20+ Questions To Include in an Audience Analysis

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An audience analysis is a task that instructional designers and training developers perform in the initial phases of planning a training project. Completing an audience analysis is critical because in order to communicate information effectively, you need to understand who your learners are. Depending on the project, you might have more than once audience.

To complete your audience analysis, you will need to interview and observe the employees and management to gather information about your learners. Once you have identified your specific audiences, you can tailor your courses so they are pertinent to the different background, education levels, etc.

Here’s an example of how audiences can vary widely, even within one organization:

You are developing software training for a large organization with a manufacturing facility.

Some of your learners are engineers who work in software development. They are technically savvy, work at a computer all day and are already familiar with the software you are training them on.

Meanwhile, your second audience is the workers from manufacturing facility. They work with machinery all day and barely use the computer. This will be their first time ever seeing this software.

You can already see that, even though these two audiences may need to be trained on the same software, very different approaches will be required for different audiences.

Here’s a list of 20 audience analysis questions to get you started.

General

  • Who is your primary audience?
  • Are there potential secondary audiences?

Demographics

  • What is the average age of the learner?
  • Are the learners mostly men, women, or an equal mix?
  • What is the educational background (high school diploma, PhD)?
  • What is their cultural background, race, ethnicity?

Knowledge & Experience

  • What is their level of work experience?
  • What is the reading level of the audience?
  • How much do they already know about the subject at hand?
  • What tone or attitude is appropriate for your audience?
  • How motivated are the learners?

 Technical

  • What hardware and software do the the learners have?
  • How technically savvy are the learners?
  • What resources do the learners have at their disposal?

Expectations

  • What level of participation can you expect?
  • What kind of syntax or writing style are your learners comfortable with?
  • Why are the learners taking the training?
  • What will the audience expect to learn?
  • What amount of time do learners have available to devote to training?
  • Do any of the learners have special needs or accessibility requirements?

If you know of any other audience analysis questions that I’ve missed, please leave a comment.

Best Practices for E-Learning Localization

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Training localization is often an afterthought in training projects. “Oh, we can just translate the course in a few days, no problem.”  The reality is that localization can be a costly and lengthy undertaking if not properly approached. The amount of deliverables is increased for each language you translate the course into. If you have an e-learning course that will be presented in two languages, you need to have double the templates, tables of contents, sets of text content, certificates, etc. You also need to take the time to create the two courses, test each course individually, perhaps publish each one individually, and more.

Here are 8 best practices that you should follow when localizing your next e-learning course.

Consider localization during initial project planning

The localization should be an integral part of your project planning; take it into consideration during every aspect of the design and development. One of the most common and costly mistakes is waiting until the e-learning course has been created and then deciding to translate all the content. This usually leads to headaches, problems and cost overruns. Decide ahead of time of whether or not your content will be presented in multiple languages. Certain components of the e-learning will need to be designed in such a way that it can be easily be translated into multiple languages.

Create a localization-friendly design

Design photos and text placeholders that are easily changed and edited. Ensure that the components that will be translated are easily manipulated without affecting the generic content that will remain the same throughout. Take this into consideration when designing headings and titles, text placement on a page, image placement, as well as symbols and icons.

Be sensitive to cultural differences

Be sensitive and aware of anything that might be offensive to another culture. Images that seem innocent or that represent something for one culture may have a completely different meaning to another culture. Colors also have various meanings for different cultures. For example, purple represents richness and royalty to Westerners; in Thailand it represents death and mourning. Of course certain things, such as the color of your corporate logo, can’t be changed. Nevertheless, it is still a good practice to take cultural differences into consideration when designing an e-learning course.

Consider linguistic issues

Certain symbols and icons represent different things across various cultures. For example, your “Help” section may be represented by a question mark. Certain languages do not use question marks. This means you will need to change it to a different symbol for another language. Certain countries use the metric vs. the imperial systems for measurement. If your e-learning course has measurements, this will also need to be taken into consideration. It is also best practice to avoid using slogans and culturally specific examples that are hard to explain o translate into other languages.

Design for expanding text

When designing for websites it is expected that the text will expand 20-30% when translated into another language; this can also be expected for e-learning designs. Some languages require more words to explain certain concepts or ideas. something that can be explained in one sentence in English might take two or three sentences to explain in French or Spanish. This is because the latter are “wordier” languages. If the text placeholder in your e-learning course only has room for one sentence, it will lead to design issues when content is being translated.

Minimize use of embedded text in graphics and videos

It is difficult to translate text within the spacial constraints of a graphic image such as a flow-chart or diagram. If it is necessary to use images with embedded text, try to use layers in your graphics. It’s a good idea to design the graphic in all the required languages at the same time, to avoid headaches down the line.

