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Monday, August 25, 2008

Starting Authoring Tool

I received a question:
I am an educator in Arizona about to graduate with my Masters in Instructional Design. I wish to apply my experience designing courses for online learning; however I've searched and don't know where to begin to actually learn how to use the LMS and course design software available. I came across your blog and thought you might be able to offer some suggestions.

I have great computer skills but am not experienced in creating web courses. I've seen all sorts of elearning software- Dreamweaver, Lectora, Captivate, Flash etc etc mentioned in job ads, but don't really know which ones to choose in order to get a well rounded working knowledge of how to build a course. Do you have any suggestions where to start? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
First, a good place to start is to ask around like you are doing.

Second, I'm not 100% clear if the question is about creating good online learning experiences that include a blend of online learning techniques. For example, are you looking at becoming good at doing online sessions? If so, you might take a look at: Webinar Software - Adoption Advice and there's a lot more to designing good blended learning experiences.

However, I'm going to guess based on the list of tools that you are really talking about creating self-paced (asynchronous) eLearning experiences. So, given that, my strong recommendation (especially given the comment about having great computer skills) would be to:

1. Choose a specific course, content, audience, learning objectives, etc. Even if you never plan to deliver it, you will still learn a lot more if you aren't just playing. You need to be really trying to create something that is realistic.

2. Download a free trial of one of the more common authoring tools. My personal suggestion would be either the Articulate Free Trial or the Captivate Free Trial. A very close third would be the Lectora Free Trial. Only download one of these and really try to work through creating your course. Get a bit creative about different types of interactions. How to keep the user engaged, etc.

3. Then I would go and download a second tool out of these and try creating similar things with that tool. In this case, I might recommend choosing Lectora as it is a little different in how you work through things.

Once you've gone through this, you should be in great shape to move forward.

Oh, and did I mention that you should be blogging your experience. :)

12 comments:

John Hathaway said...

Tony, I think your advice is spot on. But have to add that any Master's program graduating students who "don't know where to begin to actually learn how to use the LMS and course design software available" is failing them miserably!!

Karen said...

Being that Master's student, I feel obligated to clarify that the college I am going to focuses more on the theory of Instructional Design. I have tried out some software in school and on my own, but I am not in a graphic design program, I am in an educational masters program; therefore I only got to sample some programs. I am going to continue my education and take authoring tool classes now that I have the theory and process down. Thanks for your suggestions, this is a great and helpful blog!

DrBob said...

From a different angle - I use e-learning a lot in the University setting and have made many mistakes.

I don't know what LMS you have but I have learnt that all course MUST be developed offline so..

1] Install XAMMP (free)
2] Install Moodle on XAMPP (also free)

your now have your own LMS which you can break/ explore. Moodle is best for this because of the range of modules - blogging, peer review - etc. You will also learn about how th grade book operated (mission critical in any college setting).

As for screencasting. I am a real fan of these,

1] Use Camstudio (free)in combination with windows moviemaker and almost as as good as Camtasia

let us know how it goes..

Guy Boulet said...

As for John, I'm amazed to see that a Master's program in ID does not cover the development tools. Learning theories are important, but they are worthless if you do not learn how to apply them to content development. In my mind, the ID must at least know what tools can be used to develop and deliver the learning he designs.

I think this Master's program is really missing something important.

Tom Kuhlmann said...

Hello Tony, hope you had a great vacation.

I'm with Tony, find a tool and then learn to use that one first. Then start to build on your expertise. I'd start with Articulate, since the learning curve is easier and it's a fairly common tool. Then I'd go to a screencasting product. From there, I'd look at the add-in type products like Raptivity and some of the others. That should give you a good overview of the tool types.

I'm not sure how valuable it is to learn about LMS other than the basics because they're all a little different. From my experience, most of the instructional design people don't even get access to the LMS anyway. That's usually guarded by some donut eater in IT.

If you do want to play with an LMS, drbob's recommendation is good. In fact, if you go to opensourcecms they have a bunch of open source LMS on their servers that you can play around with. They refresh the servers every few hours, but it's a good way to play with more than one LMS. I like Dokeos and Moodle, but there are probably 10 LMS that you can test, as well as other cool opensource products.

John Larkin said...

Karen and Tony, an interesting post and comments. Lectora is a good product. I have used it a number of times and I have found its rich variety of publishing options to be quite useful.

I would like to contribute this piece of advice. I had the good fortune to function as the instructional designer on eLearning projects for clients such as Nokia, JPMorgan Bank, Singapore Airlines and others. The key lesson I learnt was that it was far more efficient and cost effective to recreate and to demonstrate actions, processes and scenarios using straightforward video and audio. The media would be edited, digitised and embedded in the project.

