New e-learning developers: what do they need to know?

I'm sort of new to e-learning and some of my colleagues are even newer. I'm trying to put together a list of stuff that newbies should know when they're writing their first course.

So far, here are a few things on my list:

  • Use Presenter's record narration tool, instead of recording with PowerPoint.
  • If you add a movie, use the Insert Flash movie option on the Presenter toolbar (not PowerPoint's insert menu)
  • Leave all your animations as on-click, and don't worry about setting their timing in PowerPoint's animation timeline. You can do that easier with Presenter's sync animations tool.
  • When you're ready to publish & test, choose the publish option that matches the environment where you'll be using the course (i.e., web if it'll be online, or CD if it'll be local, or LMS if you plan on uploading it to your LMS). Then put your published output there, and test from there. (I learned this the hard way - I kept getting funky behavior because I'd publish for web but then test from my hard drive.)
  • Set up your file structure ahead of time to keep stuff organized. I like the suggestions in this post from Tom: http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/how-to-organize-manage-your-e-learning-course-files/ 

What other things would you add?

23 Replies
Hugh Gardner

A word of advice for all new to this field people, if you don't like learning all the time, you will get left behind by technology, even more so than many other IT fields.  This field is changing all the time, and you need to be prepared to move with it and augment your skills with new ones on a continual basis. 

David Anderson

Hugh Gardner said:

  This field is changing all the time, and you need to be prepared to move with it and augment your skills with new ones on a continual basis. 


It can be exhausting, right? One of Seth Godin's quotes I always liked was something around, "If you're always changing, trying something new, then change is never a big deal".

That's especially true for elearning designers. So many times we get locked into a design model and never appreciate just how many ways there are to design elearning. But that's why user communities are so valuable; they keep us connected.

James Brown

What I find interesting is how differently people think. If you watch Apple's Steve Job's  Key Note presentation on the Iphone. It's clear, concise and you know what he's talking about.

Not sure what the heck Bill is trying to say here? Also if you really take a look at Job's presentations they tend to fall in the realm of e-learning and not e-confusion as demonstrated below by Mr. Bill. "Oh No Mr. Bill.." "Not the old information overload scenario."

David Anderson

James Brown said:

Not sure what the heck Bill is trying to say here? Also if you really take a look at Job's presentations they tend to fall in the realm of e-learning and not e-confusion as demonstrated below by Mr. Bill. "Oh No Mr. Bill.." "Not the old information overload scenario."


LOL I forgot about that one - classic!

RC -

Hello Mr. Veasey -

I'm pretty new to the eLearning field as well, we have just gotten started on a new project and I'm very excited.

From one new person to another, my advice is to know your target audience well.  What do they like, What do they dislike,
How can you make their lives easier?

Our current client wants to keep the target audience broad - which I think will cause problems for us down the road -
but what can you do? I can make suggestions and recommendations all day long, but in the end they call the shots.

Anyhow - Good luck with your new role!

James Brown

Your assessment tools should help you with the audience. Just make sure you encompass the entire spectrum including learners with hearing and vision impairment. I know when I was first developing some multi-media productions I did not understand why we had to include text scripting but for hearing impaired individuals who cannot hear your audio message, closed caption is very important.

Kevin Thompson

Hi everyone -

One suggestion I would offer to a new elearning developer is:  for narrated courses, don't underestimate the importance and value of an excellent learner-focused script, engaging readers, and good quality sound.

Lack of attention to any one of those elements can reduce effectiveness.

Another suggestion would be to have fun. Dare to try something different/unique to help your learners retain key information.

David Anderson

Kevin Thompson said:

One suggestion I would offer to a new elearning developer is:  for narrated courses, don't underestimate the importance and value of an excellent learner-focused script, engaging readers, and good quality sound.


Awesome points Kevin!

The scripts can make a big difference especially since most courses aren't narrated by professional voice actors. The pros can  make less stellar words come to live, but for the average speaker it's not so easy.

Kevin Thompson

Sure, David - we've tried a lot of new things with a recent course for foster parents.  Here's one example:

We asked our SME to convert a face-to-face activity that was known to be very powerful into a format that we could develop into an eLearning story.  If you look at it briefly you might say, "Yeah, that's kind of interesting."  But when you really focus on the story from beginning to end as a learner would (in this case the learner is a current or prospective foster parent), it triggers an emotional response (at least that's what we're finding).

