Working on e-Learning projects

Working on e-Learning projects

I have been quite remiss in posting, and my proposed site redesign obviously hasn’t been completed. Honestly, the main drive behind updating and redesigning my site was to find a job when I was unemployed. After I found full-time employment in September I lost my main motivation to blog. Now that I’ve been working in that job for a few months I’ve learned some things worth sharing.

I currently work for a precision agriculture company and my role is to create the online training materials to educate their dealers. Precision agriculture was totally new to me when I took the position and it’s actually a really fascinating field. Today, however, I’d like to focus on what I’ve learned about designing and publishing e-Learning content.

I don’t know if this is true for everyone who designs e-Learning courses, but since I am THE e-learning person at the company I must have a diverse skill set. Throughout a normal week these are some of the titles you could attribute to the work I do:

  • Instructional Designer – The most important part of my job is making sure that the student engages with the material and comes away learning the key points we want them to understand. I figure out the overall approach for presenting the material and everything else in this list is necessary to support this end goal.
  • Graphic Designer – I find (Open Clip Art Library or Flickr), edit, or create graphics and illustrations using GIMP and Inkscape. Create visual layouts for pages and content.
  • Writer / Director – I script the course and supplemental videos, then direct the screencast or video.
  • Voice Actor / Sound Engineer – I record myself doing the narration for the course content, then remove noise, normalize the volume, and trim clips using Audacity.
  • Video Editor – I edit video clips, add audio and soundtracks, and incorporate still images and callouts using Camtasia.
  • Animator – Many concepts are more easily explained with short animations. I create these using PowerPoint for short WMV files, or GIMP for animated GIFs. (I plan to upload some examples in the near future.)
  • Web Designer – I use a software suite called Lectora to create and publish the overall e-Learning course. The pages are published as HTML and JavaScript, and my understanding of both languages has made the process easier, especially when designing interactive games and quizzes.
  • Web Administrator – I upload the final product to Absorb LMS, our Learning Management System. Configuring the LMS is much like using Drupal or other content management systems. You can get by without knowing much of the behind-the-scenes tech, but understanding and introducing a solid information architecture will make long-term management of the system easier.

I’ve found that I can really thrive and enjoy this role as a producer of online training content because it incorporates so many of my interests, especially uniting education and design. Do you or anyone you know create e-Learning content? How many of these responsibilities do you have?

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Site redesign in the works

Site redesign in the works

Since I’m currently between jobs I am expanding my skill set by taking Treehouse courses in the hope of making myself a better job candidate. Up-to-now I’ve been entirely self-taught in web design, so I knew there were gaps in my knowledge that I should fill. Most of the HTML courses have been review, but the CSS classes are blowing my mind. There’s so much I didn’t learn about selectors and combinators, plus best practices for writing stylesheets. Once I finish the HTML/CSS classes I plan to learn some Javascript, PHP, and possibly Ruby. If you’re interested in some self-guided learning, I’d definitely recommend Treehouse. It’s only $25/month for unlimited access to all of the course videos, quizzes, and projects and you can use my discount code so your first month is 50% off.

After learning some new tricks, I’m inspired to redesign my portfolio and website. Unfortunately, since this site is hosted on WordPress.com I’m limited in how much I can customize it. Thereore it will take some time for me to sign up for a new host and get everything transferred over and customized. I realized that this would also be a good chance to demonstrate some UX skills, so I’m documenting the process from the rough sketch < low-fidelity mock-up < high-fidelity prototype. See all the steps below for my new homepage design.  The featured image at the top show’s my high-fidelity prototype created with HTML/CSS.

Sketch done on graph paper with a pen. Outlines the various sections and their relative sizes.

Sketch done on graph paper with a pen. Outlines the various sections and their relative sizes.

Low-fidelity mock-up created using Basalmiq. Shows rough UI design using placeholder text.

Low-fidelity mock-up created using Basalmiq. Shows rough UI design using placeholder text.

Notice that some revisions have been made between versions. That’s expected as the design evolves. Let me know what you think! I’m working hard to implement the new site design as soon as I am able.

How many clicks?

How many clicks?

