Monday, July 30, 2012

Drag Anyone Into Anything!

Now, with Articulate Storyline, anyone can drag anyone into anything!
Creating drag and drop quizzes in Articulate Storyline is as easy as 1-2-3. All you need to do is to click on the `Convert to Freeform’ and choose `Drag and Drop’.

Here, you will be able to match one object to another.
But what if you are building a scenario based course? You want to let the user drag and drop the object on any of the many options, and explore each option that way. Technically, we have one item, and many targets, with customized feedback. In such a situation, we cannot use the `Drag and drop’ freeform tool.
This is where the triggers come to our rescue.
Let’s take an example to demonstrate this –
I have a scenario in which the learner can drag and drop the tourist into any of the three countries (well, not literally, just technically speaking  J ), and an information about that country pops up.
Below is a screenshot of the trigger I have used –
So the moral of the story (Storyline, rather) is not to limit yourself to the off-the-shelf options provided. Just playing around a bit with the triggers can stretch the software's capability  almost as much as your creativity!

Friday, June 8, 2012

To G Or Not To G?

With gaming being the hot buzz word in the e learning zones, a gamed up course is every instructional designer’s fancy dream.
But does every course demand a game mode for capturing user attention? To see if a game mode facilitates learning is a matter for research. Setting aside all the `it depends’ factors and research stats, I have tried to build a survey form. The survey takes into account various factors, and tries to solve our `To G or Not to G’ confusion.
I have consciously avoided the financial aspect in the survey form, but tried to include all other possible ones. But this is not an absolute indicator, and nothing is superior to your (or the team’s) instincts. The survey is just an `indicator’ to help you to analyze the possibility by taking into account as many factors as possible.
The survey was also an excuse for me to mark my debut experiment with triggers and variables. But I was not able to give a `Click only one’ option trigger. In case you have a work around for that, please let me know!
Go ahead and take the survey, and let me know your feedback.  

PS - The survey was done in my latest crush - Articulate Storyline.
Since a conventional quiz does not give this result, I have tried to simulate a quiz by using (and experimenting) with triggers and variables. Hope you like it! :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Managing an E-Learning Project

Most rapid e learning teams comprise of 5-10 members, with at the most, 3 members involved in a single project.
From whatever experience I have, the Subject matter expert is usually someone who has little idea about the e learning aspect of the project. Therefore, it calls for some (standardized) efforts to manage your e learning project, and make it clear to your SME on the expectations from both sides.
The way of managing an e-learning project heavily depends on your way of working methodology. But here are some tips to build your own project plan – 
 Chunk It Up!
From getting a request to providing the e learning output, try and identify the key deliverables, and each deliverable can make a project phase.
You may also need to provide a sample storyboard to make your SME understand what to expect out of a storyboard.
By When?
Moving aside all the `It Depends’ factors, here is a rough estimate. Learning pedagogy recommends that you don’t plan for a course lasting more than 40 mins. The ideal time is 20 minutes.

For making a 30 min course (average), you might have to spend a week for initial discussion and storyboarding, and three weeks for building a course. Further review and iterations might go on for 2 weeks. So , most probably, your e learning project for a single module will span for 1.5 months.

The success, of course, lies in continuous improvement. Run a project plan and re visit it after the completion of a project, and see where you can improve.

Happy project planning!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Branding Your E Learning Courses

There are many ways to give the company’s look and feel to the e learning course.
In case you are publishing in Articulate, adding the logo in the logo panel would be the easiest way to make your logo visible. Having the same template inside the power point area is nice, but the disadvantage is that it minimizes your creative zone.
But you can of course, work around your way through it. One way would be to use the exact color scheme in your work. But how accurately can one do it? Will eye judgment suffice? For people who are ultra color sensitive, its good. But the rest of the people (like me) need not worry. All you need is a color picking tool.
I use FastStone Capture, an easy screen capturing tool to help me in this mission.
You can use any other tool, provided it has a color picker. Using the color picker, click on the key colors used in the brand.
In this example, I have tried to develop an e learning course template based on the `E Learning Heroes’ website, powered by the Articulate.
The first step here to use the color picker, and note down the key colors. In this example, let us concentrate on the middle blue panel.
Once you pick the color, it will give you the RGB components.
In this case, RGB is 206, 234, 253.
Similarly, pick a few random colors and note down their RGB numbers.
Now, in Power Point, draw an object, and fill it with the same color.

Using this method, you can achieve the same color scheme as that of your parent website / company colors. While a screenshot may not be of good quality, the power point images are vector objects, and therefore do not suffer from quality loss when enlarged.
I have used this technique to create a power point template based on Articulate’s E learning Heroes website.

