Monday, July 27, 2009

Adobe Captivate: "Continue" or "Go to next Slide."

I have a confession to make. I was making a stupid mistake in Adobe Captivate 3 that was seriously affecting the performance of my eLearning tutorials. When I first started using Captivate I was under a tough deadline for my first project and did not have the time to take any classes or tutorials. I bought a book and dove right in. I was confident in my skills with Powerpoint and Captivate's not that much different, right? Wrong, Captivate has different options for advancing the tutorial with action buttons and thanks to the power of Twitter, I found out I was using the wrong option. Here's the story...

I was having a hard time figuring out how to reduce the bandwidth requirements for published flash files. My projects didn't have a lot of bells and whistles but when I used the "Bandwidth Analysis" option, I was finding that the KB/Sec were through the roof on every slide. In a few tweets about this with @JFDragon, he recommended to simply extend the length of my slides. The problem I had with that is that I didn't want to make the user sit around and wait for the timeline to finish out. @JFDragon pointed out that I don't need to make the user sit around if I have the slide advance using the "Go to next slide" option rather than "Continue." I was making the simple mistake of using the "Continue" option when I should have been using "Go to next slide."

The big difference is that the "Go to next slide" option advances to the next slide when clicked, no matter where the slide is at on the timeline. The "Continue" option will play out the rest of the timeline before advancing to the next slide. By using the "Go to next slide" option you can extend out the length of the slide but the user is still able to advance when they are ready. This allows more time for each slide to load in turn reducing the KB/Sec of each slide and the overall bandwidth requirements. Because I was using the "Continue" option, I had to make each slide only a few seconds long and pause at the end of each one so that the timeline would finish out before the user clicked on whatever they needed to click to continue. This means that each slide only had a few seconds to fully load which really ramped up the bandwidth requirements.

This small change has made my Adobe Captivate tutorials run much smoother and has dramatically reduced any kind of performance problems such as freezing. Now I am spending time going back and making this change to Captivate projects I have put together over the last 6 months. Hopefully this blog post will prevent another Captivate user from making the same mistake and having to waste time revising old projects. This problem was solved thanks to the power of Twitter! Follow me @joe_deegan so that we can learn from each other.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Email Subscription

Being a Google Reader junkie it never crossed my mind to set up an email subscription option for this blog. A couple of day's ago I received an email from a follower of this blog wishing to subscribe by email. That email made the light bulb go on! Classic case of not putting myself in the audiences shoes. Although feed readers are more popular than ever, there are still a lot of people who subscribe to blogs by email. If you are one of those people I highly recommend trying out a feed reader such as my favorite Google Reader. It really makes it much easier to follow many blogs without junking up your inbox.

But it's all personal preference so if you prefer email subscriptions than that is now possible on this blog. If you look at the side bar on the right you will see fields for email subscription along with the icon to subscribe with a feed reader. Hopefully you are already subscribing but if not, try it out. I dare you, click on the RSS button or subscribe by email : )

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Personal Learning Network 2

An assignment for my "Tech for Teaching" class at SDSU requires us to follow Ed Tech related blogs on our reader than write up a summary of what we learned from reading these posts and how these lessons apply to our professional goals. This is the second of 4 Personal Learning Network reports on some lessons I have learned lately through blogs I follow in Google Reader.

This Personal Learning Network (PLN) report highlights two blog posts found through Google Reader covering different subjects that have been catching my interest recently. The first post titled "Top 100 Learning Game Resources" provides information on how to add interaction to eLearning based training solutions while the second post, "How to build your personal brand on Twitter" covers how to make yourself more marketable by building your personal brand. The lessons learned from these blog posts will help me improve the quality of my work and help me to do a better job of marketing the results of my work.

One of the most difficult aspects of eLearning development is creating a course that is interactive and engages the learner. A great way of doing this is to build game playing into eLearning courses. While I have dabbled with online "Jeopardy" and "Who wants to be a Millionaire" type games, I have been intimidated to create anything more advanced due to the time and technical knowledge I thought was needed. Upside Learning’s "Top 100 Learning Game Resources" has helped me to realize that I may be overcomplicating game development and that with the resources they have listed; it can be easy for someone like me to easily build game play into eLearning courses.

I am currently employed with a great company but have hopes to someday become self employed or take advantage of better opportunities in the corporate training industry. An important part of reaching this goal is marketing my skills through online services such as Twitter. With roughly 6 million users and a predicted 18 million by 2010, Twitter is plentiful with opportunities to network with other professionals which can potentially lead to career opportunities. Mashable's blog post "How to build your personal brand on Twitter" by Dan Schawbel provides great tips for showcasing your brand on Twitter in an effort to create career opportunities. As a relatively new "Tweeter," I had no idea there were so many apps available specifically designed to help you build your brand. One app in particular that I found interesting was the Twitter Grader which ranks your influence in the Twitter world using an algorithm. This post inspired me to dive deeper into Twitter not only to improve the effectiveness of my personal learning network, but also to create career opportunities by building my personal brand.

The blog posts described in this personal learning network report have inspired me to go out and build fun into my eLearning courses, and excited to create career opportunities on Twitter. I used to steer away from including games in my eLearning courses out of fear it was too complicated until Upside learning's post "Top 100 Learning Game Resources" gave me the courage to increase interaction in courses by building in game play. Mashable’s post "How to build your personal brand on Twitter" has convinced me that it is worth spending time on Twitter building my personal brand in an effort to create future opportunities. After learning these valuable lessons I am excited to jump back in to my PLN to learn more about each topic.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Moodle: Quiz Scores not Saving

Oops, where are the scores! I recently learned a valuable lesson after implementing an eLearning course on Moodle where quiz scores did not save. It's not a great feeling when someone put's out the effort to complete a course but you have no record of their completion. Here is the situation and solution, hopefully it will help another frantic Moodler with missing quiz scores.

