Why e-Learning developers should helm your online course project

Let’s presume you have an important function. Two of your friends have volunteered to photograph the function. Friend One owns the latest camera in the town, knows a thing or two about photography, and is an ace with photo editing software. Friend Two, on the other hand, owns a mid-level camera, contributes articles on photography and works as a freelance photographer for a magazine. Whom will you choose?

My hunch is you will opt for Friend Two. For we do know that the camera and the software are just tools, yet give these tools to a person who knows about composition and lighting, has an eye for details, and you will get breath-taking photographs. The bottom line is it’s the person and not the technology that can get you the desired results.

Now let’s presume that you head the sales department of your organisation. Your newly-launched products are performing dismally, and the management is questioning you. Moreover, the sales managers are blaming the sales representatives, but then “we are doing our best” is what the representatives are saying. After much deliberation, you decide to replace your existing sales training course with a new one. Now the million-dollar question: Who will create the course? Will it be your sales managers who know how to create a course using authoring tools? Or – and this is a big or – will you get an e-Learning developer on board?

The first option looks tempting, isn’t it? You won’t incur extra cost, and managers are supposed to train their teams. Nonetheless, hiring an e-Learning developer will be a wiser, albeit a costlier decision.

Let me put forth a few points to build my case for why an e-Learning developer will be your best bet:

1. They will analyse the need for training

A training course may or may not be able to address poor performance. For example,
may be your sales team has not been properly briefed about the newly-launched products thereby rendering their sales pitch ineffective, or maybe the sales team comprises several members who have no experience in selling. In both the cases, a training course will be an apt solution.

At times, performance issues can arise due to lack of proper facilities. For example, if the employees of an e-commerce site are experiencing internet connectivity issues, their speed of processing orders will get hampered. In this case, a training course will prove futile.

Needs Analysis

2. They will analyse the problem in totality

An e-Learning developer will interact with different departments, employees across all levels, and if possible, your customers too. The developer will also go through the
previous training materials, sales feedback forms etc. Often such kind of a 360-degree analysis will allow your e-Learning developer to unearth the actual problems.

For instance, because your organisation makes products used in the car-manufacturing industry, the existing training focuses only that industry. The new products, in contrast, target the ship-building industry. As a result, many of the sales representatives are not fully aware about the features of the new products. In this case, the developer will suggest retaining the existing training materials and creating another course focussing on the ship-building industry.

Needs Analysis_2

3. They will decide the scope and the outcome/s

Scope and outcomes are the building blocks of a training course. Moreover, the two are closely interconnected. Let me explain you by giving an example. You want the course to focus on the features of the newly-launched products. However, what do you expect the representatives to do after taking the course? Do you want them to remember and recall the features of a particular product? Or do you want them to use the newly-acquired knowledge to suggest the most appropriate product to a customer? The two questions that I have listed here are the probable outcomes of the training course, and each outcome influences the scope of the training.

For example, if you want your representatives to just recall the features, then the scope of the training will be modules that outline the features of the newly-launched products.

However, if you want them to use the knowledge to suggest the most appropriate product, you are basically asking them to recall the features of different products, compare the features with the needs of the customer, and then suggest the most suitable product. In this case, the modules will focus on features of the newly-launched products, types of ships, needs of a builder of a particular type of ship, the features of your product and how these features address those needs etc.

Task Analysis.jpg

4. They will determine the best delivery mechanism

Your e-Learning developer will also determine the way in which the training will be delivered. For instance, if the training aims to make your employees aware of the features of a product, the ideal course will be an online module that will use a click-and-reveal strategy. In contrast, if a module aims to hone selling skills of the representatives, then just listing the points on how to suggest the most appropriate product won’t suffice. Rather a scenario in which a character analyses the needs of the customer and then suggests the most appropriate product to close a sales deal will prove far more effective. Moreover, the inclusion of activities such as role-plays will allow your employees to effectively apply the learning to real-life situations.

Task Analysis_1.jpg

5. They will keep the learner in mind

Learners are the core of any training. Therefore, your e-Learning developer will study the employee demographics, motivational level, skillset etc. to design an engaging course. For example, if your sales team love social media, your e-Learning developer might suggest using Pinterest wherein the employees can pin advertisements that use persuasion to sell their products. Thereafter, they can analyse and discuss the pins during the training period. Thus, your employees will become active learners instead of passive listeners.

6. They will take care of the course’s look and feel

The navigation style, layout of different elements, and images/graphics play a critical role in learning. Present a layout that is packed with text and images, and you will overwhelm the learner. Likewise, a confusing navigation style will leave the learner lost and confused, thereby even demotivating him/her.

