Working Remotely: How to Travel & Be a Productive Employee

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Have you ever wished you could pack your bags and work from a cafe in Paris for a month? Wouldn’t it be cool to rent a studio in NYC and spend weekends exploring Central Park? If you’re lucky enough to work remotely, these kinds of adventures may be within your purview. Over the last 4 years I’ve been extremely lucky to go on several extended “workations” since working for the software company Articulate. Most people in the training industry know the Articulate name, but few realize that the company is fully distributed. Being a completely remote organization means there’s not a single office anywhere, every employee works from home, with staff in the US, Canada, Australia, Europe, and beyond.

Working remotely has its pros and cons, but a major pro is not being tied to a specific locale, providing a unique opportunity to have a fulfilling career and a nomadic lifestyle. When you work remotely, it typically doesn’t matter where you physically do the work, as long as as you get the job done. Since I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel and work remotely myself quite a few times now, I’d like to share a few of the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Before You Travel

Find The Proper Accommodations

Find a Proper Workspace

Having a proper workspace is important for getting work done efficiently. Before you book a hotel room or select a home away from home on AirBNB, it’s a good idea to verify the space has a proper work setup in terms of a desk or table and a decent chair. It’s a lot more difficult to be productive when you’re slouched over a laptop in bed or on a sofa, not to mention it’s bad for your posture!

Investigate the Internet Situation

Internet is crucial for remote work. Without it, you can’t download files, attend online meetings, and carry out many other crucial tasks. When you’re planning to work remotely, you’ll want to give some thought to the internet situation as all cities are not created equal in terms of internet connectivity and speeds. Before you book your accommodations it’s a good idea to ask specific questions:  How reliable is the wifi? What are the upload and download speeds? Where is the modem located, and can I reset it myself?

You might also consider purchasing a hot spot so you have a backup if the internet is sucky or unreliable. One more tip: it’s wise to scout out nearby shops or cafes that offer free wifi, in case you’re really stuck.

Pack the right stuff

You’ll want to bring everything you need but remember that less is more when you have to carry stuff from one country to another. Some of the basics you’ll want to bring to be a productive worker:

  • smartphone
  • lightweight laptop
  • wireless mouse
  • international adapter
  • extension cord
  • e-reader
  • headphones (with attached mic)

In addition to these basics you may also want to consider a USB key, chargers and extra batteries for your devices, pens & paper, and any other tools or gadgets you need to get your work done.

Get travel health insurance

Imagine this: you’re in a foreign country and you’re injured in an accident. You find yourself in a hospital and before you know it your hospital bills are in the tens of thousands. Travel health insurance will ensure that you don’t end up a situation where you have to pay that bill out of pocket or be indebted for years to come.

If you’re an employee you may already have travel health insurance through your benefits. Check with the Human Resources department and identify if you have it. You also need to familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your policy. Travel insurance policies typically prescribe a maximum limit of days you can be insured while out of the country. If you’re travelling for longer than the prescribed period, you’ll need to pay a top up to ensure you’re covered the entire time you’re travelling. You can purchase travel insurance through an insurance broker, a travel agent, your employer’s insurance provider, or perhaps even your credit card company. The important thing is to make sure you have it before you go!

While You Travel

Pay attention to cyber security

Be wary of public wifi connections

More and more shops and cafes offer free wifi but it’s important to remember that such connections tend to be highly unsecure networks that are accessible to everyone. Information that you send through these networks can more easily be intercepted, so it’s important not to transmit secure or private information through these wifi connections.

Identity thieves even create fake Wifi access points that use authentic looking names. Once you’re connected to their system, you’re vulnerable to attack and your information can easily be compromised.

Never leave devices unattended

Seems obvious but it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t leave your devices unattended anywhere. While you’re travelling, make sure your devices are kept in your carry-on bags so that you can keep an eye on them at all times and avoid damage.

Enable two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is a safety measure that requires a user to provide two authentication factors to confirm who they are. Enabling two-factor authentication on all your devices and applications will add an additional layer of security.

Be a good remote co-worker

Be responsive and communicative

If you’re lucky enough to get to travel while you work, it can be easy for people to assume you’re always off having fun. This may not be a fair assumption, but it’s one of the reasons that it’s even more important to be responsive and communicative while you’re working remotely. Be early or on time for all your meetings, respond to emails and questions promptly, and don’t ever use your travels as a reason that you can’t get something done at work.

Create a routine

It’s important to create a routine for yourself and let your coworkers know when and how they can get in touch with you when they need you. Depending on time-zones you might not be working the exact same schedule as everyone else on your team but regardless of that it’s good to be reliable and available during certain core hours so others know when to expect a response.

These are just some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned from my remote travels over these last few years. Do you have any tips of your own for travelling and being a productive remote employee? Let me know in the comments!

