Oct 10, 2011

Using Blank Slides for Feedback in Articulate Quizmaker

Articulate Quizmaker is a great tool for quickly creating professional looking quizzes. It also contains the concept of a blank slide that can be put any where in a quiz and used for any type of learning, feedback, or reinforcement of learning concepts. I show an example of how to use blank slides for creating rich feedback in Quizmaker in my guest blog post for Integrated Learning Services Crafting Feedback in Articulate.

Oct 4, 2011

Text Animations in Adobe Captivate

Some times you just need a little animation to spice up an e-learning module. Adobe Captivate 5.5 offers an easy way to create text animations that will catch the eye. These animations can be used to let a user know when a module has been completed or when a perfect score is attained. Or, just use them to draw the learners attention.

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


I show an example of how to do this in my guest blog post for Integrated Learning Services Using Captivate to Create Cool Text Animations.

Sep 28, 2011

Gesturing and Projecting with Mobile Devices

I love the progress mobile technology has made in the past 2 years. However, I've always thought the big limiters to mobile computing are the screen size and a clumsy interface to input data. Tiny videos, images, and small text on web pages are just not ideal for those of us past our teenage years. And my goodness, how many times have I had to retype another tweet because my "i" became a "k" when my finger was slightly off the correct letter.

Three years ago I wrote a blog post about how technology may address these issues in the future. Mobile technology has come a long way in that amount of time. For example, three years ago I didn't even mention Android in the post. Today, I'm a huge Android fan. But, thanks to Apple continuing to innovate, I am now able to add to my previous post.

Apple is signaling that they have serious plans about integrating projectors into iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. This is very much inline with what I was anticipating. However, I mentioned a virtual keyboard as the main input device. While this still may happen, gesturing seems like the more appropriate technology for these mobile devices. With the introduction of Microsoft Kinect and support for various gestures on touch screen devices, gesturing is starting to really mature as a valid solution to human-machine interface.

Imagine some of the collaborative business scenarios that can occur between people and devices once projectors and gesturing become standard. For example, gesturing from one device's projection to another to move files in between them or to swap business or contact information.

Think about the innovative games that will be developed between devices featuring gesturing and projection screens. For example, kids may be able to trade custom or rare characters for games through gesturing like they currently do by other mechanisms for Nintendo DS systems.  It is not hard to imagine new augmented reality options as well.

In a more practical example, college students could exchange class notes during study sessions leading to improved collaborative study and sharing. What type of new interactions do you think will occur?

Sep 1, 2011

My Experience Starting Out with Google+

I got my Google+ invite back in July (Thanks Derek) but it's been quite a busy summer so I put off getting to know Google+ until now.  Being the big Google/Android fan I am, this is long overdue.  In this post I write up my first impressions.  You can get to Google+ by going to http://plus.google.com.

My first reaction after getting into it was very reserved.  I found myself making lots of comparisons to Facebook.  Indeed it is very similar to Facebook on the surface.  For example, Google+ has a "+1" option which is the same as a Facebook "Like".  I expect that the as I use Google+ more (I just started yesterday) I will start to see all the differences between Google+ and Facebook.

Circles

The first thing you'll notice about Google+ is that it is very oriented towards circles.  This will be your way of categorizing relationships.  I love this because I like to keep my friends from being bombarded by all the geeky stuff I do at work and I like to keep my professional relationships from being exposed to all the photos of my cute kids.  I do have friends that are both professional and personal.  I can expose them to all of it by putting them in more than one circle!

Circles are a great way to control your privacy.

Stream

Steam is the status feed of information from all your relationships.

Chat

Google+ has your typical chat.  However, you can set your availability based on your circles.  So you can only make chat available to your closest friends or professional groups for example.  I like this because I always had a Facebook friend online trying to chat with me late at night.  While I wanted to keep this friend, I didn't want to chat every night before bed!  Disclaimer: as of 8/31/11, I found this service not working correctly (due to sync issue?).  This occurs when you have Gmail and Google+ logged in at the same time.

Hangouts

Hangouts are chat rooms where you can video conference using your webcam.  It's pretty cool.

Sending a Message to a Friend

It wasn't immediately obvious to me how to send a message to a friend.  Let's just say I've been brainwashed by Facebook.  With Google+ you simply enter the message you want to send at the top of your stream.  You can set what group or person you want to send it to.  You can use the "+" symbol in your message and start typing the friends name to send to an individual friend.  Then hit share.  Be sure "Public" is not selected...I noticed at times that public was selected by default.  I'm guessing that can be adjusted somewhere.

