Tips for eLearning Audio recording on the go

So you’re looking to record audio for your e-learning courses but you don’t have a big budget.

First, let me clarify something for you. A Mercedes is going to cost more than a Daewoo. The price difference will become ultimately clear when you drive them. A Mercedes is a higher quality car than a Daewoo. The same thing goes for microphones. That doesn’t mean that a Daewoo is all you need to get to where you need to be.

I don’t own a Mercedes microphone but got a couple of very simple but sufficient microphones. I’ve got a simple Logitech USB desktop microphone and a basic Logitech microphone headset. Both where below €28,- and more importantly both have a noise canceling feature. I mainly use them for screencasts with voice-overs, video tutorials etc. and they work brilliantly. The price is great as I record anywhere and everywhere, so when it breaks I just get a new one.

There are a couple of basic things you need to take into account though.

1. Always record in the same place

For a single project I always record in the same place. That way the background noise and acoustics are the same throughout my entire course. So that doesn’t mean I’m in a single spot every time I record my audio, you can find me in my home office in the attic, at the kitchen table or in one of the many meeting rooms at the office,  but it does mean that I use a single spot per project. When selecting a spot I check a couple of things:

  • Is there an air-conditioning system and how much noise does it make (I prefer to be in a room without)
  • How much traffic is passing by this spot (co-workers walking to the coffee machine, cars and trains, that kind of background noise)
  • How are the acoustics of the room
  • What is the availability of the room

If I think it’s a place I can record, I setup my laptop and microphone and do a little random recording and listen back to the quality of the recording on my headset and listen for the before mentioned background noises. If they’re hardly there you’ve found a good spot.

2. Use the same tools during your project

Now when you start recording, and this may seem obvious, within your project, always use the same tools. Don’t switch microphones and use the same recording program. These things simply effect your recordings, making them stand out from the other files you’ve already recorded.

I sometimes use Audacity to record my audio but usually I record in Articulate Storyline, Studio or Replay using the built-in recorder. They’re simple and effective and give me the quality I need.

Tip! Check your recording levels before you start recording. For some reason my laptop ‘resets’ the recording level to 80, which means I have to manually set it to 100 before I start recording.

3. Let others know you’re recording!

Very thoughtful, those colleagues that pop in to ask if they can get you anything to drink or, when working at home, your wive that comes up to tell she’s going to the market. For some reason this is always in at the end of a long take… So tell them you’re recording, put a post it on your door and get rid of those well intended but annoying interruptions.

Happy recording!

 

This post is part of the weekly Articulate challenge on Audio Recording.
Read many more tips right here in the challange recap.

 

Death, Taxes, and E-Learning Mistakes

There are quite some mistakes to be made when you’re designing and developing e-learning. Here’s a list with 10 common mistakes that are easy to prevent or fix.

You don’t need a course.

Yep that’s right. A lot of courses are being developed that shouldn’t exist at all. Ask yourself: “What is the actual business need?”. Simply because there is a desire to build a course doesn’t mean there is a need for it. Is it the best and/or cheapest solution to solve the problem for which the training is requested? If not… don’t even go there.

Don’t just start… Prepare!

So you’ve assessed if a course is the best solution. If you want to make that course an effective and meaningful learning solution make sure you know all you need to do exactly that. What is the actual problem? What is the target audience? What has been tried already? What is going wrong now? How do we measure success? What is the budget? What platform(s) will the course be accessed on? Are there accessibility requirements? Is it something that will be translated into additional languages? Who are the stakeholders? These are just a few simple questions you absolutely need an answer to before you start doing anything.

Help your subject matter expert!

Eight out of ten times your SME will think everything they know about the topic is important. If you don’t help your SME to see the difference between vital practical information that will address the problem the most effective and efficient way and information overload you’ll end up developing an eBook instead of a course. Show them the power of real world examples and if need be how they can refer to ‘additional information’ e.g. via an additional resources page. My mantra when working with SME’s is: “Is this information absolutely required to meet our learning objective(s)?”.

Respect your learner!

Your learners are not complete idiots, so don’t treat them as such. Give them what they need and challenge them. If you want any kind of transfer of knowledge or skills you need to give them meaningful information and activities.That way the learner has to work for his newly acquired skills and will experience a sense of accomplishment when they finish a task. Anything else will be perceived as boring and will have little to no effect.

These four are big ones but relatively easy to prevent or fix.
Now let’s take a look at some very practical design mistakes.

If they cannot navigate, they won’t.

