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The Journey Continues…

It’s been several weeks since my last post about B Online Learning’s Master eLearning course that I’m working through. We’ve moved through the second module and covered chunking content, writing for eLearning, using simulations, interactivity, checking for understanding just to name a few. I can’t believe that we’re well over half-way time is moving so quickly.

In this second stage of the course we were to develop a piece of eLearning that can be for use in your workplace if you want it to be. I’m not going down that path because I want to develop a sample for my portfolio of examples and to also tap into the expert guidance we have available during the course. While this will be beneficial for me, my brief is effectively “create a small piece of eLearning on any topic you choose” which is kind of daunting. Along with the topic, I needed to create a bit of a backstory as well – learner characteristics etc. so, as I have an interest in craft beer and brewing so I thought I’d go with that and I might learn a bit more about the topic too. I also wanted to showcase some of what I can do in terms of design and use of Storyline.

When I’m putting a module together I like to take a pen/pencil and write my ideas down on paper. I jot down random thoughts and think about how the module might look in terms of images, the theme of the course, anything really. While it looks a bit messy, it does help me to clarify my thinking and get my ideas down.

MEC Notes

 

In the MEC we’re using PowerPoint to create our storyboard which is ok, and although I’ve used Word in the past this way works well too and it’s clear how the screens will be set out. I found that storyboarding in ppt was great for a couple of reasons – the SME gets a much better idea about how the course will look and also because you can get some of the decisions about layout sorted earlier in the development process. I found that using Master slides saved heaps of time and I’m loving using them! Here are some of my screens from the PPT:

MEC PPT

 

Once the storyboard was completed I sent it to Ruth for some feedback. What I liked about the feedback I received was that it was both positive and constructive. It was detailed for some screens and Ruth offered some great suggestions for improvement that I have since incorporated.

I’ve now built the module in Articulate Storyline and here are some samples screens from the finished product:

Explore the Pub

This screen is my ‘Home’ page. I have four topics, each is a different area of the pub that learners go to – The Cellar is about beer and brewing, The Bar is about pouring beer and using the right glass, The Lounge is about different beer styles and The Restaurant is about matching beer with food. Different areas unlock when other areas are completed. The quiz appears once all areas have been completed.

 

Brewing Beer2

This screen depicts the brewing process and I’ve included it because each icon was made using the ‘Insert Shapes’ functionality in PowerPoint. Learners hover their cursor over each icon to find out about that stage of the brewing process.

 

Bringing it Together

This screen is the opening of the ‘Quiz’ instead of having a pass mark, learners just need to fill their glass of beer and they can do this by answering questions correctly. A minimum of 10 questions will do it but if they do get a question wrong they receive a different question. If they get that one wrong they go back to the original question. In all there are 20 questions in total.

 

In the MEC, like many other courses, you do need to be disciplined and allocate a few hours each week to work on the course otherwise it’s easy to fall behind. In addition to the assessment tasks there’s self-paced modules to complete and webinars to attend. While there’s plenty to do, Ruth’s weekly email updates are a good source of information and encouragement to help keep us on track.

In the course itself, it’s good to see things picking up in the forum area ‘Connect’ as other people share articles and comment or ‘like’ others. As someone who uses twitter as part of my own development, it’s nice to be able to interact with others and hopefully encourage them to keep this going after the course has finished.

I’m looking forward to the final stage of the course, where we will be learning how to facilitate in the online environment – something that I haven’t done much of at all.

This is the second in a series of posts describing and reflecting on my experiences of the Master eLearning Course by B Online Learning.

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Showing My Work #5

The Showing My Work series of posts are what I’m using to ‘narrate’ the projects that I’m working on or have developed.

In the spirit of Work Out Loud Week #WOLweek and because it’s been a while since I’ve written a Showing My Work post, I thought it was time to jump in and share some stuff that I’ve done over the past few weeks.

I’ve participated in a few of David Anderson’s eLearning challenges now and I’m enjoying connecting with other terrific designers, being inspired by what they create and share as well as developing my own skills. In this post, I wanted to share how I created three recent challenge activities using Articulate Storyline.

Tabs Interaction

This challenge was about creating an interaction using tabs (like the tabs in a folder or book). The beauty of tab interactions in eLearning is that they allow learners to choose which parts of the course they want to complete.

While I did create a very basic tab interaction at the end, I took this challenge on a bit of a tangent to begin with by playing on the word ‘Tab’. Firstly, I took an image of the Tab key from a keyboard and using layers, the image would move or tab across the screen each time it was clicked.

