Category: Welcome


Permalink 01:51:35 pm, Categories: Welcome , Tags: adobe, animage, broswers, edge, edge animate 2014, html5, wwwc

As I continue to develop and explore Edge Animate as a potential animation tool, I have to comment on the new audio functionality introduced in Edge Animate 2014.

They did it!

My biggest beef with HTML5 is the syncing of audio and animation - if I am animating in Flash, I can add audio wherever I want and the animation in synched. It's a wonderful thing. I said I wouldn't convert to HTML5 until it could do this.

I don't know how they did it, but the wizards at Adobe have added that functionality to Edge Animate 2014. I haven't dove deep enough to know if it is a true synch or just an event trigger, but I've been impressed with it so far.

Yes, my friends, Adobe has created a tool that allows for audio synching and HTML5 output. As more and more of my customers are looking for an HTML5 based solution, this may be the final straw. While I am not abandoning Flash in any sense of the word, my reservations about HTML5 are slowing slipping away.

Of course, the WWWC has to get the browsers to all agree about how to consistently display HTML5 content, but that's coming soon too.

If you haven't taken a look at Edge Animate 2014, go do it now. You will be impressed - it keeps getting better and better.


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:

  • Fell in love with Storyline and Captivate
  • Saw an emergence of elearining interaction software - stand alone software for creating cool things for your elearning
  • Watch Apple bully a technology into mainstream YEARS before it is ready
  • Watched Adobe change business models, which has been great for some and pure evil for others
  • Observed that the trend in LMS usability and customer service is still foul
  • Published another book as a contributing author. Go look for Michael Allen's eLearning Annual 2012 and look on the cover, right over Dr. Allen's head. What do you see? Yeah, this guy!
  • Run two Warrior Dashes
  • Started taking photography more seriously and enrolled in several classes. Will be graduating with a Certificate of Professional Photography" in the next 60 days. It's been a long, interesting journey.

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.



I have finally lost my battle with a client and am conforming to their request: "I want the text content to be stored in an external .xml file so we can edit easily."

I'm happy for the many tutorials out on the web that helped me to learn this stuff, but I was surprised that I didn't find a single one that did EXACTLY what I wanted. So, I banged it out and am sharing it so you can shorten your development cycle.

Goal: From an external XML file, load a page header and content into two separate dynamic boxes, and then have those boxes update as you move from page to page.

Sounds easy right? Here is what I did to create and test my solution.

1) I created a Flash CS4/AS 3.0 document with four layers: Actions, Buttons, Dynamic Text and Background
2) On the background layer, I created a color gradient background
3) On the buttons layer, I created a simple back and next button
4) On the Dynamic Text layer, I created two dynamic text boxes. I called the smaller one at the top titleText and the larger one for the content descText.

Ok...pretty straight forward.

I then created my button listeners for the back and next buttons and put this code on the Actions layer:

nextBut.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK, goNext);
backBut.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK, goBack);

function goNext(event:MouseEvent):void {

function goBack(event:MouseEvent):void {

From there, I wrote some sample XML and called it "course.xml":

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" standalone="yes"?>
<page pTitle="Welcome">Welcome to dynamically loaded text.</page>
<page pTitle="How to Do It">Here is how it works.</page>
<page pTitle="Simple">Once you have it figured out, its easy.</page>
<page pTitle="Final Page">No really...its pretty easy</page>

This is a simple set of four pages. In each page tag, I included an attribute called "pTitle" which is the page title. The content is between the page tags. So, page 1 is "Welcome" with the content "Welcome to dynamically loaded text".

Now, here is the AS 3.0 to load and parse the XML.

var myXML:XML = new XML();
var XMLURL:String = "course.xml";
var myXMLURL:URLRequest = new URLRequest(XMLURL);
var myLoader:URLLoader = new URLLoader(myXMLURL);
myLoader.addEventListener("complete", xmlLoaded);

function xmlLoaded(event:Event):void
myXML = XML(;[0].@pTitle;[0];

The first line sets up a variable container for the XML file. The second line sets up the call to the .xml path. The third and forth line loads the XML and the fifth line waits for it to load. When it does, it loads the XML content into the variable myXML.

The next two lines of the function pick out the individual XML elements we want to use. In this case. the text field titleText gets the XML field page's first child's pTitle variable, and the descText gets the XML field page's first content.

But WAIT! Why are we calling string [0] instead of string [1]? Well, XML starts it count from 0...nuff said. When you want page 3's content, you look at the XML child[2]. Don't let it mess with you like it did with me...Accept it and move quietly on...

Now, if you want to add more pages, you add more frames. If you want to load the newer content into the subsequent text fields, you use the following code:[1].@pTitle;[1];

on the Actions layer of frame/page 2...[2].@pTitle;[2];

on page 3 and so on...

What happens is the user advances to the next frame, the text box content changes to the new XML content. You have to change the string attribute, but as long as you do, the correct content will display.

And, if you want to digest this in some working files, all the code and .fla are available here. This zip file includes the final .fla, .swf and the .xml file.

I hope this saves you time as you develop your own XML driven eLearning projects.


Heads up! The Adobe CS5 Suite is shipping! I have downloaded the trial versions of the CS5 suite for my Mac (reviews coming soon), and am going to be upgrading my client machine to the newly released eLearning Suite 2! (NOTE: It will be released mid-June. I got a little too excited!) Yes, during this last round of upgrades, they created another eLearning Suite and an upgrade to Captivate.

The eLearning Suite 2 contains:

  • Captivate 5
  • Flash CS5
  • Photoshop CS5 Extended
  • Dreamweaver CS5
  • Presenter 7
  • Soundbooth CS5
  • Acrobat 9

Interesting that Soundbooth isn't included in the Web suite now, and that Presenter is still version 7. I have a love/hate thing with PowerPoint and eLearning (don't get me started), but I recently created an interactive PDF with Presenter that my client loved so I can't totally hate it.

It's interesting that Adobe didn't upgrade Presenter this round. Makes me wonder if they are going to drop the tool, or more likely, integrate Captivate tools into PPT. Makes you think though...

