Subtle Seasonings

Subtle Seasonings are techniques you can use to build engaging slides for your presentations.  They are text effects, transitions & animations you can build in a tool like Storyline, Captivate, or Powerpoint. They’re techniques I use to help your brain latch on to the key content in your design.

Prezi is a wonderful tool, but have you ever felt a little woozy after someone’s wild ride through their presentation?  Presentations shouldn’t leave you craving Dramamine. Animations can be like a spicy pasta dish with way too much spice. It’s impossible to digest and just makes you feel sick.

I’m not attacking Prezi. A dish prepared with any software can get overwhelming.

Like all tools, there’s a balance between too dull and too busy that all presenters have to find.

And that balance what’s driving me to this new series called Subtle Seasonings.  It’s the idea that a dash of this and a sprinkle of that can transform a bland set of slides into a mouth-watering presentation.  

Here’s a link to subtle seasons for Text Effects.

The Oven and the Microwave

Ingredients: Articulate 360

One of my favorite tools to work with is the Articulate 360 package.  It features the popular Storyline program which allows any designer to create interactive learning modules without knowing a lick of code. It also features the wonderful responsive design program, Articulate Rise.

Rise allows you to create a course that will play beautifully on a tablet, phone, or computer. Responsive design means that the course won’t just open on any device, it will actually resize all the text, pictures, and media so that it’s optimized for that device.

This week’s recipe is a combination of the the powerful interactions you can do in Storyline and the ease of authoring in Rise.

If you’re looking for a food metaphor, think of Storyline like your oven and Rise like your microwave.

Rise is quick. It’s ultra-rapid eLearning development. It’s like a microwave oven. You can do a lot with it, but not everything. You couldn’t bake a cake with Rise.

Storyline is slower, but more powerful. It can bake that cake, roast vegetables, or cook up the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey.  Your courses can be interactive, customized for different audiences, and gamified to add a level of intrigue.

Here’s a video showing how I used the two tools together… like defrosting frozen chicken with a microwave, then baking a chicken and rice casserole. (actually edible recipe)

If you’d prefer to see the demo version of this recipe, check it out here. 

Ingredients

  • Articulate 360 subscription
  • Rise course
  • Storyline course published to Articulate Review

Directions

  1. Create your Storyline course, then publish it to Articulate 360. Note: This is not the way you’ll distribute the final blend of the two.
  2. Use Articulate Rise to create a course. You’ll likely want to use blocks to add other images and text.
  3. Use the Block > Interactive > Storyline to insert your Storyline course.
  4. Export your Rise course to upload to your LMS or share the link with your audience.

What’s up? I’m Karl. Welcome to eLearning Recipes.

These free recipes are ideas for Blended Learning projects.  Like any good recipe, I encourage you to take my ideas as a starting point and adapt them to your own tastes.

This tongue-in-cheek metaphor is my chance to advocate for blended learning. So many times instructional designers and developers get in a rut. We end up building face to face courses or online modules when there are other great options we could blend in.

The site is filled with ideas to get your creative juices flowing (and occasionally make you hungry).  Give your learners a balanced diet from a range of different learning technologies. Imagine different technologies are the different ingredients in a meal you’re preparing.  What would that look like?

Let’s Dig in! Click here to look at ingredients.

I wish I was clever enough to have come up with the term Infovore, but I’m not. It’s been used by authors, researchers, and marketers for more than a decade. Sadly, it isn’t a part of mainstream discussion about how our tools have changed us, which is a shame. There are dramatic changes happening and we lack the vocabulary to discuss them.

My undergrad degree is in anthropology. It’s always been a lens I use to view the world. From the anthropologist’s point of view, hunting and gathering information is a primal urge. Our instincts give us the hunger for food, the drive to reproduce, and the need for a roof over our heads, but smarts are just as important to our survival.

How long can you go without a phone? I can’t go more than a few hours. I’m an Infovore. These days we rely on the Internet and social media the way an herbivore depends on vegetables.

We feed on status updates from our Facebook friends. We digest online articles, blogs, and newsletters about our favorite topics. We snack on bites of information whenever we get the chance. Cravings for information can be overpowering.

Am I the only one who’s ever picked up their smart phone while driving… even though I know it’s dumb?

Are you an Infovore?

If you’re reading this deep into a site called eLearning Recipes let’s face it, you are. You’re more likely to go by the term Lifelong Learner, or Knowledge Worker, but you’re what others would call an Infovore. You’re used to feeding on information.

I like to think of myself as a chef. The truth is, I’m a terrible cook, and rarely even try something more complicated than a box of mac and cheese. I definitely don’t work in a restaurant. I’m a Blended Learning designer.

For over 15 years, I’ve been designing online modules and classroom materials. I started a company called eLearning Blends where I now work with a team of instructional designers, technology geeks, and elearning developers. I bring the mindset of a chef to the job because we’re in charge of feeding the brains of the companies that hire us.

Life in the information age is a steady diet of news feeds and bite-sized updates. We feed on information constantly. For many of us, the Internet and Smart Phones are as vital to our happiness and survival as food and water. These new tools have made our brains evolve into something new. Many of us have become Infovores.

