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The New York Times’ Snow Fall Project and the possibilities for future learning creation

7 Jan

Just before Christmas, I began to read tweets exclaiming the New York Times“Snow Fall” project. The project not only told the amazing story of skiers and snowboarders trapped beneath an avalanche, but told that story in a groundbreaking way. Rather than the traditional newspaper approach of text and photographs, the “Snow Fall” project sought to combine text, photographs, video, and interactive graphics to create one seamless story.

Snow Fall

As the Poynter reported, the project was “a real step up not just in visual design but in coherent storytelling.” In an interview with the Poynter, Steve Duenes, the Graphics Director at the New York Times, said that the goal of the project was to “find ways to allow readers to read into, and then through multimedia, and then out of multimedia. So it didn’t feel like you were taking a detour, but the multimedia was part of the one narrative flow.”

As a learning professional who believes in the power of storytelling and creates a lot of multimedia materials (e-learning, videos, job aids, infographics, quick-reference guides etc …), the goal and success of the “Snow Fall” project is eye-opening. In my experience, the typical approach is to create material that either complements a training course or is the course (e-learning). To combine multimedia materials in one seamless narrative (course) suggests a different path. Without doubt in 2013, I’ll be thinking about to how to use the “Snow Fall” project as a template for course creation.


My Top 10 Tweets of 2012

11 Dec

Twitter is such an important part of my PLN that this year I thought it would be a good idea to collate my top 10 tweets of 2012. These tweets are not my own tweets, but tweets that I have either RT or made a favourite.

1. 1

In the year of Storyline and Captivate 6, an interesting observation that shapes my instructional design decisions.

2. 2

I’ve noticed a move away from e-learning and towards video creation. A great blog post explaining why.!/2012/08/why-video-trumps-e-learning.html

3. 3

This video will change your life (well help you explain to your manager the need for an extension to a deadline).

4. 4

Another fantastic observation about a trend in L&D departments this year.

5. 5

Sometimes we need big ideas to inspire. This is a big idea this inspires me about the future of learning.

6. 6

I love tweets that point to great examples of work. Here is an example of how to use Prezi that is just “wow”!

7. 7

Susan Cain’s argument about “the power of introverts” is a revelation for me, especially in the context of working in a North American workplace.

8. 8

This tweet was an eye opener. Time to rethink gender and technology.

9. 9

I don’t get to go to conferences, but hashtags and live-tweeting have made me feel that I have attended several this year.

10. 10

Going to work is like reliving my childhood (sometimes).

And one extra, because sometimes Twitter delivers gems like this:


The Latest Rapid E-learning Tools – Too Much of a Good Thing?

7 Jun

Recently I was really fascinated by this tweet from Andy Jones:

For a number of years, I’ve been creating training materials with rapid development tools (mostly Captivate). The “creation” process has been fairly organic, in that over time I have developed a sense of what works well and what simply doesn’t.

During the same time, rapid development tools have vastly improved, especially from a developer’s perspective. What seemed like a distant possibility years ago, seems fairly simple to do and achieve these days.

But Andy’s tweet raises an important point, are rapid development tools guiding developers down the wrong path? A path to standard design templates and stock photos of office staff – e.g. bland and boring e-learning.

My recent experience suggests that the answer could be yes.

This week I have been reviewing a couple of e-learning modules created in Captivate. One module took the standard project template approach and was stitched together by the aggregator tool. Unfortunately the result was an uneven table of contents that made it virtually impossible for the learner (me) to navigate through the course.

The second module had a more hierarchical structure that I could easily navigate through. However, parts of the content, clearly created in PowerPoint and imported into Captivate, seemed like a mishmash. This resulted in the module not only having an uneven look and feel, but gave me a disjointed learning experience.

So, as rapid e-learning tools have improved vastly over the years, why haven’t learning experiences?

Are the tools the problem? Or is it the developers?

Perhaps it’s both. Rapid e-learning tools have been developed so anyone can use them. That’s great, I’m for user-friendly software. But the result, is often the creation of an end-product that is learner unfriendly.

So what is the answer?

Maybe we (L&D departments) should stop buying into the “game-changing” marketing of rapid e-learning tools. While the tools are easier to use (and do amazing things), not everyone can create amazing learning experiences from scratch (despite the array of design templates and stock photos available).

Why Create a Training Video?

20 Mar

A training video may seem like a luxury or an add-on that offers little value to a course. However, a training video can be an extremely valuable tool to enhance learning.

