Quick Tips to Create Quick Custom Images for Your E-learning Storyboards and Demos

After I posted the game based e-learning demo, a reader sent me a query asking me the tools I used to create the demo, particularly the graphics that is shown in the demo. In response to her query, I write this post.

I created all the image slides for my game based e-learning demo using Toondoo and cliparts from MS Powerpoint.

If you are an instructional designer who does not know graphic design and wants to use quick images in your storyboard or e-learning demos, then the site www.toondoo.com might interest you.

Toondoo is one popular site which people use to create and publish comic strips.

You can also use this site to create custom images for your storyboards and e-learning demos. Please remember you cannot create professional graphics using this site. You cannot use the images created in Toondoo for the e-learning courses that you develop for your clients.

You can use this site to illustrate your instruction design ideas. Instead of creating text based storyboards, you can use colorful images to illustrate your ideas.

Toondoo reminds me of the building set that my dad got when I was a kid. The building set had lot of independent items such as roof top, floor, fence, walls, windows, doors, garden, small characters etc. I used to put the walls, roof, doors and windows together to build a house.

Toondoo works the same way. Toondoo gives you a range of background images, character images and some other miscellaneous images, which you can mix and match and put them together to get the kind of image you want for your e-learning storyboards.

Here are some top reasons why you can use Toondoo for your storyboards and e-learning demos:

Toondoo gives you ready made settings or themes for your courses which otherwise requires graphic design skills.

Here are some examples of background images that you will find in Toondoo:

\Indoor Bg\



\scenery bg\

Toondoo gives you ready made characters and also allows you to generate custom characters You can use the characters as talking heads for your elearning courses.

Examples of Ready Made Characters in Toondoo


Toondoo allows you to change the emotion and posture of characters.

Here are some examples below:


You can make your courses lively by showing animated characters.

Toondoo gives you a whole range of miscellaneous images. You can combine these images to form something altogether new and something you want for your e-learning.

For example here is a sample image I created by combining a lot of ready made images in Toondoo.

\In the Kitchen\

The background image, the tea pot, fruits, teacup and everything that you see in the image above are ready made images that I found in Toondoo. All I did was drag and drop each of the images in the layout area or workspace and arrnaged them in a fashion I want.

Toondoo really helps you create quick images without much editing.

Please remember not use images created in ToonDoo without having the toondoo watermark, toon title and author name on it because it is a violation and any such material must not be used for elearning or for any other purpose.


MS Powerpoint also gives you lots of options to create custom images. You can actually group and ungroup clipart images and then mix and match the images to create a new image altogether.

Check out Tom Kuhlmann’s  interesting posts on creating quick images for e-learning to learn more:

Computer Tutor: An Excellent Example of Game Based Learning

I came across a really interesting course developed by BBC. This course is to help people get started using the Computer as in to get started using the mouse and keyboard.

I liked the way instructional and gaming strategies have been used together in this course.

Click on the image below now to explore the course:


6 Quick Steps to Create a Game Based E-learning Course

If you play a lot of games, you will definitely be able to identify the standard pattern used.

Every game has a goal and the steps to solve it. The challenge of every game lies in how quickly and efficiently you reach the goal.

In games you can skip things and start with the main activity. It is never mandatory to go through a game in a linear fashion.

For example in games, the introduction can be skipped and also the help section can be skipped. Of course you cannot skip levels in a game because that is the challenge in the game. It sustains interest and motivates the gamer to clear each level to see what comes next J However you can play some levels of a game, exit and then start from the same level where you left.

Using game concepts in learning will definitely engage and interest the learner.

Instead of giving lectures and lessons on a subject, try presenting the subject as a problem or an activity to the learner and allow him to solve the problem or participate in the activity. Learning must happen as the learner tries to solve the problem or indulges in the activity.

I will use the game called Blood Typing for illustration purpose.

Now here are the steps to create a game based e-learning course:

Start with a story/scenario

I have played an umpteen number of games and I have seen that every game starts with a story.

The story may be presented as a dialogue between two people or as a sequence of events with no dialogues or may be just visuals and no text. 

The Blood Typing game begines with visuals of ambulance rushing to a hospital.


End the story with a problem and invite the learner to solve it

In most games the gamer takes over where the story ends, as in he gets to know the background story and then take charge to solve the problem.

In the Blood Typing game you have a talking head inviting the gamer to get the patient’s blood type and transfuse blood.


