Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What is good eLearning?

I've read several blog posts lately that all tie together in my mind to help us define what constitutes good eLearning programs. As we all know there are many things that work together when we are creating our programs to produce something that the learners will actually want to take part in so lets take a look at a few areas.

Content - Content is vital to any eLearning (or any learning) presentation. If there isn't quality content being presented, then what is the point? All you are doing is wasting your time and the learners time and creating frustration in the process. Ellen posts about this in her blog "What makes online learning effective?" and I completely agree with her.

Resources - With so many tools that are available to us to create our programs it is important that we manage the resources we use and don't just throw in more tools and techniques than we need to. Sometimes it is more appropriate for focusing on one or two techniques and resources to create a better program rather than a more confusing one with several techniques and methods. Here is a blog posting with "Top Five Tips for Managing Resources." that provides helpful tips and tricks.

People - With the technological advancements that make eLearning such a real and useful possibility I think that we can often forget that we are ultimately designing our programs for people to use and learn from. With the distance from the learner we get caught up with the resources and tools and forget what learners what and need and that whatever we provide them with has to be interesting in order for them to be engaged and using the programs. Not only did I like the title of Michele Martin's blog post "It's not the tool that's boring, it's you." I also like what she said. We can't just throw something out there and expect learners to accept and love it, if I wouldn't enjoy participating in the program presented like that then why would my learners?

Bringing all three of these things together and remembering them as I am preparing my presentations helps me to produce programs that people are using and learning from. I think it's a good thing though to remind myself of the basics every once in a while as well and these are the building blocks for quality programs.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action

In several recent posts I have discussed video production projects that I'm working on. I find it interesting that I have come to a point in my career where I spend so much time taking and editing video into quality projects that are used for a variety of purposes. To give credit where credit is due the only reason that I am able to easily produce quality work is through the Camtasia Studio program that I use. Thankfully it is easy to use and provides me with the ability to combine my video, still pictures, audio and other sound files with transitions and closed captioning to create professional looking projects. We've been able to update our websites and provide a more "real" feeling to the jobs that we do which has been received well by both our employees and our customers. The other nice thing that I like is that there wasn't a large financial investment to get these types of projects off the ground. We bought a video camera, a microphone and the software and were ready to get to work. That's my kind of budget and my kind of timeline.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Video production - what works?

Ever have one of those days where you feel like for each forward step you take you end up taking about 12 backward? I've been stuck in that cycle for the last month or so with a project I'm working on and I look to you for input and advice.

I'm working on publishing video to the web and finding the right combination of file type, size, encryption, etc. has been rather elusive. These video's are approximately 1 minute in length and are high motion. We have tried a variety of frame sizes and as a result of course gotten a variety of file sizes. I've done some research but cannot find that there are "standards" to make this a bit easier and not being a technically minded person this hasn't been an easy task so any input would be appreciated. Have you found something that works?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Specific Tools for Specific Jobs

I feel like I fell off the face of the earth with not having been in the office or near a computer for over a week. Good news is I'm back and beginning to un-bury myself from emails and other things that came in while I was gone. Before I left I posted about some of the tools that I use in my eLearning creation process and I wanted to go into a bit more depth on some of the tools and how I use them and what I like about them.

The first one I'll talk about is the one which I use the most often and that is Articulate. This was the program that started it all for me with regard to elearning. I immediately liked the program because it was easy for me to use and followed an intuitive path for rapid creation of programs. I liked that I could use all the powerpoint creations that I've already put so much time and effort into creating and convert them with little difficulty into a web-based training program.

Now that I've been using it for over a year I find myself in a position where I am constantly challenging myself to think outside of the box and use the tool in new and creative ways to make engaging and fun programs. There are many tools that are part of the studio and they can be used in a variety of ways to meet your needs. There is also great support within the Articulate website and blog posts constantly come out to give you new and creative ways to do things.

All things being said, I cannot say enough about Articulate. I really enjoy using the project and although my current projects have not allowed me to utilize it much I look forward to getting back to using it in the very near future.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tools of My Trade

I've been thinking recently about all of the tools that are used in creating elearning courses. Each tool of course has it's own purpose and when you are able to use them correctly they can help you create something fantastic. I thought I'd share the tools of my trade that I use and how I use them.

