Thursday, March 29, 2012

More CrowdSourcing - Using Audio in eLearning

I seem to recall seeing a study or two somewhere that talks about how adding narration to video of screen navigation and action in an eLearning course ssignificantly adds to retention and learning transfer.
I'm hoping that someone can point me in the direction of that study.
Who can help?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Learning from (a soon to be moving) experience

Loyal readers may be aware that this Learning Pro is about to move cities.
My brilliant and talented wife (referred to from now as B&TW) has been asked to head up a new office that her company is opening in San Francisco, and rather than let her do it without me I'm going along with her :)
My boss has already given me the OK to keep my job and do it remotely from the Bay Area so all that's left is to work out how we get there, where we live and about a million other small details.
The weekend that just passed was spent in the City by the Bay taking a look around and trying to get a feel for where we might want to live.
There were great things about the weekend and some not so great ones. My thought is to see how I can take the experience and see how it might help me in my quest to help learners and fellow Learning Pros

Lesson 1
The Improvisational approach may not always be the best one.
With a hectic travel schedule already in place for the next 2 months we took the opportunity to visit the city without being fully prepared. B&TW was out there for a solid week of meetings with the new client that is the reason we are moving. With only a vague idea of what relocation help we will be getting we waited until too late to make appointments to see places.  My improvisational approach only works when you are not reliant on other people to do things like call you back or show you places.
Learning Take Away:  Be prepared to use the approach that most suits the people you are working with.

Lesson 2
Too many new things will overwhelm you.
We were in a new city. We don't know the neighborhoods well at all (B&TW knows some and I know next to none). It would be foolish to throw yet another new factor into the mix. So signing up with Zipcar and trying to use their service for the first time may not have been my best idea. Trying to work out how something even a simple as Zipcar works on top of all the rest of the issues we were facing made us too late for one open house, barely making another and frustrated when the car just sat there and did not start in the middle of our appointment. If we had not been wet and stressed out then this might have been funny. Luckily the person at Zipcar talked us through a reset and we were on our way.
Learning Take Away: Build on current knowledge block by block.

Lesson 3
Ask for lots of opinions, but be wary of filters.
We already have friends who used to live in San Francisco and had spoken to them. As we sat down for dinner each night my B&TW would ask the servers about the city. Which neighborhoods they liked, which they lived in. We got a lot of input from them and also the various realtors we met and looked at places with. What we came to realize by Sunday afternoon is that lots of people have their own views of what makes a good place to live and what does not. Whilst their opinions are valid and right for them they may not be right for us. When visiting one neighborhood that we got a couple of recommendations for we realized that we either needed to lose 15 years from our ages or get a bunch of tattoos and piercings if we wanted to fit in.
Learning Take Away: The difference between information and knowledge is context.

Lesson 4
Use the information out there to help you
Everyone knows that it’s warmer in San Francisco in March than Chicago. So taking a look at the weather forecasts is a good idea but new vital.
Of course if Chicago has been setting records for March warmth and a Pacific storm is coming to settle over Northern California it might be worth disregarding what everybody knows and paying attention to the forecasts.
Learning Take Away: Sometimes what ‘everyone knows’ is just plain wrong! Unlearning it and learning what is right may be half the battle or more.

Happy Learning

Friday, March 16, 2012

Who's learning is it anyway?

The CPLP(TM) certification cycle goes ever on. A couple of weeks ago, the latest cohort of Work Product submissions went in and the next Knowledge Exam testing window opens up tomorrow. Not ready yet? Well the deadline for registration for the NEXT window is a couple of weeks away!
One of the things that the Work Product evaluation is very hot on is the connection to the business need. In conversations with my coaches while I was putting together mine last summer I remember something that Trish Uhl said along the lines of "anyone can be a trainer. To be a WLP professional you need to be a business partner"
It's the impact on the business (or the organization if it's not a business) that we aim for. It's the highest level of Kirkpatrick evaluation. So when we are designing and delivering learning we have to keep that in mind.

But the learning does not belong to the organization. It's not the organization that is going to learn, it is the individual learner.

