The Rapid Elearning Blog

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - how to create graphics using SimpleDiagram

Most people I talk to have limited graphic design skills and they don’t usually have access to a graphic designer.  This wouldn’t be a problem if they could hire a graphic designer, but they usually can’t do that either since they have no money.

Considering this, the goal is to find as many free or low cost graphic design solutions as possible.  In today’s post, we’ll look at a free application that can easily be used for your elearning design and lets you take advantage of some of the hand-drawn items I gave away a few weeks ago. 

SimpleDiagrams is an application that lets you quickly create simple diagrams [funny how those names work]. There’s a free version and an inexpensive paid version ($19).  The paid version includes extra libraries, assets and more features. 

Whether you use the free or pay versions of the application, it is a handy little tool.  Following are a few ideas to help you get started.  I also created a few quick tutorials and give you over 100 white hand-drawn objects to go with the chalkboard background.

Quickly Map Out the Flow of Your Project

SimpleDiagrams is a real easy way to map out a project or prototype the flow of your content.  This is great when working with a subject matter expert or client.  

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - example of a process flow

Some may ask why you wouldn’t just use PowerPoint to do the same thing.  You have a similar freeform environment and it’s easy enough to do, especially if you’re already going to use PowerPoint for production. 

That’s a good question.  Here are two reasons why I’d choose this application over PowerPoint:

  • Everything’s in one place.  It’s really simple to build the flow and diagrams with this tool.  You spend a little more time bringing objects into PowerPoint.  Besides, the default chalkboard look and hand-drawn graphics have a nice organic feel.
  • Don’t let you customers see what’s behind the curtain.  One of the biggest challenges with PowerPoint-based elearning is getting away from the stereotypical PowerPoint look.  Once a client knows that you’re working with PowerPoint, they tend to become more rigid in keeping a lot of the bad PowerPoint slides.  So the less they see you doing in PowerPoint the better. 

Chalkboards Are Like Charo: Hot! Hot! Hot!”

One of the most popular posts from this blog is the one where I gave away the chalkboard template with the hand-drawn assets.  I can see why.  Even though we don’t usually use chalkboards all that much in real life any more, there are few images that can speak to learning as much as a chalkboard can.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - simple way to create chalkboard graphics with this free tool

In addition, there’s a lot to be said about the value of an organic look and feel of the hand-drawn graphics.  It seems to lighten the content a bit and add an air of informality. 

If you want to add a chalkboard image to your course, but not sure how, here are a few ideas:

  • Prior to introducing the formal content, mock up a case study slide using the chalkboard. 
  • Change up your knowledge checks.  People get intimidated when quizzed.  Lighten it up a bit, by making your quiz or knowledge check look less formal.
  • After going through some formal content, switch to a chalkboard screen and practice applying the content.  Kind of like a coach writing plays on the board.

Tips on Using SimpleDiagrams

I created a few tutorials to explain how SimpleDiagrams works and how to use it with your elearning courses.

In previous posts, I gave away some hand-drawn graphics and fonts that you can use with SimpleDiagrams.  The links are below.

I also converted some of the hand-drawn objects to white, so they work better with your chalkboard screens.  There are 132 objects from which to choose.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - download your free hand-drawn graphics

You can download them here.

If you’re looking for a simple and cost effective way to build a chalkboard image for your elearning course, this application helps you do so.  It’s also an easy way to visually map out your ideas.  Combine this application with the visual communication ideas in Roam’s Back of the Napkin book and you have a pretty powerful tool.

If you use this application for elearning or presentations, I’d love to see what you do.  Feel free to share it with us via the comments link.

Related Posts with Thumbnails


43 responses to “A Free Tool & Free Graphics to Simplify Your E-Learning Course Design”

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brian Batt and others. Brian Batt said: RT @tomkuhlmann: A Free Tool & Free Graphics to Simplify Your E-Learning Course Design http://bit.ly/iixvo1 [...]

[...] Go here to see the original: A Free Tool & Free Graphics to Simplify Your E-Learning Course Design » The Rapid eLearning Blo… [...]

Great resources, Tom, thanks again.

I might try the White Board metaphor, as most of my corporate clients don’t have chalkboards in their facilities. A white board with various dry-erase ink colors!

I’m creating some new online portfolio samples, so I’ll try both metaphors.

And, for those in the Articulate Community who don’t know who Charo is, here’s a link to YouTube video results plus the Wikipedia article on her. (She also was a guitar student of the late Andre’s Segovia, and she plays an awesome flamenco guitar).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charo

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=charo+hot+hot+hot&aq=f

@jenisecook

January 18th, 2011

I give it a 10! I am sure I will be using this for elearning based on a procedure soon. Looks like a great way to get away from the “Smart Art” look that we have become so used to seeing. Thanks Tom.

This is great – reminds me of the video “Story of Stuff”. Great way to add interesting info to the course without it looking too slick or staged. Will try it out!

January 18th, 2011

Ouch! Just tried to access the site, and it’s either down temporarily, or has gone bye-bye…

January 18th, 2011

Thanks, Tom – this looks like a really good tool. As a big believer in lo-fidelity prototyping, I think this would be a great tool for that. I’ve already purchased the full version and love the fact that the license allows for 3 copies to be installed on your own computers. Now, I just wish there were an iPad version (we always want more, don’t we)! I’ve been using my iPad for storyboarding and it makes it really handy to have by my side to reference while creating in PowerPoint. Thanks for all the great resources and information you share.

Hey — if you are using Firefox 3.6 the SimpleDesigns link may or may not work. Internet Explorer seems to handle it just fine but Firefox 3.6 may give you “Server Not Found.” I’ve been looking for a solution but so far I haven’t found one. Will post it when and if I find it.

Sometimes the blog readers can overwhelm the sites on the first day. The URL should work fine.

Tom,

Thanks for the excellent review and tutorials. I’m improving SimpleDiagrams bit by bit so your readers can expect a steady stream of updates in 2011.

For those of your readers who can’t access the site, please use http://simplediagrams.heroku.com (Heroku is the Ruby-on-Rails hosting service for my site). There’s a glitch in my DNS setup which only shows up in a few locations and prevents resolving of http://www.simplediagrams.com

Thanks and Best Regards,

Daniel

January 19th, 2011

Thanks, Tom. this surely can be listed as one of your most wonderful and informative tutorial. Incorporating SimpleDiagrams just made things so organic and simple. However, you somehow did forgot to mention that it is an AIR application and requires AdobeAIR environment to be present on the system.

@Jim,
I am using Firefox 3.6.13 and just dowloaded SimpleDiagrams. The URL works fine.

Thanks, Tom. Above even software or design methodology, I think posts and downloadable resources like these make “rapid elearning” possible. Thanks for sharing! ~Ethan

January 19th, 2011

I’m excited about trying simple designs. Unfortunately the link to Simple Designs has not worked for the past two days and I’ve tried it with IE, Firefox and Chrome. Hopefully that will be fixed soon.

Great article though. I always get some great ideas from reading your blogs.

January 19th, 2011

Tom,

I’m interested in starting a blog of my own, and I love the simplicity, and clean design of your blog. Can you tell me what software you use to set up and run your blog, as well as, how you send it out to your list of subscribers?

Thanks for any information you can provide.

Ebony

This application is really cool , simple and user-friendly

@Ebony- This looks like a WordPress blog with a custom theme to me. -Ethan

January 19th, 2011

Cool tool. Too bad it uses Adobe AIR, it is never a fun experience using any app in that environment. But the graphics are excellent.

@Ethan:

That it is; that it is.

–Allen

Simple Diagrams site still down….
:-(

Do you know of any mirrors?
Thank you.
Greg

Sorry about those who had some problems getting to the site. Daniel posted this in the comments in case you missed it:

“For those of your readers who can’t access the site, please use http://simplediagrams.heroku.com (Heroku is the Ruby-on-Rails hosting service for my site). There’s a glitch in my DNS setup which only shows up in a few locations and prevents resolving of http://www.simplediagrams.com

@Ebony: wordpress

Great ideas and resources, Tom!
Thank you :)

[...] Traduzione autorizzata tratta dal post originale di Tom Kuhlmann sul “Rapid E-Learning Blog”. Il post originale è disponibile qui [...]

Great post, thanks for the ideas! I’m trying to download the free version of SimpleDiagrams and I’m receiving he following error: “This application requires a version of Adobe AIR which is no longer supported. Please contact the application author for an updated version.”

Has anyone else experienced this problem? Is there an easy solution?

Thanks!

Hey Tom,

Thanks so much for the tutorials! Have you figured out the buttons that come up when you select an object, that look like they might be used to caption the object? I’m guessing that must be a feature in the paid version only…

Rebecca

[...] a rare earth element. It only took a moment to figure out why. The spike in traffic was due to a fantastic blog post on SimpleDiagrams by e-Learning rockstar Tom Kuhlmann of The Rapid E-Learning Blog. Tom wrote a thoughtful, concise [...]

Leggi la traduzione (autorizzata) in italiano del post qui: http://www.mosaicoelearning.it/blog/?p=474

A quick test I’ve done..

http://screenr.com/T0E

Good for brainmaps.

[...] A Free Tool & Free Graphics to Simplify Your E-Learning Course Design [...]

Added audio to that experiment:

http://screenr.com/OiE

I just want to say thank you very much very interesting and enjoyable.

Nice to know you.

I’m a Korean student. I’m interested in free tools like a SimpleDiagrams. Output of SimpleDiagrms feels so good. Moreover it is useful. I used this program and your free hand-drawn objects, and made a image. For this image, I made a prezi. Thank you so much!

http://prezi.com/ptkdmtxlu8bw/presentation/

Tom,
Any tips on being able to see a thumbnail view of your white hand-drawn images when trying to insert them? In thumbnail view, my thumbnail is completely white, so I don’t know what file to select.

Is there a setting I can change on my computer to see the .png white files better?

Thanks for sharing these!

February 3rd, 2011

I I often make a presentation related to my work. The free tools will help me to upgrade my presentation

I haven’t used it yet…but OH the possibilities! However, should I have any copyright concerns using the graphics provided in the free version for corporate use? That’s a big issue here at our company.

@Tanya: You’re free to use what I give away via the blog. As far as the Simple Diagrams application, I’d contact the owner to be sure. My guess is yes.

[...] Most people I talk to have limited graphic design skills and they don’t usually have access to a graphic designer. This wouldn’t be a problem if they could hire a graphic designer, but they usually can’t do that either since they have no money. Considering this, the goal is to find as many free or low cost graphic design solutions as possible. A Free Tool & Free Graphics to Simplify Your E-Learning Course Design » The Rapid eLearning Blo… [...]

[...] A Free Tool & Free Graphics to Simplify Your E-Learning Course Design » The Rapid eLearning Blo… [...]

[...] A Free Tool & Free Graphics to Simplify Your E-Learning Course Design Articulate Studio et Storyline [...]

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Nice blog on the tools and graphics which simplifies eLearning course design.

June 3rd, 2013

An amazing article that takes me straight to the drawing board. I have never thought about this from this perceptive and honesty i think i have only been meeting a need which was in this case to make money. Thanks for sharing this and i hope by the next time i will be coming back here my i will have different and objectives for my blog and websites.