Archive for the ‘Instructional Designers’ Category

Sometimes – working for nothing just feels “right”…

December 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Sometimes, someone just leaves a great impression.

On the PowToon website, users have a way to request work/consulting from me. Many of the messages I get are either “please do this for me for nothing…”, or personal insults.

Last week, someone contacted me, wanting help with a school project – they wanted help adding “cool stuff” to a project.

Normally, I would just reply with a pleasant reply, explaining it was not a support line, or a “fee help line”, but this email was different.

Apart from wanting “cool stuff”, (which I suggested was not the right thing…), they obviously wanted some HELP, (and had also asked about my prices).

So – I started an email exchange.

During last week, that person and I exchanged ideas, concepts, and what I saw was someone GROWING, someone with an open mind willing to learn, and also being appreciative of the advice I was giving.

I love working with people who show some enthusiasm:

Thanks you so much! That really helped me

Thanks for all the help !! I really appreciate it. 

I added all your suggestions. Thank you

In between each of these was another question, and I really hope that I helped someone grow in their skillset.

Just occasionally, you FEEL that doing something for nothing is a good thing to do. It makes so much more sense than answering the emails that mean nothing.

Today I got an email from the same online form that had 3 words in it – “Philosphy of Education”. If they can’t be bothered to read the form, or use full sentences, and realise what it is for then why should I? I’d rather reserve my efforts for the Stephanies of the world, and Stephanie – I hope that project went brilliantly, it was fun working with you.

FABULOUS article on Storywriting from Sparkol Videoscribe

December 1, 2014 1 comment

I seldom re-use other people’s content here, but this article from Videoscribe is worth quoting.


The potential of Google Glass as an e-learning device (guest blogger – John Laskaris)

October 27, 2014 1 comment

A first today – a guest blog from John Laskaris, eLearning Specialist, Instructional Designer, TalentLMS and eFront Evangelist. Many thanks to John for his insightful look into the future in terms of linking Google Glass and eLearning.

Google Glass

Technology, from the mighty computer to the lowly lever, has always been about expanding our powers and capabilities. As the famed sociologist Marshall McLuan observed “all technologies are extensions of our physical and nervous systems to increase power and speed”. For the most part of history, though, this expansion had the form of tools that we made use of. It was only in the 20th century that the concept of technology as a hybrid between man and machine finally emerged as a shared dream of science fiction and science alike.

We might still be some ways off from fully realizing that dream, but we’re getting quite close, with inventions covering the whole gamut of human abilities, from the humble hearing aid to intelligent prosthetic limbs and prototype brain-machine interfaces. And with advances in miniature mobile CPUs and wearables, those kinds of tools are slowly but steadily entering the consumer market. In this post we’re going to cover such a mass market offering in the area of augmented reality, Google’s much publicized Google Glasses, and its potential for e-learning.

Google Glass

Essentially a pair of glasses with a fast processor with wi-fi and GPS connectivity, a camera and a heads-up display (HUD) attached, the Google Glass made quite a few waves when it was first announced a couple of years ago. Some of the publicity the Glass got was about the negative reactions to its built-in point-of-view camera, but most focused on the possibilities such a device offers, as it’s essentially putting augmented reality in the hands of mass market consumers for the very first time. As this mass market also includes learners and educators, we, as most e-learning professionals, were understandingly intrigued.

Google Glass, still in its early iterations, is nevertheless an ideal platform for augmented reality applications and experimentation. For some e-learning applications what’s included as standard (camera, HUD and wi-fi connectivity) will be enough, whereas more ambitious projects can take advantage of the Google Glass API (a set of programming specifications allowing developers to create custom applications leveraging the Glass’s hardware).

In most promotional material, reviews and user experience posts, the POV camera seems to be the most used feature of the device. It’s something which is not unique to Glass, as it can also be found in cheaper products, but combined with the wi-fi connectivity and full blown OS and API the Glass provides, it allows for some quite innovative uses.

Learning Potential

While Google itself doesn’t promote the Glass as a learning tool per se, they do feature a couple of “user stories” in their Glass website that hint on its e-learning potential. The first shows how Andrew Heuvel, an e-learning educator specializing in physics, used the Glass in combination with Google’s Hangouts (video-conference service) to take his students on a virtual tour of CERN. His students back in the Michigan were able to see what he saw (through Glass’s point-of-view camera), ask questions, and guide him in exploring parts of CERN and the Large Cauldron Collider they wanted to learn more of. The second story is of See professional tennis player Bethanie, who used Glass to record, study and analyze her moves as she prepared for Wimbledon.

Most e-learning uses of Google Glass up to date fall into these two general patterns, of analyzing recorded material and providing a kind of virtual “field trip”. The University of Alaska, for example, uses Google Glass similarly to the way Heuvel used it, to “send the live feed [of professors on site in remote Alaska locations] to students located around the world”.

In an educational setting Google Glass would be great for having a team of students follow a teacher in real time, seeing what he sees and being able to listen to his lecture or have a live Q&A session – and it’s something that can be done on the cheap, as it only takes a pair of Google Glasses for the teacher and a wi-fi (or 4G) connection. In the absence of the latter, the Glass could also be used as a simple POV camera for recording e-learning video material (virtual tours, etc), though of course there are cheaper options for this, such as the GoPro camera.

Google Glass2

For a more evolved (and expensive at the moment) setting, the students could be equipped with Google Glasses themselves, and the virtual class could participate in some kind of distributed knowledge-gathering exercise or a large scale experiment involving several locations.

It would also be useful in student-to-teacher video conferences,  for e-learning subject involving physical manipulation of objects (e.g anything from woodwork to piano playing and surgery), enabling the teacher to see and comment on the student’s actions.

Of course those uses are only the tip of the iceberg concerning the potential that Google Glass has as an educational tool. More intelligent (and novel) uses would have to use the Google Glass development API. Google, it has to be said, provides a great set of resources to get started with this, from the Glass API itself, to detailed documentation, code samples, development tooling and even Google-blessed community resources (Stack Overflow, etc). And should you want to distribute or sell your e-learning Glass-based app (or Glassware, in Google’s terms), there’s the aptly named MyGlass app and marketplace,  allowing users to discover and install Glassware applications.

Google Glass applications, or “Glassware”, offer the possibility of extending Google Glass beyond the basic point-of-view tele-conference realm, into full blown augmented reality applications, providing contextual and supporting material to all kinds of e-learning content, on and off the field.

As consumers embrace it, prices drop, and processing power increases, Google Glass has the potential to become an indispensable tool for e-learning. And with 20 million devices  expected to be in users’ hands by 2018, this future might come sooner rather than later. For now we suggest to any e-learning professional to get his hands on one and explore the ways it can help spice up his content and classes.

Bio – John Laskaris,  eLearning Specialist, Instructional Designer, TalentLMS and eFront Evangelist.. Interested in new technologies and ideas that help education and improve training processes. Always looking for new ways to help engage learners and bring better results.

Image credits

  1. Ted Eytan, Flickr
  2. Ted Eytan, Flickr

The seesaw between “100% utilised” and “Yes – I could do that!”

October 15, 2014 1 comment

Being a freelancer is hard at first – you take almost anything that comes along.

When you are little more established – there’s a balancing act to perform. When do you take work, and when do you not take work?

This morning I had to turn down an Articulate Storyline opportunity for next week as I am blessed with being 100% utilised for the net few weeks, however – should you leave space free for just such a contact or not? This was a GREAT client, and although it was below my usual budget would have made a great prospect going forward.

So – nothing remarkable in this post, just pondering how do people handle this sort of situation?

Focusing on the experience rather than the “product” – so why do IDs focus on “training” all the time?

October 10, 2014 4 comments

Steve Jobs focused on the Apple “experience” rather than the product – you can see a GREAT YouTube video here that shows this.

In the same vein – why do Instructional Designers seem to focus so much on the “course”, and the “training” – rather than the REASON we spend all our hours producing all of this content?

I had a discussion earlier this week on “An Ebola Course”. But for me it was not “…an ebola course”, it would be online content that saved lives. This is a mind-switch.

I would LOVE to see a forum or group of IDs have “No Training Words Week“, where – just for a week, just 7 days, we NEVER used words like “training”, “course”, “authoring”, “quiz”, “test” or ANY of the other “learning’y” words.

Could we/they do it?

Could we get through ONE working week with nothing but discussions on VALUE, or workflow, or profit/loss, or process re-engineering, or risk, or profit, or production or technique or re-financing, or loss, or problem-solving, or creativity.

Is it really too hard? Those are the words our customers and clients use in THEIR daily lives.

Try to talk the same language your customer/prospect/client uses – do you even know what language they DO speak?

Freelancer Instructional Designers – take a risk, sometimes it guarantees success rather than putting the next invoice at risk! Take up that flag of professionalism, but become a “business pro”, not just a “training pro(vider)”. It makes sense doesn’t it?

That mind-switch can be hard, and sometimes, your prospect, customer or client does not want it – but that is no reason not to TRY it. You owe it to yourself don’t you? If nothing else you certainly owe it to your profession.

Articulate Challenge – Audio Setup and Tips

August 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Quick post – my entry for this weeks Articulate Elearning Challenge – audio tips and tricks.

A really GREAT thread appearing on the Challenges page, superb hints and tips for anyone wanting to try voiceover on an eLearning course.

Learning Technique – from the window of a high street butcher, (warning, contains pork).

August 1, 2014 Leave a comment

I was walking to a client earlier this week, and I passed an old-fashioned high street butchers shop. On the window was an advert which read “Pork…it’s tasty…try some now!

I laughed to myself, thinking about the simplicity and almost child-like communication. How “quaint”. 7 hours later, after a heavy day of Articulate Storyline examples and semantic juggling, I walked back to the station, once again passing the same advert.