In a recent blog post, Tony Bates lists 18 reasons why video can be a powerful learning tool. Below is the complete list:

1. To demonstrate experiments or experimental situations, particularly:

(a) where equipment or phenomena to be observed are large, microscopic, expensive, inaccessible, dangerous or difficult to observe without special equipment

(b) where the experimental design is complex

(c) where the measurement of experimental behaviour is not easily reduced to a single scale or dimension (e.g. human behaviour)

(d) where the experimental behaviour may be influenced by uncontrollable but observable variables

2. To illustrate principles involving dynamic change or movement

3. To illustrate abstract principles through the use of specially constructed physical models

4. To illustrate principles involving three-dimensional space

5. To use animated, slow-motion, or speeded-up video to demonstrate changes over time

6. To teach certain advanced scientific or technological concepts (such as theories of relativity or quantum physics) without students having to master highly advanced mathematical techniques, through the use of models and/or animation

7. To substitute for a field visit, to:

(a) provide students with an accurate, comprehensive visual picture of the site, in order to place their study in context

(b) to demonstrate the relationship between different elements of the system being viewed (e.g. production processes, ecological balance)

(c) to assist students to differentiate between different classes or categories of phenomena in situ

(d) to observe differences in scale and process between laboratory and mass-production techniques

8. To bring students primary resource or case-study material, i.e. recording of naturally occurring events which, through editing and selection, demonstrate or illustrate principles covered elsewhere in the course. This may be used in several ways:

(a) to enable students to recognize naturally occurring phenomena or classifications (e.g. teaching strategies, mental disorders, classroom behaviour) in context

(b) to enable students to analyse a situation, using principles covered elsewhere in the course; or to test students ability to analyse phenomena in context

(c) to demonstrate ways in which abstract principles or concepts developed elsewhere in the course have been applied to real-world problems

9. To demonstrate decision-making processes:

(a) by recording the decision-making process as it occurs

(b) by dramatization

(c) by simulation or role-playing

10. To change student attitudes:

(a) by presenting material in a novel or unfamiliar perspective

(b) by presenting material in a dramatized form, enabling students to identify with someone with a different perspective

11. To demonstrate methods or techniques of performance (e.g. mechanical skills such as stripping and re-assembling a carburetor)

12. To interpret artistic performance (e.g. drama, spoken poetry, movies, paintings, sculpture, or other works of art)

13. To analyse through a combination of sounds and graphics the structure of music

14. To teach sketching, drawing or painting techniques

15. To demonstrate the way in which instruments or tools can be used; to demonstrate the skills of craftsmen

16. To record and archive events that are crucial to the course, but which may disappear or be destroyed in the near future (e.g. Internet reportage of the Arab Spring)

17. To demonstrate practical activities to be carried out later by students

18. To synthesize, summarize or condense contextually and media rich information relevant to the course.So the next time someone asks why you are creating a training video, you should have a good pedagogical reason why!

The Music That Maketh Video

8 Aug

Last week I had a really enjoyable meeting with my SMEs concerning a training video that I had created for a new application which is rolling out in 2 weeks. First of all, the SMEs loved the video. Ok, the video was a little long, but they thought the concept worked well. For me that was great news, some tighter editing and the video would be ready to go.
However, one comment in the meeting left me in a tailspin; “what about some music?” “Music?” I replied, “Does this video need background music?” The answer was a definite yes. “What kind of music?” I asked. “Something upbeat and exciting,” replied one of the SMEs. The other SME chimed in with, “it has to represent the application and how people will feel about it.” Hmmm … this was a challenge. First, I had to find music that was suitable for the video, be reflective of the application, and would appeal to the target market (its users). Second, this music needed to be royalty-free.
A number of hours later, replaying the video against the audio background of my ipod’s varied musical styles, I have found the piece of music required.
The only problem now, is to find similar music that is royalty-free and syncs perfectly with the video. Any suggestions on where to find an Arcade Fire-esque alt-rock uplifting royalty-free piece of music are more than welcome.

Using multiple voices when narrating your training video

29 Jul

Sometimes one voice isn’t enough. Instead only mutliple voices can bring your training video to life.
I’ve been working on a video where a single voice doesn’t quite cut it. The original idea of the video was to have a single narrator who guides the learner through a day in the life of a mobile worker. However, it was felt that the interactions of the mobile worker and his co-workers were lost if their conversations were not given a voice(s). So the search has begun to find two additional voices.
This search has some challenges. First, is creating a script that reflects a natural, unforced conversation. Second, is sourcing the right voices for the characters in the video. Some voices don’t work when creating training videos. Too fast, and learners can’t keep pace. Too slow, and learner engagement drifts away. There are other factors to consider as well, such as ability of the person doing the voiceover to judge tone and volume.
In the ideal world, I would have the money to hire professional voiceover artists. In the real world, it is about finding the right work colleagues who you believe can deliver.

Lights, camera, action! – Making a movie trailer out of a project charter and some key messages

22 Jun

Last Friday I was assigned the task of creating a “movie trailer” for an application that is currently being designed. All I had to go on was the project charter and some key messages.

So how do you make a “movie trailer” out of essentially an elevator pitch?

First, I needed a story to base the trailer on. It was time for a meeting with the producers, the SMEs on the project. Of course I had questions – so what is the movie about? Has anyone written a script?

Once I had these answers, I started to storyboard. Storyboarding is perhaps the most creative element of my job. It is an opportunity to explore ideas, figure out what works and what doesn’t. And despite the open office environment that I work in, when I storyboard I can completely zone out.

With storyboarding done I needed some actors. In this case, I found some silhouettes from Articulate’s community blog –
Ok not the greatest actors of their generation (definitely one-dimensional) but having a limited budget meant I needed to compromise on the casting call.

So, here I am in “movie trailer” production mode. The movie itself has yet to be finished (some key scenes may even be deleted) but at least the trailer has a “two-thumbs up” from the critics.