When I teach my live, online Certified Online Training Professional course, one of the core concepts I encourage is blended learning (combining online digital media with traditional classroom teaching concepts). Specifically, there's great value in integrating eLearning (asynchronous training) with live (synchronous) training by providing access to eLearning content from within the virtual training space.
Published eLearning content can typically be provided to online students via a Materials pod or direct link (URL) you type into the Chat pod. All of the main training platforms (WebEx, GoToTraining, Adobe Connect) provide Chat and Materials pods, although they might give the pods different names.
The problem with sending students outside of the training space to engage with eLearning content is that the student leaves the virtual classroom. Once your learners are outside, good luck getting them back.
In my experience using many of the online training platforms, only one of the vendors offers a truly integrated blended-learning experience and allows you to share eLearning content directly from within the training room, and that’s Adobe with its virtual training platform Connect.
Here’s how you can share eLearning courses from within Connect. First, create the eLearning content in Adobe Captivate, and then publish as an SWF.
From within Adobe Connect, choose Share Document.
Click the Browse My Computer button and upload the SWF you published with Captivate. In the image below, I’ve already uploaded a SWF I created with Captivate called UsingNotepad. Once you’ve uploaded content, it stays in the Select Document to Share area so you don’t have to upload content again and again and again.
All you need to do now is click the OK button and everyone in the virtual room will not only see the eLearning, they’ll be able to interact with it independent of the other attendees.
The ability of virtual attendees to work through the eLearning content independently is so cool, it's the one feature that might encourage you to select Adobe Connect as your training platform above others... and Adobe Captivate as your eLearning tool. If you’re thinking about going the Connect route, head on over to Engage Systems, tell them your friends at IconLogic said hello, and then ask for a demo of Adobe Connect.
Kevin Siegel, CTT, COTP, is the founder and president of IconLogic. Following a career in Public Affairs with the U.S. Coast Guard and in private industry, Kevin has spent decades as a technical communicator, classroom and online trainer, public speaker, and has written hundreds of computer training books for adult learners. He has been recognized by Adobe as one of the top trainers world-wide.
I started teaching online a dozen years ago and I owe it all to a case of the flu. I recall that I awoke in a nameless hotel, in a nameless city somewhere in parts unknown. I was supposed to teach something to someone but I couldn’t wrap my thoughts around the specifics. All that I did know was that I was sicker than I had ever been before or since. This wasn't just the flu... it was Mr. Flu.
I called home to consult Dr. Wife who was gracious to confirm my diagnosis (she’s that good) and was kind enough to remind me where I was, where I was supposed to go, and what I was supposed to be teaching. Because I was under contract, I went to the client site and taught the class as expected. (I did disclose my illness to the client and suggest we could reschedule; however, people had flown in from all over and there was no way to put the class off.)
The class went fine, thanks for asking. But travelling while sick is the worst (I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that if you have prior experience). I told Dr. Wife that I never wanted to travel again… EVER! Of course, the problem with that pronouncement is that I’m a trainer... avoiding travel is impossible. Or is it?
Back in my day, the technology available to teach online was limited to short, boring webinars. There simply wasn’t fast enough Internet, affordable software or hardware, or enough bandwidth to host anything but lecture-based webinars. Nevertheless, using an early version of GoToMeeting, I advertised a few online classes and quickly got enrollments.
Over the years, I’ve perfected my online teaching style and now teach others how to successfully teach online. And while training classes online has extended my career (I was truly headed for retirement before discovering how great teaching live, online classes can be), I must be honest and say teaching online is not always awesome. Just today, for instance, I was preparing to teach a custom TechSmith Camtasia class. I was greeting my students as always and then, two minutes before the official start time, my router decides to take the morning off. Luckily, I have backup Internet (backup plans are something we discuss in the trainer certification class) and started the class on time. However, the stress of the moment got me thinking about the main pros and cons of teaching online.
Online spaces are inexpensive: Prices range from free to a few hundred dollars per month depending on the size of your online room (our rooms can hold 200 people) and features (our vendor offers eCommerce and full back office support for the learner registration process).
No travel for anyone: Talk about a commute buster! With online classes, nobody needs to travel. Teach or attend classes from home... in your slippers. All that you need to teach or attend an online class is a computer (or perhaps a tablet), and good, reliable Internet access.
