According to vocabulary.com, "A peeve is an annoyance, and a pet peeve is an annoyance that's nurtured like a pet--it's something someone can never resist complaining about. There are all kinds of pet peeves, like littering, misusing punctuation, driving slowly in the fast lane, or talking during movies. If something like that drives you crazy and you have to yap about it, it's a pet peeve."
There have tended to be two sides in the grammar holy war: On one side we have the pet peevers, the curmudgeons, and the sticklers, who defend the existing, traditional rules of grammar and usage to maintain the structural integrity of the language.
On the other we have the cretins, the creatives, the careless, and the hapless, who disregard the rules, and sometimes fail utterly, but who also sometimes create a new way to use words, bend phrases, and enrich the ability of language to express new or more nuanced meanings.
Put another way, the war is one of the editors, wordsmiths, and grammarians of the world against creative writers, renegades, school children, ESL strugglers, and those who just plain flunked English.
Most people tend to fall in one of these camps or the other. I've certainly been proud to be on the curmudgeon--stickler, grammarian side of things--making my first career in editing and my second and third careers writing and teaching about it.
But for the past few years I've struggled a little with the peevish side of being a grammarian.
The definition of pet peeve I cited above helps pinpoint my discomfort: If a pet peeve is an annoyance one "can never resist complaining about," then it just might be a compulsion. It is worth looking askance at anything that has become a compulsion.
Do I want to give up caring about proper English? Certainly not. But how do I put a damper on the peevishness? Where is the line between being some kind of compulsive complainer and being a wordsmith and grammar professional? An answer came to me from a surprising source: the second novel by Robert Persig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
In Lila, Persig outlines two types of "quality": static and dynamic. Static quality is the value of keeping things the way they are. Dynamic quality is the value of change for the better. These two types of value, or quality, are in conflict.
When applied to the world of words and language, this framework provides a way out of the dilemma of my title: to peeve or not to peeve.
How do you tell whether a particular usage is moving language forward or backward?
There is value in preserving the existing meanings, grammar rules, and standard usage. That's what keeps language understandable. If we changed the meaning of words such as "computer" every week, language would lose its ability to convey meaning.
But there is also value in letting language change. Where would we be if we had never combined two words to make database, broadened the meaning of "desktop" to mean both "a computer that is designed to be used on a desk or table" and "an area or window on a computer screen in which small pictures (called icons) are arranged like objects on top of a desk," and added a meaning to "icon" to mean "a small picture on a computer screen that represents a program or function"?
Naming new things is a desirable quality of language. And adding new meanings to existing words can be useful--the old meaning helps inform the new meaning. "Icon" as the word for the little pictures on a computer was probably a better choice, than, oh, say, "cars," or "bleebap."
When a workplace, an industry, or a social group has a new meaning to express, we should allow language to broaden--that is a positive thing. But at the same time, we can't let the existing conventions that keep language a consistent, organized system for clear communication deteriorate, either.
The hard part is telling the difference. Or maybe not.
What if we greet each new locution with a slightly more open mind. (Note that I said slightly.) What if we ask, objectively and fairly, whether the word adds something to the language, enriches culture, increases meaning, or serves a need better than the old words have done. And if it does something positive, let's embrace it. Bring it into the fold. Clean up its spelling, hyphenation, or capitalization a little, and adopt it. And feel good that one source of quality in language is its ability to grow, change, and adapt.
But if we see an unusual usage of a familiar word, and instead of adding meaning, it destroys existing meaning, then we can jump on it, mark it, correct it, maybe even mock it, and take pride in our ability to discern correct from incorrect word use and grammar, as in this example that a friend posted on Facebook yesterday:
I take for granite people's poor grammar. More pacifically, how there always thinking "for all intensive purposes" is supposably correct.
The gaffes being mocked here are clearly mistakes that take language in a negative direction, destroying clarity, ignoring etymology and the dictionary, and generally falling clearly into the category of errors.
But when whole swathes of an industry or field spontaneously sprout a new usage, such as "trainings" or "elearnings," then our non-grammar-stickler colleagues may be onto something.
Many of you weighed in against the use of "trainings," "learnings," and "elearnings."
Daniel Jones reported this: "I live in Switzerland where all my German-speaking colleagues refer to "learnings" all the time. It drives me nuts. Here, "learnings" refers to any training course--classroom, blended, or online."
