How to Build Quick Elearning Demos for Your Portfolio

I receive a lot of queries on how to crack interviews for Instructional Designing jobs. If you have good language skills and are creative, you can certainly get a fresh Instructional Designer position in an elearning company.

If you are an experienced Instructional Designer and want to get into a really good job position then in that case only your resume and your aptitude to clear the test conducted by your prospective hirer is not enough.

Apart from your resume and other stuff, a collection of elearning demos and samples would definitely help you make an impression on your prospective hirer.

Just like how graphic designers create portfolio for themselves, experienced Instructional Designers must create one too.

I know there there can be a slight problem here.

Some common reasons why you do not have good elearning demos handy may be as follows:

  • You cannot share elearning courses or storyboards that you created for a previous company with your prospective hirer
  • You have not done elearning work though your designation is that of an Instructional Designer
  • You have never done the kind of elearning work you always wanted to do
  • You do not want to show your basic level storyboards to your prospective hirer because you think your capability levels are much at higher level
  • You do not know graphic designing. So you have never been able to create elearning demos or samples
  • You do not want to create a text based storyboard with just notes to the programmer
  • Creating a full fledged elearning demo all by yourself without a graphic designer’s help is highly challenging

Apart from this there can be a variety of reason for not having a portfolio of elearning samples.

I just discovered a ready solution to this problem and I am excited in sharing this with you all. If you want to show off the cool instructional strategy that you designed or your completely out of the box interactivity that got rejected but you think is worthy, then just go ahead and exhibit.

All that you need to implement your ideas is get the following:

  • An elearning tool such as Captivate
  • May be a screen capturing software like Snagit also
  • Powerpoint
  • Any site that allows you to create custom graphics. May be something like Toondoo

You can download the evaluation version of Captivate or Camtasia and just publish your demos in a sharable format such as avi or swf. This is much better than Word based storyboards. Believe me.

I created some demos using Captivate, Toondoo, Snagit and MS Powerpoint.

Please share if you know of any good tools and some good methods to create quick demos.

An Example of Customizing Tutorials to Meet Varied User Requirements

Creating multiple versions of one and same tutorial with customized content works well. This way you are catering to a variety of target audience requirements. A good example would be the introductory tutorials in the Snagit Learning Centre.

Recently I downloaded the trial version of Snagit 9. Usually I do not pay attention to getting started tutorials in such tools. I mean if I have some problem using a particular feature only then I hunt for some learning material. I have used Captivate and Camtasia and gone through their feature tutorials for help. I usually skip tutorials that are there for introductory purposes.

The introduction tutorials in Snagit 9 caught my attention. Snagit 9 has two introductory tutorials: Introduction to Snagit for Existing Users and Introduction to Snagit for New Users.

When you start Snagit 9 for the first time it asks you if you are a first time user or if you have already used Snagit. When you make your choice, a video appears depending on what you choose. If you say you are a new user you get to see a video that gives you a brief overview on how to work with Snagit as in how to capture and edit screenshots. On the other hand if you choose the existing user option you get to see a video that tells you what’s new in Snagit 9.

I guess this is really a cool idea to give customized versions of the same tutorials.

Since I was already familiar with Snagit I was interested in watching the video that told me what is new in Snagit 9. I did not feel the need to see the Introduction to Snagit for New Users video.

Customizing tutorials or learning material helps you make content relevant to the users.

Now watch these two videos on Snagit and check how content has been cutomized:

 

 

 

Please share examples of customized content for learning material, if you have any.

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. 🙂

Designing Attention Grabbers for Your E-Learning

I just read an interesting post titled: Hooking learners with a simple story by Kevin. I appreciate that he has shared some good examples to show how you can start a course with a story line to get the learners interested in the course.

This post also reminded me of my post on Attention Grabbers which I wrote sometime back.

Instead of starting a course with learning objectives, it is a good idea to introduce the course with a story or an exercise. This would motivate the learners to take up the course and morever it immediately conveys the relevance of the course to the learner.

But then desgning attention grabbers can be challenging. The first challenge comes with your creative thinking. You have to generate interesting and creative ideas to design your attention grabber. Using similar ideas for every course might not be effective. This is just like creating an advertisement for a product.  Advertisements work wonders when it comes to luring people to buy the product. The product gains popularity through advertisements. But then some advertisements stay in your mind and make you want to try the product and some don’t.

Similarily, the beginning of a movie makes an impact on you. There have been so many times when I haven’t felt like watching a movie because the beginning was not that great.

Even games have attention grabbers. Pick up any game, you just dont get into the game immediately. There is always a story to start with. This makes the game interesting.

Games have lengthy text based stories and it just makes me press the Skip button. I have seen a couple of courses and even games, that start with a story but are majorly text based. You have a background image and you see text (story) coming up on the screen. You might just get tired reading so much stuff and you might just want to start off. 

Such attention grabbers do no good. Therefore you need to put in lot of thought in designing the introduction of your e-learning course.

I prefer attention grabbers that are less text based and more visual.

Coming to attention grabbers in e-learning, scenarios, stories, images and exercises are some good building blocks . You generate some creative ideas for a course and using the building blocks, you create an effective attention grabber.

I remember having worked on a course targeted at freshers joining their first job. It was basically about dos and donts during the probation period in the first job. My colleageue suggested a very creative cartoon strips as the introduction slide for the course.

The first cartoon strip had a guy who looks happy having crossed lots of hurdles and because he thinks he has crossed the final two hurdles labelled Graduation and Job respectively.

Probably something like shown below:

Please note this comic strip has been randomly picked up from the web and tweaked a bit for llustration sake.

 The next comic strip shows the guy surprised because he sees one more hurdle that he has to cross. The hurdle is labelled First Ninety Days in Your First Job.

Again something as shown below:

Please note the comic strip below has been randomly picked up from the web and tweaked a bit for llustration sake.

This simple comic strip conveys so much about the importance of the course. It touches upon the common notion of fresh graduates who think they have achieved all by graduating and seeking a job. The attention grabber here touches upon this generic notion and conveys the important message that it is extremely important to take the probation period in the first job very seriously.

I would like to share more such interesting attention grabbers whenever I come across one. Please do feel free to share some interesting attention grabbers, if you have one.

Moved to Bangalore…

I have just relocated from Hyderabad to Bangalore and am still settling down in this place. I haven’t found time to write anything. It takes so much time and effort to shift homes.

However I have been actively following up with quite a lot of blogs.

Now that I am in Bangalore, I expect more Instructional Designing opportunities and forums here.

I am looking forward to all the fun and excitement 🙂