Tag Archives: Course Development

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