Tag Archives: Instructional Design

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

Searching for E-Learning Project Management Blogs

Last week I presented a brief session at E-Learn that described an online search for blogs that address the instructional design of e-learning and project management. I worked on this project with Amy Hilbelink. We work at the intersection of instructional design and project management, coordinating the development of e-learning products and managing large-scale initiatives. This presentation was a look at our attempt to organize a search for leaders who are blogging about these topics.

My primary goal was to find out more about blogs that might inspire Design Doc. Amy, considering a blog of her own, wanted to find a niche. We also hoped to create a list of blogs and authors we could follow for current information in our field. Managing the available information is daunting to say the least.

The result was a list of 36 unique blogs: 50% were sponsored/written by individuals, another 33% by businesses and organizations, and the remaining 17% by educational institutions. This list still requires some level of curation. Not all of the blogs, found in March 2010, are still live. Many haven’t been updated in a while. Others have changed names or just don’t hit the mark, even though there is some coverage of either instructional design or project management. We thought there were gaps, too. Why didn’t some of the blogs we were already aware of make the list? Perhaps our favorite bloggers aren’t writing with SEO in mind. Should they?

Here are a few blogs you may be interested in that did come up in our search:

Who are you reading? Please reply and add to the list.

For more information about our search process, keywords used, and information collected take a look at the presentation.

Top Posts – at least so far

In preparation for the BlogWorld and New Media Expo event this week, I decided to pull a list of top 5 posts on this blog. The posts linked below have had the most number of views so far.

  • Figuring Out Facebook – This post makes the list because it was picked up by All Tech Considered and as a result it had a big day. (Thank you Andy Carvin and NPR!) What helped was a list of other posts that came to me via Twitter that day, all addressing overnight privacy changes.
  • Instructional Design Documents – Prompted by a name change on the blog itself, this post provides a brief description of an instructional design document and includes a list of links to examples from different education and training organizations.
  • Course Design – Start with an Outline – This post includes a simple tool to get the course revision process going. The outline results in a one or two page guide for moving forward – practical application and a visual example.
  • Instructional Design and Project Management – Are You Certified? – Great comments here on the pursuit of professional certification in project management and how it may or may not be beneficial for an Instructional Designer.
  • Rubrics. Yes? No? Maybe… – Sparked by an exchange in an online book club this post outlines some of the pros and cons for using rubrics to assess student work in an academic course.

While total number of views is not necessarily the best metric for creating a ‘top’ list, I can see that this group of posts does have common elements – they address topics that were timely and provide  information and examples for practical application. A more in depth inventory is in the works and will be informed no doubt by the sessions and presenters at BlogWorld.

More to follow from Design Doc and the BlogWorld and New Media Expo…

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Managing the Flow of Information (or Not)

Information and advice about instructional design and technology is everywhere. And it’s being generated everyday, 24/7 – on websites, at conferences, in journals and magazines, in email newsletters, in social networking communities, and on blogs. Much of what I find sits in my Delicious bookmarks account – neatly tagged, but unread.

How do we manage the constant flow of information? And perhaps more importantly, how do we attend to it?

At the end of a recent keynote presentation titled Say it in Photos (which was apparently presented from bed), Alan Levine (@CogDog) was asked: how do you keep up with the stream of information? Alan’s answer was quick and to the point: you can’t. I think he even laughed a little bit when he said it. His advice was to focus on the things that “give you energy” and “empower the work you do.”

This advice is both permission to step off of the information treadmill and a challenge to identify those sources that can make a difference. There’s also a hint here that it’s personal. What energizes and empowers you may be different from what energizes and empowers me.

Read on…

What do you rely on for instructional design and technology news and information? What and/or who energizes your work?

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Getting Ready for Conference Season

We are in the midst of what might be described as eLearning conference season. There are conferences happening throughout the year, but a number of them seem to be concentrated in the August to November timeframe. I am involved in four events (how did that happen?!) in the next nine weeks, so now is the time to get ready. It’s a personal goal of mine to attend two professional conferences per year. In some years the budget, location, and timing stars align and more are added to the schedule, but two is a reasonable goal with some purposeful planning.

Choose

The conference opportunities for instructional designers and technologists are many to say the very least. (Take a look at the sites provided on this previous post: Professional Conferences in ID, IT, Distance Ed… includes several conference search sites in the Updates). We can’t attend them all so we have to choose carefully.

  • Niche – Conferences range from large and broad to quite small with very specific topics.  What is your professional focus now (K-12, business and industry, higher ed)? What would you like to learn more about (virtual worlds, technology resources and decisions, course development, a specific content area)? Conferences can also be a great way to branch out and explore something new.
  • Budget – Funding is an issue for all of us these days. Look for registration options that allow you to attend part of an event, pay by-the-day, or just expo/vendor rooms. Consider what the conference fee covers in terms of receptions and meals. There are more online conferences these days – the registration fees for these seem to be significantly less and there’s no cost for travel and lodging. Many traditional conferences are also now offering virtual tracks taking place simultaneously with the face-to-face schedule. (You can present virtually, too!)
  • Location – You will find interesting events all over the country and in a lot of international locations. You can also look specifically in your area. This can be a budget or time driven decision. You might be surprised at some of the smaller events taking place at the regional level, at local campuses, and within the local business/industry sector.  Smaller events also lend themselves to an easier networking process.
  • Timing – Scheduling conference attendance around your workload can be tricky. Look for events that take place over a weekend and/or holiday. It’s not unusual to work a conference into a vacation, especially if the event is held in a resort-type location.

