Right now design is all the rage. Companies are promoting designers to the CEO level (design-e-o's?), incorporating design at the highest levels, prioritizing design, paying designers the big bucks, and generally going on a design spree. I'm all for it in many ways. Apple products that show the pinnacle of this kind of thinking are great--the iPhone is designed to "know" whether you are holding it up to your ear or have brought it down to look at the screen, and it shows you what you need to see in order to click, hang up, enter numbers, or whatever. If creating easy-to-use, intuitive products is by design, then by all means give me more design.
But designers right now are on a fad of "simple, clean, basic." And all too often, that equates to empty, featureless, and obscure.
Along with simple, clean, and basic has come "flat" design. Cartoons have become flat. Images have become flat. Icons have become flat. Buttons have become flat. The 3-D realistic images of the Apple iOS have turned into abstracted, flat symbols of their former selves (iOS 5 versus 6 shown below).
The major software companies have all gone flat (Microsoft Windows 10 and Office 2013 shown below):
And famously, Google has gone flat, exchanging its shadowed, 3-D feeling logo for a flat one.
But is all this simplicity and flatness benefitting users?
Was it really an improvement when Google, even before the new logo, got rid of the simple words across the top of the screen letting us know that we could choose gmail, maps, calendar, and more? Now, we have to accidentally discover that a decorative little group of squares (shown at the right), with no other labeling, which look merely like--if you will excuse the phrase--a "design" element, is clickable, and that all of the various Google functions now come from a drop-down menu there.
Then, instead of a drop-down menu of words, we see a series of flat images that only a person with a sharp eye for subtle distinctions can recognize as remotely suggestive of their functions.
Yes, the icons were labeled, but the text was in a pale gray, and the images dominated. We were clearly meant to make our choices based on the icons, not the labels.
The Google menu shown above was in use before their latest redesign. With the new, even flatter design, intriguingly, words have made a comeback, with the labels now darker and clearer, and the flat images relatively smaller, inviting us more to read the words than to rely on the flat icons.
Of course that begs the question: If I have to read the words, then why do we even need the icons?
Well, once we learn the icons by reading the words a few times, then we start clicking these more by a combination of position and appearance. And this whole business of making icons recognizable and familiar is an old story-after all, we've been learning to recognize icons for like 25 years now.
As we design our eLearning courses to have the modern, clean, spare, and flat appearance, though, we have to make sure not to throw familiarity, recognizability, and usability out the window. The last thing our learners need is a learning curve just to be able to use our lessons, from which they are actually trying to learn the content!
In the next article on design, I'll share some further examples of barriers to usability, and some good examples as well. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on design? (Feel free to share your thoughts as comments below.)
A few weeks ago I wrote about some common Learning Management (LMS) terms you need to be familiar with when preparing to report eLearning data to an LMS. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to show you the LMS setup process in the top eLearning development tools (Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, TechSmith Camtasia Studio, and Trivantis Lectora).
Reporting Scores with Adobe Captivate
Enable Reporting for the project via Quiz > Quiz Preferences.
From the Quiz category, select Reporting.
From the top of the dialog box, select Enable reporting for this project.
From the LMS drop-down menu, choose Other Standard LMS.
From the Standard drop-down menu, choose SCORM 1.2. (Although an older standard, SCORM 1.2 is still used by many LMS vendors today.)
Set the Status Representation options
If your project does not contain a Quiz, from the Status Representation area, select Incomplete ---> Complete; otherwise, select Incomplete ----> Passed/Failed.
A project does not have to contain a conventional scoring quiz (with question slides). Instead, you can set interactive objects (such as buttons or click boxes) to report a value/score to the LMS, much like you can by assigning a point value to a question slide.
Set the Success/Completion Criteria
From the Success/Completion Criteria area, select Slide views and/or quiz.
If something in your project is worth points (a question slide or interactive object), deselect Slide Views and select Quiz. If you'd like, ensure Quiz is Passed is selected from the drop-down menu.
