7 Ways to Create Characters for Your Online Training Courses

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create characters

In this post we’ll review seven ways to create characters for your online training courses. For the most part these characters can be created in PowerPoint so you don’t need other tools.

Create Characters by Customizing Clip Art

If all you have is clip art then that’s what you have to work with. But you still have some flexibility. Start by selecting the clip art image, ungrouping it, and making the customizations you need. Then regroup it. I also like to save the new image as a .png.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create characters using PowerPoint clip art

Here are some posts that should help you do this:

With some creativity you can do quite a bit. I try to stick with the same image style and remove all of the background items that make clip art look like clip art.

Create Characters by Pulling Them Out of Stock Images

You can find a lot of stock images for free. However, it’s not always easy to find people who are isolated. But that’s easy enough to do yourself. I look for images with people that I can pull out of the image. PowerPoint 2010+ has a remove background feature that works well in most cases.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create characters using sotck images

Once you’ve isolated the people you can put them over any background or even create silhouettes.

Create Characters by Using Simple Shapes

Pictograph images are common for signs and work well with a lot of procedural and safety training.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create characters using shapes and pictograms

Create Characters by Sketching Them

I used to do a lot more sketching of images back when I had one of the old tablet PCs. It’s easy enough to do.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create characters using sketches

At a recent conference Blair Rorani live tweeted my session and created some cool images. I tried it myself at the workshop in Denver, which you can see below.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create characters using sketches and iPad

Sketching doesn’t need to be perfect and the organic nature of it provides a novel contrast to what we usually see in our elearning courses.

Create Characters by Using a Flat Design

In a recent post I needed some characters that matched the characters David used in his blog post on a weekly challenge. Since it was a flat character it was easy enough to create using PowerPoint.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create characters using flat characters

As you can see in the image below, the character is a bunch of shapes combined to look like a person, probably a lot like how we were created.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create characters using flat characters in PowerPoint

Create Characters Using Illustrations in PowerPoint

This last technique takes a little practice but offers the most flexibility because you can virtually trace any image you need.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create characters using illustrated characters created in PowerPoint


Those who know Inkscape or Illustrator can use those tools to create vector files. But the images above were created in PowerPoint. Once you get a hang of it, creating the images is generally easy.

At least try to create one image and see how it works. I took a stab at creating a self-portrait (and then I squished it a little at the sides to lose a few pounds).

Create Characters by Customizing the Articulate Characters

Many of you use the Articulate software. The illustrated characters, just like clip art, can be ungrouped and customized. That means you can change the facial features or modify the outfits, which comes in handy if you have specific work uniforms.

If you use Studio ‘13, insert a character and ungroup it. Then make whatever changes you want. In Storyline, insert a character on the slide and then save as an image. Use the .emf or .wmf format. This keeps them as vector images that can be ungrouped. Then bring the image into PowerPoint and ungroup it to make modifications. Save the modified image and insert on your Storyline slide.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create characters customize Articulate characters

Above is an example of a character I modified. I changed the facial features a bit, made her head smaller to look less cartoonish, and put her in a work outfit. I used the Best Buy look to show some branded work attire.

And here’s another example where I combined the characters with some assets from other clip art. I ungrouped the clip art character to use the hard hat and utility belt.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create characters customizing Articulate characters and using clip art

In an ideal world you have access to a graphics person or a budget to buy the characters you need. But that’s not the case for many of you. These tips above should help you get started and give you enough options to create the characters you need.

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      The post 7 Ways to Create Characters for Your Online Training Courses appeared first on The Rapid eLearning Blog.

      6 Reasons To Use Focus Groups in eLearning

      Why You Should Use Focus Groups in eLearning

      While focus groups are often associated with television shows and tangible products, they can actually be invaluable feedback tools for eLearning professionals. Focus groups in eLearning give you the opportunity to gain insight into how your eLearning deliverable will be received and if will in fact provide a truly effective eLearning experience. It will also allow you to fine tune your eLearning project by determining its strengths and weaknesses.

