Reading time: approx 10m
Another year, another top 10 list of learning tools survey by Jane Hart. It’s funny how these lists slowly adapt, yet stay the same. This year I notice some new tools creeping into my list only to realize they are just the next step or replacement from a tool or way of working I had before.
Let’s get started!
The newest addition to the list and one I felt should be on top. I’ve always been a ‘social learner’, pulling knowledge from a wide range of (online) sources. When I started out over a decade ago I found most of my information on Twitter. I used Tweetdeck as my content curation tool to help me bring information to me, following people, hashtags etc. I committed time every day to browse through tweetdeck and discover valuable things. Somewhere along the line, my findings in Tweetdeck took more time and the fine balance was lost. I had identified various valuable sources and just started to visit those regularly. The past couple of years ‘my manual system’ sank away to the background and although I still tried to find the information it was much more unstructured. In comes Feedly. I had heard about Feedly before but had never taken the time to figure out how to set it up and start using it. This year I met Mike Taylor at Learningtechday in Gent and he shared his curation process using Feedly. I had heard many podcasts and seen several webinars where Mike shared his process but seeing it in real life and talking to him about it made me realize I was missing out on ‘a system’ to collect content in a single place, making it easy to keep learning without the effort of ‘going out’ to find stuff.
After the conference I setup up Feedly and am now curating some great resources getting back in the daily learning habit.
As mentioned before I get a lot of valuable information from social sources. LinkedIn and Twitter are two great resources for finding peers and forward-thinking folks. It is also the place where I share my own curated content. Those articles, tools, webinars, podcasts etc that helped me grow. It’s also the place where I share my own original content with the world. Yes, I’ve got a personal WordPress blog but when writing I always post on LinkedIn first and then to my own blog. LinkedIn has matured a lot and it is a great platform to share expertise and insight in a professional setting.
I love YouTube. I have had my own channel for ages and love creating how-to videos to help others but also as a job-aid to myself. If there is a thing I don’t do to often that requires a lot of steps you can hope that resource explaining how to do something remains online and findable the next time you need it or you can simply create your own support resource. I love how YouTube democratizes learning and that you can find almost anything you would want to learn. Right now I am learning about prototyping in Invision, how to use Glideapps and for my entertainment watching Playstation Access.
Finding and creating valuable content is one thing but sharing effectively is another. Several years ago I found Buffer and it has enabled me to efficiently share any content I found or created. When you, like me, plan time in your day to read up on your social content sharing these findings in a way other people might find them easily can be tricky. Sharing all my finds in a matter of minutes after each other chances are maybe one or two items shared get noticed. Buffer helps me by creating a list of items that get published on my LinkedIn and Twitter feed at set intervals. This way there is not a single moment in the day I am publishing my finds but push out content 3-4 times a day. Buffer truly is one of my favorite apps to share!
Back in the day, there was this screencast revolution in the elearning community. So many people were recording how-to’s of their work in their favorite elearning authoring tools. When Screenr (the tool we used in the Articulate community) stopped there was a massive gap. About a year and a half ago I found Loom. It is an amazing web-based screen recorder that just shines in ease-of-use and, very important, stability. Now when I need to explain something within my own team at work I quickly record a video and share it via Loom. When I’m creating content for my YouTube channel I use Loom as well and download the video from Loom and upload it to YouTube. I just love the simplicity and basic editing capabilities of Loom (note: I rarely edit my videos. I usually record in one or two takes and decide it is good enough). If you haven’t tried Loom yet you should definately give it a go.
Google suite / Office 365
Content creation requires certain tools. Whether you are using the Google suite or Microsoft office writing, collecting and structuring content usually gets done in Word or Docs, PowerPoint or Slides and I couldn’t do without. PowerPoint especially has been my multimedia design tool of choice over the years. It is so versatile. I can create basic icons and other design elements. I used it for wireframing and mockups and is so shareable and editable by all. You’ve probably guessed it but this post started out as an outline in Google docs as well.
Invision Studio: Wireframing/Prototyping
As I just mentioned I am using Powerpoint to do a lot of basic wireframing and prototyping. As a learning designer, I feel my role is shifting more and more into learning and performance solution concepts, not developing them per se. Being able to create good wireframes and prototypes are becoming more and more important and not something I always want to outsource to suppliers. There is a lot I can do myself and I am currently trying to expand into more professional tools like Adobe XD and Invision Studio. Right now I am focusing on Invision Studio and building my capabilities in prototyping hopefully coming to a level where I can take that up to the next level.
Articulate 360 suite
Ah! The ultimate suite of elearning authoring tools, if you ask me. The 360 suite contains market-leading authoring tool Articulate Storyline for your slide-based elearning projects which is the strongest in the market today. If you can think of it, you can probably develop it in Storyline. The suite also contains Articulate Rise, the web-based responsive authoring tool, which is just one of the best and easiest tools I know that will create responsive elearning that will work on any device. For those into screencasting there is also Articulate Replay and Peek, a desktop and a web-based screen recorder. Replay is great as it adds a level of editing in its basic two-track video editor that is intuitive and effective. Last but not least there is Articulate Studio which ‘plugs in’ to PowerPoint and comes with a quiz builder and interaction tool that merge into each other when publish your elearning package. It often gets overlooked but it is the tool I started out with 15 years ago and still is one of the most hands-on and pragmatic authoring tools on the market.
Communities of practice
Not a real software tool but a tool in my mind nonetheless. Sharing is caring and a lot of sharing goes on in communities of practice. I’ve learned so much by the generosity of people in communities and I must admit I would not be where I am today if I had not invested in them the way I did. I started out in the best community in the world for elearning designers and developers, the Articulate community, and can recommend it to anyone in the field of online learning. There are more communities though. Some open like Twitter chats and Linkedin groups which can hold a certain value (although I am yet to find an actual active LinkedIn Group in my area of interest). Taking time to be present in communities takes planning and commitment and like much of my social learning I’ve yet to find a way to leverage the new communities I am looking into and committing to a larger contribution. Any tips are welcome :).
Webinars & podcasts
I feel like I am cheating a little bit with this last entry but as mentioned I’m learning a lot from these informal ‘specialist’ talks in our field. I am still exploring which podcasts are worth connecting with and when is the best time to take time to listen in. For webinars I tend to sign up to stuff, even if I know I’m not going to make the time. Getting the recording is often even better as it allows me to scrub through it at a higher speed when I need and, obviously, watch when it is most convenient.