Anne Bates suggested this: "I have adopted that term training offerings. I previously worked in a department called "Learning Offerings."
Jay Herman, working in a global company, wondered if "trainings" is British English, because many non-native English speakers use it.
Jennifer De Vries asserted that only amateurs with no professional training in our field use "trainings," but she absolutely could not get a salesperson to stop using the term.
Thad Schifsky told me, "There is absolutely no way I will allow an 's' to be added to the word 'training' in any of mydocumentation. I have to draw the line somewhere!"
Laura Gillenwater said, "I want to scream every time someone writes 'trainings.' There is no such word! Is it so difficult to add a noun after it, like 'training classes' or 'training events' or just say 'courses or 'seminars' or 'workshops' instead? And, nowadays, I seem to be seeing it EVERYWHERE! And the same thing is happening with 'e-learnings' -- no such word! Why not just say 'e-learning modules' or, if you are trying to be as succinct as possible, 'e-courses'?"
I don't know, everybody. We are annoyed (with good reason) by this usage. There has been no such word as "trainings." But if we are now seeing it EVERYWHERE, from Switzerland, to global companies, to sales departments, to LMS documentation, then maybe we should take a second look. There must be a need driving this usage.
For example, let's take a look at what Mark Rudden wrote [boldface added]:
This is a constant annoyance for me. I inherited the documentation for a learning management system, and all throughout the online help and even in the UI, the word "trainings" appears. I have tried to get the developers and product managers to change that, but I am told that it's a widely-used industry usage and thus valid.
When I suggested "training courses," I was told that the LMS offers ways to track non-course training, like seminars, book reading, and other learning opportunities, and that calling them training courses is limiting and inaccurate. So in my company, "trainings" can refer to any learning event.
I suggested training events, but was rebuffed.
The fight continues.
Could it be that the product developers and managers have a point? The training field is changing, and maybe our vocabulary needs to widen a little also.
At what point do we stop protesting and allow this shaggy puppy into the house of proper usage? I'm just saying it might be almost time to make sure they hyphenate e-learnings or not, per your house style, and move forward with the tide (or tides?).
Alternatively, we might want to do as Ann Bates suggests and move to "training offerings," to encompass the various types of training that our non-grammarian colleagues are trying to include by saying "trainings."
As word professionals, we are the arbiters of what does and does not get into our language. Instead of just patrolling the fence and always protesting changes to the language, let's make our judgements in both directions. Let's give jargon and new words a fair trial. Let's ask the following: That's not how we currently use that word, but does this new usage add to the language? Does it express something new or a little different so that, in the words of my friend Stephen Kennamer, "we now have a useful differentiation and the ability to discriminate more finely....Language can now do more and do it better"?
And if it does, let's embrace it. And if it does not? Let's go ahead and peeve.
I would love to read your response to this article (as comments below).
Check out Jennie's eLearning writing classes and ensure both your voiceover scripts and eLearning scripts are ready for prime time!
A branching scenario is a great way to help a learner apply knowledge by providing a simulated situation from real life. They're also fairly easy to create! Follow these four steps to quickly bring your PowerPoint projects that extra bit of interaction.
Storyboard it Out
In the case of a branching scenario, it is important to map out which slides you want to go where and to do what. Storyboarding is an important part of any design, but is critical when working with branching scenarios (and especially if your scenarios are complicated ones).
There are lots of different ways you can design a situation to unfold. The simplest way would be to make it so that each individualized situation has a set of answers that have no affect on a future outcome or conversation. Think of it like this. The learner can give a client a good or a bad suggestion on investment opportunities. If the learner gives a bad suggestion now, feedback is provided but it doesn't change the client's attitude going forward. This is relatively easy to map out: Slide 1 goes to Slide 2 for positive feedback and to Slide 3 for negative feedback. Both then go to Slide 4 for the next scenario.
If you're going to create something akin to the Choose Your Own Adventure book series of yesteryear (hopefully, with a lot less untimely demises), you should get your charting skills ready. Like the number of branches on a tree, any time you want to reflect a recurring change throughout a decision-making process, you can expect it to grow at an exponential rate every time there is a new decision to make. This isn't to say that you shouldn't do it; there's a lot of value in remembering consequences to a decision. Just be ready to make sure you have mapped it all out.
