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?

Advertisements

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

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

What Should You Include in a QA Checklist? Part One

First off, I should apologize. In the words of Robert Palmer, “I didn’t mean to turn you on” with such a sexy and provocative subject as the Quality Assurance Checklist. So with all apologies aside, let’s get this party started.

perfect-pouty-lips

What’s it for?
We use QA Checklists to troubleshoot for errors in navigation, animations, spelling, graphic elements and a whole host of other things. QACs are also great for ensuring the styles are consistent throughout a series of courses.

Consistency Aids Comprehension
Let’s say you’re doing software training. You may have had a number of SMEs from different areas of the company who have contributed content. Some of them italicize the names of each screen name, some put them in parenthesis, some capitalize the first letter of every report name, some don’t, some put keyboard commands in bold, some don’t.

For the learner, software training can be difficult enough. One almost subliminal way of making your training more intuitive and comprehensible is to simply be consistent. If all report names are in title case, all screen names are italicized, and all keyboard commands are in bold; the learner will naturally pick that up and have a much easier time understanding your instructions.

Branding
You also run into this a lot in sales training where the company’s name, their line of products and services, and their brands are supposed to be presented a certain way. Here’s a before and after, just to give you an example:

BEFORE: TrueSearch’s SearchTech solutions offer a variety of software products to address your customer’s SEO needs including: SearchBait, ExecuSearch, and RealTimeMonitor. True-search designed search-tech solutions with their particular business in mind. Realtime-monitor, for example can be tailored to any company’s particular SEO needs.

AFTER: TrueSearch’s SearchTech solutions offer a variety of software products to address your customer’s SEO needs including: SearchBait, ExecuSearch, and RealTimeMonitor. TrueSearch designed SearchTech solutions with their particular business in mind. RealTimeMonitor, for example can be tailored to any company’s particular SEO needs.

Be Careful With Search and Replace
One final note of caution. NEVER do a “search and replace all” or you’ll suffer some embarrassing consequences! As tedious as it may seem, you’ll want to look at each instance of a word or phrase individually. I can’t tell you how many times a “search and replace all” has backfired resulting in unexpected global errors.

embarrassed

Free QA Checklist
In my next post, I will talk in more detail about other areas to include in your QA Checklist. But for now, here’s a free, editable one I created in Excel to get you started.