Finalize in one language before localizing

Have one version of your e-learning completely nailed down, edited, tested and completed before moving on to localization. There is nothing worse than having a SME tell you that you need to change two paragraphs, and then having to go into 6 different courses and change it for 6 different languages. To save time and money, it’s best to have a final, approved version which doesn’t require any further text edits before sending it off for translation.

Hire professional translators

It’s not enough to say “Lisa speaks Spanish, so she can translate the content.” Speaking a language does not equate to being a good writer. There is a lot involved including sentence structure, grammar, syntax, spelling, etc. It’s also definitely not enough to use Google translator to save costs. While the quality of the translations has greatly improved over the last few years, it is still often riddled with errors and sentences that really don’t make sense. DON’T use Google Translate or any online translation tools to localize your content. It will be obvious and distracting to your learners if the content isn’t properly translated, and your eLearning course will lose credibility.

Key considerations for e-learning localization:

  • Icons, symbols
  • Photos, graphics
  • Text content
  • Fonts
  • Dates, times, measurements
  • Input and output
  • Color schemes
  • Terminology, acronyms, and abbreviations
  • Browser window titles
  • Software application screenshots
  • User interface
  • Table of contents

Did I miss any practices that you think are important? If you have any tips or comments about localizing eLearning, please share. Also, please take a moment to subscribe!

40+ Tips for Awesome PowerPoint Presentations

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PowerPoint. Whether you love it or hate it, we’ve all had to use it before. Personally, I think it’s a great tool. It’s easy to use and I love starting with a blank slide and creating my own masterpiece. You can even link slides and shapes and make really cool branched scenarios. Creating visually appealing PowerPoint presentations is definitely possible.

So, if you need to create a PowerPoint presentation and you’ve decided you want it to be great, check out the 40 tips below and you will be well on your way!

Structure

  • Decide on your goal – what is it this presentation is going to achieve?
  • Select a structure for your presentation
  • Divide your content into small sections
  • Include an introduction, content and a summary/ending
  • Add an agenda or outline slide, to let everyone know what to expect
  • End your presentation with a question slide

Design

  • Use a template or master slides
  • Design a presentation that is basic, simple, and clear
  • Choose a theme of 2-3 complimentary colors and stick to it
  • Select contrasting colors that go well together
  • Don’t overdo the corporate branding
  • Avoid excessive animations and slide transitions
  • Leave plenty of white space on your slides

Text Content

  • Double-check your spelling and grammar
  • Organize your content sequentially
  • Use short sentences, not long paragraphs
  • Don’t use more than 3-4 bullets per slide
  • Incorporate key phrases and essential information
  • Bring in bullets or points one at a time
  • Don’t overload the screen with too much information
  • Align text either left or right (centered text is harder to read)

Fonts

  • Use the same size font on every slide
  • Stick to a maximum of two font styles
  • Do not use more than one decorative font
  • Avoid fonts that are difficult to read
  • Use a sans-serif font for body text
  • Choose a font color that contrasts strongly against the background
  • Use a font size larger enough that everyone can read easily

Visuals

  • Don’t overload slides with too many visuals
  • Use charts and graphics to convey important data
  • Use well-selected photos and graphics
  • Include various forms of multimedia (video, audio, etc.)
  • Use photos with high quality resolution
  • Choose graphics and photos that are consistent in style
  • Use animations sparingly

8 Things To Consider Before You Design an E-Learning Course

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If you’re an e-learning newbie and you’ve been tasked with developing an online course, you are probably asking yourself “Where do I begin?”. While it can be very tempting to some to jump right into the creative development aspect, there are some critical things you should get straightened out first. Here are 8 initial considerations you should contemplate before getting started.

What Are The Timelines?

Determining your timelines is an important first step. The software you use, the level of interactivity of the training and the overall quality of an e-learning project is directly impacted by the timelines involved. If you have 1 week to develop a 30 minute e-learning module for a soft skills training course, you might not have much time to get creative, and you almost certainly wouldn’t have time to do anything remotely fancy like audio narration. On the other hand, if you have 3 months to make a 30 minute e-learning module, you have more time to find great graphics, add realistic scenarios, and maybe even throw in some animations and narration.

Which Authoring Tool Will You Use?

This is an important up-front consideration. If you are using new software, there will be a learning curve. You can make life easier on yourself by downloading a free trial of most e-learning authoring tools. This provides you with an opportunity to try it out first and see how you feel about the functionality and interface.