Tab Interaction1

Secondly, I created a screen with a fridge and cans of Tab Cola in them. Each time you take a can from the fridge (by clicking on it), a fact about Tab cola appears in the fridge door. I created the fridge using standard shapes found in Storyline and used a picture of a fridge as a guide.

Tab Interaction2

You can view my Tabs Interaction by clicking here.

Meet the Theorists

This challenge was about creating an interaction that introduces an instructional design principle that could be used by someone new to the field.

Typically, what you’d see is the image of the theorist along with information about them and their research or discovery. This type of content can be a bit dry so I wanted to make it more interactive. I started with three theorists and found an image of each. Then I added picture frames that have a question inside them and the learner drags the image of the theorist and places it in the frame to reveal some information about them. Again I used a layer, one for each response (nine layers in total) along with the drag and drop interactivity.

Meet the Theorist

You can view my Meet the Theorist submission by clicking here.

Interactive Step Graphics

The objective of this challenge was to bring a sequence of steps in a process to life. I wasn’t sure about this one and almost didn’t participate but I saw a fridge magnet that had the steps to DRABCD, which is an emergency response acronym. When I read the steps, I was thinking about imagery and I wanted to do something different so I decided to take my own photos. Instead of using real people, I borrowed some Lego from my nieces and then using my iPhone I took the images myself. The photos were taken on our kitchen bench. I positioned the characters into positions to represent each step.

Interactive Steps

You can view my Interactive Step Graphic by clicking here.

Reflections

All three challenges are different and I did some things I hadn’t done before – using the play on words in a fun way, involving the learner with some dry content and taking my own images for use in a module. I’ve said in other Showing My Work posts that I do struggle at times with look and feel as well as being creative but by making time to participate in the challenges, I’m learning to think differently in my approach to creating eLearning. It needs to be more than just presenting content to learners, there needs to be interactivity. What they also show is that you don’t always need big budgets to create an interactive piece of eLearning.

You can see more eLearning challenges and other community members showing their work by clicking here and some have written blogs too!

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2014 in Show Your Work

 

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The Journey Begins

A couple of weeks ago, I began the Master eLearning Course (MEC) that is run by B Online Learning and over the next three months along with the rest of my cohort we will design, deliver and facilitate an eLearning course.

I find that eLearning courses fall into one of two categories, either stand-alone modules developed in an authoring tool (which is usually what I create and develop) or ones like the MEC that are facilitated by a person, a Learning Coach in this case, over a period of weeks or months. I’ve had some experience of this type of facilitated online delivery as a participant and it has generally consisted of a list of resources to be read, activities to maybe complete and very little contact from the facilitator. However, this not how the MEC operates, the structure is clear and defined and the support has been terrific.

Our group is also fortunate that our Learning Coach is Ruth McElhone who is very experienced in this form of design and delivery. She’s like the Obi-wan Kenobi of online facilitators (with Princess Leia looks) and by the end of the course I’m sure our group will become eLearning Jedi.

Luke Skywalker

MEC combines the use of Articulate Storyline modules within the LearnFlex LMS that also has discussion forums and other places to interact and share with students via Connect. So far, there’s been a good amount of information delivered in a variety of ways. Interaction is encouraged and rewarded by using gamification to motivate us to reach ‘Contributor’ status. There are also plenty of resources to download and refer to later depending on what you want to learn more about.

One of the strengths of MEC is that even though it’s mapped to two Units of Competence from the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, it doesn’t have the feeling that we are just working through the elements and performance criteria of each unit that you get from other VET courses.

My initial thoughts are that it’s a great course for those who are new to the world of eLearning design and development. MEC lays a good foundation in these areas and while I do have some eLearning instructional design experience, I haven’t been bored and if anything it’s been a good refresher. I wish I had done this or something similar earlier in my eLearning career.

Already in the first module of the course we’ve looked at rapid eLearning, scoping a project, stakeholders involved, copyright, health and safety, learner characteristics, accessibility, authoring tools, Learning Management Systems, SCORM and eLearning development teams.

There’s a lot to take in but like any form of study you need to dedicate time and effort into learning and developing your knowledge and skills. It’s self-paced so you can complete the topics in your own time and as much or as little as you like. I believe that it’s also beneficial to get involved in the discussions and sharing with others in the group. Not because you have to as part of the course but because that’s what helps to build and sustain a community of professionals long after the course is finished.

I’m looking forward to what the next few weeks have in store and as well as sharing the development of my own eLearning course.

