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

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

Another 23 Things

Mike Taylor’s Learn Camp is running again this year.

LearnCamp

In last year’s program participants were introduced to 23 things we could do on the web to explore and expand our knowledge of new tools and technologies.  This is a self-directed program and as such I found myself more drawn towards some of the challenges to explore particular technology or concepts than others – it’s all about what you personally want to get out of the program.

Reflecting on the last 12 months, this learning program has had quite an impact on how I incorporate learning and sharing what I’m learning into my work and life.  Before the program I didn’t have a blog, use Twitter to any significant extent or have such an amazing network of people around me that I can learn from and share my learning with.

The first exercise in last year’s program was to get an understanding of what it is to be a lifelong learner – starting with reading Joel Gardner’s article, “How to Become a Successful Lifelong Learner“.   In this article he details 5 components of successful lifelong learning.  It probably helps that I have a personality-driven disposition and passion for learning new things, but I have successfully incorporated all of these components into the way I spend my time without really giving it too much thought.

Components of Successful Lifelong Learning – Joel Gardner

Once again there is an impressive line-up of topics to be covered over the 12 weeks of this Learn Camp 2014 program, including blogging, RSS and feed readers, Twitter, Yammer and enterprise social networks, tagging, folksonomies and social bookmarking, curation, personal knowledge management and personal learning networks.

The addition of webinars to the schedule, facilitated by Mark Britz, Allison Michels and JD Dillon adds a new dimension to the learning and I’m looking forward to the kick-off webinar on 1 July 2014 with Mark Britz facilitating a session on “Why Blogging (Still) Matters”.

I encourage you to participate and wish all registrants the best of luck in their learning journey!

Online technology for teaching, learning and collaborating

Over the last few days I have been introduced to three different online platforms that really opened my eyes to how much technology for teaching, learning and collaborating is moving online.

I’ll start this blog with the credits – thanks to Sam Moskwa at CSIRO for introducing me to Slides, thanks to Nancy Woinoski of the E-Learning Heroes Community for introducing me to Padlet and thanks to Julie Lindsay of Learning Confluence for introducing me to Smore.

So, after a little investigation, here are just a few others that I have come across which I think are worth looking at in the context of effectively creating and presenting information, and collaborating and sharing knowledge, starting with the three I’ve already mentioned.

Slides

Slides offers a framework for easily creating beautiful presentations using HTML and enables anyone with a web browser to create, present and share presentations for free.

Slides is easy to use and has extensive functionality.  Presentations created using Slides can be viewed in any browser, including mobile phones and tablets.  You can broadcast your presentations to an audience of any size and viewers can follow along in real-time from any device, anywhere in the world.

There is also a Pro version which offers functionality including the ability to present offline and sync to Dropbox.  The video below gives an overview of how Slides works.

Padlet

Padlet is a virtual wall that allows you to easily express your thoughts with others on a common topic.  It works like an online sheet of paper where you can put any content such as images, videos, documents or text, anywhere on the page from any device.

The Padlet knowledgebase  is very helpful when you’re starting off and there’s also a Padlet short code for embedding Padlet into WordPress which opens up a range of possibilities for WordPress bloggers!

Smore

Smore is a service for creating dynamic and changeable media, including online flyers and newsletters.

You can create flyers in Smore using different types of media, including videos.  Deleting or adding elements is as simple as dragging and dropping them on or off your page.

Here’s an example of a Smore flyer created by Julie Lindsay to advertise an upcoming professional development event.

This short video gives you an overview of Smore.

IDroo

idroo

IDroo is Skype’s version of a whiteboard.

It’s an “endless canvas for your drawings, learning-lessons and brainstorms” that you can share with anyone in the world.

There are multiple drawing and writing tools and it’s all vector, so you can edit, move, scale and rotate what you create.

Read this review by PC World and access the download link here.

Pasteboard

Pasteboard is an image sharing web app.   The platform only supports images, but it’s simple to use.

Once you upload an image, it’s publicly available but not broadcasted – it’s up to you to decide who you share the image with.

I found the functionality somewhat limited, but for the purpose it seems to have been created, it’s worth taking a look at.

Realtime Board

Realtime Board is “your regular whiteboard, re-thought for the best online experience”.

It’s an “endless online whiteboard where you can organise your workflow, brainstorm and manage your tasks in a highly visual way”.

Get started by viewing the Tutorial Board.

Carbonmade

Carbonmade is a simple-to-use online portfolio and instantly sets itself apart as a friendlier, not-so-serious way to create a page for showcasing your work online.

You basically get a page of thumbnails or horizontal stripes, each of which represent your various projects.  The level of image, text, and colour customisation available on this page depends on your account, the free plan offering mostly generic text and colour options.

Here are some “awesome” examples taken from the 700,000+ portfolios created so far.

This Carbonmade Tutorial shows step-by-step how easy it is to create your site.

SlideIdea

SlideIdea is a free app that gives you the tools to create and display presentations quickly and easily and engage your audience through smart phones, laptops and tablets.

One of the most interesting features of this app is the ability to create interactive slides where your audience can vote or leave messages using their mobile device.

To get an idea of what you can do with SlideIdea, watch this short video.

Prezi

Prezi is a web-based presentation and storytelling tool that uses a single canvas instead of traditional slides.

The canvas allows you to create non-linear presentations that allow you to zoom in and out of a visual map.  You can upload images and videos and include URL links to other resources.

I’ve been using Prezi for a while and find the number of ways you can present content fascinating.  Looking at what others have done is one of my favourite pastimes and there’s no shortage of these.  To point you in the direction of the best presentations, here is The 6 Best Prezis of 2013 – staff of Prezi recommended!

Watch this overview video on Prezi to find out more.

Tricider

Tricider is a free brainstorming tool offering a platform on which people can brainstorm together and find solutions even if they’re scattered around the world.

Read this blog by Nick Grantham for an overview of Tricider, or watch the video below.

Bubbl.us

Bubbl.us is a free and easy to use Web 2.0 tool that allows you to create mind mapping and brainstorming diagrams online.

It’s intuitive interface is visually appealing and “let’s anyone brainstorm and organise ideas without getting in the way”.

You can display your ideas online, print your work, or share with friends by email.

Watch the video below to learn more about the basics of Bubble.us.

Presentation Next

Presentation Next claims to be the world’s most advanced HTML5 presentation builder, and the world’s most fun, yet professional HTML5 presentation maker.

You draw your ideas spatially on an extremely large canvas using a mouse, touch, keyboard or a pen. Pan and zoom effects and animations are used to give the presentation a filmic look and feel. 

Presentation Next comes with customisable templates and one of the most popular features among developers is the capability to create a single HTML5 file that can be attached to e-mails or can be hosted on a website. 

Read this MVP blog for more information on Presentation Next.

Thinglink

Thinglink helps you tell your story by “making your images come alive with music, video, text, images, shops and more”!

With functionality including the ability to link to other resources, it’s claimed that “your ThingLink interactive images form a channel that other users can follow”.

This short “quirky” video gives you an overview of how you can use Thinglink to “upload your images, tag them with media, e-commerce and social profiles and share them with the world”.

Of course there are hundreds of other online technologies – do you have any you use, know of, or recommend?