How Will Learners Access the Training?

The answer to this question might rest on if you are using a Learning Management System (LMS) or not. An LMS is generally used when you want to track scores and quiz results. If you already have an LMS, then the training will most likely be accessed from inside the LMS. If you aren’t using an LMS at all, you’ll  need to decide from where your users will access your e-learning. From an intranet portal? The company website? A shared folder? It’s something to consider early on.

What Resources Are Required ?

Before you get started, identify all the resources that you will need for your e-learning project. Your subject matter experts (SMEs) are one of your most valuable resources. Identify who has the most knowledge on your subject, and who can provide you with explanations and clarifications. Other resources to consider: image or video editing software, visual assets, a microphone to record narration, and the list goes on. It’s a good idea to get a good handle on your required resources and have everything approved by management early on to avoid holdups. 

Who Are The Learners?

One key question to ask: Who is taking your e-learning course? It’s important to assess your audience. Are your learners factory workers who aren’t very computer savvy? Or are they software engineers who are highly technical and very computer literate? Will your e-learning course be taken by highly motivated interns or by people who hate their jobs and don’t want to take the course? Take your audience into consideration. Get an overall idea of their level of education, their work experience, knowledge of the subject at hand, average age, background, motivations, etc. This is a critical step which will really help you create a course that is more relevant and meaningful.

What Are The Technical Requirements?

Requirements can be many things ranging from simple web access to get to an online e-learning course. It’s a good idea to put together your hardware and software requirements, to ensure that the vast majority of your learners will be able to access and view your e-learning course without issue.

What Are The Branding Guidelines?

Some organizations have a thick style guide that dictates exactly which font, color schemes, logos, etc., can be used in e-learning. Find out ahead of time if there are style guidelines. If not, it’s still a good idea to stick to the general look and feel of the organization. There’s no need to overdo it and include a logo on every slide, but using the basic corporate fonts and colors is a simple way to make it consistent with the brand.

Does Content Need To Be Localized?

Localizing content can be time-consuming and costly. Even when using sophisticated software, it costs money to translate content and it takes time to duplicate a course in another language. Some design considerations also need to made when content will be translated. Certain languages, like Spanish and French, have more verbiage and longer words than English. This could lead to space constraints, if it’s not taken into consideration in advance.

Are there any other important initial considerations that I’ve left out? Leave a comment!

Infographic: The Principles of Adult Learning

Disclaimer: there is no proven adult learning theory and the information in the infographic I created below is subject to much debate and differing opinions.

Infographic: The ADDIE Model

I have created a graphical representation of the ADDIE model. ADDIE (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation & Evaluation) is the methodology used by the majority of instructional designers for training development. There may be some debate as to whether certain tasks belong in the design or development phase. Also, certain tasks may have been omitted due to space constraints. I tried to focus on the most important aspects of each phase.

Infographic: Kirkpatrick’s 4 Levels of Evaluation

I have created a visual representation of Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation model, boiling it down to its’ most simple form.

20 Tips For Working With Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

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Working with subject matter experts (SMEs) is an important part of being an instructional designer. A SME is someone who is an expert in their domain, role, or job; you’ll likely have to work with one at some point in your training career.

You’ll meet with your SME to identify learning objectives, gather source content, and more. Some SMEs are friendly, knowledgeable, and keen to participate; they are more than willing to spend time with you and help you out. In other instances, you might be confronted with a know-it-all SME that you don’t really enjoy working with. Regardless of personality, it’s important to have a good relationship with your SMEs, because they are critical to the success of your instructional design projects.

Here are 20 tips to follow to build a strong relationship with your SMEs and get the most out of your time with them.

Introduce Yourself

It’s always polite to introduce yourself to your SME. This can be done in an email, a phone call or a face-to-face visit, depending on the project. You want to let your SME know who you are, what your role is, and that you look forward to working with them. Building a good relationship with your SME will go a long way in helping you get the time and information you need from them.

Get Management Buy-In

Management’s level of buy-in is a crucial factor. If possible, you want to get management to commit the SME to a certain amount of hours working on the training project. This will help reduce the SME’s stress when they have to be away from their regular duties that still need to get done.

Respect Their Profession

Whether it’s a secretary, a data entry clerk, a doctor, or a line cook, it is important to be respectful of what someone does for a living. Every job deserves respect. and there are subject matter experts in every industry and every domain.

Do Your Homework

Gather as much information about the subject as you can prior to meeting with your SME. Going into the meeting with a baseline of knowledge demonstrates that you are interested in learning and value their time.