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How to Organize, Analyze, and Prioritize Tasks for E-Learning

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The One Thing You Need To Do To Organize Training Content: Task Analysis

Are you dealing with a huge pile of raw materials that need to be converted into an e-learning course or training programme? If so, you’re likely wondering how best to organize the content and filter out the need-to-know from the nice-to-know. If this sounds familiar to you, you need to acquaint yourself with the process of task analysis. Discover how a proper task analysis can organize your content so it focuses on what learners need to know on-the-job.

Read full article.

How to do a Task Analysis Like a Pro

As I explain in this article, task analysis is one of the cornerstones of instructional design. Why is task analysis so important? The purpose of training is to teach learners how TO DO something; they should walk away from the training with new knowledge and skills they can apply on-the-job. When you focus on tasks, you’re more likely to accomplish this goal, as you’re focusing on the actual processes the learners will do on the job.  A task analysis is the process of systematically breaking down a task into a documented step-by-step process. This article explains how to first identify tasks, then break them down into sub-tasks, and finally, parse them into steps. It also contains some helpful task analysis dos and don’ts.

Read full article.

Instructional Designers: Remember These Factors When Prioritizing Tasks

Once you’ve completed your task analysis, you’re going to need to organize and prioritize all the tasks you’ve analyzed. How should you order your tasks? This depends on a variety of factors: task importance, task frequency, task difficulty, and learner experience. Learn about these four factors and what you need to know to ensure your content focuses on the right tasks.

Read full article.

Have you ever done a task analysis before? If so, how did it go? Do you have any tips or tricks to share with others? If so, please leave me a comment below, I love to hear feedback.

 

10 Free Articulate Storyline 2 Templates

The holidays are right around the corner and the season of giving is upon us. With that in mind, I’ve compiled 10 of my very best free Articulate Storyline 2 templates to make it easy for you to access all the e-learning goodness.

Use one of these templates when you want a starting point, some inspiration, or you’re just plain short on time but you still want a polished looking course.

Timeline with Horizontal Scroll

Have you ever wanted to insert a horizontal scroll in your Storyline course? Achieve this effect quickly and easily using Storyline 2’s Motion Paths and Relative Start Point features. Grab this download to see how it’s done.

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View Demo | Download

Basic Tabs Interaction Template

Tabs interactions (also known by some as a click-and-reveal interaction) are a super commonly used interaction type for e-learning. Save yourself time and use this pre-built tabs interaction. It makes use of layers, a button set, and visited states. Want to find out more about how I built this tabs template? Here’s a helpful article to go along with this download: The Most Straightforward Way to Build a Tabs Interaction for Storyline.

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View Demo | Download

Gamified Customer Service Scenario

Turn a boring multiple choice question into a fun, interactive scenario for your learners using this gamified template. There’s tons of cool gamification features built right in: a scoring system, progress indicators, player control, avatar selection, and a narrative learners can follow along with.

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View Demo | Download

Text Message Quiz Template

Use this text message-themed template to jazz up your e-learning quizzes with a fun and modern touch. Do your learners deal with situations that take place over telephone? This is the perfect template to use when you want to present content in a unique and engaging format. There’s even sound effects, so don’t forget to turn up the volume!

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View Demo | Download

Interactive Resume Template

Looking for a great way to present your resume or portfolio in a unique way that shows off your Storyline development skills? Download this interactive resume template, add your personal information and work history, then style it to fit your personality. Easy as 1-2-3!

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View Demo | Download

Colorful & Interactive Timeline

Timeline’s are a popular interaction type. They are a great way to showcase the history of a company, a product, an event, or anything else that occurs over a period of time. You can even drop the dates and simply use it as a click-and-reveal interaction. To work with this template, just add in your information and update the color scheme to match the branding of your project; everything else is done for you!

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View Demo | Download

Employee History Timeline

Another timeline template! This is a great template to use to create a “meet-the-team” style interaction or to highlight a series of people or characters. Swap out the text and images for your own and you’re off to the races!

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View Demo | Download

Do’s and Don’ts Slider Interaction

Presenting a boring, basic bullet-point list of do’s and don’ts is definitely an e-learning DON’T. Make it fun and interactive by turning a basic list into an interactive slider interaction that displays a list of do’s and don’ts or tips and tricks.

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View Demo | Download

Do’s and Don’ts Cue Cards Interaction

This cue card themed interaction is another fun and stylish option you can use to convert your bullet-point lists into something  a bit more substantive. Users click through a series of cue cards, each with it’s own tip or piece of advice on it. This template is easy to use; just swap out the template text for your own.

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View Demo | Download

Select a Character Slider Interaction

Allow your learners to select an avatar or character in your next course by using this sleek and stylish slider interaction. Choosing an avatar is a fun and easy way to add a gamification element to your next course, and with this template, all the work is done for you.