Guide the learner

All games help you with the list of controls you use to play the game. Some games have too many controls. There are some other games which require simple mouse clicks.

You can choose how you want the learner to play the game. But make sure that you explain to the learner how he/she has to play the game.

Some games give instructions in the form of written text and some others have a guided tutorial where you play the first level of the game with assistance.

In the Blood Typing game, you have a help section that tells you how to play the game.

Include Incentives and Rewards

Feedback, rewards, incentives motivate gamers to play the game further. I have played many games where you earn points and buy some boosters for the game for the points earned.

In e-learning, rewards will motivate the learner to explore and learn more. 

In the Blood Typing game when you correctly transfuse blood, you get words of acknowledgement and encouragement.


Increase the challenge gradually

Every game gets interesting as it proceeds. A game starts at a basic level and proceeds to advanced levels. You master the game as you clear each level.

Coming to e-learning, get the learner started with a basic level activity or problem and increase the difficulty levels as the learner clears each level.

In the Blood Typing game, while treating each patient you have 3 levels of challenge.

Include Trial and Error

If the learner fails to successfully complete a level, he/she must be given another chance or umpteen chances till he/she actually succeeds. If the learner fails at level 2, he should be allowed to play the level again and not start from level 1.

The Blood Typing game allows you to repeat steps to do the blood transfusion right.

Now it is your turn. Have you worked on a game based e-learning course? If so please share your experiences.




Enhancing the Instructional Value in the Home Sweet Home Series

I thoroughly enjoyed playing Home Sweet Home series of games. You can read the summary of the games here.

In this post I share some ideas that could probably improve the instructional value of the game.

Before I proceed below is a snapshot of Ms Green’s kitchen.

If you remember in my previous post I had given an example of a client requirement that is Ms Green’s requirement that her kitchen has greenery. Based on the requirement, I have placed some plants and pots here and there. If you notice there is a design mistake here. I have placed a pot close to the sink and you can also find lots of plants somewhere in the middle of the kitchen. This is a clear mistake. However the game does not mind this mistake. I actually earned full points for this design because I used plants to design the kitchen.

If the game could pin point interior design mistakes and give tips on good interior design, it could be a real value add and there would be some kind of learning here.

So tips related to or concepts of interior design can be given to the gamer in the form of pop up text boxes. This is one thing that can increase the instructional value of the game.

The other thing that the game can give more importance to is the budget.

As I mentioned earlier the game has budget constraints and there is a limit to how many items you can use to design a room or a kitchen. However the numbers do not attract your attention. There is no real challenge in exercing the budget or the item numbers because you know if the client wants a country feel in the living room, you just have to use asian furniture and furnishings. You do not have to bother about the budget because, the moment you exercise your item limit, the game allows you to start building.

The game could probably get the gamers to pay more attention to the budget and the number of items he/she can use. The importance of budget in interior design needs to be highlighted.

The gamer might feel challenged if he/she is asked to design a living room using a low budget, yet make the living room look good. The budget constraint need to be highlighted.

I do not think that not giving tips on interior design or not emphasizing too much on budget is making the game less enjoyable.

These series of games are extremely entertaining as they are.

Yet a value add in such games can do wonders.

Please do play this game and let me know your views.

Home Sweet Home Series : Instructional Games for Interior Design Lovers

Yesterday I downloaded the trial version of this highly addictive game called Home Sweet Home  at www.bigfishgames.com.

I just could not stop playing. I was totally hooked into this game.If you love interior design and would like to try it out in a virtual set up, Home Sweet Home might interest you too.       

Here is a snapshot of the game interface picked up from the Big Fish Games website:

 Home Sweet Home allows you to design just the living room. Home Sweet Home 2: Kitchens and Baths allows you design not only the living room but also kitchen and the bathroom.

 In these games you design the interiors of a flat depending on the client (flat owner ) requirements. At the outset the requirements of the client are clear.

An example of a requirement could be : Ms Green wants lots of greenery inside her kitchen. So you as an interior designer, design the kitchen in such a fashion that there are lots of interior plants placed in the kitchen. You have a budget  and also restrictions on how many items you can use. Your goal is to exercise your creative skills and create the design the client actually wants and increase client satisfaction levels. The more the client sastisfaction level is, the more you earn.

At every level you are given clear requirements and all that you have to do is design the flat accordingly. There is a budget, there are workers using whom you build the interiors, there are deadlines and the game gets interesting as you play.