Be Friendly

This is a straight-forward tip, but don’t underestimate how critical the SME is to the overall success of your project. If you are friendly and conversational with them, they’ll be more willing to give you the time of the day.

Use Plain Language

When you meet with your SMEs, avoid using complicated training terminology or learning jargon. Don’t toss around terms like ADDIE model, Blooms Taxonomy, or Kirkpatrick Levels of Evaluation. These words most likely means nothing to your subject matter expert.

Don’t Waste Time

Ensure the time you spend with a SME is valuable and well-spent. Be on time for meetings and be considerate of their other work obligations such as meetings and other deadlines they may have. If you know Monday is the busiest day of the week for your SME, be considerate and book meetings on other days if possible.

Schedule Short Meetings

This is especially important when the SME is helping out in a project but still needs to complete all their regular duties. It’s considerate to check with them before scheduling a meeting that will be more than an hour long.

Plan Your Meetings

Before going into a meeting with a SME, have a plan for what you want to cover and how you want to use this valuable time. Make sure to prioritize what’s most important and cover that material first.

Ask The Right Questions

Write out a list of relevant and thoughtful questions that you want to cover with your SME ahead of time. If more questions come up as they are talking or explaining, write them down so you don’t forget.

Provide Questions Beforehand

In addition to writing out a list of questions in advance, consider providing the questions to your SME a few days prior to your meeting. This gives them time to think about what you want to cover and may allow them to prepare some of their answers ahead of time.

Identify Realistic Scenarios

Using scenarios in e-learning is a great way to bring your content to life and create meaningful engagement for your learners. Ask your SMEs questions like “In what type of situation will learners use this information?” Try to have your SME provide you with a variety of scenario examples that are relevant to the subject matter. These will help to provide background information and additional context for learners.

Ask for Demonstrations

Often it’s helpful to see how something is done rather than just hearing it described step-by-step. This is particularly true when it comes to software or application training, it’s critical for the SME to walk you through the steps. This ensures the process is accurate, and it might lead to questions that you need to ask them.

Keep It Simple

SMEs will sometimes go off into deep explanations, or use big words, that aren’t really required. Keep them on track and stick to only what is relevant to your learners.

Show Examples

Show your SME some examples of e-learning courses that are similar in terms of content and engagement as to what you’re trying to achieve. Whether you need to create a step-by-step job-aid document or an interactive e-learning module with scenarios, this helps ensure you and your SME are on the same page about what the end result will look like.

Record Meetings

You can use a small recorder that you can buy for cheap to record in person meetings in a meeting room. If you’re doing anything on a computer with your SME, such as walking through the steps of a process in an application, make sure to use a screen recording tool to capture everything on video.

Keep Management Involved

CC them on any appropriate communications with SMEs and keep an accurate record of tasks completed by SMEs.

Define Tasks Clearly

If there are specific action items for the SME to complete, spell it out for them clearly in an email, with a clear timeline. You should also include anyone who needs to be CC’d on the email such as a project manager or a project stakeholder.

Share Deadlines

Keep the SMEs in the loop about timelines and deadlines, so they have clear knowledge of when things are due.

Give Credit When It’s Due

When a SME has been really helpful, has devoted a lot of time, or has provided you with really helpful information, send them (and the project manager) an email to recognize and thank them.

Hopefully following these tips will help you build a solid relationship with your SMEs. This will go a long way in ensuring you have a smooth project and get what you need, when you need it. Follow me on Twitter for more training tips and tricks. 

What Does An Instructional Designer Do?

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When I tell people that my job title is Instructional Designer (ID), I am often met with a blank stare and the following question: “What’s that?”. I don’t blame people for not knowing what an Instructional Designer does because there was a time in the not-so-distant past when I would’ve had the same reaction. I’ve since come to learn that what IDs do is critical to ensuring organizations have a properly trained workforce. Instructional design is a great field to have a career in; globalization and evolving technologies have created an ongoing need for well-designed and effective training materials.

Read on to find out what the duties of a typical Instructional Designer include.

Analyze and Assess Training Needs

One of the key tasks that an ID will carry out is a training needs analysis. This is when an ID gets a clear understanding of what training is needed, why it’s needed, and what the business goals are.

The ID also assesses the training audience, to determine their background and demographics, in order to develop training that is audience appropriate.

In addition to this, the ID will interview stakeholders, employees, and managers to gather source content. The ID might also review existing training materials, create a project plan, and develop the learning objectives.

Work with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

The ID does not necessarily have any knowledge or expertise in the subject that learners need to be trained on. IDs are experts in training design… they can’t be experts in everything!