Huddles

I haven't used the huddle yet but I understand it is a way to collectively communicate with friends when you are "on the go".  For example, if you're meeting a group of friends some where, you can use huddle to organize the group better and call audibles if necessary.

Sparks

This is a way to see news feeds based on your interests.  I haven't found the value in this yet.  But then again, I haven't had much success with most personalized news feeds I've encountered before.

Conclusion

You will find Google+ closer to a typical social networking system than some of the more recent Google collaborative attempts (i.e. Buzz and Wave).  In fact, Google+ is quite promising.  I recommend to start by organizing your circles.  These will be important for getting the best from your Google+ experience.  Next, make sure your privacy settings are set appropriately to your needs.

As with any social network, be careful about what you share and be careful with strangers!  Other than that, enjoy!

Aug 24, 2011

Using Lectora to Create a Smart Next Button

I've been using Lectora for almost three years now. Lectora allows developers to take a snippet of code and reuse it on all your pages.  This saves time and maintenance costs.  You may want that code to work differently on some of the pages. Ideally, you'd still only have that code in one place but set up an exception for how to do this.  I show an example of how to do this in my guest blog post for Integrated Learning Services Creating a Smart Next Button in Lectora.

Jun 3, 2011

The Magic of HTML (and C++)

All the smart communication devices that are succeeding in the market place have a web browser that supports HTML (and Javascript).  On the surface it looks like what computer scientists where trying to accomplish years ago with C++ and Java is now happening through HTML. If you want to write an application that will run on multiple devices and work the same way, you use HTML.

Saying this sounds a little weird coming out of a computer scientist's keyboard. After all, HTML is not really a programming language and it is very limited in what it can accomplish when compared to C++ and Java. And, ironically, most of the browsers that are developed for smart devices are written in C++, not HTML. C++ is still the "go to" language for writing apps that must perform efficiently at a low level.  However, for the rest of the computing world (those writing apps for most business, consumer, and entertainment reasons), HTML is the way to go for cross platform compatibility...and HTML5 will only strengthen what can be done for browser-based apps.

HTML is building off the back of great work done using a C++ framework. In a lot of ways, this thought is not news...I was just pondering it on my way back from lunch today. I'm further cementing in my mind that HTML has accomplished a lot of what C++ and Java were expected to do when it comes to user interface. I'm tying back into my thoughts from my academic years from a decade and a half ago.

You don't hear "write once, run anywhere" very often any more. Maybe this is because the beautiful complexity of the internet resulting in users no longer caring where the app is run. It's running in the cloud...that magical place where developers can pick the technology of their choice and everyone can interface with it through our good friend HTML

Mar 30, 2011

Articulate Quizmaker and Saba

I really like Articulate Quizmaker '09 software. I'm bummed to say I have not been using it much because the focus of the content I've been creating is more on software simulations and not a lot of traditional quiz functionality. However, I'm using it with my latest project and I am reminded again how easy it is to create slick looking quizzes using Quizmaker.

I'm working with the Saba LMS for this project. As most developers know, each LMS has a different "attitude" and behavior. Out of the box, Quizmaker was not exiting well when the user clicks the "Finish" button at the end of the quiz. Quizmaker is not alone, I've had this issue with other content I've used in Saba.

To fix this problem, I had to edit how Quizmaker closes. This was a simple edit that took about two seconds. To find out where to place my scalpel, that took a little bit longer. I'm using SCORM 1.2 as my output format. When Quizmaker creates the SCORM 1.2 package, it copies into the package the contents of the folder located at:
C:\Program Files\Articulate\Articulate Quizmaker\Content\lms
In this folder there is a javascript file that contains variable definitions called Configuration.js. Open up the file in your favorite editor and look for the following line:
var EXIT_BEHAVIOR = "SCORM_RECOMMENDED";
To make the Quizmaker window close correctly and completely in Saba, I had to change it to:
var EXIT_BEHAVIOR = "ALWAYS_CLOSE_TOP";
Once you make this change in the Articulate folder, the next time you publish to SCORM 1.2, the new configuration.js file will be included in the package.

