How to Add Closed Captions to Your E-Learning Courses

closed captions

We’ve discussed closed captions in a previous post. We looked at how to create them with free software or online tools. And we also explored how to build closed captions using a single text variable.

Today, we’ll look at how the closed captions feature works in Articulate Storyline 360. You’ll find it a lot easier to use.

How to Create & Edit Closed Caption Text

Here’s how to add captions to audio narration or videos in your course. You can do it right inside of the authoring tool.

  • Insert the video (or audio) file.
  • From the toolbar, select Add Captions.
  • Storyline opens a caption editor where it analyzes the audio track and creates several placeholder caption boxes for you to insert text.
  • Select a caption box and start typing. Hit the return key to restart the caption box until you’re done. Hit the tab key to move to the next box.
  • Easy as that.

closed captions editor

Editing your captions is fairly straightforward. When you open the Closed Captions Editor, you see a timeline with the audio track and caption boxes.

  • You can extend or decrease the time of the caption.
  • Edit text.
  • Click and move the caption boxes.
  • Export the closed captions as a .VTT file, which is standard.

Watch the quick tutorial to learn about creating and editing closed captions in Storyline 360.

How to Import Closed Caption Text

Many people like to create their closed caption text in separate applications, export the .VTT (or another format), and import the text file into the authoring tool. That makes sense, especially if you have really long audio or video tracks.

Personally, I like to use Youtube to create my captions for long videos. I upload the video to Youtube and make sure it’s not public. Then, I take my text script and paste it into the field. Youtube does the rest. When it’s done, I can download a .VTT file to use in my e-learning course.

Here’s how it works in Storyline 360.

  • Insert a video or audio file into the slide.
  • Click on the video and in the ribbon, select Import to access your .VTT file.
  • Preview the slide and select the Captions button on the player.

closed captions example

Watch the quick tutorial to learn about importing closed captions.

How to Create a Closed Captions Button

By default, the course player has a captions button. To view captions during the course, click the captions button. That works great if you have the player and captions button enabled. However, some people prefer to diminish the player and want their own captions button on the slide to control when the captions display.

Here’s how to create a custom captions button:

  • Insert a button.
  • Add a trigger to the button to adjust the Player.Display.Captions variable.
  • The variable is like a True/False variable that can be either one or the other when clicked. Set the operator to =NOT Assignment.
  • When the button is clicked it toggles the variable value to what is not assigned to. Thus, clicking the button turns the captions or off.

closed captions variable

Watch the quick tutorial to learn about creating a custom closed captions button.

And that’s how you add closed captions to your e-learning courses. Pretty simple, huh?


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

e-learning workshop

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • Austin: September 12 & 13. Articulate Community Roadshow.
  • San Francisco: October 10 & 11. Articulate Community Roadshow. Seats limited for this event. Register here. Last US roadshow for 2017.
  • Antwerp: Nov 7. Articulate User Day 2017. Register here.
  • Utrecht: Nov 9 & 10. Articulate User Day 2017. Register here.
  • London: November 13 & 14. Articulate Community Roadshow. Register here.
  • Manchester: November 16 & 17. Articulate Community Roadshow. Seats are limited. Register here.

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

8 E-Learning Developers You Should Follow

e-learning experts

In the past, I’ve referenced a number of instructional designers who are active in the community where they share all sorts of free downloads, examples, and answer questions.

Today, I’d like to focus on a few instructional designers and course developers who tend to share more advanced course development tips. They go through the nuances of the software, share hacks, and how to leverage JavaScript when using Storyline.

These are peers worth following.

Melissa Milloway

Melissa is a passionate learner and actively shares what she learns (often while she learns).  She’s also been a presenter at a few of our Articulate Roadshows.

e-learning developers mel milloway

Here’s a good series she did on getting started with xAPI and Storyline.

Kevin Thorn

Years ago Kevin won an Articulate Guru award. From there here’s built quite a presence in the e-learning industry. Many of you probably know him from his iconic Nugget head character.

e-learning developers kevin thorn

If you want to learn how he comes up with ideas and builds his courses, check out his recent series on constructing a gamified module.