      1. More effective than surveys and polls.
        While surveys and polls can be helpful when trying to get feedback for your eLearning course or online training, focus groups are much more effective when it comes to gauging learner experience. This is primarily due to the fact that online surveys offer limited insight. They typically consist of very narrow questions, and very few people choose to actually leave comments if you do leave space in the survey for a more in depth feedback. Not to mention that learners usually don't have the time or the motivation to complete surveys. On the other hand, eLearning focus groups are handpicked individuals who are there for one clear purpose: to test out your eLearning deliverable so that you can create a powerful learning experience for your learners. Therefore, you can rest assured that they are going to give you ideas and opinions on what is working and what you need to improve upon moving forward.
      2. Gain an in depth understanding of learners benefits.
        Not only can eLearning focus groups give you the opportunity to determine the strong and weak points of your eLearning course, but they can also help you to identify the benefits that your learners will receive upon completion. For instance, you can ask the eLearning focus group what they have learned from taking the eLearning course and how they feel this knowledge can benefit them in the real world. This will offer you insight into how your learners will ultimately be able to apply the information they'll acquire. It can also allow you to determine if the content is being presented in such a way that they can retain knowledge for later use or if it is causing cognitive overload.
      3. Helps you to determine eLearning courses’ prerequisites.
        It's also important to mention that focus groups in eLearning offer the added advantage of determining your eLearning deliverable's prerequisites. For example, if members of the focus group don't have any prior experience with the subject matter and seem confused after completing the eLearning course, this can clue you into the fact that your learners will need to have some professional knowledge before they enroll for the eLearning course. You can then add prerequisites into the syllabus or course description, such as: “learners need to have prior knowledge of basic sales terminology” or “learners should have completed the beginner's customer service module before taking this eLearning course”.
      4. Allows you to explore known issues.
        If you have any issues with your eLearning development strategy or the design of your eLearning course, then you can create an eLearning focus group that delves into that particular problem. For example, rather than having them assess the entire eLearning course, you can provide them with the module that you're concerned about and ask them specific questions that help you to narrow down how to solve the problem. Then, after you remedy the issue, you should ask the focus group to assess the module once again, so that you can ensure that the issues have been fully addressed. In addition, if any new problems arise as a result of your improvements, eLearning focus groups can help to identify those as well.
      5. More convenient and cost efficient than one-on-one interviews.
        While one-on-one interviews with learners may give you a detailed analysis of how your eLearning course will fare after it's rolled out, this particular feedback technique can be costly and time consuming. Generally, you will have to compensate these individuals for their time, which is typically more than the pay of a focus group member. In addition, you will have to sit down with several different individuals in order to get a general overview of your eLearning deliverable's strengths and weaknesses. When conducting a focus group, you can speak with several individuals at once and don't have to worry about scheduling conflicts that could delay the interview. There's no wasted time, and you get immediate eLearning feedback that can help you to fine tune your eLearning course quickly and conveniently.
      6. Offers you the opportunity to fine tune every aspect of your eLearning deliverable before launch.
        There are several things to consider before offering your eLearning course to your learners. You wonder whether the content is well organized and well written, or if the overall design of the eLearning course allows for ease of navigation. In fact, there are so many issues to consider that some of them may just slip through the cracks and end up diminishing the quality of your learners’ experience. However, if you have a number of focus group members trying out your eLearning course before you roll it out, there's a good chance that every aspect of your eLearning deliverable will be carefully assessed and analyzed. You know what they say: “two sets of eyes are better than one”. In a focus group setting, all eyes are on the quality of your finished eLearning deliverable.

      eLearning focus groups are worth considering if you want a more in depth analysis of your eLearning deliverable, or even if you want to ensure that it is meeting the needs and wants of your audience. Given that focus groups can offer you all of these significant benefits, why not try using a focus group for your next eLearning deliverable?

      Want to learn about additional feedback techniques and tools you can use to take your eLearning course to the next level? The article Tips To Give and Receive eLearning Feedback highlights 9 tips to give and receive eLearning feedback, so that you have the power to provide the best possible learning experience for your learners.

      This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

      9 Ways to Bring Talent and Learning Management Together

      Click here to read part 1, 'A Time of Crisis for the UK Learning and Development Industry.'

      You’ll remember from your time at school that students were encouraged to be ‘average’. If they performed poorly at a subject or lacked a certain skill, it is that which they would be required to spend the extra time working on. And any natural strengths they had? Well, if they were already good at them, there was no need to expend any further effort in those areas.

