Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lessons Learned from 200 Rapid Elearning Gurus with @TomKuhlmann

I'm at what promises to be a great session with elearning's only bonafide rockstar - Tom Kuhlmann. Tom's the author of the rapid elearning blog and in my opinion one of the best community managers in the world. Tom's talk today is around lessons we can learn from the several rapid elearning gurus across the world. Tom's made a living out of helping people that are one or two person teams who have to do everything by themselves but don't necessarily have the budget or the skills to do it all by themselves. The rapid authoring tools like Articulate make course creation easier but now people have to do all of the work that originally a graphic artist, developers, instructional designers would have done in a team. Anyways, the Articulate Guru contest is such an amazing example of intelligent designers doing more with less. I'm going to catalogue live what Tom says we can learn from the 200 gurus who have submitted to the contest.

Elearning can mean many things: Tom's talking about elearning from back in the day. If you look at the stuff you've done years back, you'll perhaps look at it and disown it! And then you look at cool courses around you and then you think what's wrong with you and what's wrong with your company? The key to remember that all the interactivity doesn't need to come from the elearning course itself. It could come from the classroom, it could be from a chat - think of your course as a media meatball. The top complaints Tom gets is that either they're not funny or they basically just don't have any point! Anyways, elearning can mean many things. We need to feel good about what we're doing because what we do can be useful to a specific audience and there's always room to learn and improve.

Limted resources shouldn't hold you back:Powerpoint has been representative of several things, people seem to speak of it almost as a different literacy. From an animation point of view you can do a lot in Powerpoint. The only trouble is that you can't create much logic. You can definitely create interactive courses - the interactivity needs to be meaningful though.

People like to laugh: If it's boring no one's going to look at it and the notion of humour changes over time. What was funny in the 80s may not be funny today. The challenge with humour is that 80% will find it funny and 20% will sue you. Also, we need to get beyond being stuck up. Just because a topic is serious doesn't mean it can't have humour. The idea is to not try to be funny, but to do real 'campy' stuff. People like seeing cult like viral things going on in the course, they like seeing their friends on video. The lack of professional polish is really cool because it makes things real. Tom's referring to this course when he's mentioning this. The campiness made it a memorable product though it wasn't the best in the world.

Where's Waldo: People need to know where they are. This gives them a sense of how much more they need to commit to something, how much they've achieved. Think of how you read or buy a book. Could you read a book without knowing how big it was or what it contains or without having a table of contents? This is almost the way Steve Jobs presents - make your course easy for your audience to follow. Don't get people 'stuck' in a course, don't block the navigation. Give people credit for being adults - get them in, get them out and give them control. Just because you can doesn't mean you have to!

How can you mix it up? If you just have scenarios after another, it can become monotonous. If you just have questions one after the other, then people are going to feel like you're interrogating them. We need to think through the pacing of our course and mix things up. This is also what we need to remember around not making our courses seem templated. Tom's got several rapid elearning models to talk about. Example being the the rapid situational interactive which he often talks about. But if he kept doing this screen after screen, it would be incredibly monotonous. The good courses are different from the bad courses in that they have variety.

What is interactivity? There are several pieces of interactive things that you can do on a screen. Well from an elearning standpoint it's either a click and reveal or a mouseover or a drag and drop. Engage is a cool app for example. The trick that Tom mentions is that interactivity is meaningful when people are mentally engaging with the elearning. People do often get excited about mouseovers and things like that, but it's important that the interaction gives the learner something to do; eg: collect information and do something with it.

Do you need to train people on how to use your course? Because if you do, then either you've done something hugely wrong or you've hired the wrong people. Do you really need to tell people that they need to click the blinking red button in the corner? Get over it!

Beware of the Frankencourse: You don't have to do everything in one course! It becomes too much. Even Tom doesn't recommend that you use all of his tips in one single course. Don't just throw stuff together, develop a consistent look and feel and make everything 'blend well' together.

Pay attention to details: Sweat the small stuff. Think about how you've placed objects on the screen. How have you justified text on your screen? Have you tested how your interactions work?

Be creative and use the user community like free money: The Articulate community is one of the best, most supportive communities on the internet and is out there, responding to elearning professionals day in and day out. I must say I'm amazed at how cool the stuff on ScreenR is - people share such cool stuff.

Some examples that Tom shared

Tom promises to share links that I may not have posted here and you can take a look at these courses to get inspiration for your own stuff:
  • Stephanie Hartnett's Motivation Course - great example of how you can do some really advanced stuff with humble tools
  • EWGA Dallas Chapter's Golf Course?
  • SCA Supply Chain Academy's course on Understanding Safety Stock
  • The Surgery Squad Rhinoplasty Course
  • The Learning Nurse's Nasal Simulation
  • Kevin Thorn's Mission Turfgrass - it's so cool that you won't believe it's in Articulate! Tom mentions that the only criticism of this could be that there's way to many progress meters in the game.
  • Mike Enders: Psyched in 10 - great storytelling, humour and narration. Nice easter eggs that get people attracted and then engaged. If you had to build just linear click and read courses, this is a great inspiration.
Tom's encouraging us to use the community and become gurus ourselves. This was a great talk and great tips to take away. What a rockstar!

21 comments:

Gifty Chung said...

Hi,
It's awesome blog. You provide 200 rapid elearning gurus. You suggest me for the gernelist and how to success in my life.

Jorge Simon said...

E-learning, is like surfing the internet. Much can be learned. But unlike the internet, e-learning offers a more formatted education. But unlike the e-learning format, the internet offers general information, of which, an unsatisfied individual with such unverified information will seek more credible information.

Evan Hughes said...

Interactivity is on the rise this past few years. I think that it's also a part of customer service. It is also a hit or miss strategy, but it can be modified easily to adjust to the user's needs.

lauren maftel said...

Tom's presentation kept a moon theme through out. This gives and element of "fun" and ties everything together, gives images to use.

Dapper style said...

Thanks tom for sharing 200 rapid e-learning gurus. I really like you article Here Are Some Free E-Learning Templates to Speed Up Your Course Design.

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