Tuesday, July 14, 2009

To Scorm or Not to Scorm, that is the Question?

Hey folks, lets talk about SCORM for a minute.

The question of SCORM seems to be rearing its ugly head more and more these days so I thought I would give my 2 cents worth on this subject based on our elearning experiences over the last 10 years.

Firstly, Scorm is basically a technical specification that governs how online training is created and delivered to learners. A lot of agency types will tell you that if you are getting into elearning you have to have SCORM. Frankly, I think this is mostly because they would like to sell you their SCORM compliant Learning Management System (LMS). You might also hear statements like "if you have a SCORM system then you can take any SCORM compliant course off the shelf and use it on your system." This statement would beg the question, how many SCORM courses do you currently have? My experience has been that for whatever reason no two SCORM systems are alike--combine this with the fact that there are currently four versions of SCORM and, well, you get the idea. As a result of all of this I've seen many companies get bogged down trying to get their SCORM systems to integrate and function properly when they should have been channeling their resources into content development.

If you're getting into eLearning it's likely because you have staff that require training or you're trying to reduce training costs. Spend your money developing good elearning courses and content to meet your immediate needs and take the time to look at the best way to archive and serve up your growing library of courses when you have time to do a proper analysis of what's available that will properly meet your needs.

Flash-based elearning courses can be run from your company's servers or a vendors without the use of SCORM. A simple database can be used for that matter that will offer the same encryption the banks use.

For more info on testing tracking and reporting your elearning, check out our entry from Feb 28, 2009 or go to www.quizzpoint.com.

Thanks for stopping by.


Friday, June 5, 2009

eLearning Implementation Planning

If elearning is so good, then why are so many companies not seeing the results they had hoped for with their elearning programs? The answer to this question in most cases is poor planning, “people don’t plan to fail--they fail to plan” I believe is the famous quote. What is the end goal that you wish to achieve with elearning and what is your plan to accomplish that goal? 

A great number of companies these days seem to think that having access to a myriad of information will somehow transport students to a higher level of performance. People haven't changed the ways that they learn something new. They still have to practice new concepts to get comfortable with them and get feedback to ensure they're on the right track. If companies don't adopt sound learning principles to base their elearning efforts on then they will not realize the performance improvements they hoped for. 

To have success with elearning it has to be understood that elearning itself is nothing more than a delivery tool. You have to have a plan to put an elearning infrastructure in place that will grow both the elearning program and the people driving the program. Further, and this is crucial, you must have something in place to measure the effectiveness of your elearning’s implementation. This comes usually in the form of simple testing initially but further on will require a tracking or management system. I could talk at length on this topic but just wanted to share a few key pointers. 

Good Luck!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Print Functionality in eLearning

Time and time again the question of printing in elearning comes up and my answer to this question is always the same. Whether you are using print functionality or blending instructor led training with elearning these combinations will only work to your advantage when it comes to helping your students. Lets take a look at what can typically be done with printing in elearning courses. You may think it’s ironic that we’re even mentioning printing in elearning but make no mistake printing can be a tremendous help if it’s used wisely. 

First off, lets deal with the issue of printing an elearning screen or section of a course. This may be especially helpful in situations where your course is addressing the operation of a piece of equipment. Your student may remember this section of the course but would like to have a diagram or reference in front of him as he is servicing this equipment.

What exactly is going to be printed and how. Typically, the most widely used document for printing is an Acrobat pdf document. This means that, that document has to get assembled some where which means for you the designer or flash course builder, you have more work to do. But hey, we’ll just transfer that cost to the client and make some money this week! The good news is that you will likely already have all your course assests assembled in your powerpoint or keynote file so extracting them to make a pdf isn’t that tough. Your best bet when it comes to making pdfs is to dump your course assets into a program like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXpress. The main reason for doing this is that both Keynote and Powerpoint will not allow you to export all three sections of their normal view as one document or one page and Quark and InDesign perform this task exceptionally well. 

What you will have to do is take your photos and script from your story board and lay it out in InDesign in a one page layout that can be as simple as graphic on top and text on the bottom. Slap a title on it and you're ready to export to a pdf. By doing this you’ll be able to call up the pdf for printout in your Flash course. 

One of the best examples of using printing to benefit your students that I could think of, is a course that I built some years ago for a car company. I set up the service version of the course so technicians were able to access pdf instructions to assemble accessory components while the sales side of the company needed to see pdfs that showed the look and cost of those same accessories. The benefit for both was a cost savings overall as I built one course for two departments but moreover, technicians were able to print installation instructions that they could have in their hand at the time of installation as a reference. On the other side of the coin, the sales staff were able to use their pdfs to learn about the components and then show potential customers how their vehicle might look with a particular accessory installed. This is one technique that I use to this day and I’m glad to be able to share it with you.

