Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Although a 'good' tool, I think Adobe Presenter is getting stale...

The first bullets on my slides have all decided not to show up until the second bullet animates in. In preview this all works, but obviously the gnomes in my computer are causing the error to occur when I ask them to publish the presentation.

The output of Presenter can be great, the idea of easy conversion from a slide deck to a web format - with the option to add audio and additional media - is a fantastic way for Subjects Matter Experts, Designers and Developers to work together. However, the UI is seriously hurting, a lot of the interactions and animations are seriously dated. There is major room improvement with this type of tool, and if Adobe or Articulate don't step up their games I wouldn't be surprised if some startup blew away the community with an impressive presenter tool.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What are you afraid of?

This is probably a good thing:

German teacher loses court battle against rate-your-teacher website

I can understand both sides here, but I believe that a low ranking from a biased student who failed the course would be offset from a biased student who aced the course. Eventually - given a large enough number of reviewers - a true evaluation of that teacher will come out.

I can remember even as early as grade 6 having a teacher who loaded on the homework, was very strict, and even though all students despised him/her, most were quick to agree that he/she was a great teacher. Students recognize when a teacher is passionate about their job and when they care about pushing students to their potentials.

Anyways, I bring this case up as I feel that Online education (especially those attempting to market a product) should embrace rating systems as well, either through their own LMS or through third party sites. While most departments of eLearning products will create surveys for their own internal feedback, they should instead strive to create a recognized quality learning experience that is rated publicly by their users. The current and new generations expect to see user ratings, and when a learning product has a five star rating with "76 learners rated this product" it will have a stronger affect on their decision then having a stock photograph with a quote from 'Billy'...not that there's anything wrong with that.

Don't be afraid to show what users think of your products. Earn some gold stars. Plus user ranking is so web 2.0!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Text is fine.

Text is fine, say that to yourself, like a mantra, hummmm, hummmmm.

90% of the time, Text is fine, it's ok. Don't feel pressured to come up with some creative way to display every piece of content. Most of the time, plain text is what the learner is looking for, easy accessible content.

Instead of trying to make everything an animation or interaction, locate a couple key concepts that really lend themselves to an interesting simulation, video or creative elearning method. Focus your web media development time on something that matters, that does improve the content, that will help the learner. In the end your course will be better for it, and the development team will likely feel they have built something worthwhile.

For the other stuff - Text is fine....ok...maybe...just a couple little pictures on the side ;)

Stay Classy 2.0'rs

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thoughts on Digital Textbooks

Top ten reasons for Academic Publishers to move to Online Textbooks, from a student's point of view without any care for development costs:
  1. Embedded audio and video.

  2. Randomly generated practice quizzes/exams from a giant pool of questions that are constantly updated

  3. Accessible from a Kindle, iPhone, Blackberry, laptop, Japan, a toaster...

  4. A lower cost that is Semester Subscription based

  5. A dynamically created Study Calender, where the student enters what topics they need to read and by when, and the web textbook will create a schedule, track progress, and email alerts if the student falls behind

  6. Games and Simulations!

  7. Teachers can build their own learning path from the books content. This way students don't have to worry if they are studying the right material or not

  8. Fixes and Updates to the content are made on the fly so students always have the most up to date version

  9. Chat room for online Study Groups, or Event Posting for live study groups

  10. No more sore backs from lousy heavy books

Stay Classy Webernet.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

likes / dislikes - SCORM edition

Things I like about SCORM:
  1. Portability. The wonderful theory that I should be able to export a course package from one LMS and seamlessly import into another LMS. It's nice to have these kind of dreams....

  2. The API. There is an abundance of examples and sample code and wrappers to help you make your first Learning Object communicate with an LMS, and being able to design Flash Objects that pull the user name and report scores is kinda cool and easy when you get the hang of it.

  3. Authorware. Over the past five years, Course and Assessment creation software has made leaps and bounds in quality (Adobe, Articulate). I do believe this area has a lot of room for new companies to enter the compitition, which is great because we should see a steady improvement in solutions.

  4. Branching. If properly supported by an LMS, it will allow course designers and developers to create a learning path that adapts to the user, which is the first step in emulating how a teacher adapts to a student.

Things I dislike about SCORM:
  1. Out of date, clunky Dreamweaver extensions. Did developers just give up? it seems like there should be more options when it comes to compiling a SCORM package from a Dreamweaver site.

  2. Inconsistency in LMS SCORM implementations. I've seen packages being imported to Course Level, Module Level and Asset Level depending on the LMS, I've seen numerous LMSs just ignore SCORM interactions.

  3. 2004 Sco to Sco navigation - I feel like this should be easier to implement than it sounds.

  4. Limited use of CSS. Because SCORM packages are these 'self dependent' objects, it becomes impossible to properly maintain the look and feel of a facilities e-learning products using CSS. There are ways around this on an LMS by LMS basis by looking into the folder structure where courses are imported to, but this is simply a hack and not a solution. Obviously we can still have one CSS per SCORM object, but what happens when a facilities rebranding occours? each object's style sheet will have to be updated and then the package will need to be re-imported.

  5. The fact that the people most interested in working with SCORM, are usually teachers, subject matter experts or instructional designers and not usually developers. This is not really anyone's fault since we are talking about a standard for web communication which understandably becomes a developers game, but it is a shame that the current state does not allow for enthusiastic educators to quickly turn their ideas into SCORM materials. I think as more and more Authorware becomes available this problem will eventually shrink, with Developers being moved from working directly with the educators to creating software for the educators.

That's all, Stay Classy Internet.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Converting vhs educational videos to a digital format

A really good question down at the www.elearningguild.com about how to handle moving from an old video format to something a little modern.

I think when moving from VHS to digital formats you should definitely start to think about some of the technology available to you and how this technology can improve the users engagement.

How about converting the video to a flash interaction where the User watches a couple minutes, then a multiple choice question pops up and the video resumes until the next question?

If the old videos were made to cover a large range of topics to be applied to a generic audience, how about organizing all the lessons taught in the videos, editing out small chunks and creating learning plans that are specific to the person taking the course, thus a line worker would have a different path than a manager.

The conversion is a great time to become enthused about improving the quality of your materials. How about if the videos are becoming dated (80's clothes etc.) but the content is still good, you can add some 'pop up video' style humor to keep the learner amused while absorbing the material.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Use Flash and Scorm to show Student Name on Quizmaker endpages

Just spent the day figuring this nifty trick out.

If you've found this page then you probably spent time in the Articulate forums and blogs reading about how the only way to get the user name is to have them answer a survery question at the beginning of the quiz.

Forget that! ha!

Here's what you do.

1. Using flash create a new movie clip and rock this code in your actions panel:

import flash.external.ExternalInterface;
var username = ExternalInterface.call("parent.GetStudentName");
studentName.text = username;

2. On the stage add a dynamic text field and give it the name "studentName"

3. Publish the SWF

4. In your Quizmaker quiz edit the end page (for pass or fail) choose slide view, choose the insert tab, insert your wicked awesome SWF you just made.

5. Publish your Quiz into a SCORM package and import it into your LMS Wam. Pow. Bang.

6. Test it out, make sure it works, now edit the look and feel of your SWF and Endpage to perfection.

Stay Classy Internet.