Find your Visual Style
For an interaction as simple as this, you're not going to need more than a text box and the buttons that will mark each decision point. Some people naturally have an eye for design and can easily make something that fits the parameters for an activity like this. This could be you or it could be the friendly graphic designer the next cubicle over. Personally, I try hard but am often found wanting in the graphic design department. So, instead of trying to make something out of nothing, I'm going to snag a few templates out of the eLearning Brothers PowerPoint Graphics Library to demonstrate the next point.
Either way you go (designing something from scratch or finding a good-looking template), visuals are important and shouldn't be left by the wayside. You want to make sure that you're stimulating your learners' brains in positive ways, encouraging a focus on your content and principles.
Working with PowerPoint
Now for the fun part: linking everything together! As you can see in the image, I've built out all of my slides according the needs of my plan. In this case, I'm going with the easy route of just having each question self-contained with its outcomes. I'll start with Slide 1 (pictured above). In this case, I want Answer 1 to go to Slide 2 for positive feedback and Answer 2 to go to Slide 3 for negative feedback. Both of those will then advance on to Slide 4 for Question 2. I'm going to accomplish this by using Action Settings.
Find the object that you want to click to go to the appropriate slide. In this case, I'm going to use the brown Answer buttons above the text on each side. Right click on the button (make sure you're not in the text editing box but have the actual object selected) and choose Action Settings.
Check the Hyperlink to: box and select Slide from the drop-down menu. Select the appropriate slide (ie., Slide 2 for Answer 1) and click OK.
Repeat this for each button you have on the page, assigning it to go to the appropriate slide. Also, if you haven't done so, ensure that on your feedback slides you have included a Continue button.
Give this button (but not any others) a hyperlink to your next question. Continue this process for all remaining questions. Pretty simple, right?
There's one last thing you'll want to do, though. Head to the Slide Show tab on the ribbon and select Set Up Slide Show.
Under Show type ensure that you check the Browsed at a kiosk option. This will disable other types of navigation, including simply clicking to the next slide and the navigation bar that usually accompanies a presentation.
Depending upon the remainder of your slide content, it may be important to include a Continue button on each slide. Don't worry! If you copy/paste an object from another slide, the hyperlinks will also paste with it. Simply just make one button that hyperlinks to the Next Slide (and maybe one for a Previous Slide, if desired) and that should do it for any regular content slides you might have.
Test it Out
This often goes without saying, but for that very reason I mention it here. Sometimes when something goes unsaid, it also goes undone! Anytime you're dealing with something you've built, you should take some time to make sure that it fully works the way you would expect it to. Don't just check a few of the branches and make sure they're sturdy before hopping on one. Ensure that each path you've created yields the expected outcome. This will save you any headaches come presentation or learning time. The last thing you want is for someone to get positive feedback for something that was actually done poorly or improperly!
At the end of the day, there's no doubt that branching scenarios give you more possibilities with your content than your standard linear presentation. Take some time to experiment with hyperlinking in your PowerPoint projects and see a whole world of possibilities open up to you!
Often an interaction in Adobe Captivate demands a different approach from a user with a disability. An example might be that a sighted user will click buttons on a slide to reveal information, while a visually impaired user might listen to information through a screen reader without ever clicking any buttons.
Usually, these different approaches do not affect the ability of a visually impaired learner from moving forward through an eLearning module. However, there are times when engaging in the interaction will actually trigger the appearance of a forward button. Obviously the learner who doesn't click can't trigger the forward button, so what can you do?
The answer is to add a hidden button somewhere on the slide that impaired learners will access with the keyboard. My colleagues will often place the hidden object on a slide's title banner--probably the least likely place for a sighted user to inadvertently click.
How does the visually impaired learner get there? I would suggest adding instructions, probably at the end of the information on the slide that tell the user to TAB to the forward button and press ENTER to proceed. Admittedly, a focus box will appear around the hidden object, but I find that this is more of an annoyance to a low vision user than a hindrance.
Examples of training industry jargon from last week's article are coming in. What I'd like to do is collect them and then try to get a sense of how prevalent they are.