Mar 29, 2011

Preview of Articulate Storyline at LS 2011

I was really impressed with the demo of Articulate Storyline at the Learning Solutions 2011 conference this month. Tom Kuhlmann gave a nice personalized walk through of what the product can do. Here are some of the highlights I remember:
  • It has the same easy user interface you would expect from Articulate but it is much more powerful. Tom created an Engage type interaction in just 1 or 2 minutes.
  • The product is also introducing variables which will make it more competitive with Lectora or Captivate.
  • It contains the ability to do screen snapshots and videos.
  • Output to iOS and HTML5 will be a part of it, although some challenges remain to make it do everything Flash can do (that seemed to be common with all e-learning products I saw demoed).
This product will not be replacing the Articulate Studio. In fact I understand they are currently in development of the next version of Studio. Storyline is different in the fact that it makes it easier to create more interactive content and not tied as closely to PowerPoint. The lack of interactivity has been the biggest critique I've heard of Articulate '09.

I'm hoping to get a version to beta test to really see it in action!

Mar 21, 2011

Notes from Adobe Learning Summit 2011

I'm back in my hotel room after a long day at the Adobe Learning Summit.  Adobe is doing a lot of good things with e-Learning and those things were on display today in Orlando.  I've decided to summarize some of my notes I took at the conference today.  You can also read play-by-play tweets from the folks who are a part of the twitter-verse.

Video and Audio in Adobe eLearning Suite 2

  • Rick Zanotti of RELATE corporation presented on best practices for video and audio in Captivate
  • When possible, load audio/video into the library and create instances of it in your learning to save duplications and file size
  • Use the preloader to download audio/video that is at the beginning of your project so that it is ready when the learner starts using the content
  • Use Soundbooth for batch edits
  • Add "ponder" time after audio plays to allow the information to be absorbed by the learner
  • Slide video is a great way to start with a single video and insert slides at various points

Creating Mobile Content with Adobe Captivate 5 for Android Devices

  • Josh Cavalier of Lodestone Digital presented on some of the issues involved with developing Captivate projects for Android devices
  • Flash 10.2 is a good step up from 10.1 and improves Flash usability
  • Mobile lends itself best as a performance support device
  • Consider larger font sizes greater than 24 pts for readability on Android's smaller screen size
  • Replace default Captivate playbar with larger buttons in the Captivate project

Captivate Widgets 101: How to Create Your First Widget

  • Yves Riel, owner of Flash Factor, gave an informative presentation on creating Captivate widgets and lessons from his experience
  • Widgets have 4 different modes: preview, edit, stage, and runtime
  • Widgets can be either static with no communication with Captivate, interactive with communication with Captivate, or a question that can communicate question data with Captivate
  • Take advantage of libraries like Widget Factory and cpGears to make coding easier

Flash Snippets with Adobe Captivate 5

  • Frances Keefe of the University of Massachusetts Boston gave a fun and entertaining presentation on using code snippets in Flash to quickly create objects to import into Captivate
  • In the window menu, select code snippets
  • A Flash tween fills in the animation be*tween* two object states.
  • Use code snippets to add drag and drop, play movies, add timers, move objects, and more

Mar 17, 2011

Saba Player Templates and Best Practices

The question is “what is the best way to create a video based training course in Saba?” When first answering a question like this, I like to look around for best practices. I have a lot of video based content.  The videos are 3 to 5 minutes long and I have 40 to 50 videos in a course. In this case, I was unable to find a best practice when it comes to packaging as SCORM to deliver in an LMS.

Key Issues to be Addressed

The two issues I’m wrangling with are usability versus cost to deliver.  I want my learners to have a consistent look and feel for video based courses.  I want them to easily navigate the course files.  To lower the cost of delivery I want a faster turn-a-round on development time, I want it simple to test, and I want to reuse my work as a template for other projects.

My Approach

I’ve decided to use Lectora for this project because it has a good frame work for handling video based content.  This is the approach I’ve decided on:

  • Turn each video into a SCO
  • Each SCO has two pages
    • A launcher page - this page will not be shown to the learner, this page is only used to launch the second page
    • A video page - this is the page that shows the video to be displayed to the learner
  • Use a player template in saba that will serve as the table of contents for the course

Challenges

I want to launch the video in a window that is sized for that video.  In Saba I do not have the ability to specify the size of a SCO window that is “popped up” from the table of contents.  I also want the menus disabled and specific sizing and scroll bar options.  So in Saba I am only loading the SCO, when the SCO is loaded, the video window pops up based on the code I wrote using Lectora.  I would prefer to let Saba handle the popup and sizing of the code to save on my development time.  It seems uncommon for LMS vendors to provide this functionality.