Images too can aid the learning process vastly. Hence, choosing the correct images will be one of the important tasks your e-Learning developer will be performing.Let me give you an example. Given below are two images of the human digestive system. Now, if the objective of the course is to make the learners recall the parts of the digestive system, which image will you use?

figures1and2An e-Learning developer will choose Figure 1. That’s because the learner’s attention will remain focus on the digestive system. In contrast, in Figure 2, the hair, the face of the person is visible; therefore, sub-consciously, the attention of the learner will split between the essential (the digestive system) and the non-essential (the hair, the face).

7. They will act as a trouble-shooter

The job of an e-Learning developer does not end by developing a training course. Evaluating the course is also important. Your e-Learning developer will take feedback from the sales managers, the sales representatives, and customers to gauge the effectiveness of the course.

Formative Evaluation

Based on the feedback, your e-Learning developer will make further improvements. For example, if some employees having difficulties in remembering the features of different ships, your e-Learning developer will create a printable chart for a quick reference.

Thus, an e-Learning developer is someone who is well-versed with learning principles as well as tools and technology. If you hire one to develop your course, rest assured that you will not regret your decision.

About the author:

Punam Parab has been active in the field of e-learning, instructional designing and content development for close to a decade now. She has experience in designing content and learning materials for both children and adult learners. Likewise, she has developed both offline and online courseware and considers creating scenario/story-based learning modules, designing curriculum and developing academic content as her specialities. You can find more about her on http://punamparab.weebly.com

Using button sets and audio files in Storyline

Button sets are a good option to use in an interactive design as the logic of the button set permits only one button to be selected at any one time – so when the learner selects one object from the button set, the others automatically become deselected.

In this example I used button sets, layers and triggers to allow the learner to listen to individual sound tracks one at a time from the one slide.

Here’s how I did this:

1. Create the base layer

Firstly, I added a background image and seven images/objects to the base layer.  You could use the standard Storyline buttons here – or any image/object you like.

2. Create slide layers button/object and associated audio file

Then I created a slide layer for each object on the base layer and inserted the relevant audio file (to be associated with each of the objects on the base layer) onto each slide layer.  I also added a descriptive callout to each of the slide layers so you are able to tell that you’re on a different layer when you select an object.


2. Add the objects to a button set

Storyline generates a default button set automatically for every slide.  You can use this set, or you can create your own button set.  This is explained in detail in this article by David Fair.

I created my own new button set and named this “sounds”.


When you add objects/buttons to a button set, a “selected” state is automatically created for that object or button.  You can edit this selected state the same as you can edit any other states of an object or button.  The default format for this selected state when you use button sets is a “glow” based on one of your theme colours.


3. Add the triggers

There are two types of triggers I needed to include in this design.  The first trigger was the “show layer” trigger, assigned to each object on the base layer to show the relevant slide layer “When the user clicks” the object.


The second trigger was a “Play media when the timeline starts” trigger added to each of the slide layers.

4.  Check the slide layer properties

The last thing I did was to tick the “Hide slide layer when timeline finishes” visibility option in the slide layer properties .  This probably wasn’t really necessary for this design, but it pays to check these options, depending on what content and media you have on your slide and slide layers.

If you have audio (eg narration) on your base layer, you will need to select the base layer option “Pause timeline of base layer” to pause the audio narration in the event that the learner clicks on any of the objects/buttons that will take them away from the base layer and on to one of the slide layers before the narration finishes.


Some Tips

You don’t need to use the standard “buttons” in Storyline to use the button sets feature – you can create button sets from any object.

You can add objects/buttons to a button set at any stage – just follow this same process of selecting the object/button, right-clicking and choosing the relevant button set.

Depending on the type and/or length of the audio you’re including in your layers, you may want to consider adding a “close” option so that the learner can leave the layer if they don’t want to listen to the audio to the end.

The Result

Here is the final demo I created whilst writing these instructions – click on the image below to view the demo.


10 Things You Should Know About Articulate Storyline

Articulate Storyline 2 is “the most powerful, most intuitive software for creating interactive courses”.

As well as “putting practical tips, inspirational examples, free downloads and expert advice right at your fingertips”, the Articulate E-Learning Heroes community (“the world’s #1 e-Learning community”) posts weekly challenges which are ongoing opportunities for creatives to learn, share and build e-Learning portfolios.

Challenge #28 – Top 10 Things Learners Need to Know About Storyline was an opportunity for community members to put together a “Top 10 list of getting started tutorials” for any area of Storyline development.