The Situation:
The course consisted of multiple assignments and quizzes that needed to be completed by a large group of people. Because it was a large group and some of the assignments needed to be manually graded, I enrolled Supervisors as "Non Editing Teachers" so that they could grade their subordinates assignments. I was under the assumption that if I enrolled supervisors as "Non Editing Teachers," they would be able to both complete the quiz and grade their subordinates. I soon found out the hard way that if you need a users quiz score to save, then they can't be a "Teacher" of any kind. Unless, you override permissions like I describe below.

The Solution:
Turns out I am not the only Moodler to have come across this problem. A quick search in the Moodle Forums turned up several pages of answers to my problem. From my research in the Moodle Forums, I learned that "Teachers" and "Non Editing Teachers" have permissions to "Preview" quizzes instead of "Attempt." When a quiz is previewed in Moodle, the scores are not saved in the gradebook which is why my supervisors scores did not save. They were all "Previewing" the quiz instead of "Attempting" it. All, I needed to do is override the "Preview Quizzes" and "Attempt Quizzes" permissions and the "Non Editing Teachers" scores will save. Here are the steps of what you need to do if you come across this rare problem:
  1. Go to the course site.
  2. Click on "Assign Roles" in the Admin menu.
  3. Click on the "Override Permissions" tab located towards the top of the Assign Roles screen.
  4. Click on "Non Editing Teacher" or whatever other role you want to override from the Override Permissions tab.
  5. Scroll down to the Quiz section of the override permission screen and locate the "Preview Quizzes" and "Attempt Quizzes" permissions.
  6. Set the "Attempt Quizzes" permission to "Allow" and the "Preview Quizzes" permission to "Prevent."
After overriding the permissions my problem was solved but there is no way to retrieve the quiz scores that occured before making the change. Supervisors were not stoked that their quiz scores didn't save but at least I learned from rookie mistake : )

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Monday, July 6, 2009

eLearning Learning Upgrades

Dr. Tony Karrer strikes again with more improvements to the eLearning Learning site. I've mentioned in previous posts how useful the eLearning Learning site is as a research tool and it just got better with a few nice upgrades.
  • Best of - I used to subscribe to the "Full" RSS feed for eLearning Learning but that can be difficult to keep up with. Now there is an RSS option for the "Best Of" feeds which according to to Tony, "consists of feeds that are limited in number and point to the content that is the best stuff based on social signals." Now, I subscribe to the "Best of" feed so that I can keep up with the hot posts and don't have to do as much skimming.
  • eMail Subscription - If you follow RSS feeds through email, I highly reccomend you stop the madness now and switch to a reader like Google Reader. If you still want to stick with your emails then you can now subscribe to eLearning Learnings feeds through email.
  • Wordpress - The site is also now integrated with Wordpress which opens the door to more improvements in the future.
Thanks Tony for making it a great site and I hope you all find it useful as a one stop shop for eLearning research.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Personal Learning Network

An assignment for my "Tech for Teaching" class at SDSU requires us to follow Ed Tech related blogs on our reader than write up a summary of what we learned from reading these posts and how these lessons apply to our professional goals. This is the first of 4 Personal Learning Network reports on some lessons I have learned lately through blogs I follow in Google Reader.

As an Instructional Designer and eLearning developer, many of my personal development goals revolve around improving my visual design skills. While “the look” of an eLearning course is a crucial element, it is also one of the areas I am weakest in. This PLN report highlights a couple of blog posts found through Google Reader that are helping me to improve my visual design skills.

The first blog post is from the “Rapid eLearning Blog” by Tom Kuhlman who provides great advice for creating effective eLearning, rapidly. His post “5 Common Visual Design Mistakes” reviews some of the common mistakes committed by eLearning designers and how to avoid making them. One of the common mistakes that I learned from is the third mistake, “Graphics Don’t Match.” In my own work, I have found that sometimes it can be difficult to find a graphic of what you visualized in your design. Often I will find my self searching through several different resources resulting in a variety of graphics in the eLearning course that don’t necessarily match. The graphics add to the content and help to reach the objectives but some times they don’t match the overall theme of the course. This blog post helped me to realize the impact of matching graphics so that they are a part of the whole. Tom does not go into detail about how to do this but he does provide a link to another great post for custom designing graphics that match. With Tom’s tips I will be able to improve the effectiveness of my eLearning courses by using graphics that add to the course as a whole.

The second blog post is from Cathy Moore’s “Making Change” blog. I’m a long time follower of Cathy’s blog and have learned a lot from her posts about creating engaging, lively eLearning. In a recent post titled “Could Animations Hurt Learning”, Cathy reviewed the results and implications of recent research which studied the results of eLearning courses that use animations versus the results of eLearning courses which use static images. The results of the study showed that students who used the eLearning course with only static images had significantly better test results than the students who used an eLearning course using animations. This post has reinforced that often fancy animations can distract from the content of an eLearning course and in many cases you are better off using static images and in some cases you may be just as effective using a solution as simple as a PDF document.

These posts taught me valuable lessons that contribute to reaching my professional goal of improving my visual design skills. The “5 common visual design mistakes” post taught me how to use graphics that appeal to the learner while the “Could animations hurt learning post” taught me not to over use animations as they can distract the learner from the content. I look forward to learning more about visual design and creating effective eLearning from these blogs.