Global reach: We have students attend our class from all over the world. In one Adobe Captivate class I had a group of 15 attendees. Ten of the students were from across the U.S. and the others were from the UK, Australia, Belgium, Japan, and India.
Less intimidation = better Q&A: This one surprised me. Given that the students are not in the same physical space, I’ve found that I get more questions and more attendee engagement than in onsite classes. It’s rare when I ask my classes “are there any questions?” that I hear crickets. I’m thinking the main reason is that online students are more relaxed and don’t feel the glare from another student who either doesn’t like the question or thinks that it is silly.
Technology can let you down: Did I mention that my router went down just before my latest class start time? That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things that can, and will, go wrong. The best thing you can do when technology fails you is to have a backup plan. (Again, that’s something we cover in detail during the certification class.)
1 Ticket=1 Seat? How do you know if only the people who paid for the class are in the class? If you find that someone has invited all their friends and colleagues to attend the class for free, what is your game plan? Do you confront the student or let it go?
The unprepared participant: You can tell your attendees exactly what they need to do prior to class a million different ways. However, a small percentage of your students will arrive to class late, without the software, or without the support materials. You name it, I’ve seen it. Prepare to have your class schedule seriously hindered by an unprepared participant.
There’s my short list of online training pros and cons. I’d be curious if you have your own list of pros and cons to share. If so, please share them as comments below… but please keep Mr. Flu to yourself.
Kevin Siegel, CTT, COTP, is the founder and president of IconLogic. Following a career in Public Affairs with the US Coast Guard and in private industry, Kevin has spent decades as a technical communicator, classroom and online trainer, public speaker, and has written hundreds of computer training books for adult learners. He has been recognized by Adobe as one of the top trainers world-wide.
Here's an interesting scenario: You create a Captivate project that contains 12 slides: 10 question slides, each worth 10 points (that's 100 points total), and two non-question slides that contain some text, images, and simple image buttons used for navigation.
Soon after you roll out your course, learners report a big problem with the way the quiz is scoring. Several people answer every quiz question correctly but instead of receiving the expected perfect score of 100, they get a 96. Say what?
How about this one? You have a 5-question quiz in the project. As with the first example, the project also has a couple of non-quiz slides containing simple "go to the next slide" buttons... maybe even some click boxes. During the testing phase, the progress indicator is off... learners are told that they are on question 1 of 6 when there are only 5 questions
Both problems mentioned above are more common than you might think. The issues aren't with the question slides and they're not a problem with your learners. The problem is typically found with the interactive objects on the non-question slides.
If you were to select a click box or button and observe the Reporting area on the Properties Inspector, you'd see that any interactive object (click boxes, buttons, text entry boxes, etc.) can report interactivity. In essence, any interactive object can be treated like it's a question in a quiz.
In the example below, I've selected a regular button and, on the Properties Inspector, Actions tab, I've told Captivate to treat the button like a quiz question by simply selecting "Include in Quiz." I've also assigned a point value (in this instance, 100 points) and told Captivate to not only count the points as part of the quiz (Add to Total), but to Report Answers to my Learning Management System (Report Answers).
The Include in Quiz, Add to Total, and Report Answers options are awesome if you want to create non-traditional quiz questions. However, the options can also cause the troubles I mentioned at the beginning of this article. When I'm working with interactive objects, I am always on my guard to ensure that none of the Reporting options are enabled (unless doing so is intentional). Between the three options, I find the Add to Total and Report Answers options to be the root cause of the miss-scoring issues.
Disabling the Reporting options is a simple matter of clearing a few check boxes. But what if you have a large project (perhaps 100 slides or more)? While some of the slides are question slides that you might want to score... and perhaps there are buttons or click boxes that you also want to include in the quiz... the majority of the slide objects aren't supposed to report a score. It's going to be a real pain to open each of the slides, show the Properties of each object and ensure the Reporting options are disabled. What's a developer to do? Read on...
Choose Project > Advanced Interaction to open the Advanced Interaction window. In the image below, you can see that I have objects in my project that are reporting scores (12 points in fact). I wouldn't have known that if not for the Advanced Interaction window. And if I was expecting to have objects report a total value of 100 points, I can see now that I've got a problem.
Perhaps I don't want anything to score at all. All that I would need to do is select the objects in the Advanced Interaction window and then, on the Properties Inspector, deselect Add to Total.
Over the years I have found the Advanced Interaction window to be a huge time- and frustration-saver. If you've found a particular area in Captivate that saves you time, please feel free to share.