An Infovore feeds on information the way a carnivore eats meat.

Our brains have grown used to a steady stream of food-for-thought rushing through our lives. We slurp, sip, and gulp down data. It’s something we’re increasingly dependent on. As learning professionals, we need to learn how to prepare palatable bytes of information in the ways (and places) infovores want to consume in.

These recipes are my way of sharing what I’ve picked up in a way that’s interesting and memorable. These are ideas you can try in your own metaphorical kitchen.

As a parent, I try to get our 4 preschool boys to eat nutritious meals. (Or at least mac and cheese.) It can be tricky to find a balance between what’s yummy and what’s good for you.

As a learning designer, I try to find the sweet spot between interesting and informative. A dull eLearning module isn’t memorable. It may be accurate, but it’s not likely to have much of an impact unless learners engage with it. If their neurons aren’t firing as they take it, it won’t strengthen the synapses in their brains. It’s like a pile of spinach left untouched on the plate.

 

Your main dish would be something that happens live.  It may be a webinar. It could be face to face standup training, but live instruction from a qualified facilitator is a featured part of a training program.

Different Types of Synchronous

If you want, you can think of Instructor Lead Training as main dishes with meat and webinars as seafood.

To plunge deeper in this metaphor, seafood could be like a video conference call with two way video using something like Google Hangouts, Skype, or Crowdcast.io

My wife is a pescatarian, which means she will eat seafood, but not meat.  That’s why tofu alternatives are a persistent option at our house, what are those?

I’d say a tofu patty is like a webinar with one presenter and a group chat. It gives you the nutrition or information you need, but my experience is that they’re not quite as satisfying as other options.

It’s tempting to say face to face instruction with a facilitator is the bread and butter of our industry, but I’m saving butter for another metaphor. (Gotta spread these around.)

Are you looking for a way to make it easier to manage your next online course review?

Are you a designer or developer who is tired of emails with phrases like “ya know that one slide with the blue box? It’s missing a period at the end”. Are you tired of asking your co-workers or clients to review your SCORM module without giving them a good way to do it?

Maybe this will help.

Ingredients

  • One set of zipped up SCORM files (any authoring tool, Lectora, Camtasia, Captivate, Storyline and more…)
  • The site ReviewMyElearning.com (not free)

Directions

  1. Publish your files to SCORM, then Zip.
  2. Upload to ReviewMyElearning.com
  3. Adjust the login settings as needed for your reviewers
  4. Send out the link to the other members of your team
  5. As comments roll in, the developer panel gives you tools to track which changes have been updated and even delegate tasks throughout the team of developers.
  6. Smile when you go home early. Your reviewers and developers will thank you.

Online games are like desert.  Sweet and addicting. They may be someone’s favorite part of the meal, but are also high on empty calories. Are you spending a lot of mental energy on something that isn’t going to help you do your job better?  Hope not.

Ice cream is Karl’s go-to dessert. (Especially Graters)

I don’t want to come across as anti-game. I love games and if we’ve ever shared a meal, you know I’m easy to talk into anything with ice cream. What I’m saying is that I think games have the best opportunity to simulate what it’s really like in the job and let people make mistakes in training instead of on the job with real clients, patients, or customers.

I just can’t ignore that a lot of games are just empty calories. As a middle aged guy who tries to stay in shape, I have to watch what I eat. Mentally, be sure  Do I really need a Wheel of Fortune themed quiz? Is an online crossword puzzle going to help me do my job better? Not likely. If that’s not what I do in my job. I’d hate to spend my mental calories on it.

What are Carbs?

Online learning is like carbs. It’s starchy food like french fries that you can get pretty much anywhere anytime. Late at night. Working remotely, or back in the office.  It’s never hard to find online modules or fried food.

There are huge advantages to Online modules that are assigned, graded, and tracked automatically, but a learning diet of nothing but online training is like visiting the drive thru every night after work. Both can get the job done, but leave you feeling bloated… mentally or otherwise.

Blend for Performance

I’ve made thousands of modules. Some I’m proud of. Others were just fancy powerpoints that I’m not sure were really effective. I’ve also seen a presenter that loses everyone by reading their slides to everyone. I jokingly call that a “live eLearning” module. All online learning is more effective when it’s part of a blended strategy. 

For example, use an online module to give an audience the foundational knowledge they need for highly interactive face-to-face sessions.

I think vegetables have a lot in common with performance support tools. Any of the tools you can use to help you while you’re on the job. I’m talking about Job Aids, Cheat Sheets, Reference Guides, and Infographics.

Performance support tools and vegetables are both surprisingly cheap, easy to prepare, and sadly most people don’t get enough of them.

Ask yourself, could we skip the course and build a job aid for them to use when they need it on the job? This recipe shows you how you could put a handout in your next module.

#freelunch

You know my favorite price?  Free!
Here’s a great tip for a free resource. Build a nice worksheet using Word or PPT or check out a site like Canva.com to build a great Infographic. Canva is free.  They have a terrific design school you should check out.

See? There is such a thing as a free lunch!  You can design amazing things for free on Canva.