All the objects have been created fully in Power Point, and the trick of course lies in giving the same color gradients. 
You can download the template from here.
So just like this, you can build your own e learning template that goes perfectly with the corporate branding of the company!
Happy branding!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Using Power Point as a Powerful Image Editing Tool

Hailing from a Visual Communication background, I always thought that editing an image is impossible without Photoshop.
But today, 90 % of my image editing is done in Powerpoint itself. Let’s check out some cool ways of editing images in power point –
  1. Cropping Images
With the Freeform tool, you can easily crop images to a fair degree of perfection.
For instance, here is a photo that I took from Microsoft Clipart. I just need to keep the one who is throwing the ball. So here is how I would do it –

First, maximize the picture (shortcut – Press Ctrl and scroll up your mouse, and vice versa for zooming out) and stencil out the picture, as perfectly as you can. At first, you might need a little bit extra effort and patience, but I assure you that you will be just fine with a little practice.  
We are almost there. Now, crop the real picture and keep only the frame that’s required.
Now copy the image. And then, right click on your stenciled shape> Format Shape > Fill > Picture or Text Fill
You will find that the cut image has fit in the stencil, but not quite perfectly. Now, the trick is to select `Tile picture as texture'. Try playing around with the Offsets, until you get the perfect crop.
Bingo, the image is cropped!
Tip - If you choose to use the Curve tool, you can get a sharp/straight curve by pressing Ctrl.
2.       Removing Image Backgrounds
If you are lucky, the image might just have a plain background. In this case, removing the plain background is just a click’s effort.
First, select the picture.
Reset Picture > Set transparent color
Now select the color you want to delete.
Here is a sample-
Here is a before and after version of the picture –
3.       A tricky way to use the Crop tool in Power Point
My teammate Tom Thomas has shared a clever way of using the crop tool. Read it here .

Giving an iPad touch to your e learning course

I was very fascinated by Tom Kuhlmann's idea of developing an e learning course template resembling an i pad.
Click here if you want to download Tom's iPad mock up. I was so much wowed by it, that I created a little more stuff, in order to accomodate my course material which had a heavier chunk of text.

You can download the additional templates here.
Go ahead and show off to your learners with a stylish iPad themed course! 

Friday, December 2, 2011

How to Search Images in Google

Instructional Designers often have the task of hunting images that suit the course content. There are many sites that offer free images. Google is often our ultimate refuge. In this blog, we will explore the different options for searching images in Google (in a very limited sense, of course!).
Click on `Images’ in the Google homepage to go to the sea of images that awaits you!
Giving search words
Searching for images is an art. (`Searching' for anything, is the ultimate function of the virtue of patience, I will say. :) ) Philosophy apart, the key lies in giving the correct search words. Google offers some useful tips for giving the right set of key words. Check them out here. However, the scope of this blog is just to share some tips out of experience. :) 
If you are trying to illustrate abstract concepts, it is often not advisable to give the abstract word itself as a search word, for two reasons-
One, it might be a cliched picture. Two, it might not be the accurate representation. So, use your creative self, and try to visualize  an image. The description of this image will be your key word.
Example, imagine we are doing a course on Corporate Responsibility.
Here is the search result from Google for `Corporate Social Responsibility’.  

Yes, I know it’s very tempting to just go for one of them, as they look so off-the-shelf.
But remember that your audience might have seen the same picture a thousand times. So as soon as they open your module, they are like “Hey Copycat, I have seen that picture before”. That’s not what a wannabe instructional designer will want to hear, is it?
So let’s get creative, close our eyes and think of how we might illustrate the concept of Corporate Responsibility.
Yes, patience is a virtue. We will have to work around the image to get what we want. But that’s individuality.

Let us now try to use one of the above images to make one of our own. So back to our home pitch-

After a little bit of playing around with the image, this is the result -

And this is it's bone structure -

Other useful tips for searching images –
Look at the left hand pane of Google -
You find that there are various options to choose from - Size, color and type. I find the `Type’ option particularly useful. When your module uses just clip arts or drawings, for instance, you can base your search accordingly. For example, here are the three types of results for the same key word - Horse

By the way, if you are very used to dealing with images, you might have realized that we can actually make the `foot print’ that I used to demonstrate the concept of corporate responsibility, instead of buying the image. Stenciling images in power point is a whole topic by itself. We will discuss this in detail in one of the coming blogs.

Do you have any further tips to offer while searching for images? Feel free to add on through the comments section.