The first example, sent in by Laura Gillenwater, is trainings with an s and e-learnings* with an s. Echoing the feelings of so many grammarians and word mavens, she says she sees this usage "everywhere," and it makes her want to scream. The argument she gives is that an additional word is needed: "training courses" or "e-learning modules" or "e-courses."
And right there is the trouble. You have to add a second word for proper usage. The sad thing is that if a new locution is shorter, it will gain traction. And if that shorter word or phrase actually fills a need, then it will probably be adopted by others.
The grammar problem here is that the words training and learning are non-count nouns. Non-count nouns identify a substance or concept that must first be "containerized" (see what I did there--another industry's jargon!) before the containers can be counted--like soup or water or furniture. You can't count soup. But you can count bowls of soup. You can't count water, but you can count glasses of water. And you can't count furniture ("How many furniture do you have? I have 6 furnitures. That's a no.) Usually the way you can identify a non-count noun is by doing the experiment I just ran on "furniture."
Normally, you can't add an s to a non-count noun. But every day of the week restaurant servers use a shortcut. One person asks for a glass of water. The server then asks the whole table, "How many waters?" and likewise, back in the kitchen someone asks, "How many soups do we need right now?" So for efficiency, people leave off that second word, or the cumbersome phrase, "glasses of water," "bowls of soup."
Aside from such abbreviated usage when in a high-speed environment, new jargon also arises when people are trying to succinctly solve a problem. For a long time in the training field (should I have said "space"?) pretty much all training was classroom, face-to-face training. Now, we have classroom, we have live online training, we have self-paced eLearning. We have MOOCs. We have webinars. So we now have to distinguish which type of "training" a person is interested in.
What I'd like to find out about this new jargon of adding an s to training and eLearning* is this: do people use the word "trainings" to refer to classroom classes only? Or to all training of every kind? I'm trying to see what the impetus is for this new usage.
Are other people seeing plural "trainings" everywhere? Does it have a different meaning from "training"? Feel free to post your comments below.
*IconLogic in-house style is to spell eLearning with no hyphen and a capital L, but some organizations spell it with a hyphen. If you have an opinion on this, I'd love to hear it. Are we moving away from the e- words with the capital letters? Was that a passing fad from when e-everything was new and different and radical? Are we normalizing it by moving toward using the hyphen?
Check out Jennie's eLearning writing classes and ensure both your voiceover scripts and eLearning scripts are ready for prime time!
Although there is no built-in Quiz remediation option in Storyline to redirect a learner to a particular slide where quiz content was covered, you can use variables, triggers, states, and some logic to add the feature.
You can modify the branching from a quiz question based on the learner's answer via a question slide's Form View by clicking the More button.
From the Branch to the following drop-down menu, select a redirect slide based on the answer selected by the learner. In the example below, I'm setting up a remediation should the learner answer a question incorrectly.
Once I've sent the learner to a content slide, I want to send them back to continue the quiz, something that is not going to happen automatically. Logic would require that the learner goes back to the quiz if (and only if) the learner landed on the content slide from the incorrect answer redirect. I can accomplish the task with a True/False variable and a simple trigger. First I need to create the variable below:
Now it's time to tell Storyline to switch the value of this variable from "False" to "True," indicating that the learner has answered the question incorrectly. I can accomplish this by adding a trigger to the "Incorrect" layer of the question slide as below:
I added a Back to Quiz button to the content slide that takes the learner back to the quiz. The key is to only show the button if (and only if) the learner lands on the content slide by way of remediation. I can accomplish this with a state and a trigger.
I change the initial state of the Back to Quiz button to Hidden (as shown below):
Finally, it's time to make the Back to Quiz button available by changing its state to Normal. This can be accomplished with a conditional trigger.
Due to popular demand from our friends in Europe, we're now offering our top rated Captivate training during Central European Time Zone hours!
This beginner Adobe Captivate training class will quickly have you creating eLearning and mLearning lessons that include software simulations, demonstrations and soft-skills (compliance training).
You will learn how to make your lessons engaging and interactive by creating quizzes, adding text captions, animations, videos, rollovers, clickable areas (buttons and click boxes), typing areas, voiceover audio, and sound effects. And you will learn how to publish your lessons for the widest possible audience including how to output both Flash (SWF) and HTML5 (so that your lessons will play on such mobile devices as the Apple iPad).