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View Demo | Download

I hope you enjoy these Articulate Storyline 2 freebies. Feel free to leave me a comment to let me know if you’ve got feedback or questions about my templates. I’d also be more than happy to hear any suggestions about which types of downloads I should create in 2016. I love to hear your opinions and ideas. Happy Holidays!

Hundreds of E-Learning & Instructional Design Articles… All In One Spot!

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My blog followers know that I love writing about my experiences and insights when it comes to instructional design and e-learning… but did you know that I also write blog articles for the Articulate E-Learning Heroes Community?

Every week I write about everything related to e-learning…. from software-specific Articulate tutorials and best practices, to general instructional and graphic design tips, my articles are all compiled here, in a handy series: Nicole’s Articles.

Bookmark the page now so it’s easy to access, and check back on a weekly basis to see my latest and greatest content. You can also check out the E-Learning Examples hub and the Downloads hub to see my contributions to the demos and freebies. Those can also be great places to get inspiration and ideas for your next projects.

I’d love to hear your ideas and feedback on my articles. Any topics you’d like to see me write about? Any past favourites in particular? I love getting your feedback, so please leave a comment below. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for daily updates!

Working Remotely: My Top 5 Tips For Being a Productive Employee

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I’ve been working remotely for several years now, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Do I love working remotely? Heck yes! Are there pitfalls? Of course. As is the case with most things in life, there are both pros and cons to working from home. Some pros: I have control over my schedule and hours of work, and I have zero commute, which saves me a lot of time and money. The cons? Working remotely can be socially isolating, and you must be a self-starter who is able to consistently produce results.

Here are my top 5 tips for being a productive remote employee:

Be motivated

Make no mistake, working from home is NOT for everyone. If you’re the type of employee who needs a lot of direction, or who enjoys being constantly surrounded by others, working from home is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you’re someone who likes flexibility, and who is motivated to get the job done, then remote work is probably right up your alley.

My motivation comes from the fact that I love the work I do every day, and I love the organization that I do it for. It’s not hard to be productive when that’s the case. I’m not sure it’s possible to simply “become” motivated, I think it’s a mix of personality trait and of being lucky enough to find work you are truly passionate about.

Have a routine

Humans are creatures of habit; routines give us comfort and stability. This is why it’s a good idea to have a work-day routine that you follow consistently. It also helps make you more predictable and available to team-mates, who quickly get a sense for your rhythm and daily pace.

In my case, I make a point of waking up and starting my day at the office at the same time every morning. I have my coffee, and listen to the same news channel every day while I work. I also have a routine for the first few hours of my day; I get the small, daily tasks that need to be complete out of the way bright and early, so I can concentrate on more important tasks and projects throughout the rest of the day.

Be social

It’s quite easy to get into an anti-social routine when you’re working from home, so it’s important to take active steps to get out of the house and socialize with other human beings. Even if you’re an introvert, humans are social creatures who need to have daily interactions with other people to stay healthy and positive.

I sometimes go to the local Starbucks for an hour or two with my laptop and work from the comfy couches, and people watch as I get my work done. Alternatively, one of my girlfriends works from home one day a week, so sometimes we’ll get together, either at my place or hers, and we’ll do our work side-by-side. Even though we don’t work for the same organization, it’s just nice to have someone to share ideas and chit-chat with.

Being social doesn’t have to occur strictly during business hours. If you’re working from home and socializing less during your workweek, consider taking on more social extracurricular activities, like joining a sports team or a book club.

Get dressed

I won’t lie, it’s nice to have the option to wear your comfy sweats or your pajamas all day… but truth be told, I feel better about myself when I’m showered and nicely dressed. I also have a lot of nice, business-y clothes and can’t stand the thought of not letting most of my wardrobe see the light of day. That being said, I like to get dressed every morning before I sit down at my desk. I also feel better about myself when I want to run out for errands or hit the gym if I don’t look like I just rolled directly out of bed.

Have an office space

It doesn’t even need to be an entire room just a proper desk will do, although I must say, having an entire separate room which acts as my office is an awesome perk for me. When I step into the office I step into work-mode and I can focus on the tasks at hand.

I can’t speak for anybody else, but I feel MUCH more productive when I’m seated at my desk, in a proper desk chair, with my keyboard, mouse, and large monitor in front of me, versus when I’m slouched on my sofa with my laptop on my lap. It might just be me, but sitting at my proper desk makes a huge difference in my productivity.

Reap the benefits

There are advantages to working from home… some of these benefits may include the ability to work from just about anywhere in the world, or the option of running your errands during the day, while most people are stuck in the office and the stores are quiet. So if you work from home, take advantage of the perks! If you’re working hard and getting your job done, there’s no need to feel guilty about reaping the benefits of your work-from-home situation.

