Tag Archives: Course Development

What I learned at WordCamp 2011: Messages for eLearning

Last weekend I attended WordCamp Miami. This was my second year at this event and I highly recommend it if you use WordPress or are interested in blogging. WordCamp is…

“…a conference that focuses on everything WordPress. WordCamps are informal, community-organized events that are put together by WordPress users…. Everyone from casual users to core developers participate, share ideas, and get to know each other.” – WordCamp Central

This one-day event featured three tracks – beginner/blogger, marketing/design, and development/coding. I felt like I fell a little in between the tracks – not a beginning blogger, but also not a skilled programmer. That being said, I really enjoyed the sessions I attended and left with a list of ideas that will keep me busy for some time to come.

Getting started with WordPress:

If you aren’t familiar but want to find out more, take a look at this Introduction to WordPress presentation from Adam Warner. It’s a nice place to start.

Take-aways for eLearning:

I found that many of the presentations spoke not only to bloggers and WordPress users, but also to designers and developers of online education experiences. We’re concerned about a lot of the same things. The ideas and tips described below could be adapted for use in instructional design and development.

  • Keep mobile development in mind – “The mobile web is growing”, says Steven Mautone. Check out this presentation: WordPress for Mobile. Kevin Zurawel’s presentation on Responsive Web Design recommends developers plan for mobile delivery first, then look at the rest.
  • Let data drive your decisions – In a session on analytics, the stress was on gathering data about blog members and visitors. What data do we collect about online students? How can we better leverage the existing information to improve learning and the online experience? For WordPress users, several presenters mentioned WP SEO by Yost.
  • Improve user experience – We know we don’t ask our students and faculty enough about their experiences with our online courses. How can we get better at this? A user experience checklist might help. Jeremy Harrington presented a User Experience Flight Checklist for a WordPress site that could be adapted for use in eLearning.
  • Prepare to hand-off to your client – In this case I think we could consider both instructor and student “clients”. Too often we complete course development, upload the course pages, then more or less walk away. What can we do to make the transition easier? Tammy Hart discussed future proofing and tips for simplification.
  • WordPress as an LMS – I have friends at the University of Hawaii who are using WordPress to develop and deliver online courses. They are not alone in taking WordPress beyond the blog. Take a look at this presentation by Josh Guffey about using WordPress as a CMS to create a portfolio site. How could students do this for study and/or career portfolios? This plug-in was lauded for making the admin side a lot easier – CMS Tree Page View.
  • Take a long-term approach – It takes time to develop a quality product of any kind. Multiple presenters, especially those talking about the art and science of blogging, stressed this point. It takes time…and practice. And you get better.

Thanks to all:

Thanks to the organizers and speakers for a great event! Lost of positive energy and ideas, all at an affordable price. Visit the WordCamp Miami website for more information about the event and additional links to presentations. If you are at all interested in blogging, social media, or the WordPress platform, find a WordCamp in your area and go!

See you in 2012, WordCamp Miami!

Writing Learning Objectives

Last week a colleague asked me if could recommend any resources to help out with writing objective statements. I had to admit right from the start that I, too, could use a refresher.

The Basics

It may not be the most glamorous part of the design process, but it is oh so important to nail down before moving on. The learning objectives serve to clarify the purpose of the experience you are about to create. Key questions to consider as you get started:

  1. How should the learner be changed after completing the lesson?  Will they know something they didn’t know before, be able to do something they weren’t able to do before?
  2. How will you know the change has taken place? This leads to how learning can and will be assessed. (Good to start thinking about this now.)
  3. At what level are you writing these objectives? Objectives can be written on multiple levels – program, course, module, lesson – and should be connected. Have higher-level objectives already been written?
  4. Do performance standards already exist that might guide your work? Depending on the context of the learning experience you are creating, and the content topic (think medical training, teacher education, etc.) there may be professional organizations or regulating agencies that provide standards that need to be met.

All too often the writing of learning objectives is rushed or left out completely resulting in a product that is not effective as intended – failing to provide the learners with what they need to achieve that ‘change’ that was required and expected.

Who writes, reviews, and approves learning objectives? A Subject Matter Expert may provide the learning objectives or the Instructional Designer may draft for review. Ideally, this is a collaborative process – there is a lot to consider in terms of expected outcomes, content, delivery, and assessment.

A Few Resources

  • A Quick Guide to Writing Learning Objectives – Big Dog Little Dog – There are a lot of nice posts on this site. This one provides templates and examples.
  • Writing Learning Objectives – The eLearning Coach – Another favorite blog. This post is Part 1 of 3 in a series.
  • Guide to Writing Learning Objectives – NERC – A comprehensive document with writing prompts, and lots of good and bad examples from a professional organization/industry perspective.
  • Action Words – There are a lot of these lists available online. This one seems to be one of the more comprehensive versions out there and is organized according to Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Share your experiences!

What’s the most difficult part of writing learning objectives? Who on your team writes, reviews, and approves the learning objectives? What tips would you offer others asking for help?

Image credit: Mark Brannan, Flickr

Open or Commercial? Selecting eLearning Development Tools

Whether you are creating a storyboard, editing a photo, writing a training guide, or developing a presentation there are endless choices of applications available. How do you choose? If you are the one making the decisions about which tools to use to develop an elearning project – either you’ve been assigned this task in your organization or you’re freelance – you find that some tools are free to use, while others require the purchase of a license. A previous post listing tools freelancers might choose, included a mix of open and commercial recommendations.

I suspect that there are multiple ways to approach this. My time in organizations with limited budgets saw supervisors asking us to fully review and test open options first, before making a purchase. While private employers often insisted upon specific commercial products and sometimes proprietary ones developed in house.

A few considerations:

  • Budget – What can you afford? This one question may be the deciding factor for you or your organization.
  • Context – Does the choice change based on where the eLearning is to take place? (higher education, K-12, corporate, industry)
  • Input / Output – What raw materials will you be working with in terms of file types, images, etc.? What do you need to end up with, again, in terms of file types?
  • Utility – What functionality do you need? There are different considerations and implications for choosing something like an LMS (Moodle vs. Blackboard) versus a photo editor (Gimp vs. Photoshop).
  • Support & Training – Where can you turn if you need help with a product? Is there an additional cost associated? There is also an investment in time required to learn how to use something new. What is available in terms of tutorials and user communities?

Resources:

Your thoughts?

This post contains more questions than answers. Please consider sharing your experiences and preferences in the comments here.

Image credit: stock.xchng

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

Online Project Management and the Course Development Process

Working with virtual teams to develop online courses presents multiple challenges. Managers, designers, developers, and faculty content experts must all be able to communicate and collaborate effectively, and primarily asynchronously, across time zones. Online project management applications are available to help provide shared workspace and an overall structure for the process.

This post summarizes a Sloan-C poster session I presented with Noel Broman last week. We currently use Basecamp to facilitate the course development process with small teams. This service is a paid one, but there are others – many others, with a range of pricing schedules as well as free options. Take a look at this list of 15+ Project Management Tools.

Reviewing the Options

Consider how your team might use an online system and what features they need to get the work done.

  • How many people need access to the system as a whole? To an individual project?
  • How many projects do you have running simultaneously?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you want/need a social networking component? (personal profiles, etc.)
  • What features do you need?

A short list of features to get you started:

  • Calendar
  • Milestones and benchmarks
  • Automated notifications
  • File storage
  • File version control
  • Check-in/Check-out function
  • Internal communication (email, instant messaging, conferencing)
  • Collaboration space (whiteboards, wikis)

Benefits and Challenges

From my own experience the following features make a positive difference in the process:

  • Version control of documents – Ending the need to ask the question: who has the latest development guide?
  • Visibility of milestones – calendar feature with email reminders ensures that dates and deliverables are openly posted and available to all members of the team.
  • Task assignment – creating to-do lists and assigning specific tasks to team members by name
  • Project templates – once you set up a project area with the milestones, etc. you need, you can copy it for use with other, similar projects.

A few things we are still working on:

  • Learning curve – take the tech skills and experiences of your team into consideration when making a selection and allow time for everyone to experiment with the interface.
  • Training – most of these applications come with guides and tutorials of some kind, but these may not be enough. Consider creating a sample project that everyone has access to just to try out all of the features and practice with the tools without fear that they will break anything.

Your Experiences

Are you using a specific tool or feature that you can recommend to the rest of us? Do you have questions about using an online project management system? Please post your ideas and questions.

Image credit: stock.xchng

Turning the Tables: Instructional Designer as SME

This post is a reflection on a recently completed project – I was the subject matter expert (SME) for a new online course in instructional design – a welcome opportunity to experience the course development process from a different perspective.

The project was unique in that the course being developed was an instructional design course and all of the members of the team were professional instructional designers. (Reminding me of past experiences where I had to submit a resume for positions that involved resume writing – kind of a double test! The proof is in the pudding and all of that.) I was provided with a course description and list of approved course-level learning objectives.  The next steps were up to me. This was where the adventure began. Normally I hand off a description and objectives. Time to get to work. I began by preparing and submitting a Course Outline and went from there.

Project team

My initial concern was that this could become a case of too much input or competitive in nature, but this was not the case. Collaboration was a priority and effective and I learned from the team in the process.

  • Instructional Designer/Project Manager (ID/PM) – This is my usual place on the team… keep the schedule, set the deadlines, set up and facilitate progress reports and meetings, provide feedback on the work and some copy editing.
  • Multimedia Developer – Took my development guide from Word document to online course pages complete with images, icons, navigation etc. Made great suggestions related to organization and structure.
  • SME – I was to outline the scope and sequence of the content, write any text for the units, select the textbook and course materials, and create assignments.

Food for thought

What could this turning of tables do for my practice?

  • Course/Program Fit – Where does the course fit in with the program? I was provided with the development guide for the course that would precede this one in the degree plan – very helpful! Not something I usually do, but something I should do, especially with new courses and programs. Faculty SMEs tend to be more familiar with the curriculum when working on a revision.
  • Expectations –Assumptions can bog the process down. While it was clear (via detailed contract) on what to expect with this project, there were a few nuances. For example the SMEs I work with aren’t expected to create rubrics, but I was for this project. The more detail the better in the written contract and/or statement of work.
  • Volume of Content – I have heard this from SMEs, the comments about how much original content is required. And now I have experienced it for myself! When the writing of introductions, summaries, case studies etc. is required it can be more time consuming than you anticipate. Scheduling the due dates by unit, or groups of units, was helpful here.
  • Need for Feedback – The ID/PM on this project continuously gave me feedback on the content I was submitting, providing suggestions on ways to expand and clarify the presentation. I need to do more of this with my project SMEs throughout the process.
  • Finished Product – I got a sneak peak via web conference and desktop sharing at what the final version looked like. I wanted to see more! The SMEs I work with ask for this, too. After you’ve spent so much time working with the content it is a feeling of accomplishment to see the finished course online.

This project turned out to be a reality check for me about how I work with SMEs and what could be done differently. How can you improve support to your SMEs?

Image credit: schoeband, Flickr

Course Design – Plan for Evaluation

Evaluation, like needs assessment, is not always given the attention it requires in the process of instructional design. In real world situations, the timeline often drives the work and is usually too short to fully incorporate everything that should be done.

Creating an Evaluation Plan, as part of the initial design, helps you to make a lot of decisions before getting underway and to integrate evaluation tasks as you move forward with a project.

Your Evaluation Plan should include at a minimum:

  • List of objectives for the evaluation – why are you evaluating the instruction and to whom will the results be reported?
  • Description of the data you need to collect and why – what kind of information do you need to collect in order to find out if the instruction is effective?  This can cover a wide range of measures, including:
    • Content accuracy
    • Learning outcome achievement
    • Usability of delivery format
    • Cost-effectiveness of the project
  • The logistics of how the evaluation will take place – How, when, where, and who will be involved in evaluation? Will you use surveys, administer tests, conduct interviews, etc.?

There are a lot of options in terms of models. You’ll find these to be very comprehensive in most cases. Consider creating a customized plan for your project or work context.

There  are full examples of  evaluation plans available online. Two to review:

What is your experience with evaluation as part of the instructional design process? Please consider sharing your experiences related to priority, timeframe, and method. Is evaluation conducted by members of your design team or by an outside group?

Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography, Flickr