At DevLearn, I was in a discussion with a few other e-learning industry colleagues and a lot of them seemed to believe that they were limited by the tools they were using. While for some edge cases this is true, I refuse to believe that tools should limit our ability to create effective elearning. The fact is, that today you can do a lot of what experienced developers do in Flash based elearning, using rapid tools. In this post, I want to show you how in less than 2 hours, I was able to take a flash-based course and deconstruct it to create a rapid-elearning version.
The course in question
Kineo, a renowned provider of elearning solutions in the UK recently showcased one of the courses they did for the Great Ormond Street Hospital. Amongst other things, the course sits on Moodle and it's a great example of how to stretch an open-source LMS. I've decided however to focus solely on the elearning course they've created. I must clarify that I'm not trying to suggest that one approach is better than another; nor am I trying to advocate Kineo's design. This is a purely academic effort at trying to replicate a flash based course using a simpler tool. Also, to defend myself a bit, I must also say that I may actually try something different if I actually did the module myself. For a couple of hours work, I guess this is a reasonable output to start iterating from.
The course templateOne of the things that makes custom flash standout, is the ability to create a custom, branded interface for elearning. A less known fact is that you can do similar stuff for rapid elearning tools as well. There are two ways to do this:
Modify the flash-based player/skin for your rapid-elearning
There are scores of examples for custom interfaces with rapid-elearning tools. Articulate seems to lend itself to this pretty easily. A couple of examples from Kineo are the SSC HIPAA course and the one for O2. If you need a custom interface for your course you can contact them or e-mersion. If you just want to get away from the default Articulate look, then you can even try buying a skin from the e-Mersion store. Very recently Dave Mozealous from Articulate wrote about how you can obtain or create custom skins for your courses.
Use Powerpoint to create your interface and manage your navigation
While I haven't used this in the version I created, I realise that Kineo created their course with a teenage audience in mind and they wanted to create an interface that would appeal to this demographic. If you notice the look and feel of the course and the Moodle page, it's pretty obvious who they're targeting. I tried my hand at doing something from within Powerpoint. Take a look at the example navigation above. This is done solely from Powerpoint and uses nothing but Powerpoint elements. Here's the template for you to muck around with. For people who'd like to delve into this further, here's a wonderful article by Tom Kulhmann on How to design custom templates for elearning. Tom gives away 8 free templates in this article, so its well worth the read.
The course contents
Here's the link to my version of the course. The course wasn't very difficult to reproduce from within Powerpoint and Articulate. Most of the course is fairly linear and most interactions were easy to reproduce within Engage or Powerpoint itself. Some fancy rollovers were difficult to reproduce in a short time, but you can definitely achieve that as well using minimal Flash skills. Take a look at Tom's blogpost that answers how to achieve the rollover effect. And here's Dave Anderson's tutorial on the same topic. The key is that I don't have the time or the inclination to go any further than this, but because you can produce stuff so quickly using rapid elearning, you have the ability to quickly create a prototype that you can then iterate from.
The answers are not in the toolThe fact is that these days, with so much interactive content available for free and the number of modes you have to create synchronisation and interactivity, the tools should never be a blocker. What still remains important is the skill of sound instructional design. Think about action mapping to make your elearning livelier. There's great information available about scenario based learning - use that to lend interactivity to your courses. Elearning is not about rollovers and animations, so your limitation should only be creativity and not technology.
How did you like my blogpost today? Please let me know by posting in the comments section or by emailing me. If you want the source files for the course I put together, email me and I'll be happy to send them to you.