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?


Creating a Video Quiz

This week’s Articulate e-learning challenge was to create an interactive quiz using video. Fortunately for me, I had already created one for a client in the aeronautics industry about how to tow an aircraft. Video interactions and quizzes are excellent for teaching learners how to perform step-by-step processes.

The Inspiration
Using Montse Anderson’s similar interaction about airport security for inspiration, I created my video quiz.

How It Works
At each step in the process of towing an aircraft, a question mark appears asking the learner what they should do at that point. As you’ll see in the video quiz, question marks appear when the tow vehicle approaches the aircraft, stops in front of it, and again when the tow bar is attached to both the tow vehicle and the plane, and finally when the actual towing of the aircraft begins.


Clickable question mark appears prompting learner to answer question

The learner is instructed at the beginning of the quiz to click on the question-mark prompt to open up the quiz question for that step in the process. To make things look seamless, I took a still shot of the video, layered it to the back of the quiz slide and darkened it with a semi-transparent background.


Quiz question

The learner makes a selection and the video resumes. As in most quizzes, this one also asks a few standard quiz questions and then gives the learner their final score upon completion.

How I Built It
I edited all the videos in Pinnacle Studio, then imported them into regular blank slides in Articulate Storyline.


Pinnacle Studio video editing software

I added question-mark prompts to each of the video slides, adjusting their entrance points to come in at the proper time and place. Then I created quiz question slides; multiple choice, true/false, etc.

Then going back to the video slides, I added a trigger to the question marks telling Storyline to jump to each corresponding quiz slide when the learner clicks them.


Adding a trigger

If you create your regular video slides and quiz slides in order, you don’t need to tell the quiz slides to go back to the next video slide. However, if you need to rearrange the order of the quiz questions and their corresponding video slides, you can re-position them in “Story View”.


Story View in Storyline

Finally, the Results slide and layers work the same way they normally do in any Storyline quiz. You can check out the video quiz here and let me know what you think!

Europa’s Global Ocean

Many people don’t realize that Jupiter’s moon Europa is actually covered in a global-wide ocean of liquid water. It’s an exciting prospect for humans who wish to answer the profoundly significant question “has life ever originated in other parts of the universe?”


Follow the Water
NASA’s mantra for finding life on other worlds has been “follow the water.” That’s because life as we know it depends on water to survive. Finding water on the surface of other planets and moons in our solar system has been nearly impossible because most of the time, the low atmospheric pressures on other worlds combined with extremely low temperatures prohibit it.

For H2O to exist in liquid form, there has to be enough atmospheric pressure to hold it together, and Earth is the only place we know of where that happens on the surface. On Mars or Europa for example, there just isn’t enough atmospheric pressure to hold water molecules together, so even if the temperatures get high enough for it not to freeze, it basically boils away the minute it reaches the surface.


Living on Thin Ice
The good news is that on Europa, the ice layer which covers its global ocean is so thin, it allows the ice to occasionally crack, briefly exposing its liquid ocean to the surface. This means that future missions searching for life wouldn’t even have to bring substantial drilling equipment to drill through the ice to find it. A rover could travel to a promising location where cracking is likely to open up the ocean to the surface, and samples could be taken right then and there. By not having to develop and send a heavy payload of drilling equipment, an effective mission to search for life on Europa could be done relatively cheaply by NASA standards. We could literally be only a few million dollars away from solving one of the most significant and profound questions in human history, “are we alone in the universe?”


So what could possibly be living down there? Isn’t Europa just too far from the sun to support life? Actually, we already have found a variety of living organisms deep in Earth’s oceans completely removed from any sunlight, that live off of thermal vents at the bottom of the ocean floor. These vents release food and heat which these creatures we call extremophiles live off of. Due to the incredibly powerful gravitational pull from Jupiter, in additional to Europa’s sister moons, Europa experiences significant thermal heat from the constant stretching of its core. How does stretching create heat? For an example of this, just bend a paperclip back and forth and notice how it heats up, and eventually cracks. That’s what’s happening on Europa.


Check It Out
In response to David Anderson’s Articulate Elearning Challenge, I created this little graphic to talk about Europa’s global ocean and what it means to the search for extraterrestrial life. I also wrote, performed, and recorded a David Lynchian “Song for Europa” on my crusty old Mirage keyboard sampler (don’t ya just love that 8-bit sampling rate!). Let me know what you think.

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.

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

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.


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.


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.


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!

X Marks the Spot

When they were boys growing up in Michigan in 1965, Rick and Marty Lagina were to read a Reader’s Digest article that would change their lives. It was about a mysterious island off the coast of Nova Scotia called Oak Island. Many strange anomalies have been found on the island including coconut fiber buried deep underground where the nearest coconut tree is hundreds of miles away, and oak trees native to Africa mysteriously grow there and nowhere else in the region, thus the name.


Going all the way back to 1795, treasure hunters from all walks of life including FDR and John Wayne have visited the island and dug countless holes in search of riches or ancient artifacts. Theories about what can be found there range from pirate treasure to the ark of the covenant to the lost writings of Shakespeare. Since the long and considerably expensive hunt began, the search has yielded a Spanish coin dating back to 1652, rocks with strange hieroglyphs carved into them, and a system of underground shafts designed to flood out any efforts to discover what’s buried underground.


So, if someone gave you a shovel on Oak Island and asked you to start digging, where would you break ground? This interaction gives you the opportunity to explore the island and learn more about some of the key areas of interest on the island including the infamous “Money Pit”, borehole “10X”, Logan’s Cross, and the mysterious swamp off of Smith’s Cove. As Marty Lagina loves to say, “Put an X on the spot”.


Click or tap to play “Drilling Down on Oak Island”

Besides the mysterious Oak Island itself, this interaction was inspired by
this week’s e-learning challenge to create an interaction where learners can zoom in on details on a document, or in this case, a map. I used Articulate Storyline’s slider tool to reveal layers which give details on the selected region. This same approach could be employed to highlight details on a document using the slider to select the zoom region.