My interactive entry for this challenge was a curated list of links to resources in the Articulate e-Learning Heroes knowledgebase, using a desktop theme, complete with tab navigation and light-boxed instructions. You can read about my design process here.

Using Question Banks in Articulate Storyline for Random Branching Scenarios

A client recently presented me with a challenge to create a course with a number of scenarios, but wanted the learner to view only one of these scenarios randomly.

In Articulate Storyline, Question Banks can be used for storing slides other than question slides.  This is how you can go about setting this up.

1. build your scenarios

In this example, I set up each scenario in a separate scene.

The first slide in each scenario is the slide that ends up being the one you import into your Question Bank.  In this example, I’ve already imported the first slides from three of the scenarios.  Scenario 4 has the first slide waiting to be imported into the Question Bank.

2. create your question bank

From the Home tab, click on Question Banks in the Scenes group, then select “Create Question Bank” from the list of options.

Give your Question Bank a meaningful name, click OK and your Question Bank will be created.

3. import slides into your question bank

You can access your Question Bank from the drop down list under Question Bank in the Scenes group.

Open your Question Bank and click on ‘Import Questions’ from the Insert group of the Home tab.

Locate the slide you want to import and click to select it.  Note the ‘Import’ options at the top of the Import Questions dialogue box – you have the option to ‘Copy’ or ‘Move’ your chosen slide.  The way I built my Scenes I intended to move the slide, so this is the option I chose.

4. create your “draw from new question bank” slide

I then built an initial Scene that contained an opening and closing slide, plus a ‘Draw from New Question Bank Slide’ – this is the key slide to get your random branching scenario draw set up.  To add this slide, choose ‘New Draw from Question Bank’ from the drop down Question Banks list in the Scenes group of the Home tab.

(Tip:  You need to be in ‘Story View’ to access this Scenes group)

5. modify the triggers

Once you have imported your slides into your Question Bank, you will need to modify the triggers.  The trigger for the Next button needs to be modified to jump to the next slide in the scenario, which will be the first slide in the scene you have set up after you imported the initial slide from the scene into your Question Bank (I labelled this slide ‘Scenario 1/2/3/4 – Continued’).  You should also delete the ‘Jump to previous slide’ trigger assigned to the Previous button.

6. view the final production

This is the final production in a video format.  You can see from the Menu that the course progresses from the ‘Opening Slide’, to a randomly selected Scenario drawn from the Question Bank, then ends with the ‘Closing Slide’.  I’ve played and recorded this twice so you can see the random selection of a different Scenario.

If you want the learner to view more than one of the scenarios, there is a slightly different process you need to follow – thank you to my good friend Matt Guyan for troubleshooting how to set this up for me.

You will need to set your scenario content slides up in layers, then add number variables and conditions on the Next button to show the layers.

source files

Here are the Storyline source files if you are interested in taking a look behind the scenes at how this all works.  Enjoy!

Random branching scenario – view one scenario
Random branching scenario – view more than one scenario

Smartphone video training for course designers

I recently participated in one of the e-Learning Heroes’ weekly challenges which challenged participants to create a training video using their smartphone.

Before I started this challenge I did a bit of research on using smartphones for video production and came across this YouTube video which I found extremely helpful, particularly the tip about how to focus on the main object you’re trying to capture in your video.


I produced a short video on the topic “How to make coffee” and learned many lessons along the way.  This challenge proved to me that there is value in considering this option for producing training content, but having the right set-up equipment would definitely help.

Here is my final production, with an overview of how I went about this and what I learnt   (click on the image).

How to Make Coffee

You can view other entries in this challenge on the e-Learning Heroes community blog here: E-Learning Challenge #42: Smartphone Video Training for Course Designers

The Gagne Assumption

Robert Gagne is considered to be one of the foremost contributors to the systematic approach to instructional design.  He developed a series of studies and works that explained what he (and others) believed to be good instruction based on the information processing model of the mental events that occur when adults are presented with various stimuli and focuses on the learning outcomes and how to arrange specific instructional events to achieve those outcomes.

The assumption is that different types of learning exist and different instructional conditions are most likely to bring about these different types of learning.

Click on the image


Gagne theorises there are 5 types of learning, 9 steps of planning instruction, 8 conditions of learning and 9 events of instruction which must be present for effective learning.The 9 Events of Instruction correlate to and address the conditions of learning and although some consider these as iron-clad rules, it has been noted for some time that these 9 steps are more like guidelines or a checklist of considerations to be taken into account when designing instruction.

(Click on the image above to view an interactive course I developed on Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction).

This video gives a good overview of the Gagne theory and instructional design model, including the 5 types of learning, 9 events of instruction and 8 conditions of learning.