Set the Data to Report and Initialization Text
From the Data To Report area, select Percentage if your project doesn't contain a conventional quiz; otherwise, select Points.
The LMS Initialization Text field is not supported by every LMS. Anything you type in the field appears just before the lesson begins to play for the learner. In essence, LMS Initialization Text serves as a second lesson Preloader. You can edit the text, if you'd like, or leave it set to the default (Loading).
The Manifest file allows your published Captivate projects to be used and launched from a SCORM 1.2- or 2004-compliant LMS. When you publish projects, you can have Captivate create the Manifest file for you. The Manifest file that Captivate creates contains XML tags that describe the organization and structure of the published project to the LMS.
From the top of the dialog box, ensure SCORM 1.2 is selected (from the Standard drop-down menu).
Click the Configure button to open the Manifest dialog box.
In the Course area, click in the Identifier field and type a name. (The Identifier specifies a name used by the LMS to identify different manifests.)
In the Title field, type a name.
The Title is seen by learners as they access the course on the LMS.
A Description is not required. Depending on the LMS you use, the text may or may not appear in the LMS. If the feature is not supported by the LMS, it will likely be ignored, just like the Title.
The Version number, which can be left selected, is used to distinguish manifests with the same identifier.
There are two other optional choices in the Course area: Duration and Keywords. Duration lets you show how long it takes to complete the Captivate project. The Keywords option allows you to specify a short description. When the course is displayed via a browser, such as Internet Explorer, the description and Keywords can be searched like any web page.
In the SCO Identifier field, type a name.
The Identifier, which cannot contain spaces, specifies a name used by the LMS to identify different SCOs.
In the Title field, type a title.
The Title shows up in the LMS. Although you can use spaces in the Title name, you should consider using short descriptive phrases. If you would like information on the remaining options in this dialog box, click the Help link at the bottom left of the dialog box.
Click the OK button to close the Manifest dialog box.
Click the OK button to close the Preferences dialog box
Nothing about your project changes physically. However, once the project is published, it will automatically be zipped and capable of communicating with any SCORM-compliant LMS.
Assuming there aren't any reporting issues via the SCORM Cloud, you're clear to prepare your Captivate project for uploading into an LMS. This process is known as creating a Content Package. Simply choose File > Publish) and set up your Publish options as you normally would.
Because you Enabled Reporting via the steps above, the Zip Files option is selected by default (which will yield one zip file--the SCORM package). The zip file is what you will physically upload into your LMS. Once the package is uploaded, the LMS will automatically unzip and install the course contents.
What's the objective of your eLearning? To change behavior, right? Perhaps you are trying to get learners to examine their health benefits during open enrollment and take action. Maybe you want to make them aware of safety concerns and convince them to think and act safely in the workplace.
Do you think your eLearning is going to change behavior if it is boring, and contains lackluster voiceover that's delivered in a monotone?
The first rule of an effective voiceover is "sell it." The audio is one of the most important pieces of your eLearning content and it needs to be presented in a dynamic and convincing way. Voiceover is like acting or singing. You need to project and give the audience something compelling on which to focus. Why? Many things get between you and your audience and distract them from your content.
Technology. It's a long way from your microphone to the end user's ears and eyes. The technology, including the processing of audio and video for streaming, will suck the energy out of your presentation. You need to reach through that dissipation and compel your learners to pay attention and absorb your information. That requires a little extra dramatic "push" when delivering a script.
Much eLearning is consumed at work with coworkers, meetings, phones, and email all serving as distractions. Voiceover audio that has a monotone delivery is not going to keep your audience engaged through all those distractions. Give your learners a reason to pay attention.
Changing behavior requires convincing people to hear what you're saying, take what you're saying seriously, and take action after the eLearning. Words like important, required, critical, and bottom line need to be communicated with the substance and urgency demanded by your learning objectives.
