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Thursday, October 30, 2014

10 Things Instructional Designers Don’t Like to Hear

Instructional Design and eLearning in general is a varied business. There are different sectors like business and education and purposes like sales and product training. The people can come from different backgrounds like SMEs, college taught IDs, teachers, department heads and graphic designers. It's no wonder that we can clash sometimes! What I find quite funny is that even if we're miles apart, working for completely different companies and have oppositely structured learning departments the complaints are still the same. So, this week the eLearning Challenge was to identify 10 things Instructional Designer don't like to hear. On top of things we don't like to hear we also have a knack for identifying a potentially troublesome client. Here are 10 examples of sayings, the people that say them and make me groan (while on mute of course) and remedies for the situation.

1. Deadline Diane

Deadline Diane is under stress to complete a project.  She got a late jump on this eLearning course and knows nothing about Instructional Design. So she asks for everything to be done in a week.

To deal with Deadline Diane break down the Instructional Design process into comprehensive chunks.  Explain the benefits of going through the evaluation and design process now instead of later and go over realistic expectations and follow up with Diana so she trusts the system. If not a gentile push back or compromise explaining company policies should do the trick.

2. Middle Man Mark

Middle Man Mark is in mid level management where he's in charge of directing people and initiatives. Instead of opening up the lines of communication between you and the SME he clogs the pipes with incorrect information and missed points. His worker just can't be bothered and he has to be involved in the project anyways, right?

Explain that once you have a kick off meeting with the SME that communication and conversations will become as minimalist as possible. Also explain that an SMEs knowledge and way of explaining a topic is invaluable and can make or break a project. Offer to carbon copy him on communications so he can monitor the amount of time needed to get the project completed and also be used as a gauge during later projects.

3. Outdated Oakley

Not only does Oakley love big hair, neon and MTV (the way it use to be) but she also loves her training nostalgic. Her design choices are obviously dated and anything presented that is modern she knocks down immediately.

Try offering main stream alternatives that can still offer a little flair to the project (fun neon accent color) or choose a theme for the project that brings out the learners inner rock star. Check out this article about doing a makeover on your course to include Heavy Metal. If all else fails include others in your meetings to drive home that her ideas will need to go to the wayside.

4. Linguistically Challenged Louie

Poor Louie has been thrown into course translations and doesn't know the difference betweet Inglés and English.

Working on a course doesn't necessarily mean that you need to be able to read the language it's written in.  Have a copy of the master open and take cues from it so that effects match.  Rely on the native speaker to differentiate language mistakes and misplaced content.

5. PowerPoint Pat

Can't you just make my PowerPoint pretty? questions PowerPoint Pat.

Explain to Pat that content comes in many shapes and forms (course, job aid, email blast, video). It needs to be analyzed, developed and designed to fit the need for the learner and department. If content will truely need to be in PowerPoint offer to jazz it up  and maybe chunk it down depending on length.

6. Control Freak Carl

Control Freak Carl doesn't want you to touch a thing.  He's irritated that his project has been handed over and loves the way his 100 slide PowerPoint captures the essence of the danger of food poisoning.  He doesn't want "animation", "fancy fonts" or "flashy images".  He just wants his good ol' original.

Carl is probably my least favorite contact. This type of person usually requires more time invested and more resistance during the process. Try to explain that not all learning is in PowerPoint's (see PowerPoint Pat). Make sure he's comfortable with all the changes you make and contently keep him in the loop. Small changes slowly will hopefully win him over.

7. Template Hog Taylor

Template Hog Taylor has grand plans for the course and wants to include social sharing, a marketing tactic and over sized logo to the screen not realizing she's taking up the whole space!

First and foremost, be sure that your company will allow these additions. If you get the go ahead, be sure to go over why Taylor wants to include the additions. Offer a sleeker version of the template that includes her elements with more working space for developing. If you don't get the go ahead, direct her to the person in charge and continue on as needed.

8. Design Freak Darrel

Design Freak Darrel loves making things in Paint and always has a funny video or clip art to add at the end of email.  He wants control over the design right down to the last detail because his "ideas are funny" or "imaginative".

While having design input during the process is very important it can also be counter productive if the choices don't add value to a course.  Sit down with Darrel and explain the reasons for choosing a font (better readability?) and pictures (clearly conveys the subject matter). Offer up a style guide to get the full picture of what you both want to achieve.

9. Clip Art Carol

Clip Art Carl and Design Freak Darrel like emailing each other in only emoji's. She loves looking for images using a Google or Bing searchs but doesn't know what copyrighting is. Eeeck!

Briefly give Carl a lesson on copyrighting.  Not many non-design professionals know that some images can't be used in every instance. Gently explain that the images she provided won't be used but the general idea of them will be. You can also point her to free non copyrighted material to get ideas and for presentations and resources in the future.