Another issue I have yet to resolve is that Saba is automatically launching the first SCO when the project is started.  I would prefer the learner to choose the SCO they would like to launch.  It seems there would be a toggle in Saba for this but I don’t see it as an option in my player template.  I’m left wondering if there is a configuration issue with the deployment of Saba I’m working on or Saba requires that at least one SCO be open at all times.

Is this the best practice? I don’t know. Is this the only way to do it, no.  Regardless, it seems to work well for me and the result is easy and consistent usability with minimal development effort since Saba is handling the table of contents and consolidating the scoring.

Mar 15, 2011

ADDIE, Beware of the Video!

Getting other departments in my organization to get on board with e-learning is a goal of mine.  It’s been a little over a month since my organization has been providing web based training through our new LMS.  Being the training developer, I have naturally become one of the leading advocates for getting the organization's training content online and available to employees.  The new LMS has become a great working model that departments can look at to get ideas about what they can do with web based training.

First batch of interest - videos

The first batch of interest in e-learning has come from some of the technical teams of our information management systems.  They have an intense interest in getting video based instruction to end users.  They use tools like Jing and Camtasia to create videos.  Previously they were deploying the videos as exe files and sending them through e-mail or placing them in user databases that are difficult to search and access.  Getting this content in a web based format is appealing so that employees can easily access it from any location or device inside their employee portal.

Mixed feelings about video learning

I’ve got mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, there is interest in the new LMS.  On the other hand, taping videos together is not the best way to do online training.  Videos are good in that they are easy to access and to the point.  However, basic questions are not being asked:

  • Who are our learners?
  • What actions should they be able to perform?
  • Do they understand the context in which these videos are presented?
  • How can we make learning stick so they are not dependent on videos?
  • How can be provide feedback, identify weaknesses, and provide remediation?
  • What does a first time learner need to know?
  • What does a veteran learner need to know?

If they were following the ADDIE model, they would just be left with DIE!  The analysis and design seems to have been too quickly passed over.  The video content is just a response to handle frequently asked questions.  It's quick and easy and it has it's place; but, it's not training.

It appears that the challenge of getting people to use web based training is done.  The battle for quality training has begun!

Mar 10, 2011

Thoughts on Managing Ideas and Tasks

It seems I’m always looking for a better project and task management system. I’ve been through Task Coach, Mindmapping software, Microsoft Project, Remember the Milk, Task Merlin, Producteev, and now Manymoon.  These are all great products but none fit all of my needs. I’d like to think that some where out there is the right system for me; however, I’d be a bit of a fool to truly believe that.

Managing Idea Productivity

After reading the book “Don’t waste your Talent” by McDonald and Hutcheson, I was able to identify that I have high idea productivity.  I always have an idea popping in my head. Of course, they’re not all great ideas but I’ve got to do something with them.  They can’t all fit in my head.  This need to explore many different ideas is one of the reasons I’m so interested in freelancing.  And no, high idea productivity, is not a code word for ADD!


My desks at work and at home were covered with little notes of ideas.  A good task/idea management system was the perfect place to store these and get them out of my head. This is one of the reasons I have a hard time finding the right task management product. I need idea management integrated with my task management because I never know when idea will become a task or vice-versa.

Trying to manage ideas as well as tasks means a large portion of my project and task management is not actionable in the traditional sense. Sure, maybe the next action is to think about it and research it further, but the reality is that I don’t have enough time to fully research all of my ideas.  So it’s not about managing action, it’s about storing my ideas and the progress I've made on ideas so that when the time comes to pursue it, I can build from where I last left off.

Traditional Project Management

I also have the need to do project and task management in the traditional sense. I need to track time, make estimates, list next actions, chart milestones, delegate tasks, and yes, I occasionally need a Gantt chart. So I need a good structured system at times.  It would also be nice to use an application that helps me manage development processes like ADDIE.  An application that is aware of these processes can help keep me on track.

