A Few of my Favorite Things

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.

Dummy data
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.

Posted in elearning, learning

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