No More eLearning Software May 13, 2011Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning, Theory.
Tags: Adobe, Chorme, Chromebook, Computer Speed, software, Tools
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?
Tags: Articulate, Awards, eLearning, Maestro, software, Tools
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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.
My New Year’s Resolutions For 2010 December 26, 2009Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: Design, Development, eLearning, Learning, software, technology, Tools, Training
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I’ve come up with a few ideas for my New Year’s Resolutions for 2010. Next year, I will…
Experiment more with technology
I usually do a decent job with this, but I’m going to do a better job in 2010 of trying lots of new software, tools, web sites, web applications, etc. I don’t need to be an expert in all of these technologies, but I find that a good awareness of everything is very important.
Succeed (or fail) fast
I will use quick prototypes when evaluating new tools / technologies for projects. I’ve learned over time that lengthy trials take too long and are often unnecessary. I usually have better luck when I set up something that is ‘good enough’ and then improve it iteratively.
In the past few years, I fell into the occasional bad habit of not listening closely enough to clients / internal customers. I would sometimes shortcut conversations in my head and diagnose their situations before I even knew the whole story. I’m aware of this, and I’ll do my best to listen better moving forward.
I love to read, but I sometimes get too busy…or at least that’s what I tell myself. In 2010, I want to do a better job of reading on a regular basis. I usually prefer books on business, performance improvement, and sometimes suspense / mystery thrillers.
I want to travel internationally at least once next year, along with several trips to different states. I’m always open to suggestions, so let me know if you have any ideas.
What are your resolutions? Oh, and in case you need it, there’s a good article on eHow called How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions. 🙂
eLearning User Groups September 29, 2009Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: Design, Development, eLearning, ProfessionalDevelopment, software, technology, Tools, Training, usergroup
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Last week I went to the Metrics That Matter user group in Chicago. During my trip, I started thinking about user groups related to learning and technology. Other than conferences, where do learning and technology professionals get together to discuss ideas with each other? Conferences are great; I attend them and present at them on a fairly regular basis. But too often these events are more focused on presentations than collaboration and idea sharing. We can learn a ton from each other simply by trading stories and experiences, and we should do this more often. What other ways do we have to interact directly with each other? I came up with a list of ideas below. Please chime in with your thoughts. (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Metrics That Matter user group meeting was excellent.)
Ideas for connecting with eLearning peers
I’ve written about #lrnchat before. It’s an online discussion that happens each Thursday on Twitter. Dozens of learning and technology gurus join in to have open discussions and share ideas. This is a great way to interact with some of the top thought leaders in our field.
LMS user groups / conferences
Several LMS companies offer user groups and conferences, and I would highly recommend that you check one out if you work closely with an LMS. Most of the well-known LMS vendors have user group meetings and/or conferences, including:
Technology / Development-focused user groups
Adobe has an active user group community, with over 700 groups that meet regularly to discuss products such as Captivate, Dreamweaver, Flash, and much more. Visit the Adobe Groups page for more info. (In fact, a few Captivate-specific user groups have popped up.)
Separate from the Adobe Groups is a user community for Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro.
Many of the “social learning” tools (ex. blogs, wikis, etc.) have user groups or strong online development communities. A few quick examples:
Tools like TweetGrid allow you to track keywords related to your niche of learning and technology. This can help you find others who are working on similar topics or projects, and then you can reach out to them directly.
What am I missing? Are there other ways you directly connect with peers to exchange ideas and discuss your work? Blogging, definitely. What else…?
Build a Learning Portal Using WordPress April 3, 2009Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: blog, Blogs, Design, Development, eLearning, software, technology, tutorial, Web 2.0, wordpress
I’ve written before about learning portals and how they can be a great way to improve access to learning materials for users. I wanted to provide a more in-depth post that shows how you can create your own learning portal using the freely available content management system, WordPress. So, let’s get started…
Refresher: What is a portal?
(This paragraph is from a previous post.)
A learning portal is a web site that contains links to all different types of learning and training materials for employees at an organization. It may display upcoming classes, online courses, job aids, programs, links to web sites, etc. It may also include search functionality, a rating system, bookmarking ability, and more. The content displayed on the portal may be general to all employees at an organization, or it may be customized for that individual and the role they play. In a perfect world, the learning portal would be able to analyze the person’s department, role, and previous training history. It would then automagically determine learning resources that may be most valuable to that person. It may take a little while, but we’ll get there.
This tutorial will show you how to get a basic learning portal set up. You can add the advanced functionality yourself using either custom programming or by using one of the thousands of free WordPress plugins.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a free content management system that allows you to build and manage your own web site or blog. WordPress is used by millions of people, and it has an amazing support community in case you run into any questions or problems. I have personally used WordPress for several years and I’m a big fan. In fact, eLearning Weekly is a WordPress site. Learn more about WordPress.
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
I want to prevent some confusion around WordPress… It’s important to know that WordPress.com and WordPress.org are completely different, even though they’re run by the same people:
- WordPress.com hosts your site for you, which is convenient, but it prevents you from making detailed customizations. WordPress.com sites are publicly hosted.
- WordPress.org allows you to download the installation files to your computer (or to a server) where you install it yourself. You can then customize the system as much as you want. This tutorial will focus on using WordPress.org.
You’ll need access to a server to install your portal, but you can install WordPress on your own computer if you just want to test it out first. Follow these directions to get WordPress installed. Essentially, you’ll need to have PHP and MySQL installed wherever you want to set up the portal.
After you’ve installed WordPress, you’ll have a front-end and a back-end. The front-end is what your users will see – it looks like a normal web site or blog. The back-end is your administration site that you’ll use to make updates. The back-end is password-protected, and you can create user accounts if you want to share the administration with others.
Use a Template
After you have installed WordPress, you’ll probably want to select a theme to use for your portal. There are thousands of themes available on WordPress.org, or you can select from many vendors on the web that provide WordPress templates (ex. StudioPress or WooThemes). Some themes are free, and some cost money. Grab a theme, and then follow these steps to get it installed.
Tweak the Settings
Poke around with all of the settings in your WordPress site. You’ll probably be surprised to see how many things you can easily configure. I don’t think you can really break anything in there, so feel free to try things out. (Famous last words, huh?)
Add Learning Content
In WordPress, you can create pages and posts. Pages usually consist of content that is less likely to change on a regular basis. Posts are generally used for content that is regularly updated, for examples news and announcements.
Once you have your site up and running, populate it with your learning content, such as a list of upcoming classes, online courses, job aids, programs, links to web sites, etc. You’ll see that you can add media (ex. images and video) to your pages and posts, too. Preview the site frequently to make sure everything is appearing to your liking, and continue to refine you content until you’re happy with it. Be sure to get feedback from colleagues, too.
Widgets and Plugins
You can add a great deal of functionality to your site using widgets and plugins.
Widgets are known as “sidebar accessories” for your site. Visit this page to learn more, or simply play around with the widget section in your administration site.
Plugins can add almost any functionality you can dream of to your WordPress site. Visit the official plugins page on the WordPress.org site for more info.
The hardest part about setting up WordPress is making sure you have PHP and MySQL installed and ready to go. Other than that, everything else should be straightforward. You’ll be successful if you update your learning portal on a regular basis and continue to get (and respond to) feedback from your users.
As I mentioned, WordPress has an amazing support community, but feel free to ask questions here and I’ll do my best to help you out. Good luck!