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When to Use Rapid eLearning

The term “Rapid e-Learning” is fairly self-explanatory: Rapid eLearning is creating an eLearning course quickly and effectively, often with the aid of authoring tools that do the programming work for you. Have you ever used a WYSIWYG editor to write a blog post? WYSIWYG stands for “What You See Is What You Get,” and it’s the interface you find on blogging platforms like WordPress or Blogger—or a slew of other websites. The point is, it allows you to type and add images into a content box which, in turn, publishes the HTML code for the post. This way you don’t need to know HTML in order to blog—or even if you did know HTML, this could do all the coding for you much faster. That is what it’s like to use a rapid authoring tool to create an eLearning course.

The three most popular rapid authoring tools you might come across are Articulate Storyline, Adobe Captivate, and Lectora Inspire. These tools will offer you the chance to use course templates, preprogrammed interactive features, quizzes, drag-and-drop interactions, and more. Building an eLearning course with preexisting content and one of these tools is the most common use of the term rapid eLearning.

But while Rapid eLearning is, by nature, easy to use, that does not mean you always should use it. It will depend greatly on the project… and the needs of your learners.

What Rapid eLearning is NOT

Rapid eLearning is not a replacement for planned curriculum design, the same way that PowerPoint is not a replacement for a well-crafted presentation. Just because the speaker found a way to put content on slides (and pick a cool template that surely demonstrates how unique and fun they are) does not mean the tool is doing all the work. We’ve all sat through presentations that prove this point. A rapid authoring tool is just that: a tool. The course still needs calculated learning design to effectively deliver the content to learners.

Rapid eLearning is not one-size-fits-all. Different authoring tools are better suited for different things—or maybe one tool does everything you need but is going to cost a fortune. There are a lot of variables at play, and buying the first product that looked cool on a list of “Top 10 Authoring Tools” isn’t going to be the ultimate solution to your training problems. There will be many times where a blended learning solution is the best option, and one eLearning course just won’t cut it.

How This Impacts Your Training Needs

Like any solution, rapid eLearning has its place. There are some courses that simply need a faster turnaround. A full-scale project could take several months. Rapid eLearning is perfect for meeting time constraints—which can also keep costs down. So ultimately, it can save you time and money. Keep in mind that it won’t save you anything if you don’t plan out your curriculum design effectively. If your eLearning course winds up like that terrible, text-filled PowerPoint I joked about earlier, then the training falls flat.

Rapid eLearning can also be a great way to branch into mobile learning solutions. Here at BLP we’ve already used Articulate Storyline to develop a mobile experience for a client. There are plenty of options for creating courses for mobile devices, like whether or not to include a master navigation menu. You can also choose whether to let learners download the course on their iPads or run it through the web. This is a decision that needs to be taken into account when discussing your LMS tracking. One of our earlier posts covered this saying:

If you are not yet using Tin Can API for tracking, you do not want to let learners download your courses. The data will not be passed back to the LMS. Unfortunately, Articulate Storyline courses that are meant to be used without an internet connection are not a good option if you need tracking with your LMS. If your LMS is Tin Can API compliant, you can work around this pretty easily.

Summary

Rapid eLearning can be a great way to save time and money, and ultimately just make the process less complicated. But you need to be honest and thorough when evaluating what you need your training to accomplish—and whether or not you can handle it with a rapid authoring tool. We use rapid authoring tools for our clients all the time, but we always stress a blended curriculum. Having years of experience under our belts helps us create the most value out of a rapid eLearning course.

If you’re considering your options for an eLearning course or general curriculum design, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’ll point you in the right direction, whether it’s rapid eLearning, mobile learning, or even learning games.

Help For the One Person Instructional Design Team

If you are a one person instructional design team, this post is for you. 2012 is almost over and now is the perfect time to gear up for next year’s eLearning projects. You probably already have some great ideas for next year’s learning initiatives, but it can be pretty hard to execute on all those ideas alone. And if you are just getting started with eLearning, you’re in for even more of a challenge.

