I am a lover of technology and cannot seem to get enough apps and programs and bits of code that help me to build great web pages and eLearning programs. I teach the Essentials of eLearning Authoring Tools for ASTD, have written a book about tools (Technology for Trainers) and have several articles published in the area of eLearning Tools and tool selection.
I'm the Tim Taylor of eLearning Tools. I'm going to use that, so don't steal it!
One thing I don't think I've ever clearly expressed are the tools I use in my every day work. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, below is a list of software that I use at least once a week, every week.
Graphic Design and Photo Editing Software
Audio Recording Software
Video Editing Software
Screen Capture Software
Animation Creation Software
HTML/XHTML Writing Software
eLearning Creation Software
So there you have it...this is the list of tools used by a working professional eLearning developer. Does that mean you can purchase all of these tools and build like I do? Nope. I have my own creative eye and strengths in graphic and multimedia design that I bring to my eLearning visuals. However, some people have asked so I thought I would share.
Oh...and the picture at the top is of an adobe structure. Get it...adobe structure? Adobe Software?
2013 is coming to a close and I started to think about my elearning work and how it has changed since my last post in January 2011. Yes, you read that correctly...January 2011. Why did I wait over two years to get back up here and post about elearning? Did I have nothing more to say on the subject? Had my resources dried up? My experience gone sour?
Nope. Just as my business has expanded, other things became priority. But, luckily, I have decided to put more energy into the business and therefore more energy into the blog. Let's see...over the past two years I have:
So, if any of these things sound interesting, well, I'll be talking about them over the next few years. I hope that some of you continue to check in for the rants, the code, the real world solutions, the blatant self promotion (ASTD TechKnowledge 2014 in Vegas!!! Come see me) and other such silliness as I relaunch this blog. Who knows...a facelift may be in order as well!
Thank you again for dropping by.
On July 11th, 2007 the term Crapid eLearning was introduced by Tom Kuhlmann from Articulate. He introduced the term in his blog post Myth 1: Rapid eLearning is Crapid eLearning. I love this article because it defends the tools and attacks the design. This is one my Thomas mantras - focus on the LEARNING part of eLearning. It also gave me a great new word I could use in casual conversations with my team!
For me, Crapid also means visually barren. Sure, you can have a great eLearning design doc, great objectives and some cool interactions and simulations, but if it looks unprofessional or amateurish, then you have some usability issues to overcome. Now, there are lots of folks who may disagree with me, but out of the box templates, buttons, ready made flash "interactions" all fall short of what a professional graphic designer can create. They may help you quickly put together a program, but the user may view the content in a bad light if the interface and visuals are shoddy. They may have a hard time seeing the diamond in the rough. Visuals must be stimulating and professional looking until they fade into the background and the content takes over. Think of it as a first impression - it takes a long time to get past a bad first impression, just like it may take a user a while to get past an ugly, awkward interface.
I've created Crapid eLearning. I've also created bad eLearning projects. Because clients want what they want and paid me to deliver it. I've worked hard to talk people out of design decisions or instructional choices that I didn't agree with, but because they are the client, I build it to match THEIR vision, not mine. I've also done Crapid work because the client just wanted to check a box and push the project off their to-do list.
In this blog, a little more than a year ago, I predicted an eLearning regression and others agreed with me. Now, a year later, using my own observations and interviews with participants at the ASTD TK 10, my clients and others in the industry, I believe it came to pass. eLearning software development companies are selling the heck out their software and upgrades are popping out like crazy. Instructional designers who don't know a thing about graphic design or coding are whipping out SCORM compliant programs with ease. Template sites and pre-coded sample bundles are popping up (yes...mine are coming too) on the web and people are buying them like beanie babies. It's now easier than ever before to develop eLearning and non-tech, non-graphic and non-programmers are doing it using these tools.
Now...here's my ethical dilemma. I've had it before in June of 09, but its back with a vengeance. At that time, I called it "Should I advertise the tools" and I was wondering if I should advertise that I develop in Lectora, Captivate and others. I received lots of interesting feedback on that one, and today I have the answer.
Yes. I should. And here's why: My clients now own them. My clients like them. It provides me with an edge. I can now offer high-end completely custom, partial custom or templated eLearning.
Just this week, I have two clients with real money who want me to develop within Captivate and within Unison.
My ethical dilemma: I don't want to develop Crapid eLearning because I will be using these tools. I have to convince my clients to create custom Flash elements they can drop into these tools. They have to allow me to take the time to create unique templates and interfaces and buttons and other elements to make it look custom even though its using an eLearning tool. In Captivate, I can be extremely creative with the tool. In Unison, I can, but I have to do some serious code cracking to bring it up to my level of what a "professional" eLearning program looks like. I need to take these tools to new levels. I need to push the envelope regarding software capabilities and be creative within the limitations of the tools so that I don't just quickly schlop the project together.