Keep your course navigation simple and consistent. Do not try to be clever simply because you want to try something different. Something that might seem like your next creative Mona Lisa might be your users MC Escher. There is nothing so frustrating as trying to take a course and getting lost along the way. The same thing can be said by locking your navigation, forcing people to spend X amount of time on a page etc. Most students will abandon your course faster than the roadrunner.

Clean up your mess!

I often see courses that are just a complete mess. Slides copied from various sources having different color styles, writing styles ,photography styles, button styles and layout styles. Pages that are crammed with text (if we reduce the font size it just might fit) or overloaded with animations. Consistency is key here. Do not burden your user with all that clutter as they’ll try to attach meaning to all kinds of things they don’t need to. This is one of those times a template might come in handy.

Give them a way out…

When your user has reached the final slide of your course don’t let it be the final slide. Add an exit slide explaining they can now close the course, suggest additional resources and/or whom to contact if they have additional questions. You do not want their last thought of your course to be: “Am I done now? What do I need to do? Have I done something wrong?”.

Quiz me!

If you’re going to assess your students knowledge using a quiz take it seriously. Provide meaningful questions and give meaningful feedback. In my experience this is one of the most neglected areas of e-learning. I see so many quizzes I could pass just slamming my head against the keyboard. If I do accidently hit the wrong answer my feedback will most likely be: “Incorrect, click next to continue…”. Making us think by asking challenging questions is how we learn. Give us meaningful feedback and we learn from the experience.

Say what?!

Voice-overs can be a fantastic way to engage learners, it allows you to provide meaning to what is shown on the screen. That is, if you’re doing it right. Never, ever, ever, ever have the text on screen and the voice-over be the same. Learners will be reading paragraph 3 while your voice-over is still blurting out paragraph 1. There is nothing more confusing and it kills all learning. Use it to introduce an activity or give feedback while showing what the narrator is saying. Do you remember those times when someone was giving a presentation and they were reading all the content that was on the slides. Sure you do… do you remember what it was about? $%^&# No!

Scenarios are your friend!

Real world examples help us make sense of things that would remain abstract. There is always some kind of story to be told now matter how small. Yes writing a short text with some bullet points is an easy way to explain the benefits of product X but that doesn’t mean your learners will remember any of it. Creating a short sales scenario will have a much bigger impact. A few simple questions with some good, real-world, choices will do miracles for your course and your students engagement. Don’t you think? Yes, I do! / No, I really don’t / I’m not sure but I’d like to try it!

 

Web style tabbed interaction for Articulate Studio

View demoDownload PowerPoint file

A while ago Phil Mayor from eLearning Laboratory created a cool Storyline 1 web style tabbed interaction template and shared it with the Articulate community.

A lot of people liked it and since I’m a big fan of Articulate Studio as well I decided to recreate the interaction in PowerPoint so that it’s available whether you’re a Storyline or Studio user and shared it in the comments of Phil’s post.

This template features:

  1. Easy adaptable color scheme
  2. Several content pages with their own theme color
  3. Smooth animations for a professional organic experience

Again, many kudo’s for Phil’s interaction and I hope you enjoy the PowerPoint/Articulate Studio version.

Give your Articulate quiz result slides a make over

At the Articulate eLearning Heroes website David Anderson hosts a weekly elearning challenge. This weeks challenge was a quiz result slide make over. I got a lot of positive remarks on my entry so I decided to show you how I came up with the idea and how I put it together.

As you can see, there’s a lot of room for improvement and you really should spend some time tweaking your quiz result slide to match the look and feel of your course. Your learners will love you for it!

 

Creating animated title pages for Articulate Replay

A very cool and easy to use feature of PowerPoint 2010 is the ability to save your slides as a video file (.wmv). Creating your own animated videos has never been easier, especially since you can use all those cool PowerPoint features to create it.

In this post I’ll show you how you can use PowerPoint to create animated title screens for your Articulate Replay videos.

The steps are as follows:

  1. Create a new PowerPoint slide and set it to your required screen size (Regular=4:3 or wide-screen=16:9)
  2. Double the size of your PowerPoint slide e.g. a default 4:3 has a width of 25,4 cm and a height of 19,05 cm. Doubling the size will make my slide 50,8 cm x 39 cm. This will ensure your video resolution is large enough to match your Articulate Replay screen recording.
  3. Go to the Transitions tab and disable Advance Slide on mouse click. Now check the box Advance Slide After and set the amount of time you want this slide to be on screen
  4. Now create your slide with the animations you want using PowerPoint’s animation features
  5. When you are done check if all your slides have the Advance Slide on mouse click disabled and the proper time set for the Advance Slide after X seconds.
  6. Now save your file as Windows Media Video (.wmv) file and import it in your Replay project

TIP: You can also use slide transitions when using multiple slides.