Zsolt Olah

Zsolt is a like a zsolt of lightning especially when it comes to talking gamification and how to engage learners. He has all sorts of really neat ideas and hacks to help you learn more. One of the most original and creative people in the industry.

e-learning developers zsolt olah

Check out this example of alternatives to multiple choice questions. Pretty cool.

Nick Shelton

Nick shares all sorts of cool tips and tricks with his unique brand of humor. His site has lots of good tutorial videos and advanced tips.

e-learning developers nick shelton

Check out this example of how to add Cool Overlay Effects in Articulate Storyline with Basic After Effects & JavaScript.

Matthew Bibby

Matthew’s nickname should be the “E-learning Thunder from Down Under.” He presents really organized and detailed tutorials and tips in his blog.

e-learning developers matthew bibby

Look at this post on how to use Google Fonts with a variable.

David Charney

David always shares clever tips and examples. I recall sitting at the airport on my way to London and spending a couple of hours trying to deconstruct one of his demos for the weekly challenges.

e-learning developers david charney

Here’s a video where he shares a way to mask content using the scroll panel feature. And of course, his review of the original Storyline 0.

Owen Holt

Owen does a great job showing how to use JavaScript with Storyline. He’s presented at the Austin Roadshow. He’s also got some popular tutorials.

e-learning developers owen holt

Here’s one he recently shared that’s gotten lots of play: how to add a print button to the course player [video].

Ron Price

Ron is CLO for Yukon where he manages and conducts a lot of Articulate training. Ron is also a fixture in our Articulate Live webinars where he shares all sorts of cool tips and tricks.

e-learning expert

If you’re an Articulate 360 subscriber you don’t want to miss those Friday Quick Tips & Tricks sessions. Here’s a recent tutorial Ron posted where he answered a training question: Why Does My Custom Menu Lose Track of My Progress?

To the ones above, thanks for what you do to support the community and industry. I know that there are a lot more really talented developers worth mentioning. Feel free to give them props in the comments section below.


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

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Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • Austin: September 12 & 13. Articulate Community Roadshow. Early bird rate expires August 28. Register here.
  • San Francisco: October 10 & 11. Articulate Community Roadshow. Early bird rate expires September 15. Seats limited for this event. Register here.
  • Antwerp: Nov 7. Articulate User Day 2017. Register here.
  • Utrecht: Nov 9 & 10. Articulate User Day 2017. Register here.
  • London: November 13 & 14. Articulate Community Roadshow. Register here.
  • Manchester: November 16 & 17. Articulate Community Roadshow. Seats are limited. Register here.

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Subject Matter Experts But Was Afraid to Ask

subject matter experts

Subject matter experts play a key role in the success of your e-learning courses. The challenge is learning to use their skills and knowledge in a way that works best. Today’s post is a curated list of free resources with essential tips and tricks so that you are successful building your courses.

Free Downloads

Here is a list of free downloads available to you.

Rapid E-Learning Blog Resources

Here is a list of relevant blog posts.

E-Learning Heroes Community Resources

Here is a list of community discussions, tips, and resources.


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

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Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • Austin: September 12 & 13. Articulate Community Roadshow. Early bird rate expires August 28. Register here.
  • San Francisco: October 10 & 11. Articulate Community Roadshow. Early bird rate expires September 15. Seats limited for this event. Register here.
  • Antwerp: Nov 7. Articulate User Day 2017. Register here.
  • Utrecht: Nov 9 & 10. Articulate User Day 2017. Register here.
  • London: November 13 & 14. Articulate Community Roadshow. Register here.
  • Manchester: November 16 & 17. Articulate Community Roadshow. Seats are limited. Register here.

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

Simple Screencast Production Tips for Better E-Learning

screencast tips

Screencast tutorials are some of the most common forms of online training. This makes sense since a large part of e-learning is predicated on learning new software. One challenge is creating effective and engaging screencasts. So today, we’ll look at a few simple production tips to help you get started.

Screencast Tip: Establish Context Quickly

It helps to know what you’re learning and why. At the beginning of the screencast, introduce what you’re going to teach and why (or what the outcome should be). Many screencasts aren’t clear about what the value of the screencast is. They either jump into instruction with no context, or they spend too much time on non-essential content.