In healthcare IT “click counts” are a big deal to physicians. They literally cheer if you announce that you’ve updated your interface so there are 20% fewer clicks to complete a workflow. Every time I hear someone talk about number of clicks I can’t help but roll my eyes. Clicks by themselves are a meaningless statistic, and really have nothing to do with usability. A user might click around many extra times if the interface is clumsy and they have no idea how to complete their task.

Anyway, rant aside, all of the talk of “how many clicks” brought to mind the old Tootsie Roll Pop commercial from my childhood. I thought it would make a funny t-shirt for software testers to show Mr. Owl destroying a computer with just 3 clicks. Here’s what I came up with using Inkscape. Maybe I should look into getting it printed, I think it turned out pretty well!

Motion Graphic: My Career Path

I’m working on expanding my portfolio, so I put together this motion graphic as an example of my talents. I created the pictures of “me” and my various work attire using Inkscape. I was really impressed with how much I’ve picked up on editing vector images. The brunt of the work, including animation was done in PowerPoint. I realize that PowerPoint isn’t the ideal tool for creating high quality motion graphics, but it’s the tool I currently know how to use. I hope that it demonstrates that I understand some fundamental aspects of creating animated graphics, and that I have a good eye for layout and design.

It’s a two-for-one win as far as my portfolio goes because it shows an example of a motion graphic I created and it explains about my background and interests. Here it is:

So what do you think? And do you have an recommendations for a more robust software option? I’ve heard of Synfig Studio and Processing as  free, open-source options, but I haven’t had a change to play around either. Or is there really nothing out there that compares to Adobe After Effects?

 

Scientific Research Posters

Scientific Research Posters

As mentioned in previous posts, I used to be a chemistry graduate student. Through my undergraduate education and grad school I designed and presented several posters about my research. I also compiled the recruitment poster for my graduate research group,  redesigning most of the graphics using Inkscape. I had a gradual awakening to the fact that design is what I wanted to do, but if you look at these posters you can tell that it’s been a passion of mine for many years. I think the posters also show the progress and development of my design skills. They aren’t the flashiest things, but if you’ve ever been to a scientific conference you’d know that they’d stand out from the crowd.

I used PowerPoint for layout of the posters, Gimp for photo editing, and Inkscape to create the other graphics. They are listed below in chronological order. The featured image at the top is full size 56″ x 42″, and was presented at the CIBP Conference in August 2010.

ISU REU research

Full size 56″ x 42″, presented at ACS conference in April 2008

Cornell College Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society

Full size 56″ x 42″, presented at ACS conference in April 2008

Blackwell Group - UW Madison - Recruiting

Full size 56″ x 45″, presented at recruiting poster session in Spring 2011

Workshop: Make Visually Stunning PowerPoints

I’ve been using PowerPoint since I was in middle school; I was kind of a weird kid and thought it was fun to make presentations. After so many years of using PowerPoint, I’ve learned a few tricks. My current company is pretty big on internal training so I developed this course to teach my colleagues how to use PowerPoint as an expert. I start with some examples to get them excited about the possibilities and then I take them through step-by-step demos with the slide master, text, autoshapes, images, animations, and action buttons. After each topic I gave attendees time to play around with the feature and ask questions. I’ve taught the workshop 4 times, and my colleagues all had super positive feedback about the experience. The course had a 3.7 out of 4 rating.

I’ve uploaded all of the materials to SlideShare.net:

  • Lecture presentation, including demo slides that are distributed to workshop attendees so they can follow along (embedded below)
  • Training companion that summarizes the workshop content (embedded below)
  • PowerPoint cheat sheet, shows the different ribbons in PowerPoint 2010 and highlights different features

 

 

Workshop: Image Editing for Beginners

My current company is pretty big on internal training. I developed this course on Gimp to teach my colleagues about the differences in file formats, and basic image editing. It also includes a teaser for Inkscape and vector graphics. I’ve taught the course 4 times with attendees from all different roles, from software developer to chef. I received rave reviews for my teaching style and the course content, with an average rating for 3.8 out of 4.
The workshop is about 2 hours long. I start with a lecture on image file types, including color, transparency, and image quality due to compression method. Then I lead step-by-step demos using Gimp and provide time for attendees to practice the techniques on their own images. I wrap it up by discussing resolution as it related to images viewed on screen and images that will be printed.

I’ve uploaded all the class materials on SlideShare.net: