Interactive Timeline on Human Rights

I have PBS to thank for my love of US history. It all began with Ken Burns’ series on the Civil War and a two-part American Experience series on FDR. Since then, I’ve also eaten up Presidential and other biographies by many of the commentators on those shows from HW Brands to Doris Kearns Goodwin. I learned one very important thing, that the freedom and equality we enjoy in this country was not a reality the day that Jefferson said all men were created equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And neither did it happen when Lincoln proclaimed the slaves free during the Civil War.

Stanton and Douglass

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Frederick Douglas – two giants of human rights

The Challenge
So when David Anderson at Articulate said this week’s challenge was to create an interactive timeline, I knew what mine was going to be about. This timeline is by no means an exhaustive one. I tried to stick with dates when the people of our whole country enjoyed a certain freedom. So when I put 1900 as the year when the Married Women’s Property Act was enacted, it really started in New York in the mid 1800s, but the rest of the states didn’t pass their own versions until later, the last one being in 1900. I had to reduce the timeline entries into fewer, more significant entries to avoid getting bogged down into too many details. Hopefully, this entry will serve to whet your appetite to learn more.

SmartGraphicTimeline

SmartArt Graphic created in PowerPoint

The Build
I used PowerPoint’s SmartArt to create the graphic model. Then I exported pieces of the model into Storyline and assembled them there. I used layers to reveal the detail on what happened each year with a simple click-and-reveal trigger. Originally, I tried to get all the years on one screen, but it proved to be too much content, with the text rendering too small to be readable. So I split it up into separate screens, four years on each page.
Check it out here and let me know what you think!

Getting a Rise out of Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival

Do you love to graze on a variety of delectable foods from all over the globe? Are you a garden and topiary lover? Do you jump at the chance to play unusual and exotic musical instruments in outdoor environments? If any of these things get a rise out of you, you’re going to love this Articulate Rise course.

EpcotFlowerGardenFrontPageShot

Articulate 360 includes Storyline and Studio which I’ve already worked with for years, but I have never built a course in Rise. So after watching a few instructional videos presented by Tom Kuhlmann, I decided to just dive in and start creating my first Rise course.

Image Options
There are a LOT of ways you can present images in Rise, and being that this course is about one of the most visually-stunning topics, the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot, I explored a couple of them –  the carousel and the flip card interaction.

Epcot_Carousel.png

Carousel Interaction

One very nice time-saver I learned about from Tom Kuhlmann was how to use PowerPoint to set the aspect ratio / dimensions of the pictures and export them all as PNGs so you end up with nice, consistent images. For the carousel above, I used the standard 16×9 aspect ratio and for the flip card interaction, the 1×1 was a perfect fit.

Epcot_Flipcard.png

Flipcard Interaction with 3rd Image flipped to reveal Bread Pudding, mmmm!!!

Video Options
You can also both import and embed videos into Rise. So I grabbed a video shot by e-learning hero Jackie Van Nice of yours truly playing a marimba type instrument in one of the outdoor garden interactions at the festival. Man, was that a blast.

Epcot_video.png

Imported Video of me in my silly cowboy hat playing the ??? (open course to play video)

For the butterfly garden section, I found a wonderful YouTube video describing the exhibit and embedded it into the course.

So I have to admit, there are no new, earth-shattering, thinking-outside-of-the-box ideas here on how to present images and video in Rise, it’s my first course after all, but it really is a fun interactive course which I think you’ll enjoy. Maybe I’ll run into you at the next festival. Check the course out here.

 

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

Plussing it in E-Learning

When Walt Disney’s imagineers thought they “nailed it” with a piece of animation or an attraction, he would implore them to “plus it” to give it that extra bit of magic. I like to think one of our roles as e-learning designers should be to do the same.

Click to view Blowing Bubbles Sample

Click to view Blowing Bubbles Sample

But when we start thinking about throwing in lots of bells and whistles the old fears start creeping in. “My client or company won’t want to pay for all that fancy wizardry.” “What will this do to the budget?” “What about project creep?” “Won’t this just be distracting to the learner?”

I think there is a right way and a wrong way to “plus” an e-learning piece. Yes, you don’t want to blow the budget and no, you don’t want to overdo it. Think of “plussing it” like adding an exotic spice or two at the end to enhance a good recipe. You’ve already got the basic graphic and instructional design approach figured out and most of the course is already developed.