 

Screencast Tip: Get to the Point Quickly

The other day I was reviewing a product video for some new gadget. The video was about seven minutes long. I wanted to know how the gadget worked and what features it had but the guy in the video spent the first three minutes talking about a bunch of nonsense that had nothing to do with the video topic.

As Archie Bunker used to say, “Get to the point, Edith.”

Screencast Tip: Don’t Focus on Features

Many of the screencasts I view go through a feature list. They spend way too much time on the user interface and the features buried within it. You don’t need to explain everything in the software or everything you can do with it. And not all features are created equal. Some are used all the time and some rarely.

Skip the feature-by-feature dissertation. Focus on the key features and the ones most critical to the user’s objectives.

Screencast Tip: Focus on Action

What are people supposed to do with the software? Make a list of required actions or responsibilities. Then build your screencasts around actionable objectives and how to meet them. Give them real-life challenges and how the software meets them.

For example, if I were teaching someone how to use a spreadsheet, instead of showing them how to to use specific features, I’d start with a real-world challenge: “You need to create a report using this data.” And then from there, I’d go through the process of instruction and focus on the features relevant to the objective.

Screencast Tip: Don’t Stop at One

People need multiple opportunities to practice. Many screencasts and the associated activities are built on a single action. This is fine. However, use the activities to reinforce a previous lesson as you introduce new skills. Give them opportunities to review and repeat the previous process.

The more practice, the more fluent they’ll be. This is really key with software training where you build on skills from previous training videos.

Screencast Tip: Keep it Short

Shorter videos are better. Stay focused and get to the point, as I noted above. It’s better to have a series of shorter videos than to have a single long one that forces the user to scrub through looking for relevant info. Try to stay focused on a single objective.

Screencast Tip: Provide Post-Screencast Resources

Because the screencast videos will be shorter and tied to specific actions there may be some learning gaps or other things the person wants to know. It’s always a good idea to curate a list of additional resources for the viewer to access after they’ve completed the screencast video.

Screencast Tip: Don’t Make a Screencast

Screencasts take time and some require multiple edits. And if the content changes (like a new interface or features) then they need to be redone. Often it’s easier to show a static screen and use labels to highlight specific areas. These are also easier to update when the subject matter is still in flux. And it helps you avoid long videos when they just need simple information.

I like this interactive screenshot prototype that David built a while ago. It looks good and it’s easy to build. It’s also available as a free download.

Here are some additional resources for those who want to create screencasts:

What tips do you have to share?


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

e-learning Articulate workshops

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • Articulate Roadshows. Join us for one or two days of e-learning goodness. Day 1 focuses on more general e-learning topics and Day 2 is centered on learning to build some nice, reusable interactions. They're great activities to help you learn more about the tools. Sign up using the links below. Seats are limited for the events. If you're interested in presenting at one of the roadshows, let me know.
  • Austin: September 12 & 13. Early bird rate expires August 28. Register here.
  • San Francisco: October 10 & 11. Early bird rate expires September 15. Seats limited for this event. Register here.
  • Antwerp: Nov 7. Articulate User Day 2017. Register here.
  • Utrecht: Nov 9 & 10. Articulate User Day 2017. Register here.
  • London: November 13 & 14. Details coming soon.
  • Manchester: November 16 & 17. Seats will be limited. Details coming soon.

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

Three Good E-Learning Books to Finish Off the Summer

e-learning books summer reading fun

The end of summer usually serves as the beginning of the school year. In a sense, it also kind of serves as the beginning of the work year. It’s always good to come into a new year with a fresh perspective. Reading is one way to do that.

I’m always asked about good e-learning books from those just getting started who want to learn more.  Here are some new books I haven’t referenced in the past. I think they’re worth considering for your e-learning library.

