Once again, welcome to 2010! I hope you have a wonderful time reading the various articles. If you have a specific topic that you would like to explore, we encourage you to write in to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Title: Developing a Good Design Workflow
What is a workflow and why is it important in any industry? In the simplest form, it defines the process of getting things done in a specified manner. And the importance of it is to allow checks to be done regularly and to make adjustments accordingly when there is a need.
In the huge digital world of design, having a good set of design workflow helps to facilitate task allocation, evaluation and most important of all generate good profit margin for the company. Sounds easy? Well, it takes more than that of course! Good design workflow requires not just simply following the rules but also strict discipline of individual designers that are able to work around problems, meeting timelines and at the same time facilitating the client’s needs.
What I will be covering in this write-up will be some key factors, which are essential for creating a good design workflow.
KEY #1 - Don’t try to use one set of design workflow for all projects!
Sounds weird? Why should we re-invent the wheel each time we start a new design project? We are not really re-inventing the wheel but simply making suitable changes to suit the needs of the project. Each set of project can be unique in its way based on the specifications and requirements. Therefore sticking to the same old set of rules might not give you the best possible outcome.
KEY #2 – Stuff your turkey correctly!
It’s all about the people, talking to the people and making your client happy. Always place the people with the correct skill-set in the design team! This will help to ease communication issues between the client, the project manager and the designers. It is generally known that all designers will need more than one set of skills to accomplish each design goal. For example a designer may be in-charge of web- layout but knowing certain programming knowledge may help to smooth the workflow between the programmers.
KEY #3 – Set the correct flow
Get the team to understand the nature of the project, who the client is and what is expected. Explain the flow to them and point out all the critical points. Having a group of good team players is better than tonnes of lone-ranger designers who have no idea what is happening or just doing what they think is right.
KEY #4 – Build a workflow with a succession plan
A good set of workflow MUST always comes with a succession plan! The reason is simple. Some project might stretch over a couple of years and the same set of designers might not stay with the company for that period of time. Standardise work methodology, file saving conventions and also backing up of completed work for future references or for recycle-ability.
KEY #5 – Monitor closely
Always keep an eye on the project timeline and quality! Slipping one time might be too big a mistake for the company to get the next job. Nobody likes a late delivery especially the clients. Have a proper milestone in the flow to allow the team to review the project’s progress and to collect feedbacks from the client along each project stage. Make necessary changes when require and put everything on track immediately before it’s too late.
KEY #6 – Mark your target
Talk to the client, keep them close to you. The better you understand them, the more effective the whole team works. Having to get the designers to re-work on one particular design for six times before finally hitting the mark really portraits unprofessional services and at the same time upset the entire team spirit.
An ideal design workflow helps; “Completed the work with quality in the shortest time with minimum changes and maximum customer satisfaction!”
Our second favourite phrase after “Work Hard! Play Hard!” is “Time really flies!” In the blink of an eye, we are already in the New Year. Let’s welcome this year with enthusiasm and in good spirits. There are a lot of exciting events to look forward to in eLC calendar. One of them is our Lectora Carnival 2010 which will be held on 22nd January. Next will be Chinese New Year, which coincides with Valentine’s Day this year. It will be a busy day for couples to fit in their romancing with traditional visiting duties. Oh well, at least there will be lots of good food.
Before we indulge in the festive events, here is this quarter’s issue for your reading and learning pleasure.
Lectora Carnival and Workshop
eLC is organising our 5th Lectora Carnival where representatives from various corporations / organisations will receive the prestigious GOLD/SILVER/BRONZE awards for their courseware designs. The event is to be held on the 22nd January 2010 in the Intercontinental Hotel from 1pm onwards. This year, we are giving one special award each to the Best Design courseware for both the Open and Academic categories, which consists of one return air ticket to US to attend the Lectora User Conference, paid registration fee and accommodation, worth a total of more than S$5,000.
We will bring back our past years’ games as well as this year’s quota of new and exciting games. All this is set in an informal, carnival-like setting where you can take part in games and win prizes.
As part of our 5th Anniversary, we will also conduct workshops on Advanced Lectora and Lectora Online before the carnival.
To find out more about the carnival and/or workshops, do visit www.lectora.com.sg.
Engage interactions are best used for Level One content. And if you want more than the pre-installed templates, you can turn to Community Interactions. It is a portal where you can download interactions created by other eLearning content developers from other parts of the world.
One example will be the Flipbook interaction where you can download and install into Engage at no additional charge.
We have already discussed about graphics and animation, two important ingredients of any eLearning content. The next ingredient will be the audio.
Most of the time, audio editing in eLearning courseware will be mostly limited to recording narration and deleting the portion of the narration that is narrated wrongly. You rarely need to add effects like fade in and fade out. Therefore, a need for a professional tool such as Sony Soundforge can be excluded to minimise costs.
Both Lectora and Articulate have these functions. They can record narration through an in-built sound recording engine and give you the ability to edit the narration too, thus fulfilling the basic audio needs.
And with more tools including helpful add-ons, such as those mentioned earlier, for content authors/end-users that are not professionally trained, we have more options on the selection of tools to enable the objective of operating on a shoestring budget.
Now, let’s take a moment to review the two possible combinations of tools that we could have if granted, for example, a comparatively generous budget between S$10,000 and S$20,000. Prices shown below are inclusive of training costs to get your team up to speed with every tool in the suite.