I spent more than 15 years as an Adobe trainer, teaching people the latest features of new products. One of the things I have learned from this experience is that people don't just want to learn what's new in an application... they need guidance on incorporating the application into their workflow. They need to see the entire development process that will enable them to get their jobs done. With this in mind, the article focuses on the workflow I use when I create my eLearning courses.
From Paper to Adobe Illustrator
My eLearning courses begin life on paper (where I've sketched some ideas). I am a designer at heart, so Adobe Illustrator is a natural starting point for me. I use Illustrator to lay out the basic look and feel of my eLearning course, choose colors and fonts, and solve my design dilemmas.
I start with the client's brand guidelines (or style guide), an important part of the design process. If you want to keep a client for the long term, respecting their brand is key. I work within the brand guidelines for colors, fonts, general look and feel, logo placement rules, etc.
I then begin laying out the cover/transition slides for my courses and a sample content slide. The image below is an example of a recent project I did. I did not have brand guidelines to work with here so I had a lot of freedom. I created these two slides in Illustrator, using swatches from the Swatches library to choose harmonious colors. I work out headers and footers, if there are any, and start to think about the interactions I will be using.
The Swatches in Illustrator have amazing color combinations. My favorite Swatch library? Baroque! Look at these rich colors... they typically show up in all of my projects.
I export my Illustrator graphics as transparent high-resolution PNG files for easy import into Microsoft PowerPoint, Articulate Storyline, or Adobe Captivate. To create the transparent PNG's, build the graphic on a separate artboard and note the artboard number.
Next, choose File > Export, select the appropriate artboard, and then select PNG as the output.
Illustrator shows you a preview of the artboard, and here you set options. I change the Resolution to High 300 PPI and Background color to Transparent. These settings allow the image to import beautifully into just about any application.
When it comes to eLearning development, I use PowerPoint as my "heavy hitter." It's the place I gather all my graphics, content and interaction ideas.
Why PowerPoint for eLearning?
Most everyone has it--clients like to be able to make minor edits, so giving them something they can actually use is key
PowerPoint imports into Adobe Connect, Articulate Storyline, and Adobe Captivate easily
I can create custom colors using the Eyedropper tool
You are only limited by your imagination--think of PowerPoint as a "delivery tool," nothing more. My work doesn't LOOK like it was created in PowerPoint and yours doesn't have to either! (If you're looking to ensure your PowerPoint slides are optimized for eLearning, check out AJ's Optimizing PowerPoint Design for eLearning & Presentations class!)
Here's an example of how I grab colors from the artwork using the Eyedropper tool in PowerPoint.
Storyline is my preferred authoring tool for creating eLearning courses. My PowerPoint presentations import beautifully into Storyline which allows me to quickly get my courses up and running. Storyline recognizes PowerPoint's Master Slides, and every slide element comes in as a separate piece so I can quickly add transitions, set object timing, add Triggers, and a quiz in Storyline. Then I can quickly publish my content as HTML5 and I'm done!
One important eLearning accessibility requirement is keyboard focus visibility. Users of visible keyboard focus may include people with low vision and people with motor or cognitive disabilities, and they will often only use the tab button to move through the interactive elements on each slide. As the user tabs through the slide, a focus indicator should appear around each interactive element.
Captivate conveniently defaults to a yellow focus indicator around each interactive element. If this indicator does not appear, be sure that no object is obstructing the interactive element. Prior to publishing as HTML5, display Captivate's Publish Settings (via File > Publish Settings) and ensure Hide Selection Rectangle For Slide Items in HTML5 is unchecked.
The trick remains, then, to ensure the user tabs through the focus indicator boxes in a meaningful sequence (per WCAG 2.0 guideline 2.4.3). You can do this by placing the interactive elements in order of appearance bottom to top on the Captivate Timeline. The learner will then be able to see focus indicators in the descending order on the XY axis, and the user can loop back through these indicators as needed but will not be able to skip any element in the sequence.
Note: Keyboard focus when using a screen reader may sometimes be in random order and cannot be controlled by the Timeline. Hopefully later versions of screen readers and Captivate will be more compatible.
How much current business jargon do you know and use on a daily basis? And why?
Long ago I survived what I called the "impact" wars of the late 80s and early 90s. I was a technical editor with degrees in languages and literature, and as such I was, and was expected to be, a stickler for strict rules of grammar. At about that time, the business world all at once started using the word "impact" as a verb. Some blamed Peter Drucker, whose first book on management had just come out. Others had no clue where the jargon came from.
But all of a sudden, things could impact things, rather than having an impact on them. And things, in turn, could be impacted--double the insult to the sensibilities of a grammar stickler. Passive voice AND using a noun as a verb!
Our editorial supervisors had us hold the line: we changed impact as a verb to affect or influence or damage, or have an impact on. But our authors fought back, resisting the change. It was as if they were saying, "Oh come on! All the kids are doing it!"
And it was true.
All of the kids were doing it. And that is one of the ways language works. That is how language grows and changes. Someone comes up with a new word, a new phrase, or a new way of using an old word, and it somehow works. It serves a purpose in a concise or pithy way.
Or maybe it is just that the person who used it is influential. I still remember when our entire middle school class started saying "tough beans," and we split down the middle on which of the cool, popular, athletic boys had started it.
So the boss started saying things like this:
How will this impact our bottom line?
In what way will our overseas operations be impacted?
And all of the nabobs and sycophants started echoing it. Thousands of voices in editorial/communications departments suddenly cried out in terror and then were stilled. And a new usage was born.
Impact as a verb is, of course, now accepted by many style guides and listed in most dictionaries.
What current business jargon are you reading and hearing these days? Just in the last couple of weeks I have seen and heard these:
"in the space"
One person seemed so eager to sound businessy and up-to-the-minute that she used "in the space" twice in one sentence! And the truth is, to some extent, using the most up-to-date jargon does send a message that the speaker/writer is familiar with the latest information on a topic.
But there is also a legitimate meaning for a phrase like "in the space." It succinctly encompasses the businesses, clients, vendors, audiences, books, websites, practitioners, and locations that have to do with a business topic-such as training. We all work "in the training space."
Adding voiceover audio to eLearning enhances the learner experience. And before you spend thousands of dollars hiring voiceover talent to record your audio, you should know: your voice is fine (nobody likes their own voice so trust me on this, yours will do nicely). I've been creating eLearning for years (and years and years). I've found that the voiceover audio does not have to be highly produced to be effective. In fact, home-grown audio works fine provided the audio doesn't contain loud, annoying, distracting background noise, or the narrator has a very thick accent that hinders learner comprehension.
But when should you record your audio? If you're creating a software demonstration or interactive simulation, should the audio be recorded while you're recording the screen actions? Perhaps it's best to record the audio later (after the screen actions have been recorded)?
The answer to when it's best to record audio is... wait for it... it depends.
When I create video demos with Adobe Captivate, Articulate Storyline, or TechSmith Camtasia Studio, I tend to record my voice at the same time that I'm recording the screen. I find that if I try to record my audio after-the-fact (in the tool itself or in an external program), it's more difficult to synchronize my audio with what's happening in the video.
I find that my "off-the-cuff" video demos sound more natural when I record my voice during the recording process... more informal. You can listen to samples of my audio in videos I've posted to the IconLogic YouTube channel. The audio on my YouTube videos isn't perfect... there's some flubs here and there. But perfect audio wasn't my goal. I was trying to create quick video demos to share with fellow eLearning developers. There wasn't time to go back over the audio or the videos again and again to make things perfect. The videos I've posted to YouTube are known as "just-in-time" videos. In other words, since there isn't time to make them perfect, I record the video, do some minor edits, and just get them out there.
So what about interactive software simulations or soft-skills learning? With those kinds of eLearning, when should the audio be created? Since simulations or soft skills lessons are typically produced slide-by-slide (in Captivate, Storyline, PowerPoint, or Presenter), I think it's best to record or import the audio directly onto the slide once the slide is done. All of the eLearning tools will let you record audio on-the-fly... it's really easy to do.
On the other hand, easy doesn't necessarily translate to quality. Because none of the off-the-shelf eLearning development tools are great at recording and editing audio files (they'll do the job of course, but they're lacking a lot of essential audio editing options that you'll find in more robust audio software), consider recording your audio externally in tools such as Audacity, a free and really powerful.
So what's your audio workflow? What tools do you use for audio? Is there a particular microphone you use? (I've recently picked up a Blue Yeti... it's awesome!) Please feel free to share your thoughts via comments or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.