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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

Post-Course Evaluations and E-Learning Analysis

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Post-Course Evaluations: What E-Learning Designers Need to Know

If you’ve been in the training industry for awhile you may have heard that post-course evaluations are sometimes referred to as “smile sheets”. This is because as long as the evaluations receive mostly positive ratings, or “smiley faces”, we tend to classify the training as a success. However, the post-course evaluations are almost never a true reflection of how successful the training/e-learning actually really was and what it’s impact is on the bottom line. This article looks at some of the difficult questions you need to ask to help truly measure the success of your e-learning with your post-course evaluations.

Full article: Post-Course Evaluations: What E-Learning Designers Need to Know

Post-Course Evaluations for E-Learning: 60+ Questions to Include

If you have developed a post-course evaluation before you know that it can sometimes be a challenge to come up with meaningful questions for your learners. To help you out with that, I’ve put together this comprehensive list of over 60 questions that can be included in a post-course evaluation. Of course it’s important to refer to the previous article, and keep in mind that these evaluations don’t mean the training had a successful impact on the business. You can select the questions that apply to your specific project from this detailed list.

Full article: Post-Course Evaluations for E-Learning: 60+ Questions to Include

The Top 3 Types of E-Learning Analysis

Here is a look at three of the most common types of analysis carried out by e-learning developers and instructional designers. These are the needs analysis, audience analysis, and task analysis. The needs analysis is done up-front to determine is the training is actually necessary or not. An audience analysis is then developed to identify the learners, their demographics and their specific needs.  Finally, a task analysis breaks down the specific tasks that the learners need to apply in order to improve their knowledge and skills on the job. Having a solid grasp on these three types of e-learning analysis will go a long way in ensuring your projects are successful!

Full article: The Top 3 Types of E-Learning Analysis

Needs Analysis – When Is E-Learning The Solution?

Have you ever been asked to complete a training needs analysis to identify if an e-learning or training project is really necessary? If so, you’ll know that doing this can be a tricky endeavour, and it can be hard to differentiate between the training that is wanted and the training that is really needed. If this is a task that you’ve been faced with before, you might be interested in reading about a simple process you can follow to identify if training is really needed. It is a straightforward approach that involves comparing your employees current and expected performance, to identify if there is a performance gap that can be solved with a training solution.

Full article: Needs Analysis – When Is E-Learning The Solution?

Infographic: The Presentation, Application, Feedback (PAF) Model

I created this colourful infographic to illustrate the Presentation, Application, and Feedback (PAF) Model for training and instructional design. It’s important to keep the PAF Model in mind when developing training to ensure we’re not overloading our learners with too much presentation of content. You want to include lots of opportunities for application and provide the appropriate feedback.

Instructional Design Infographic

Tips for Using Audio in E-Learning

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Using audio in your e-learning is a great way to bring content to life and introduce another type of multimedia. There are several things to consider when adding audio, including what type of audio you want, how will you record it, and more. Read on to learn some key things you should know about including audio in your next e-learning project.

Types of Audio

There are various types of audio you can include in your content:

  • Narration (which has four “subtypes”)
    • Elaborative  (on-screen text summarizes the audio)
    • Paraphrasing (audio summarizes the on-screen text)
    • Verbatim (reading exact words on-screen)
    • Descriptive (audio describes image on-screen)
  • Music
  • Sound effects

The kind of narration you will use in your projects depend greatly on the specifics of the project (time, talent, budget) as well as what the subject matter is.

Which content should be narrated? There are a couple of scenarios where it might be more worthwhile to use narration. For example, when you need to explain a complex definition or process, or when demonstrating situations such as interview skills or emotional interactions between individuals.

Narration Options

The next question you might ask yourself is, who will narrate? 3 ways to narrate your course include:

  • A professional narrator
  • An employee narrator
  • Text-to-voice software

There are both pros and cons to using any type of narration in your project.