The job of being the expert actually belongs to the appropriately titled Subject Matter Expert (SME). The SME is an expert in his or her job or domain; the ID works with the SME to extract the knowledge and information that needs to be imparted onto others.

Working with SMEs usually involves meetings where the SME explains a process or demonstrates how a task is done accurately. The ID will record this information and include it in the training. Read More: 20 Helpful Tips for Working with Subject Matter Experts)

Develop Training Materials

Instructional designers apply ID methodologies such as the ADDIE model and Adult Learning Principles, to create instructionally sound training materials. Whether it be a PowerPoint presentation, a one page job-aid document, or a highly interactive e-learning module, instructional designers often are the ones to not only design but also develop and create the final training materials.

Implement Evaluation Strategies

One of the most important aspects of the instructional designers job is evaluating the effectiveness of training. An organization cannot measure the Return on Investment (ROI) of training without proper evaluation techniques that provide insights into what performance changes and metrics have changed.

Instructional designers use principles such as Kirkpatrick’s Levels of Evaluation and Keller’s ARCS Model to measure training effectiveness. Common methods of evaluation used by instructional designers include feedback forms, using metrics and KPIs to measure change, and using pre- and post-training evaluations.

These are just some of the tasks that IDs carry out as a part of their job. Depending on the project and their skill-set, they may do more or less of the things identified here.

12 Duties of a Social Media Manager

Social media is not a fad, it is here to stay. Every day, more and more organizations are realizing its value and hiring Social Media Managers to increase brand awareness, to ensure that their marketing is reaching the largest possible audience and for many other reasons. Read on to find out 12 duties of a social media manager.

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1. Implements a social media strategy

A social media strategy doesn’t appear out of thin air. It needs to be developed. The social media manager will develop the plan and the parameters for the corporate social media strategy.  They will determine objectives, establish what needs to be accomplished and define how it will be done

2. Manages social media sites

Stale social media accounts can be bad for business and leave customers with the wrong impression. The social media manager will ensure accounts are updated on a daily basis and that messaging is timely and relevant. This also includes using social media tools (i.e., Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc.) to schedule tweets to appear overnight and on weekends, to promote the brands to night-owls and clients in different time zones.

3. Engages in dialogue and monitors customer issues

In this day and age it cannot be prevented. People will post both good and bad things about a company online. It is vital to monitor the internet for any positive or negative feedback about an organization, and then follow up on the feedback. The social media manager will encourage and thank individuals for positive feedback, and try to appease any unhappy customers.

4. Monitors trends and encourages adoption of social media tools

The social media manager identifies and reports on social media trends. It is key for organizations to be on top of the latest trends and tools to ensure that an organization is ahead of the competition, reaching the maximum amount of customers and on top of its “tech game”.

5. Searches for news/articles to post

Depending on the nature of the organization, the social media manager may be tasked  with the duty of constantly scouring the internet and the news headlines for articles, stories and tips that are industry related and which can be posted to the social media accounts.

6. Implements social media campaigns

Social media campaigns are things like e-coupons, promo codes or the chance of winning a prize for “Liking” a company on Facebook.  Social media managers will develop these ideas and bring them to fruition.

7. Manages social media campaigns

It is vital to track and monitor the effectiveness and success of online initiatives, in order to calculate a return on investment.  The social media manager will then provide reports for executives and management on what worked and what didn’t work.

8. Write blog articles

To be a leader or influencer in any given field, it is important to be writing interesting articles or blog postings on topics relevant to the company or industry. The social media manager will identify and develop blog posts and other materials. They may also recruit and develop other bloggers and blog editors.

9. Uses social networking analysis tools

It’s important to measure the effectiveness of different channels. The social media manager will use TwitterCounter, Google Analytics, and other tools to measure clickthroughs and measure traffic activity.

10. Monitors internet for brand related topics of conversation

There are always conversations going on in the social space that provide the perfect segue for a company to promote itself. The social media manager will actively engage in industry conferences, chats, blogs, wikis, video sharing, etc to promote corporate messaging and increase brand awareness, which will drive brand traffic to company website.

11. Provides feedback to higher ups

A well run organization has strong internal communication. The social media manager should be in constant contact with the Public Relations, Marketing, Sales and management departments to communicate on public feedback, complaints and conversations surrounding the brand that are taking place in the public sphere.

12. Promotes social media within the organization

Educate staff on the importance of social media, as well as the implementation of new technologies and campaigns. The social media manager will also promote social media activities internally.

Are you a social media manager who carries out these duties? If so, let me know in the comments, which of these tasks takes up the most of your time? I love to hear your thoughts and feedback, so all comments are welcome. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog!