Thursday, December 12, 2013

Travel Tips

I know that most of my site is dedicated to what I do for a living – instructional design and training, however one of my other passions is travel and vacations.  In my downtime I enjoy visiting the Caribbean, and in particular Mexico. I’m going to provide you a little tip that I use when travelling.  It’s really simple.

I always travel to the same resort chain.

That’s right.  I have been to dozens of locations but always with the same chain of resorts.  The reason is this. I can show loyalty each time I book a vacation, even if its to a location I have never been. Here is what I do.

Since my very first trip to a destination within this group of resorts and hotels, I have kept my email to the resort that many people send to the resort a week or so in advance of their arrival. Many people prepare this email with any requests they may have for room location or to simply pre-book their a la carte dinners. The next time I book with this resort chain, I forward the email from the last trip, conversation style if you will. That way the public relations people see that I have been to this resort chain time and time again.  My email now contains the message bodies of over ten vacations to this resort chain, which includes Mexico, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic.  Most of the ten trips were to the same location in Mexico, however this has helped me in Jamaica and Dominican Republic as well. What does this do for me?

Well in our most recent trip we were upgraded to the luxury location within the resort, we received the exact building location we requested, a $60 bottle of Tequila was left for us in our rooms, we received unlimited a la carte restaurants for the week (we went somewhere special each night), and generally were treated like VIPs wherever we went on the resort. Like many resorts, this resort chain uses vinyl bracelets to identify groups of guests from one another. Each time we have arrived at this chain, our bracelet has been upgraded to the point where we receive the gold bracelet with red letters. From what I understand this is the highest level and essentially means that you are to receive whatever you request. To give you an example of this, one of the first times we visited this resort chain, we asked for a ride from one of the porters with a golf cart.  We were denied as the carts were reserved for special guests.  In recent visits, the same porters were asking us if we wanted to go anywhere.

So my advice is to stick with one resort company, and track your requests so that each time the resort knows you have been there before.  We don’t spend any extra compared with any other guest but we always get upgraded and treated like royalty.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Couldn't Live Without Photoshop

I mean, I guess I could live without Photoshop, however I don't like to think about what that would be like. As an Instructional Designer, I write narration for my online courses, design interactions for my students to complete and build course structures for the courses to follow, however at some point the courses I design need to look like something. I rely on a mixture of stock photography, graphics that I dream up, and my own photography.  One of the tricks I use is to ensure my images are in some way uniform, mostly in size but also in colour as well.  It gives my designs a professional look and feel you don't usually see in the typical corporate PowerPoint training (I hate PowerPoint).

I found this Photoshop CS5 tutorial for beginners through the pop-up that shows up in Adobe Captivate and I thought I would share it.  I haven't gone through it yet, but it looks pretty good. It contains over 13 hours of teaching material.  Based on the topic list, which I scanned, it looks like I could learn a few things here and there.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Learning Android App

I discovered a neat app for my Android devices in the Natonal Film Board of Canada App which you can find here:
Culture is maintained by the people and isn't the responsibility of the government, however here in Canada, culture was certainly supported in the 1970s and 80s by organizations like the CBC and the National Film Board of Canada.  I think the work that the NFB did is something that should be supported and not simply left to rot in the audio/visual departments of libraries across Canada.
This app allows today's viewers to watch films and vignettes that people like myself grew up watching on public television.  I really recommend this app for Android users.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wow, I Can’t Believe How Long It’s Been

Wow, I can’t believe how long its been since I blogged. I want to assure anyone who still might be looking at my blog that this is not because of a lack of interest, but rather an indication of how busy I have been.

For those that are not aware, I have been working for an international airport developing a catalogue of eLearning for them. At times I have been working on multiple projects at once and have found it stressful. I’m not sure if I have spoken about this topic before, but how do you manage multiple projects at once?