PROS CONS
Professional Narration
  • High quality sound recordings done in a professional, sound proof studio
  • Has knowledge about compression rates, “clean audio”
  • Has a variety of consistent voicing styles, pitch, intonation
  • More expensive (they typically use a pay-per-minute model)
Amateur Narration
  • Less expensive than going to a professional
  • Adds realism and a personal-touch (especially if the narrator is an employee the learners know)
  • Lower quality (there may be breathing, lip smacking, background noises, etc.)
  • Inconsistent voice styles
  • Can be very difficult to match audio quality and have the same voice talent if updates are required in the future
Text-to-voice
  • Likely the least expensive route
  • Consistent quality
  • Consistent voicing style/intonation
  • Over the last few years quality has improved and it is now more common alternative
  • May sound robotic, unemotional and fake
  • Less personal

Other Resources

In addition to “the voice” you will likely need a couple of additional people to be involved in the audio recording process, likely:

  • A scriptwriter
  • A producer (this depends on the technical skill your narrator possesses, and if he/she can do the actual sound recording themselves)

General Tips and Tricks

Here are some additional tips and best practices for using audio in e-learning:
  • Narration rule of thumb is 1 minute of talk time = 100 words
  • Try to keep audio clips to 20-30 seconds (to retain learner attention)
  • Find a balance between what learners should read vs. what they should listen to
  • Allow users to have control over volume settings
  • Have an instructional reason for using the narration or audio (not just because)
  • Add a transcript or closed captions to keep your content accessible
  • Audio might slow down some learners since they have to go at the pace of narration
  • Adding narration will impact on the amount of time it takes to complete your e-learning course

Avoid These 3 E-Learning Design Problems

You don’t need to be a professional graphic designer to know that yellow text on a white background is a no-no, or that the bright neon orange background is not so easy on the eyes.

However, there are some more subtle design faux-pas that not everyone is consciously aware of. Here’s a look at a few of them, and some tips on how to avoid making those mistakes in your own e-learning designs.

Claustrophobic Slides

White space (also known as negative space) is the unmarked or unused space on a slide/screen/layout. White space is a very important design element and it should be balanced with the objects on the slide. In other words, you should aim to have 50% white space on every slide.

Claustrophobic slides happen when there isn’t enough white space and the objects on the slide are too close together,  touching each other or  touching the edges of the slides. Here’s an example of a claustrophobic slide:

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The elements on the slide are crowded and too close. It just feels a bit too “tight”. The fix: add  some white space! Here is the same slide, with all the same elements but with proper spacing around them.

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Ahhh! Now there’s some breathing room. That’s what white space does. It frames all the elements and provides balance.

Whispering Headlines

Why do you want your headlines to stand out? Because they introduce the slide and let the learners know what they are about to look at. Whispering headlines fail to attract attention, and are not easily distinguished from the text that they introduce. Here’s an example:

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Notice that the headline doesn’t really stand out from the text that comes after it. Headlines should be significantly larger than the text that follows. Here is the same example, except this time the headline is bolded and a larger font size:

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That helps a bit, but it’s still not really popping as much as it should. A few other techniques you can use to make your headlines stand out: make the text bolder, change the color or change the font. Here’s our same example once more, but this time the headline has a different font color and typeface.

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See how much our headline pops now? Your eyes go right to the headline and right away you know what this slide is all about (or at least you would if you spoke Latin!).

Similar Typefaces

When you’re using more than one type of font in your e-learning design choose contrasting fonts. In other words, avoid mixing fonts that have a similar look-and-feel (whether it be in the size or weight of the type). Here’s an e-learning slide that uses similar typefaces:

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It feels a little heavy doesn’t it? The fonts used are too similar, too close to the same size, and too chunky and heavy. They compete for attention and don’t balance each other out.  As we looked at in the previous example, your headline should be what grabs attention first. Here’s the same slide, but now I have switched one of the fonts to be a “lighter” style and I’ve adjusted the size of the text.

exB

There’s much more of a balance between the two fonts  in the second example.

These are just a few common design mistakes that you can avoid making in your designs. Some of these “mistakes” are very subtle, and might only be caught by a very detail-oriented eye. That being said, it’s those little details that can make a design that much more pleasing to look at.

The Ultimate E-Learning Design and Development Checklist

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I have compiled several e-learning, instructional design, and web design checklists to create the ultimate e-learning design and development checklist. This list is thorough and covers a broad range of items. Keep in mind not every item will apply to every project.

INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN

  • Training needs analysis is complete
  • Project constraints have been identified
  • Project plan is complete
  • Audience analysis is complete
  • Task analysis is complete
  • Various instructional methods are used
  • Objectives are clearly stated
  • Objectives include measurable criteria
  • Instructional content relates directly to learning objectives
  • Course objectives are met
  • Content is segmented in small chunks
  • Information is grouped logically
  • Major headings are clear and descriptive
  • One-third of the content is presentation
  • Two-thirds of the content is application and feedback
  • There is a summary for every piece of  content
  • Glossary is used to define key concepts  and terms

ASSESSMENTS & TESTS

  • All assessments are relevant and complete
  • Assessments are challenging and realistic
  • Various quiz methods and types are used
  • Assessments are used throughout
  • Final assessment at the end
  • Pass and fail marks are appropriate
  • Feedback is provided for questions   answered
  • Feedback is adequate
  • Feedback presented within reasonable time
  • Post course assessment/evaluation is included
  • New content is not presented in assessments or in assessment feedback

GENERAL DESIGN

  • Total design is uniform in appearance
  • Branding guidelines have been   followed
  • Use of logos is appropriate
  • Colors used are consistent and suitable
  • High visibility and contrast
  • Navigation is consistent throughout
  • There is a generous amount of white space
  • Graphics and icons are used to signify important concepts
  • Patterns and textured backgrounds do not interfere with legibility

FONTS

  • Maximum of three fonts used throughout
  • Decorative fonts are only used for headings
  • Body text uses sans serif fonts
  • Appropriate line spacing is used
  • Paragraph length is appropriate
  • Font sizes are appropriate and easily readable
  • Font colors visible against background color
  • Styles and colors are consistent throughout
  • Emphasis (bold, italics) is used sparingly
  • Body text is left justified

TESTING

  • E-learning has been tested in multiple browsers
  • E-learning has been tested on multiple devices
  • E-learning has been tested in the Learning Management System (LMS)
  • E-learning has been tested in various resolutions
  • All links and buttons have been tested
  • Accessibility features have been tested
  • Course has been tested with a screen reader
  • All audio has been tested
  • All videos have been tested
TECHNICAL

  • Project load time is reasonable
  • Shortcut keys have been defined
  • FAQ document has been created
  • Hardware requirements have been   identified
  • Software requirements have been   identified
  • Dimensions are optimized for target audience
  • Pages can be printed
  • Total time to complete has been timed
  • Contact information available for   questions or problems

ACCESSIBILITY

  • Course can be navigated with keyboard
  • All ALT tags are used
  • Text is provided for non-text   elements
  • Videos have script or dialogue
  • Captions provided for audio
  • No flashes faster than 3 times per second
  • No colors used to convey information
  • Use text with appropriate contrast ratio
  • No fine motor skills required
  • No timed activities
  • No use of hover states to display important information

NAVIGATION

  • Main navigation is easily identifiable
  • All navigation is correct sequence
  • Hyperlinks are clearly identified
  • All hyperlinks work
  • Minimum use of external links
  • Backward links to navigate to previous   screens
  • Number of navigation icons is reasonable
  • Table of contents used to lay out the   content
  • E-learning has guided tour and/or map for   further explanations

VIDEOS & ANIMATION

  • Use of animation and videos is appropriate
  • Files are compressed/optimized
  • Videos and animations are consistent in quality, size and type
  • Videos are legally   owned

AUDIO & NARRATION

  • Narration is not exact text on the screen
  • Narration is clear and concise
  • Audio quality is high (not fuzzy or   scrambled)
  • Narrator sounds confident and knowledgeable
  • Audio synced to the content
  • Audio can be paused
  • Volume can be muted
  • Volume can be controlled by user

TEXT CONTENT

  • Language is clear and concise
  • Spelling has been checked
  • Grammar has been checked
  • Language is culturally appropriate
  • Humor is used with care
  • Tone is consistent and appropriate
  • Text is gender neutral
  • Content is not plagiarized
  • Date formats, measurements, are consistent
  • SME has verified text content
  • Facts, statistics, data are accurate
  • Facts, statistics, data sources are   identified
  • Correct capitalization applies to units and acronyms
  • Correct capitalization is used
  • Punctuation is appropriate
  • Complex sentences are avoided
  • Content has been localized for all required languages

GRAPHICS

  • Images are meaningful and have a purpose
  • Images use appropriate file type
  • Photos are consistent in quality and style
  • Images are legally owned
  • System screen captures are up-to-date
  • Screen captures do not contain personal information

Since you’ve made it all the way to the end of the checklist, maybe you should subscribe to my blog!