Tag Archives: cool tools

Create and Share Your Own Images

One of the many tasks involved in preparing content for delivery is locating and selecting appropriate images. Whether you are writing a blog post or developing a full academic course, images (drawings, photographs, charts, etc.) help tell a story, help to get the message across.

Where do you find images?

You may be lucky enough to have a graphic artist in-house or maybe a subscription to a stock images resource. But if you’re on a budget, you may be looking for other options – images that are available online with no fee for use. Creative Commons (CC) licenses are a popular way for photographers to make their work available for you to use. Here are a couple of ways to search for CC licensed images: Flickr and the Creative Commons search page.

Do you have images to share?

If you are interested in contributing, you can do so by creating your own online account and making your photos available – searchable and clearly labeled with your intent for their use. One option is @DailyShoot:

The Daily Shoot is a simple daily routine to motivate and inspire you to practice your photography, and share your results! It’s not a contest and there are no prizes. It’s simply about encouraging you to pick up your camera and make photographs.

Everyday @Dailyshoot tweets an assignment – an idea, a topic, to focus your efforts. You tweet a link to your photo for that assignment that includes the day’s hashtag, and it is linked to the site. For more about how it works, check out The Daily Shoot. If you post one photo per day you would end up with 365 contributions by the end of the year (next year, that is)! Even one per week would result in a gallery of 52. As a consumer of CC licensed images, now I can contribute to the pool.

Most of The Daily Shoot participants don’t post every day, but a couple do. You can browse their past photos on the site. It’s also interesting to see the differences and similarities in approach to each day’s assignment. As an example, take a look at 12/26/10 – “What fuels your creative process?”

I heard about this project at a conference in September and have wanted to give it a try ever since. Armed with a brand new camera (thanks, Adam!) I just started yesterday. I’ll be contributing via my Flickr stream.

Are you already sharing your images? If so, please let us know where! If not, consider joining in.

Image credit: gywst

Update! (12/3/11) The Daily Shoot decided to cease operations several months ago, but fortunately the organizers made their list of of prompts available via Google Docs: Daily Shoot Assignments. I managed to complete 150 assignments in the past year and have now maxed out my free Flickr account. While I consider upgrading to “Pro” I’m looking for a new source of prompts….any ideas? Please share them here!

Tools for Freelance Instructional Designers

A recent LinkedIn eLearning Guild Group member asked “What are the top tools for freelance elearning design and development?” and 100 comments later, there was quite a list.

The result was a nice mix of both specific software for getting the work done and advice and suggestions related to running a freelance business.

Here is my attempt to categorize and capture all of the recommendations, in no particular order of course. While I tried to include everything that was mentioned, my apologies if  I may have missed one or two…

  • Software Suites and Packages – Adobe Creative Suite, Adobe eLearning Suite, Articulate Studio, Microsoft Office, Open Office, Google Tools

  • Rapid Development – Captivate, Lectora, Cam Studio, Camtasia, Articulate
  • Screencapture/Screencast – Jing, Screenhunter, Snagit (very popular!), Snap4

  • Image/Photo Editing – PaintNet, GIMP, PaintShop Pro
  • Video – Sony Vegas Pro, Sorenson Squeeze, After Effects, Celtx Script Writing
  • Audio – Audacity, Soundbooth, Levelator
  • Delivery – LMS, Portal – WordPress, Drupal, Blackboard, Moodle

  • Synchronous Communication – Skype, DimDim, Elluminate, WebEx, Centra, LiveMeeting, Oovoo
  • Programming Skills – PHP, HTML5, CSS3, SCORM
  • Project Management – Gantto.com, OpenWorkbench, MSProject, LotusLive
  • Business Operations – Dropbox, GetHarvest.com, Adobe Acrobat, PrimoPDF, QuickBooks, FreshBooks, MyHours.com, FastTrack, BullZip, PDFPen, Zoho, and a local small business Accountant
  • Professional Development – Books – Roam, Clark, Horton; Advice – Entrepreneurship.com, Forbes.com; Networking and Mentorship – professional associations recommended: ASTD, IPSI
  • And more… Notepad++, iSpringFree, Flash Firestarter, SwishMax2, MindManager, Prezi, Xtranormal, ReadtheWords.com, Tokbox, Adobe Kuler, Wampserver, Balsamiq, Questionmark, Madcap Flare, Color Schemer, Fireshot, and Compliance testing sites

A few absolutes to close: Internet access, a powerful computer with multiple monitors, coffee, aspirin, a sense of humor, and a support system!

How about it, Freelancers? Any corrections or additions to the list?

Update! (12/1/2010): Please see the cross posting on OpenSesame. They have graciously provided links to each of these tools! Very helpful.

Image credit: keepthebyte, Flickr

Reporting Course Issues with Screencasts

How do students and instructors report problems with an online course? Over the past year I have been working with one faculty member that posts issues with screencasts. It has been a successful experience both from her perspective, as an Instructor, and mine, as Instructional Designer.

What are course issues?

Typical problems associated with online courses include:

  • Links: broken, misdirected, error messages
  • Errors: typographical errors, formatting problems
  • Content: missing or outdated information

The usual reporting of a course issue involves filing out an online form with predetermined fields. One of the challenges of these forms is the field titled “description of problem”. Communicating an online program via text can be difficult to do.

What is a screencast?

Using a headset and a screencast application you can create a recording of your computer screen and your narration of what you are doing.  The screencast can be uploaded to another site, think YouTube, or accessed via URL. The instructor mentioned above was already familiar with Jing, but there are other options available – many of them free.

A recent example:

A file wasn’t opening properly for students or instructor, instead opening a series of error messages and warnings. I was not able to recreate the problem. When I contacted the instructor for more information she sent a screencast that allowed me to watch her screen as she tried to open the file. I could see that the file extension was the problem. She would not have thought to mention it, or look for that as a troubleshooting step, but I knew that the LMS could be a little temperamental with the .docx extension. The screencast made all the difference in the communication and resolution process.

Benefits

The potential for decreasing resolution time is the primary benefit here. Instructors are on the front lines with these kinds of errors and students, who are not aware of the existence or role of the instructional designer, often hold the instructor responsible for problems. Screencasts help to remove the uncertainty and the need to go back to the instructor for more information.

For more information about using screencasts:

  • Ferriter, W. (2010). Preparing to teach digitally. Educational Leadership, 67(8), 88-89.
  • Griffis, P. (2009). Building pathfinders with free screen capture tools. Information Technology and Libraries, 4, 189-190.
  • Rethlefsen, M. L. (2009). Screencast like a pro. Library Journal, 134(7), 62-63.

Have you used screencasts, or screenshots, to resolve course issues? Consider incorporating screencasts into your issue reporting process!

Image credit: umwditt, Flickr