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,