Consolidated Dashboard

Another requirement I have for managing projects and tasks is that I want only one communication dashboard.  I don’t want multiple calendars, multiple applications for tasks, multiple ways of getting notifications, and so on. This is one of the reasons I think Manymoon is promising because it allows me to use my existing Google Docs, Calendar, credentials, and LinkedIn contacts. Being in the cloud like this will stink when I have an Internet connectivity issue, but it is great when I’m connecting from different devices.  It is not uncommon for me to use 3 or 4 different devices to access my information in one day.

So the search is still on for a partner who will help manage the ideas coming out of my brain and remind me the next steps I need to take to turn ideas into reality.  I’m enjoying the nice dinner conversations I’m having with Manymoon but I know in the back of my head that these relationships often leave me feeling incomplete and wanting more.

Mar 7, 2011

Authoring Tools and Compatibility

When eLearning designers and developers think about using a rapid development tool such as Lectora, they often think about the time savings they get when creating a visual pleasing project and the ability to create reusable components.  A rapid development tool is a great way to quickly breath life into your storyboard.  One advantage that many of these tools bring, but is not always thought about, is that these tools can make complying with browser and system requirements a breeze.

System Compatibility Built In

How many times have you had to think about how to make something look right or work right using javascript or CSS?  You have to test it in a variety of browser configurations to make sure it works properly.  If you use the HTML/javascript based Lectora tool, you know that it meets specific system requirements for viewing.  Lectora Publisher specs say the viewing system requirements are "cross-platform compatible with Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 and higher,  Firefox 1.0 and higher, Safari 1.2 and higher, and Google Chrome."  So by using Lectora, you remove some of the browser compatibility worries from the development process. The same goes for Captivate.  When you've created your project, you can export to the version of Flash and ActionScript you want to support.


Caveats

There are a couple of caveats to pay attention to:
  • If you use any special coding, flash, video, or widgets with your authoring tool, you can introduce browser compatibility issues.
  • If you do have a browser compatibility problem, then you are often reliant on the tool vendor to fix it.

Mar 3, 2011

Where's the support calls? Not that I'm complaining.

At the beginning of February I launched several new web based training modules on a new LMS.  This training is available to nearly 22,000 employees.  I've been in the web business long enough to know that something will happen that I didn't anticipate.  Usually this is because of an odd configuration by an end-user.  It can be a toolbar with a pop-up blocker causing problems, a corrupted plug-in, unusual accessibility settings, or a whole slew of things.  But to my surprise there have been hardly any support calls in the first month.

After doing some brainstorming, here are some possible explanations as to why support calls have been very low.

Support Structure

The support structure in my organization is distributed among the school locations.  While there is a central support team, the local technology coordinator serves as the first line of defense for support issues.  This person is well qualified to be a first responder and help diagnosis the issue.  If this person solves the problem, it never is reported to me.

Organizational Culture

As with many academic institutions, employees are geared to work with those around them before calling for help.  "Can you get this to work on your computer?  Then why isn't it working for me?"  For better or worse, employees tend to work within their silo to solve problems.  Unfortunately, if its not solved there, it often becomes abandoned.

Being Proactive

In the development of the training, I took time to understand my learners and draw from my web development experience.  I know the standard system setup in my organization so I was able to gear the training towards those capabilities.  My years of experience have helped me anticipate issues that might arise and I was able to address them before they became a support issue.  I also spent some time writing quality help files that are referenced from each learning module.

The employees in my organization are often not technology-savy at all.  Sure, there are a growing number of folks who are good with computers but a large portion of my audience or technophobes and some don't even believe online training is a good solution.  I say this because I'm reiterating that the low number of support issues is not due to a tech-savy audience.

What do you think helps reduce support calls in your organization?

Mar 1, 2011

Control the Geek and use Wisely

You know a technology geek when you see one because when they see a new cool technology, their eyes light up.  They think new technology is sexy and they want to find a way to incorporate it into their lives.  This is what makes them so knowledgeable about technology...they love to tinker with it.

Technology geeks find ways to use new technology where they can.  They are the first to learn to Tweet, use the cloud, and remote access their home computer from their smartphone.  Studying and putting new technologies into action is a great way to learn it; however, just because a technology is new and cool, does not mean it should be the solution to your business need.

Show Restraint

We geeks have to show restraint.  We can't jump on the first release of Flash 10 or ActionScript 3 to take advantage of the new features and leave or users behind who require minimum support for Flash 8.  Just because Articulate is easy to use and creates cool eLearning projects, doesn't mean we should use it to do a true to life software simulation.  Twitter is an awesome way to communicate but simply want work any many corporate cultures.

