Why learning designers are reinventing asynchronous video

There’s no disputing that video has been an important medium during the pandemic. After all, live video has helped people connect with each other and feel part of a team. But real-time video calls have become overused and Zoom fatigue started setting in some time ago.

And despite strong productivity claims, this way of hybrid working reduces how good practice is spread by ‘osmosis’. Many people are distributed in time and space. This means vital tacit knowledge can stay locked up in heads, on synchronous digital channels like Zoom, or in long textual threads on Slack.

But, we need our people with domain expertise across the organisation to share good practice, to teach key skills, and model behaviours. And this can’t just be one-to-one – it needs to be at scale.

As a result, asynchronous content is back in vogue. Some designers have experimented with asking subject matter experts to share short videos that can be embedded into programmes or shared as learning pathway resources. The end results are patchy: content often goes off-topic, videos are too long, or technical hurdles get in the way. This is no surprise though – digitising traditional watercooler learning moments isn’t easy.

It’s one thing to have a one-to-one conversation with a colleague, but knowing that a video could be shared with the whole company adds a different layer of pressure on creators. This is why many learning designers are not only avoiding the cost and complexity of traditional video production, but also the unpredictability of self-filming by recording interviews with subject experts on Zoom or Teams calls. This lets them guide the conversation while taking care of the technology. Whilst this does reduce costs compared to traditional shoots, the amount of administration can be Kafkaesque!

Each interview typically requires a set-up call to run through scope and purpose. This is followed by the main recording session. With each session taking 30-60 minutes, there’s also additional administration around scheduling calls and rescheduling work missed while away from desks. This impacts other important jobs as interviews can take place at different times of the day including ‘out-of-hours’ depending on where your experts are based.

And when all the content is recorded, the editing process can be complex. People are too busy to watch long interviews so content needs to be reduced into bite-sized chunks. Editing can be a slow and laborious format as retaining context and meaning is challenging when abridging content.

With so much complexity, how can you overcome all of this? What can you do to provide the right support, scaffolding, engagement approach, and tools to make the curation of employee-generated video agile and repeatable? How can you amplify domain expertise in a scalable way?

By widening your pool of experts and making it easy for them to reflect and share concise, on-topic experiences, without real-time support, means you can have a direct impact on skills and performance even when strapped for resources.

Join us on 10th November 2021 to:
Tap into employee-generated content and solve these repeat learning design challenges

Find out:

  • Where employee-generated content adds the most value to the design process
  • How to discover the gold dust through interview frameworks and workflows
  • Which challenges SMEs typically face when sharing knowledge on video
  • Plus mini case studies and stories from the creator frontline.

Communicating in colour!

As L&D professionals, we’re always looking to make our sessions as effective as possible, whether they’re face-to-face, eLearning, virtual classrooms, or any other method.

Different techniques abound – I’m sure you have your own preferences that work well for you. However, have you ever thought of using colours to ‘classify’ your learners and so appeal to their favoured communication styles?

Having tried many systems – there are literally hundreds available – I always come back to a really straightforward model that’s quick, simple, and easy to remember whilst still being surprisingly accurate:

Before we go any further, can I just say ‘Yes, I agree, it’s impossible to pigeon-hole people into four categories’?

This basic system allows you to think around different options when presenting your learning and flex your style to appeal to the different preferences – just remember few people are just one colour, most span at least two and often all four to varying extents. And if you find the colour combinations jarring, feel free to change them to suit your colour palette.

If you’re thinking ‘learning styles re-hashed’ just pause a second!

Regardless of your feelings about such groupings and whether or not they ‘hold water’ in your opinion, having a structure to work with can, in my experience, be really helpful. For example, I still find thinking about appealing to as many human senses as possible, regardless of their ‘learning style classification’, produces a more balanced and successful approach. The same applies to communication preferences – if not more so as if we don’t communicate well, we’ve got real problems…

Talking of preferences, here is a very brief summary of some of each colour’s key communication inclinations. As you read through try and think if you can identify people you know in each of the colour categories:

Thinking about those you know, you can probably fill in a lot more characteristics yourself just from these brief outlines.

The important thing here is that we need to work with and use that knowledge in our learning interventions. If you know your audience, this may make life easier; alternatively, it can overcomplicate.

So, assuming we know nothing about our audience here are a few ideas:

eLearning and Documentation

  • Allow the learner to work through the session at their own pace (different colours work at different speeds)
  • Use bullet points to summarise (reds will love you and others will pay attention)
  • Organise your sessions logically (blues will love, all will appreciate)
  • Give options for further information – references, non-compulsory uncovering of supporting information (blues will love – and use, others will appreciate the choice and select themselves according to their level of interest)
  • Use gamification with care (reds and blues will switch off – reds can even become aggressive)
  • Use GIFs sparingly (as above)
  • Make sure graphics are relevant (as above)
  • Ask questions regularly (appeals to all colours to bolster or reassure)
  • Make sure the learner can’t just flick through the screens (reds and yellows, in particular, will often try and find ways around the learning until they are convinced it is a good use of their time)
  • Vary the techniques you use to both present and explain new concepts (to appeal to all)

Face-to-Face and Virtual Classroom

Observe the behaviour of your learners:

  • Who answers first? (typically red or yellow)
  • Who tries to take over the session? (typically red or yellow)
  • Who’s very quiet? (typically blue or green)
  • Who’s doing something else at the same time? (typically red or yellow)
  • Who looks sceptical? (typically blue or red)
  • Who looks enthusiastic? (typically green or yellow – red if you’ve convinced them)
  • Who challenges you? (typically blue or red)
  • Draw yourself a ‘map’ of the ‘room’ and write in names and colours to capture your ideas – you can always continually refine
  • Use reflective questioning techniques to find out more and challenge without aggression
  • Control the session by involving everyone – perhaps set time limits for answers and move around the group allowing thinking time for those who need it
  • If you’re using syndicates or virtual rooms decide on groups carefully, according to the characteristics you’ve observed and what you’re trying to achieve (you can still present them as being ‘randomly allocated’!)
    • Take care if you put red and yellow together – their similarities can cause conflict
    • Yellow, green – and even red – can learn from blue
    • Blue and green can be intimidated if presented with what they perceive to be overpowering personalities – but, conversely, handling this circumstance may be exactly what they need to develop and grow

As I said earlier, this technique is definitely ‘rough and ready’, but in my experience uncannily accurate and real help to me as a trainer in many different circumstances.

There is a questionnaire that can be used to identify individuals’ colour communication preferences, plot on a simple chart for visual reference, and more information about each style that can’t be covered in this short article.

Select the button to download.

Give colour communication a try and see how it works for you. We’d love your thoughts.

My time is nearly up!

Joan Keevil

It’s hard to believe that I first joined the eLearning Network Board of Directors back in 2016 (after standing for election unsuccessfully the previous year).

How can it be 5 years already?!?

I had left the BBC at the end of 2008 after 18 years, was running my own business from home, and felt I needed to connect more with others in the industry. I also realised I had a lot of experience I could share that might help others. At the time, my profile was quite low but over the past five years – two as an eLN Director and 3 as Chair – I have had the privilege to connect with and get to know (and work with!) a whole range of my peers.

So as my time on the Board draws to an end (I stand down at the end of November), I can honestly say the eLN has helped keep me sane, invigorated, and enthused about my work and I could not be prouder of what we have achieved.

It goes without saying that I will miss being Chair of the Board, but I have a great team who can be relied on to take the eLN forward and continue to build on its success. Look out for more information about upcoming vacancies on the Board, since directors often do a 2-year term then hand the reins over to someone new. Could that be you? Look out for all the election information coming your way soon via the newsletter, socials, and emails.

