Spring Cleaning in Winter

This last week, I’ve taken some time away from my project work to do a little spring cleaning of my WordPress site. Most of you reading this are elearning designers and developers, so you may have noticed that after you publish a file, if there’s a browser update, it can render your course/interaction inoperable. The sound or images might have gone out, or as often is the case, the whole thing won’t load.

OfficeGuy_Dusting.jpg

Here are a few things to keep in mind when republishing your elearning courses:

  1. Make sure the fonts look right. Many of the courses I had up on the site were created on a different computer and some of those fonts did not make their way onto the new one. In Articulate Storyline, when you click on the text, it will tell you which font name to look for. Even if the font doesn’t reside on your computer, it will tell you what font it used to be. This is true even though Storyline has actually replaced the named font with a substitute. I either had to find and copy the old fonts onto my new computer or replace the fonts with something else altogether.
  2. Look out for outdated information. One of my old courses made reference to an old email address and website of mine which no longer existed.
  3. Keep the published folder names the same. That way, all the links on the other websites and pages which are pointing to them will still work after you upload the new version. Fortunately for me, I kept my published folders all in the same place, so I’d highlight and copy the name of the old folder, delete that folder, then paste the old name into the new folder before uploading it to the site. I also like to delete the old version on the remote site before I upload the new version. I don’t like to leave it up to the FTP what should or shouldn’t get replaced completely.
  4. When reviewing your new published files, make sure you’re not looking at the old cached version. In Google Chrome, I’ve noticed that I actually have to delete my ENTIRE browsing history to prevent it from opening up an old version. There may be a better way, but I’ve tried to search for and delete all the files with the old name from my browser history and those older versions still would pop up. The only thing that seemed to work was to delete all the browsing history from the beginning of time! One way to know you’re looking at an older version is the browser will ask you if you want to continue from where you left off.
  5. Make sure any links in the lesson/interaction are current and functional. Being that you’re having to update and republish your elearning files, the fact that some old links may no longer be working shouldn’t be any surprise, but when you’re republishing 20 or more courses/interactions, to check for them at all may not have entered your mind.

I would be VERY interested to hear if you have any items to add to this list of things to look out for. If you do, please leave them in the comments section below.

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Video Interaction with Closed Captions

This week’s Articulate E-learning Challenge was to create an interaction in Storyline using only shades of grey or in other words, black and white. As it turned out, I already had created a video for my band’s song “629” and it was about 90% in black and white. Being that the tune was based on a very interesting person from US history, I thought it would be fun to create a guessing game called Name that Scoundrel to determine who this person was, what he did for a living, and what organization he’s associated with.

Closed Captions
Recently, one of my clients needed CCs (or closed captions) for a piece of software training I was creating for them. And since the interaction for the e-learning challenge was going to be based on song lyrics, I thought it would be a great idea to use CCs so people could more easily make out the words.

There are a couple things you typically need to do to add CCs to a Storyline interaction.
1. You’ll probably want a button to turn them on and off. I didn’t need or want this in my
e-learning challenge, but it WAS a requirement for the software training piece I created for my client.
2. The words in the CCs need to appear as they are spoken. Because of this, you can’t just use the Notes tab in the Storyline Player.

NameThatScoundrelStillShot2

Turning CCs On and Off Using Layers
Tom Kuhlmann from Articulate shows how to add CCs you can turn on and off by putting them on a layer. Tom’s video also explains how to make the words appear in the CCs as they are spoken on the audio. After watching this video I realized that when you get to the next slide, they disappear. Fortunately, Brian Batt (also from Articulate) shows how to get CCs to continue from one slide to the next.

Turning CCs On and Off Without Using Layers
But what if you can’t or don’t want to use layers? Thankfully, Articulate Super Hero Steve Flowers thought of a way to add CCs without using layers.

NameThatScoundrelStillShot3

Conclusion
I know this blog has just focused on the CC aspect of this game. So please use the comments section below if you have any questions about how I created any of the other elements in Name that Scoundrel. And definitely, let me know what you think!

Am I in Sync?: Using Video in E-learning

One of my clients provides fuel and services to the exciting aeronautics industry. They LOVE video and use it extensively in their training courses. In designing a number of courses for them, I had the opportunity to do a lot of video editing. As much as I enjoy working with video, I always want it to support and not detract from the message being conveyed in each scene.

This week’s Articulate e-learning challenge is all about how to sync video up to your content. So in this article, I will share three different ways to do just that!

Back and Forth

In this first example, I had a picture and text layout that I really liked. So, I brought out each bullet with the picture and then faded in the video to support the more detailed explanation of each bullet, going back and forth between the still shot and the video.

