Fighting Wildfires in Alaska

You are a fire manager in Alaska and three wildfires have broken out across the state. You don’t have the resources to fight them all, so you have to prioritize. This interaction is a combination scenario/quiz question incorporating video, music and a sorting interaction.

FireManagementScenario

The Challenge
This week’s eLearning challenge was to create a quiz question with customized feedback. In this scenario, I used the existing feedback layers giving the learner the opportunity to try again if they get it wrong initially. When they do get it right, it takes them to the “correct” feedback layer with a Continue button which takes them to another slide with more detailed feedback in the voiceover and a video giving a bird’s eye view of the landscape and communities we were talking about.

Too Much Information!
There simply was not enough space to incorporate all the feedback the client wanted on the feedback layer itself, so I simply moved that feedback onto a separate slide accessible via the Continue button. For the video, I just took some high resolution still shots of the Alaskan landscape and using the Ken Burns technique, panned across and zoomed in and out of the different shots to add more interest. Check it out here and let me know what you think!

Does Music Belong in eLearning?

I’ve never met anyone who said they hated music. Everyone at least likes music, but does it have a proper place in eLearning and if so, where and when should you use it? Certainly there are as many opinions on this topic as there are style preferences in what different people like to listen to. Since this is MY blog, I’ll tell you what I think and you can tell me what you think in the comments below.

MusicianBanjo.png

Because eLearning development tools like Articulate Storyline use separate slides or screens to place your content into, it doesn’t allow you to have uninterrupted background music playing throughout your module. This has never been a problem for me, as I don’t think music should run through the whole thing.

Introduction and Conclusion 

I like to include background music at the beginning and ending of each lesson. At the beginning, it sets the mood for the learner and when it returns at the conclusion, it indicates a sense of accomplishment and that things are wrapping up.

BackgroundMusicScenario

Scenarios and Quizzes

Most of the lessons I create have quizzes, and I like to include a little background music while the narrator explains how to take the quiz, what the passing score is, etc. Sometimes a client will also request a few branching scenarios where learners can practice what they’ve learned in a real-life situation. I’ll often use background music as the scenario is being introduced and again on the feedback slides to indicate if they made the right choices.

During Videos

Occasionally, a client will give me a video where there are bits of narration interspersed with periods of silence. I like to add a little background music if for no other reason than to tell the learner that the video is still running and to keep paying attention.

Watch the Volume!

Be careful not to overwhelm or distract the learner by having the volume on the background music too loud. You want the learner to be able to easily hear what the narrator is saying. As a rule of thumb, I tend to reduce the volume on the background music by 80%.

Before I finish, being the music geek that I am, did anyone catch what other music-related title I’m eluding to in the name of this post?

The Revealing Science of E-learning

If you’ve ever witnessed a plague of lighthouse keepers or traversed the topographic oceans only to find yourself in the court of the crimson king, you may appreciate what I created for this week’s Articulate e-learning challenge.

PROGressBarFront

Our MC, David Anderson asked us to create an e-learning interaction that used awards and/or progress bars in a creative way to reward learners and show them how far they’ve gotten in a lesson. Well, I thought this challenge being about progress bars, I should create the ultimate PROGress bar (ie: progressive rock, get it?).

So many times when I’ve seen documentaries about popular music or the 1970s in particular, all they ever talk about is punk and disco and totally miss the fact that the major progressive rock bands were selling millions of records and packing the hugest stadiums in the world. It was what Bill Martin aptly labelled a “popular avant garde.”

The PROGress Bar
For my progress bar, I decided to have seven levels of achievement with an illustrious title for each; ranging from Prog Novice to Prog God. I used the sun from the cover of King Crimson’s Larks’ Tongues in Aspic to denote where the learner was in the different levels. So the suns go along the bottom in a row with all of them grayed out except for the current level the learner is on.

PROGressBarMuirQuestion.png

Hint, Hint
Knowing that a deep knowledge of progressive rock is generally not the forte’ of most people and that my audience was going to be mostly other e-learning designers, I didn’t want them to get discouraged and opt out of the lesson right away. To remedy this, I added obvious hints to the feedback layer of the questions and gave them two tries to get the right answer.

PROGressBarQuestionFeedbackHint.png

Being the serious prog-nerd that I am, I had too many questions. Anyone who knows me personally knows I can go on and on about this topic. When I was done, I realized that I HAD to have at least one extra question. So it made sense that to get all the way to Prog God, that the learner should have to answer an additional question to get that ultimate title. To represent where they were at in the lesson, I highlighted one half of the final sun on the PROGress bar.

PROGressBarHalfSunHighlighted.png

Original Music
For anyone who’s interested, the music on the introductory slide is a piece I wrote and recorded called “Satisfaction.” It was supposed to be one of those epic 20 minute tunes, but is yet to be completed. At any rate, enjoy the lesson and definitely let me know what you think!

Lakes of Methane You Say?

As Sun Ra used to say, “Space is the place” and I wholeheartedly agree. Thanks to some adventurous souls who conceived of, built and operated the numerous successful spacecraft which have revealed to us Titan’s, Io’s and Europa’s secrets, we not only have some beautiful images of our celestial neighbors, but have added immensely to our knowledge and understanding of these remarkable and exotic worlds.

Moons_Solar_System_Main_Screen.png

Adaptive Learning Paths
When creating e-learning lessons, you always want to think about your audience and their needs. Often learners have different levels of knowledge and experience. How can you create a lesson that adapts to their different skill levels, so you don’t waste the more-experienced learners’ time going over a bunch of information they already know?

E-learning designers have created adaptive learning paths (or ALPs) to accommodate these different learners’ needs. In this week’s e-learning challenge, David Anderson from Articulate asked us to create an example of an ALP.

Asking Questions First
First you have to assess where the learner’s knowledge level is at. The most common approach is to simply ask them a series of questions, and then based on their answers, only direct them to the parts of the lesson where they need help. In my example, I asked them three questions.

Moons_Solar_System_Titan_Question.png

Confidence Levels
Sometimes learners will answer a question correctly by chance without really knowing the answer. I noticed one of my fellow designers, Jackie Van Nice had added confidence levels into her submission. So I added that feature, but to keep mine simpler, I only gave them two confidence-level options to choose from, either they’re certain they know the answer or they aren’t.

Under the Hood
So how did I make it work? I used a combination of states, variables and triggers.

Each question had three possible answers. Each answer had two states; Normal and Selected. The Selected state had an outline around it so learners would know they had it selected. Also, each of the two confidence levels had Normal and Selected states.

Secondly, I created three variables, each named after the moon being talked about in the questions; Europa, Titan and Io. All three variables were True/False variables with the initial state set to False.

Finally, I created simple check marks on the summary slide that would appear on top of each section of the lesson. All three check marks had two states: Hidden and Normal. If the learner needed to review the section, the check mark would appear (Normal), but if they already knew the material and did NOT need to review the section, the check mark would be Hidden.

Moons_Solar_System_Summary.png

I then added triggers to each of the three check marks. So the Europa check mark for example, would have a trigger set to hide it if the correct answer on the Europa question was selected AND the “I got this” confidence-level was selected. Because in that instance, the learner both got the question right and was sure of their answer, and thus didn’t need to review the Europa section.

Moons_Solar_System_Europa_Selected.png

After I set the triggers for the three check marks, I thought I better add a fourth trigger for those learners who didn’t need to review any of the lesson because they already had it all mastered. In that instance a box would appear telling them so. That box had two states; Normal and an initial Hidden state. I then set a trigger so that the box would only appear (change to Normal) if all three of the variables were set to True.

I’ve done enough talking, check out the lesson here and let me know what you think! I’d also like to thank Jackie Van Nice for sharing with me her transparent Storyline player to create this lesson, that was real time-saver!

This Spelling Bee is for the Birds

In this weeks e-learning challenge, we designers were asked to create a spelling bee interaction as the 2014 National Spelling Bee kicks off. I thought that was a great idea as it was something I’d never thought of doing before. I decided to create one based on physics terminology and have it presented by a parrot.

Physics Spelling Bee Intro

Click to play the Physics Spelling Bee

How the hxll did I come up with that?
Well, I had this beautiful image of a parrot flying over a rainforest I had used previously to create an interactive portfolio of my work. I called it “E-Learning that Soars” and I thought maybe I could do something with that. On the other hand, I’m a huge fan of this science program hosted by Morgan Freeman called “Through the Wormhole” where they talk about all sorts of fascinating topics like parallel universes, time travel, etc.

So to combine these two disparate elements of the parrot and physics, I created a story that goes like this: An up-and-coming physicist named Laurie Worthenhiemer has a pet parrot and because Laurie’s always talking about physics at home, Polly (the parrot) has picked up on a lot of the terminology. Polly has a lot of spare time on her hands, so she creates this spelling bee to challenge and entertain her house guests.

Build it and they will come…
Next, I picked four physics terms for players to spell. As is the case in most spelling bees, you’ll hear the term, then you can ask for a definition and hear it used in a sentence. I reached into my “inner-bird” and recorded all the voices using Cubase SX software and a nice Audio Technica microphone. I set up triggers in Articulate Storyline to play the different audio files when the user clicks for the definitions and the sentences.

Definitions and sentence options

Definitions and sentence options

This might sound obvious, but I also made sure that the notes button on Storyline’s player was not checked, as the transcript I was reading from would have revealed the words and thus given away their correct spelling.

The spelling part
I used Storyline’s built-in quiz question with a text entry field for players to type into. I took advantage of the correct and incorrect feedback layers to put in a few witty comments from Polly based on the words the players were attempting to define. I like to customize the colors and feedback on these to fit the situation rather then just going with the generic “correct, you chose the right answer” and “incorrect, you did not choose the right answer” phrases. I also put in a little picture of Polly speaking to the players to personalize it more.