This is the first of a series of posts describing and reflecting on my experiences of the Master eLearning Course by B Online Learning.

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eLearning Blunders

Blunder: a stupid or careless mistake.

Alternative words: mistake, error, gaffe, fault, slip, oversight, inaccuracy, botch.

Bad eLearning

This post was inspired by David Anderson’s eLearning challenge: Death, Taxes and E-Learning Mistakes. The purpose of the challenge was to highlight blunders found in eLearning courses and Articulate Community members provided many great examples of what not to do.

I wanted to bring these examples together and share them here (just in case you haven’t seen the challenge). I’ve taken the blunders identified and grouped them into categories.

Layout:

Double branding of screens.

Split attention (having to combine information together to make sense of it).

‘Previous’ button on the first slide and ‘Next’ button on the last slide.

Many different backgrounds.

All slide space filled.

No contrast.

No reuse of design elements (e.g. titles are all different).

Poor positioning of screen elements.

Menu items in the wrong order.

Terrible, eye-searing colour scheme.

Timing issues e.g. characters/photos appearing on-screen at the same time, when that wasn’t the intention.

No way to exit a layer.

Being able to click on buttons on the base layer while viewing a layer.

Branding the course with company logo on every slide.

Redundant/confusing navigation.

Poor alignment of screen content.

Inconsistent use of colours.

Text:

Poor grammatical construction.

Long lines of text.

Bloated wording.

Inconsistent font types.

Spelling mistakes.

Using words that don’t actually exist.

Incorrect punctuation.

Tacky font choices (e.g. Chiller and Curlz MT).

Colour choices that make some of the text almost impossible to read.

Font choices/sizes that are difficult to read.

Too many exclamation points and ellipses.

Sizing on the bullets for bulleted lists.

Small text that is all jammed together making it hard to read.

Images:

Using decorative graphics.

Images copied from iStock and have the watermark on them.

Random, dated clip art.

Cropped characters that appear to float.

Meaningless pictures.

Images that are various styles.

Overlapping images.

Stretched images.

Audio:

Bad voiceover that fades in and out with background noise.

Monotonous tone of voice.

Poor soundtrack.

Text-to-speech narration giving the course a robotic feel.

Animation of text and objects are poorly synchronized to the audio.

Video:

Media/content that makes no sense.

General:

Repeating the same information via different modes.

URL’s that don’t work.

Closed caption that lags behind the spoken word.

Link / 404 errors.

Resources button that does not work.

No attention to detail.

Overuse of animation.

Boring content dump followed by a quiz.

Way to much instruction for how to use the course.

Default quiz and feedback slides.

Courses that are excessively long.

Elements like the Resources tab turned on even thought there are not resources.

 

Some of the Community members (including myself) put together or shared some samples that show the types of errors listed above. Click here to view them.

In a recent blog post, Jonathan Kettleborough talked about some eLearning errors that really give this form of learning a bad name. He referred to the mediocrity of some courses that he has completed because they contain errors that should have been picked up before the course was released. The post is definitely worth reading.

Many of these blunders can be overcome by a thorough quality assurance process and piloting of the course before release – maybe a checklist of items to look for would help? The others require eLearning professionals to develop their skills and knowledge into how people process information and also how to design for the online environment.

I hope that by bringing these types of blunders out into the open, we can make a conscious effort not to keep making mistakes that result in a poor user experience and generally give eLearning a bad name.

As people involved in creating eLearning, let’s eliminate blunders in our courses!

What are some eLearning blunders that you’ve come across?

 

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Showing My Work #4

The Showing My Work series of posts are what I’m using to ‘narrate’ the projects that I’m working on or have developed.

In a previous post, Practice and Sharing: The Keys to Success, I talked about the two key messages from the from the iDesignX Conference and the Tom Kuhlmann and David Anderson workshops I attended in March. With this in mind, I decided that I’d make more effort to participate in David’s weekly eLearning challenges to help build my skills through practice. This post is about a recent challenge I completed and I wanted to share how I came up with my entry and what I learned along the way.

The challenge for the week was Summary and Resource Slides in Online Courses and the idea was to give some love to the very end of the course. My initial reaction was that I didn’t think that there was much you could do at all with the last screen of the course! But I went back to the challenge a few days later and looked at the entries that community members had started to post and I thought about what the summary screen represents which is the end of the course. So I started to think about things that symbolise coming to the end of something. The ideas that came to mind were – getting to the finish line of a race or a sunset ending a day or a plane that is coming into land and you have to put your seat and tray table up and stow items in the overhead locker. In the back of my mind I was also thinking about how I could make these themes work on-screen and how the learner would interact with them.

