Monday, March 22, 2010

Creating a Better eLearning Scene With a Little Help

A great way to create effective eLearning is to throw the learner into a simulation of the task or performance you are training them to complete. Don't just tell the learner about it, make them do it. This often requires simulating the scene where the task takes place which can be difficult to make look realistic in whatever authoring tool you may use. One way to create a realistic scene is to use pictures of the actual environment but in some cases you might want to design a scene that is easier to manipulate so that various scenarios can be constructed from the same scene. The latter is the situation I was in in for an eLearning project I just finished. I was trying to create a scene of the inside of a room and was struggling to make it look realistic with 3D perspective so I turned to the Articulate community for a little help by adding this Articulate forum post and they came through with some quality tips as you can see by the before and after image. This blog post takes you through the development of this scene, and describes some of the lessons I learned along the way with a little help from fellow eLearning developers.

The eLearning course was developed using Articulate so most of the work was done in Power point. I did use Photoshop to create the floor and wall textures but other than that it's all Power point.

I started out by creating floor and wall textures in Photoshop to create the scene in Power Point. You can find images of floors and walls on sites like istock or create your own. In my case I used an image of carpet for the floor, and I created the walls by following the steps in this tutorial to create a drywall texture. You can also find textures on this Flickr site that David Anderson (@eLearning) referred me to. Once you have the images you are going to use for the floors and walls you are ready to put your scene together in powerpoint using the 3D formatting and rotation options. This is where you will need to spend time tinkering with the 3D options to give your floors and walls the correct perspective. The video below describes what 3D options I used and how I got started creating this scene.

After posting the Screenr video in the Articulate forum I got some great tips to make the scene more realistic. I learned that there are many different ways to do the same thing and ended up using a variety of tips from multiple contributors to the forum post that helped to improve the scene. The lessons I learned and used to improve my scene are described in the points and videos below:
  • David Anderson recommended removing the shadow underneath the wall, moving the floor and wall higher, and adding a person to the scene to add perspective.
  • Andrea05, and David Anderson all recommended adding depth and perspective to the room by using a larger image of the carpet and drywall that is not so focused, shrinking the baseboard, adding more objects to the scene, and adding a side wall.
  • Jeanette Brooks recommended adding a dark to light gradient on the carpet to add perspective and depth to the room.
Tom Kuhlmann demonstrated and described how to implement many of these ideas with the Screenr video embedded below. This was a big help in making the ideas happen.

(Click Here to view Tom Kuhlmanns suggestions)

Bruno De Pace (@evolve4success) suggested an alternative way of adding perspective by using side walls. This is also a great tip that may be a little easier to develop than what Tom suggested. Like I said, there are many different ways to do the same thing and this video proves that point.

Posting this question was a very educational experience for me and I hope others can learn from it. Although I learned a lot about design and power point one of the most powerful lessons learned for me is to not be too proud or embarrassed to ask a question. There are a lot of eLearning all stars out there more than willing to make a contribution to the eLearning community. That being said, I'll bet some of you have more ideas or questions about how to attack this situation. If you have a tip or a question please post it as a comment here, post it in the Articulate forum, or even better do both. I also highly encourage you to jump on Screenr and show us what you are talking about with a short demo. Help make the eLearning world a better place by sharing your thoughts.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

SCORM Problems Caused by Moodle Review Mode

I ran into a problem this week involving Moodle and SCORM and wanted to share the problem and solution for my own good and for the good of anyone else out there who may be having a similar problem. What I was trying to do is relatively common so I am sure I am not the only one running into this problem with using SCORM on Moodle no matter what authoring tool you are using.

The Problem:
The problem was with a SCORM based course not tracking scores correctly in the Moodle gradebook due to it forcing learners into "Review Mode" after their first attempt. The "Review Mode" feature is designed to allow the user to review the eLearning course without their score being tracked in the gradebook. The problem I was having is that for this course I wanted to allow unlimited attempts and have their highest score tracked in the Moodle gradebook but Moodle did not make that easy on me. Moodle was forcing the user into "Review Mode" on their second attempt no matter what their score was on their first attempt. This was no good because it did not give the user the opportunity to improve their score after their first attempt like I was hoping for. The gradebook only reported scores for the users first attempt due to them being forced into "Review Mode" on their second attempt. This lead me into a scavenger hunt for information on how to disable "Review Mode." What I ended up finding is a better solution.

The Solution:
After digging through Moodle forums I discovered that "Review Mode" kicks in after the user has received a "Passing Score" on the course. At first this didn't make sense to me because in Articulate, I had the passing score set to 100%. If the passing score was set to 100% then why is "Review Mode" kicking in for lower scores? Then I realized that the Moodle gradebook has a "Passing Score" option also. After this light bulb kicked on I set the passing score in the Moodle gradebook to 100% and voila, "Review Mode" doesn't kick in unless the user has scored 100% and at that point who cares because they can't score better anyway. If you have run into this problem you can change your passing score by following the written or video instructions below.

