Good Reads: Post-Course Evaluations and E-Learning Analysis

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One of the great things about being a Community Manager is that I get to write new content related to e-learning, instructional design, and training on almost on a daily basis. Some of the articles that I’ve written for my Articulate blog have been quite popular, so I thought it might be a good idea to share some of my most well-received articles here as well. 

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?

I’m hoping that you can glean some meaningful insights from these articles that I’ve written. If there’s something else you’d like me to share or write about, please leave me a comment and let me know. And since you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, perhaps you should subscribe to my blog!

Community Manager: Top 10 Duties

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I haven’t written a new post in a few months because, as some of my social media followers may know, I recently experienced an exciting career change. As you might also know, the first few months at a new job is a supremely busy, exciting, and learning-intensive time. I’m super grateful and stoked about my new gig, which is Community Manager for the cool software company Articulate. Another thing I’m grateful for are my awesome blog subscribers, so here I am, adding some fresh content for you guys!

I like to relate my blog to my real-life learning experiences, so I thought it would be fitting to write a post about what it is that a community manager (CM) does. I’ve had to explain it to a lot of people lately because when I tell someone I’m a community manager, the typical response is “What’s that?”. It’s a relatively new job title, and it’s one that can vary greatly across organizations. The one thing that is consistent across the board is that community managers tend to wear a lot of hats! I’ve decided to compile a list of general duties that are carried out by CMs:

Act as the public face of a community or organization

The community manager is often times the “public face of the company”, so it helps to be like-able, down-to-earth and friendly person. The CM should instill trust in community members and gives them insight into the organizations’ personality. The “personal touch” provided by the community manager sets a company apart and gives community members a person they can reach out to and engage with, which makes them feel special and connected.  As the face of the company, the community manager should always maintain a professional image, and respond appropriately to both praise and criticisms.

Develop and curate content for various channels

Great communities share great content, and while some of the content may be created by the members themselves, it’s often up to the CM to create high-quality content, as well as curate and organize the content created by others. Content could include social media updates, blog posts, articles, tutorials, webinars, community discussions, podcasts, videos, marketing information, newsletters, website content, and more.

Interact with the community across multiple platforms

One of the key duties of the community manager is to spend time interacting with members, both face-to-face and online. These interactions usually consist of building and strengthening relationships, promoting the community, responding and assisting to community questions and concerns, finding and engaging new community members and keeping current community members interested and satisfied.

Monitor the internet for conversations about the community

The community manager monitors the web for comments or discussions related to their community and responds to inquiries and comments, attempting to create a positive experience and add value to the user experience. In some cases, the CM can re-direct complaints or messages to the appropriate departments for follow-up. By participating in conversations related to their community, community managers can build brand visibility and develop a positive reputation as an expert within their industry.

Respond and assist with questions and inquiries

The community manager will address and resolve any issues related to the features and functionality of the community. Furthermore, the CM is often responsible for customer support – answering questions however they come in (email, social media, telephone) and managing any online feedback forums.

Develop communications and marketing strategies

The community manager may be responsible for creating strategic marketing and communications plans to provide direction for the company’s public-facing communications. To that end, a community manager should have an understanding of what’s possible using various technology platforms and should be able to to educate and integrate these technologies to improve the business and the user experience. Additionally, a community manager works to identify the tools and activities that are most appropriate for communicating key messages to the community.

Analyze and report on social media metrics

The community manager monitors the health of the community by compiling and analyzing metrics about growth and engagement levels. CMs analyze numbers (Is the total number of community members going up? Are the number of social media followers increasing?), but they also do some more subjective analysis (Are the community discussions of high quality? Are the newcomers becoming contributors?)  The community manager analyzes these stats to identify trends and exploit opportunities, and finds ways to improve on those metrics through testing and new initiatives.

Plan and attend events on behalf of the organization

One of the roles of the community manager is to attend industry events, conferences, and networking opportunities in various cities. At these events, the community manager’s role is to represent their organization in a professional and personable fashion. The CM may also be tasked with planning meetups, workshops or user groups for members of the community, in order to strengthen interpersonal relationships and get members together.

Engage new customers and community members

One of the signs of a healthy community is to have a lot of “community champions”, in other words, a lot of highly engaged members. The community manager should identify, empower and train potential champions. The CM should reach out to these champions and thank them for their contribution, and should subtly encourage them to take other steps to contribute even more the community. In addition to working with community champions, the CM should identify and target potential new members.

Network and build strong relationships

Whether attending community events or monitoring online conversations, one of the ongoing roles of the CM is to continuously network, in order to build strong relationships that could potentially be of benefit to the community. The CM identifies and develops relationships with key organizations or individuals that fall within the company’s areas of focus and they work to cultivate relationships that impact the organizations’ missions, and develop partnerships that are meaningful and increase community awareness.