10.  Surprise Me Susan

What do you mean you don't know what you want?.....Surprise you?....Surprise Me Susan hasn't thought out her training and doesn't have a clear direction so she wants a surprise.

Surprises (in most applications) are not a good thing is eLearning. Can you imagine a course with one of those creepy rocking chairs and then the person pops onto the screen to tell you about compliance? Revisit the necessary steps for analysis and explain that in order for the project to be successful you both need a solid plan.

Shout out to Tricia Ransom and my favorite entry so far! This one bring back a lot of memories:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Zombie Zip Code

This week Articulate eLearning Hero challenge (#55) is to "design a training interaction, job aid, or mini-course to help learners prepare for and survive the Zombie Apocalyps". My brain immediately started thinking how to save your brain or dress a wound.  In the end I decided that to survive the Zombie Apocalyps you need one thing...LUCK! So I created the basic beginnings of a board game using PowerPoint called Zombie Zip Code!

Premise and Rules:

Town has been overrun by zombie while you were at work! Run through the streets to find your way back home. But watch out! Zombies can be found at every turn including your co-workers. Roll the dice to determine who goes first (highest roll). Turn order is in counter clockwise motion around the board. Roll the dice moving along the board. The number on the square you land on determines how many game cards must be drawn and completed. If a player lands on another player they're turned into a zombie. Swap your person for a zombie playing piece and your objective is to now land on other players to infect them. Once you’re a zombie, game cards no longer apply. The three red corners are zones which have been infected.  Land in one and you automatically become a zombie. Winner is the first regular playing piece to reach the finish line. If all players are zombies then the first zombie to the finish line wins.

The pieces:

Instructions template found on Google drive (

The playing board was created using an image found on and a table.

The characters and dice were also found on

The cards are provided in template format to create your own custom game (image from  Have players answer questions about work related topics or just create zombie based scenarios for hours and hours of fun.

Some examples include:
You tripped! Go back one space.

Your shoe is untied! Go back two spaces.

You’re a Zombie! Switch your playing piece.

You found a gun! Hold onto this card and thwart any zombie attacks. Good for only one use. Not usable if you are already a zombie.

You found an energy drink! Sprint ahead three spaces and do not pick up any playing cards.

You found an antidote! Turn back into a regular playing piece or hold on to it in case you get infected. Good for only one use.

Thanks for stopping by! Now leave me alone to eat my brains!!!!!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Is Clip Art Dead?

I made a resolution after falling in love with Articulate's eLearning Hero challenges that I was going to try and complete as many as possible. After scrolling through the current list and checking off the ones I have already done (See my examples here). I decided to take a stab at #8. I think the reason why it struck my interest the most is my current interest in vector images (I'm really liking the flat trend) and the fact that previous employers had a strict No Clip Art rule.  But is that really fair?

Clip art began in the early 80s with the introduction of personal computers.  It quickly became a wide spread trend for programs to include some type of "quick image" option. The most notable in my mind would have to be Microsoft's which was introduced in the mid 90s. Mostly because around that time my family got our first personal computer (Who remembers Clippy!!). They were quick, easy to use and could represent almost any topic. Around this time Adobe introduced and reinvented some of its products making it easier for the common joe (with money to burn) to create personalized material. As modern day graphic design began to gain momentum the use of clip art slowly declined as it was seen as a outdated method.

Is there anything wrong with clip art? No! As a matter of fact some of the offerings are quite modern and useable (check out 1280 and 1568).  It's also a fun task to manipulate the images to work in your restraints as well. So that's exactly what I did.

The Challenge:
Show and share your clip art-inspired template using one or more clip art objects:

  • Objective: Create one or more e-learning template slides using free clip art objects.
  • Tools: You can use Articulate Storyline, Articulate Studio, Word, or PowerPoint to create your template.
  • Notes: Please include the clip art file you used for inspiration.  
I began by looking at the suggested styles. Up until the moment of reading the challenge post I didn't even know styles existed.  It only makes sense but not knowing has kept me from utilizing this search tactic for the last 10 years! One thing I had discovered is the free download from Microsoft called Silverlight.  When used with clip art it gives you the option to pull together images that are similar in style and subject matter.  I find it easy to use and worth the free download (find it here). I ended up finding a group of people with similar faces who ironically didn't have a style and what prompted me to add Silverlight to my current work computer.

Elements and Background:
I started fishing through the images and couldn't find a solid topic I liked. I thought about family therapy training but my limited knowledge on the subject matter immediately had me running for the hills.  It wasn't until I noticed I had a couple images of the people cooking that I decided to create a prototype of a training about basic cooking skills.  I started looking around for what I would need to represent a kitchen and food and found style 599 to be of my liking. I wanted something that would stand out to my background which I planned on being flat so the curvey unfinished lines were a great addition (this wasn't going to turn into a Where's Waldo!). I knew that I didn't want to use them as is so I went through the easy but annoying task of removing the background color, making sure it was PNG and filling in a color I wanted the way I wanted it. I also looked around for a background kitchen image to base my recreation and found inspiration in one off Shutterstock. I figured sticking with the food theme I would come up with a somewhat dark color scheme after seeing an image of tomato soup (inspiration comes from every where!).