I was looking around for some graphics and more inspiration, when I came across an image of some candles and I thought that could work – as the learner ‘blows out’ a candle, a resource, some takeaway info or job aid could be displayed. That was ok but it still wasn’t quite right, it wasn’t enough. Then I thought, while the summary screen is a way to finish the course it’s also an opportunity to give learners something to take away from the module, so what about a party theme?

If it was your birthday party, you’d probably receive some presents and in this case the presents become the takeaways – resources, contact details and some additional info.

Pic 1

As you click on each present a layer appears and as the layer is closed the present disappears as it’s been ‘opened’.

Pic 2

I ended up keeping the candle idea too. Once all the candle flames are clicked on or ‘blown out’ a final layer appears indicating that it’s the end of the module.

Pic 3

Pic 4

I built my demo in Articulate Storyline on one slide and used layers and changes of state to achieve the interactivity. The images were from clipart and I created a colourful background that ties in with the party idea.

Before I went to the workshops I had seen the weekly challenges and sometimes I thought that they’re not really that relevant because when am I going to do something like that in a project? The same could be said for the above example, would you really end a module with a cake and presents?

But it’s more than that. On reflection, there were a few things I took away from this challenge:

  • I was able to apply what Tom had shown us in the workshop by taking a clipart image (the cake), separating into pieces, removing the parts I didn’t need and saving the flames as individual images.
  • I worked out that I could show a layer in Storyline once other objects were hidden (in this case, when the flames were hidden the exit button layer would appear).
  • It helped me to think about the summary screen in a way that I ordinarily wouldn’t have.
  • I was able to participate in a challenge and learn from the ideas of others in the community.

While the challenges are a bit of fun, they do provide a mechanism for practicing and improving your technical skills and developing your creative skills which is just what I need. You can also see how others approached the same challenge and what they came up with, which can lead to building on ideas or finding new ways to solve problems or to designing a part of a course in a different way from what you’d normally default to.

Maybe you can have your eLearning cake and eat it too!

See also Tom’s blog post about building better courses.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Show Your Work

 

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Practice and Sharing: The Keys to Success

These were the two messages that stood out over three days in Sydney at the iDesignX Australian Instructional Design Conference (21st March) sponsored by B Online Learning & Articulate the eLearning Design Workshops with Tom Kuhlmann and David Anderson (22nd and 23rd March). I was fortunate to attend the sessions in Sydney last week and for me it was a dream come true to not only be in the same room as Tom and David but to hear and learn directly from them (I also got to meet them which was an incredible experience and a real highlight too).

Practice

As someone with a keen interest in learning generally, but eLearning in particular, I’m always looking to other experienced people in the learning field to find out how I can improve my own skills and knowledge. While it would be great if there was a magic pill you could swallow and voila! you’d be transformed into an eLearning whizz, the reality is that when you look at anyone who is successful in their field, the one thing they have in common is a commitment to developing their skills over a period of time. Tom and David are no exception to this. Over the years they have worked on many projects but they also make time to experiment and try new things. The speakers at iDesignX also showed that they have put in a lot of effort over the years to get to where they are today.

Tip: a good place to start practicing your eLearning skills is in David’s Weekly Challenge. You can also learn more about building great eLearning courses at Tom’s Rapid eLearning blog.

Sharing

Tom and David are role models when it comes to sharing. Their jobs at Articulate along with their travel schedule must keep them extremely busy. However, they are extremely generous with their time and have a great willingness share what they know, provide advice and help anyone who needs it. It’s something all learning professionals can learn from and do more of.

So, in the interests of sharing, here’s firstly what I took away from iDesignX (you can also check out all the tweets at #iDesignX):

“Instructional design is about crafting the appropriate learning experience. We need to reframe content so that it’s meaningful and relevant. Then we need to give learners something to think about and have them make decisions.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

“Tips when using virtual training: prepare and support participants, consider cognitive load, design for different levels of engagement, have learners interact often, support facilitators, pilot the training and test, test, test, test.” Brenda Smith – Medibank Health

“When using video in learning experiences, authenticity is very important.” Mark Parry – Parryville Media

“Clean and balance (in graphic design) creates stability and can direct learner focus.” Minh Nguyen – DEEWR “Using curation for learning design > collect, filter, evaluate, arrange, present, distribute.” Anne Bartlett-Bragg – Ripple Effect Group

“Before you gamify your eLearning course, make sure it meets the learning objectives.” Ruth McElhone – B Online Learning

“Learning experiences should be meaningful, memorable and motivating.” Ruth McElhone – B Online Learning

“Using video for manual or process tasks shows the correct way to do something.” Tony Nye – Australian Red Cross Blood Service

“Pictures clarify words and stories add context to content.” Blair Rorani – Ever Learning

BTW this is the ninja I drew during Blair’s session:

Ninja

“What makes an industry pro? Experience; Skills (practice your craft); Authority and Luck.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

“Luck is where opportunity and preparation meet.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

“You need to be proactive and look for opportunities. Sharing expertise creates opportunities.” Tom Kuhlmann – VP Community at Articulate

And from the workshops with Tom and David:

On using PowerPoint for eLearning:

PowerPoint is a really good tool to create an interactive eLearning course. While you can’t do everything that an authoring tool does, hyperlinking from one slide to another can create the feel of an eLearning course. PowerPoint is also handy for creating and editing graphics, just look at this photo frame I created using edit points and soft edges:

Photo frame

Also, what I was able to do by modifying clipart images (before on left, after on right):

Clip art 1

Clip art 2

On designing an eLearning course:

Ask yourself:

  1. What content needs to be in the course?
  2. What is the right look and feel?
  3. What is the learner supposed to do?

Be intentional, stick with a consistent design and don’t settle for defaults (colours, fonts etc.) On eLearning makeovers: Review the five common components of eLearning courses:

  1. Text – should be from the same font family
  2. Elements – the goal is unity not uniformity
  3. Colours – use colour for contrast and emphasis
  4. Background – it should contribute to the visual and not dominate
  5. People – if you use characters maintain unity

On interactivity:

Interactivity connects the user to content. There are two types of interactivity:

  • Touch – the learner interacts with the screen (by clicking, dragging or hovering)
  • Decision – the learner interacts with the content.

On Learning Objectives:

When thinking about learning objectives, ask yourself:

  • Who is the learner?
  • What is the situation?
  • What do you want them to do?
  • How can they prove it?

On building interactive eLearning:

  • Know your tools – don’t build clunky courses
  • Create relevant content
  • Use stories for learning especially if there’s a lot of content
  • Remember the 3 C’s:
    • Challenge the learner
    • Give them choices
    • Have consequences for decisions

There were at least a couple of hundred people at the conference and about 80 people each day at the workshops. If everyone incorporates just one or two of the things they learned into their eLearning courses the quality would certainly improve. But if everyone also shared what they’ve learned with others in the field, it would help to improve even more courses and contribute to building a strong community of learning professionals!

All in all it was a great three days of learning from the best in the field and also chance to meet lots of people that I’d only known via Twitter and make the physical connection. Let’s follow Tom and David’s example by practicing our skills and sharing what we know so that we can develop ourselves as well as others.

If you went to the conference and/or the workshops what did you learn and have you shared it yet?

Footnote: This post originally appeared on the B Online Learning website.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Instructional Design

 

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Showing My Work #3

The Showing My Work series of posts are what I’m using to ‘narrate’ the projects that I’m working on or have developed.

I believe that the visual design of an eLearning module is a really important part of the overall learning experience. After all, the look and feel of the course is the first thing that the learners see. It helps to catch their attention and draw them into the module. It can also add a great deal of interest to the module.

However, the visual design is an area that I really struggle with at times, trying to come up with ideas. I get there eventually but sometimes it takes a while and it doesn’t come easy to me. It’s also an area that I’m conscious that I need to work on and I want to.

Recently, I created a work health and safety (WHS) induction module for my organisation. When I started developing the look and feel, I defaulted to the yellow and black safety colours but I still found that it looked a bit PowerPointy as you can see by these mock-up designs that I came up with:

Safety

I didn’t really like any of them and I felt a bit stuck. Then one morning I went to our lunchroom to get a coffee and I saw this:

IMG_0240

I’d walked past it every day, knowing it was there but not really seeing it. There’s a lot of safety notices on there and the boards in all the lunch areas so I figured people would be familiar with them and it would tie in nicely with the topic of module. It led me to come up with a design based on this theme:

WHS3

WHS2

WHS

The board is a common element for every screen. Then I used different combinations of notes and photos depending on what was needed for the screen. It goes to show that an idea can come from anywhere! What’s your impression of the visual design for this course?

I’ve found that the Articulate Community Showcase is a great place for some visual design inspiration.

Where do you get your ideas from when it comes to the look and feel of your course?

 
10 Comments

Posted by on November 28, 2013 in Show Your Work

 

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