Microlearning Guide to Microlearning

Microlearning is all the rage. Although I think short courses have always existed, it’s just today they have a trendy name. I like to call them coursels (as in course morsels). But that hasn’t taken off despite my efforts over the past twenty years. I guess my legacy will rest on something else.

coursels microlearning

If you want to learn about microlearning then check out Carla Torgerson’s Microlearning Guide to Microlearning.

microlearning book

Here are a few things that stand out:

  • The book presents each point as distinct micro ideas. There are 141 in the book. It may seem a bit gimmicky and some of the ideas are obvious, but for the most, part it works and the points are really good. Besides, the essence of microlearning is to distill ideas into smaller, single topic points. There’s nothing earth-shattering in the book, but it’s a fast read and has most of the core points you’d find in other books and articles on microlearning. Having them in a single resource is nice.
  • I still like to read paper books and end up having to write a lot of notes and my thoughts on the back cover because there’s no room in the margins. Because she presents single micro ideas in the book, there’s lots of room to reflect and take notes.
  • She offers the MILE model as a means to help guide the content development. Here’s the essence of the model: objectives, structure, resources, promote, and evaluate. There’s a lot more to it, but it’s a good model.

Overall, a good book and easy to get through.

Write and Organize for Deeper Learning

Many of you are probably familiar with Patti Shank. She’s a frequent speaker at industry conferences and has written a number of good books. And now she has a new one, Write and Organize for Deeper Learning. This is book one of the “Make It Learnable” series.

patti shank write and organize for deeper learning

Here are a few key highlights:

  • The book focuses on four key strategies built around the audience’s needs and ability to learn based on how the content is structured and presented.
  • She offers lots of ideas and tactics to help make the book’s content learnable and something you can apply.
  • I’m a simple person. I have plenty of big, thick books on instructional design and learning, but I like to fall back on thin, easy-to-digest books. This is a good one for beginners who are dipping their toes in the water and not sure where to start. It covers a lot of foundational content. And for those of us who are a bit more tenured it’s a fast read with lots of reminders.

Like Julie Dirksen’s Design for How People Learn, this is one of those books I’d recommend to someone just getting started.

Map It: The Hands-On Guide to Strategic Training Design

Okay, this book isn’t out yet, but it’s one I’m looking forward to it. Cathy Moore’s done a great job taking course design concepts and making them easy-to-understand, especially for those just getting started. I always recommend her action mapping ideas to subject matter experts at the workshops and conferences I attend.

cathy moore action mapping Map It: The Hands-On Guide to Strategic Training Design

I’m sure her book will be out soon. Hopefully, this will spur her to get it out the door. 			</div><!-- .entry-content -->
	    
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Essential PowerPoint Animations Tips

PowerPoint animation tips

I’ve been reviewing a lot of the older PowerPoint tutorials that I’ve posted in the past. Most are still relevant, but a few have changed. In this post, we’ll do a refresh on the basics on PowerPoint animations.

PowerPoint Animation Basics

There are four types of animations in PowerPoint:

  • Entrance: object comes on to the slide
  • Exit: object leaves the slide
  • Emphasis: object remains in place, but animates to provide emphasis or become a focal point
  • Motion path: object follows a drawn path.

powerpoint animation panel

When selecting animations, keep in mind that there are additional animation choices at the bottom of the selection panel. And not all animations are supported when converted for e-learning. And one last tip, because you can animate doesn’t mean you should.

Triggering PowerPoint Animations

Animations are generally triggered by three things:

  • On click: object doesn’t animate until mouse click triggers the animation. This is what you need if you’re syncing animations with narration for your e-learning courses.
  • With previous: object animates with the previous animation. It also animates automatically if it’s the first object on the screen.
  • After previous: object animates after the previous animation.

When you select an animation and when it should start, you also have the option to set its duration and whether to delay or not. Once you understand how to time animations, you can compound them and create all sorts of effects.

You can also set triggers in PowerPoint to animate on other actions, such as clicking on a shape. These work great in PowerPoint by itself but are something I’d avoid when converting PowerPoint slides to an e-learning course.

PowerPoint Animation Pane

The PowerPoint animation pane gives you more control of the PowerPoint animations.

