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!

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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!

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.

Let Me Try – Creating Interactive Software Simulations

Most people will remember something they’ve actually done more readily than something they were just shown how to do. With programs like Storyline it’s possible to create
e-learning modules that offer the learner the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned. To demonstrate how this might work, I created a short sample module of how to use the Player in Pinnacle’s Studio 17 video editing program.

View of Entire Interface

View of Entire Interface

I started by giving the learner a view of the entire UI, then zoomed in on the Player itself.

Bubble appears with description of button

Bubble appears with description of button

By simply using hotspots, triggers and layers in Storyline, I created a second slide where learners could click on each of the controls of the player for a description of what they do. Then it was time for the learner to get their hands dirty and try out the controls themselves.

It’s just a simulation Jim!
Because this was just a simulation and not the actual program, I needed to be sure learners could only click one button at a time following my instructions. Otherwise, there would be no way to predict where in the video they would be when they hit the rewind button for example, unless you knew where they’d left off.

To accomplish this, I created individual images of all the player control buttons and used Storyline’s “Hidden” state to hide them when I didn’t want learners to click them. Underneath all those images, I still had a picture of the entire player including the controls, so learners would still see them – even when the “clickable” images of them (on top of the picture of the player) were hidden.

Trigger Happy?
I created the following Triggers for each of the clickable images of the control buttons:

  1. A trigger to either play a video or change the state of a picture (a still shot of where the video would be) from Hidden to Normal. I should mention here that I had to set the “initial state” of all the still shots to Hidden, so learners would not see them until they clicked the button with the trigger.
  2. A trigger to play the audio clip with the instructions on which button to click next.
  3. A trigger to change the state of that button from Hidden to Normal.
  4. A trigger to change the state of the button they just clicked from Normal to Hidden – remember, I don’t want users to be able to click any other buttons because I need to control the order in which they click them to make the simulation work properly.
  5. In one instance I had to set a trigger to take learners to the next slide. I only did this once, because I had a second video showing the looping effect and thought I might be pushing my luck placing a second video on top of the first one on the same slide with all the other triggers and things going on. I guess I’d say that was a “judgment call”.

So, do you want to see the finished product? Just click here.

As always, if you need any clarification on how to do this, feel free to comment below and I’ll get back to you. I hope you enjoy creating your own software simulations. I also welcome you to check out David Anderson’s Weekly Challenge blog at E-Learning Heroes. It was because of his latest challenge that I created this simulation.

Hiding the Quiz Until the End

You have an e-learning course where your client wants the Take Quiz box to appear on the main menu, but doesn’t want learners to be able to take the quiz until after they’ve visited all the sections in the course.

They also want learners to have the option to take the different sections in any order they wish. As learners complete each section, they’ll return to the main menu. After they’ve completed all the sections, the Take Quiz box will become active so they can take the final quiz. Does this sound tricky? Fortunately, I’ve been there and can show you how to make it happen.

Main Menu with Take Quiz box on right

Main Menu with Take Quiz box on right

1. Create Two Versions of the Take Quiz Box
I needed two versions of the Take Quiz box; one that was clickable and would take learners to the final quiz, and one that was not. I named one “TQ With Link” and the other “TQ No Link”. Learners will see the “TQ No Link” box until they complete all the sections, at which time the “TQ With Link” will appear.

I put the “With Link” version on top of the “No Link” version in the timeline. Both boxes look the same to the learner, with the exception of what they say if the learner rolls over them. Since this requires that the boxes be the same size and in the same position, you can either select them in the timeline, or have one of them off to the side and set its final position after you’re done working on them. Either way, it’s a good idea to name them in the timeline to keep them straight.

2. Add States to the Two Boxes
For the “TQ With Link” box I created four states: an initial state of Hidden, and three other states; Normal, Hover, and Visited. For “TQ No Link” I created two states: Normal and Hover.

3. Add Layers and Triggers to the Two Boxes
So learners would understand why and when the Take Quiz box would be active, I created a layer called “Quiz” that said “Not available until all other sections completed” and added a trigger to make the “Quiz” layer appear when learners rolled over “TQ No Link”.

Then I created another layer called “Quiz 2” that said “Ready for a final quiz?” and added a trigger to make the “Quiz 2” layer appear when learners rolled over “TQ With Link”. And of course, I added a trigger to “TQ With Link” to go to the Quiz when the user clicks on it!

Layers with additional text appear on rollover

Layers with additional text appear on rollover

4. Create Variables and Triggers for All the Other Sections
Next, I needed a way for Storyline to know when each of the sections were completed. To do this, I created a variable and a trigger for each section.

I gave each variable a unique name I’d easily associate with the particular section and had them all start with a value of False. Then I went to the last slide of each section and created a trigger that changes the value of that variable to True when the timeline for that slide starts. That way, Storyline would know when the learner got to the last slide of each section, that meant they had successfully completed that section.

Click X symbol on right to create/edit variables

Click X symbol on right to create/edit variables

Variable created with initial setting of "false"

Variable created with initial setting of “false”

5. Create Trigger on “TQ With Link”
Lastly, on the main menu slide I added a trigger that changed the state of “TQ With Link” to Normal when the timeline for the slide starts AND when all the variables for all the other sections changed to True. Because when all the variables for all the sections are True, we know that all the sections have been completed.

When setting up this trigger, click the + sign to add as many variable changes as you need. ONE CAUTIONARY NOTE: I initially tried to just have the trigger activate when all the variables changed, but learned that that wasn’t enough, you also need to tell it to do it when the timeline for the slide starts.

Select when "timeline starts" on current slide

Select when “timeline starts” on current slide

Click + sign to add variables to trigger

Click + sign to add variables to trigger

To see a stripped-down version of how the menu looks and works, click here.

As always, I know some of this can be a bit challenging. So feel free to contact me if you have any questions about any of these steps.

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