There you have it! Those are ten tasks that are commonly carried out by community managers. It’s important to remember that this list varies greatly from one company to the next, depending on the size of the organization and community. If you look at this list and think you have most of these skills or love all of these things, perhaps a job in community management should be in your future!

Recording a Screencast: Do’s and Don’ts

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I’m always interested in learning more about new tools that are available for e-learning developers, so last weekend I decided to try my hand using the free screencasting tool Screenr!

Before I made my first recording, I did a bit of homework into what goes into a great screen recording and I’ve compiled some of the top tips and techniques. Follow these Do’s and Don’ts of screen recording to help you create your own screencast!

Select a topic

  • Do have a clear purpose for the screencast
  • Do keep it short and simple

If the process is too long, chunk it down and make several short videos. This is something I learned myself as I was trying to cram a somewhat complicated 10 step process into a 5 minute video. I realized I was trying to show too much at once, and broke it down into two five-step processes instead.

Write a script or storyboard

  • Do script out your process step-by-step. (This is a critical step. Without the script you might forget a step, ramble about useless information, do something backwards, etc.).
  • Do create a storyboard of the different shots, or screens, you need to capture and in which order.
  • Do include any “set-up” instructions that are required to do your screencast in your storyboard. For example, you might need the application to be logged in and displaying a specific window, or you might need certain data or information to already be input in the system. Think along the lines of cooking shows – some things take too long to demonstrate in the time available, so different versions of the dish are made ahead of time and are ready in varying degrees, so they can just pull it out of the oven and Voila!

Select your recording software

If you’re unsure about which software you’d like to purchase, you can download a free trial of any of the paid software options to get a feel for the features and interface

Set up your screen/applications

  • Do close all other applications and windows.
  • Do hide your start menu and any visible taskbars, menus.
  • Do turn off all pop-ups, alerts, and notifications.
  • Do have all the data you need in front of you (if you need to input data as part of your process).
  • Do hide your favorites, quick links, and any other personal information that might show up on the screen if using an Internet browser (no one wants to see your personal links).
  • Do use an “administrator” or “general user” account (if possible) so your recording doesn’t reveal any names or personal information.
  • Do ensure applications are open, running, and ready to go before you start recording. Set it up to the exact screen you’d like to start from – don’t waste time navigating to a screen unless it’s an important part of the process that learners need to see.

Select an appropriate screen size/resolution

  • Do take screen size into consideration. The recording size will depend on things like: your audiences’ monitor display resolution, the size of the slides in your e-learning course, etc. At this point in time, it’s probably still safe to optimize for 1024 x 768.
  • Do keep the recording area as small as possible – without making it so small that you can’t see features or easily navigate in the application (this will help minimize file size).

Practice, practice, practice.

  • I don’t think I need to elaborate!

Use the right equipment

  • Do have a good microphone.

This is another thing I learned myself when I did my first few recordings using my laptop’s mouse trackpad and the built-in microphone. Result: really crappy audio quality. Since then I went to Best Buy and bought microphone for under 30$ and the audio quality is now far superior. Apparently learners will tolerate bad visuals over bad audio, so this is key!

Control your voice

  • Do speak clearly and enunciate words.
  • Do stick to the script.
  • Do add some personality.
  • Do use emphasis at key moments.
  • Don’t use jargon or overcomplicated words.
  • Don’t breathe too loudly, smack your lips, etc.
  • Don’t talk too close to the microphone.
  • Don’t say “so, like, eh, um,”. Personally – I am really bad at this, but working on it. Very helpful to have a clear script to follow.
  • Don’t be monotone and boring.

Control ambient sounds

  • Do choose a nice, quiet location to do your recording.
  • Do make sure your heater or air conditioner won’t come on.
  • Do put your cell phone on silent and unplug the landline (or turn off the ringer).
  • Do put your cat or dog outside.

This is yet one more thing I discovered firsthand (experience is the best teacher, they say!) as I was recording last weekend. I had the PERFECT screencast going — everything was going exactly according to script, I wasn’t saying “so” too much… so of course, my dog chose that moment to break out into a horrible, hacking cough in the background. Thanks, Charlie. Now I go into another room when I need to record.

Edit your recording

Share your recording

  • Do share it on video sharing sites (YouTube, Screenr, Vimeo, etc.)
  • Do share it on social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)

So far following these tips have really helped me improve my recordings – however, it’s like everything else in life, practice makes perfect! The more screencasts you record, the more comfortable you will be with it, and your recordings will improve over time. If you have any other tips or best practices that I did not include, please leave a comment…. and since you made it all the way to the end of this post, perhaps you should subscribe to my blog!

How to Use the PAF Model to Improve Training and e-Learning (Infographic)

Last weekend I posted a new infographic (Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction) and I got some really good feedback about it.  One piece of feedback that I received from several people was to incorporate more graphics/icons into my infographic designs. Of course I think we can all agree that using visuals is only a good thing if it adds value by providing an instructional purpose. This weekend when I decided to make another graphic, I was careful to choose a few icons that I thought were really representative of the elements of PAF. I  created this infographic in Adobe Photoshop.