  • You can see the stacking order of animated objects.
  • How the objects are timed to the timeline.
  • Clicking on the drop down arrow exposes more advanced PowerPoint animation options such as start/stop effects and timing.

powerpoint-animation-panel

PowerPoint Animation Painter

You can add multiple animations to a single object. This allows you to create all sorts of complex animations. However, this can also be a time-consuming process. One production tip is to use the animation painter to copy animations from one object to another. This is especially useful if you need to repeat an animation on a different object.

powerpoint animation painter

Here are a Couple of Bonus Tips

When using motion paths, select one of the pre-built motion paths rather than drawing your own. You’ll end up with fewer edit points which will make the animation along the path much smoother. If you do need to draw a custom path, use the curved shape tool and edit the points.

PowerPoint animation motion path edit points

Use the selection pane [Home>Select>Selection Pane] to edit the names of the objects on the slide. It makes it a lot easier to understand what’s happening in the animation pane.

powerpooint animation selection pane

Here are some cool PowerPoint animation tutorials as well as a bunch more. They should spur all sorts of ideas.

Once you understand the basics of PowerPoint animations you’ll be able to create virtually anything you want and build e-learning courses in PowerPoint that won’t give away that they were created in PowerPoint.

Do you have any PowerPoint animation tips?


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

e-learning Articulate workshops

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • Articulate Roadshows. Join us for one or two days of e-learning goodness. Day 1 focuses on more general e-learning topics and Day 2 is centered on learning to build some nice, reusable interactions. They're great activities to help you learn more about the tools. Sign up using the links below. Seats are limited for the events. If you're interested in presenting at one of the roadshows, let me know.
  • Toronto: August 9 & 10. Early bird rate expires July 21. Register here.
  • Seattle: August 21 & 22. Early bird rate expires August 7. Register here.
  • Austin: September 12 & 13. Early bird rate expires August 28. Register here.
  • San Francisco: October 10 & 11. Early bird rate expires September 15. Seats limited for this event. Register here.
  • London: November 13 & 14. Details coming soon.
  • Manchester: November 16 & 17. Seats will be limited. Details coming soon.
  • There are a couple of other events planned. Once we get all of the bookings confirmed, we'll add the registration page and info.

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

Everything You Need to Know About Drag & Drop Interactions

drag and drop interaction essentials

There are three main ways to interact with the course: click, mouseover, and drag. While click-based interactions are the most prominent, a good drag and drop interaction is usually more engaging. In fact, anytime I feature a drag-based interaction in a blog post, I’m always asked how it was created.

Drag and drops are engaging, they let the user “touch the screen” or lean into the course a bit, and they’re novel because they’re not used as often as the other types. With that said, here is everything you need to know about drag & drop interactions from previous posts:

essentials of drag and drop interaction

So there you have it, everything you need to know to get started building effective and engaging drag and drop interactions for e-learning. And if you want to learn to build them, check out these tutorials and take part in these drag and drop challenge activities: challenge #16 and challenge #21.

Is there anything you’d suggest when building drag and drop interactions?


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

e-learning Articulate workshops

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • Articulate Roadshows. Join us for one or two days of e-learning goodness. Day 1 focuses on more general e-learning topics and Day 2 is centered on learning to build some nice, reusable interactions. They're great activities to help you learn more about the tools. Sign up using the links below. Seats are limited for the events. If you're interested in presenting at one of the roadshows, let me know.
  • Toronto: August 9 & 10. Early bird rate expires July 21. Register here.
  • Seattle: August 21 & 22. Early bird rate expires August 7. Register here.
  • Austin: September 12 & 13. Early bird rate expires August 28. Register here.
  • San Francisco: October 10 & 11. Early bird rate expires September 15. Seats limited for this event. Register here.
  • London: November 13 & 14. Details coming soon.
  • Manchester: November 16 & 17. Seats will be limited. Details coming soon.
  • There are a couple of other events planned. Once we get all of the bookings confirmed, we'll add the registration page and info.

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

A Three-Step Process to Build Your Skills the Right Way

e-learning portfolio

Recently, I’ve seen dozens of portfolios and work samples that are verbatim copies of the work of others. This isn’t a good thing, especially if you represent it as your own work. There’s a difference between being inspired by others and plagiarism. And not knowing this can hurt your career.

To protect the innocent I won’t mention the names of individuals (or companies) that have ripped off the work of others and represented it as their own. I’m sure some of it is intentional, but I suspect that most are just not aware that what they’re doing isn’t in their best interests.