However, something that I cannot wait to try, is Captivate 5 ON THE MAC. Yes, this is the first iteration of Captivate that runs on a Mac! I really like Captivate and what it can do for certain eLearning projects, and now that it runs on the Mac, it makes me very happy. I'll let you know my opinions of the new Captivate 5 on both the PC and the Mac this month.

Thanks to Adobe for releasing upgrades to products I love to use! Now, if we can just figure out a way to get Apple and Adobe to play nice, my world will be a better place!


I'm having such a dilemma and its driving me crazy. Here is what I'm struggling with: lately, several of my customers have asked me to create or bid on projects where they expect to be able to go in and edit the content, images and layout of the project after the launch. They want to be able to tweak every aspect of the project once its complete. However, they have no technical background and are not interested in learning the tech. As a result, I'm being asked to over-complicate the programming for ease of use later.

First example - a local area church has asked me to develop a web site for them that they can edit themselves. They don't want a CMS (even the free ones), they want to be hand coded. No problemo - I build it in CSS at a fixed width and height per the design from their team. After its built out and they want to start adding content, their editor (who picked up Dreamweaver specifically for this purpose), can't get the WYSIWYG screen to work with my hand coded CSS. Sometimes Dreamweaver, especially older versions, have a hard time rendering the CSS correctly in the WYSIWYG view. The code is solid and displays wonderfully in all browsers, but the client hates it and hates me because it isn't easy to edit in Dreamweaver. After a week of no luck with tutorials and phone assistance, I rebuilt it from scratch using old table code and layout techniques from 2005. They love it. It stretches how they want, its easy to add the content they want and they are super excited about their site again.

I, however, hate it and will not be adding it to my portfolio. It's filled with nested table tags, bloated JavaScript and is "old school" code that I rarely write anymore. However, the client LOVES it and loves me for making their lives easier. I have overcomplicated the "behind the scenes" so the WYSIWYG view works. What!!?

Case number two: I'm bidding on an eLearning project where the client wants all images but the interface to load dynamically and be stored outside the project, all video and audio to load dynamically and be stored outside the project, and all text and headers to be in XML and load dynamically at run time. OK...this is not rocket science, but in an effort to make their lives easier (they won't have to learn Flash to make edits), they are making it much more complicated to develop. It's so much easier to just dump it all into flash, export to .swf and deliver an HTML file and a .swf file and be done with it.

In an effort to avoid learning code or learning Flash, customers seem to be asking for "do it yourself" solutions, when I'm thinking that they should pick up a copy of Dreamweaver or Flash and learn it. It's much more complicated to dynamically load XML text than it is to type the text in the Flash interface. Now, there are very good reasons for using XML for text (I have another client who is going to offer multiple languages and wants to use the same .swf but load the different language XML which is cool), but for simple projects, why make it so complicated?

Couple thoughts:

1) They don't want to pay me to edit the files
2) They don't want to take the chance of me going away and not being around in 3 years when the files have to be edited
3) They expect lots of changes to the files
4) They expect to have to make changes in a speedy, real time fashion

I'm all about teaching a man to fish, but this kind of falls into the "just cause we can, we will." I am all about the straight line - get what you need accomplished in the easiest way possible. Learn Flash. Learn ActionScript. Who says editing an XML file is easier than editing a Flash file? Is this "Do it yourself" idea good for eLearning? Shouldn't it be "Learn the tool."

Am I alone here? Is this something I should just deal with? Since when do customers care about the intricate guts of a project, rather than its functionality, look and feel? Should I just grow up and understand that customers are getting more technical and are asking to "peek under the hood"?

Thanks for listening. Anyone else experiencing this?


Second day session overview. Great morning!

8:15 :: Introduction of Rich and his awesome background!

8:20 :: Richard (Rich) takes the stage - game designer/Chief Creative Director for EA - was the designer for the first Madden Football game, Yeager's flight Sim and Golf - 25 years at EA. Born up in MN, moved to Vegas.

8:22 :: "What did I learn while I live in Vegas? People Lie..." People Lie...but their actions don't

8:22 :: People Lie, but they don't mean to

8:25 :: Learning through Games - showed Cartels & Cutthroat$ - an economic sim game built on a wall street model. At an EA retreat, had a Cartels & Cutthroats tournament. About 11 out of 150 people participated! LOL.

8:25 :: EA University :: Knowledge Changes Everything - Xcelerator program - investment in the key folks at the firm - primarily Creative Directors. Has 40 products and about 25 Directors - Working on leadership and teamwork

8:30 :: Plugged Lego Mindstorms - YES - Lego RULE!!! Integrated into the Xcelerator program and his other classes - An educational toy that allows you to create a working, programmable robot with Lego.

8:30 :: Used in Leadership and Team Training - simulates what its like to launch products on new platforms, simulates market cycles, create teams of Production, Design and Engineering professionals (playing out of position - each of them plays a different role than their "real job"

8:31 :: Exercise Gameplay - each team attends a faux "Developer's Conference" to learn the "new" tech, then they get access to "The Market". "The Market" is a separatecontains Play Money and plexi-glass squares and during the market cycle, the robot tires to acquire revenue by putting a wheel on a moneyed square.

8:33 :: Complications - The Market you see, isn't always what you get - more than one team can win a square - the wheels don't have to stay on (encourages creativity)

8:35 :: The purpose of the exercise is to CREATE CHANGE - winners have an appropriate combination of risk and a high iteration cycle :: The anticipate market changes

8:36 :: Some other games :: The Gong Show (public speaking and rapid production techniques), The Pieces Game (Game design iteration techniques and team dynamics), The Roaring Silence (sound design for emotion, quick repair techniques)

8:37 :: "Audio is 51% of the entertainment experience" - George Lucas

8:38 :: How we Used to Make Games - a single designer on a game - "Drove them crazy because they never finished anything!"

8:38 :: Now, they add a few more people to the mix - the problem is that the numbers of people on a game design have increased and the products are more complicated. Godfather had 300 people on the project! They have had to change they way they worked - from solo to team

8:42 :: Was failing because they are guessing about what people are telling them. Aircraft carrier story - "We thought people wanted to fly the planes off the carrier...others thought they wanted to drive the ships...others wanted to do fleet and resource management. Resource groups told them ALL THREE!" The problem is that PEOPLE LIE! (We had to shout this out...some of us more enthusiastic than others... LOL)

8:44 :: Every online game played in John Madden "phones home" sends a report back to EA so they can read the reports. Actions Don't Lie!

