Archive | November 2010

Characters

cyclops_desk

I like to use characters in courses because they can personalize a course and lend themselves to creating a more informal tone and an easy means of adding humor.

Here are some ways I like to use characters in e-learning.

  • Guide or facilitator – Typically this person is the expert that walks you through the content and facilitates discussions, interaction, etc. At times I like to have two guides to break up any possible monotony. When working with two “experts” I will even include disagreement or some “ribbing” between the two. This makes it more entertaining and keeps participants’ attention. FYI: Disagreements are usually humorous in nature and should not compromise the integrity of any specific learning content in the course.
  • Coworkers/project team – A course I once developed for an updated teller system consisted of the participant being assigned to a project team. As a member of the team you are assigned to numerous tasks and also assist and interact with other team members. It not only keeps participants on their toes, but they learned about the system and hopefully felt more vested in it too.
  • Naive, struggling learner and/or jovial coworker – This character can occur along side a “straight man” and provides not just opportunities for humor, but chances to clarify and reinforce concepts as we correct their misconceptions.
  • Monsters, ghosts, robots, anthropomorphic animals, etc. – I absolutely love to surprise course participants with the unusual. I do recommend that it not be random, but that the type of monster, animal, etc. relate to the learning in some way even if a humorous tie-in. For example, I once used the ghost of Alexander Graham Bell to provide  instruction on the new phone system. Just never use a cyclops in a course, that just doesn’t make sense.

Here are some good resources on using characters. Cathy Moore’s Dump the Drone, which includes great information on using characters among other useful things, The Writers Gateway’s Have You Thought of Character Driven Stories for Your e-Learning?, and Speak Out’s Characters in eLearning.

If you have ideas or examples on how to use characters in e-learning, please feel free to share in the comments section.

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Frankenstein Course Development

Frankenstein 1910

I am currently creating a course and as usual it involves numerous development tools. This course consists of using three main tools. Here they are and why I am using them.

Adobe Flash – My favorite tool of choice. I like its flexibility in making the interactive assets I need for the course and not being constrained by prepackaged interactives that come with many e-learning development tools. In this case I am making the course itself in Flash. This includes each page, characters, animation, and interactive elements with the exception of the software simulations (sims) and the final assessment/quiz.

Adobe Captivate – The course will contain many “try me” sims for a software upgrade in which we are implementing. I am developing these in Captivate, which in my opinion is the best out there for creating software sims. Each sim will launch in a new window from the Flash course. Keeping these in a separate folder and launched as individual SWFs will also help keep the file size and load time down.

ArticulatePresenter and Quizmaker are providing the assessment and an ease of packaging it as a SCORM compliant course. What I like is the ease of developing an assessment in Quizmaker. In this case I will take my Flash course and import the SWF to the first page of Articulate Presenter. A single button in my menu, called Knowledge Check, will move the user from the Presenter page containing the course SWF to the second page where the assessment begins. The ability to have a Flash button, or menu, work within Presenter was the kicker. This allowed me to get the best of both worlds; Flash and using Articulate to create the assessment and SCORM packaging. Here is a tutorial from Screenr that shows how you can make a Flash menu that will change slides in Presenter.

Questions I No Longer Ask

Over at Learning Circuits the Big Question is “What questions are you no longer asking? What are your new questions?” Here are my reflections on what I no longer ask… or do.

  • Is adding levity to a course a good thing?
    Where humor is not appropriate I obviously do not include it in the design,  but if it is appropriate I will enthusiastically run with it. Adding humor gets people’s attention, and keeps their attention, when done right. From my own experience I have also seen higher attendance and completion rates along with improved retention. I have learned to be weary when stakeholders insist on keeping it “serious” when they have no viable reason for it to be “serious.” Good chance they don’t really care much about engaging the learner.
  • Allowing input on course design from stakeholders BEFORE identifying course objectives and having an initial design.
    I had a job in the not distant past where every SME thought they were an instructional designer. They had it all figured out before consulting the training department. Involving them too early regarding the design opens an opportunity for them to set objectives that will not address the learners’ needs and what will result in a poor design. Do I ask them to review objectives and the design? Yes, and I listen to their input, but if you approach course design too soon you will most likely be given a list of topics they want included, most of which have nothing to do with the training need at hand. They will also suggest silly things like a very linear design. For example, the classic “I want them to have to read every page.”
  • Should I use Next buttons?
    Unless you are extremely stressed for time and need to create it “rapidly,” you don’t need no stinkin’ Next button. Exclude the Next button and I promise interactivity and engagement will be increased!
  • Will the course work on our LMS? “Of course it will, it’s SCORM compliant!”
    Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. What I do say, “Send me the course and I will test it on our LMS.” SCORM  or not, there is no guarantee it will work on every LMS. Wish I had a dollar for every time I had to tweak a SCORM manifest from a vendor’s course.