I’d also like to add a disclaimer that the PAF Methods listed in the infographic for presentation and application are only three examples, but there are a lot more methods available to you. Those are just a few examples!

Instructional Design Infographic

Instructional Design Model: Gagné’s 9 Events of Instruction (Infographic)

This weekend I decided it was about time I created a new instructional design themed infographic. I’ve created a few in the past, which I’ve shared on my blog (here, here and here), and they’ve proven to be some of my most popular postings.

How did I go about creating this infographic? For starters, I browsed online through some instructional design sites to get ideas for what I wanted my subject to be. In the past I’ve designed an infographic illustrating the ADDIE model and Kirkpatrick’s Levels of Evaluations so when I stumbled across an article mentioning Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction I was intrigued. Of course I had heard about Gagne and his nine events, but I wasn’t too familiar with them. In fact, I couldn’t even name one event! Since I like to use my infographic development process to learn something new about instructional design, I thought this would be a good topic. The next step in my process was to do a Google Images search for some infographic design ideas, to help me get inspired. Then I created the infographic in Adobe Photoshop, starting with the design of the heading/title of the infographic. Once I had the title narrowed down, I used those same fonts and colours throughout the rest of the graphic. I’d say it took about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, to complete. I got to be creative and learn something new about instructional design, so I think it’s a success!

Gagne Nine Events of Instruction

Got any suggestions for an e-learning, instructional design or training themed infographic you’d like to see? If you have any ideas for me please leave  a comment.

Audio and Narration in e-Learning: Pros and Cons

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First things first, I’m glad to be writing a new post because it’s been over a month! October was pretty hectic for me because I attended DevLearn 2012 in Las Vegas. It was my first time attending a conference and my first time public speaking/presenting; it was a great experience and a lot of new lessons learned for me.

That being said, I was recently inspired to write this latest blog post from something that occurred at work! I’m working on an e-learning project now and I was recently looking into the pros and cons of adding audio to the e-learning course I’ve developed. I decided to compile a bit of my research and write about it!

I’ve come to find out that adding audio to an e-learning project is not a decision that should be taken lightly. There is a lot involved in the process, there is lot to know before you get started and finally there is a lot of room for error! So how do you decide if you need narration/audio in your project? As with all media in your e-learning projects, you should only use narration IF there is a clear instructional purpose behind it (and not “just because”). From what I can gather, there are three types of audio used in e-learning:

  • 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

After doing a bit of research on the topic I’ve discovered that there is much debate surrounding which “type” of narration is best for learning. The kind of narration you should use in your projects seems to depend greatly on the specifics of the project (time, talent, budget) as well as what the subject matter is. So which content should you narrate? 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.

The pros and cons of using audio:

PROS CONS
  • Good quality audio might appeal to auditory learners (although there is much debate as to whether learning styles even exist…)
  • Audio might help reinforce certain points and may help some learners retain more information
  • Audio can add some personality and a more personal touch to the e-learning
  • Reduces the reading load, less on screen text when there is audio/narration
  • Might add “authenticity” to on-screen characters
  • Adding audio files (which even when compressed can be quite large) will add to the bandwidth, loading time, etc.
  • Bad quality audio will be more distracting and detrimental than useful
  • Writing and practicing a script and recording the audio are time intensive tasks
  • Synching audio with on-screen text and images can also be labor intensive – and if the audio/on-screen are not harmonious it will be distracting to learners
  • If your course needs to be updated often (once a year, maybe more) then it can be difficult and time-consuming to record and add updated audio.
  • If your course will be localized (translated) it can be challenging to write scripts and narrate your course in multiple languages
  • If your course is available in different countries, unfamiliar accents and cultural references can lead to confusion
  • Having exact same audio and text on-screen can be redundant and boring
  • Some research suggests that learners dislike word-for-word narration, because quick readers can often read the whole text before the narrator is done talking

Let’s say you have decided there is indeed an instructional purpose for audio or narration, and you’ve narrowed down which type of narration you will use. The next question you might ask yourself is, who will narrate this course? Three ways to narrate your course include:

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

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)

Of course 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
Here are some additional general audio and narration tips and best practices:
  • Narration rule of thumb: 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)
  • Include a list of hardware and software requirements for learners to know ahead of time if they need speakers or a headset for audio
  • Keep in mind that if your e-learning course requires audio, people who do not have audio capabilities will not be able to take the course
  • 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

Finally, here are a few links to good articles about narration in e-learning that helped me write this post:

Articulate Storyline: Sample eLearning Slides

Here are some e-learning slides from a project I created for my portfolio. This is how much of a nerd I am–when I am home on weekends, and in my spare time, I create “demo” e-learning courses to add to my portfolio. I created these slides in Articulate Storyline. Enjoy!