Choosing a new Learning Management System (LMS) is a big task. Which features do we need? What can we do without? I had to answer this question for a software company this month.
Time to do research! What do our top eLearning leaders have to say about this topic? In this blog, I will outline three top resources I found on my research journey.
My first major resource on the LMS journey was an informative and lively podcast from Connie Malamed, the eLearning Coach. In her podcast titled The Strategic Use of Learning Management Systems, John Leh of Talented Learning speaks to the strategies he uses to help his clients through the myriad of LMS vendors. John recommends concentrating on the training needs of the LMS with stakeholders, then searching for a vendor that fits the organization’s needs. In the podcast, John speaks to LMS integration with other critical systems as well as how to measure the success of the LMS after implementation. After listening to this podcast, I was ready for more.
My second major resource was finding Capterra’s comprehensive LMS software list. Capterra is a free service that helps organizations find the best software for their needs, receiving income through vendor clickthroughs. This list clearly shows the choice is not all about price or reputation. No single LMS can fit all. We must consider the organization’s needs first, identify the desired features, and then select the appropriate software.
My curiosity drove me to take a closer look at LMS features. My third major resource was finding an eLearning Industry blog from a well known eLearning leader. Christopher Pappas writes candidly about LMS features in an insightful article Highly Overrated LMS Features and Functions You Can’t Do Without published in April 2021. Live chat? Video chat? Integration with a certification program? Christopher summarizes why organizations should or should not consider each feature.
With these three resources in hand, I felt prepared to go to the next step of analyzing the organization as a whole to determine the needs of each group of learners.
I hope you enjoyed this blog as much as I enjoyed the research and learning from these talented professionals.
In the last few weeks, I have been exploring podcasting for myself and others, so this blog is to share a few tips with you about the first stage.
I have been producing audio for videos for a number of years. Personally, I am interested in seeing if podcasting might be a good channel for producing fast, high-quality, cost-effective eLearning.
In my project, I am working with two teams of people who are new to audio production and podcasting. So today, I will share with you some of the things I’m sharing with them as we travel down this road.
To start, we need written content, a script, a set of interview questions, a person to interview, a theme or topic. Some people can start with an outline, and make things up as we often hear in a webinar, live radio show or live podcast. Others have a formal message to convey, so they do better with a carefully curated written script.
In all of the cases I am working with today, we have good ideas for content based off blogs, training webinars, and live events. We are simply using podcasting as another way to share our message.
For today’s example, I wrote a short speech about Dr. Pat Selinger for PDXWIT.org for their October Happy Hour. So, I simply reused that speech to create this sample podcast.
Microphone and Sound Booth
To start, a quality microphone make a big difference. I learned this lesson the hard way. You get what you pay for in microphones. A poor quality mic increases one’s editing and recording time. A few years ago I spent about $150, and I own a professional Blue Yeti mic with pop filter. I am doing a prerecorded podcast that matches my video work, so I have my sound booth (version 3) set up in my office closet complete with padded walls and ceiling. The sound booth cost very little. It was mostly a matter of gathering things around the house to make a padded space to eliminate echo and ceiling noise. Closets full of clothing are an easy way to start.
Sound Editing Software
To keep it simple, I used my familiar video editor, TechSmith’s Camtasia, to produce this file. There are other software solutions for sound editing that I will explore in later blogs.
Music helps the listener in so many ways, giving them auditory cues as well as bringing emotion to the audio. Professional podcasts often use music as cues in their show, and some may use sound effects to add additional interest.
Sometimes, I find it helpful to restrict music use in an audio track, to only use it to cue the listener, in order to leave the narration clear and crisp. This technique can be especially important if you have a wide variety of listeners from many geographic regions.
In this sample, the topic is light, and I wanted to add emotion. So, I placed the music throughout the audio.
TechSmith provides royalty-free music snips, so I listened to a number of them until I found the right match emotionally for the topic. Then I brought the music track into Camtasia, and I carefully edited it down to the right length to match the narration listening for beats and music cues.
I’m an amateur keyboard musician, and a long-time music lover. So, I’m sensitive to how the music sounds, and I want each fade and increase to happen at a time pleasing to the ear. It is a little detail, but one which increases the quality of the audio experience.
Producing the File
Once I had all those pieces in place, I rendered the file in an audio-only format M4A, a process that is much faster than producing a video file. There is some debate in the podcast world about MP3 files vs the newer M4A files. My tool, Camtasia, no longer produces MP3 files, so naturally I went with what I had, M4A format.
There are more details in producing a file I will cover later. For example, the actual file size is determine by the quality you select in production. I’ll speak to those topics in a later blog, because one’s choice of media server can help with these choices.
Publishing the File
Today, I published the audio file within my WordPress blog as a simple sample. I have recently upgraded this blog to a paid subscription that eliminates ads. Upgrading also allows me a small amount of audio and video storage.