It was a GREAT example of learning technique

  • State the case for something to your learners – “Pork…
  • Explain the potential benefits to the user – “…it’s tasty
  • State the solution to an assumed problem (lack of pork), with a specific behavioural action – “…try some now

I had just spent a day largely doing just this – taking words and messages, and simplifying them with/for a client into learner actions. Perhaps we should all, occasionally, look back to the past to see where we are going.

In the interests of keeping the “pork” theme going – I remembered a simple flowchart I once produced using Articulate Storyline – so I’ll leave you with the “Should I Eat Bacon” flowchart“.Portrait of a pig

Forget the eLearning authoring tool, remember the audience

July 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Last week I was invited by a Marketing department to review their proposed eLearning. They were concerned at the constant re-education needed for sales people – “…they just don’t remember what we teach them”.

Their use of Articulate Storyline was excellent, branching, layers, states, and so on – so why wasn’t the training being successful?

Over the first couple of hours, they mentioned, several times, that “…what we do is very complex”, and their aim was to try and get salespeople to “expert” level. In this case, this was a valid requirement, salespeople do need expert-level knowledge to perform a consulting role for clients.

Using a flipchart, I showed them that what they DO is actually very simple, using about 3 squares, 3 symbols, and two arrows. What was complex was HOW they did that – they had never put all the complex facts into a simple overall framework. Their teaching had no framework, and I suspect that this is why sales never remembered anything.

Their role, as Marketing was to be “sales support”, and I think they had just become the “sales confusion department”.

I received an email the next day, and I quote “… I can see now the importance of thinking from the end-user perspective and also to try to keep the content to a minimum and use illustrations, videos etc. to keep things interesting rather than bombarding the viewer with words.” That is partly true, as it also needs to be relevant and meet sales’ ends, but they made a huge leap forward.

When faced by the “classic SME” situation, be prepared to challenge, and talk in business-related language. Get out of your comfort zone. They wanted to know how to use Articulate Storyline more effectively. I explained how to run their business more effectively, using Storyline as one of the tools to get there, and they will now create courses, (and job aids…) so much for effectively because of that.

The perfect formula for eLearning

July 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Here’s a link to a Guest Blog I made earlier today, some thoughts on “perfect” eLearning.

If such a thing exists.

Sourcing #freelancers from “…the Crowd”, or “…from individuals IN the Crowd”?

July 10, 2014 Leave a comment

I was recently at an event looking at how to use a “Crowdsourcing model” for #eLearning. Broadly, there seemed to be 2 perspectives.

  1. “Crowdsourcing is a way for groups of networked individuals in a Crowd to create content for clients, and the crowd benefits”.
  2. “A Crowd enables clients to quickly assess individual skills in the group, and choose individuals for their projects”.

The first focused on benefits for the Crowd, the second focused on benefits for individuals IN a Crowd environment. I see the second option as more valid and workable. Like Star Trek – we are still individuals, and do not have a Borg “Hive-mind”, (yet!)

The Crowd (for me) is a way to link people with similar skills and aspirations, and make that accessible to clients. The end activity may not benefit the entire group, there is still a “competitive” element. Even Crowd funding still only benefits the ones that successfully.

These 2 positions were amplified in a discussion on Portfolios.

I suggested they should be on a subject of the Crowd member’s choosing, of a fixed length. Everyone would have a similar chance to shine, demonstrating their talents and vision to prospects. Some people recommended the subject should be what “the creator was passionate about”, such as a sport. I am just not convinced by this argument. Do commercial prospects REALLY want to see this?

Another view was that Portfolios should show the “skills of the Crowd” – benefitting “the whole”. I do not see this as workable or scalable. A “portfolio by committee” could be a huge and lengthy undertaking, and secondly, as soon as (say…) another 100 people join the crowd, you would have to repeat the process again.

In any herd (real or virtual) – there are leaders and followers. In any online community there are “lurkers” and “doers”. Being in a Crowd does not guarantee anyone will require the skill you offer, Crowds, for me, benefit the member IF they possess skills the rest of the herd need, and it becomes a skill-exchange from people with known skills and shared values. As they become more prevalent, the skill as I see it, is joining the correct group/community.

The Crowd provides benefits to clients if they reduce purchase time, and provide access to a community of tried and tested (?) individuals. If I were a client, I would want the Crowd to demonstrate diversity of approach, so that I could choose what I thought would work. I would just not be interested in “the Crowd” as an entity. If I audition for 4 different voiceovers I need for some eLearning, I do not want people to audition as a Barber-Shop Quartet unless I specify it. I want to use the Crowd to provide me with INDIVIDUALS as options.

I do not see a model where the Crowd benefits everyone in that Crowd, especially for eLearning. This is still a market where the INDIVIDUAL is what matters, not a Crowd of individuals. Perhaps an individual like me then goes as a client TO the Crowd, and chooses a few people to help them, but I am still unsure of how the Crowd works as a concept other then this.

I just can’t see the Crowd benefiting everyone in it. It’s another mechanism to benefit the (single) Buyer, and the few SINGLE individuals in the Crowd that end up servicing the project.

Please help me understand more – am I missing something?

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