The answer to this question is project management. You need to plan your entire development cycle down to the smallest detail. This eliminates that point in your work where you sit there, wondering what to do next. If you break it down to enough small points, you know exactly what you need to accomplish each and every day. Here is an example of what I mean:

1. Meet with stakeholder and discuss the goals of training

2. Meet with subject matter experts and identify the steps or topics that need to be covered to achieve the goals of training

3. Write a learning plan (proposal for training) that shows what you intend to develop and why it will achieve the stakeholders goals

4. Schedule a meeting where the learning plan can be discussed

5. Revise learning plan based on feedback from meeting

6. Schedule a second meeting where you seek sign-off of learning plan

7. Begin your development of training, and so

Of course I assign dates and how much time each of these steps will take. This continues with the rest of ADDIE and I storyboard my courses, usually go through two or three rounds of reviews, followed by my development in the authoring tool with a few rounds of reviews as well.

The advantage of using this detailed approach is that you can be very accurate in estimating when you can deliver a project. It also keeps you on point. Have you ever arrived at work and wondered, what should I work on next? This answers that question. Go to your project plan and see what the next task is that you need to complete.

Where this gets tricky is when you are managing multiple projects at once.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Make the Windows Start Screen More Like the Start Menu


I’ve figured out a way to make the Windows 8 Start screen more like the traditional Windows Start menu.  By adding shortcuts to the typical items you would find such as My Computer, or your User folder you can easily access them without too much difficulty.

In addition, I added shortcuts to the power options used for restart and shutdown, thanks to an article I found on How-to Geek.  Just add shortcuts to the following commands:

Shutdown Computer

Shutdown.exe -s -t 00

Restart Computer

Shutdown.exe -r -t 00

You can use alternate icons by going to the properties window of these new shortcuts and selecting a new icon such as I have in the screenshot above.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Windows 8 Again

I've been using Windows 8 again.  I know, I must be a glutton for punishment, but I really want to try and make a go of it. 

I was amazed today when I had to Google how to log off of my user account.  They really have “reimagined” Windows.  Logging off was tied to shutting down and restarting, however now to log off you click on the tile that represents you as a user in the upper right corner of the Start screen. A drop down appears with the options for Change account picture, Lock and Sign out.

Is this all a cruel prank by Steven Sinofsky on the eve of his departure from Microsoft?

Monday, January 28, 2013

5 Things to Never Put in eLearning

Actual employees

When you use photographs or videos of actual company employees, you run several risks.  When that employee is fired for stealing money out of the petty cash fund, your eLearning will suddenly look very inappropriate.

Content you don’t own the rights to

Whether you are a contractor or an employee, this could get you in hot water when the actual content owner decides to sue the company or you.

Pop Culture References

No matter how popular the pop culture reference is, there will always be one or two people who don’t understand it. This will alienate your audience.

Humour (in bad taste)

Similar to the pop culture reference, you run the risk of alienating anyone for who the humour goes over their head.  Not to mention the problems you might face if your joke actually offends one or more from your audience.

Optional content

Online learning should be clear and concise.  Any nice to have’s are simply wasting your audiences time.  Stick to the learning objectives, and if you do put optional content in the course, clearly mark it as something that can be skipped.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Offer Office 2013 Training To Your Employees Right Now

For those of you who are not aware, Microsoft provides the Office suite of products available to employees of corporations who subscribe to Microsoft’s volume license agreements.  The idea is that if you make the software available to employees for a really great price for their home PCs, they will learn how to use the software at home on their own time.  This keeps the cost of training for an organization low, and keeps the workforce up to date on the latest software.  This is a really good example of informal learning.

I was listening to one of my favourite tech podcasts, Windows Weekly, when I heard mention that the Home Use Program for Office 2013 was already available.  I checked my company’s HUP website and sure enough, Office 2013 was available to purchase.  I believe in the United States it sells through this program for $10; In Canada it sells for $11.

If you are responsible for Office training in your organization, check with your IT department if you have access to this great program.  It’s a excellent way to get employees comfortable with the newest office software.