For this shoestring option, we will not be including any training cost as Lectora X’s video help agents are good enough to get you started on Lectora. For Engage animations, the interface is sufficiently straightforward to not warrant any training. All you need to do is simply type in your textual information and Engage handles all the animating for you!
Comparing S$4,000 to over S$10,000 for a set of tools that will produce similar end-results, we could really minimise the initial costs!
I hope this article has given you some helpful insights at managing the cost of your pilot eLearning project. With the shoestring option, you not only can cut cost but can also cut development time as the tools in the shoestring option use templates and pre-built functions to help you in your development cycle.
So, download their trial versions and have fun trying out the tools! You may find your next solution at your fingertips.
Creating Engaging Content on a Shoestring Budget
In my last article, I discussed about the factors that need to be considered when choosing an eLearning content authoring tool.
When working on an eLearning project, the decision to purchase an eLearning content authoring tool is only one of the many decisions needed to be made. Other decisions include determining the size of the development team, narrator for the project and other issues. Typically, in an eLearning project life cycle, the following types of tools may be used.
In the market itself, there are over thousands of brands for each type of tools. Take for example, graphics manipulation tools; the most common that an eLearning project will use is Adobe Photoshop CS4. And for an animation creation tool, we have the Adobe Flash.
And do you know, just for an eLearning content authoring tool alone, there are over 5000 tools out there to choose from! You have Raptivity, Toolbook, QuizForce and of course, Lectora and Articulate and many more.
Today, we are going to look at how end users with non-professional background in developing eLearning content can create rich, engaging learning content with a fraction of the budget that professional developers have.
A typical eLearning project will most probably utilise a suite of tools that comprises the following tools depicted in the diagram below. These tools in the suite generally complement each other in the development of an eLearning courseware.
The above suite of tools can cost up to about S$5,000. For some organisations, especially Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), this might represent a huge investment. However, when we discuss about cost in eLearning projects, monetary cost of tools should not be the main focus. We ought to put the following considerations in our mind.
• Most importantly, the learning curve of the tool. Is it easy for the end user to pick up basic skills of the tool in a day?
• Do you have a team of professional developers or are you a one-man operation?
• Your development timeframe; do you have a tight deadline or do you have ample time to develop the content?
Lectora has always provided hundreds of interface templates in their various versions of Lectora Professional Publishing Suite.
You simply need to open Lectora and when creating a new title, select Templates from the tab as shown in the screenshot.
Lectora sorts and categorises the templates according to colour themes, which range from aqua to red. Each template is then given a unique name to identify them. You can preview the look and feel of the template in the right hand pane.
Once you are satisfied with your choice, simply double click to save your template. In a few seconds, your desired template will be loaded for you.
The next immediate issue that comes into consideration will be graphics. Graphics, unavoidably, is essential in the development of eLearning content. It helps to transform textual information into powerful visual images in the learners’ mind. Built into Lectora Professional Publishing Suite are five applications to create and edit multimedia including an Image Editor, Audio Editor, Video Editor, Screen Camera and Screen Capture. These provide a complete solution for not only creating your eLearning content, but also for editing the media within it. As you can add and edit multimedia content quickly with Lectora Professional Publishing Suite, there is no need to juggle multiple programs or leave the Lectora development environment unless you require more advanced multimedia content editing.
How about animation?
Generally, animation efforts are the most time consuming and expensive. So how do we minimise the costing in this specific aspect?
Articulate Engage will be useful. Articulate Rapid eLearning Studio ’09 is basically made up of four separate applications. You can choose to purchase only one application. With Articulate Engage, you can actively encourage discovery of information by prompting learners to interact through:
1) Examine in greater detail each step in a process
2) Explore the relationship between timeline events through text, images and sound
3) Drill down into key elements of a diagram to better understand the main points
There are over 10 easy-to-use templates that let you create rich-media interactivity in minutes. Choose from a wide range of interaction types, including process, timeline, pyramid diagram, labeled graphic, interactive FAQ, and more. The familiar Flash format allows interactions to integrate seamlessly into virtually any eLearning
Picture yourself in this scenario, you are the HR manager of a local SME and have been tasked with developing eLearning in your organisation. However, you only have a modest budget. Your upper management only guarantees you more funding if they can see tangible results. Adding on to difficulty of the task, you will need to deliver the first eLearning project within two weeks to convince your upper management of the Return On Investment (ROI) in eLearning.
It is not the ideal situation to be in, but it is not the end of the world too. In order to convince the upper management on the ROI in eLearning, you will need to show or demonstrate rich, interactive and engaging content.
Most end-users of eLearning content have the misconception that rich, animated and engaging content is expensive. On the contrary, even with a shoestring budget, you can still continue to create engaging content.
Your first immediate concern will be the graphics. The foundation of any eLearning courseware is the courseware’s interface. Once you have settled the interface in the early phases of the project, a quarter of the battle is won.
The interface determines the look and feel of the courseware and to a larger extent, it is your method of impression management to convince people to explore your eLearning content at first glance.
For people who have no prior experience in designing graphics or interfaces, Lectora is your saviour!
Tips and Guideline to start:
1.) The Human-Computer Interaction (HCI):
certain aspects of an interface should behave in consistent ways at all times for all screens
terminology should be consistent between screens
icons should be consistent between screens
colours should be consistent between screens of similar function
break complex tasks into simpler tasks
break long sequences into separate steps
organise information into a small number of "chunks"
2.) Understand the limitation of the handle device
Let's start to develop a mobile website.