Articulate Studio is what started me on the path for eLearning creation. It is one of my standard tools and the more I use it the more flexible I'm able to be with presentation creation. I've had some of my co-workers use this tool to create their own elearning courses with much success.

Camtasia Studio has become my best friend and constant companion recently. I'm in the middle of working on several different video projects so this has been the tool sitting on the top of my tool box for a while.

Audacity is a tool that I've used for audio recording and editing for many different projects. It is very easy to use and I've published podcasts with it as well as used the audio files I've created from it with my video files in Camtasia (I love it when things work together).

Adobe Flash CS4 this tool has been by far the most difficult one for me to learn how to use. I'm not a computer expert and my technological expertise is non-existent. With that being said, I am proud to say that I've taken some on-line courses and learned how to use it and my first eLearning presentation using this tool will be published shortly. I can see many possible uses for it in the future.

Cartoon Solutions is a tool that I love. It enables me to add additional interesting elements to my presentations whether I'm utilizing PowerPoint or Flash. These characters really help bring the presentations to life.

Then of course there are various other tools I use to incorporate pictures and music into presentations but they are too numerous to list.

As I have used these tools I've learned some shortcuts and easier (for me at least) ways to work with them and those are what I'll be sharing in future posts.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wonderful Surprise

Whilst in the middle of a major case of creativity block I was looking through the various blogs that I read and to my wonderful surprise I found that my blog was listed as an additional workplace elearning blog on Tony Karrer's eLearning Technology Blog.

Now if only I could figure out the best way to publish video files for our website.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Subject Matter Expert's(SME) & Instructional Designer's (ID) Working together

The big question on the Learning Circuit this month is about Working with Subject Matter Experts. This is an interesting subject for me as often I have been both the Instructional Designer and the Subject Matter Expert and the roles can clash with each other. As the Subject Matter Expert I want to make sure that all the "necessary" information is presented as I would present it in an in-person class however, as an Instructional Designer I know that there are things that need to be changed in order to present an interesting and engaging course that people will actually watch and learn from.

When I've worked with other SMEs to create eLearning and I've been the ID it has been interesting to step back and replay the conversations that we have. As I am looking at the materials from a design perspective the SME is looking at it from the content perspective. These two perspectives can work together, however, I think that each side needs to educate the other on the perspective that they are coming from. For example, recently I was working with a SME on a project and we were reviewing the first draft of what I'd put together from his materials. Overall he liked the project, however, he didn't understand were some of his information was included and how learners would know to find it. He was wanting more of a "page turner" experience where I was proposing more of a learner based interactive experience where they were in control of what they learned. After explaining the purpose behind the design and listening to his concerns about the information being included we came to a compromise and what I feel is an interactive course that will provide ample information on the topic. This was a success since both sides were willing to listen and ultimately the learner benefits.

I think that both of the sides of this relationship are necessary and they can work together to produce quality eLearning programs that will benefit the end user.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Has it been a year already?

As I looked at the September 1st date on my calendar I was amazed. No, it wasn't just the amazement that summer is gone - as well as a good portion of the year - or that there are only 115 shopping days left until Christmas. I was amazed that we have been implementing and utilizing our eLearning program for a year. We have come a long way and I thought I'd reminisce a bit.

May 2008 - I started with my company and was assigned as project lead for looking at alternative training delivery methods. I began research to establish baseline cost information for the "as is" picture or our training delivery.

June 2008 - Project kicked off and the real work began. Through the month of June we evaluated many options to meet our needs of delivering training and reducing travel costs.

July 21, 2008 - Made recommendations for alternative training methods. This was the start of our current blended training delivery and the beginning of utilizing eLearning solutions for our training programs.

August 2008 - Developed our implementation plan. This required the purchase and installation of rapid development software and learning how to use it.

September 8, 2008 - First eLearning course completed!!

This timeline makes it look simple and without the bumps in the road (which there were many). It is nice to look back now and see where we are compared to where we were.

Today our training delivery looks a bit different. We have 17 web-based training courses published. We are utilizing web-based meetings and webinars for trainings on a regular basis and have trained many employees through these options and I have 7 web-based training projects in the works for additional training opportunities. These numbers don't include any of the video projects I'm working on for use in our recruiting efforts which has been another interesting development for us. The most exciting thing for me is our cost savings over the past year of ....(drum roll please).....more than $11,500 while still providing quality training to our employees.

It has been quite a year!