No Bullets, Just Video

For this one, I didn’t use any bullets, but just edited the video so it would be in sync to the audio content. So when she’s talking about smiling or shaking hands, that’s what you see on the screen. I also edited the video so that the actual sound from the video comes in for just a couple seconds so you can hear the CSR saying “Hello, Mr. Smith…”

I used Pinnacle Studio video editing software which allows you to have video on separate tracks, just like in a music recording studio soundboard. I clipped out that little bit of video with the CSR greeting the customer and put it on a separate track from the rest of the video which was on a muted track. Then, for the voiceover audio track, I added a couple seconds of silence, so the narrator would pause while the CSR was talking. It’s a neat effect, and it also gets the learner’s attention!

You can add silence to any track either in your video editing software or after importing it into Articulate Storyline (which is my favorite e-learning design and development tool).

Bullets on Top of Video

In this final example, I added a semi-transparent rectangle on top of the video and animated in the bullets in sync to the voiceover. This is my most common approach.

Whatever media you are using, always strive to make it support the content. Yes, using advanced animations and creative visual effects CAN effectively keep the learner engaged in the course, but don’t get too carried away and end up distracting the learner. Let me know what you think. Do you have any other ideas or approaches to using video you’d like to share?

Redundancy and Coherence

Two principles of good e-learning design are to avoid redundancy and to keep things coherent and uncluttered. This week’s e-learning challenge was to present these good instructional design principles in a piece of e-learning. I decided to create before and after examples of two of the principles David Anderson outlined.

Redundancy
Although this may seem like an obvious thing to avoid, I see it in A LOT of e-learning courses. Back in my college days, we had a biology professor who had these extremely wordy PowerPoint slides and then he proceeded to read every word on them verbatim. It drove the whole class nuts, a lot of students scored poorly on his tests, and he seemed completely dumbfounded as to why. Instead of reinforcing the information, redundancy distracts from it. Here’s the redundant “before” version.

Click to view redundancy example

Click to view redundancy example

And here’s the much-improved “after” version.

Click here to view the solution

Click here to view the solution

Coherence
I’ve seen this principle violated most when IDs try to incorporate storytelling or branching scenarios for the first time. In e-learning, the stories only exist to reinforce the learning experience, not to detract from it. Strip the story down to its essentials, removing any extraneous details. Here’s the cluttered, long-winded “before” version.

Click to view It's Not a Novel

Click to view It’s Not a Novel

And here’s the elegant, much-improved “after” version.

Click to view the solution

Click to view the solution

 

Presenting Dos and Don’ts

The good old “Dos and Don’ts” list is a quick and easy way to teach people how to perform their jobs. This week’s e-learning challenge was to create a novel way of presenting these lists. So, I decided to make mine about the restaurant business, directed towards those on the front lines, the servers.

DosDonts

I recently saw a graphic image of two faces facing each other in b/w and I thought I could employ similar imagery to create this simple little interaction. The learner is presented with a scenario and then selects either the “Do” face or the “Don’t” face to see an example of each.

DosDontsFeedback.jpg

This could very easily be adapted to give actual lists of Dos and Don’ts for each scenario even though I only offered one example for each.

DosDontsFeedback2.jpg

Rather than using the Next and Previous buttons, I gave learners the option to “Try Again” to see the other option for the current scenario or to go on to the “Next Scenario”. Try it out yourself and let me know what you think!

Voices in my Head

When Queen released “A Night at the Opera” the album that exposed the world to the classic rock anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody” the liner notes emphatically stated that “no synthesizers were used on this album.” So, I’m going to tell you the same thing about my voice-over portfolio, with the exception of the tympani roll, all the music was created with one simple tool, my voice.

Click to view my voice portfolio

Click to view my voice portfolio

E-Learning with Character(s)
Over the last few years, I have created or helped out with quite a few e-learning projects which have required me to tap into the voices in my head. I really don’t have the pipes for doing the narration part, but I have come up with quite a wide range of character voices in creating interactions & games for David Anderson’s e-learning design challenges.

E-Learning Feud Characters

E-Learning Feud Characters

In this portfolio, you’ll meet a couple game show hosts, a nerd, a jock, an old man, a goofball of a guy, some assorted animals, and …BERT.

The Gist
Rather than just clicking on the examples and jumping right into the interactions, I thought I better explain a little what each interaction was about, what my role was in their creation, and a little bit about my thought processes. Jackie Van Nice gave me the idea of creating a separate bit of theme music, sort of a slower more “contemplative” version of the theme song at the beginning to go behind my voice as I give the run down on these various interactions.

Bert gets all Dracula in yo face

Bert gets all Dracula in yo face

I designed this portfolio so you can just click right into the interactions if you want. You don’t have to sit and listen to the “director’s/actor’s comments” first. The bottom line is, just jump into it and enjoy.

Click to view my voice-over portfolio

Click to view my voice-over portfolio

Munch on This!

This week’s e-learning challenge was to create a cereal box with an e-learning theme. So I decided to throw in a bit of alliteration as well. Mine’s a little reminder to all of us instructional designers to use our imaginations, throw the learners into real-life scenarios instead of putting them to sleep with endless bullet points. That’s all. Pretty simple eh?

Bert's Bullet Blasters

Bert’s Bullet Blasters