The concept is nice, but so is the presentation.
The concept is nice, but so is the presentation.
Well, here’s a treat. An awesomely bad training video starring none other than Conan O’Brien.
NAMM training video
If you are an instructional designer working with a small or non-existent budget, then you’re probably in he market for free and cheap tools online. Elearning heroes had a recent weekly challenge to share cheap and free tools that designers love. I missed the challenge while it was happening, but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite free tools out there that have made my life simpler.
Note- your local IT policy may not allow these applications.
ColorPic – This little application is basically an eye dropper that will work anywhere on your screen. Open ColorPic, hover the mouse over the color that interests you, and get both the RGB and Hex codes for the color. Great if you don’t have access to an Adobe product, or your color balance on your monitor is notoriously off.
Adobe Kuler – And when you find that perfect color, Adobe Kuler will help you form a full color palette to use with your project. This comes in handy if your corporate brand only uses one or two colors, and you need some variety. Just set the center color to match an official company color, and select from analogous, monochromatic, and complimentary palettes.
Audacity – If you’re recording narration for your project, you probably already know how to record audio directly into your authoring tool. And most tools will have simple audio editing functions, such as adding silence or cutting out sections of the recording. But if you’re anything like me, you probably don’t have access to a sound proof studio to record your audio, so your files probably have some degree of background noise. Using the numerous filters in Audacity, I’ve removed the drone of an industrial A/C unit, the roar of an overhead jet plane, and a phantom feedback whine that seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Random.org – I started using this web site to help me randomize the entries for a prize drawing. You set a maximum and minimum number, and random.org will select a list of numbers at random from your range, or return your entire range in a random order. Now, I use these random lists to create dummy data where I need a list of fake ID numbers.
Generatedata.com – This site will generate random demographic data, such as names, addresses, and email addresses, so it’s great for replacing personally identifiable information (PII) in system screen shots. (It doesn’t generate random numbers, so I use it in conjunction with Random.org.) You can out put the data in a variety of formats, including Excel, CSV, and SQL. You can generate up to 100 rows of data for free, but if you are willing to donate to keep the site running you can generate larger files.
NotePad ++ – As the name implies, this is NotePad on steroids. My favorite feature is that you can set the programming language, and NotePad++ will highlight missing close tags in your code. This was the tool I used to modify my SCORM manifests to work with the LMS.
SCORM Cloud – An LMS in the cloud! A free account has a limit to the number of registrants and file size, but you could make this a viable LMS for your business needs with a paid account. I use my personal account as a sandbox to test mobile design ideas, since it’s easier to open SCORM Cloud from my personal iPad than uploading a fake course to the App Store or the company LMS. Just be sure to check on your company policy on using cloud based applications before uploading any courses.
Adobe Voice – Adobe released this new iPad app in early May. In short, it allows you to create brief videos based on your own narration. You can see a sample in my blog post from May 23rd. This app is so simple to use, my 9 year old is using it to make videos. The only downside is that the finished videos must currently be stored in the cloud, so check your company’s policy before making a video that might contain sensitive information.
Here’s a bit of gaming trivia for you: What was the first video game to boast a save-game feature?
Officially, it was the NES classic The Legend of Zelda, which stored your saved game file on the cartridge with the help of an on-board battery.
But saving game files in other forms dates back even further, with mechanisms like checkpoints and passwords to help a gamer negotiate longer or more complex games without losing their progress.
Of course, the eLearning equivalent is bookmarking. I don’t think anyone would argue against the concept of bookmarking. Most of us are designing for adult learners who must try to find time during the workday to complete their training. Interruptions are inevitable, and bookmarks are necessary.
But just as save game files aren’t the only way to prevent gamers from losing their progress, bookmarks aren’t the only strategy to help learners progress through courses.
Are you making use of these features in your courses?:
The frustration of losing one’s progress is easily mitigated. Give your learners a helping hand, especially if you have a lot of information to covey, or if your subject is complex.
Yesterday I was chatting with my Dad. We have lots in common to talk about, and our conversations often flow seamlessly from one topic to another. I am certain that left uninterrupted, our chat could go on forever, like the internet.
At one point in the conversation the topic turned to training. My Dad is a great explainer, and is often asked to become a trainer in his field. He made a comment about accounting for learning styles, and I helpfully said, “Oh, you know those have been debunked, right?”