Remember, what you are presenting is more than just "words on a page." Your eLearning might be about safety, health and well-being... perhaps your company's bottom-line is at stake. Voiceover, in this case, is not a close-up, though the microphone and quiet room where you record may make it feel that way. It's actually more like presenting in front of a big room, with air-conditioning humming, doors slamming, and people talking. You need to compel learner attention with energy, meaning, and by keeping the learning objectives in mind with the delivery of every word.
Note: I'll be contributing articles to this newsletter that discuss all things voiceover audio. I'll be covering best practices for microphone technique, the hardware you'll need, and the software available for recording quality voiceover for your eLearning.
When developing eLearning, you can elect to use Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, Lectora, Camtasia Studio--there's no shortage of awesome tools.
Once the eLearning content is finished, do you need to track learner access to the content? Do you need to provide reports to your boss that show how learners have performed on a quiz? How about letting the boss know how many people have accessed specific lessons, and how many people have completed the course?
If you need your eLearning content to report data and have that data stored and available for you to format in a meaningful way, you need a Learning Management System (LMS). Before your project can be used with an LMS, you have to set up some reporting options and become familiar with the following: Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee (AICC), Sharable Content Object (SCO), and the Manifest File.
Over the next couple of weeks, I'll go over the process of preparing your eLearning content for upload into standard LMSs. This week, let's get some important terms out of the way.
Sharable Content Object Reference Model
Developed by public- and private-sector organizations, SCORM is a series of eLearning standards that specifies ways to catalog, launch, and track course objects. Courses and management systems that follow the SCORM specifications allow for sharing of courses among federal agencies, colleges, and universities. Although SCORM is not the only eLearning standard (AICC is another), SCORM is one of the most common. There are two primary versions of SCORM-version 1.2, released in 1999, and version 2004.
During this series, you will prepare and then publish a project to a SCORM-compliant LMS.
Aviation Industry Computer-Based Training Committee
AICC is an international association that develops guidelines for the aviation industry in the development, delivery, and evaluation of training technologies. When you publish your Captivate projects, you can specify SCORM or AICC compliance, but not both. Not sure which one to pick? Talk to your LMS provider for information on which one to use. When in doubt, consider that AICC is older and more established than SCORM, but SCORM is the standard most often used today.
Tin Can API
Today's learners are consuming eLearning content using a vast array of devices (PCs, Macs, and mobile devices, such as the iPad). And learners are working outside of traditional LMSs. In spite of these challenges, educators still need to capture reliable data about the learner experience.
The problem with data collection is that you need an expensive LMS to store the data. And your learners need live access to the LMS so that they can send the data. As mentioned above, the most widely used LMS standard for capturing data is SCORM. SCORM allows educators to track such things as learner completion of a course, pass/fail rates, and the amount of time a learner takes to complete a lesson or course. But what if a trainer needs to get scores from learners who are collaborating with other students using social media? What if the learners don't have immediate access to the LMS?
The new Tin Can API allows training professionals to gather detailed data about the learner experience as the learner moves through an eLearning course (either online or offline). According to the Tin Can API website, "The Tin Can API (sometimes referred to as the Experience API) captures data in a consistent format about a person or group's activities from many technologies. Very different systems are able to securely communicate by capturing and sharing this stream of activities using Tin Can's simple vocabulary."
If the Tin Can API is supported by your LMS, you'll be happy to learn that it's also fully supported in most of today's eLearning development tools.
Sharable Content Objects
Sharable Content Objects (SCOs) are standardized, reusable learning objects. An LMS can launch and communicate with SCOs and can interpret instructions that tell the LMS which SCO to show a user and when to show it. Why should you know what an SCO is? Actually, your eLearning projects are SCOs once you enable reporting (which you will learn how to do next time).
After inserting screen recordings in Storyline as Step-by-Step slides, you will be able to perform what is known in Storyline as "Action Fine Tuning." This useful feature allows you to change the starting and ending frames for each video clip in every slide.
You may already be aware that in Storyline, a single screen recording can be used in various ways (record once and use many). A single recording can be used as full motion Video on a Single Slide, or on many single slides as View, Try, and Test modes.