Recreating actions, scenarios and so on using animations and virtual tools was time consuming, costly and overly complex. Storyboarding a project that incorporates video is easy in comparison to storyboarding and planning the complex permutations involved in designing flash animations.

The video can be easily updated in the future if need be and embedded in the product. The client could be taught how to perform that in a well designed product. Updating flash animations is simply out of the question in many instances.

You may also find this tongue-in-cheek video earmarked by Stephen Downes and Karl Kapp on their blogs useful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVb8EC1Y2xM

Curiously enough, after a number of years working here in Australia and overseas as an instructional designer I have recently returned to the classroom in order to ground myself and to slow down a little.

Best wishes, John.

DrBob said...

"I wish to apply my experience designing courses for online learning; however I've searched and don't know where to begin to actually learn how to use the LMS and course design software available. I came across your blog and thought you might be able to offer some suggestions.

I have great computer skills but am not experienced in creating web courses. I've seen all sorts of software- Dreamweaver, Lectora, Captivate, Flash etc etc mentioned in job ads, but don't really know which ones to choose in order to get a well rounded working knowledge of how to build a course."

I really am a great fan of screen casts (I'm more Camtasia than captivate but all the same)..

If you're looking at course development with your skills I'd suggest you need to know what a LMS is capable of. i.e student tracking, interaction, rapid feedback. An LMS in the hands of a teacher knowledgable about the details of that LMS is a very powerful instrument.

The thing is - you need to know what an LMS can do if you are going to get the most jam out of the donut IT guy. These guys tend to work "safely". If you want to push peer review to the max, do effective network logging etc - really push the envelop - you must know more than the IT guy. Sad but true.

Although people will estoll the merits of Moodle over WebctVista, Sakai etc.. most of them do the same things. You just need to know everything they can do or else you will be condemned to multiple choice questions and essay submission. This is the lower end of ELearning...

Screen casting is one tool - in the university environment what makes you great is knowing your students and responding to them. Content is only a part of the picture. You can deliver a course with great content, create the definitieve text on a subject and still get crap evals'. This is for many reasons but for one it is easy to distance the students if your content is accomplished and you think your job is done once you have got the perfect material to deliver.

I create a lot of screencasts - I also monitor their use. Some of my screencasts are Oscar winning (well my students tell me so!) - but only 60% of the student watch them.. Knowing this figure is more important than the fact that I have "produced the goods" because it causes me to ask why...

If you need any help setting up then just say.. it really is easy..

npt said...

Hi there,

I'm a newbie as well and I would absolutely love to get your opinion on what I'm leaning toward.

First off, I'm an acupuncturist, I host classes getting prominent acu teachers for live classes, putting the video/audio/slides online with quizes, online payment, ecertificates.

I have the first 14 hour class ready to put onine and I'm in the phase where I need to pick an LMS and authoring tools.

My site now is in Joomla, so I've been looking at the JoomlaLMS. And so I'm also looking at eLearningForce to use for eLearning authoring tools.

I'm wondering also if Articulate would be better than eLearningforce.

Would you guys think this is a descent combination? I'm also on a budget as I'm bootstrapping this project so it seems great for the price.

My business partner/programmer bailed on me months ago so I'm having to figure out a lot of this on my own (a bit of a non-techie I am - obviously!)

Thanks,

Billy

starting out said...

I am in a somewhat similar position as this Masters' graduate. Once fairly skilled in using one authoring tool (couldn't afford to get more than one after the trial period), what suggestions do you have for getting an entry-level job or independent contract?

Joe Deegan said...

I wouldn't under estimate power point for developing eLearning. It is easy using PPT in combination with a PPT to Flash Converter. Check out Jane Bozarth's book "eLearning Solutions on a Shoestring" for some simple solutions to getting started in eLearning.

Tony Karrer said...

npt - I think Articulate is a good tool to use in your situation. However, 14 hours of anything self-paced is tough to get through. You may want to think about how you can attack it with a different design to break things up, get more interaction, etc.

I'm not that familiar with Joomla LMS - worth a try. And I'd love to hear your experience with it.

Karen said...

lots of great ideas...where was this post 4 months ago when I was starting my new job!

As a newbie that is figuring things out as I go along, I have a couple of other suggestions: read everything you can. There are a large number of blogs, this site has links to some I read everyday. I use the advice and info to solve many of my issues.
Do blog about your expereinces. I do and while I don't have comment from more experienced ID professionals, I can review my posts and see where I might have missed something, done something different. Sometimes, just writing about an issue can give you clarity and direction.