This wasn’t the first time I’d been a little too eager to tell someone that learning styles were a myth. About three years ago a colleague told me learning styles had been debunked, and even then I was a few years late to the party. In my excitement to learn such game-changing news, I immediately went in to my manager’s office and indelicately dropped the bomb.
She was skeptical. “But, I know I have a learning style.”
To be fair, the research doesn’t say that learning styles absolutely don’t exist, only that the research repeatedly used to support the theory is flawed, and that we should stop wasting valuable educational resources trying to cater to them.
But if the research is questionable, why can’t we let go of learning styles?
For one, its longevity. The idea of learning styles has been around for about forty years of so. For some people in the learning profession, myself included, that’s as long as they’ve been alive. I grew up in a learning styles culture, and for a long time, it was just part of my world view.
Another reason learning styles tend to hit a nerve is because it directly addresses a way that people self-identify. It’s like introversion/extroversion and type-A personalities. Telling someone that there’s no scientific proof for learning styles is an affront to who they are, and it will come across like an attack.
In my personal experience, I have found that learning styles are also used to explain one’s successes and failures in learning. All my life I’ve identified as a kinesthetic learner – I learn by doing. So when orbital mechanics kicked my butt in college, I had an easy explanation: Since I couldn’t get in a rocket ship and fly it around Saturn, I obviously was never going to learn how a rocket orbits a body in space. The theoretical stuff was never going to sink in, because I was a kinesthetic learner.
But if I am really honest with myself, I’m not a kinesthetic learner. I like learning by doing, but in a field like physics, who wouldn’t? It’s certainly more fun to pounce on a stomp rocket to learn about trajectory than to look at a diagram on a page. But if I think about the learning that comes easiest to me, and in theory could be considered the most effective for me, I do most of my learning by reading. I can recall many facts and figures I’ve read once for lengthy periods of time. (I’m killer at pub trivia.) So even if we ever conclusively prove that learning styles exist, how do we test for it? Self-identification is unreliable, and how do you test multiple instructional methods if the first one teaches the test subject? You can’t make the subject un-learn it, so the test runs a high risk of producing unreliable results.
So apologies to anyone I may have offended by saying learning styles don’t exist. They very well may. Here’s some additional information. I’ll let you draw conclusions for yourself.
Today I’m trying something a little different – a video blog generated with Adobe’s new Voice app for the iPad.
I have a shocking confession to make: I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons.
I’ve always wanted to play. I’ve just never had the opportunity. My husband, on the other hand, has many wonderful memories running modules, and we’ve recently had discussions about whether or not our son was ready. So, in a moment of giddy geekiness, I went out to Amazon and bought our son his very first dice set, complete with a satin-lined velvet bag to keep them safe.
A few nights later, the three of us were sitting around our dining room table, armed with the Player’s Handbook, to begin creating a pool of characters to choose from and take on many exciting adventures. It was tedious work, but before my son went to bed we had about a dozen characters, some of which had real promise to eventually level up to become monks, paladins, and elves who could see in the dark.
I’ve still never played Dungeons and Dragons. Because the events of that night, the endless dice rolling, the constant referrals back to the handbook, and the number of times we rolled completely trash characters wiped out my enthusiasm for the game.
And that’s when I realized it’s like that for me with every RPG. When I created my wookie in Star Wars Galaxies, I took the system generated name because I didn’t really care. When I opened my WoW account for the first time, I may have made my night elf a few inches taller, but other than that, I didn’t make many changes to the default. Because I didn’t care. And when Skyrim gave me the option of changing my bosmer’s nose, I wanted to throw my controller at the TV. Because I just didn’t care. It’s great that these games want to give me a measure of control over my character, but figuring out that stupid nose was keeping me from killing dragons. And isn’t that why I started playing Skyrim in the first place? My time, even my leisure time, is valuable, and I’d rather spend it getting to the object of the game, not getting bogged down in the prep-work and the house-keeping.
Our learners’ time is precious, too. Even more so, because every minute they spend in a training event is a minute they care not on the phones, not in a sales call, not contributing to the company’s bottom line. So we have to make every minute count and eliminate fluff.
Finally, make sure everything you are keeping has real, demonstrable value to the learner. Keep tying the lessons back to the WIIFM, and show the learner what they need to know to do their job better. Cut through the background content and the theory. Your learner doesn’t have time for all that.
They’ve got dragons to slay.