When inserting a recording on single slides, Storyline takes the entire full video recording and splits it up into smaller video chunks that altogether constitute the entire video. The length of each chunk on a slide depends on how long the person recording the screen spent between clicks.
A chunk of video on a slide can sometimes be longer than needed, resulting in large output files with less than ideal timing. The "Action Fine Tuning" feature in Storyline is where you can control the length of each video segment.
Action Fine Tuning is a bit of a hidden feature. The only way to get to it is by right-clicking a slide background or on the Screen Recording Action element in the Timeline.
After entering the Action Fine Tuning area, you can start adjusting/moving the starting and ending frames for the video clip segment by dragging the starting lines/markers along the timeline of the entire video.
You can precisely adjust the starting and ending frames by choosing the appropriate frame selection and clicking the Previous or Next Frame buttons.
Using Techsmith Camtasia Studio, you can quickly create videos of just about anything (computer software or PowerPoint presentations) and post your completed lessons on the web, YouTube, Vimeo, or Screencast.com. Your lessons can include videos of actions taken on your computer, animations, audio, quizzes, and surveys.
IconLogic's Kevin Siegel will lead this live, 100% hands-on course where you'll be introduced to the essential Camtasia Studio skills you need to know to get up and running with Camtasia as quickly as possible.
By the time you have completed this course, you will be able to record screen actions on your computer using the Camtasia Recorder. You'll take the recording into the Camtasia Studio and learn how to use the Timeline, add assets from the Clip Bin and Library, and how to publish content for the widest possible audience.
RoboHelp 2015 patch 2 introduces a great feature for Responsive HTML5: sitemaps. A sitemap is a file with a list of all topics in your output. Search engines such as Google and Bing use the sitemap to determine which topics are available in your output, boosting findability of your content. If you want to make 1st place on Google, having a sitemap is essential. Without a sitemap, Google may not be able to index your entire output, skipping useful topics it can't find.
Create a Sitemap
Open your RoboHelp project.
Open the Outputs(SSL) pod. (Project > Pods > Outputs(SSL)).
Double-click your Responsive HTML5 SSL to open the properties.
From the options at the left, select Search.
At the right of the dialog box, select Generate XML Sitemap.
In the Base URL of the Help System field, add the URL where your content will be hosted.
(For example, if your help will be hosted on https://example.com/help/<project name>, type the path without the project name, such as: https://example.com/help. RoboHelp will add the Output Folder name of your output.)
Choose how often your content changes with the Content Change Frequency drop-down menu.
Click Save and Generate to create your output.
Once you generate, RoboHelp will create the file sitemap.xml in your output. This file is the sitemap used by search engines. Provide this file to your webmaster (or submit the sitemap to search engines to allow them to index your site).
We are proud to announce that our newest "skills and drills" workbook is now shipping.
"Adobe Captivate 9: Beyond The Essentials" is a self-paced training manual that teaches the higher-end, more advanced functionality of Adobe Captivate.
By following step-by-step instructions, you will improve your screen recording skills via project templates and by pre-editing your text captions. You'll learn how to create and produce video projects that will enable you to record screen actions in real-time. Then, after learning how to import questions into Captivate using the GIFT format, you'll learn how to create a random quiz using question pools and random question slides.
Is creating responsive eLearning a hot topic in your corporate training initiative? You'll learn how to create eLearning lessons that reflow to fit just about any kind of display (including desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones). You'll also learn how to create responsive projects from scratch, and how to edit and produce responsive content.
You'll fine-tune your production skills by learning about object styles, master slides, themes, and advanced actions. You'll learn to engage the learner like never before by using variables, widgets, and interactions. You will also learn how to create branching scenarios that will enable learners to plot their own learning path.
You'll ensure your eLearning and mLearning output can be used by people with disabilities by adding such 508-compliant features as accessibility text and closed captions. You'll learn about SCORM, SCORM Cloud, AICC, TinCan, SCOs, Manifests, and how to upload a published lesson into a Learning Management System.