What’s on your tool belt?

Working as an Instructional Designer is not what is used to be. There is so much going on in our field it is hard to keep up with it all. So many new tools for designing and delivering training. What do you do to make sure your skills are up-to-date? You need to constantly be sharpening your tools.

I am sure some of you have watched that story on PBS, you know the one with that guy who moved to the Alaskan wilderness and built log cabin with hand tools then lived off the land for 30 years. It’s is pretty impressive. The show is called Alone in the Wilderness and his name was Dick Proenneke. 

So what the heck does this have to do with an ID’s tool set? Well hold your horses, I am getting there. The story is very fascinating to me. Partially because I love the outdoors. But there is more to it. Dick is showing us how he did it. He succeeded and even thrived where others failed. For example the not so successful attempt by Christopher McCandless who’s story did not end so well. He was not prepared for https://i2.wp.com/www.aloneinthewilderness.com/images/building_the_cabin/notching_logs_for_wall.jpgthe challenge. There was a movie about his adventures too titled Into the Wild a film directed by Sean Penn based on the book written by Jon Krakauer. Pardon me while I digress. So back to Dick Proenneke. I have watched that show many times with amazement. There is one major life message that I have gleamed from watching Dick’s adventures. The man spent a great deal of time sharpening and caring for his tools. As a matter of fact at one point he talks about the importance of caring for your tools. Basically he was saying that if you have the right tools and they are kept sharp your job will be much easier.

OK, you see where I am going with this now? Right? The Learning and Development landscape is changing drastically. I am not talking about the foundational theories of learning. That’s pretty much the same. What’s changing is the technologies with which we develop and deliver training. There is so many new tools and technologies available to us today.

Some people seem to focus on one specific tool. I have even had people ask me …so if our organization was to pick one tool what do you think it should be?  This always frustrates me. What that means is that you are willing to limit yourself to what one tool is capable of. We should be starting with the idea, then choose a tool that will create what you envisioned. Or in other words choose the right tool for the job. Let’s take rapid eLearning tools. You have a lot of choices. Lets look at some of them.

There are a few more options out there but these are the ones most talked about. What tool do you use? In my opinion you need to have a level of familiarity with all of them. If you don’t then how do you know that you are using the right tool. I hope you don’t choose the cheapest option available. I do realize there are companies out there like that. If you work at one of those companies you may have to get creative.

So why do I recommend more than one program for rapid development. You see, it’s like you don’t use a hammer to cut with do you? For example lets say you wanted to take a PowerPoint slide deck and have video of a presenter nested neatly in the corner to create a complete presentation experience? Which software would you use? I am sure there are a few ways you could accomplish this. But what would work the best? Personally, I would choose Camtasia for this project. Camtasia does this very well. Then end product is great and is very easy to accomplish this effect. Now if you where wanting to build some complicated interactions adding some external XML or JavaScript based interactions. For this I would choose Lectora. I have been very successful replicating Flash based interactions so they could be played on an IOS device. That is just using the built it Actions & Variables, no external scripts needed. Now if you wanted to get up and running quickly turning a PowerPoint presentation to an eLearning and beef it up with some basic pre-programmed interactions, I would choose Storyline. Storyline is a great choice here and is moderately priced. Now what about that new software training you need to design and deliver… yesterday. This is the sweet spot for Captivate. Just record the screen then add call outs and other graphics over the top. You can even add narration right in the software.  If you do this it works best if you have a nice headset with a built-in mic. Now it is true I have seen some pretty good eLearning created with Captivate. I have some friends who can make it Captivate do Kung Fu. (Mark Chrisman) However, I see Captivate is my choice for doing system simulations especially if you want them to be interactive. Again for eLearning I use Lectora. I have found that building a course in Lectora and dropping in Captivate simulations (SWF files) is a great combination. Combining a few of these tools can be very powerful.

OK, are you with me on this yet? Having a suite of tools that you are comfortable in is the only real choice here. Even if you do not purchase all of them you should download the trial versions. My recommendation is to spend whatever the trial period is focused on learning that software. Don’t download all of them at once. Choose one then pick a mock project so you are focused on a real world application. Now to supplement your self-directed learning search youtube for some how-to videos or maybe sign up for https://i2.wp.com/www.aloneinthewilderness.com/images/home/dick_proenneke_dutch_doors.jpgLynda.com. Another idea would be to reach out to someone who uses the software and can give you a walk-a-round. Taking a class at a local college is great too or looking for a session at a conference. But don’t wait till then start on your own. If you focus you will be amazed at how fast you can learn a new tool. If you do this with each of these tools you will be well prepared whatever comes your way. You will no longer be limited by one way of doing things. I am sure your learners would like to see something new as well. No one will be left out in the cold.

So get those tools sharpened up!
~jeff

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