8:45 :: Played a number of games calibrate some problems - comparing performance verbally - People Lie, their Actions Don't

8:46 :: Real World Problem - Madded 10 had a Kicking Problem - Telemetry messed up - Video testing verified it

8:47 :: Team worked on the DATA, rather than what people said was wrong.

8:48 :: Stop Guessing, Start SCORING the Change - Google Semantic Analysis relies of user data and Amazon's uses your ACTIONS: Suggested Products. Data mining based on choices and correlating that to other customers, services and products.

8:50 :: Stop guessing and start measuring - Identify your Markers of Progress, Turn those into Scorecards all can see, Pay attention to the results, Iterate for success, Celebrate metrics, Pursue new Markers and Correlations for insight they provide

8:52 :: Nice Telemetry Based Education example - applies the measuring steps to an educational example

8:55 :: All that is nice, but how does it help me get paid? Metrics are important

8:56 :: Benefit of programs - Know the difference between clients and customers, Avoid different scoreboards for different audience, Measured progress metrics ensure all parties:: be sure development outcomes = business outcomes

8:57 :: People Lie, their actions don't - don't trust, don't guess, Find metrics to measure, Communicate progress and value through scoreboards of those metrics

8:58 :: Questions

8:58 :: Where is gaming going and how does it integrate into the rest of the world? We spend lots of times building games for machines that are not in educational environments. PS3, XBOX and Wii are not in the business world. Why not? Building for these platforms, not business platforms. Web based games may be the solution for gaming in the workplace.

9:00 :: People complain about gaming isolating them from others. How do you see that changing? People are playing with other humans online. The online environment means people are playing games against each other. The most interesting interactions are between the humans playing the game. Human beings beat the "crap" out of any code.

9:02 :: You face the challenge of leading creative people. Every organization drives creativity. Do you try to manage your "leadership brand" using games and NOT stifle the creativity? In EA's case, every four years the company has radically changed. From 5 1/2" disks, to CDs, to game platforms. Changed the "game" that is the company. Done lots of work communicating the "rules" of the new game, and have "learning camps". Change is then put into class. Reinventing all the time.

9:04 :: What tools can you use to create corporate training? What tools? There are lots of tools but they take forever to learn. Game designers are working on making the products more accessible from the back end. Sim builders and design tools..sometimes you just need to be a program...then there is Flash which takes about a year to master.

9:05 :: Situations and case based learning using Flash. What measurement techniques can we test and implement in Flash? Have tools to generate output, but choosing the metrics are the hard part. Create your variables, export them and use things like Google Analytics to examine the data. The hard part is exporting the data.

9:06 :: Retention is a problem. Especially with creative minds. What do you do to manage retention? What motivates people. Tie retention to motivation. (I think he misunderstood retention (keeping people employed) from retention (keeping content in their minds)

9:10 :: If I purchased Madden 10 for my husband for Christmas and his field goals never go in, how can I make him better at kicking goals? YouTube videos

9:12 :: We've changed our idea of what our "platform" is. Its not a system where you can dedicate many hours to it, its now a change to the mindset of "touching" the gamer where they access. Take your game from the web, take it to the iPhone, finish it up on the console when you get home. Take the game out of the living room to the mobile device. Take the game experience with you.

9:13 :: Applause! Good session.


8:15 :: Jim (committee chair) takes the stage. Tells a great joke about limiting his speech to 140 characters. Gets a laugh at the show, but not as big. Only the geeks like me were laughing. Three key elements of the conference: Connect...Apply...Transform

8:20 :: Jim thanks the sponsors - the usual suspects

8:22 :: Jim thanks the committee and the committee stands up and takes a bow! :) Ah...I remember my four years on the committee.

8:24 :: Jim talks about the impact of social media - Hudson crash - Haiti aftermath - texts, tweets and social media is emerging as a viable communication method! Yay!

Social Media for Learning

8:26 :: Tony Bingham introduced as opening presenter - talking about social media for learning

8:27 :: Jokes about the Apple announcement spilled my the CEO of a "major communication group" - either unintentionally or intentionally

8:30 :: "What keeps you up at night?" - Generating revenue is not the biggest concern keeping CEOs up at night

8:31 :: "How does your future workforce value learning?" - video on future adult learners.

8:35 :: How does the majority of learning occur today? Informal or formal? Mostly informal! ASTD and i4P researched the impact of "Informal Learning" :: Asks audience to include informal learning to the budget line. Why aren't company's funding it? Loss of control? Fear? Hmm...

8:40 :: Growing up Digital book - talking about Net Gens and their stereotypes - "You baby boomers screwed up the world, and its our job to fix it?"

8:41 :: "Would you rather be smart or beautiful?" - 70% said smart. They "view technology as they view 'air'". Yeppers!

8:42 :: Another video - Don Tapscott interview - "The worse thing they do is 'ban Facebook'..."

8:48 :: Boundaries between work and play is blurry...people are used to massive customization...want to be managed as individuals, not as a part of a group...see right through "the BS"...want to collaborate, not necessarily want to "climb the corporate ladder"

8:50 :: "If you understand the Net generation, you will understand the future. You will understand how our institutions and society needs to change today."

8:51 :: Introduce the book Groundswell.

8:52 :: Reasons for Adopting Web 2.0 - ASTD Study

8:53 :: How do you assure 2.0 is effective - Use blogs, use search engines, integrate it into the culture, assign "wiki gardeners" to review posts, have well document policies and guidelines.

8:54 :: AIIM found that a lack of understanding was considered the number-one impediment to implementing Web 2.0 technologies cited by 59% of the participants

8:55 :: Another video. A great one on the impact and "fad" of social media. It's not a fad, its a fundamental SHIFT in the way we communicate. "Social media has overtaken porn as the number one activity on the web!"

9:00 :: Push to get on the ASTD LinkedIn group. "Virtual water-coolers"

9:00 :: Jay Cross :: Getting started :: support all the learning, start slowly, engage an executive sponsor, encourage facilitate and partner, identify opportunities to support formal learning, save tag search, hold on loosely but don't let go

9:05 :: The Dark Side of social media - privacy - protect your personal information online! "Leaving a trail of digital crumbs" - protect it! "Facebook has fabulous privacy just need to go and use them!"

9:10 :: Web 2.0 and NetGens are gifts to drive informal learning...Now is the time to connect the pieces...if you are new, you are not alone...if you are a veteran, please share...

9:11 :: Resources in the store :: Nice three pack of books at the ASTD bookstore! Tony's got a new book on social learning! Yay! Great job Tony!

9:13 :: Questions

9:13 :: Is there one department that's better to start with than another? SALES - start in sales

9:14 :: How can you get buy-in from the senior leadership team? Use research, case studies and best practices from other organization. Make it a competitive edge by comparing to other companies using them.

9:15 :: Should I do it as a skunk works project? Don't try to sneak it in. Legal and HR should be involved at the front end, supporting you as you launch it. They don't like surprises!

9:16 :: What are some lessons learned from companies using social media? Start small, learn from other companies, share data (CIA uses social media to share data! If the CIA can use it, why not your company)

9:18 :: What's going on with Web 3.0 - the symantic web. People and products will FIND US! Data will store what's important to you, and then deliver it. One challenge - symantic web might miss the things you are only partially interested in or don't even know you are interested in. Web 3.0 will deliver what you want, but how will it know what you want when you don't know what you want?

9:18 :: How do you deal with legacy data in your social media? Companies are popping up to specifically clear your "social media breadcrumbs." A whole new service!

9:26 :: Is social media the life or death of SCORM? SCORM isn't going to go away, it has its place. SCORM will continue to be used, but in tangent with social media.

9:28 :: What if folks are limited by the technology itself? What about people who don't use computers, can't afford computers or companies (like restaurants) who don't have access to computers? How does this impact social media? The phone now is a primary way to connect to the web. Most people have phones, and with the awesome tech inside phones, people do have access even though they don't have a computer.

9:31 :: Are laptops and other computing devices going away in favor of the iPhones, Droids and other smart phones? How will this impact learning? It's going there!

Great opening session! Thanks ASTD!

Permalink 10:15:19 am, Categories: Welcome, News, Background , Tags: astd, astd tk 2010, first impressions, thomas toth, tk 2010

I'm proud to say that I've witnessed a couple changes in the conference this year...all for the best.

1) Free Wireless - FINALLY, after 10 years of squawking, ASTD heard the masses and are providing free wireless throughout the conference center. As you may or may not know, many of us were tweeting non-stop about this last year. Its good to hear that someone was listening.

2) Expo is PACKED with vendors - 61 to be exact. That's the largest Expo we've ever had. In 2003 and 2004, we were struggling to get 20. So nice to see.

3) Seeing lots of people from previous conferences - does this mean that TK 2010 is turning into a repeatable conference? Data showed that for most folks attending this conference, it was their FIRST educational technology conference. Maybe not anymore! This is my 10th conference as a speaker, 11 total. I feel so old...someone called me an old timer yesterday...Hmm....


I'll be running around like a crazy man at ASTD TK 2010 this year (what else is new) and I look forward to seeing friends and associates I only see at these shows! If I haven't yet met you in person, PLEASE take a second to say hello. If you have a burning questions about eLearning technology, please come up and ask. I love to talk tech!

I have three main questions that I will be asking folks at the conference. These will also be a big part of the video blogging I will be doing on site. Here they are:

1) Is Crapid eLearning an issue for you in your firm? Almost a year ago, I predicted a decline in the quality and interactivity of eLearning programs because companies will no longer be investing the time and energy into high quality design and development of their online training programs. Instead, they spend $2000 on a piece of "do it yourself" eLearning development software and telling their ID and training folks to learn it and use it. Other bloggers have coined the phrase Crapid eLearning, and I like it so much, I'm going to continue the trend. However, I'm interested in hearing opinions about whether or not you are investing in big budget eLearning, or whether or not you have purchased a development tool to "rapidly develop" eLearning. Of course, your honest opinions about whether or not its Crapid eLearning s up to you!

2) Is SCORM and development standards such a big deal anymore? I don't know...they seem to have fallen out of favor. If so, what are all the LMS folks doing about it? I develop a ton of eLearning every year...only three or four programs have to be wrapped in a SCORM wrapper for delivery. What else is going on? Am I missing something?

3) Are we seeing a loosening of budgets around professional development, either stand up or via eLearning? Are companies still leaning towards a "wait and see" model? Have they opened the door for contractors/consultants again? Are job req's coming for Training and Development folks? I have folks I mentor and coach who are graduating MA Ed's and are wondering what the market will look like in 4-6 months when they walk down the aisle and flip their tassel. I'm the eternal optimist...I want to be able to give these folks real answers rather than the typical rosy Thomas perspective.

I'm at the airport getting on the plane to Vegas. The Force of Nature will be landing at 1:00 Vegas time...Look Out Sin City!!! Training and Development People are coming to TAKE OVER!!!


Quick Note: If you liked my Podcast interview with Roger Courville, then you will love his new book: The Virtual Presenter's Handbook. The book just got released and is available for you to purchase.

If you are looking to improve your ability as an online facilitator, or if your company is considering bringing synchronous learning to the firm, this book is fantastic.

A full table of contents is available here!

You can get more info and order the book by clicking here!


I am finishing up a series of web based eLearning projects where video segments play a major role in the delivery of the content. My client did not invest in a super expensive video camera, lights or sound system, but the video elements look good and the content more than makes up for the lower production quality. The challenge has been that each elearning project uses 6-8 video segments and I received 30 .MOD files all at the same time. How can I rapidly develop this eLearning with so much video to edit?