These are five of the top things I’ve learned since I’ve been working for a remote organization for a few years now. Have you ever worked remotely? Do you prefer remote work, or working in an office? Share your comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for more tips, tricks, and e-learning advice every day!

4 Reasons You Don’t Have an E-Learning Portfolio

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I find it surprising when an e-learning developer tells me they don’t have a portfolio. In certain industries, such as web design and graphic design, you simply can’t be viewed as a legitimate business person without a portfolio; I believe e-learning is also one of those industries. When I get asked for advice on hiring a great e-learning developer, my top recommendation is always: Don’t hire someone without seeing their portfolio.

If you don’t have an e-learning portfolio, you probably have a reason. But if your reason is listed below, you should reconsider and remember that you’re working in a competitive, global market, where anyone can create a free blog or portfolio website in a few minutes.

You’re Too Busy

The “I’m too busy” excuse is the most common and most overused. You’re too busy to put time into creating something that could well hold the key to your success and potential future earnings? Your call.

Why this isn’t a good reason: Everyone has the same number of hours in the day. Bottom line is: if something is truly a priority, you will make time for it. If it’s not a priority, you won’t. Potential clients don’t care about how busy your life is; they care about hiring a candidate who can show work that is up to their standard and get the job done.

You Don’t Have Any Experience

Maybe you do have the time but you’re new to the e-learning industry and have zero real-world experience or projects.

Why this isn’t a good reason: First of all, don’t advertise this fact to potential clients. For many people “zero experience” equates to “lacking skills and credibility.”. If you don’t have any real world projects to add to your portfolio, don’t despair: create your own samples. Choose a topic that you’re a passionate about and develop a mini e-learning module. Which leads me to my next point…

You Don’t Own E-Learning Software

I’ve heard many people say the following: “I can’t create samples for a portfolio because I don’t own any e-learning authoring tools.”

Why this isn’t a good reason: Just about every authoring tool out there offers a free, fully-functional 30-day trial. Take advantage of that and use your 30-days wisely! Create a few mini 5-slide e-learning courses that showcase your skills. Another option: Powerpoint! So many people have access to this but don’t take advantage of it to create awesome e-learning; you can even hyperlink slides to create branched scenarios and create engaging samples.

You Signed an NDA

This is one I’ve heard quite a few times: “I’ve done a lot of awesome things, but I can’t share any of it because I signed a nondisclosure agreement.”

Why this isn’t a good reason: Anyone can say they’ve created great e-learning, but at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words. Of course you should never share confidential materials you’ve signed an NDA for, but there’s no harm in asking a client beforehand if you can use a sample of work, stripped of original content and identifying information, for your portfolio. This is a standard procedure in other industries, and often the request is included directly in the contract of work. If you can’t use any of the work you’ve signed an NDA for, don’t panic: you can still create your own samples!

The e-learning industry is getting more competitive by the week and potential clients want a candidate who can demonstrate their skills and abilities, instead of taking a gamble on someone with nothing to show. Don’t give potential clients or employers a reason to pass you over: create that portfolio today!

I’d love to hear your thoughts: are these legitimate reasons for not having a portfolio? Are there other reasons that I left out? Leave a comment below and let me know. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, as well in the E-Learning Heroes community, for all the latest.

E-Learning Examples: Branched Soft-Skills Scenarios

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I recently presented a session for the E-Learning Guild’s Annual Online Learning Forum 2015 about how to create engaging scenarios for e-learning. (The session was recorded and Guild members can view the recording here.).  In preparation for that session I built a branched e-learning scenario, using Articulate Storyline 2, called The Job Interview.

What do I mean by branched scenario? It means that the learner can follow different paths (or different “branches”) through the course, depending how interview questions are answered. For example: if you select the worst choice for the first question in the scenario and arrive to the interview 30 minutes late, that path, or branch, ends right there. Your interview is cancelled and they’ve moved on to the next candidate.

However, choose the option that has you arriving 5 minutes early and you score bonus points. The order and the amount of questions in the interview, as well as the amount of points scored (indicated through the progress meter), is totally dependent on the choices made by the learner. 

Try it out yourself and let me know in the comments, how many tries did it take you to land your dream gig?

The Job Interview | View Demo

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Want to build a scenario of your own? You may be interested in some of these articles I’ve written about creating scenarios for e-learning:

Want to see another example of a branched e-learning scenario? Tim Slade created a great example on his blog for Call Centre Training.  He’s also written a blog post about it and made the source file available for download. Tom Kuhlmann’s Rapid E-Learning Blog also has a whole section on building scenario-based e-learning, chock-full of awesome tips and tricks, so check it out!

Got tips or tricks of your own about building scenarios? Have you seen other scenario based e-learning examples that you’d like to share? If so — leave a comment; I love to hear your feedback. And since you’ve made it to the end of this article, perhaps you should subscribe to my blog!