Feedback layer for right answer

Feedback layer for right answer

Keeping score
I used Storyline’s built-in quiz results slide to keep score. Again, I customized it quite a bit eliminating the “you passed” and “you did not pass” layers. Being this was just a game and not really a quiz, I just wanted to give the players a score. I also removed the “percentage right” total and just showed the points.

The final tally

The final tally

If I wanted to, I could have used the built-in pass/fail layers of the quiz results slide to show Polly making a snide comment about a lower score, and another layer with a comment responding to a higher score. Although I didn’t do that here, it’s something you might consider in building your game. So, there you have it, a spelling bee game created in Storyline presented by a parrot all about physics. Enjoy!

Roger Ebert, the Beatles, and Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy splits learning into six levels: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. The six levels were designed to help instructors and others develop learning objectives and to select the appropriate methods and learning tools.

The Challenge – In his weekly e-learning challenge, David Anderson asked us to create an interaction that introduces an instructional design principle. I chose Bloom’s Taxonomy and thought it would be a fun and useful exercise to match each level with a famous person.

I thought I better start by defining Bloom’s Taxonomy and then define the six levels so that when it came to the exercise, learners would have something to refer back to.

Defining Terms

Defining Terms

What’s the Point? – My objective in all this was for learners to be able to differentiate between (or “analyze”) the six levels, but to do it in a way that would be memorable and not get mired in abstraction. I don’t know if I can explain my creative process, but somehow it popped into my head to take people from recent history, famous for a particular talent, and to tie that talent into each of the six levels.

Inspiration Hits – Right away, I thought that Roger Ebert was a great evaluator and the Beatles were obviously very creative, and then the rest of the people just dropped right in line. So the exercise would be to match each person with the level of Bloom’s Taxonomy their particular talents best represented.

Roger Ebert makes an appearance

Roger Ebert makes an appearance

To make the exercise a little easier, I was careful to include in my definitions of the six levels certain keywords like “illustrations” and “songwriting” that I knew would help learners make the connections later. I figured Audubon was well-known for his illustrations of birds and the Beatles were obviously songwriters.

Feedback They’ll Remember – I also decided to have a little fun with some of the feedback for the right and wrong answers that related to the persons in the exercise. I used the Beatles song titles “Yes it is” for the positive feedback and “Help” for the negative. A little humor can go a long way in learning retention, especially when it’s relevant.

Help, you got it wrong!

Help, you got it wrong!

Wrapping it all Up – And for one last exercise, I thought it would be really cool to ask the learner what level of Bloom’s Taxonomy the actual activity they were participating in most closely matched, which in this case was “analyzing.”

So, check it out for yourself. I hope you have as much fun playing the game as I did making it and that maybe you’ll learn something new along the way. I sure did.

7 Tips for Writing Good Quiz Questions

One of the easiest ways to confirm your e-learning is actually teaching the learner something is to confirm it with a well-written final quiz. What does that mean exactly? Here’s a quick list of things to do and things to avoid when writing effective quiz questions.

1. Don’t ask overly simple questions. There has to be some challenge. If the answer to the question you’re asking them is too obvious, perhaps they don’t need to learn it at all, or more likely, it just needs to be rewritten with better, more-convincing erroneous answer options. Otherwise, they’ll forget it.

Overly simplistic question

Overly simplistic question

2. Make sure your wrong answers aren’t actually right ones. Under certain circumstances, a good bluff answer might actually be right for the situation. You could try rephrasing the question to drill down further, so that your wrong answers are really wrong (the question part might be too broad in other words).

3. Don’t make the questions too hard. Know your audience. Have they been at the job for 20 years or are they new hires? What’s the technical level of the learner? You don’t want to make the question too hard for the level of learner you’re addressing.

4. Add a little humor once in a while. In a multiple choice question, this could mean throwing in a wrong answer that’s a bit silly. As long as a couple of the wrong options sound realistic, you can include some humor without making it too easy.

Question with humor

Question with humor

5. Tell a story. Put in a little bit of narrative, to make it more memorable. Characters and story can paint a memorable picture that the learner can call upon when they need the information in a real life situation. It doesn’t have to be a novel, just provide enough narrative to present the question in context.

Click to view storytelling example

Click to view storytelling example

6. If it’s part of an interaction, try delaying the final answer. For example: put your learner into a scenario and give them options of what to do where none of the options lead directly to the final correct answer. Instead, have all options lead the learner to ask more questions and gather more information. Then you can present them again with two or three new options to choose from. Based on the additional information they just learned, they will now know enough to be able to choose the correct final answer. This causes learners to think more deeply about the situation, teaching them what questions they should ask before they draw any conclusions.

Click to view example of delayed answer.

Click to view example of delayed answer

7. Provide useful feedback when they get it wrong (and right). Provide clues if they get it wrong and give them a second change to answer the question. I usually do this on questions that appear before the final quiz, so learners can test their knowledge.

Feedback for right answer

Feedback for right answer

Feedback with clue for wrong answer

Feedback with clue for wrong answer