(Click Here to view Video Instructions)

Changing the "Passing Score" to avoid Moodle's "Review Mode":
  1. The settings on the SCORM activity can vary depending on your preferences but in my case I used the settings below:
    1. Grading Method = Highest Grade
    2. Maximum Score = 100
    3. Number of Attempts = Unlimited
    4. Attempts Grading = Highest Attempt
  2. From the Moodle Grade book, turn editing on.
  3. Click on the edit icon located in the column for the SCORM activity
  4. After clicking the edit icon you will see an option labeled "Grade to Pass." Set this to 100 or whatever you would like the passing score to be.
  5. Click Save. After changing this option the user will not be forced into "Review Mode" unless they have received a passing score.

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Using SCORM with Adobe Captivate and Moodle

If you are thinking about using Moodle and Adobe Captivate together one of the first things you need to take into consideration is the use of SCORM. Both Moodle and Adobe Captivate are SCORM 1.2 and 2004 compatible. What does this mean? It means that you can create an eLearning tutorial with Adobe Captivate that will communicate the users scores and other information to the gradebook in Moodle. If you were ever wondering how to track completion of flash based eLearning tutorials, SCORM is the answer. You could drive yourself crazy drilling down into the details of SCORM but the most important thing to know is how to make it work. This post answers one of my most frequently asked questions from blog readers by walking you through the steps of using a SCORM based Adobe Captivate tutorial in Moodle. I've included a video from Dave Mozealous (@dmozealous) at MoodleTuts screencasting the procedure. Check out the video to see the process in action or simply use the written instructions for an overview. Hope this information helps and please leave a comment if you have any suggestions for using Captivate with Moodle or if you have any questions.

Using SCORM with Adobe Captivate and Moodle:
  1. Turn on SCORM reporting in Adobe Captivate.
    1. Go to "Quiz Preferences"
    2. Select "Enable Reporting"
    3. Select SCORM 1.2
    4. Leave other options at default (optional)
  2. Publish the Captivate tutorial with the "Zip Files" option checked.
  3. Go to the Moodle site and add a "SCORM/AICC Activity."
  4. Add a name and description for the activity
  5. Click the "Choose or Upload File" button to add the SCORM package.
  6. Click the "Upload a File" button and Browse to the Zipped SCORM package you published with Captivate.
  7. Click the "Choose" option once the zip file has been uploaded.
  8. Leave the other options as default. Once you get things working I would recommend playing around to see how the different options affect the activity. You'll need to find the correct combination of settings that will work for your situation.
  9. Click "Save and Return to Course" and test the activity. You may need to login as a student to ensure that scores are tracked in Moodles grade book.
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

5 Reasons Why I Decided to Buy Articulate Studio 09

I'm just finishing up my test drive of Articulate Studio 09 and I am sold on driving my own version off the lot. As I discussed in my post "Articulate, Captivate, Both, Or....?", I have been using Adobe Captivate but would like something that integrates with Power Point and speeds up the development process. Articulate has definitely proven that it provides what I was looking for and many other benefits that I was not aware of. Here are 5 reasons why I decided to pay the price for Articulate Studio 09.
  1. Rapid Development - Yes, it still takes time and effort to design and develop a quality eLearning experience but Articulate has definitely sped up the development process for me. I went into this just hoping to eliminate the steps I was taking to convert my power point into a Captivate file but got more than I was expecting with Quizmaker and Engage. I was expecting these tools to speed up development but I was not expecting the quality results. Before diving into this I thought these tools were just for cookie cutter eLearning and not as flexible as you see in the Screenr videos here and here and here.
  2. Community - I had been following Tom Kuhlmann's Rapid eLearning blog for quite a while and have learned a lot from him but I had no idea about all the great Screenr videos, blog posts, and forum posts from other Articulate gurus such as David Anderson (@eLearning), Dave Mozealous (@dmozealous), and Jeanette Brooks (@JeanetteBrooks) all of whom have already helped me troubleshoot an issue or sparked a creative idea for a project after only a month of using Articulate. The community's ability to show me the potential of Articulate products and quickly help me troubleshoot an issue is what truly sold me.
  3. Bandwidth - The learners in my organization are what I like to call "Bandwidth Challenged." You may have read previous posts of mine describing the problems I have with learners computers freezing on SCORM based Captivate projects. This is no problem with Articulate. SCORM based projects are running like a dream even for my "Bandwidth Challenged" learners. I believe this may be due to Articulate producing a package of smaller files compared to Captivate publishing one big .swf file. However, I am using Captivate 3 and I have heard that this is not as much of a problem in Captivate 4.
  4. PowerPoint Integration - I often find myself doing the majority of the work in power point then importing those slides into Captivate to make the final touches and publish. I felt like I was taking extra steps by jumping between the different programs and thought I might be able to save time and possibly get better results using a tool that integrates with Power Point. I was right about saving time and pleasantly surprised about the difference in results of the published files. I have noticed that power point slides with Articulate come out with a cleaner, crisper look and smaller file size compared to Captivate.
  5. Flexibility - Compared to other tools that integrate with Power Point, Articulate is more flexible. There are many more options giving you control of the navigation and behavior of each slide and the overall template. I've only completed a couple of projects so I feel like I am just scratching the surface with all of the customization options available.

I am excited about the potential for future projects now that I am able to leverage the best of what both Articulate Studio and Adobe Captivate are best at. I'm sure not everyone will agree but from the perspective of a busy eLearning Developer in a smallish organization, Articulate will definitely improve the quality of many projects and reduce the time it takes to produce those results. Please help others lost in all the software options by posting your take on Articulate, Adobe Captivate, and other eLearning development tools.

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