Category Archives: eLearning

Is it in the Cloud?

For some, the cloud provides flexibility for learning and teaching while on the move but for many large companies they see this as unsafe and systems are locked down so tight you feel your hands are tied.

For example, this weeks episode of CSI (Season 14 – Episode 21: Kitty) has a severe case of identity fraud leading to murder which makes you wonder how much of us is out there for everyone to see and access?  The more we do online the more information there is for the unscrupulous to possess, you can see why some are cautious.

For many who may be in the middle of expansion and are recruiting heavily this can bring many challenges.  A continuous flow of new recruits who require training in their first weeks means that often courses are ‘thrown’ together.  A steady stream of training requirements with limited resources often means that there is little time to develop new content so it becomes a necessity to establish alternative learning solutions as quickly as possible.

In many areas of learning and development, technology has been embraced and is already well established as acceptable learning aids but when there are secrets at stake what is appropriate?

In some situations the classroom scenario has become either obsolete or reduced to a minimum so alternatives need to be found, this could mean combining the classroom with other modes of study.

Meanwhile, the learning environment is changing and technology is rapidly evolving.  One minute you’re ‘keeping up with the Jones’s the next, it’s old news and you feel you’re being left behind, what you know is no longer relevant.

So what should you do?  Be objective and ask yourself the following:

  1. How do you develop new content with limited resources?
  2. How do you develop yourself to deliver this training?
  3. How do you maintain your experience?
  4. How do you keep abreast of what’s happening in your chosen field?

Sharing ideas with ‘the outside world’ is one of the best methods of discovering what’s new and what’s happening today.  The learning community are excellent listeners and make great sounding boards, bouncing ideas around and testing principles.

Developing possible solutions to tricky learning situations is what it’s all about, we learn from others experiences and can take that into our own situations to produce very effective and appropriate learning solutions.

While smartphones make it easier to keep in contact and network, not everything in the World Wide Web is worth spending lots of time on so accessing bits of information quickly and easily while on the move is essential, you never know where the next great idea will come from.  Use whatever resources you can, network with the learning community, pilot learning solutions and just see what happens.

For example, some of the worst training I have seen delivered proved the old adage of ‘death by powerpoint’ as the presenter had well over 120 slides!  Some of the best and most engaging have been delivered using http://www.pechakucha.org/ and Prezi.

Finally, it doesn’t hurt to try something out, what’s the worst that can happen – it doesn’t work, so what, try something else – you never know your solution may be the one that everyone else adopts.

Rapid eLearning Tools

Adobe Adobe eLearning Suite
http://www.adobe.com/uk/products/elearningsuite.html
The Adobe suite of products is so flexible and intuitive it is the eLearning tool of choice and is one of my favorites, I’m always discovering new aspects and better ways of achieving the outcomes I need.  Unfortunately the prices to many can be prohibitive if you are self employed or worse, out of work and looking to improve your work prospects.

Luckily, you can purchase them individually or as a suite of packages which may work out cheaper in the long run.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Studio
http://www.articulate.com/
I use Quizmaker extensively as in Instructional Designer, it is very easy to learn and use has a number of question types available.  You can brand the player and create templates for how each question is displayed – very helpful that.  It can be published in a number of formats including SCORM and for the web.  Unfortunately, it is quite time consuming when changes need to be made as it needs to be republished each time and should you modify the HTML page produced to include other features, it is overwritten so you must remember to keep a copy (named differently) as a backup.  In one particular LMS’ case it had trouble with the same file name and would not overwrite it so the details of the quizmaker file had to be changed before the republishing exercise.

Raptivity
http://www.raptivity.com/downloads.html
Raptivity Himalaya Pack is good but quite ugly and clunky, but it does have a lot of flexibility in the resources you can embed in an activity such as flash.

Seminar learning System
http://www.seminar.co.uk/
It’s 8 question types of multi-choice, Yes/No, True/False, Matching, Ordered, Typed, Free Text and Branch is quite useful, most systems have something similar

When I initially looked at it, it took me a while to get familiar with the interface and work out how to create an activity, although this took longer than some other packages it produced some very nice activities, fluid and functioning and again, easy to brand and customise.  It also has the ability to be embed video and be added to Powerpoint as it appears as a plugin in the toolbar.

Captivate
http://www.adobe.com/products/captivate/
Part of the Adobe eLearning suite, it is a screen capture software that is most commonly used for training guides.  It can capture screens, mouse clicks and video actions and much more as well as easily embedded into articulate, Powerpoint and various other tools.

Unfortunately, it needs a lot of RAM to create but publishes to a small(ish) flash file that has a lot of flexibility in that an audio file can be embedded across the whole animation or ‘slide by slide’.  Captivate has an intuitive interface, a bit like Powerpoint, as each capture is seen as a slide which you can annotate with instructions, notes or other useful hints.

Branding and templates can be created up front then used indefinitely, but any changes to the template are not that easy to find and update later on.

I prefer Camtasia to this one as it gives you a lot more flexibilty and functions are either on screen or easy to find.

Camtasia Studio
http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.asp
“Record anything on your PC screen plus webcam and audio. Turn it into a high-quality, polished video.”

As it provides a timeline too it is much easier to embed an audio track over the top for backgrounds plus ‘a lecture’ so for example you can capture a software such as Adobe connect pro, youtube videos and the like then publish it on line.  Changes to a template are easy and can be set up at any time throughout the project, it also has various output options including SCORM, as a web page, MP4 and swf file and the license tends to be cheaper than Captivate.

Wimba Create
http://www.wimba.com/products/wimba_create/
“Quickly and easily convert your Microsoft Word documents into content for your online courses.  Using a combination of special styles and dialog boxes, you can add interactive features…”

Wimba by far has the broadest interactions and once published looks very similar to a web page where the menus appear on the side and the content is displayed in the main area.  Features include Flashcards, Insert HTML, Java, and other code, Navigation, Table of contents, Formatting, Hyperlinks, Popups and many more and exports to WebCT IMS package, Blackboard package, Moodle SCORM, Microsoft LRN IMS, SCORM 1.2 package, IMS QTI Lite (assessment questions) and Set of plain HTML pages ready for web or CD delivery. It also exports to SCORM 2004 but I am not sure how well it integrates with Articulate or other similar eLearning tools.

Since Wimba Create is based on software that is already widely used (MS Word), users can create advanced learning objects with minimal training.

Pros

  • Easy to use – users need only to know how to format in Word and click a button to convert to HTML
  • Based on MS Word therefore available for all tutors to be able to create content for their courses (as opposed to having only people who can use the software)
  • Visually appealing – looks professional and sophisticated
  • Possible to embed quizzes, flashcards and multimedia (audio and video)

Cons

  • Problems with filenames – when Wimba Create generates its set of files, it puts them into a folder with the same name as the original Word file.
  • Formatting issues:
  • Picture resolution – pictures may not be as clear when converted to an HTML file
  • Tables with merged cells do not work at all in Wimba Create
  • Wimba Create does not support overlapping styles

Other software to consider include Lectora Inspire (http://www.trivantis.com/uk/lectora-inspire) and The Wild Thing Project (http://thewildproject.sourceforge.net/).

There is also a very good list of Rapid e-Learning tools available on KINEO’s website at http://www.kineo.com/authoring-tools/rapid-e-learning-authoring-tools.html