The .MOD files are the pure video files that get downloaded from the video camera's hard drive to your local computer. They are huge based on the amount of video recorded. My workflow for the conversion process is this:

1) Convert the MOD to MOV
2) Put into iMovie to edit out start and end content, and add fade to black at the start and finish
3) Convert the MOV to FLV

On my Mac, I convert the .MOD file to the .MOV file using an incredible piece of freeware software called FFMPEGX. It does a great job of converting the files and has a huge set of preset conversion settings. It reads a ton of formats and exports to a ton of formats. Its truly amazing bit of software for the Mac.

Why convert the .MOD to .MOV? Because I want to do some quick and dirty video editing and on my Mac, iMovie won't bring in the .MOD files. If I had the camera, I could download direct, but I don't so I have to convert. Also, the .MOD to .MOV conversion takes the file size down by 50%! A 30MB .MOD file is a 14MB .MOV file. For web distribution, the smaller the better.

iMovieIn iMovie, I upload all my .MOV files and then do the simple cuts and video fades. iMovie is great - it allows me to tweak color, brightness and other simple settings without cracking open the serious video editors. When I am done, I export out of iMovie using Quicktime and reduce the overall screen pixel size. My client sends me large video segments and I have to reduce them down to a more web friendly size. Doing it out of iMovie using Quicktime allows me to have yet another file size reduction. The 14MB video file is only 4.8MB now!

Then, I open up Quicktime Pro on its own to convert to .FLV. For some reason, a straight export to .FLV out of iMovie doesn't work for me, so I open up Quicktime directly to convert to the Flash video file. Converting from the .MOV to the .FLV is also yet a fourth reduction in overall file size. The 4.8MB .MOV file is now a 3.1MB Flash video file. WOW! From 30MB .MOD to 3.1MB .FLV in about 20 minutes.

Why don't I use the Adobe FLV Video Converter instead of Quicktime Pro? For me and my system, it takes twice as long to convert using the Adobe product than Quicktime Pro. When I am on a deadline, an extra 5 minutes per conversion can save me hours. As someone who stays up until the job is done, that can mean the difference between going to bed at 11 and going to be at 2:00 am!

This video process is quick and dirty and inexpensive. This "mini studio" I have on my Mac costs less than $150. iMovie comes with my iLife on my Mac, but I upgraded to iLife for $79, Quicktime Pro is $29.99 and FFMPEGX is FREE! That's a ton of video editing power for a little bit of money. Does it look professional? You bet! Is it the best solution for all situations? Nope. For longer video segments (these project segments are 2-3 min in length) then the big boy applications will be the ticket. But, for these quick video jobs, the "mini studio" is all I need.


It's been a while since I had a podcast, but I am setting a new one up for this upcoming weekend! My topic will be Learning Management Systems (LMS). Love them or hate them, they can be an important tool in any organization. For the tracking, storage and reporting on learner activity, they can be an amazing asset.

However, they can also be a major pain in the butt! From installation issues, vendors over-promising (that never happens anymore does it???) to data integration and SCORM course issues, LMSs can be a nightmare.

I have an expert lined up who will demystify LMSs, talk about the reality of the LMS and hopefully give you new ways of thinking about this software. Keep your eye on this soon as I am able to get into the studio, the new podcast will be up!


One of the most important elements to include in any eLearning project is a way to display current page numbers and total page numbers for your learners. Adults like finish lines, and there is something comforting about knowing how many pages you will need to work through when taking eLearning, as well as knowing where you are inside the eLearning program: "Page 10 of 100" feels different than "Page 98 of 100".

I used to do it all with regular old text fields in Flash, but with ActionScript 3.0, there are some calls you can make to identify where the user is at on the time-line. Combine this with a design methodology and a couple dynamic text boxes and you can create something that is quickly customized and scalable.

First, from a methodology perspective, you need to decide that each single frame of your Flash movie will be a single page in your eLearning project. You can have content and interactive media built into Movie Symbols, so you don't have to feel tied down to the single frame, but choosing to utilize the embedded symbols onto a single frame can help you better organize your overall project. This, by the way, is my preferred style of programming - a 30 frame eLearning project feels like 30 "screens" to the end user. Even though there is a ton of content dropped into Movie Symbols on each frame, this method works best for me and my development methodology.

Second, you need to add the ActionScript necessary to identify frame location. The ActionScript:


identifies where the user is on the time-line, while the ActionScript:


looks at the total number of frames in the movie.

Applying the code takes a bit of a twist, but once you think through it, its easy - when the user moves to a new frame (ala Next or Back button), then refresh the page counter and re-populate the current frame.

I create my page counter on a single layer with a Back button, Dynamic Text field (current frame), Dynamic Text field (total frames) and then a Next button.

I start with setting up the variable names like so:

var frames:Number;
var totals:Number;

This sets up the variables and then pulls the data from currentFrame and totalFrames into those variables.

Then, I have to set up my Dynamic Text variables:


I have two Dynamic Text fields named myLocation and myTotalPages. Variables called as numbers do not display in Dynamic Text fields, so I have to convert them to text by re-categorizing them as Strings. I know...silly step, but it is the only way to take the number variables and display them as text.

Then, I add the code for my Back and Next button listeners:

next_but.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK, goNext);
back_but.addEventListener(MouseEvent.CLICK, goBack);

And then the functions for the Back and Next buttons:

function goNext(event:MouseEvent):void {
function goBack(event:MouseEvent):void {

Notice I use nextFrame() and prevFrame() to move the user back and forth. Also, I recall the


variable and then re-populate the Dynamic Text box with that updated data.



doesn't update, as the user cannot control how many pages are in the total project, but if you, as the developer, want to add more frames, you don't need to reprogram the page counter. Some designers manually put the total number of pages in as a generic Text box, but adding and removing frames means you would need to change that number on each page. Using


allows it to be dynamically generated at run time, regardless of the total size of the project.

I'm sorry I've been away for so long...traveling around the United States teaching and speaking keeps me busy, but I hope this entry is helpful to you.

If you want to see this in action, fully functional, download the Flash CS4 .swf and .fla file here!


Pixel LayoutI've been working with some print designers on making the transition from print to web media. I realized that many instructional designers may be facing the same situation, so I thought I should post about the differences between designing for print display and designing for web display.

The main difference between the two media is the way in which size and dimensions are measured. For print, the units of measurement is points and inches - on the web, its all about the pixels.

