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Tom Kuhlmann eLearning Workshop Review / by Sue Krol

“What do you know about eLearning?” asked my boss. Not much. So—thankfully—she approved my participation in the Tom Kuhlmann workshop last week, brought to us by STC Metro and the ASTDNY eLearning SIG.
Tom Kuhlmann
If you don’t recognize Tom’s name, you may very quickly come to know it if you have an opportunity to start designing eLearning courses. You’ll want a software tool that helps you do it, and one of the top contenders is Articulate Storyline. Tom manages the impressive Articulate user support community, and he writes the Rapid ELearning Blog that enjoys a huge weekly following: over 100,000 subscribers.

On Day 1 of the 2-day workshop, held in a comfortable classroom at NYIT, Tom quickly got down to business: What makes a good eLearning course? And how do you involve the participants so that they might actually learn something?

Through examples, discussion, and activities, we explored these questions along with the basics of instructional design and successful course organization. Tom showed us a sample project folder template that got us thinking and talking about pre-building a reusable folder structure for our projects. All good designs have common elements, e.g., instructions, objectives, navigation, section content, activities, assessments, summaries, and exit instructions. Therefore, setting up a reusable directory structure reminds us to consider the key design components at the start of every project and provides the added benefit of making it easy to locate each element as the project builds and its pieces multiply.

Another time-saving tip: change Master slides to match all fonts, sizes, and colors that you plan to use in the project. Duh! Seems obvious now, but as an infrequent user of Microsoft PowerPoint® it suddenly dawned on me why the familiar Styles in Microsoft MS Word® aren’t included in PowerPoint: you simply control styles through proper use of Master slides. Variations on a theme are fine; but, do it through Master slides and you’ll save yourself a lot of work.

Articulate community manager, David Anderson, provided invaluable one-on-one assistance at the workshop. He also furthered a discussion on slide design elements with an informative presentation on choosing colors, layouts, graphics, fonts, and backgrounds.

On Day 2, Tom showed more examples of well-designed and not so well-designed courses. Then he put us to work individually and in small groups. By gradually building up to more and more challenging exercises, we put the software to work and our collective heads together to create interactivity in the eLearning segments we developed.

How do we create interactivity? By getting users to make decisions. Have them click and uncover, hover, and drag items on the screen. Create an environment where they have to pull information in instead of us laying it all out in a strict linear fashion. Provide feedback on their decisions. Make it fun! Consistent. Engaging. Make a single point per screen and use the least amount of text possible. Introduce characters. Use video, timelines, states, slide layers, and triggers.

As an example, our final exercise demonstrated the effectiveness of using characters to involve the learner. We re-created a dialogue between two people; where the learner was asked to choose an appropriate response. This was a far better method of delivering information without resorting to didactic bullet points.

It became clear why Tom and David have so many loyal fans: they practice what they preach, have tons of experience, and communicate effectively. Like a well-designed eLearning course, everyone I spoke to found the live workshop invigorating and full of discovery. And Tom stimulated even more excitement as the featured speaker at the monthly STC chapter meeting that first night.

So now I know a lot more about eLearning and a powerful, user-friendly tool to create it: Storyline. I’ll be busy exploring Adobe Captivate next, and am eager to find out if I agree with fellow STC members who have used both tools—and others—and like Storyline best. I definitely know more now than before attending the workshop, and oh boy,: there’s lots more learning ahead! Hope to see you at the next chapter event. A heartfelt thanks to all whose dedication and hard work made this event possible.