end, could you expand your earlier thoughts on mobile-conscious design?

Mobile devices, starting with PDA’s and now smartphones, revolutionized how sales calls are entered, and everything about CRM. In my experience, however, they haven’t delivered big gains in training—yet. The problem has been trying to fit traditional eLearning content on the smaller screen. In most cases, the read-ability is inadequate. In my experience, the screen size is appropriate for reference material and some interactive job aids. Another common use is for reference apps, usually simple calculators or wizards, to be used on the fly for calculating pharmaceutical or medical values.

Two areas that have potential for growth are, first, as a response key pad for daily or weekly training updates. This would enable the standard ‘district conference call’ to become an interactive experience. A second future use may be as a time management device. Apps are becoming available that will use GPS technology to track where you are, and how long you are there. These apps can graphically present how long you spend at each customer location during a week or month, and track that according to that account’s current or potential sales. This analysis would allow the user to spend the time in the accounts that have the most potential.

About the Interviewer

Maestro eLearning is a customer service company in the business of creating custom online training courses. They’re collaborating with industry consultants and vendors to launch the Maestro eLearning Awards. Delight your colleagues and consider nominating them for some awards, such as Best eLearning Designer and Best eLearning Developer.

What I Like About eLearning March 22, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, Theory.
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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.
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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.