Today I’ll share a few ways to find inspiration from others and use it build YOUR skills the right way. And then use those skills to show off what you can do. The end point should not be an exact copy of the source material. Instead, it should be a derivative work inspired by the source.

Step 1: Find a source of inspiration

Look for ways to be inspired. I focus on visuals and interactivity. E-learning is mostly visual, so it’s always good to learn more about graphics and UX design. And another main point of focus is learning to transition from static content to engaging interactions.

Keep an ideas folder or bookmarks for later reference. Here are some places I like to look for ideas:

  • Design sites like Dribbble where you can see what people are doing. Many will even share free assets.
  • Presentation sites like Slideshare where you can see how people are presenting their content. They also have an easy way to do screengrabs.
  • Mobile apps are a good source of inspiration. I regularly download different apps just to look at how they work and how users interact with them to get content. This gives me ideas for course design. Especially when I want some novel ideas on how to navigate a course.
  • Multimedia presentations are also valuable. News sites tend to build simple interactive multimedia demos for the hot news. Unfortunately, today it seems they spend more on the interactions and less on real journalism, but that’s a blog post for another day.
  • Template sites like Template Monster and Theme Forest are great to see different types of layouts and get ideas for screens and colors.

What are some sources of inspiration for you?

Step 2: Deconstruct your source of inspiration

One of the best ways to learn is by deconstructing things that interest you. Since I work mostly with Storyline, my initial thought is whether or not I can create what I see in Storyline.  Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. The goal is to play around with the idea as well as the software.

  • I deconstruct the source of inspiration and try to figure out what’s happening and why the creator may have chosen that approach versus something else. I make notes of what I like and what I may change.
  • I try to build a functional prototype. Sometimes the source content is an interaction I like and sometimes it may be a visual design idea. In either case, I try to replicate it in the software to learn what I can do. One side benefit is that I often discover some new production techniques.

At this point, the concern isn’t a final showcase product. It’s more about building a matching prototype.

Step 3: Apply what you learned to something original

Inspiration should lead to iteration. The goal isn’t to build copycat modules. It’s a small industry and people know when you cribbed an idea from another developer. Instead, the goal is practice and then apply what you learned to something original.

If there’s an animation you found interesting, how would you apply it to your own content? Are there layouts you can build into reusable templates? Can you make the interaction work the same way but in a different context?

A few things to keep in mind:

  • If you do borrow an idea from someone else and share it publicly, give them props. It’s good form and builds goodwill. It also alleviates any accusations when your work looks similar to someone else’s.
  • Share what you build. If you’re going to show off what you built (and it’s not proprietary) it’s a good idea to give something away. Share the source file, a how-to tutorial, or maybe a free template. This helps build your personal brand and expertise.
  • If you see something that looks like your work, understand that people will steal your work. It’s the basis of a popular book. Consider it a form of flattery. Also, people often have similar ideas at the same time. There have been few times I’ve had a blog post in the queue only to have someone in the industry release a similar post before mine’s been released. It shows that a lot of common ideas percolate and often we come to them at similar times. It’s just the way it is.

The end goal in this step is to use the deconstruction as a source of inspiration. And then create a derivative work that is uniquely yours.

Continue to practice and learn your craft. Find sources of inspiration and then apply what you learn to your own projects. And then show off what you can do in your portfolio.


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

e-learning Articulate workshops

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • Articulate Roadshows. Join us for one or two days of e-learning goodness. Day 1 focuses on more general e-learning topics and Day 2 is centered on learning to build some nice, reusable interactions. They're great activities to help you learn more about the tools. Sign up using the links below. Seats are limited for the events. If you're interested in presenting at one of the roadshows, let me know.
  • Boston: July 18 & 19. Early bird rate expires July 7. Register here.
  • Toronto: August 9 & 10. Early bird rate expires July 21. Register here.
  • Seattle: August 21 & 22. Early bird rate expires August 7. Register here.
  • Austin: September 12 & 13. Early bird rate expires August 28. Register here.
  • San Francisco: October 10 & 11. Early bird rate expires September 15. Seats limited for this event. Register here.
  • London: November 13 & 14. Details coming soon.
  • Manchester: November 16 & 17. Seats will be limited. Details coming soon.
  • There are a couple of other events planned. Once we get all of the bookings confirmed, we'll add the registration page and info.