All the best,


Thursday, April 30, 2009

QuizzPoint gets yet another really cool feature!

Hey folks, ever wish you could reduce the amount of time you spend administrating your elearning courses? Here's a neat little feature we've recently added to QuizzPoint to allow students to register themselves into classes and preclude the main administrator from having to constantly update classes with new students. No more endless phoning back and forth to get confirmation.

Here's how it works:
  1. The main administrator creates a self registration class within the QuizzPoint program. That's a group of students that the administrator so designates for that class based on whatever proprietary requirements fit that designation. Province, State, Sales, Service etc. 
  2. The students in this class can then be emailed from QuizzPoint informing them to self register on their next login. This would be done from QuizzPoint's email manager.
  3. Once registered these students will now automatically be eligible for courses or tests that that class is assigned to.
  4. And of course, the main administrator can still add or remove students from that class. 
It doesn't seem like much, but if you've spent any time doing training administration recently you'll know this new feature is going to save a ton of time and offer students a better experience overall.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Instructor Led Training is on its way out?

Hi folks, I fielded an interesting querry today from a friend of mine and right away I realized what a great topic it was for our blog. The question I fielded was this, "is instructor-led training on its way out?" I guess with all the elearning going on these days, some people might come to that conclusion but the reality is no, instructor-led training is not on its way out. 

Generally, when you start elearning you quickly discover that "what's nice to know becomes elearning and what's need to know remains instructor-led training." That is, do we need to drag bodies into a classroom to deliver information that they might just as easily and more conveniently acquire from an elearning course? Absolutely not, lets bring them to class only when it's absolutely necessary. For example, lets assume you just trained a newly promoted manager of a car dealership how to read a financial sheet. Would you want him loose in your dealership without checking his competence face to face first. I don't think so--therefore, we bring the candidate into instructor led training after he's already completed the initial elearning training and check to make sure he has the necessary skill you hoped for. The initial elearning course delivers all the background information for the student and helps to make the in-class training more efficient by allowing the in-class instructor to target key areas to check competence and thereby not wasting time on extraneous details. This improves the quality of the in-class training and almost always reduces the amount required.

In a nutshell, elearning has become a great adjunct or supplement to hands-on instructor-led training but it is by no means going to eliminate instructor-led training any time soon.

Hope this helps!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

What's New?

Hey folks, just a quick update to let you know what we're up to. The Path-Tech crew is currently working on changes to our Testing, Tracking and Reporting program, QuizzPoint, to fine tune the email scheduling functionality of the program. Yes you heard right, this program will allow you to email groups of students automatically to notify them of an upcoming courses, in fact you can define a list of students by class or score and send an email to all or any of them with the click of a button, thus eliminating the need for all that manual notification and letter sending you've been doing.

We will also be launching a new photography-based division of our business shortly to help round out our digital capabilities. 

Combine this with on-going client duties and one can keep quite busy even in slow economic times.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Target Population

In order to build any kind of training course—elearning or otherwise, it’s crucial to know your target population. You know, the folks that this training course is intended for. Things like, age, language capabilities, ethnicity, skill level, gender and background experience all have to be factored into your course planning to ensure that your course is relevant to the student. Realizing that most of your students may be forced to take your training as part of a job requirement or just generally have limited time to participate, when they do participate, your course has to be on target and beneficial for them. Make their learning experience enjoyable by offering quality content and great functionality. Remember, don’t give them any reason to click away!

Lets take for example a situation where you are well aware that your TPOP may have difficulty with your chosen language for a given course. This is a great example of when video and a strong use of graphics may be warranted. Reading text on a screen could be unnecessarily frustrating for the learner, while a video or graphics would convey your message easily. 

This post is not intended as an encyclopedia on learning outcomes, but when it comes to elearning if you’re having difficulty understanding your target population, it may be worth while to take a few minutes to write a brief summary of who they are so you can gain some clarity on your students and use the information to fine tune your course material.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Your Content

So what about your content? Think elearning is just throwing text up on a screen? Some people think it is but the reality is, pdfs are pdfs, whether you read them on paper or you read them from a computer monitor. Whether your students are prisoners--forced to participate in your course or willing participants, if you don't captivate their attention it's likely they'll click away or become disillusioned in a hurry. The Path-Tech mindset for building elearning is "don't give the learner any reason to click away from your course." With Flash and other tools available to us content builders these days, like animation, video, photos and text, you can easily make your content compelling for the learner. If one picture is worth a thousand words, how much is one video, one animation or one combination of those worth? I think you get the idea. Here's a video example of a three page pdf that was used to clarify a message the original pdf just couldn't convey with sufficient clarity.