The example starts on slide 21 of the following module:

http://wcwpds.wisc.edu/foster-parent-training/m4/player.html

Zara Ogden

Her is my two cents from a trial and error point of view...meaning I did this don't you do it...lol

1. Familiarize your self with your tools. Test them and play with them outside of the current project. I create Sesame Street test presentations to try out new features or tools.

2. Have a plan. Having a good plan before you touch PowerPoint is always the best advice. I have a Design Document that outlines the program. It includes: 

a) Topic and Objective

b) Key steps/facts with detail (research)

c) Script Draft

d) Lesson Plan that outlines media and tools to be used (interactions, quizzes, video, picture ideas)

e) Quiz questions

3. Create your colour pallet and visual concepts... Mind Map

4. Get plan approved

5. Have fun and design

6. Get non audio program approved

7. Record Audio

8. Do a big reveal with multiple persons (all those who will approve and the SME's)

9. Fix all the stuff the said was wronge

10. Perfecto! You are an eLearning Hero!

Zara Ogden

Kevin Thompson said:

Sure, David - we've tried a lot of new things with a recent course for foster parents.  Here's one example:

We asked our SME to convert a face-to-face activity that was known to be very powerful into a format that we could develop into an eLearning story.  If you look at it briefly you might say, "Yeah, that's kind of interesting."  But when you really focus on the story from beginning to end as a learner would (in this case the learner is a current or prospective foster parent), it triggers an emotional response (at least that's what we're finding).

The example starts on slide 21 of the following module:

http://wcwpds.wisc.edu/foster-parent-training/m4/player.html


That is beautiful and tragic.

Congratulations to being innovative and practical.

Gerry Wasiluk

We try to preach that one of the first things beginning developers should learn is the difference between creating e-learning PRESENTATIONS and creating e-learning COURSES.

In many ways, there is where Presenter being in PowerPoint is sometimes a "challenge."  Beginners, especially if SMEs or non-formally trained developers, tend to go into PowerPoint presentation mode in their courses,  as we discussed in ye olde forums.

In fact, even traditional stand-up trainers often do that.  Drag the old PowerPoint they've delivered for years and just publish with AP and not adapt at all for e-learning.

Gerry Wasiluk

Two more things, one of which was discussed before . . .

1) ALWAYS Test, test, test, test--especially when used with an LMS.  Never assume every course will work flawlessly.  Even with AP, as tremendous as Articulate has been at fixing issues over the years and adapting to technical changes, sometimes "stuff" happens.

2) Always know your environment and what you can and cannot do.  Ignorance is no excuse.  Work with your IT group and find what you can do and cannot do over the network.  NEVER EVER assume you free license to do anything in your course--like deliver huge, bandwidth-hungry huge Flash movies in your courses.

Creativity is working within the bounds and finding novel, innovative learning solutions.  Complete, unfettered freedom to do whatever you want is usually anarchy and a complete disregard for others.

Tom Wilson

Wow! There are so many things, which is exactly why it takes years and years to truly become proficient at elearning, and even then there's a ton to learn.

one suggestion I have is to subscribe to elearning blogs and stay current with what's happeningin the elearning community as a whole. the big push right now is Scenario based learning instead of static linear page-turners and a good way to learn about this is to explore the blogs and communities. here are a few to get you started:

The Rapid e-Learning Blog (of course)

TipGuy.com (e-Learning blog)

Cathy Moore's e-Learning Blog

Cammy Bean's Learning Visions

Good luck and welcome to the club!

Laura Lowden

David Anderson said:

Hugh Gardner said:

  This field is changing all the time, and you need to be prepared to move with it and augment your skills with new ones on a continual basis. 


It can be exhausting, right? One of Seth Godin's quotes I always liked was something around, "If you're always changing, trying something new, then change is never a big deal".

That's especially true for elearning designers. So many times we get locked into a design model and never appreciate just how many ways there are to design elearning. But that's why user communities are so valuable; they keep us connected.


I wanted to quote both of you as this is so very true.  I don't get the chance to actually practice and improve my skills at work, so I feel anxious that I'm going to be left behind.  I'm realizing I have to use more of my personal time to read forums, watch screenr videos, read blogs and catch up on all the twitter madness.  I have to say I do take a few minutes out a day at work to read the The Rapid eLearning Blog from Tom.  If I don't get to anything else, I at least read that. Almost every time one of the blogs comes out, I use one of his tips or ideas for a future project (which may or may not be a module).

I'd also suggest joining twitter and friending some of us there.  Some of the ideas and questions that come from others inspire me.