Help for one person instructional design teams

We feel your pain. Our company actually started as a one woman shop in 1995… and we have always kept things small. This comes with many advantages, but what do you do when a project is just a little beyond your limitations? There’s no doubt the quality and variety of learning solutions we offer has improved as our company has grown (there’s 19 of us now.) It would be difficult for us to meet the diverse needs of our clients without the awesome team of writers, designers, and programmers we have now.

The biggest limiters you probably face are time and budget. If a task is outside of your skill set, you do not have time to put the hours in and learn because you are already too busy finishing other work that needs to be done. If you see a cool tool or product that might work well at your organization, chances are it’s well beyond your budget. This means that despite your best intentions, you may be stuck delivering instructor-led training and Powerpoint presentations that are well past their expiration date. If you are lucky enough to have access to a rapid authoring tool like Articulate or Lectora, you may be forced to produce courses as a one size fits all solution, even if you don’t want to.

While we mostly focus on custom eLearning, mobile learning, game based learning, and curriculum design, we are excited to introduce a new solution specifically for instructional designers with limited time and resources. We call them Project Kickstarts.

We’ll provide the design and development support you need to get started on a new project… or take an existing project up a notch. Whether it’s a curriculum design you can implement, graphic design work, custom widgets to plug in to your courses, a third party analysis, or some extra instructional design expertise, we’ve got you covered.

Have a look at the Kickstarts we offer:

Design It

Design It - Project Kickstart

We’ll steer you in the right direction without getting in the way. We provide you with an analysis worksheet, lead a design meeting, and give you a course design template to build the final product.

Learn more about Design It

Picture It

Project Kickstarts - Picture It

It can be hard to keep courses from looking generic without the help of a skilled designer to pump up the visuals. We have a top notch team of graphic designers that are ready and willing to take your courses to the next level.

Learn more about Picture It

Build It

Project Kickstarts - Build It

Speaking of generic, are you getting tired of the stock interactions in Articulate and Lectora? Almost all of the courses we produce for clients have custom skins, widgets, and features that make them different. We’ll help you build out your courses without breaking the bank… one widget at a time.

Learn more about Build It

Analyze It

Project Kickstarts - Analyze It

The ultimate goal is for YOU to have the skills you need to solve performance problems. We’ll provide the support and coaching you need to make a plan, develop analysis tools, and make sense of the data.

Learn more about Analyze It

Enhance It

Project Kickstarts - Enhance It

Learning design is both an art and a science. It can be hard to include all the necessary content in a course and still have it help people learn. If something about a particularly difficult project just doesn’t feel right, we’re happy to help.

Learn more about Enhance It


Of course, one of the biggest ways we try to give back to the learning design community is through this blog. If you really, really don’t have the budget for any outside help, Twitter and the blogosphere are the two best places you can go for support.

Good luck!

Every multimedia developer's nightmare…the LCMS

It seems important to begin this post with a disclaimer…this is my “multimedia developer” opinion. You’ve been warned.

As a multimedia developer the thought of developing e-Learning with an LCMS development tool sends shivers up my spine (not the good kind, like when you learn a new way to make something animate in Flash…yes, I know I need to get out more).

Don’t get me wrong, the majority of LCMS development tools are great for rapid development, and are a great way to manage content and content objects with a single application. However, my experience is that if you want sophisticated or slick-looking/functioning e-Learning, you won’t want to use the development software of an LCMS. Although huge strides have been made in improvements of this software, it is still necessary to incorporate Flash elements to get that slick movement and learner interaction that only Flash offers.

As I step down from my “Flash soap box”, I acknowledge that as with every other e-Learning development tool purchase (whether it’s Flash, Captivate, Articulate, Lectora, etc.) you need to be sure that when deciding on an LCMS you are clear what the LCMS development tool can and cannot do. Your learners have a certain level of sophistication (different in every situation) and will expect a certain level of interaction, function, and look.

So, when researching an LCMS be sure that when evaluating all the great “LMS” capabilities you don’t forget the “C” in LCMS. You don’t want to get stuck with an LCMS development tool that is no better than PowerPoint circa 1993.