Tag: elearning media

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Choosing a Course Designer

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I was recently asked how I chose which Moodle Partner to use.  I had to think about that for a minute…presumably, they’re all competent.  They all have state of the art server farms and they all know Moodle inside and out.  The real reason that I chose “my guys” is that I like them.  I can work with them.  They have the same perspective that I have, at least when it comes to what e-Learning should be.  It’s the same reason I chose Moodle.  It suits me.  

Just like when you choose a doctor, an architect, or even a roommate, you want someone who shares your vision and who complements your style.  You want someone who makes you feel at ease.  This is also how you should choose an eLearning course designer.  You want someone who, together with you, will have the full range of skills needed to build great eLearning. The skills and expertise needed to pull together GREAT eLearning include: 

  • Instructional design knowledge and experience
  • Performance measurement creation and analysis
  • Graphic arts and graphic design applications
  • Audio and video use and production
  • Familiarity with web technology (things like FTP, cPanel, PHP, HTML, CSS, database) and hosting
  • Familiarity (deep) with the LMS you’ve chosen (Moodle or another)
  • Familiarity with file types, when they should be used, and how
  • Writing and editing skill
  • Ability to target a message to a particular audience
  • Ability to translate content to another language

I don’t know a single soul who possesses expertise in all of these areas.  Most of us are really good at some things and well, not so good at others. To find someone who can do what you can’t – or don’t want to – do, make a simple list [like this one]:

  1. What am I good at?
  2. What would I like to learn to do or be involved in?
  3. What do I not want to do at all?

Find someone who can take complete control of everything you put in #3, is skilled at all the #2 items but will allow you to meddle with them, and will leave you alone with your items in #1.  Once you find someone whose skills complement your own, make sure that you and that person “click”.  I might even go so far as to say that you should click first, match skills second.  If you can communicate well, you can work through who is going to do what and how much it’s going to cost.  If you don’t click, you’re setting yourself up for tense decisions and uncertainty.  You have to feel like you’re partnered with your course designer, not at odds with her. 

I hope this helps you make this very important decision.  Converting your content to eLearning should be fun and exciting.  Good luck!

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Monday, March 15th, 2010

eLearning Audio, Video, and Screencasts: What Tools Do You Need?

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As I write this post, I realize that it’s hard – as a viewer – to draw clear distinctions amongst these eLearning features: audio, video, and screen casts (depicting mouse movement, with or without audio).  For the sake of brevity (which is not one of my strengths), I’ll refer to them collectively as “moving media”.   Some will involve using graphics (including screen prints), which are covered in a previous post, and many will output to a variety of formats, including flash. 

Five Things to consider when choosing tools to create or edit “moving media” for your eLearning courses:

Will “moving media” add value to my training design? Yes, if it reinforces the lesson and isn’t used simply to showcase the technology.  Most of the time, some simple versions will add a lot of value; in some cases, studio quality versions are called for.  To make eLearning GREAT, many types of media should be used to present the same message.  For each major learning point, I write the message (plain old text) and depict it graphically, I paraphrase what I wrote in an audio recording, and I combine all three in an Articulate Engage animation. Sometimes, I add a video or screencast. This provides something for both auditory and visual learners, for slow and fast connections, new and older technology, and reinforces the lesson. 

Do I have the skill? For “moving media”, I do not.  I have a tiny microphone that came with a computer – three computers ago.  I don’t even have audio recording software (that I know of) and I don’t have a video camera!  I use the Engage audio editor, which has features I am not talented enough to use.  The biggest issue with most novice-recording is that it sounds s-l-o-w.  To make a good recording, you almost need to talk too fast.  If the audio or video is of an actual event, careful editing is probably required, which also takes skills I don’t have.  Creating screencasts is a whole lot harder than one would think. You’ve watched them: “Uhm”…”Ahh”, [typing that goes on forever]… If you think you have the skill and want to learn more, check out Lynda.com for tutorials.

What are the options? The options range from desktop audio recording and cell phone videos to productions with actors and a script.  The biggest source of videos for me is YouTube (which I always embed so that my students aren’t bombarded with the rest of it).  If your training material warrants it, such as safety training for an electrical worker, you can hire a video production company like Creative Works at quite reasonable rates.  A short, well-produced video could add a lot more value than several amateur ones.  For high end screencasts and audio try Captivate, Camtasia, or Screenflow.  I tried several, but I found Articulate Screenr to be all that I could handle. When I wanted something special to promote eLearning, I hired Flexigroup to create an eWheel flash. You could use this in an eLearning course, too.  If you don’t have the time or the money to spend on any of these, you might try using PowerPoint if you already have it. You can save your presentation (with or without audio and animation) as a PowerPoint Show and upload it to your LMS/VLE like any other file. 

How much functionality do I need from this tool?  Most of the time, I get by with my simple mic, graphics, and SPX Instant Screen Capture, which I combine in Engage as alternatives to screencast tutorials.   Because I don’t have the skill to edit audio or piece together video, I don’t need much functionality.  If you do have the skill or need to produce really professional screencasts with studio-quality audio, you’ll need the high-end applications and good equipment as well.  If you’re like me and have dogs that bark at all the wrong times, you’ll need a sound room, too.  Again, the amount of functionality you need depends on what your training calls for and what you are capable of doing.  For most small businesses, the authoring tools should be simple and inexpensive unless media is your business; otherwise, your good information will go a long way in the simpler formats.  If you’re teaching how to use a software application, you must have good quality screencasts.  If your course is on good public speaking you must have high quality video.  If your course is in statistics, low tech cartoons might be better to ease the pain.

Will this tool work within my LMS? This is a good question to ask before spending any time or money on the authoring tool or the media itself.  Matt Bury just released a media player module for Moodle that adds both form and function to audio and video in a course.  I embed or link to most of this type of media; rarely do I upload it to a Moodle course.  If your LMS will allow you to open external links, but has strict limitations on what can be uploaded to your servers, this is probably your best option.  If you have restrictions on opening external sites, you’ll have to make sure the specific application is supported by your LMS.

For giggles, check out the history of sound recording at Wikipedia.  Until next time, Penny

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