When Ready...Apply

As technology geeks, we need to use our love of learning new technologies in a different way.  We need to first diagnosis the business need, then pull from our experience with new technologies to suggest the best solution.  Going to iPad?  You'll want a tool that can produce HTML5 code.  Creating a software simulation?  You'll want a tool that does a great job of doing screen captures.  If we always make a diagnosis before having a tool in mind, we are more likely to please our customers and co-workers.

Paradigm Shift

Of course, sometimes the business request itself is biased towards a particular technology.  Often a business need is tied to old technology or an old way of doing things.  In these cases we technology geeks can pump up our brain muscles and make a case for trying something new.  Review with the client the business need and resultant action needed by employees.  In many cases one of the new cool technologies is exactly what they need and you can help push the company to bigger and better things.

Go get your geek on but keep it in the toolbox until you understand the business need!

Feb 24, 2011

Am I a Flash developer?

As I build up my development skills and try to communicate my skills to others I do business with, I keep asking myself, "am I a Flash developer?"  Adobe Flash is a very complicated product and in order to create a Flash application, you need a variety of skills.  On one hand, as a software engineer, I am well equipped to write Flash applications.  On the other hand, not being a graphics designer, creating applications with amazing animations is not really my strength.

So I am quite well equipped to write Flash applications.  ActionScript is just one more programming language I've learned in order to do this.  I can use ActionScript to respond to events and work with Movie Clips.  I've been able to take advantage of 3rd party libraries to do projects that involve math plots and work with SCORM communications.  I use ExternalInterface to call out to JavaScript when necessary to communicate with a web page.  So, I'm pretty comfortable saying, "yes, I am a Flash developer!"

Where I need to draw the line is where it comes to creating animations.  I am not a graphic designer nor an animator.  I do know how to do these things and I've done a tween or two in my time, but this is not my strength.  I have a great understanding of vector graphics and the Flash time line.  I also understand how to work with objects.  So I am comfortable working with animations, I'm just not experienced creating them.

I make this distinction because when some people think of Flash, they think of animations.  But animation is only part of an application.  To write an application, you need to be able to write code, work with libraries, and understand the requirements of the system you developing for.  In that since I am a Flash developer.  As far as Flash animation goes, its not my strength but I can work with it.

Feb 15, 2011

Won't you please, please HELP me!

I'd like to think my e-learning is so intuitive that there is no need to add help.  (Pause for applause???)  The reality is that no matter how brain dead simple I think it is, there is always a chance that it won't actually be me taking the course.  That's right, it will be someone else with a different brain, a different level of experience, and a different familiarity with a web browser.

Most of the content itself is actually pretty intuitive, with the exception of learners moving or resizing the window so that previous and next buttons disappear off of it. How many people have discovered the "I can't find the buttons" issue in usability testing?  But it's all the surrounding technologies where things go haywire:
  • You know that back button there...don't use it!
  • You can't see the video...yeah, that's because you're using Quicktime 6 instead of Quicktime 7!
  • You opened up the course in a tab in Lotus Notes...no wonder the video is choppy!
 So...I need help.  I host the help outside of the course so that several courses can access the same help.  I label it with version numbers so that when I have to make changes, new courses refer to the new help and old courses refer to the old help.  I also have different kinds of help.  One help file for home grown courses and other help files for 3rd party content.  The benefit of this is that I only have one help area to edit when I have issues and I won't have to recompile SCORM packages just to make minor changes to help (e.g. a support contact number change).

How do you handle help?

Feb 11, 2011

My mind (map) is in the cloud

I love mind maps. They are a great way to brainstorm ideas and organize your thoughts. I've also found them very helpful for taking notes at meetings. I use mind maps at both work and home for these reasons. 

Because I keep a lot of information in mind maps, I need to be able to access them from wherever I am. Through the use of my smart phone and storing my data in "the cloud", I am able to do just that.

I use a combination of tools to access my mind maps. I use Freemind to edit mind maps on my desktop or laptop computer. I use Thinking Space to access and edit my mind maps on my Android phone. I use Dropbox to store the maps in "the cloud" so that I can access them and keep them in sync in all of those devices.

Do you use mind maps? What tools do you use?

