The same ol' story

Happy Wednesday! Oftentimes we (and our clients) are asked to update training sessions that feel like they’ve been done many times before. HR, compliance, regulatory issues are common culprits. Learning professionals know that it needs to be more than just a PowerPoint presentation, but aren’t sure what else to do.

One option would be a form of a infographic video. These are video-like and communicate a message or procedure (often without words) in a fast-paced, entertaining way. Check out the retelling of a fairy tale below:


I had forgotten how violent that story is! :) But as I watched it, I immediately saw ways that the format could be used as job-support, and training…especially training sessions that are really more about communicating than transferring learning. At BLP, we’re always trying to find the story in the materials, this is one way to format the telling of the found story!

So the next time you’re updating a PowerPoint presentation or helping a SME create a training course, consider how you could use graphical representations to communicate and tell your story in a new way!

Good Graphics for E-learning

After hearing Dan Roam speak in San Jose last fall at the Elearning Guild’s DevLearn conference, I’ve been following his blog each week. This week, I’m espeically excited to see a video capture of his speech at a recent MicroSoft conference. If you’ve never heard Dan or read his book, you should check out his speech.

Along the same lines, I found a new a nifty new tool to help me think about the color schemes we might use for the user interfaces of our e-learning courses. Kuler is a free Adobe product that allows users to upload their color schemes and share them with the world at large. You can search the site for different color schemes; my search on “sea” turned up some beautiful blues and greens. Kuler allows me to see the RGB and hexadecimal info for each color, so I can use it even in PowerPoint. 

Here’s a sample picture I used to create a color scheme. What do you think?


Sample color scheme from Kuler

Sample color scheme from Kuler

Organizing Information

Happy Friday! In the past, BLPers (Yep, that’s what we call ourselves!) have blogged about the use of graphical organizers in the training we develop.  I am big believer in the need to organize information outside of a bulleted list. However, this week I’ve realized that I  need to rethink my approach; or at least think about it more! I had designed (with the help of an actual graphic designer) a simple graphic in a course to illustrated three possible scenarios. In the first round of edits, the comment was “This graphic is confusing to me. What does it mean?” Obviously, if a graphical organizer confuses the learner, it’s not helping!

So instead of just looking at a list and thinking about how I can translate that into a picture, I need to make sure that the graphic has a strong enough framework to actually help someone understand what the image is saying. Newspapers are doing a better and better job at this, and the Washington Post created a great one this past week to break down the economic stimulus bill (which makes my head hurt). They did a great job of visually organizing the information and also including enough explanation that I could begin to create some conclusions and questions based on that information. And that’s the sweet spot that I think we as learning professionals are often trying to find…not just organizing the data, but doing it in a way that gets the learner thinking!

To check out some more examples of how information can be mapped, check out I could spend hours looking at all of the information maps on this site and the ways that people have grouped and managed complex ideas. If nothing else, it’s a great place to look for creative ways to approach the same information!

If you really want to dig deeper into the supject, Edward Tufte is considered the a leader in the area of graphical repesentation of information. Among other things, he’s known for documenting how poorly designed PowerPoint presentations lead to the NASA Columbia tragedy. Check out a portion of his arguement. I know that I’m going to remember this the next time I put together a PowerPoint presentation!

Got the PowerPoint Blahs?

To continue the graphics discussion that Jenn started on Friday, I had the great fortune to be in San Jose at DevLearn and was in a great keynote with Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin. He made a fantastic point about simple but engaging visuals. Then he talked about something that I hear about over and over in training: PowerPoint.

“PowerPoint is just a hammer. You don’t blame the hammer when the house falls down,” Roam said.

I completely agree! PowerPoint is a great tool. It can be used to create engaging training. Now, if only everyone would learn how great it is and use it to it’s full potential. But alas, we are doomed to the white slides filled with 47 bullets in Arial font. Or terrible clip art that “magically” flies in from the upper right.

Slide Rocket is a tool that’s trying to change how we use PowerPoint. It truly makes beautiful slides. And, oh, yes, it’s free! (At least for the first 250MB.) I don’t use it all the time, but I have tested creating a generic PowerPoint, importing into Slide Rocket and editing. The editing tools are a little more complex, kind of like using an Adobe product to modify photos. So far, I’ve not had any problems.

Test it out and tell me what you think. Can it erase your PowerPoint blahs?

Tis a Gift to be Simple: Powerful Images

Happy Friday!

I’m immersed in several course designs and an important part of the design process is determining what graphics and images to use. While we want our courses to be visually interesting and modern (and we often incorporate some amazingly complex graphics), sometimes the simplest image is the most powerful.

This is a graphic we’ll use in an upcoming budget e-learning course. We’re teaching learners the basics of managing multi-million dollar budgets, but our larger message is that they need to understand and know the status of their budget at all times. Rather than try and show portions of complex spreadsheets and analytical tools, we’ve created a clear graphic that helps them understand the point:

Learners will see the graphic during a case study and can track the progress of the case study. It enables us to reinforce complex ideas in a small portion of screen real estate.

A blog that inspires my use of simple graphics is Indexed. While highly amusing, it also helps me think visually and understand how I can use visual graphics to communicate complex ideas. VizThink has a podcast with the author, Jessica Hagy, posted, and you can hear more about her philosophy to simple images and their context. (Although it’s about 20 minutes in length, and I did not have 20 minutes to give it at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon! The issue of whether people will listen to a 20 minute podcast will have to be for another post.)

I leave you with one of my favorites from her blog entitled And as the 10th bullet point states:

And as the 10th bullet point states

Have you had success using simple, powerful images in your courses? I’d love to hear about it!

Cool Tool - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

I’m finding it hard to be funny every week, increasing my respect for humor columnist everywhere. I’ve decided to expand to some cool technology tools or fun links. (Though I won’t be nearly as complete in my lists as Jane Hart, who adds a new learning tool each day.)

This week, I recommend checking out Image Chef. I’m not a graphic designer, but this site allows me to create some pretty simple graphics with just a few clicks. I can customize a puzzle image, create something that looks like a Polaroid, or even an ID card (perfect for those new employee training courses). Oh, and it’s free!

The taxi image above was created in Image Chef. I was able to customize the sign on the cab. Since we’ve just wrapped up an e-learning course that uses a GPS system as a learning agent, I’ve been looking at a lot of images of signs and cars and thinking about how they would fit into the course. This would have been perfect if I’d needed a cab in the course.