Prepare

Conferences can be significant investments in terms of time and resources, so get a game plan together before you go. Here are several posts with tips on preparation. Some targeting specific events, but all offer great advice no matter the conference.

Dan McCarthy – How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

  • Dan suggests taking time to see the local area if you are traveling to the event. My dissertation advisor was a fan of this, too. Otherwise it’s just hotels and airports. And they all look pretty much the same. Take advantage of the location.

Chris Brogan – 9 Ways to Rock the BlogWorld Expo

  • I particularly like the recommendation to “bring three good questions.” Make them specific and work on seeking out the answers through sessions and conversations.

Inc. –  How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

  • Among Inc.’s tips: start networking before the event begins. This is getting easier with social networking tools like Twitter.

Participate

You’ve gone to the trouble to get to the dance, so… dance! Attend the sessions, ask questions, network between sessions and at receptions. Networking is often a major reason to attend a conference, and depending on your goals, may be a more important use of your time than the sessions. Think about your goals for the event. What do you want to take-away?

  • Present – Consider submitting a proposal to be on the schedule. This process usually takes place well in advance, but can provide you with additional experience, exposure, etc. And it doesn’t have to be just you up there. Think about projects you are working on with others and collaborate on a session. Presenters often get a reduced registration rate as well.
  • Volunteer – Look for opportunities to help with registration, introduce sessions, moderate panels. Students often get a discount for this kind of thing. It’s also a good way to meet people, especially the conference organizers.
  • Share – Tweet from the sessions! Share links, insights, your observations. Others in your circle will be interested, too. Blog about what you learned and keep the conversations going. Share your notes with colleagues. Take a look at this post from Michael Gray on how to use Evernote to document your conference experience.

Never been to a conference?

As with most things, it’s about taking the first step – create a short list of events you would like to attend in the next year. Then check out the websites, review last year’s program, look for proposal and registration deadlines, and put your plan together to attend. Get it on your calendar.

Experienced conference attendee?

Please share your tips here! What are your favorite ways to choose, prepare, and participate?

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds, Flickr

Instructional Designer Profile – Oma Singh

The field of Instructional Design (ID) is still relatively new and professionals enter this work in a variety of ways. The possible projects, work settings, methods, job titles and descriptions are many. The goal of this planned series of posts is to introduce you to practicing instructional designers so that you can learn more about their perspectives and work.

Meet Oma Singh!

Oma is currently the Assistant Director for Assessment for a faculty support center at a large public university. Oma received her Ph.D. in Instructional Technology with a cognate in Adult Education from the University of South Florida. She has extensive experience and education in the field of Management Information Systems, and has held positions as a computer programmer, instructional designer, and instructor to name a few. Oma believes in putting theory into practice and is committed to lifelong learning and helping others learn through innovative use of technology.

Q:  How did you enter the field of instructional design/technology?

A:  I wanted to move from a business perspective of technology use to an educational perspective of technology use. I have found that an educational perspective is personally more rewarding for me.

Q:  What is the most rewarding part of your work?

A:  Actually seeing the course you developed up and running smoothly online. It felt good.

Q:  What is the most challenging part of your work?

A:  Getting the Subject Matter Experts (SME) to provide accurate content on time. Guiding the SMEs to avoid plagiarism and to keep their content authentic, to the point, and original, while avoiding fluff and fillers. This is especially true for online learning.

Q:  What do you wish you knew more about?

A:  I would like to learn more about different content development tools.

Q:  Are you currently involved in professional development activities?

A:  I attend and present at various conferences and teach myself tools that IDs are using currently. I subscribe to instructional design related blogs and journals.

Q:  What advice do you have for someone entering the instructional design field?

A:  Develop a set of skills that are considered valuable in the instructional design field – going beyond PowerPoint! Subscribe to ID blogs. Download free trials and create your own online course or a mini-course. Create an ePortfolio, putting your examples online, and make it professional for job hunting. Volunteer to develop courses or online interactions for school, home, church, community – anything that will get you some experience. If you are in school, get a part-time ID job!

Q:  If you had to name/predict the most important trends for the future, what would they be?

A:  More learning interventions that are similar to apps developed for the iPad. More 3D type simulations. Interactive eBooks.

Oma’s responses provide us with a quick look at the work of an instructional designer in higher education administration supporting faculty with the development of online educational experiences. Did any of her responses surprise you? What else would you like to know?

Photo credit: Stock.Xchng