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?

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E-Learning for Rock Stars

In this age of free downloads, diminishing royalties, and pirating, in the last decade the music business has taken a huge hit to their bottom line. Not that it was ever easy to “make it” in music in the first place.

So how does a band these days book a financially successful tour and boost record and CD sales along the way? Well, there are a few basic tips I thought I would share in this short sample of a game called “You’re an American Band.”

Click here to play game

Click here to play game

For this to actually be a useful and informative game to teach people how to break into the music business, you’d need to add a lot more steps and information. This game is really a prototype and now that it’s set up, it would be easy to add more points along the “tour route” with additional tips.

Click here to play German drinking game

Click here to play German drinking game

I built this game from a template created by Jackie Van Nice. And Jackie created her template based on a German drinking game she built a few months back. Thank you Jackie for sharing your awesome template with the e-learning community.

Renovations
Building a course or game from a template is kind of like renovating a house. You’re pulling out the carpet and putting in hard wood floors here, replacing wallpaper with paint there, and sometimes even tearing down a wall or two. The whole idea behind using an existing template is re-purposing.

Mapping it Out
I’ve always loved maps and when I saw that Jackie’s original game worked off of a map of Germany, I realized I could replace that with a tour map and that my game could be about a rock band booking an east coast tour. That was where the whole idea was born.

Tour map

Tour map

Each point on the map led to a challenge question, so all I had to do was come up with a list of questions about booking rock shows and then just tie them into each city along the tour route.

Challenge is presented

Challenge is presented

The Progress Meter
Jackie had a progress meter appear after each question was answered correctly. Hers actually showed a beer mug slowly getting filled. Since mine was about boosting CD sales, I had CDs slowly stacking up on a spool with a caption showing how many CD sales the band had racked up.

CD tower progress meter

CD tower progress meter

DIY
Being a musician myself, I took some previously recorded song and guitar bits I had and inserted them into the introduction and the map sections. I also used some standard sound effects such as tympani rolls on the CD sales progress meter, some crowd noises, and other sounds for the feedback layers as well.

Click here to play the game

Click here to play the game

This is the End
For the conclusion slide, I show our hero playing in front of a huge crowd with a Spinal Tap quote thrown in for a little comic relief. Overall, this was a very oversimplified lesson on how to make it in the music business, but really you could put in whatever content you want and it could easily be made into a very useful teaching tool for people in that industry.

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!

Show, Don’t Tell

In the e-learning world, we’re always talking about presenting subject matter to learners in a more exciting, engaging way rather than just telling them about it. But when it comes to explaining to potential clients what we do, we don’t always practice what we preach.

In this week’s e-learning challenge, David Anderson asked us to create an interactive portfolio or resume, so I got to work. I actually already had created a beautiful image of a parrot in flight over a rain forest, and I thought that would be a great image to illustrate creative impulses taking flight.

Click here to view portfolio

Click here to view portfolio

Choosing Colors
I’ve always found the whole business of choosing a palette of colors most challenging. To help with this, I used the eyedropper tool in Storyline, clicking on different parts of the bird and trees in the background picture to get my colors for the menu items and then added a 50% transparency for depth. For the Storyline Player, I used the light blue color of the bird’s feathers.

Ay Kalimba!
I’m a musician, and a couple years back I had recorded a CD of all original kalimba music. Since kalimbas are often made and played in tropical places, I knew a little sample from one of the songs would work just perfectly with the theme.

My Kalimba music CD

My Kalimba music CD

A lot of people are afraid to use more exotic images in their e-learning courses because they’re worried their corporate clients will want a more buttoned-down professional look. But I think those concerns are not only given too much weight, but also can lead to some pretty stuffy, uninspired e-learning modules.

The Lay of the Land
I broke up my work into two columns: one that focused on the type of subject matter (software, ethics, safety, regulatory) and the other on the type of interaction (games, humorous interactions, simulations, branching scenarios).

The Menu

The Menu

When they clicked on one, they could read a little explanation about why and how I did it or they could just skip right to playing the sample itself (the “show” part).

Description and link to view sample

Description and link to view sample

For anyone who wanted to see my resume, what software I used, or my blog, they could find those links on the upper right of the Player. And finally, on the bottom of the menu I had a link to a easy-to-complete contact form if they wanted to talk to me about working on a project.

I hope my experience in creating this different sort of portfolio inspires you to stretch out and get a little more imaginative. I know it’s work, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be any fun.

Creating a Gaming Experience in Storyline

In last week’s E-learning Heroes challenge, David Anderson asked us to create a game experience in Storyline. Being a music geek, I decided to create one about how to play different Turkish musical instruments. Needless to say, I had a blast and I hope you will too. The trick here was to make an e-learning tool like Storyline produce something that looks and sounds more like a game.

Getting the Look
At the start of the game, I created a slide with a genie character swooping in on a magic carpet over the city of Istanbul. After introducing the game, rather than having a boring Start button, I had the genie swoop out and another magic carpet swoop in saying “Let’s Play”.

Carpet replaces start button

Carpet replaces start button

To set the scene, I used pictures of the Grand Bazaar, a music store with loads of instruments, and close ups of the various instruments with their names. To show progress, I just had thumbnails of each instrument on the bottom, with the one they were currently working with highlighted.

Thumbnails show progress

Thumbnails show progress

Getting the Sound
Being this was a game about music; I added some cool Turkish wedding music to the introduction. Then throughout the course, you hear the sounds of shoppers at the Grand Bazaar and various people playing different musical instruments in the instrument store.

So now that I’d set the scene, it was time for the game to begin. I decided to create a drag and drop question slide and then alter it to look and sound more like a game. I spiced up the feedback layers by adding audio files of the instruments either being played correctly or incorrectly based on whether they dragged a pick or a bow onto the instrument.

Keeping Score
I had to keep in mind that this was not a quiz. So, all I really wanted to keep from the Quiz Results slide was the score in points; no percentages and no pass or fail messages. Players were allowed to play as many times as they’d like since that’s generally how it goes with games. Now that you know how I did it, why don’t you give it a try?

Click to play the game

Click to play the game