Wednesday 27 May 2015

Graphics in Elearning

I know that the numerous authors are correct about the importance of appropriate graphics in an elearning program. The key word is “appropriate”. Just as in web design, using an image that is not relevant is worse than not having any.

Graphics or images need to be:

  • Relevant or appropriate;
  • Understandable; and 
  • Useful in the communication of the ideas presented.

An example of a clean layout with consistent font, colour and shapes
A clean layout with consistent font, colour and shapes
As much as images are required, I believe that it’s just as important to use consistent font, colours and shapes (such as buttons). This makes the elearning look professional and helps users know what to expect. 

The other point is to avoid at all cost the “wall of words”. Using images is one way of breaking things up. In my opinion the best way to avoid the wall of words is to keep the words to an absolute minimum. This is done by conveying what is necessary and leaving out the “nice to know”. I have found a great resource in Lisa M. Russell’s documents, including Clean the Clutter of your Words

I have been reading and using the book, White Space is Not Your Enemy (WSINYE) by Rebecca Hagen & Kim Golombisky. It’s informative with lots of examples, both good and bad. I highly recommend it.
White Space is Not Your Enemy book cover
White Space is Not Your Enemy

As for designing graphics, I seriously looked into learning software more technical than PowerPoint, the Snipping Tool and Paint. I use Photoshop minimally but I decided to spend my energy deepening my knowledge of design and development of elearning rather than graphics. At this time in my career, having some knowledge of web design is more important than becoming a graphic artist. If I need to, I can always hire a graphic designer.

What I've learned:
  • I can't learn it all, especially if there is a steep learning curve! Graphic design will have to wait for a next life.
  • I have a much better chance at becoming good at elearning and web design than graphic design.
  • It's still pretty amazing what I can do with PowerPoint, the Snipping Tool and Paint!

Friday 15 May 2015

Using Storyboards in E-learning Design

Storyboards were first used to design animation movies. They can also be useful in the design of e-learning. Storyboards come in all types of format - from paper, to Word or PowerPoint documents, to specialized storyboard tools such as Storyboard That
The Purpose of Storyboarding
For some interesting background, here is a great YouTube video, The Purpose of Storyboarding
I first started using storyboards about 5 years ago, after beginning to design my first e-learning course in PowerPoint (based on Jane Bozarth’s first edition of Better Than Bullet Points: Creating Engaging e-Learning with PowerPoint). I was having a great time creating an e-learning version of an in-class course I had created and taught but it wasn't clear where I was going with the course. After reading Connie Malamed's blog about storyboards, I downloaded the examples of storyboards found in her Storyboard Depot, adapted one and started using it.
I realise that I use a combination of storyboarding and designing directly in Adobe Captivate. After reading the articles on storyboards and wireframes (they are mostly used to design websites), in my How to Design an E-learning Program course, and watching the above video, I realise that I don’t use storyboards in a visual context. For me, it’s all about the content (text) and the flow. The visuals come later.
Storyboarding the Menu
After doing my initial research into my learners and what they need to know, I write a first draft of my learning objectives. This is where I also figure out if I can do the work in one module or if I should have a series of modules. I use good old fashion paper to get this done.
The Menu in Adobe Captivate
The Menu in Captivate
From my potential objectives, I prepare my introduction as well as plan out how to develop the module using the storyboard. I use the storyboard until I'm comfortable with my outline and where the module is heading. Once I have a path for my module, I usually start working in Captivate. My transfer from storyboard to Captivate is pretty intuitive. When I am doing more word smithing than planning, that’s usually where I go to Captivate.
I may end up doing the rest of the course directly in Captivate, but at one point I go back to the storyboard and copy the text, instructions, etc. from Captivate into it. I do this for a few reasons:
  • It's easier for the editor to review the course in the storyboard format;
  • I indicate the types and colour of the text boxes, info on the visuals and buttons I used as well as other techniques such as roll-over captions within the storyboard;
  • After potential students and my colleagues review the first published version of the course, I make the suggested changes in the storyboard. I use this version to make sure that everything is consistent. Then I make the changes in Captivate.
  • Once completed, I forward the storyboard to the translators. I put everything that needs to be translated in French in red within the storyboard;
  • Once it's translated, I copy the French text in a copy of the original version of the module in Captivate;
  • The French storyboard gets revised by the editor and I make the final minor changes to the French Captivate version.
I like using both the storyboard and Captivate to design my e-learning courses. 
Storyboarding the Main Panel Page
Storyboarding the Main Panel Page

The Main Panel page in Adobe Captivate
The Main Panel Page in Adobe Captivate
 What I've learned:  

  • It's important that I not get bogged down with using a specific tool because I "should" rather than what works best for me.
  • I don't spend time with the visuals in my storyboard because honestly I can't draw (free motion quilting doesn't count) and I know that I would spend all of my time on the visuals. Visuals are important, but they have to support the ideas. It's best if I do these after I know where I'm going.

Friday 8 May 2015

Why E-Learning? Why Not?

I have just started another e-learning course through the University of Toronto's Continuing Education. This one is How to Design an E-Learning Program. The first week is essentially an overview of the other two courses I've taken - Visual Design and Display of Information, and Writing for the Web.

My first discussion topic is:
Comment on a few of the advantages and benefits of e-learning in terms of why you might choose e-learning as your educational medium, and list specific advantages and benefits that impact the program you will be developing as part of this course.
Here's a quick summary of the program I'll be developing in this course:
  • Posting on the Intranet Using Umbraco is intended for employees who are tasked with posting content on the intranet. The intranet platform, Umbraco, is relatively easy to use for most simple posting tasks.
  • Employees are located across the country and presently get personal face-to-face training / coaching when possible. Otherwise, I use a combination of web-ex and conference calls.
  • Front page of the Posting on the Intranet Using Umbraco Program
    Front page of the Posting on the Intranet Using Umbraco Program
  • There are only a few employees in each business unit who post on the intranet, however there is often a very high turn-over for performing these tasks since it is often in addition to the rest of their regular jobs.
Advantages and benefits to having this program be delivered through e-learning:
  • Convenience: employees will be able to follow the course at their desk, where ever they are. No more scheduling of boardrooms, web-ex and conference calls.
  • Flexible: they will be able to access the parts of the course that they are interested in or are having difficulty with. 
  • Self-paced: Instead of learning the basics within a two-hour time frame, employees will be able to stop the training when they feel they have had enough at the time.
  • Economic option: it is not feasible to keep teaching/ coaching employees one at a time, or in small groups. Eventually another method of delivery will be required.
  • Consistent with the skill sets of the employees: employees who will post on the intranet are usually quite comfortable with technology. An e-learning program will not be outside of their comfort zone.
What I learned in this first week:

  • It's going to take me more than one day a week working from home to complete all the readings and assignments for this course!
  • I read a few articles on the difference and effectiveness between e-learning and face-to-face training. The bottom line is that e-learning can be as effective or as bad, as face-to-face training. The quality of the training is generally based on its design and how it addresses the learning needs of students. 
  • I discovered a couple of MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) websites. I had found one website but the course I wanted was neither free or nor available in Canada. I've now registered for the course, Leaders of Learning with edX. It's a course in their archive which suites me better since I can do it at my own pace.  I suspect I may have my hands full with my Design course. I was also intrigued with Coursera. There have less archived courses and more actual asynchronous online courses. 
Wish me luck!