And that individual learner is going to learn in the way that works best for them. They are only going to learn if they get the motivation to do so. In his book Drive, Dan Pink talks about how motivation today relies on 3 principles. Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. 
If we make sure that learners have a clear sense of how they are getting better at something when the are part of learning experience we create, then the Mastery side is taken care of. But if we want to motivate them to learn we might want to hit the other two as well.
My favorite route to learner Autonomy is simply to give them the target and let them chose their own way to fulfill that target. As Thiagi puts it, there is content out there. Our job is not to create more of that but to come up with ways to help the learner interact with what is out there. The problem I always face when creating a learning event that we will sell to our customers (I work for a company that sells software and so we have to teach people how to use it) is selling the idea. Companies are reluctant to spend money on a session where we won't provide their staff with materials and step by step guides to doing the activities they want to learn about. As a result I all to often end up creating more content rather than curating the existing material. One day I'll work out a way to avoid falling into this trap, but as yet I've not managed to.
The third leg of the motivation stool is Purpose. And that is one area that I find pretty easy to work with. We know that learners trust the input they get from fellow 'customer' learners far more than what the 'vendor' instructor tells them. So I always set out the capabilities of a system and then ask them how they might use it to make their lives easier. The people in the room (or in the virtual room) who have had the most exposure are always happy to tell others what they have gained. Where there is no one with experience then they can all imagine how things could be better. Making their own and other people's lives easier always serves up a big dose of Purpose.

We can't forget who pays for us to do the work we are (hopefully) passionate about, but just because they buy it does not mean that they are the only customers we have!

Happy Learning

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What Toolsets do you recommend for AV recording and editing?

I'm in need of help and so have posted the following on a bunch of my LinkedIn group.
I'm hopeful that this crowdsourcing exercise will be save me hours of experimentation.
I'll let you know how it goes dear reader(s)
Of course if you have any ideas/suggestions I'd love to hear them as well.

The Post
First off I have to say that much as I like Articulate, I am not using it. I work for a company that sells ToolBook, a tool that can be used as an e-learning development tool (not Rapid eLearning but eLearning nonetheless) so I use that.

I need to create short 1-2 minute video demonstrations of the software.
These need to have an audio voice over.

At present what I've been doing is:

Using Snagit to record the screen capture video. (Sometimes also making use of Zoomit to zoom into a particular part of the screen). Snagit saves these videos as .AVI files
I use Audacity to record my narration (Thanks Tom Kuhlman for recommending this years ago!)
I then use a product called Avidemux to replace the sound track on the AVI with the MP3 narration.
I then use Format Factory to convert the AVI to MP4 (h.264) which is the recommended format for ToolBook
Yes this is a long and convoluted approach.

And also sadly I've seen some issues with the MP4 file that gets created. Sometimes the video portion repeats.

So can anyone recommend a replacement for this set of tools that is.

1) Easy (or at least easier than this lot) to use
2) Reliable
3) Low cost (or ideally free)

Thanks so much

Alan Montague, CPLP

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Salvation from elearning's 7 deadly sins

This arrived in my inbox today from HRIQ

What are the 7 deadly sins of eLearning? Eric Matas, editor of eLearning Weekly Magazine believes they are:
1.     The course started as a PowerPoint presentation.
2.     The course is very long.
3.     The text of the course is wordy and redundant.
4.     The presentation was converted to Flash by a rapid authoring tool.
5.     The course must be accessed by logging in to an LMS.
6.     The course itself is 100 percent of the learning.
7.     The course must be taken during a mandated time frame.
Do you agree? Read the recent and exclusive article here where Eric writes about the bane of eLearning courses and gives seven reasons why mLearning (mobile learning) is better. Read the article here
My smart boss had sent this article out about a month ago to the members of her training team here at SumTotal, so this was not a new article for me. The author makes lots of salient points about how the mobile platform helps to avoid many of the sins outlines above.

As I read it I felt a blog post coming on. As I see it each of these are potential deadly sins that could lead to some really bad learning, but then I'd rather focus on what to do than what not to do. And some of these are often beyond the control of the Learning Pro, so if faced with these how do we deal with them.

So here is my take on each of those sins.