That is not the end of the story on publishing podcasts. There is much more to say about preparing the file, publishing podcasts on a media server, and distributing them, also voice recording and audio tips. So I will return to blog more on those topics soon!
Good topic! How do we take lessons that seem dry and dull, for example, legal or compliance training, and turn them around to make it more interesting for learners? I do this work often, am always interested in learning more, and I appreciate the sharing of materials and resources from the Guild.
In this field, things change rapidly, and many of us work alone as the sole instructional designer or writer for our team or organization. I often go to their site to solve eLearning problems. So, I am definitely thinking of going from the free subscription to Pro to take a deeper dive into the content.
As members of the Guild, seasoned industry experts share resources and host webinars all around the topics of eLearning. This group provides community functions too, for example, they conduct events, survey members and publish an annual salary survey, and host a job board.
If you have not checked them out, I do highly recommend it here as well as on my Resources page.
Be sure to check out this excellent article from Chris Larson at TechSmith. Chris breaks down needs for those of us creating videos and compares three popular online video platforms (OVPs):
Chris starts with the basics in flow and comparison charts, for example, which platforms allow commercial content. Plus he delivers helpful background information like explaining the high definition video problem, that is, how some platforms substitute low resolution versions that may fail to preserve clarity on screencasts and PowerPoint slide graphics. Low resolution might not matter on a cat or dog video, but it can make an educational video useless.
Revisions are a natural part of managing any video library. We all want consistent content that is easy to manage and distribute, so Chris reminds us of a few key points. Can you replace videos without disturbing the URL? How about the ability to create private links or password-protected links? Many of us highly value the ability to create draft storyboard videos or to share our content in a limited manner when conducting expert or peer reviews before the final release.
Most of us choose our video platform in order to store and deliver large video files, and our content needs can escalate quickly. What level of storage works for you? Is retention length for inactive content a concern for you?
Knowing your intended audience and what they expect helps us make better choices. Do you want ads or monetization? Does your video contain copyrighted material? Do you need a platform with a large consumer audience and analytics?
Overall, I found this TechSmith article a compelling read that drew me in with the three platform comparison, and kept me engaged with the facts and figures. Many thanks to Chris Larson for writing it, plus to Wendy Hamilton at TechSmith for sharing it on LinkedIn.
Job hunting is never easy for an experienced instructional designer. Our work is often proprietary, confidential, restricted, and hidden from public view. What we deliver frequently belongs to our employers.
On the flip side, potential employers expect us to be constantly adding tools, networking, and building a strong portfolio of work samples. Instructional designers help people learn. So we should be constantly learning and showing our value.
Today, a public portfolio of instructional design work is expected by most employers. Many job applications will ask for your public-facing website. College programs help their students build portfolios before they graduate with their instructional design certificate. Contract work is on the rise. As a contractor, one must maintain one’s own business, and a portfolio is how you sell yourself.
Build your portfolio while you are employed. Don’t wait. Invest in yourself.
I’m speaking from my own experience. Over a four-year period, I spent one year hunting for jobs and building portfolio while unemployed. It wasn’t easy. Experts like Tom Kuhlmann back me up. In 2012, I heard him make this point to over 100 instructional designers in a workshop. Tom is passionate on this topic. Do it while you have a job.
Not enough time? Think of portfolio work as a series of small projects, a 10-hour project in two weeks or a 30-hour project within a month. Then look at your weekly workload. In a 50-hour week, can you set aside 10% of your time (5 hours) to work on your portfolio and learn something new? If you have a boss and an organization that expects you to learn, you may be able to work with them to align your portfolio work with your development goals.
Still not convinced? There are positive benefits.
By building a portfolio, you will be able to test out your ideas, alter them and refine your portfolio to highlight what you do best. You can learn new skills or new tools, and you may discover a new path to follow. You can try fresh ideas on the public with little risk, because you are offering something to the world for free. You can see where you stand with your peers, and work on your gaps or weaknesses. You can set up your personal computing devices with your favorite tools and do projects you would not normally do at work.
Plus, your current employer benefits from your learning whether you make them aware of it or not. Learning new skills and tools makes you a better employee, and more desirable within your organization.
A portfolio can make you feel more confident about your future. Opportunity knocks at unexpected times. Jobs and organizations change rapidly. With a portfolio, you will be ready to open the door to your next job tomorrow, next year, or when HR calls the meeting for another layoff.
A portfolio can help you see yourself in a new light. We often see ourselves and our work in the context of the organization and team. If the team and organization reward us, we feel satisfied and competent. If they do not, we feel discouraged and unmotivated. Through your portfolio, you may find another way to belong, bump up your self-esteem, and achieve self-actualization (quoting Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).
