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The Journey Concludes

Last week I submitted my final assessments for my Master eLearning course through B Online Learning. It was somewhat bittersweet in that it meant that the course was coming to an end but at the same time I felt a sense of accomplishment now that I was finished.

The third and final part of the course focused on facilitating in an online environment which is something that I haven’t done before. Part of what we did was to put together a 15 minute webinar and facilitate it with other students. I found this wasn’t as easy as it looks but a good learning experience nonetheless.

I don’t have much online facilitation experience, I have however, been a student in a few online courses in the past and in my experience this is where they tend to fall down. There’s usually a lot of good resources to be found but not much in the way of involvement from the facilitator. This wasn’t the case in the MEC. In fact, one of the strengths of the course was our Learning Coach Ruth and it wasn’t so much what she taught in terms of content (which was good) but how she facilitated throughout the course. She set the example by being supportive, encouraging and providing regular updates and feedback. Even though there are quite a few people completing the course, there’s certainly a good level of personalisation and this is one of the things that sets the MEC apart from other online courses that I’ve completed.

I’ve written a couple of posts how if we can satisfy people’s needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness we can improve their motivation towards the course they are completing. The MEC is does this and is probably the reason the course didn’t feel like work as I was completing it. For me, some key takeaways include:

  • always keep the learner at the centre of eLearning design
  • the importance of supporting learners during their online course
  • the need to keep developing your skills, there’s always something new to learn.

I’d definitely recommend the MEC to anyone starting out in eLearning as it provides a solid foundation as to how much goes into creating an eLearning module or course. It would also be beneficial to anyone wanting to brush up on their skills. You do need to put in a fair bit of work into the course and manage your time but it’s definitely achievable even if you are working as well, you just need to pace yourself. My advice to anyone thinking of doing the MEC would be to commit some time each week to complete the work rather than leaving it until the end. You should also check out ‘Connect’ which is where you can share resources and make contact with other students.

So while the journey of the MEC has come to an end, my own journey in the world of eLearning has a long way to go…. Oh, and by the way, I passed the course! Yay!

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

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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in eLearning

 

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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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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 #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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Improving Learner Motivation for eLearning

Motivation has been and continues to be a widely studied area across many of life’s domains. Motivation is the energising force that initiates and sustains behaviour and ultimately produces results. Many motivation theories focus on the amount of motivation, with a larger quantity said to result in improved outcomes. However, as educators we shouldn’t focus on generating more motivation from our learners but instead focus on creating conditions that facilitate the internalisation of motivation from within our learners.

Self-determination theory (SDT), an empirical theory of motivation by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, focuses on the degree in which behaviour is self-motivated and self-determined. According to SDT, engaging in activities for their inherent satisfaction and that are enjoyable are said to be intrinsically motivating. Unlike other motivation theories, extrinsic motivation (engaging in activities that lead to a separable outcome) is not a single construct; it exists in four distinct forms according to the extent to which the motivation for the behaviour emanates from one’s self. In other words, extrinsic motivation can be viewed by the degree to which it is controlling of one’s behaviour (external) or allows one’s behaviour to be more autonomous (internal).

SDT Continuum

Ryan and Deci, 2000.

Organismic Integration Theory (OIT), a sub-theory of SDT, places the four types of extrinsic motivation along a continuum of relative autonomy, depending on the level of control or autonomy. As can be seen in the diagram (from left to right), the types of motivation along the continuum relate to increasing levels of internalisation and autonomy and lower levels of control. Progression along the continuum is not necessarily linear and is subject to contextual factors. However, greater internalisation “is critical for effective psychological and academic functioning at all education levels” (Niemiec and Ryan, 2000, p.138).

How can we help learners to internalise their motivation?

SDT proposes that all humans require the satisfaction of three basic psychological needs, namely:

  • Autonomy (a sense of being in control and having freedom),
  • Competence (a sense of being able to do something i.e. being competent), and
  • Relatedness (a sense of being associated or connected to others).

Contexts that satisfy all three basic needs will help support people’s actions, resulting in more sustained motivation over time and positive outcomes. Learners are not always motivated to complete eLearning modules/courses – it might be a requirement of their job or as part of a qualification. But, if we can use strategies to support their competence, autonomy and relatedness needs we can assist learners to internalise their motivation of these types of externally regulated activities.

What do these support strategies look like in practice?

Here are some strategies that you can apply to your eLearning that can help improve learner motivation by satisfying their basic psychological needs:

Autonomy:

  1. Allowing learners to make meaningful choices that have consequences
  2. Providing learners with more than one way to reach their end goal
  3. Allowing learners to customise their environment e.g. choosing a character
  4. Encouraging learners to take risks and be creative during the eLearning module/course

Competence:

  1. Making the rules and goals for learners clear and structured
  2. Allowing multiple opportunities to complete parts of the eLearning module/course to allow learners to build their competence
  3. Requiring learners to frequently make decisions to keep the eLearning module/course moving forward
  4. Measuring learner performance in multiple ways
  5. Increasing the difficulty as the learner progresses through the eLearning module/course
  6. Linking progression (the reward) to learner competence
  7. Providing learners with constant and varied feedback and support
  8. Allowing learners to review or replay earlier parts of the eLearning module/course
  9. Recognise learner achievement e.g. experience points or badges

Relatedness:

  1. Providing space/areas for learner interaction and discussion e.g. forums
  2. Providing opportunities for learner collaboration e.g. a group quest or challenge

Motivation plays an important role during eLearning experiences and our challenge is to create eLearning that our learners want to engage in. As educators, we have an opportunity to assist learners with the internalisation of motivation in the way we design and deliver learning experiences. While it’s not always easy, we need to use strategies that help satisfy the competence, autonomy and relatedness needs of our learners if we want to improve their motivation towards the module or course they are completing.

References:

Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (2008) Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological well-being across life’s domains. Canadian Psychology. 49 (1), 14-23.

Kapp, K. M. (2012) The Gamification of Learning and Instruction. Pfeiffer/ASTD

Niemiec, C. P & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Autonomy, competence and relatedness in the classroom: applying self-determination theory to educational practice. Theory and Research in Education. 7 (2), 133-144.

Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. (2000) Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology. 25, 54-67.

Also, check out this website for more information on self-determination theory: http://www.selfdeterminationtheory.org/

A similar version of this article originally appeared in Training & Development magazine, October 2013 Vol 40 No 5, published by the Australian Institute of Training and Development and eLearn Magazine, October 2013.

 

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Showing My Work #2

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’ve been designing and developing some eLearning modules for the employees in my organisation. Prior to my arrival, eLearning wasn’t used very much and unfortunately what did exist was mostly eReading.

Looking at our existing courses, they appeared to be mostly a cut-and-paste from the policy or procedure document with a few questions at the end with not much interactivity at all. There also wasn’t a structure around creating and building the eLearning modules themselves. So, I introduced a process for eLearning module development (I also use a variation for classroom courses). This development process is based on how I was taught to develop modules by the company who gave me my first opportunity as an instructional designer.

Here’s what our design process now looks like:

Process2

In this process, each stage builds on the work done in the previous one. This is what happens at each stage:

1. Kick-off meeting:

This is the first meeting I have with the Subject Matter Expert (SME) and where:

  • I give an overview of the development process and what will happen at each stage
  • We discuss the requirements for learning and the module
  • I ask questions about the topic, the learners, what they doing now and what they need to do after the course
  • I gather the content for module
  • I take lots of notes.

2. Design Strategy (DS):

A DS is an overview of what the module is about, the learner characteristics and what will be included – the objectives, order of topics, sub-topics and a summary of content, scenarios and activities. At this stage:

  • I produce a DS document based on information gathered from the kick-off meeting
  • I work out a structure for the module
  • I consult further with the SME (if required)
  • Once completed, I send the DS to the SME for feedback (including any other stakeholders)
  • I collate the feedback provided by the SME and incorporate into the DS
  • Then I send a revised DS back to the SME for approval and sign-off.

3. Storyboard:

A storyboard is a screen-by-screen breakdown of the module – text, narration, graphics and descriptions of interactions. It also includes any resources that the learners can use. At this stage:

  • I produce a storyboard based on the information contained in the DS document
  • I also create a few screen mock-ups, to show the look and feel of the course
  • Once completed, I send the storyboard to the SME for feedback
  • I collate the feedback provided by the SME and incorporate into the storyboard
  • Then I send a revised storyboard back to the SME for approval and sign-off.

4. Module Creation:

  • I create the e-learning module in our authoring tool (Articulate Storyline) using the content, images and instructions from the storyboard
  • I conduct some Quality Assurance (QA) to check functionality, spelling etc.
  • I have at least one of my colleagues look it over
  • Fix anything identified in the QA
  • I send the module to the SME for feedback
  • I collate any feedback provided by the SME and incorporate into the module
  • Then I send a revised module back to the SME for approval and sign-off.

5. Deployment:

  • Ideally, I like to send a module to a pilot group for testing and feedback
  • I then incorporate their feedback into the module
  • The e-learning module is deployed to the relevant staff via our LMS.

I use word documents for my DS and storyboard and I’ve created templates that I can use for each new module. Here’s a sample from the storyboard of our safety module:

Storyboard

I have used PowerPoint in the past for the storyboard (at the request of a client) and while it does allow you to see what the finished product will look like, I find using word helps the SME’s to focus on the words being used.

Overall, what I like about this process is that the SME’s are involved at each stage and have input as the module is developed – it’s an iterative process. While the above stages look straightforward, in reality it doesn’t always work as smoothly as I describe. What you are reading is the ideal way the process should work. However, in the workplace, the SME’s sometimes make more changes when you send a ‘final’ version for review, they may take longer to get feedback to you than they originally said (which holds things up) and may need some guidance during development, especially if they are new to it. I’ve come to realise that you need to manage these things as best you can.

It’s also important to mention that I don’t always say ‘yes’ to my SME’s requests,. Sometimes you need to push-back, especially if what is being asked is going to negatively impact the learning. I make sure I explain my reasons for not doing something. I find that his can be one of the most challenging aspects of development and something that I’ve worked on. I’m finding this easier to do as my levels of experience and confidence have grown.

I’ve learned that it’s important for modules to be designed in a way that aims to change behaviour and improve performance and are not just a transfer of information via a content dump. When I’m designing I like to think from the learners perspective and ask myself – could I sit through this module and enjoy it and learn something at the same time?

How do develop your eLearning modules?

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Show Your Work

 

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