Learning for Instructional Design

I started out very excited to do some work with a classroom training and simultaneous webcast about power system regulation concepts for operators of regional control centers for wholesale electricity. It’s a very cool subject… if you’re into complicated math.

The biggest challenge is that I haven’t been in a math class since 2004, and although I loved calculus and wanted to be a mathematics teacher at one point, it’s still very difficult to figure out some of the concepts in this particular presentation, which is geared to electrical engineers. Ultimately, I know that I have a responsibility not just to make the hand-drawn diagrams of turbine generators look good in PowerPoint, but also to provide instructional design help. What’s the best way to present complicated formulas, without diluting the subject matter?

Props to Google – again. I had to learn more about a formula for generator speed, and so I simply typed it into Google: N=(120*f)/P. From there, it took me to a post on a site called control.com: http://www.control.com/thread/1026236301

What a fascinating and useful site for understanding control field functions – in my case, that means engineers that keep your electricity turned on, but at the regional level. I did go on a bit of a tangent last night, reading far too deep on one concept, but it gave me plenty of confidence to keep plugging away on things. It also helped to see what terms are being used by field operators, allowing me to start writing glossary terms early on in the game and start thinking about assignments.

The moral of this story is if you are not familiar with a topic, don’t let that stop you from taking a design job. Instructional Design is not being the expert in every field, but knowing how to interpret and present an expert’s opinion in the best way for learning.

And thank goodness for Google.

How to Start an e-Learning Project

I just received a great email with the age-old question – as an instructor of a classroom course, how do I get started converting my course to e-learning?  How do I find the tools I need?

Although there are many ways of accomplishing this, here’s my opinion on simple steps to get started:

I am fortunate in that we have subject matter experts that created the content I used for my project.  They used PowerPoint to develop their classroom presentations.  Many of our SMEs know how to make bullets and new slides in PowerPoint, and that’s okay.  We recorded their classroom content, and I transcribed the audio (not fun!!!!), which provided the initial script.  The PowerPoint provided the initial “graphics”.  If you already have your course in PowerPoint, you are well on your way to converting it to a web-based training.

Step one:  Get your classroom material into PowerPoint! Content, content, content!

Step 2:  Build your script.  If you need  a script but have “writer’s block”, record your actual classroom presentation for a working draft script.  Add the script into the Notes area in PowerPoint. Now you have both components needed for an e-learning course.  Note, sometimes audio is not recommended; however, coming from a disability services background, I prefer it 99% of the time.

Step 3:  Keep it Simple!  If you are not too familiar with your design tools, start with the basics.  My first videos weren’t all that pretty, but people loved the information I provided.  I like Articulate Studio because of the interactivity and because of the out-of-the-box professional look and feel, but there may be easier ways to convert your classroom.

FYI – PowerPoint 2010 will allow you to save a Presentation as a .wmv file, which can be uploaded to YouTube!  With no additional software or know-how, you can have a (non-interactive) training video, simply by doing a Save As in PowerPoint 2010!

Since I used Articulate Studio ’09 with huge success for my last project, I will give them a shameless plug here.  I love Tom Kuhlmann’s Rapid e-learning website: http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/.  Having no experience with Articulate prior to my last project, this site was indispensable. Tom’s blog has provided all kinds of free templates, free art, and solid expertise.  I cannot recommend it enough!

Step 4:  Get inspired!

After the basics were covered, to get ideas for my design, I used the winning entries from the Articulate Guru Awards for inspiration.  http://www.articulate.com/blog/and-the-winners-of-the-2010-articulate-guru-awards-are/.  There is some pretty cool stuff on there!  (working with another media designer helped, too!).  I was fortunate in that there were set design guidelines from ISO New England to get me started on the basic look and feel helped tremendously.

For my project, i took each bullet point and tried to break it into a separate slide.  A one-hour web training was over 120 slides, but it helped me think about each item.  I asked myself (and SMEs):  can I think of a good analogy for this item?  Is a picture popping into my head?

Step 5:  Use Google when stuck! Just about everything is doable, and just about everything has been done before and been posted online!  Search online for your answers and you will almost always find them.  I simply type my question into Google the same way I would ask another person.

Step 6:  Know where you will be publishing your course!  This is a lengthy topic, so I’ll be brief and vague.  If you have no interactivity and want to go completely public, YouTube is a quick and dirty way to get your web-training out there.  If you have an LMS available, or if your company has a website, then contact your IT department (or training department) for help on getting your WBT published.

Hopefully this information will help to get you started.