      This training technique results in a lot of average people: they are mostly good or adequate at most things. But in an organisation, you don’t want a lot of average people – you want employees who have exceptional individual talents. Someone who is brilliant with numbers to work on the accounts; someone with a natural skill for leadership to take the team forward. What does it matter if these individuals can’t do the other’s job? That’s not what you’re paying them for!

      What is really needed is a Learning and Development plan which focuses on individual talents: the skills that organisations need. Of course, there will be basic levels of understanding that are necessary in an organisation. But over and above this, businesses should be focusing on developing employees’ natural talents.

      How to bring talent and learning management together

      Lots of ideas surrounding man1. Create competencies.

      In order to know what the L&D plan needs to deliver, organisations need to create a set of competencies – the skills and behaviours that employees need to possess and display in order to meet the company’s needs and the industry’s demands.

      2. Assess competencies.

      Once competencies have been created, employees can then be assessed. Competency assessments are all about providing a way of building the skills and knowledge that people need to perform their current job. It’s also the key element of the succession planning process because it provides a way of developing people for their future roles.

      3. Map skills to roles.

      What makes a good salesperson? What skills does a retail store manager need? How do they differ from a warehouse manager, or Head of Finance? Once you know what skills each role requires, you can plan your training around learning and improving these skills – which will benefit the individual employee, the department and the company.

      4. Develop an L&D strategy aligned to business needs.

      In the past, this might have involved creating a five-year L&D plan that would focus on meeting the business’s projected needs. But with such a tumultuous business landscape now, it is essential instead for L&D to develop the ‘mindset and capability to understand the emerging needs of the business … and [have] the ability to design “just-in-time” learning solutions that harness current issues’ (Training Industry, 2011). L&D need to be able to react to changes in the business quickly, efficiently and expertly.

      5. Get Subject Matter Experts involved in eLearning content production.

      Stop outsourcing your training and development to external companies that don’t know your organisation, don’t know your employees and don’t know your industry.
      To create the best training programme that truly meets the needs of the organisation, L&D should utilise the skills and knowledge of subject matter experts (SMEs) within the company.

      While subject matter experts really know their stuff – that’s why they’re experts after all – this doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to teach others what they know, especially when it comes to designing online learning. To get SMEs on the same page as L&D, it’s important to get them involved in eLearning production (Articulate, 2011). Think of your own organisation: I’ll bet there are a lot of extremely knowledgeable employees who are approaching retirement age. Are you just going to let them take their knowledge with them and have it disappear from the company forever? Of course not! Get them involved – encourage them to collaborate with other employees, old and new, and share their knowledge.

      6. Make training relevant to the role.

      To truly break down barriers between learning management and talent management, it’s essential that training is relevant to the employee’s job role. Contextual learning (making the learning directly relevant) aids in problem solving, encourages learners to learn from each other and allows them to monitor their own learning, leading them to become motivated self-learners, or ‘active’ learners (CORD, 2012). In other words, training has to be business critical: it has to be beneficial to the organisation and fit into the business’s objectives.

      7. Make employees accountable.

      When employees become active learners, they become accountable – they realise that improving their skills and learning new things is beneficial and ultimately up to them. Whereas in the past L&D ‘owned’ the training program, more and more these days it is the employees (i.e. learners) that are taking the reins (Personnel Today, 2014). In an ideal world, L&D will become the facilitators of knowledge, helping learning to happen where it needs to happen. Which brings us on to point 8…

      Playing pictionary together8. Encourage informal learning.

      You may be familiar with the ‘70:20:10’ problem. It states that while 70% of our knowledge comes from on-the-job training and 20% through observation of others (together, these are ‘informal’ or ‘social’ learning), only a tiny 10% comes from ‘formal’ training, i.e. training courses, workshops, eLearning units and textbooks.

      For some reason, it is the 10% that L&D programmes focus on – which means employees miss out on 90% of learning which occurs informally! Therefore, when employees are encouraged to continue their education outside of the formal training, they actually come to remember more.

      9. Reinforce learning.

      Organisations need to have a way to reinforce the learning content – otherwise, it will be forgotten. After all, without reinforcement, the training will be nothing more than knowledge transfer, which has been shown not to lead to any behavioural change (CAOT, 2005).

      Different forms of training

      Essentially, although L&D may be confident that they can improve employees’ performance, if the training isn’t obviously linked to their roles, skills and strengths, the organisation won’t see any discernible improvements and, sooner or later, the L&D plan will fail.