The most interesting part is using the money earned by interior design you get to design your own room or flat. Here is a snapshot of my virtual living room:

You can use your imagination and mix and match colors, try different furniture and furnishings. You can use your creative ideas to the maximum to create something new and innovative using existing material/options.

I specifically enjoyed this game because there is more to just entertainment in this. There is also some kind of learning here. This reminds me of the building set that my dad once got when I was a girl.

A building set has all the material to build a small independent house with a garden enclosed by a fence.  In a building set the materials are fixed and standard. However you can be creative enough to put the existing material together to create something new every time. The challenge of the game lies in your creative skills, it all depends on how you organize and put things together to create a piece of art.

Home Sweet Home is similar to this. The game does not have a wide range of furniture and furnishings. However you can try various combinations and create something new and nice every time you play.

For example the first time I played, I found it challenging to decide where to place the television, in which direction to place the furniture and rugs, where to fix the lights, which color to use for curtains so that they match the walls, where to place the book cabinets etc. All this just to make the living room looks pretty, organized and gorgeous.

While I enjoyed playing this game, I also thought on how to improve the instructional element in this game.Check out my next post for my ideas on enhancing the instructional element of this game.

My To-Learn List – Still in the Making


I readily attempt this month’s Big Question because this is exactly what has been going on in my mind recently.

I do not have a to-do or to-learn list on paper. But yes I have been really thinking hard about it. I guess before you have a to-do or a to-learn list for career advancement or career shift sake, you need to have a clarity about what you want to achieve in your career, in the sense you need to have a achievable career goal based on which you decide on what you need to do or learn. A to-do list or a to-learn list prepares you for a career shift or a career jump. So clarity,patience, perseverance and organization are very important. I think creating a to-do or to -learn list can be quite challenging, at least it is turning out to be challenging for me.

This whole thing gets challenging when you want to reach out to something totally new and something that you havent been doing at all. I have been thinking of getting into game writing recently. I want to get into the game industry and get into the role which will require me to visualize games. I do not want to be on the technical side as in programming and graphic design. I want to create plots and characters for games.

Now this is going to be a steep learning curve for me. I am passionate about games and I enjoy playing games. But I do not actually know the tips and tricks of making games. I need to acquire all the necessary skills to become a game writer. I have no clue what a game writer exactly does, what skils he/she must have. So  I need to research and understand the requirements for a game writer job. I have to spend ample time reading about the gaming industry, gaming jobs, how people visualize games, how do they create storyboards etc etc. I also need to find out how many gaming companies in India offer such game writer positions.

This nice site  talks of game design and development. It seems really useful. This will help me get started. While I learn about gaming in general, I must exercise my creative skills.

Most of all I need exercise my imagination and create a sample game design. This will tell me how creatively I can think.

 I have a sample game design outline which I picked up from the web. I will use it to put down my ideas in the right format.

Even if i do not get into game writing, I am sure this exercise is going to help me a great deal in my job.

Right now I am sure that I have to read up a lot about gaming and then take up short creative exercises, may be try putting up ideas together to make a game. I can also use tondoo to give a visual layout.

There is more to my to-do list or a to-learn list which will gradually add up in the coming days, may be when I am clear about what exactly I want to do.

Since game writing is not so common in India, (atleast thats what I think, if it is not true please educate me)my efforts may not pay off, yet I guess this would be a great creative exercise for me. 🙂

My Second Life Woes

After a lot of postponement and thoughts, I finally managed to get into Second Life. I must not forget to mention the post by Christy Tucker that has some useful links to get started with Second Life. This post really instigated me to go ahead and register and download the client.

So I did create a character for myself called Shalini Mandel. I think I could have christined my Second Life character in a better fashion. But then I could not wait to get into my second world, so I gave myself the first name that I wished my parents could have given me in my real life.

I was too excited to get into the world.  I first worked on my appearance and clothes a little. I did struggle but I managed to change my appearance a little, though I did not fully work on it.

Then I tried flying and roaming around. When I stopped flying, I landed into the water and then  underwater. I actually felt that I had fallen into the water. I struggled to come out of it.

I tried searching for places to visit and tried to teleport myself. I tried searching for communities and joined a few. But I did not know what to do further.

Wherever I went I was alone. I just did not know what to do. To be frank, I felt totally stranded and alone. I had to expect this, because Second Life like Orkut and Facebook is a social networking tool. Unless and until you know some people,  there is no point using the social networking tools.

When I had newly joined Orkut and Facebook I did not feel this lost and alone as I am feeling now in my Second Life. I think this virtual world is really making a strong impact. Even more so I am scared to move around alone in the lonely streets and places as I would have felt in the real world.

The world I was trying to explore in my PC was certainly make believe, but my feeling was very real.

I read a few articles now especially the article on Second Life in Education in Prof Karl Kapp’s blog. I am yet to see the webinar. I also read Natalie’s article on her Second Life.

Second Life really sounds exciting. But I need to network and meet people. I have no clue how I will manage to do it unless and until I know some people in Second Life.

Right now I do not want to check the video tutorials and learn how to use Second Life.

I want to explore and discover. I would use the tutorials in case I am stuck with something or I am not sure what to do.

Thanks Christy for posting the links. I am sure it is going to help me.

I am keeping my fingers crossed. Hope my Second Life is as exciting as my first 🙂


Yipeeee I am a Gamer 4.0 – What type of a Gamer are you?

I enjoyed playing the Gamer Rater posted in Prof Karl Kapp’s blog. I am very happy that I am very much part of current generation gamers.

Hope you enjoy playing the game too.

To read more on the Game Rater, read this post here.

Rook’s Binocular and Avian Resurrection – Interesting Instructional Games

I recently caught a 7 year old boy playing two games on the web. One was Rook’s Binocular and the other was Avian Resurrection. Both these games have two things in common:

  • Birds
  • Instructional Value

I was amazed at the 7 year old kid’s knowledge about birds and animals. I was amused how easily he managed to score cent percent in both these bird games when I failed miserably.

Then I discovered that the kid had been playing this game continuously for sometime and therefore he is so perfect in playing those games and of course his knowledge about birds.

Games that have instructional value do wonders. They provide both entertainment and education. The gaming and instructional strategies used in Rook’s Binocular and Avian Resurrection are quite interesting to note.

Rook’s Binocular is at Level One – Knowledge of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The game is just plain recall of facts about birds.


The objective of the game is too simple. You just need to read the description about a bird and identify the right bird among a group of birds.

To make the game interesting you have a talking head, a binocular that helps you scroll or navigate across the page, the colorful birds and pleasant backdrop.

Rook’s Binocular proves that simple strategies make learning interesting.

Avian Resurrection is a bit challenging when compared to Rook’s Binocular. This game is at level 2 and 3 – (Comprehension and Application) of Bloom’s Taxonomy.


The objective of the game is to create birds for specific environments. For example you need to understand or know what bird beak type suits for fresh water or what bird legs suit for marshland.

You choose a planet, read facts about the environment of the planet. Then you are all set to put the head, body and legs of a bird together to make it fit enough to survive in that planet. You of course get hints and tips as you play the game.

This game again has interesting gaming and instructional strategies. The graphics and animation add value to the game.

I am going to stop here and allow you to play the game and enjoy.

How to develop an Engaging Low Budget E-learning Course

Low budget e-learning courses are very much in vogue.

By low budget courses I mean e-learning courses that take less development time and do not call for sophisticated or high end graphic design.

In my post How Games for the Brain help in Designing Low Budget E-Learning Courses I had hinted about the standard design followed for low budget e-learning courses. I repeat them here.

Usually such low budget courses

  • Flow in a linear fashion
  • Have a conventional navigation pane ( Previous and Next buttons)
  • Have the course modules listed in a logical fashion
  • Have static images to go with the on screen text

Such courses turn out to be boring also sometimes.

As mentioned in one of my earlier posts, you can try using mind games to make low budget e-learning courses interesting.

Tom Kuhlmann has an interesting post here where he gives some examples to create engaging e-learning stuff using multimedia technology that is readily available and that you can easily use.You can create engaging e-learning courses using tools such as Breeze, Captivate and PowerPoint in less time.

If you have guessed by now Rapid E-learning is the word for low budget e-learning courses. Rapid E-learning is the latest buzz in the e-learning industry.

Just type in the keyword Rapid E-learning  in Google and you will find loads of stuff on this particular topic.

To get started you can read the two articles below:

Rapid E-Learning: Groundbreaking New Research

Making Rapid E-learning Work

Rapid e-learning tools are obviously available, but then tools by themselves are not very useful.

Instructional Designers need come up with creative ideas that can be implemented using commonly available tools to design an engaging e-learning course.