The past few days I’ve been pulling some content together for a couple of workshops I’m doing at the ASTD TechKnowledge conference in San Jose. The workshops are for those who are just getting started with the Articulate tools.
I only have about 75 minutes for each workshop, so I am pre-building most of the course that we’ll use for a few practice activities. The participants will get all of the assets and some job aids to help them during the practice activities. You can see how I’m designing the activity job aids below.
They’re pretty simple and work with what we’ll be doing live. I also added links to Screenr videos and embedded some tutorials because it’s easy to get lost during the conference sessions. This way the participants have access to some quick tips while they’re working on the files and can work at their own pace.
In case you’re interested in how it looks, you can download the PDF here. The file is about 20 MB because of the embedded video. If you want to use the template, feel free to download the basic PowerPoint file that I used to create the job aid. Use it as you wish.
Working on the mini course reminded me of some of the challenges many who read this blog face. The main challenge is working on one or two-person teams with a budget of $12.37. So I thought I’d share a few ideas on how to squeeze as much as you can out of those twelve dollars.
How to Get a Nice Course Design If You’re Not a Graphics Artist
One of the biggest challenges we face is coming up with the right look for our courses. It’s really hard when you work by yourself and you’re not a graphics designer (and you don’t have access to one).
So how do you get a course design idea? The easiest thing is to work with what you have.
In the course I am designing for my workshop, I need something simple. I’m not that concerned about the course content, but I do want something that makes sense and looks nice. Many times I’ll look for practice content on government sites. But not for this course.
One of my favorite gadgets is my Keurig coffee brewer. When I unpacked the box, one of the things that impressed me is the “getting started” card (and the overall packaging of the documents) that they provide with the brewer. It has the feel of being a high-end product.
- Bonus tip! There’s a lot to be said about the aesthetic of your course design and how people feel the first time they SEE it. Is your course inviting? Or does it just look like a bunch of PowerPoint slides and clip art slopped together?
- Another Bonus Tip! Keep it simple. You don’t need to dump everything you know on an unsuspecting learner. Compare the brewer’s complete manual to the quick start manual they provide in the box. Which is more inviting?
I decided to use the information on the “getting started” guide for my practice course. The content is simple and the illustrations are very elegant. They’ll look great on the slides.
Look for Content That Already Exists in Your Organization
There’s probably a lot of existing content and assets available in your organization. It’s just a matter of finding it.
In my case, I started with the Keurig documentation. It comes with some basic content. Essentially it’s a mini training document. So there’s good content and a nice flow to how the information is structured.
An added bonus is that the documentation includes some really high quality images. I can easily use them in my elearning course. I also did some searching online and found all sorts of demonstration videos and images that I could use.
For your courses, look through manuals and other documentation to see if there’s anything of value. There are probably other groups in your organization that have media resources and assets that you can use, as well. Here are a few places to look:
- Public relations
- Library (some organizations have them)
- IT group
- Web teams
Initially I was going to design my course to look like the getting started PDF. The design is simple and the flow of information would have worked well with that type of design. But I wanted something a little richer, so I used the Keurig web site for inspiration.
If you preview the draft version of my course above, you can see that the web site provided a lot of inspiration on how to present the content.
What I like about this particular design is that it comes with a rich color scheme. So I don’t have to think of that myself. I’m not a graphics designer and my use of color isn’t always great. Being able to start with someone else’s design is big plus and timesaver.
Here are some things about the web site that I think apply to an elearning course design:
- Company brand: branding in elearning courses is a big issue for many organizations. I’ve written a little about that in the past. Those that tend to make it an issue usually have some sort of branded identity. Use what they have to inspire your design.
- Screen layout: I really like the way the Keurig site looks. It’s inviting and there are many elements in the web design that I can incorporate in my own. For example, you’ll notice that I used the big, picture-circle in all of the screens. It’s a nice visual element that ties all of the screens together.
- Menus: I like to create visual menus that the learner can click to jump to specific parts of the course. So when I look for inspiration, I try to find those areas that could be used as menus. In my practice course, I used the light green boxes. But I like the way the gray boxes at the bottom look. Those would also make nice menus.
The company web site is an obvious place to look for design ideas. Here are a few other places where you can find inspiring ideas:
- Organization’s marketing material
- Annual financial reports
- Television commercials
- Executive-level presentations (they tend to have the money to do some nice looking stuff)
Once you have the design and some assets it’s easy to pull the course elements together. For example, I built the demo course in about a day. I was able to do so because I had a good starting point. I used the web site for inspiration and then I did some screen grabs of the images in the .PDF. Then I cleaned the images up a bit to work with the course.
Another thing to consider is that you can pull things apart and use them in new ways. For example, I pulled the hand image out of the PDF and used that as an animated pointer to highlight the brewing process.
As you can see, with a little sleuthing it’s easy to find inspiration inside your organization. I know that there are some who will say that this won’t work for them because their company’s stuff isn’t very good. That’s OK.
Just go out and find a site you like. Use that for inspiration. And then apply your organization’s brand and colors to the design. Here’s a post I did a while back that shows how. Plus, you can download a bunch of starter templates.
What do you do to find inspiration for your course design? Share your thoughts by clicking on the comments link.
Thanks to all who voted for the blog in the 2010 Edublogs Awards. It’s a privilege to have so many fans of the blog. I’m excited to know that what I share is so well received.
While you’re at the Edublog site, check out some of the blogs that were nominated in other categories. There are some really cool ones. I just discovered the Project Explorer site and shared it with my children.
I truly enjoy getting to meet you when I’m at conferences and look forward to many opportunities this next year. Here are a few upcoming events where I’ll be speaking:
- ICT Educator Conference in San Francisco on January 6.
- Training 2011 Conference & Expo in San Diego on February 7.
- ASTD TechKnowledge in San Jose on February 2-4.
- Learning Solutions Conference & Expo in Orlando on March 23-25.
In addition to that, I’m working to set up some informal Articulate jam sessions in San Diego and Phoenix, while I’m in town. More details to follow. If you’re interested in either, contact me and I’ll let you know when I get more details.