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

Common Visual Design Mistakes That Ruin the Way Your Course Looks

visual design mistakes

E-learning is a mostly visual medium which means a lot of what we communicate in our courses comes through how they’re structured visually. The challenge is that graphic design and visual communication are their own fields and it’s hard enough to be a good instructional designer let alone a good graphic artist.

I get the privilege of reviewing a lot of courses and understand that many people struggle with the visual part of the course. So in this post, we’ll review some common visual design mistakes that are easily fixed. They won’t make you into a graphic artist, but they should help make your course design a little tighter.

Visual Design Mistake 1: Images are Scrunched & Not Scaled

This is one of the most common mistakes and easily fixed. An image is inserted and then to make it fit or move it, it gets moved from the top or side anchors on the bounding box. This scrunches the image and makes it look a little off.

scale image from corner to maintain aspect ratio

The fix is to drag it from the corner to scale it and preserve its aspect ratio. It most apps, you hold the SHIFT key and drag to keep it locked while you scale it up or down.

Visual Design Mistake 2: Not Sure Where to Focus

This is a general issue and I’ll address more specific fixes below. Essentially the eye moves across the screen in a pattern. Without a structured design, we tend to scan in a Z pattern. There are some things that disrupt the pattern like colors, size, whitespace, and an object’s relationship to another. That means we can help control eye movement. However, many times the course screens seem to just have a hodge-podge of things on it with lots of conflicting attempts to draw the eye’s attention.

z pattern when scanning screen

Here are two good fixes:

Visual Design Mistake 3: Inconsistent Visual Style

Ever take a course where each slide or screen looks different than the other? This usually happens because the developer is building slide to slide. I see this all the time in workshops. What happens is that they make design decisions at the slide level as they work. This leads to spending too much time reviewing every font installed on the computer looking for just the right one. Or going a stock photo site and trying to come up with ideas.

Other elements of visual inconsistency are:

style guide for e-learning

Again, I’ll reference intentional design and the need to have a plan around what will and won’t be on the screen. One easy solution is to do some sort of design mapping like the one David Anderson shares. It helps you consider the visual elements of your courses and make design decisions before you start building. Once you’ve narrowed down your intent you should put together a simple style guide. You’ll save time and have visual consistency.

Visual Design Mistake 4: No Visual Hierarchy

This issue relates to the mistake above. If everything on the screen looks equal it’s hard to scan the content and even more difficult to figure out what fits where.

visual hierarchy adds context and makes it easier to scan

Having a visual hierarchy fixes this. It allows you to chunk content and makes it easier to discern context. The easiest thing is to create a simple style guide with headings, sub-headings, and body text.

Visual Design Mistake 5: Alignment Looks Sloppy & Out of Whack

There are some courses where the margins are all different widths and objects aren’t aligned properly. This makes the course look sloppy and a little out of balance or off kilter. It’s like walking into the room where the furniture doesn’t seem to be staged right and the pictures are crooked. You may not be a home decorator, but you definitely can tell when it doesn’t look right. The same goes with a visual design that is out of balance. It just doesn’t look right. And it may make it bit more challenging to understand the course content.

alignment woes in e-learning

This is easy to fix:

  • Have consistent margins.
  • Align objects, left justified is the most common. If you switch the justification, have a reason why.
  • Extra space between groups helps communicate that they’re grouped.
  • A lot of people use a grid system to keep onscreen objects aligned.

Those are common design mistakes that easily fixed and they help you avoid the Curse of the Frankencourse. If you want to learn more check out the visual design tips in the e-learning community, download this free e-book, and join us at one of our Roadshow workshops.

What do you find to be common visual design mistakes?