Hope this gives you some ideas as to how to improve your courses.


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Testing, Tracking and Reporting elearning

I'd be remiss if I didn't offer a tip or two for elearning testing and reporting so here's our advice. Don't get fooled into thinking you have to pay huge money to manage your content, courses and testing--it's simply not the case.

Here' our alternative to high priced testing Learning Management Systems that's as inexpensive as $20 per student-per year. Due to our frustration with the lack lustre performance of existing testing programs for elearning, my company developed a program called QuizzPoint. QuizzPoint was written specifically to test, track and report on elearning but it does so much more and all in a user friendly format and can reside on your servers or ours.

You can identify your students with a user name and password, categorize them until you're blue in the face, write your tests inside our program and add graphics to those tests, connect to your course for review, set a multitude of parameters for your test like the number of attempts, min/max score, time allowed to take the test, send messages to your students at the beginning and end of the testing process and much more! You can even send emails for scheduling events and it's all done from within one, easy to use program.

You can get full details and arrange a free demo at: http://www.quizzpoint.com

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Master Templates

So now that you know you should compile your storyboard in Powerpoint or Apple's Keynote, what is your course going to look like to students or viewers? One of the things you'll have to design is a template for the look and functionality of your course. Here's one example for your reference. You could let a vendor do this for you but either way you should at least gather up any logos or corporate protocol materials that will have to be incorporated into your template. Remember, when working with a vendor, if you don't tell them what you want, it is likely you will get back their version of what they think you want. Personally, I prefer to decide what elements will go into the template myself and rely as little as possible on a third party. Generally, your template should comprise four parts; the header, navigation/buttons, content and your footer or bottom bar. Just remember to keep things clean and simple. The majority of web browsers these days expect navigation to be horizontal and oriented in the top third of your page so by giving people what they expect, the student can concentrate on the learning content of your course.

We hope this helps and don't hesitate to email us if you have a question!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Storyboard Software Choice

All that talk about sequencing your storyboard and we forgot to discuss storyboard basics. So here's the scoop. You could likely use any of the more popular desktop publishing programs you like but a couple of things to think about are; is the program you will use familiar to everyone contributing to the build process, and does this software accommodate text, graphics, an outline and have a provision for an audio script? If not, here's my advice. As much as I hate Microsoft software, Powerpoint is a good choice for storyboarding because it allows you to sequence your slides to match your Flash screens with it's outline view. At the same time you can see your actual slide and related master template graphics and additionally, the notes view provides the perfect place for audio scripts and vendor notes. So there you are, two tips and we just started this blog.

Good luck.

eLearning Production Tip!

Ok, we promised a tip or two so here goes nothing. For those of you getting ready to build your first elearning course you may or may not realize it all starts with the storyboard. That's where your original concept/topic gets organized into something either presentable to a vendor for Flash production or simply serves as a platform for others to participate in the storyboard building process. Whatever the case may be and here's the tip part - make sure to use some type of screen numbering system so that when you are migrating from the storyboard program to a web program like Flash you will have a way to quickly reference which screen/slide your working on. This is crucial if your course is being built by a vendor. Just imagine calling your vendor and saying something like, "you know that paragraph in the electronics section"  I think we need to tweak it. You want to be able to say, I want to make a change on screen 2-04, second paragraph and the change is...  believe me, this will save you countless hours especially if your course is of any length or complexity.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Path-Tech Design is a technical elearning production and website design company based in the greater Toronto area. Our content is primarily Flash-based which allows the integration of animation, video and photography to produce captivating training courses. We started this blog to give you an introduction to Path-Tech and try and keep you up to date with what's new with us.

Our crew is a group of talented individuals that come together to build innovative solutions for our partners. It's amazing to think how the elearning industry has changed since first getting involved in 1999. At that time elearning was a buzz word and seemingly every one was racing to get involved. Speed ahead ten years and we see elearning has clearly become the defacto standard for the majority of corporate training.  

As integrated to main stream training as elearning has become, it's still not the be all - end all -for training. That is, elearning should not be thought of as a replacement for instructor led training but rather an adjunct that when used wisely, can greatly improve the training experience and the bottom line.