Or, I could just develop Crapid.
The opposite of professional eLearning is Crapid eLearning. However, as you read this, you or your company may have these tools installed. They may be installed on the very machines you are using to read this blog. My challenge to you is this: Follow my lead and don't create Crapid. Look at the work you admire and instead of saying "I could never do that with my tool" or "You have to be a good graphic person to do that" or "I can only do that with Flash" go out and LEARN to do those things. Take it to the next level. Don't settle on mediocre or Crapid. Maximize what you know about the tool. Call the software developers and get into the weeds to bend the software to YOUR will. Buy a good book on graphic design like The Non-Designer's Design Book or Graphic Design School so you can learn what makes graphics, fonts, colors and other elements look nice on the screen.
Even though I am now adding these tools to my professional designers toolbox (and kind of feel like a sell out), I am going to keep my head high and not lower my standards. I don't want to ever turn down business, but I don't want to damage my reputation as a designer by producing Crapid. I'll post samples to this blog as I develop so you can tell me if you think they are awesome or if I fell into the Crapid crack.
As I've spoken about in the past, almost all of my eLearning is programmed by hand using the Adobe suite of products and creating interfaces, buttons and eLearning elements from scratch.
As I get ready to roll out my new business venture (Catapult Training Group...YAY), I'm debating about whether I should advertise on the new web site and in my promotional materials that I use/have used/can use the off the shelf eLearning development tools like Unison, Lectora, Articulate and Captivate. As an eLearning developer, I've always prided myself on the fact that I write from the source and do not use these tools when developing. Several of my clients have asked me to use these tools and help them to learn these tools, however should I be advertising that these tools are within my capability?
Does it diminish my reputation as a developer to talk about my company using these tools? Even though most of these tools are great, they have serious limitations when it comes to high degrees of complex interactivity. I feel that I shouldn't want it featured that I sometimes use them on behalf of clients...am I right to feel that way?
On the other side of the coin, some of my current clients are using them and I've been able to offer my assistance to those folks and make a little money to boot. In fact, one of my clients ONLY uses these tools and has required me to design within the confines of these applications. Is that a value to other companies? Should I advertise it?
I'm seriously interested in knowing your opinion! Please comment or shoot me an email to let me know your opinion. Thank you in advance!
In my quest to find good Netbook software that runs in the "cloud" a friend told me about two sites that replace Captivate. Yes, the screen capture software, allowing you to record content on your computer screen. I am experimenting with this software now and cannot wait to report on it.
The first is called Screencast-o-matic.
From their home page: "Screencast-O-Matic is the free and easy way to create a video recording of your screen (aka screencast) and upload it for free hosting all from your browser with no install!" It looks like it needs Java, and seemed to work fine on my Mac using Firefox.
The second is called Jing
From their home page: "Jing is free software that adds visuals to your online conversations. Instead of typing a people, show them what you are talking about...pronto." Looks like it does screen capture in addition to "screencasting" and sharing of your video. Jing works on both Mac's and PCs.
Looks like this software may be a good alternative for Captivate, Camtasia or Snagit! Try these and tell me about your experiences or post a comment!
Special thank you to Ginger for sending these my way! You are a rock star!
Still looking for HTML writing software in the "cloud"...
Since the ASTD TK show, people have been hot on these three software packages: Articulate, Captivate and Lectora. On my webinar series, with email and via twitter, people have been asking me about these packages. Here is my summary of each - I actually replied to someone on LinkedIn about a month ago. Here is a copy of that interaction.
If you haven't seen it yet, Adobe has created an eLearning Suite and bundled my favorite software together. It's a really sweet suite:
So...my only question...where is Fireworks in the suite? Photoshop rules, but for web distribution, Fireworks has tools that could help the eLearning developer rapidly develop interfaces, convert to PDF and perform lots of cool navigation and button effects. The price point is a little steep ($1799) but worth it if you want to do be able to do everything (no seriously...everything eLearning!) The upgrade price is great ($599) if you have purchased any other suite. I have to say that, overall, I like it quite a bit. There is a lot of software here that can create anything you, the eLearning developer, can think up. However, if you have an extra $299.00 laying around, I'd pick up Fireworks too!
Now...if I can just convince Adobe to fix the Mac bugs in Flash CS4 and give me a version of Captivate for the Mac, I would go back to raving non-stop about their software. I'll rave about everything but Flash CS4, but really, really want to! If Adobe fixes the Flash CS4 bugs, I'll be their biggest evangelist yet! I'll keep running Captivate in Parallels, but it's not the same.
Very few people are creating technology exclusively for the online learning developer, so this site attempts to fill that gap. Whether you want ideas on how to use web technologies in your eLearning, or have questions about the what's and how's, this site is for you.
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