      To bridge the skills gap, we need to utilise the different forms of training available to us. If 90% of learning comes from informal training yet L&D are focused only on the formal 10%, they are investing 100% of their resources (not just money, but time, accountability, effort and support, too) in 10% of learning. Of course the sums aren’t adding up!

      Imagine what could be achieved if L&D focused 100% of their resources on reaching 100% of learning… Learning would feel personal and learners would become empowered – they’d be able to see improvements in their own skills, witness the positive impact that training is having on their daily lives and really internalise the idea that the training is useful to them.

      When learning is informal or ‘social’ we retain more of what we’re taught. Indeed, now more than ever there is an emphasis on communication in L&D (Personnel Today, 2014). Communication between learners aids learning; communication of the culture of learning encourages the whole organisation to take charge of their learning and to believe in it.

      Two people talking communication

      Next time: why education and entertainment should not be thought of as mutually exclusive!

      ABOUT: Juliette Denny is Managing Director of Growth Engineering, a multi-awarding winning Learning Technologies company who are the the self-proclaimed arch-enemies of dull online learning. Juliette says: "We work towards challenging every preconceived notion of eLearning to establish a new and refreshing experience for learners. We aid and inspire learning by creating innovative learning designs and using modern technologies. Our gamified Academy Platform and game-based learning create all-new levels of engagement and we also offer a library of Ofqual-recognised qualifications to help our learners pump rocket fuel into their professional development. In short, we want to make your learning journey as easy and rewarding as possible." Find out more at www.growthengineering.co.uk

      This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

      Brauchen wir mehr BarCamps? Ja & Nein

      Letzte Woche hat ja in Frankfurt wieder eine Neuauflage (die 4.!) des CorporateLearningCamps stattgefunden - mit 159 “TeilgeberInnen” und 58 Sessions in 2 Tagen, wie auf der mixxt-Plattform nachzulesen ist. Frank Vohle (Ghostthinker) war einer der Teilnehmer. In seinem Rückblick unterstreicht er den gelebten “2.0″-Gedanken vor Ort, sieht aber auch Grenzen des Formats:

      “Auch BarCamps bedienen die Bedürfnisse der Teilnehmer, sind in diesem Sinne selbstreferenziell und laufen damit Gefahr, dass sie das nicht beobachten, was außerhalb der Horizonte der Teilnehmer liegt oder eben hier und jetzt nicht interessiert: So sind Fragen um die Voraussetzung von Bildungsproduktion (Struktur, Macht, Autonomie, Finanzierung, Zweck, politische Abhängigkeit) oder zu alternativen Modellen der Bildung gerade im Kontext der Wirtschaft zwar in Flurgesprächen präsent, in angebotenen Sessions bleiben die Sitze aber leer! Resonanz und Relevanz kommen nicht immer zur Deckung.”

      Mein Eindruck: Eine sehr hohe Messlatte, der man wahrscheinlich nur gerecht wird, wenn man zu einem Learning Camp über “Bildung & Macht” einlädt. Und selbst dann werden sicher “um des Diskurses willen” Dinge ausgeblendet.
      Frank Vohle, Spurensuche, 28. September 2014

      Nachtrag (03.10.2014): Weitere Nachberichte/ Reflektionen vom #clc14: Karlheinz Pape: “CorporateLearningCamp #CLC14 mit Sessionrekord zu Ende gegangen”; Karlheinz Pape: “CLC14 Stimmung als How to Video von Lutz Berger”;         Werner Sauter: “Bildung und Ermöglichungsdidaktik im betrieblichen Lernen - ein Widerspruch?”;  Inga Wiele: “Barcamp - Corporate Learning Camp 2014 in Frankfurt”

      LEO shares its vision for the future of learning at WOLCE 2014

      LEO’s Chief Executive Jonathan Satchell and Chief Strategy Officer Piers Lea are presenting a keynote session at the World of Learning Conference and Exhibition (WOLCE) from 10.45-11.20am on 30th September. The free-to-attend fringe seminar ‘How has the learning landscape changed – what is the vision for the future?’ offers attendees the opportunity to learn more about LEO, as well as to get the newly merged company’s take on current and future trends in learning technologies.