Mid Edit


Color Scheme:

I decided that the training would be a basic course on three relatively simple tasks; scrambled eggs, salad and a fruit smoothy.  I quickly started creating my background image and cooking elements.  I then realized I had an excellent opportunity for a gate screen where the user can pick what to cook and it checked off challenge #3 requirements! I decided that the end goal was for the user to gather items on a supplies list and then complete the necessary tasks to make the food.

During and After:
I got so lost in creating things that by the time I realized it I had WAY more hours into this project then I ever expected.  I had to cut myself off from developing it further (Work *sigh*) so right now it's just a representation of gathering the supplies for one cooking task. Ideally I would have added other items into the kitchen as distractors and considered making it a timed task. If I was working out of an actual course development software program instead of PowerPoint I would of liked to create the actually cooking element as well. Even with my time restraints I feel like I still ended up with a really great example of how to incorporate clip art into a training project.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Get your Gaming On

Have you ever sat on your couch just trying to beat that one last level..... All you need to do is this one last thing and something keeps you from putting down your phone/tablet/computer/controller. The next thing you know it's late at night and the "congratulations" music sounds. A huge wave of accomplishment washes over your body and you can finally continue on with your day or go to sleep!

A properly built game is addicting.  It has intrigue, interest, mystery or relate-able characters that wants us to keep coming back or download the next edition.  Trust me I can relate. I love my Xbox and can easily get sucked into playing video games way later than I anticipated. So naturally a recent trend in the eLearning community grabbed my attention; Gamification, the practice of using game elements and processes to enhance a learning experience with high levels of engagement.

I recently sat down with my old trusty PowerPoint slides and a piece of paper to finally get an idea for a game out of my head. My currently employer is a health software company and our primary focus is on product training. I had these ideas of grandeur for creating a game that would provide entertainment all while reviewing the product. A super hero comes swishing on the screen asking for you to help save people across the U.S. All you have to do is accurately complete a simulation of the software. It combined a lot of things I like to do (games, super hero's, graphic design) with something I deal with daily (my job lol).

 Let me tell you! There is some serious analysis and development (both graphically and software wise) that goes into a game.

So, to make it easier on everyone else I complied a list of things you need to know and understand before you get started and during the development phases. Since this topic is extraneous and I could go into a whole bunch of different tangents (neuroscience, engagement training, etc) I'm going to focus on the elements that you need to get started.

1. Identify a Goal

This goal will help drive you learner and should be the main focus of your training.  Like a course this could include elements of a learner objective but will definitely need to be more robust in order to account for the different angels a game can take.

2. Develop a Situation/Story

Now that a goal has been established you can either tie the situation in with the game (HR policy game with bad employee) or create a situation completely separate to create the illusion of fantasy. The situation should be created like a simulation that asks the who, what, when, where and why. Your situation/story should have a beginning, middle and end as well as a climax to help drive the learner. Conflicts really help to pull in the learner and establish a driving goal to complete the task.

3a. Develop a Character

Your character should have characteristics, thoughts, feelings and certain attributes.  How will they handle defeating the bad guy? Do they speak in a certain way? Does it matter if it's male or female? What does the character look like?  Why does he/she dress that way? Adding all these elements creates a multidimensional character that is both realistic and relate able. Certain character choices can also help carry themes through a person with ratty clothes and dirty skin to show poverty. You should always have at least one character in a game but can include as many as you feel fit into the goal you've established.  Creating a villain offers the opportunity to put good against evil and create opportunities of struggle and triumphs.

3b. Develop the World

Similar to the character a world should take into account the specific characteristics, thoughts, feelings and certain attributes you wish to convey. Where is this world? What is it's history? Where are we going? Why do people act a certain way?

3c. Develop the Interface

This is where I have been struggling lately. A beautifully designed interface means different things to different people so establishing the specifics can be a bit tricky.  I've been researching this topic and honestly can't find a common ground.  Sure some have timers while others have progress bars.  You might have your characters collecting coins or lives.The only solid advice I was able to take away from my fact finding mission is to take into consideration the story, goal and final output.  If you have any comments or article suggestions please feel free to post them below or tweet me @jvalley0714.

4. Establish rules

Rules help to establish a certain level of understanding while playing the game.  Showing how and why you'll recieve points, lose a life or advance to the next level. You rules should help drive the goal, simulation and character while working in your particular world and interface.

Do you like playing games?  What system or game? Do have a great example of eLearning game? Share below or tweet me @jvalley0714 :)