The Sin: The course started as a PowerPoint presentation
Comment: It's nice to be able to start each learning development project with a clean sheet and an infinite budget. At least I'm assuming it would be nice. I've never had that myself. When I ran a group of content creators in 2010 who were rebuilding lots of content we were building for multiple delivery channels. We needed to create classes that could be delivered in a live physical classroom, in a live Virtual classroom and (sometimes) using self paced learning.  As everything started for ILT we used the worlds most used presentation software (yup PowerPoint) to create the content.
The Salvation: Design the learning well and the delivery technology isn't an issue. Use the PPT to guide a facilitator in what to say, just as you would mix the images and bullets on the screen with the narration in an elearning course.

The Sin: The course is very long
Comment: Sometimes there is a lot of content to cover in a course. If you happen to be teaching something complex then it's going to take time to help the learners get all the content and develop the knowledge/skills they need. .
The Salvation: Modules. Break up the content into smaller chunks. It can still be part of the same course but by breaking it up you ensure that the learners get to build on each block as they go. And this goes for ILT just as much as elearning or mlearning. When I learned about learning years ago one of the principles I absorbed was variety. If you have been doing the same thing for 15-20 minutes then change what you are doing. In the Millennial world that is probably closer to 5 minutes or maybe less!

The Sin: The text of the course is wordy and redundant.
Comment: I'm going to agree with him here. Slides full of words are pretty pointless, I prefer to see images that convey a suitable message (though not just clip-art for art's sake) and bullet points. Use the Narration or the participant guide to flesh these out.
The Salvation: I find a good rule of thumb to be. A bullet on the screen, A sentence on the Participant Guide and paragraph in the notes or narration.

The Sin: The presentation was converted to flash by a rapid authoring tool.
Comment: Yay! Lets get away from these things that make our lives easier. Lets write our own flash, or use other clever apps to create HTML5. Who cares if it takes 10 times as long and by the time we finish the content is out of date. In fact lets get away from these learning technologies all together and get the learner to sit down with the subject matter expert one on one and learn at the feat of the Master.
The Salvation: Rapid Authoring Tools are great for what they are. A way of taking content created for one medium and publishing it for another. But don't just push it though the publisher. You will make changes to suit the new medium. I'm pretty familiar with the Articulate tool set and I like it. I've been getting very familiar with the ToolBook development tool that my erstwhile employers have developed and sell. It's a great tool for doing all sorts of really cool stuff, including creating some great elearning and mlearning. But it's not a rapid authoring tool. It's got action script editing that lets me write code to make my content do lots of cools stuff. But the downside is that I have to write code to make my content do cool stuff. If I'm not as worried about having as many cool stuff options I can get a pretty good selection out of the one that have been coded for me in Articulate.

The Sin: The course must be accessed by logging into an LMS.
Comment: Why would you possibly want to track who took that course, how much of it they went through and if they completed the knowledge assessment that was carefully built to test both knowledge and application. And of course the only way to access an LMS is from a desktop PC
The Salvation: Many of the LMS's out there are no longer limited to desktop only options. The Enterprise LMS that SumTotal sells has a mobile app that ties in with it. You can download a course at some point when you have connectivity and take it any time. I've got the App on my iPhone

The Sin: The course is 100% of the learning.
Comment: Now OK I have to believe that somewhere out there there are people who still believe that if someone needs to learn something then all you need to do is send them on a course, but are managers really that dumb. I've not met a manager for years that thought that a course would be the ONLY part of learning something. Managers are more savy than that and know that once their employee gets back from 'class' there will be steps to proficiency.
The Salvation: Build a curriculum. Have multiple learning activities, some of them being the course, others being...well whatever you want them to be or more usefully whatever the learners need to develop the skills you are trying to help them with.

The Sin: The course must be taken during a mandated time frame.
Comment: I don't know about the author, but I work in a company that has a whole bunch of things that happen within a mandated time frame. I like the money from my salary to be in my bank account twice each month on the 15th and the last day. I prefer doing my work during the daytime hours and not being expected to take calls from customers at 3:00am. Outside of work I have a whole bunch of other things that are on someone else's timetable. It would be great to be able to drink that milk I put in the fridge any time I decide I want some, but if I wait beyond a mandated time frame I could be in for a nasty shock.
The Salvation: If the eLearning is built to follow the guidelines above then it won't be a chore. It will be an engaging part of work life. I'll work that into my life like I work getting to the gym into my life.

See not so deadly after all are they?
Your comments are welcome.

Happy Learning