Feb 8, 2011

Adobe Learning Summit

I'm looking forward to attending the Adobe Learning Summit in March. There are a few things I'm particularly interested in:
  • Adobe Captivate Widget 101 - I've already created my own widget to marshal communications between Captivate and Lectora so that I can save a learner's place inside a simulation. However, I'm interested in learning more about best practices for creating widgets and see some examples of what other people have done.
  • Captivate for Android Devices - I'm a bit of an Android fan so anything with the name Android in it immediately draws my attention. A bonus for this session is that I think learning to use Captivate on Android will also have applications to creating apps for mobile in general. Argh! I do wish this was titled Captivate for Android and iPhone. I wrote recently about some of those issues in this article.
  • People and Best Practices - Mostly I'm interested in networking with others that use Adobe for e-Learning and discovering more about best practices in the industry.
Are you heading to this conference? What are your learning goals?

Feb 4, 2011

Take Command of your next Meeting

All of us go to meetings and most of us think the meetings occur way too often and last way too long. Instead of formal meetings, I’m a big fan of impromptu meetings with 2-3 people when technical decisions need to be made. I’ve never seen good decisions made when more than 4 people are in the room.

However, for large projects, it is important to have regular status meetings where representatives from all aspects of the project are present (i.e. development, support, documentation, marketing, etc.). This allows for transparency into those aspects of the project and allows a chance for miscommunications to be caught between these work silos. These meetings also serve as a good way to identify risks to the project and facilitate relationships between the various members of the project. These meetings should not exceed 1 hour and should normally be accomplished in much less time. If all is going well, 10-15 minutes are less.

One person should always serve as the facilitator of the meeting. This is usually a project manager. This person organizes the participants for the meeting, makes sure the meeting is timely, and drives the team towards decisions. This person is also responsible for the following:
  • Creating and following agenda and soliciting for agenda items from team members
  • Making sure proper stakeholders and project team members are present
  • Avoiding wasting members time with something that can be discussed later or after meeting, keeping the meeting timely
  • Hitting important items
  • Clarifying any statements
  • Driving team towards a decision point
  • Setting/clarifying next actions for members
  • Getting the correct participants involved in the discussion
  • Confronting issues
  • Identifying risks
  • Reducing ambiguity
  • Delegating tasks as necessary
The facilitator should ask one person take minutes for the meeting. The facilitator should not do this job because they need to focus on moving timely through the meeting and getting the whole team involved. Minutes should be sent to all team members and include:
  • All attendees present
  • Notes of items discussed giving careful attention to dates, name of person discussing, and concerns
  • Important decisions that are made
  • Action Items - clearly labeled as such, single name assigned as responsible, date to be completed given
Each meeting should start with a quick status on the previous meetings action items taken directly from notes. Do not reopen discussion during this status check because you will surely derail the timeliness of the meeting. Lingering action items should be addressed as soon as possible and next steps for the item should be re-identified. Meetings should end with a quick summary of action items with assignments and dates for each.

Of course, you need to tailor your meeting to your company's culture and your particular project. Keeping these tips in mind will surely improve the success of your next project.

Feb 2, 2011

LMSCommit and Timeouts

Systems and courses timeout. We all know that. A logged in session with a computer only has so long with inactivity before the user is considered to have abandoned their session and the system logs them out. While this is well understood to those in the e-learning industry, it can be confusing for some learner so e-learning developers need to handle this time out gracefully.

With the way my organization's LMS is setup inside a single sign on portal, the web based training will continue even after the LMS and portal system has timed out. The learner will never know until they try to exit an assignable unit and the SCORM-based WBT tries to send the results to the LMS. NOT SAVED! This is particularly a problem if the assignable unit was complex and the learner spent a considerable amount of time on it.

I'm taking a two prong approach to this problem:
  1. Save important data periodically using JavaScript to manually call LMSCommit in the SCORM API as the learner completes major sections.
  2. Setting a pop-up message that will first do an LMSCommit and/or LMSFinish and alert the learner that they are timed out.
Has anyone else run into this problem? How have you addressed it?

Plans for Learning Developments in 2011

So I guess 2010 is water under the bridge and I'll try to forget that I only managed four blog posts for the entire year. I'm hoping to contribute more this year and get my readers back for some good discussion about developing for learning. I know from personal experience there are not a lot of good resources searchable on the web related to e-learning development and want to address that with this blog. Best wishes in 2011!

-Jonathan