The pandemic has massively increased the number of online and virtual events that people are being asked to sign up to, at a time when they are under pressure to adapt to new ways of working, often with less support than before, and we definitely upped our game in response. It’s also great to report that we have some in-person events scheduled for the autumn – hurrah!

Why do I feel the eLN’s activities deserve to be heard above all the other noise?

At heart, it’s because of our core values – we are a not-for-profit run by the eLearning community for the eLearning community. Our directors are not paid, and we are not required to make a profit, only to serve the membership, promoting collaboration, networking, and sharing best practice.

If you work in L&D and/or eLearning, this is your network, your community. You will be a stronger, more capable, more reflective practitioner if you know what great looks like and are connected to people who strive for excellence, show you what it looks like, and are willing to help you get there.

Even if you’ve only been in the industry for a couple of years, you’ll still know more than someone who’s just transitioning into it. If like me, you’ve been around for years, then you’ll have a wealth of experience that is worth sharing. I believe we all have a responsibility to improve standards within the industry.

I can quote eLN member Andrew Jacobs here, even though it’s a different context: “It starts with me”. I will continue to support the eLN after I leave the Board and would encourage you to ask yourself: “What can I do to help?” and “Is now the right time for me to make a difference?”

One issue we’ve discussed at length on the Board is whether to make all our activity open to everyone across the eLearning industry (and the wider L&D sector, now we’re all ‘digital’), or whether to restrict what we do to fully paid-up members.

This year we’ve put more behind the membership firewall, making full membership a more valuable proposition. Quite frankly, I challenge anyone to tell me where else you can have access to this wide range of membership benefits for such a low annual fee – it works out now at 55p per week. I do believe our profile is higher than when I joined the Board but I also think there are a lot more people out there who could sign up but haven’t – as yet!

So, if you’re reading this as a newsletter subscriber (free), why not upgrade to full membership now? If you’re reading this on social media and haven’t connected with the eLN as yet, is now not the time to do so? I look forward to having more people join before my term of office ends!

Thinking of stepping into the world of self-employment?

Over the past 2 years, more people have been leaving employment and turning to freelance or contracting. People have been reassessing their work/life balance, reprioritising, branching out into new interests and careers.

As so many people are joining the world of self-employment, I figured it was time for me to put my experiences across, to maybe help people consider the realities of being self-employed.

In 2017 I was told I could either reapply for my job or take redundancy. I had never been out of work (since I was 14 years old), I needed to reassess decide what I wanted to do next.

I had thought about self-employment for years, that was the dream, the ultimate goal. But what does it really mean? Well, there are several types of self-employment and I’ve dipped my toe in most of them over the past few years so if you are thinking about taking the plunge, read this first.

Before we start, I did a poll on LinkedIn to see what the spread of self-employment was. Most were employed, but it got me wondering how many people dream of working for themselves.

Employed

Let’s set the baseline, if you are employed by a company in the UK there can be quite a few benefits. These include:

  • At least a minimum or living wage
  • A pension with contributions from the company
  • Holiday pay
  • Sick pay
  • Maternity/paternity pay
  • Your tax and National Insurance (NI) contributions are automatically deducted if you are paid PAYE
  • Additional benefits like a gym membership, car/travel allowance, shopping vouchers, etc.

Now let’s look at the different types of self-employment:

Freelancing

An article from Indeed states that freelancers are:

“a non-permanent, self-employed worker who provides products and services to multiple organisations. These professionals can work for as many clients and take on as many projects as their schedule allows. As a freelancer, you can set your own rates, process tax payments independently, and choose where to work.”

There are lots of pros and cons to being a freelancer, and some of them will depend on your field and circumstances. For example, you need to keep a record of your incomings and outgoings then submit these to HMRC each year. Then you’ll receive your tax and NI bill, you need to have squirreled away enough money during the year to pay.

