Things to Consider When Adding Multimedia to E-Learning Projects

multimedia

E-learning courses are mostly screens of content made up of media: text, shapes, illustrations, pictures, and video.

Adding those things to your course is simple, usually just a matter of inserting said media onto the screen. However, building a cohesive course is more than just inserting stuff on a screen. There are other considerations.

Design the Look of the E-Learning Course

What’s on a screen?

  • Fonts. They are more than the text you read; they’re also a graphic. Which fonts are you using in your course? Are they contextually aligned with your content?
  • Shapes. Shapes can have straight edges or rounded; they can have outlines or not. The shape can represent something elegant or informal.
  • Illustrations. There are all sorts of illustrative styles. One popular style today is the corporate Memphis look. Of course, there are many designers who find it to be barren.

And this brings us to a key consideration when working with multimedia: the bullet points above speak to some visual design requirements. Who will design what you need? What is the correct imagery and use of fonts and desired color schemes?

A challenge for many e-learning developers: having ideas about what you want and executing on those ideas is not the same. I see lots of good courses that are not designed well. The cause is usually that the e-learning developer lacks the technical skill to construct the right media.

Create Audio and Video Resources

There are similar considerations for other multimedia such audio and video.

Recording audio is easy and straightforward in most of the authoring tools. However, they don’t tend to have a lot of sophistication when it comes to editing or managing the audio.

For simple audio, recording from the authoring tool is fine. But for longer audio, there are considerations about how to record, who will record it, and how it’s all managed.

You can do it all in-house or DIY, but you do get what you pay for. I figure non-professional talent gives you presentation quality audio. It’s inexpensive, gets the job done, yet isn’t going to be perfect. But it’s not the same as pro-quality narration.

The good thing today is that there are many voice over artists and talent services where getting professional audio at a reasonable cost is viable.

Video is another one of those tricky issues. Today’s smart phones have better capabilities than I had doing professional video work 25 years ago. It’s easy to shoot video and edit it. But there is a significant difference between a DIY video and getting something done professionally. Or at a minimum, spending time on edits to get things to look right and not drag on.

The big question for any of the course’s multimedia is who is going to determine and design what you need? And then who is going to produce the media?

I throw this out because the course will look like something. And you’ll put something on the screen. And there’s a cost associated with it. Doing it yourself may cost less money but may impact the quality of what you produce.

Thus, at the beginning of the project time needs to be spent on the media requirements and production considerations. And then determine if there needs to be a budget to accommodate those requirements.

How do you determine those things when you start an e-learning project?


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Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

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Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

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Who’s Working on That E-Learning Course with You?

e-learning

One challenge I see for those who are just getting started with e-learning is that while they have the authoring tools to build the courses, they tend to lack the other connections and resources to pull the courses together.

It’s important to build a network of contributors and resources. And this starts with having the right people because they come with the right content, reviews, feedback, and approval.

Here are a few considerations:

  • Client. Someone is commissioning the course. They provide objectives, scope, deadlines, and access to resources. They also sign-off on what is to be done.
  • Subject Matter Experts. You may be the subject matter expert (which is common for e-learning) otherwise you’ll need access to the subject matter experts. And you’ll need to determine the source of truth for the content. And who is the final authority to confirm that?
  • Analyst. You want the learning objectives to be measurable and know the source of measurement; you need access to the metrics and how they’re measured. Otherwise at the end of the project you have no way of knowing if the objectives were met.
  • Project Manager. How is the project managed? There are a lot of steps involved and co-dependent elements between approval of content, assets, assessments, and implementation.
  • Learners. It’s important to get the perspective of the learning audience since they’re the ones who take the courses. I like to pull in new people who just learned the material. They provide a perspective that a seasoned subject matter expert may overlook.
  • Reviewers. Who will review the course? And at what point. It’s a good idea to get the content reviewed and confirmed before investing too much time in building the course. When building the course, especially with interactions and assessments that take more time to build, create quick prototypes and get them tested rather than build complete modules.
  • Programmers. Someone will assemble the course. It may as easy as opening the authoring tool and dropping in content. But you may want to do some hacks or add other elements that require some programming knowledge.
  • Multimedia Developers. Courses consist of visuals and multimedia such as audio and video. Who is designing the look of the course? Do videos need to be recorded and edited? What about special animations? Again, a lot of the simple stuff can be created in the authoring tool, but you may want access to someone who can create custom media.
  • IT Support. From my experience, most of the e-learning problems happen right before implementation. Where does the course live? Who has access to the servers or LMS? What happens with technical issues?
  • Marketing. The marketing team may not play any role in your course design. However, they often have a lot of critical information and collateral that has already been vetted. I’d seek them out for brand consideration, messaging, and media collateral like images and videos.

The reality for many e-learning developers is that they play the role of all (or most) of the people above? If that’s the case, the considerations are still the same. They just need to be scaled back a bit.

Question for you: when you build e-learning courses, how many people tend to work on the course with you? And how much are you doing on your own?


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

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

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Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

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

 

Starting an E-Learning Project

e-learning

“Help, I am just getting started with e-learning and don’t know where to start!”

There’s obviously a lot that goes into e-learning. And creating courses can be a bit daunting for those less experienced. So let’s break it down a bit to help you get started.

People Don’t Have Course Deficiencies

People don’t sit around waiting to take e-learning courses. Those courses exist as a solution to something. The goal isn’t to build the course. The goal is to meet some objective and the course is a means to getting there.

This seems obvious, but a lot of e-learning is usually repurposed content with no real connection to any tangible objective.

The best place to started is to make sure you’re building a course to meet a need.

Things to Consider When Getting Started

  • Meet with your client and determine what the training requirements are for the e-learning projects. Your goal is to establish measurable objectives. To do so, you need to know if the request from the client is really met with a training solution. Often, it’s not. Focus on what the expected outcome is and not just that a course is to be built.
  • Get the client thinking. I usually send over a list of a few core questions so that they’re prepared and have thought about some of the issues like the audience and what they hope to accomplish.
  • Determine timelines. When is the project due? How much time do you have to work on it? Is the request in line with time available? What is the least work you can do to meet the objectives?
  • Are there existing resources? Collateral from other projects? Data? If you need access to subject matter experts or others on the team, it’s important to know that and how you’ll get that access.
  • Is there a budget? Many organizations just expect that courses get built because you have the e-learning software, but they don’t offer a budget for the assets and work that may be required to be successful. Find out if there’s a budget.
  • Identify the final authority on who can make the important decisions and sign off on work. And then you want that person involved before you do any significant production. The last thing you want is a “final course” that needs to be reviewed. Ideally, all the content is reviewed and signed off prior to any significant construction.
  • Leave the initial meeting with next steps and action items. And every meeting you have after should require some decisions. If not, don’t have a meeting.

There’s obviously a lot that goes into build an e-learning course and this is just a few quick bullet points. The main things before building any e-learning course: make sure you need a course, determine objectives, and determine who owns the project.


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

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

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

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

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

 

How to Help Your Clients Built Better E-Learning

effective e-learning

One frustration I’ve had when building e-learning courses is getting the client to understand what makes an effective course. People tend to ask for what they’re used to seeing. And since many experience e-learning as click-and-read content they tend to ask for that type of course, which for an e-learning developer isn’t exciting.

There are many times when a click-and-read approach is appropriate.  So, this isn’t a rant against click-and-read courses. However, there are also plenty of times, where a click-and-read course isn’t the best solution.  In those cases, it can be a challenge getting your clients to see past what they’re used to and consider a different approach that better meets to goals.

What does the client expect as an outcome?

All courses aren’t the same. There are many that are more like certification courses that are annual reminders of company policies or regulatory requirements. In that world, there’s no real performance expectation other than compliance and the desired outcome is to have a record of course completion at the end of the year.

That’s different from a course where the client expects real changes in performance such as improved production or increased sales. In those courses, there’s some desired area of improvement that’s been identified and ideally training offers some benefit to meeting that improvement.

Allocate resources appropriately.

If you’re building simple compliance training, don’t overbuild the course and waste time with superfluous interactivity and other media which can take more time and cost more money. Build the simplest course that conveys the compliance information effectively and meets the needs of the organization.

If you’re building courses to change behavior, don’t get stuck in a click-and-read rut because it’s easy. Build the appropriate learning experience to meet the goals. This usually involves a lot more analysis and commitment. Effective performance-based e-learning takes more time to build and costs more to produce. With limited resources, you don’t want the resources consumed by simpler compliance training and not have them available for more expensive development when required.

Align course objectives to the appropriate metrics.

Once you understand the desired outcomes you can collect the metrics to prove course success. Compliance training is easier because the requirement is mostly to track and report course completion by a specified date. Let’s face it, you’re not building ethics training where 75% of the company is unethical and after the training it’s down to only 10%. You’re reminding people about ethics and company standards.

Performance-based objectives are a bit more challenging. The organization has a desired objective, and they have some way of measuring whether it’s currently met or not. That is good because that provides the basis for clear metrics to help determine if the training is successful.

However, the reality is that training may only be part of what changes behavior and meets those performance objectives. There are other things that have an impact on success that are outside of training such as access to resources, environmental issues, and personal motivation.

You’ll need to work with the client to determine what the course can impact and how you can measure it to report success.

That’s quick overview. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that. But if you’re building courses, don’t just start with the easy click-and-read. Work with the client to understand their goals and then build the course that best meets them.


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

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

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

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

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

 

What’s Wrong with Retrofitting an Accessible E-Learning Course

accessible e-learning retrofit

A guest post by Elizabeth Pawlicki, Training Program Manager, Articulate.

Many e-learning designers are challenged because they don’t often build accessible e-learning courses. So, they’re not sure what accessibility means and how it impacts course design.

In a recent webinar, we discussed general ideas around accessible e-learning, common design challenges, and some ways to overcome them. One of the tips was to plan for accessibility from the start because it’s not a good idea to retrofit 508 or WCAG compliance into existing e-learning courses.

An attendee asked, “What’s wrong with retrofitting a course?”

Good question.

Understanding Accessible E-Learning

Imagine a city that already exists full of apartment buildings, skyscrapers, and transit systems. And then the city council implements a law that says there must be a half-acre of park every two square miles.

How will you accomplish that?

You either must tear down what you’ve already built or try to squeeze the bare minimum of acceptable “parkland” into your existing space. Since the parks weren’t an initial consideration, you do what you can to meet minimum guidelines, but you may not meet the aspirational goals of the intent of more parks.

And that’s often the case with e-learning courses that weren’t built with accessibility in mind. The retrofitted courses may appear to meet the minimum requirements but may not offer the best user experience; and they may not actually meet the requirements if all you did after-the-fact was apply accessible features to the original content.  And of course, all of that retrofitting costs a lot of extra time and money.

Challenges Retrofitting Accessible E-Learning

There’s a lot that goes into creating an e-learning course like consulting with subject matter experts, writing scripts, developing prototypes, presenting content to stakeholders, and iterating on the prototypes you have created. In the end, you have a published output that everyone has agreed upon.

When you try to retrofit a completed course, it may seem easy and straightforward. But once you begin to uncover how much needs to be undone, redone, and how many people could and should be involved in that process, you’ll find it’s more costly, time-consuming, and downright difficult. This is especially true when you consider the interactive nature of e-learning and how different users access the content.

Therefore, it’s important to consider accessibility as part of the initial production process so that you understand what’s required and build a course that meets everyone’s needs. If you start with accessibility in mind, you’re considering everyone. Everyone will feel included because they are.

Want to learn more:



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  • October 29: ATD Nashville. Here's Why You Need an E-Learning Portfolio.

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

Here’s a great job board for e-learning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly e-learning challenges to sharpen your skills

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

Lots of cool e-learning examples to check out and find inspiration.

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

 

Three Ways to Use Theme Colors in E-Learning Courses

3 ways to use theme colors for e-learning

One way to speed up production in your e-learning course design is to use themed slides. You can create robust and visually varied templates like the ones you get in Content Library. The templates are a combination of layouts and two themed elements: fonts and colors. However, you don’t need to have a complex template to leverage theme colors.

Theme colors allow you to pre-determine the colors you’ll use in your course’s slides. There are several benefits and reasons when using theme colors.

Make Easy Updates to Theme Colors for E-Learning

Here’s a common scenario: insert an image and then do a color pick of the image to pull a color to use for outlines or shapes in the course. Later someone suggest changing the color. The challenge is going through every slide and making changes where that color was used.

Use theme colors to quickly modify all the objects with that same theme color. This doesn’t require a lot of consistency in terms of how you use the colors. It just means that if you do a color pick, for example, you add that to one of the accent colors so you can apply that accent color through the course.

If you have red shapes and they need to be blue, if you used a theme color to fill the shape all you need to do is change the theme color.

theme colors for e-learning templates

Create a Loaded Palette of Theme Colors for E-Learning

You get six accent colors, and each has five derivatives. You don’t need to have a real strategy when using theme colors. You get six slots. Figure out what six colors you need in your course and then create a palette, so you always have those six available to you.

You can use the colors willy nilly with no consideration to any real structure. The key advantage is having a palette of desired colors on hand.

theme colors for e-learning templates to have a palette

Develop a Strategy for Theme Colors for E-Learning

Assuming you build a lot of templates and you re-use them, then it makes sense to be strategic about how you use the theme colors. You get six slots. Use them the same way every time you create a theme color. That makes it easy to create a new theme and re-use templates because you know that the theme colors are applied the same way to the same objects.

Determine how you want to use the color slots and then use them that way consistently. This allows you to quickly apply new color themes knowing that the entire template will change, and the colors will make universal changes to the entire course.

theme colors for e-learning templates for universal changes

Some people are very strategic an organized in how they use theme colors. And some just use them with no sense of structure. They just want a place to load some colors and have quick access. That’s fine, too.

What you want to avoid is using single colors outside the theme that can’t easily or quickly be updated later. Theme colors help prevent that and save time when building courses whether your strategic or just using a palette.


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This Site Will Help When Troubleshooting Your Courses

In an ideal world, you create an e-learning course, publish it, and put it online. And everything works perfectly.

The reality is that there are many variables between the technology and the individual users and how they access the courses. And these variables can create issues which make it a challenge to troubleshoot e-learning courses when problems arise.

In a previous post, we looked at the HTML5Test site as a way to check the browser and how it’s current support for HTML5 which is important to know when adding interactivity and multimedia to projects.

To go with that post, here’s another good site: SupportAlly. It’s a simple site that allows you to collect information about the user’s computer, such as:

  • Which operating system are you using?
  • Which browser and version?
  • Screen size?
  • Browser window size?

All of the information above is key when trying to troubleshoot because many of the people who run into technical issues can’t easily find and share that information about their systems. So if you need to troubleshoot why a course isn’t working, send them the link above. It’ll capture info about their system and browser which they can easily share with you. That’ll save a few back and forth questions.

As a bonus, here’s a previous post where I share Ten Tips for Troubleshooting and Technical Support. One of them is to share your system info.


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Help! My Subject Matter Expert Needs to Edit My E-Learning Course

subject matter expert e-learning course

You’re building an e-learning course and your subject matter expert needs to review and make edits to the course. But they don’t have access to your e-learning software.

So how do you get them to make those edits? Here are some time-saving tips.

What Should Happen

Before you start building the e-learning course, you should have a signed and approved script. And then you work from that. Obviously, there will be a final review and there’s always some editing to be done. But there shouldn’t be a ton, or not enough that requires someone else make significant edits.

Of course, that’s not how it always works.

I’ve been on projects where it seems things are done and then marketing steps in and throws a wrench in the process. So you end up making a bunch of edits to fit the organization’s brand.

Another common issue is when training that involves the legal team. I have nothing against lawyers, but I swear, they can really create a lot of extra work, especially with compliance training where every word means something.

To combat this issue, you should bring all those teams to the table when you develop the content and prior to sign-off before you start assembling the course.

That’s how it should work in an ideal world: the project and content is reviewed and you get final sign-off.  But that’s just not how it ends up working for a lot of people.

How to Get the Subject Matter Expert to Make the Edits

Storyline has a feature to export the course text for translation. It gets exported to a Word doc. From there, someone can review and make text edits. When done, the Word doc is saved and imported back into Storyline. Why not use that feature for your subject matter experts?

Here’s what I’d do:

  • Publish the course to Review 360. They can see the course in action. Of course, they can add comments, but you don’t need them since they’ll be making edits in the doc.

subject matter expert reviews edits course

  • Export the course for translation.
  • Forward the Word doc to the subject matter expert with instructions on what to do.
  • The subject matter expert reviews the course and makes text edits in the Word doc.
  • The subject matter expert forwards the Word doc.
  • Import the edited doc into Storyline.


Watch the tutorial on YouTube.

That’s a pretty easy process. It allows your subject matter expert to review a published course. And where they want to make changes, they do so in the Word doc. Super easy and it doesn’t require that they have access to your e-learning application.


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

Upcoming E-Learning Events

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  • April 23 & 24 (Melbourne). Postponed until September. Details coming soon. Articulate Roadshow: Learn more and register here.
  • November 9 &10 (London). 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.

 

Two Apps to Help Manage Your PowerPoint & E-Learning Media Assets

manage multimedia

When I’ve completed PowerPoint presentations or e-learning courses, I like to save all of the media assets I used in the presentations and courses and put them in a single location. During production I have multiple versions of the files, which is fine. But when it’s all over, I like a single place for all the media assets. It makes it easy to locate and not have to dig through all of the versions and duplicate files.

In today’s post, I’m going to show you a few simple tips to manage the media assetsin your PowerPoint presentations and e-learning courses.

It does require a couple of free tools which you can download here:

Use Storyline’s Media Library to Locate and Export Media Assets

If you’re using Storyline 360, the easiest way to locate your assets is via the Media Library. From there, you can select the ones you want and export them. Media Library filters by images, characters, audio, and video.

manage media assets e-learning media library Storyline

Steps to export the media:

  • Open the Media Library under the View tab.
  • Filter media by type.
  • Select the media files.
  • Select export and the media files will be saved to a folder of your choosing.

Here’s a quick tutorial on exporting the media files from your Storyline projects using the Media Library.

Click here to watch the tutorial on YouTube.

Use 7-ZIP to Extract the Media Files from PowerPoint & Storyline

7-Zip is a free application to compress and extract files. Both PowerPoint (.pptx) and Storyline (.story) use compressed file formats. Use 7-Zip to extract the file, locate the media in it, and then copy the media to a temporary folder.

manage media assets e-learning PowerPoint 7-zip

Steps to extract the media from PowerPoint or Storyline files:

  • Locate your file.
  • Right-click and select extract.
  • This creates a new folder with the file name.
  • Locate the media folder inside the extracted file folder. In PowerPoint it’s in the “ppt” folder and in Storyline it is in the “story” folder).
  • Copy and paste the folder to your archive location.

Here’s a quick tutorial that shows how to use 7-Zip to locate the media files in both PowerPoint presentations and Storyline files.

Click here it view the tutorial on YouTube.

Use Microsoft PowerToys to Rename All of Your Files to a Single Project Name

Recently, I shared how to use PowerToys to preview SVG files. Today, we’ll review how to quickly rename all of those media files you just dug out of PowerPoint or Storyline.

The steps are pretty simple:

  • Locate the folder with the assets.
  • Select the files you want to rename.
  • Right-click and select “PowerRename” and rename the files.

manage media assets e-learning PowerPoint Microsoft PowerToys Rename

If the titles are something like image1 and you want to rename all instances of “image” to Safety101, that’s going to be real easy. However, the PowerToys renaming is pretty powerful and with a few simple variables, you can do all sorts of things.

Check out the tutorial below where I go through the basics of renaming and how to change the name when all of the text is a bunch of gibberish or not easily found and replaced (which is probably more common).

Click here to watch the tutorial on YouTube.

I’ll admit, I am not always consistent with how I manage my media assets. Sometimes I keep them in a big media folder and sometimes I keep them in project-specific folder. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. When everything is done, I can follow the tips above and quickly have all of my media assets in one folder that I can share or archive.

 


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

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • April 20 & 21 (Brisbane). Postponed until September. Details coming soon. Articulate Roadshow: Learn more and register here.
  • April 23 & 24 (Melbourne). Postponed until September. Details coming soon. Articulate Roadshow: Learn more and register here.
  • November 9 &10 (London). 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.

 

3 Production Tips for E-learning Developers

production tips e-learning

Many e-learning developers are usually on a small team. But most I know, are a team of one. This means lots of projects, many hats to wear in the process, no budget, and almost no time.

Here are three production tips and shortcuts from previous posts to help save time (and sanity) when building e-learning courses and online training.

A Simple Way to Build E-learning Templates

e-learning templates made easy

First, if you’re using Storyline 360, then you have a ton of templates and slides to use for your e-learning courses. And they’re easy enough to modify to meet your needs.

However, if you want to create some simple templates and e-learning screens, then here are 3 Super Easy Ways to Build E-Learning Templates.

Save Time Managing Your Project Emails

Generally when building online training courses, we send emails back and forth, which can be a pain to manage and cause a lot of extra work and confusion trying to clarify what’s being communicated.

With Review 360, most of that is resolved because you can manage the course review process in one place, eliminating all of those back and forth emails.

However, we still send emails. Here are some good production tips on managing the process so that when emailing others, the message is clear, and all action items are identified.

save time with this project management tip

Build Courses Around Real Learning Objectives to Save Time & Money

how to create learning objectives

There are many reasons why we build e-learning courses. Generally, they fall into one of two buckets: information or performance. An effective course is focused on performance-centered (and tangible) objectives.

If you don’t build courses around real learning objectives, you’ll waste time; and odds are no one will be happy with the course. Check out this blog post to get production tip on setting learning objectives for your e-learning courses.

Hopefully, these quick tips help you build the courses you need. Feel free to add some of your own in the comments.


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

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • April 20 & 21 (Brisbane). Postponed until September. Details coming soon. Articulate Roadshow: Learn more and register here.
  • April 23 & 24 (Melbourne). Postponed until September. Details coming soon. Articulate Roadshow: Learn more and register here.
  • November 9 &10 (London). 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.