Click to view Sample of Plussing Bullets

Click to view Sample of Plussing Bullets

Now you can sprinkle in a few bits of pixie dust here and there to add a bit of wow to the course. You don’t want it on every screen as it can lose it’s impact or simply become overwhelming. I remember seeing a PowerPoint presentation about a software piece called TrainEngine, and the designer replaced every bullet on every slide with the image of a train engine coming in from the side. It was a clever idea, but it was WAY too much.

Finally, keep in mind that your visual/audio enhancements need to support what you’re trying to teach at that moment and not distract from it.  Ultimately, your goal is to teach the learner something specific and make it memorable. In this sample below, notice how I added bits of sound to go with the images and how the bus appears to roll into the picture while staying inside the frame.

Click to view sample

Click to view sample

Making Bullets More Imaginative

As an e-learning designer, I see more bullets than most police officers do in a lifetime. So much of our work involves taking old bullet-heavy power point presentations and transforming them into fun, vibrant e-learning courses.

Click to view sample

Click to view sample

One problem with bulleted lists (especially the wordy and long ones) is that it can be overwhelming for the learner to have to read the bullets and pay attention to the narration at the same time. If you’ve ever tried to read a newspaper article while someone is talking to you, you’ll know what I mean.

My usual approach is to replace the bullets altogether with pictures, especially if the narrator is already saying the same thing as the bullets. When you use pictures this way, you want the pictures to reinforce (and not distract from) what is being said by the narrator.

But sometimes the client really wants to see those bulleted lists up there. So, I came up with this hybrid of images and text. The samples below were from three different courses, one each on water, energy, and school site investigations. Just click on the pictures to launch them.

Here’s one about water:

Click to view sample.

Click to view sample.

Here’s one about doing an investigation, thus the magnifying glass:

Breathing life into bullets

Click to view sample.

Here’s one about energy:

Click to view sample

Click to view sample

I hope you enjoyed these. Let me know what you think!

You can check out anytime you like…

So, you’re taking an e-learning module on ethics for work and you get to the end of the course and… well, you just took the final quiz and it looks like you passed, and… you’re finished right?… but how do you know for sure? It’s kind of like that Eagles tune Hotel California.

It may seem a bit too obvious for most e-learning designers, and maybe that’s why they forget it. But from the learner’s perspective, how do they know when they’ve finished the module? You’ve got to let them know!

In this week’s e-learning challenge, David Anderson asked us to come up with a creative and interesting way to tell the learner they’ve completed the module. Here’s how I did mine.

I decided it should say “Congratulations, you passed with flying colors” the assumption being they had to take a final quiz before exiting the course. That lead me to search out a free-to-use image of a bird in flight that I would animate.

click to see the finished product

click to see the finished product

Breaking up the Image in PowerPoint
I used PowerPoint’s “remove background” tool to remove the bird from the scene it was flying over. Then I right clicked the image and saved it as a picture (PNG file). Then I duplicated the slide three times and used that same “remove background” tool to isolate the two wings and the body and saved them as images as well. 

bird removed from background

bird removed from background

Creating the Animation Cells in PowerPoint
I created a new PowerPoint file, found a suitable picture of a rainforest from overhead to put in the background of all the slides, then imported the PNG images of the two wings and body to put on top of it. Then I duplicated that slide and adjusted the wings slightly on each and saved all those slides as PNG images.

animation cells in PowerPoint

animation cells in PowerPoint

Animating the Image in PowerPoint
Then I create a third PowerPoint file, imported the slide images I just created showing the wings in different positions, and set each picture to animate in “after previous” (instead of the default “on click”). Using the “save as” option, I selected the WMV file extension to save the PowerPoint as a video instead.

Importing into Storyline
I then created a Storyline file, and imported the WMV file. I set the video to start playing automatically. I also added a trigger telling Storyline to play the video again after it stops, so that the video would loop indefinitely. Lastly, I used the eyedropper tool to match the colors of the player and the text bubbles with the bird and the trees in the picture. Click here to see the finished product.

And now, in case you’re wondering, you’re done reading this article. You can go home now.