Some freelancers do their books themselves, some use apps such as QuickBooks or Xero. Personally, as soon as I made the decision to become self-employed I popped down to my local accountant and signed up. I figured I’d rather pay someone who properly knows what they are doing rather than faff around trying to do it myself and wasting time.

I had made that mistake with my website, I spent a couple of weeks building it… then a couple of years later just paid someone (who was a freelance web designer) to rebuild it. Because I would cringe whenever I looked at it.

That makes a good point actually, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Think about it, if I was really busy with work, where would I find time to do my books or rebuild my website? So potentially I could lose money or contracts or have to work evenings/weekends.

When I was made redundant, I created a limited company (FYI you don’t have to be limited to be a freelancer) and I bought my web domain. I then got to work promoting myself, thinking clients would be banging down the door to work with me. I posted on the socials, I sent out info packs to companies and I did a lot of ringing around.

Nothing. For 8 months. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

That’s one of the biggest challenges, getting the clients in when you first start. When you do get clients, hopefully, they will give recurring work rather than being ‘one build wonders’. So after some time, you wouldn’t have to hunt for work anymore.

I had no idea what to do or how to start, that’s where the eLN came in, I signed up and got myself a mentor. He really helped me to define what I wanted and gave me a plan of how I could get there. Another benefit of the eLN was I began to build my network of other people, freelancers, contractors, and employed.

  • The biggest tip I can give you if you want to freelance is to build your network, not just connect on LinkedIn, really get to know people. For example, I’ve just taken on a client who was referred by a friend of a friend.
  • The second tip would be to have a super fabulous portfolio as most people are asking for them now.
  • My third tip would be to have enough money to not earn for several months, even a year. The more you have squirreled away the less pressure you’ll feel to creep back into employment or like me, start contracting.

Contracting

So after 8 months, I was called by an agency about a contract. The job was to develop GDPR training, had a decent day rate, and was only for 3 months. I figured why not try contracting for a while, being freelance clearly wasn’t working for me.

After earning a good wage for 3 months’ work, the contractor bug bit me. I took a month off and then jumped into another contract, this time for 8 months. Then straight into another one which was just over 2 years.

When I say ‘Contracting’, what does that actually mean? There are quite a few different types, some include:

  • Fixed-term contract – where you are essentially employed by a company usually with all the same benefits for a certain amount of time.
  • Retainer contract – where the company ‘book’ you for a set number of hours/days each month. This can also form part of your freelance work.
  • Agency contract – where the agency posts the job and you apply. If you are successfully placed, they take a placement fee. This can be a finders fee paid by the company or a percentage taken off your daily rate. Often you complete a timesheet and send that to the agency each month.
  • Direct contract – where you have not gone through an agency and invoice the company directly.

From April 2021 all public authorities and medium and large-sized clients outside the public sector are responsible for deciding if IR35 rules apply. In an article from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB),

“IR35, also known as the off-payroll working rules or intermediaries legislation, is designed to make sure that that in an engagement, which is considered to be akin to an employment relationship, those working through their own companies, and their engagers (your clients), pay the same income tax and National Insurance contributions as those who are employed directly.”

This means a contract can be within IR35 or outside it, for example, my first contract was only 3 months so it would fall outside. My second contract was a small business, so that was outside too. My third was over 2 years in the public sector so that fell within.

What did this mean? I had to work through an umbrella company rather than invoicing the company directly as I had before. A bonus of this was I didn’t have to think about an annual tax or NI bill as I was essentially an employee, and there was a pension. But as it wasn’t a fixed-term contract so I didn’t receive any benefits like holiday pay.

Finding work through agencies is a lot easier than finding your own clients, but the day rates can vary greatly depending on the work and company.

  • The first tip for day rate contracting is to check what deductibles are coming out of your day rate. Know what you will walk away with each day/month, it’ll save you being shocked when you get your first payslip.
  • Second, ask the company if you can use their content in your portfolio. This is an important step that I have forgotten in the past. Just bear in mind you may need to alter some of the details, blur screens, or remove the company branding.
  • The third tip would be to continue to network. I have to admit I’m really bad at this, as when I’m in a contract I am focused on the work. So if you see me popping up more on Twitter and LinkedIn it’s generally when I am not working.

