Finding Inspiration: In New Tools

inspiration-design-ideas3754[1]Where do you find inspiration for your work? If you ask 100 people I suspect you would get many different answers. I find inspiration in a number of different places, but today I want to focus on finding it in new tools.

The beauty about a new tool is that it can inspire you to take another look and evaluate how you do something. Changes can come out of it, not only that utilize the new tool, but from the fresh look you are taking. Since a new tool changes your workflow, it becomes a point of new insight and inspiration, so take advantage of this and be inspired.

The Thinking My New Captivate Version Inspired

Two weeks my upgrade for Adobe Captivate 7 arrived. I had been working with 5.5 and so this gave me access to all the improvements and features of both Captivate 6 and 7. Let’s look at some of the inspiration it provided me:

  • Notes to build Engagement – One of the new features is the ability to take notes. I see this as a way to build course engagement. To have my learners interact more and take responsibility for the information in the course. In my previous courses, I have often wanted learners to hold information learned at the beginning to be used later on. Some of this is procedural and some of it is scenario context. I know my learners are not always sitting at a desk in a typical learning setting so in the past, for the scenario context information, I found myself having to provide it on screen later in the course when it was needed. The addition of course notes will allow my learners to collect this information on their own and use it when necessary and give them more control over this aspect.
  • Web and YouTube Interactions to add Enhanced Resources – Some of the new interactions of Captivate 7 are the ability to bring web pages or YouTube videos right into the course. This alleviates the need for learners to leave your course to have access to this information or having you embed them into the course, making the file (and course loading times) smaller. I see this as a way to connect my learners to more resources. I have avoided adding these kinds of things in the past but as new training initiatives for our department include product knowledge and soft skills training, outside resources become more important. I am inspired to keep an eye on that in future development and take advantage of existing resources right through my course. For example, when talking about a generator, I can easily bring in a YouTube video explaining generators done by one of our vendors. My course becomes more of a collection of resources framed by me instead of something I have to completely create.
  • Data Interactions to include more Exploration – Many of the interactions now available in Captivate were added in Captivate 6 (but are still new for me because I never had this version) and they are ripe with opportunities to add more exploratory options to learning. I see these as opportunity to make my courses even more exploratory in nature. Learners are provided with charts. diagrams, or images that allow them to take control over exploring and discovering information. Previously in order to create these experiences, it required my to use advanced interactions and variable to create these and I was having to design the framework myself. This limited the amount I could take advantage of for time and resource reasons. These new interactions will free me up to create these opportunities when appropriate without having to weigh them against development time and cost.

How My Current Project was Improved

Now I had just finished designing three lesson modules that were ready for development and I decided to do that in Captivate 7, while exploring the features and functions. Let me share with you a few of the ways it impacted the development of my current project:

  • Using Characters – My company does not subscribe to any image services and I either have to find free images at places like morguefile.com or I have to take them myself (fortunately I am a photography buff and have fairly good photography equipment and resources). I have developed a set of images of people engaging in different activities that I can draw of for my modules but I did not take them in front of a green screen so that i can remove the environment. The characters now available in captivate allowed me to replace some of the photos I would have used with characters that look and feel like they are a part of the slide as opposed to a photo added to the slide. This also allowed for some consistency in use and I will probably develop a few of the characters as standard “characters” in my training since they come in a wide variety of poses and expressions.
  • Interactions – Oh, how I have pined for some prebuilt interactions. I have been hacking together more complex interactions using variables and advanced interactions but having a set of prebuilt, smoothly operating interactions is a real time-saver. I was able to replace a few of my intended interactions with one of the ones included ion Captivate 7. I still left some of the interactions I had designed and intended, but where those offered provided an equivalent substitution, I made the change and saved myself a bunch of development time.
  • Themes – Recently I developed a new look for our courses. This had been focused on the lesson slides and interactions. With the new themes available, I was able to find a complimentary one to my new design that allowed me to fill in the gaps, most noticeably in my quiz slides. This became a timely enhancement and made a huge difference in the overall aesthetic of the course.

This is just a few of the ways this new tool has fueled my thinking and motivation. I am sure as I use and work with more of the features of this tool, I will be inspired further. And tools are just one of the ways to inspire your work. I plan to write about others in future posts.

Applying Game Design Characteristics to Training

In recent years, the words gamification and gameful learning have been showing up across the industry. This has caused some to chase after turning their learning activities into games, others to make it game-like, and still others to throw up there hands and walk the other way.

Challenge Creates Learning Opportunities

There are a few elements that are key to keep in mind when developing learning. First, people learn when they are presented with a challenge. The challenge brings purpose to their learning and people want to do something purposeful. These challenges are sometimes artificial such as a test, or sometimes real-world, like learning new processes for a new job or a new skill that someone has chosen to pursue.

All kinds of resources and strategies can help learners meet these challenges. The greater the motivation the person has for accepting the challenge, the less the particular learning tools and strategies have. The motivation provides the purposefulness. If the learner has little desire or motivation to learn this new skill then the learning activity needs to provide greater engagement and purposefulness.

Game Design Characteristics that Promote Learning

Games provide many characteristics that promote opportunities for learning. Here are a few that I am focusing on adding to my learning activity design:

  • Scaffolded challenges leading up to a “game goal”
  • Exploratory environment and choice
  • Constant feedback and the freedom to fail without negative consequences

Applying Challenges, Exploration and Feedback

Let me walk you through a few characteristics of a recent eLearning activity I have created. My goal is for my learner to be able to successfully order material a customer needs and deliver it to the customer. This involves several possible strategies available to the employee and these strategies are broken up into different modules but already you can see the framework of a over arching goal with smaller goals leading up to it.

Let’s look at one particular module that guides the learner through allocating that material to a purchase order. Depending on the type of customer, the learner can follow two paths. Each one presents a scenario that is similar to a situation they might face on a day to day basis. initially the module is a demonstration that gives them opportunities to make choices. This lets them explore with out actually doing the tedious work of entering information.

At different points in the scenario, the learner collects information and makes choices. based on these choices, the learner is provided feedback as to whether that is the best choice and when a different choice is better. The learner can make a choice that is wrong for this scenario but before being guided back to the best choice, they learn when the choice they have made works best.

User Path Choice

The learner is also presented with Tell Me More boxes as they complete the main scenario. These boxes let them learn more information about special circumstances if they want to learn more.Tell Me More Box This adds additional content for those who need it while not cluttering up the basic procedure for those who are new to it or only use the basic process. Because the Table of Contents allows the user to easily move to different parts of the module, the user can always explore these at a later time.

Now the learning module does not look like a game. It would be a poor game at best and the point wasn’t to make it look or feel like a game. The key was to incorporate some of the same characteristics that are successful in game design to the eLearning module.

Haw are you using game design characteristics in your training activities?