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

e-learning Articulate workshops

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • Articulate Roadshows. Join us for one or two days of e-learning goodness. Day 1 focuses on more general e-learning topics and Day 2 is centered on learning to build some nice, reusable interactions. They're great activities to help you learn more about the tools. Sign up using the links below. Seats are limited for the events. If you're interested in presenting at one of the roadshows, let me know.
  • Boston: July 18 & 19. Early bird rate expires July 7. Register here.
  • Toronto: August 9 & 10. Early bird rate expires July 21. Register here.
  • Seattle: August 21 & 22. Early bird rate expires August 7. Register here.
  • Austin: September 12 & 13. Early bird rate expires August 28. Register here.
  • San Francisco: October 10 & 11. Early bird rate expires September 15. Seats limited for this event. Register here.
  • London: November 13 & 14. Details coming soon.
  • Manchester: November 16 & 17. Seats will be limited. Details coming soon.
  • There are a couple of other events planned. Once we get all of the bookings confirmed, we'll add the registration page and info.

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

How to Convert Static Slides into Interactive E-Learning

convert slides into interactive e-learning

A lot of e-learning content starts with existing PowerPoint slides. And a common challenge is converting all of that PowerPoint training into interactive and engaging e-learning. Today we’ll look at a few considerations that will help make the conversion to interactive e-learning successful.

Understand Why the E-Learning Course Needs to Be Interactive

Generally speaking, there are two components to interactive content. We’ve covered this in a previous post, but here’s a quick overview:

interactive e-learning

  • Interact with the screen. The goal is to get them to lean in and have them do things onscreen like dragging objects and opening and closing various elements. Create novel onscreen interactions. The focus isn’t on the learning as much as it is the experience of “touching” the screen.
  • Interact with the content. As far as interacting with the content, the general idea is getting them to access the content in a manner consistent with real-world activities and making the types of decisions they need to make after they exit the course.

Understand How We Interact with the E-Learning Course

There are three main ways to interact with the screen: click, hover, or drag. Most interactions tend to be click-based. A good practice activity is to convert what would have been a click-based interaction into something else. How would it work if it was changed to a drag and drop for example?

interactive e-learning

Understand Why We Interact with the E-Learning Course

While going through the course, most interactions happen because of one of three reasons:

interactive e-learning

  • Course Navigation: the user navigates around the course and the course content.
  • Content Exploration: the user explores what’s available in the course.
  • Decision Making: the user makes decisions and gets feedback.

These usually overlap. For example, as a user is challenged to make a decision, she may have to explore the content and determine what she needs to make the best decision.

Combine Building Blocks to Create Interactive E-Learning

There are a few core building blocks that help convert static information into interactive e-learning.

The 3C Model is a Simple Way to Understand Interactive Scenarios

Assuming the content and activities are framed in a meaningful context, here’s a simple way to structure interactive scenarios:

3C model interactive e-learning

  • Challenge. You want to expose their level of understanding. Get them to make decisions.
  • Choices. Provide choices based on the decision-making challenges.
  • Consequences. Each choice produces a consequence. It can be immediate feedback, another challenge, or compounded feedback presented at one time.

This is a simple way to remember the interactive process. What types of decisions does the learner need to make? What choices will you present? And then what are the consequences of those choices?

When you review your static content or existing PowerPoint slides, look for ways to make it interactive. Understnad how they’ll use the content in the real world and build decisions around that. Then find ways for them to lean-in and interactive with the screen.

What do you do to convert your PowerPoint training into interactive e-learning?


Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

e-learning Articulate workshops

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • Articulate Roadshows. Join us for one or two days of e-learning goodness. Day 1 focuses on more general e-learning topics and Day 2 is centered on learning to build some nice, reusable interactions. They're great activities to help you learn more about the tools. Sign up using the links below. Seats are limited for the events. If you're interested in presenting at one of the roadshows, let me know.
  • Boston: July 18 & 19. Early bird rate expires July 7. Register here.
  • Toronto: August 9 & 10. Early bird rate expires July 21. Register here.
  • Seattle: August 21 & 22. Early bird rate expires August 7. Register here.
  • Austin: September 12 & 13. Early bird rate expires August 28. Register here.
  • San Francisco: October 10 & 11. Early bird rate expires September 15. Seats limited for this event. Register here.
  • London: November 13 & 14. Details coming soon.
  • Manchester: November 16 & 17. Seats will be limited. Details coming soon.
  • There are a couple of other events planned. Once we get all of the bookings confirmed, we'll add the registration page and info.

 

Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.