Thursday, November 24, 2011

Undocumented Patch

Today my Adobe Application Manager ran shortly after I started up my machine and found and applied an update to Captivate.  I checked my version number afterwards and discovered that I am now at version  I checked Adobe's web site and looked for this update and couldn't find any reference of it anywhere.  Anyone else encounter this update?  I'd love to know what the fix or improvement was.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Must Be Patient

So I have purchased the upgrade to Adobe eLearning Suite 2.5 and while I’m excited to try some of the newer features, I must refrain.  You see I’m presently working on a project for a client who is only at version 2.0.  I worry that if I upgrade my laptop prematurely, I will jeopardize the courses that I produce for them.  In the end, they will own all the materials I develop.  I would hate to give them source files that they couldn’t open, or worse, wasn’t compatible with their LMS (Learning Management System).

There is a tip here, in that make sure you remain compatible with your client.  It would look unprofessional if your stuff wouldn’t work with their stuff.  That said, for those that are looking to upgrade their Adobe software, they have some really good prices.  I saved $200 over the regular upgrade price.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This week I'm getting some online training ready for my current client and discovered that Adobe Captivate and the Paul voice from Neospeech had problems with the following sentence:

"Numbers are also present on signs throughout the building."

At first I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong with the way this was being said.  I listened a few times and realized that the word present sounded like the noun present that you would give on a birthday or at Christmas, rather than adjective that I am present in this situation or the sign is physically present in the building.  Technically the words are both pronounced the same, but there is a stress difference between the two.  Clearly I meant to say that the signs are physically located throughout the building.  I could rewrite the sentence but instead I did a little research and discovered a better solution. 

I wondered if there was a way to let the text to speech engine correct this.  I've discussed before the need to inject pauses using either additional commas.  You can also add pauses with more control using commands such as or .  The 500 in the first example means 500 milliseconds, while Break level 2 is similar to the pause that a comma produces. 

Turns out there is a solution for changing the pronunciation or stress on certain words that change depending on the parts of speech used.  Here is the syntax:


In my specific example, I entered:


This ends up changing the pronunciation ever so slightly from a present as in a gift, to the state of being present time or physically here right now.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Two Most Important Questions To Ask Your Clients

When I'm at the analysis stage of developing training, there are two most important questions I ask of my clients.  These two questions are often confused with one another, but there is a difference between them.  The first questions is as follows:

"What will the learners be able to do or know upon completion of this course?"

I think you can see that this leads to my ability to build my objective.  The rest of the course design and development will stem from this very simple question.  For example, if my client responds to this question with "learners will be able to change a flat tire" than that is my objective for the course, at least for the most part.  I will likely break it down into sub tasks as needed and add the conditions, such as "given a car with a flat tire, a spare tire, a jack and a tire iron, you will be able to...."

The other question is:

"What do you hope to accomplish with this training?"

Now they sound like similar questions but they're not.  The first question was to answer was the learner was going to gain from the course.  The second question is what the client, the stakeholder, or business for that matter, will gain from this course.  For example, I might be designing a customer service course.  The learner's objectives might include items such as learning the proper steps to greeting the customer, and identifying their needs, and so one.  The business will get out of this course, more sales, happier customers and less complaints.

I think we often over design a course because we have failed to ask these types of questions.  If you identify was the client wants for themselves, their business, and the objectives for their learners, you should never have any questions popping up in the eleventh hour about course content.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Seven Top Authoring Tools

Check out this list of the seven top authoring tools for e-learning development.  Nice to know I'm using number one.

Seven Top Authoring Tools for e-Learning

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I saw this blog entry over at the Adobe Captivate blog and thought I would share:
I haven't read it yet, but this could be really good news for Captivate users.  We are starting to here HTML5 this, and HTML5 that, and less about technologies like Flash.  If the future has less Flash based web pages, then it goes almost without saying that the future will have less Flash based eLearning as well.  Having another publishing option can't be a bad thing.  I'm very interested to see how this all plays out.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

More Than a Smartphone, Less Than a Computer

A month or so ago I was looking for a solution to a problem.  It was a minor problem, but a problem none the less.  I was considering a mobile computing solution that would allow me to do some very basic things.  I wanted more than a smartphone, but less than a large, bulky, and expensive laptop.  I already have the laptop for when I need to be a power user.  The purpose of this device was to stay connected in my downtimes and a little entertainment.

Essentially I wanted an iPad, however part of my reason for not bringing my laptop into these situations, especially on a vacation, was that I didn’t want an expensive piece of equipment that I was putting at risk of being stolen while away.  Especially considering my laptop is not only a wonderful tool, but contributes to my livelihood.  Losing my laptop would have a major impact on me and I don’t want to risk it.

I considered an Android tablet.  There are two problems with Android tablets right now.  The expensive ones are closer to the price of an iPad.  Honestly if I’m going to drop $500 on an Android tablet, I may as well purchase an iPad. Again that defeats the purpose of this machine.  If someone steals this mobile solution, I want to say “Oh well, at least it only cost me $_____.”  On the other hand, the inexpensive Android tablets are pretty awful.  They either use inferior hardware, or an old install of Android that doesn’t offer the latest refinements.  Even those in the $300 - $400 price point make me cringe at their price. Once you are at the $400 price point, again you may as well get an iPad for a $100 more.

I ended up landing on an Acer Aspire One Netbook.  Now I know what you are thinking.  These things are cheap, low powered, slow, and can’t run power user applications.  That’s fine with me.  This thing comes with Windows 7 Starter Edition, and runs it surprisingly well.  I have installed a couple of basic applications on it including the suite of Windows Live software.  I’ve selected Google Chrome as my browser of choice, and again there are no problems with this.  The screen and keyboard are a little small, however considering how little space there is on airplanes for full size laptops, this should be fine.  I’m not going to write my great novel on this thing.  I am going to have no problem watching movies on the plane and in the hotel room at night, logging into hotel Wi-Fi hot spots, checking my email and Facebook, and all the while knowing that my primary workforce computer is safely at home.

Oh the best part of this purchase is this - $179 at my local big box electronics retailer.  I’m not so well off that I would shrug my shoulders if I lost this netbook, but it would be far less painful than my $1000 plus  laptop.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Teaching people to type with video games.

This is an excellent example of how you take a mundane task and turn it into a game.  Typing skills are crucial to anyone who uses a computer.  The people at have a neat little game reminiscent of Asteroids, except that you must words on your keyboard to fire your lasers.  Sure it seems like a game when you play it, and it is! However, every time you play, you are really practicing your typing skills.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Text To Speech for e-Learning

Text to speech technology has come along way from when I first heard a computer speak.  The following video is a TED speech by Roger Ebert.  Roger lost the ability to speak, and for that matter eat, when he lost his lower jaw to cancer a few years ago.  For part of his speech he is using the Alex voice on his Macbook.  Take a listen.  It's not bad, but still far from perfect.

I've learned that one of difficulties is in the fact that a computer doesn't breath.  In addition to naturally pauses indicated in sentences by commas, we also pause elsewhere in our speech to simply account for our need as humans to breath.  I have been experimenting with this in Adobe Captivate's voice narration capabilities.  the North American voices included with the product are from a company called Neospeech.  Their voices use a text to speech programming language known as VTML.  In addition to the text you want spoken you can include VTML tags which will indicate items like speed, pitch, pauses, and a few other items.  As I experiement with this, I find my narrative is sounding less and less like a robot and more and more human.  It's not perfect, but it is getting better.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Faith in our People

I designed an online learning course template for an organization recently.  We went back and forth on the design several times and it seemed they were never quite happy.  I decided to model the template after their public website, this way I could be sure that all their branding would be 100 percent accurate. 

The feedback I received was that they thought the navigation structure may be too complicated for their employees.  I thought it interesting that the organization had faith in the general public to navigate their website, however they had little faith in their employees.  I see this all too often; we talk about adult learning and training, yet we have as much faith in our adults as we would small children.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Employee Newsletters: Informal Learning

Are you the Superintendent, Director, or Manager of a training department within a large organization?  Does your organization have a regular employee newsletter?  Do you contribute to the newsletter or oversee it in some way?  If you don't, you should and here is why:

Far more employees read company newsletters than interoffice memos or official emails.  It seems that like other periodicals like newspapers and magazines, employees want to be entertained and they see the company newsletter as recreational reading.  If you make regular contributions to the newsletter you can make an impact toward more informal learning. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Great Example of Informal Learning

I’ve talked about informal learning in the past, however I have stumbled across an example that training departments for larger organizations can take advantage of.  The concept is simply making available a program that you very likely already qualify for.  The cost is zero, and the effort on your part is minimal.

Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010The program I speak about is the Microsoft Home Use Program (HUP).  Typically the IT department doesn’t promote the benefits of being a volume licenser from Microsoft, however buried inside the program benefits is the option of extending this license to employees through the program by providing Microsoft Office for around $10 USD each.

So how is this informal learning you may ask?  Well, it may very well be your responsibility to perform software training in your organization.  By offering Microsoft HUP to every employee who has a home PC for $10, a large percentage of employees will take advantage of it, they will use it during off-hours, they will gradually learn the new features, and how to do certain things with the software which they may apply back on the job.  Your investment in a little promotion of the program can pay off in the form of a more knowledgeable and skilled employee.

Ask your IT department if you qualify for the program.  It really is a win-win-win scenario.  Your organization wins by not having to build or purchase elaborate Microsoft training, you win because you have provided a training method, and of course the employee wins by getting really cheap software and upgraded skills.
To learn more, the program website is here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Adobe Captivate

I was first introduced to Adobe Captivate when version two was still new.  Our instructional design team was switching from our previous authoring tool to Captivate while I was away conducting some classroom training out west.  Because of this I missed the training that our manager arranged for us.  I got back from the training and started to play around with the software.  It wasn’t quite as intuitive as PowerPoint, but close.  After a few days I found myself creating e-learning at a surprisingly quick rate.  As a team we relied heavily on Captivate for a year or two.  At which point we switched to another authoring tool to coincide with a new LMS launch.

Fast forward three or four years to today.  I have just opened up version five of Captivate which came as part of the Adobe E-Learning Suite I purchased a few months back.  It’s funny that the software is somewhat like riding a bike.  It’s been years but it’s all coming back to me.  There is very little that this software cannot do.  I’m so please to have my own copy of the Adobe E-Learning Suite.  It really has everything I could ever be asked to do as an Instructional Designer.