Along the journey, you will find surprises. I was surprised when my first SlideShare post attracted 300 people on Halloween night. When I tried my YouTube pie-making video, I learned about the challenges of being on camera. It was fun, the pie was good, and my family and friends enjoyed it. When I shared my instructional design work with peer groups, I realized I knew more than I thought I did. I am absolutely amazed that over 15,000 people have viewed one small 2014 project Leadership Sources of Power on SlideShare.net with very little self-promotion.
The best part about building a portfolio is that it belongs to you. You invest in yourself. Investing in yourself is the path to build earning potential and a strong financial future no matter what happens with the economy. You are a good investment in uncertain times.
Where to start? I know. It is like a blank piece of paper staring at you. Do you create a webinar, video, an e-learning course, podcast, blog, or build a game or lab? What content do you use? Which tool do you use? Where do you share it?
In this series, I’m going to share tips in a three-phase workshop about getting started with your portfolio:
Research: Look for portfolio examples and ideas that appeal to you.
Produce: Plan and create your own project.
Share: Publish and share your work; solicit and respond to feedback.
Each one of us is unique and different. We are all traveling different directions. So I won’t tell you exactly what to do. Instead, I will share my experiences to help you brainstorm, and get started with your own ideas. That way you can form your own path and direction.
Next, I will write more on the topic of Research, that is, how to seek portfolio examples. and ideas that appeal to you.
The room was humming at the PDXEdTech Meetup Tuesday as over 100 developers, content creators and business leaders grabbed a drink and mingled at the Lucky Lab Beer Hall.
What innovative tools would we see this time to solve our education problems? Are Learning Management Systems (LMS) really dead?
As the Meetup founder, Nate Geier gave us a warm welcome and introduced each speaker.
Eric Preisz, CEO of GG Interactive, presented his unique solution to solve the information technology gap faced by today’s high school teachers and career schools. GG Interactive aims to teach game design first, and programming later. Students become quickly engaged through videos, interactive exercises and unique simulators.
Eric believes motivated students eventually step up to learn C# programming skills. The flipped classroom model supports teachers by providing references, instructor guides and e-mail support. Eric recognizes the challenge of slow connections; his product solves it by providing offline versions.
At PDXEdTech interesting surprises always await in the Stand Up segment when businesses and job seekers quickly introduce themselves. The crowd gave Vivek Mano a warm welcome back. Vivek, founder of Wiglbot, has designed an interactive toy robot that listens to music and teaches children to hear tones as adults do. Wiglbot was featured in the August 2014 PDXEdTech session. Vivek is actively seeking interested pilot schools for Wigl.
Nate encouraged all of us to feel free to quickly promote events, products or ourselves at future sessions.
Nate gave us a quick peek at Coursetto. Coursetto is a corporate training platform offered to companies by subscription. His product enables anyone in a company to create and curate training courses. Coursetto features a user-friendly interface that makes course development easy:
Link video from YouTube or Vimeo
Link narration or sound with SoundCloud
Add text images or animated gifs
Create quizzes, track completion dates and progress
Silence fell as Chris Rosso, Global Manager of Instructional Design and Learning Platforms, NIKE, Inc. took the stage. Chris quickly engaged us by asking questions:
Is the LMS Dead?
What does an LMS do in theory?
Do you love your LMS?
For NIKE, their Learning Management System (LMS) is the tool by which the student takes training and the way the instructional design team manages the training.
Chris pointed out that LMS systems use outdated standards originally created for the military. The audience pointed out another flaw; most LMS systems were originally designed to emulate classroom training.
Chris said his instructional design team finds it helpful to divide learners into three age groups:
25 to 50
The differences lie in the top and bottom groups. Those over 50 are likely to use the LMS due to a strong need for formal instruction. Those under 25 use so many online tools that they find it painful to enter the LMS to take an hour-long course.
Chris quickly pointed out these ideas do not apply to time-driven compliance courses, for example, a government-mandated sexual harassment course. The concepts do apply to any program where learner motivation is essential.
Chris challenged us to think about how all of us learn. Text messaging, social media and direct searches are common tools today.
Chris encouraged us to use our creativity to envision new ways to motivate learners to use the LMS. One solution might be to present three different ways to do a course; another might be to chop up a long video into short segments. The audience offered up ideas: wikis, social media or internet assignments.
Chris showed us solutions that supplement legacy LMS with new Learning Reporting Systems (LRS) plus applications that track ongoing employee performance.
Chris strongly believes “We should measure what they do, not completion.” Do we really care if a learner spends two hours in a course?
Thanks to the speakers and audience for another thought-provoking session at PDXEdTech!
One size of training does not fit all. Adult learning styles are as different as apples and oranges. Does your training program provide enough of the auditory, visual and hands-on elements needed to fit the learner’s individual style?
Think of how you, your friends and family learn. Do you love to watch videos to learn? Know anybody who likes to push the buttons on their new gadgets? Have you met people who love sharing what they learned? Do you know someone who shuts down when you verbally give them directions?