For your print work, you measure out your page size (8.5" X 11") and you know that a 4.25" image will take up half the page width and display at exactly 4.25" wide. On the web, you don't have that level of control. You have to set your picture to display at a certain size (400 pixels wide), but that's about all the control you have about the way it displays.

Let me talk a little bit about pixels for a second... A pixel is a single square of color, arranged on a grid - it is the smallest unit of measurement on a computer screen. The challenge we face as designers is that that the actual "unit of measurement" changes size based on the computer screen used to display the image.

Your typical computer laptop displays at 1280X1024. Do you ever wonder what that means? That means that there are 1280 pixels going lengthwise on your laptop screen, and 1024 pixels going along the height of the screen.

You probably know that the higher "resolution" is better, but all you are doing when you increase resolution is increase the number of pixels that are crammed onto the screen, resulting in smaller graphic files and smaller text and icons. Also, you may experience a distortion of your images on monitors that are working hard to display at a higher or lower resolution than "native" because it has to compensate for resizing the pixels.

An image that is 400 pixels wide will take up half the screen size on a monitor set to 800X600. An image that is 400 pixels wide will take a little more than a third when displaying on a monitor at 1024X768. The same image file will display differently depending on the computer screen that displays it.

That can be very frustrating to designers used to the concrete measurements of print. It is almost impossible to set a screen layout to display "a 1 inch border around the outside of the main content on the page." Instead, its possible to say display "a 100 pixel border around the outside of the main content on the page." That can be set easily, but know that depending on the user's machine and resolution settings, those 100 pixels will take up a lot of space, or just a little.

If you are a print designer, getting used to the abstract medium of pixels over exact measurements can take a bit of time. Know that getting it to look perfect on your screen can create a mash up of ugliness on a different screen. Experiment with different resolutions to ensure your final product looks close to your final vision.

Of course, users can change their browser settings to display different font types, turn off images and flash objects and disable link functions when surfing into your pages, but that's a topic for another time!


I was at a client location all last week, co-facilitating a customer service training program being rolled out to the entire organization. It is a huge undertaking, involving more than 15 trainers, 5 contractors and over 14,000 employees. While on a break, I had an interesting conversation with one of the participants who found out about my passion for eLearning. He was kind of an older learner...I wouldn't describe him as Gen Y at all! He turned his head to one side and looked at me with a bit of suspicion. He asked "What can you REALLY teach with a computer?"

Of course, it got me thinking. What can we really teach with a computer? In fact, this simple question turned my head around and in a most peculiar way, I started thinking about the bigger question: What can we really teach?

Read more »


Graphic design programs have some critical functions for the eLearning developer. As far as I am concerned, these are the must have functions for anything I am going to use or install.

  • Web Optimization - reducing 300+dpi images down to 72 dpi jpg, gif or png format.
  • Crop and Resize - alter the image itself, tweezing the good from the bad
  • Basic Photo Editing - drawing and painting tools to get rid of red eye, lines, junk/dust on the frame etc.

I use Photoshop on the Mac and love it, but it really is the 400lb gorilla. It does so many things, but when all is boiled down, those three functions are what I use most. Yes, I develop interfaces from scratch and do a variety of other web related graphics development, but it all boils down to web optimization and image editing. Let's see what I found on the web that can perform these basic functions "in the cloud."

Picnik is similar to iPhoto in a lot of ways. You can tweak your photos, crop, resize and add text and special effects within the browser. You upload your photo and you get a variety of simple editing tools: rotate, crop, resize, exposure, color, sharpen and red-eye removal. When you are done editing, you can save the picture to a scrapbook, your computer or even to lots of social networking sites like Facebook and Flickr. You can save as jpg, gif or png, as well as tif and bmp and re-size them on export. It was really fast and really free!

For $24.95 per year, you get more effects, fonts, collages and ad free working. Is it worth it? If you don't want to pay $699 for Photoshop and just want to edit your pictures, you bet. I was very impressed with it. Even though it matched my three main criteria, I couldn't create anything from scratch, or combine pictures together to make my own collage. It was templated, which is fine for most users.

FotoFlexer calls itself the "world's most advanced online image editor". I had some issues uploading my picture from the main page, but I clicked "edit a sample photo" and it opened OK. I was then able to upload my test picture. Weird...maybe it doesn't like Macs or Firefox.

However, after I got in using the sample photo, I was able to upload my test photo without a hitch. Once I got in, I really liked it. You can have multiple photos on the work area and manipulate them independently. What I really thought was cool were the effects: bronze, sepia, old photo, painting etc. They were not at the level of sophistication as our friend Photoshop can do, but for an online app, they were tremendous.

Something else I liked about FotoFlexer was the ability to recognize multiple photos as "layers". You can apply opacity and flip stacking order, and this was a nice feature if you want to create your own collages. Rotating and cropping and resizing was also a snap.

Once I got in, FotoFlexer was a very, very sweet online app.

However cool both of these applications are, I was left hungry for an online tool that can help me design web or eLearning interfaces in the cloud. I found lots of tools that will develop a web page for you (Google Sites) , but nothing that will allow me to draw buttons, create backgrounds or set up a flat page as an interface for my eLearning projects. Lots of cool things for picture editing, but not so much for drawing an interface.

I did find some software for actually drawing (Artpad, QueekyPaint and a whole bunch at the Ag Design blog but nothing that allows me to create the sophisticated interfaces my eLearning clients expect.


I spoke to a group recently about multimedia development for eLearning, and the importance of story-boarding your eLearning project came up. We moved from storyboarding multimedia and animation elements to the entire project. Do I think it is important to storyboard your eLearning? Yes. Do I think you have to grind out every detail in a storyboard? I think it depends on two things:

  1. The relationship between the storyboarder/designer, the deveopler and the sponsor
  2. The experience level of the developer

Read more »


During my ASTD Essentials webinar series this past week, several people asked about the fundamentals of good eLearning design and where they could go to learn the basics of good eLearning design. I joked that I can teach you to mash buttons in Flash, Dreamweaver and Photoshop, but I can't teach you to have that "eye". However, there are some resources that can give you a jump start.

Technology for Trainers
by Thomas Toth (Me)
Yeah, I have to start with my book. Sorry about the shameless plug. It's really a great foundational book that's easy to read. It's only 182 pages and I have a whole chapter dedicated to the elements of a good interface. However, if you want to dive into a monster of a book, then:

Designing Web-Based Training: How to Teach Anyone Anything Anywhere Anytime
by William Horton
This is a monster book - 640 pages - but its really good stuff. This book has been called a good reference book, I find it chock full of ideas on developing good eLearning.

Multimedia Based Instructional Design
by William Lee and Diana Owens
While a bit dated (original printing was 2000, this is the 2004 update), this book provides you with the templates, storyboards and other paper-based tools to help you organize your multimedia and online learning elements. I used this quite a bit during my early years.

Anything by Michael Allen
Michael Allen is widely considered to be an eLearning guru. I find his books excite me and challenge the way I think. Although I challenge some of the things he says, suggests and does, I find that anyone who can make me think is someone I enjoy associating with.

There are also some very good books on web design in general, but from an eLearning perspective, these are good places to start!

Would anyone be interested in videos, tutorials or seminars on the elements of good eLearning design? I hope to put some of this stuff on (the stinky Joomla project...still in development...grr...), but what about synchronous sessions? Maybe an online class or two? Let me know if you would be interested in something like this. Post a comment or contact me directly!

Now, go build something cool!


This tutorial was my presentation at the ASTD TK 08 show in San Antonio Texas. While running the creation stations at this year's conference, many people asked me about the materials I used for last year's session. Yes, the main interface is CS3, not the current CS4, but ActionScript hasn't changed. Therefore, this manual can be very helpful if you are making the bridge to AS 3.0 from AS 2.0, or you want to just get started with AS 3.0.

Foundational ActionScript 3.0 with Flash CS3 for the Online Learning Developer
ASTD TK 2008

Module 1: Communicating with ActionScript
Module 2: Using and Writing Functions
Module 3: Basic Interactivity
Module 4: Decision Making
Module 5: Text and Text Fields
Module 6: Video and Audio
Module 7: Creating Online Learning

In Module 7, I have created two (2) sample AS 3.0 eLearning interfaces that can be used to easily drop in content. The first one (Template 001) is a single .swf file and it is a time-line based, "menu on the left" driven course. It is a single file which is quick and easy to use. Functions included in interface 001:

  • Clicking on a button and going to a URL
  • Clicking on a button and going to the next frame
  • Clicking on a button and going to a previous frame
  • Dynamically pulling data about frame position and total frame numbers
  • A movie clip code changing properties of the parent movie

The .fla and .swf code is in the module 7/template001 directory.

The second interface is a bit more advanced. It consists of a single .swf file containing the menu and interface elements. However, when the user clicks on the menu, it dynamically loads the new module .swf files into itself. I used to use this technique in AS 2.0 all the time:


It was my favorite function!

Unfortunately, they killed it in AS 3.0.XX( This template contains the code for building eLearning using AS 3.0 that mirrors the functionality I used to enjoy in AS 2.0. Functions included in Interface 002:

  • Clicking on a button and going to a URL
  • Clicking on a button and going to the next frame
  • Clicking on a button and going to a previous frame
  • Dynamically pulling data about frame position and total frame numbers
  • Dynamically loading new .swf files into the main file
  • Independent controls existing inside of a loaded .swf
  • A movie clip code changing properties of the parent movie

The .fla and .swf code for the start page and all the additional pages is in the module 7/template002 directory.

This course took a lot of time and work to complete. I offer you these two templates so that they can potentially shave a ton of time off of your eLearning development, or provide you with code snippets to use in your own projects. Please feel free to download and use as you see fit.

However I ask you:

  1. Please don't mass distribute in your office - don't make a ton of copies and give them to all your friends
  2. Please don't use it to teach a class - don't download it and then use it as your own course materials
  3. Please don't use download it and then distribute it off of your web site
  4. If you found it useful and it saved you time, please add a comment to this page - it helps my SEO
  5. If this was crazy helpful and it saved your bacon at 3:00 am, please consider a donation. It encourages me to continue posting these types of tutorials and helpful files, as well as creating new ones for your use as an eLearning developer

Thanks and enjoy the tutorial! And if you donate, thank you very much for the contribution!

Download the file - 23 MB zip file


Permalink 01:54:21 pm, Categories: Welcome, Software, Rants , Tags: joomla, joomla project

I found a tutorial online...I'm gonna follow it and see if I can get the Great Joomla Project off the ground.

Wish me luck!


As always, ASTD put on a great show in Vegas. I am looking forward to following up with all the new people I met and learned with. I cannot wait until '10!

I had three sessions I conducted: Two Creation Stations and a Tech Intensive. I have to say that the Tech Intensive was a blast. I had about 80 people in the room, and we talked at length about the Adobe CS4 Web Suite. 90% of it went well, but I had one SoundBooth snafu and one Flash ActionScript 3.0 snafu. Before the session, I said to myself that I'd create an interaction using ActionScript 2.0 because I know that cold, but then reminded myself that I made a pact to only program in ActionScript 3.0. I know how to get things built, but some of the calls are still new to me. I forgot to add the


to my function call. Grr...Oh well. We laughed and got it working when I finally relaxed enough to think clearly. Building a site in the privacy of your office is much different than building in front of a room of learners!

Here are links to my materials from the sessions. If you were not able to attend, I understand! Here are the materials in PDF format:

Creation Station
Flash CS4: Get a Taste of ActionScript 3.0 Hands On! : PDF File

Tech Intensive
Integrating Adobe Creative Suite to Maximize E-Learning Development
PDF File
PowerPoint File

Also, if you attended my Tech Intensive, you remember that we built a "New Hire Orientation" online guide for Tommy Gun's Garage, a dinner theater and "speakeasy" out of Chicago. I thought you might like to see what I built for the client.

View the comp here.

Its just the prototype in a flat Photoshop file, but you can see what a little time and attention can do for good web design.

Thanks for talking with me, laughing with (at) me and having a great time in Vegas at the ASTD TK show.

Now, go build something cool!

P.S. I haven't forgotten to put the David Pogue Web 2.0 list up from the first day of the conference...It will be up soon...


Ok...I'm beginning to see a pattern here - everyone is talking about Web 2.0 and how we must, must, must start implementing this technology into our eLearning. Here are a couple observations about Web 2.0 and the feedback I've been receiving from people I am meeting at the conference:

  1. Majority of folks I'm talking with have loved learning about Web 2.0 because they didn't know about it until now. What? This was very surprising to me..but then again...this ASTD show tends to attract the newer developers, managers and people just getting started in eLearning.
  2. Some of this will not be used, no matter how cool. OK, I'm talking specifically about Second Life. I wanted to love it. I wanted to get my brain around how to use it. Unfortunately, I experienced it first hand and it was an epic fail. Not because it didn't work, but because what I saw made me want to scream. I spoke with a Second Life facilitator (someone who uses it to teach classes) and she said that "People want to play when they are in Second Life. If we schedule a three hour Second Life class, we know we will only be able to cover 90 minutes." What? What a waste of time. I wanted to root for it, but I predict it will be dead in 2 years.
  3. Podcasting rocks! I have been speaking with people who have been raving about Jonathan Halls and Sharon Halls podcasting session. They took 90 minutes and explained every aspect of a good podcast and people are excited. Podcasting is easy to do, easy to produce, has a huge impact on your learners and is a way to present content in a unique way. Shameless, unasked for plug: Jonathan and Sharon's company is Talkshow Communication, Ltd. I've never met them, but they took the mystery out of good podcasts and many people have raved about them to me.

I've been a fan of incorporating Web 2.0 for a long time (earlier posts here talk about it), but am impressed with how ASTD has embraced this stuff, are featuring this stuff and really pushing the envelope at this conference. I've been involved with TK since 2001, and a large share of the sessions have always been presented by Theorists. I'm a "Do-er-ist". I am very proud of the conference ASTD put together this year - the sessions are timely, well received and people are walking away with a good set of skills they can go back to the office and use.

I have one more session I am presenting tomorrow - I am talking about the Adobe CS4 Web Suite and demoing how all the software works together to build elearning. It will be great fun.


Permalink 12:00:14 pm, Categories: Welcome

Day 1: ASTD TK

I just got out of the opening session, and its Web 2.0 over and over again. Tony Bingham, President of ASTD kicked things off very well - pushing the audience to get into Web 2.0 stuff. I was surprised - not much of the audience of well over 1000 people hadn't connected the Web 2.0 movement to their training initiatives. It looks as if this ASTD crowd is still figuring out how to get their content to talk with their LMS and keeping their learners engaged, and few have made the leap to interactive learning. That's what Web 2.0 is all about...getting uses plugged in and engaged with EACH OTHER for information, content and discussion.

Tony talked at length about Twitter; about how it should be changing the way information is shared within an organization. I'm thinking about it...still wrapping my head around it...I signed up and have an account to please link to me! I am figuring it out...maybe you can help.

Tony was followed by David Pogue. David was funny and had lots of information about Web 2.0 including some sites that I didn't know about. I'll be sharing later today. Of course, I found myself can we tie it to eLearning! David had lots of stories and links and such, but didn't tie it back to eLearning. After I review my notes and post, I hope I will be able to tie some things together.

So far, its been great. I'll have additional posts throughout the day, be tweeting about the sessions and adding information to my Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. Connect with me if you could not be here for ASTD TK 09.

P.S. I've lined up my next Podcast interview...who wants to know about synchronous learning?


Permalink 10:21:37 pm, Categories: Welcome, News, Software, Getting Started, Podcast

ASTD TK 09I'm very excited about ASTD TK 09 this year. I'm looking for some new ideas and new ways of thinking and programming, and I hope that you will tune into my daily reporting from the conference. I plan on writing each day, providing you with "on the scene" details, information and opinions.

Also, I am happy to be presenting on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning. I will be sharing my presentation notes and materials on this site. I have a fun ActionScript 3.0 primer and an analysis and demonstration of the Adobe Creative Suite 4, specifically Flash, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Fireworks and Soundbooth. I know...the eLearning Suite just came out...why don't I feature that? Two reasons:

  1. ASTD already published the conference materials
  2. My MacBook Pro can't run Captivate or Presenter without Parallels and an installation of Windows. My Mac Pro has the Windows "Virus" installed on it, and I just cannot bear to subject my mobile silver brain to that kind of abuse. ;)

More news: Tomorrow morning, I am recording the first edition of the Trainers Talk Tech's Podcast. I'm interviewing an expert in the area of electronic social networking. I'm interested in her opinions about the trend and the methods and implications for the eLearning developer. Look for links to the podcast links soon.


Permalink 05:56:51 pm, Categories: Welcome

When computers first entered into the training world, we had many different names for the projects, but the most popular name (the one that stuck) was CBT - Computer Based Training. CBTs were delivered on CD-ROMs, had lots of cool graphics and interfaces. Some of the better ones incorporated video and audio. Most of the big, expensive ones were programmed by hand using high-level programming languages or using a program like Authorware. These CD-Based training courses were great, could be very interactive and were a staple for training groups that could afford to have them. They were big, expensive and difficult to create.

Then, the Web arrived.

Read more »


This is a web log dedicated to the training and development professional who is looking to get into the world of online learning. It's a completely new skill set, and many people I talk with are scared, nervous and, quite frankly, don't know where to begin. That's where this site comes in!

As this site grows and develops, I hope to pride you with ways to think about your eLearning, tools for helping you develop your eLearning and ways to take new, emerging and existing technology and put it into your eLearning. After all, with very few exceptions,no one is creating technology exclusively for learning.

Think about it...did people invent the telephone for learning purposes? The web? The iPhone? WebEx? What about RSS feeds, blogs, podcasting, second life, HTML, Joomla, Flash, etc. All of these are amazing technologies, and I hope to help you think about them and how to incorporate them into your online learning.

I'm very opinionated. I'm very open to good discussion. I'm very passionate about online learning. Thank you for stopping by. I hope that I can give you something to think about!

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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