Would I take another contract within IR35? To be honest, probably not as I still had my business overheads but the business technically wasn’t earning anything, so it was a bit of a nightmare for my accountant. Also, the umbrella company takes a fee, so you could be losing another bit from your day rate which you need to take into account.

In conclusion

After 3+ years of contracting, I was beginning to feel a little too ‘employed’. Don’t get me wrong, the work was good, the people were fantastic and I have learned a lot.

But I still have the dream.

To juggle multiple clients, to have the variation several clients can give, to set my own pace and decide how and when I want to work and with whom.

The freelance dream is still alive, and now I have my first client (hopefully recurring) I am on my way.

I hope you found my experience useful to help you make the decision about if self-employment is for you. If you have any questions you can find me on LinkedIn or the eLN Slack channel (you need to be a member of the eLN to join the Slack channel).

These times are changing

It is pretty safe to say that we have been living in turbulent times over the past 18 months and we have seen a range of changes to learning and development.

At the eLearning Network, we have been providing support and skills developments to both our members and non-members during this time to ensure that we all have the necessary tools, knowledge, and mindset to lead our organisations in this brave new world.

Meanwhile, the board of directors, of which I’m very proud to be part, have been working on a number of new developments that will take the Network forward.

We are currently in the latter stages of finalising all our plans, so you will see a number of announcements moving forward, so stay tuned to your inboxes for updates.

We are looking forward to you joining us in our new frontier.

Hannah Gore
Board Director

Up your feedback game

Feedback: how does the word make you feel?

For some, it’s an essential element of everyone’s learning and development. For others, it’s an onerous necessity, leading to awkward conversations. Most of us are somewhere in the middle, trying to do the right thing and ensure we’ve got the hang of it.

Culture plays a part: I’ve worked with breathtakingly frank managers from other countries who smile as the British people in the workshop tie themselves in knots. And then there’s the dreaded ‘sandwich’!

That’s why I wrote The Feedback Book.

Five elements for better storytelling in learning design

I can’t resist a good story.

Chances are, neither can you.

Stories draw us in. They help us relate to other people. They inspire us. They help us learn what’s right and wrong, how to treat each other better, and what happens to people who don’t do the right thing.

I’ve always been intrigued by storytelling. If I don’t have my nose in a book, I’m watching films or TV shows. I’ve even had a go at writing stories, but never thought I was a great storyteller. So, a couple of years ago, I took some creative writing classes to try to get better.

And it turned out that learning about storytelling gave me a fresh perspective in my day job as a learning designer.

There are many parallels between telling a compelling story and crafting a learning experience.

In creative writing, the aim is to keep the reader engaged in the story. To make them want to keep reading until the end and take something of the story with them.

In a piece of learning, we aim to keep the learner engaged, help them connect to what it is we want them to learn to do, and apply it in their ‘real world’.

Both experiences are deeply personal. We can’t control what a reader or learner takes from a piece. We craft a story with space for them to take what they want (or need) from it.

So, how do we tell better stories in learning design? Here are five basic elements which I think we can use:

  • Character
  • Setting
  • Plot
  • Conflict
  • Theme

Character

Every story has a cast of characters. But a good story will usually revolve around one or a select few protagonists.

I like to think of learners as the protagonists in my learning design. I want to know who they are, where they come from, what motivates them, what they’ve been up to before now, and how my design affects them.

I can’t talk to every single learner, but I can use things like:

  • Demographics.
  • Empathy maps.
  • Personas.
  • Audience feedback.

And I can stay focused on my learner’s experience by asking questions like:

  • What’s the first thing they notice?
  • How does it make them feel?
  • Does it matter to them?
  • Am I telling them one thing but showing them something different
  • Whose story am I really telling?

Setting

This is where and when a story takes place.

In learning design terms, this can be the physical or cognitive environment. It’s the bigger picture around the learning.

Understanding of the setting means I can work around potential distractions and obstacles and design something my learners can use in real life, on the job.

So, I ask questions like:

  • Where will they be when they access the content
  • When will they access the content?
  • How will they access the content?
  • What potential interruptions do I need to be aware of?

In the cognitive setting, I ask questions like these to try to avoid overload:

  • Is the content easy to find?
  • Is it easy to come back to after an interruption?
  • Have I built in any accidental distractions?
  • If someone’s looking at this content for the first time, where does their attention go?
  • What else is happening at the same time – how much bandwidth do they have for this piece of learning?

I design for colleagues in retail stores who don’t have their own company laptop or desktop. Many of them use personal mobile devices to access content. They also mostly learn on their own, and on-demand. I need to think about screen size when choosing graphics or the amount of information I show. I need to add transcripts or closed captions to videos in case they can’t play with sound. I also need to make space for interruptions, like being called back onto the shop floor.

Plot

Plot gives a story structure. It maps the sequence of events in a story. You know where your character needs to be, and you navigate them towards it.

In learning design, the plot can be the structure of a piece of learning, whether it’s a programme or an individual piece of content. By putting your learner at the centre of the story, you can set them off on a hero’s journey to learn something new.

Things I find useful when mapping out my learning plots include:

  • Experience maps.
  • Learner journeys.
  • Content structure maps.

I’m working on a long-term project to evolve our store induction programme and I’m at the stage of plotting our learner’s first six weeks with us. I have a starting point, a sequence of activities and achievements, and an endpoint.

Having the plot mapped out lets me see what happens (and what I need to change) if I add or remove something. It also lets me add a bit of freedom for learners to write their own stories as they navigate their way through the plot and take shortcuts.

Conflict

A story without conflict is a story where nothing happens. Conflict drives stories forward. It brings change and is often what leads to breakthroughs or turning points.

But it needs to be the right type of conflict.

In learning design, we can think of conflict as what Julie Dirksen calls ‘friction’, or germane cognitive load.

I’ve been a spoon-feeder in the past. I thought I was doing learners a favour by making things easy and spelling things out. But learning about the importance of conflict in the story gave me my own lightbulb moment: we need conflict to learn.

Here’s what I’m trying to use more of to introduce the right kind of conflict in learning:

  • Discovery – e.g. letting people discover their own shortcuts in a system.
  • Mistake-based learning – e.g. building scenarios that let people make mistakes and see the consequences.
  • Interleaving – e.g. adding conversational scenarios to system navigation.

Theme

Theme is the overall message in a story. The main takeaway. The moral. The point.

In learning design, this is the overall goal or outcome: what our learning enables someone to do.

Theme gives us a focus for plot and conflict. If something doesn’t serve the theme, it won’t matter to the characters in the grand scheme of things. In other words, it doesn’t belong in the plot and could generate the wrong type of conflict.

In my induction project, the theme is: ‘perform the basics tasks of the job’. When I’m plotting an activity, I ask a simple question:

Does this activity serve the theme?

If not, it doesn’t go in. If it does, I go back to my plot plan to figure out where and when it belongs.

That said, I make exceptions for backstory which provides context. But not too much – a story that spends too much time looking back isn’t moving forward.

I’m still learning to use these five basic elements in my learning design, so I’d love to hear what you think about them. Do they seem like something you could use? Why not share your storytelling tips on Twitter.

Graphic Design: 5 Best Practices for eLearning

Whether you are a freelancer or just getting to grips with graphic design for eLearning, it’s easy to fall into the most common design traps. From exporting images 10000x bigger than the original size, to naming your files ‘Image 1’ (we’ve all done it), is there a way to make sure you are generating the best images for your eLearning course?

Managing your Images Better for eLearning

If you’ve ever completed an eLearning course with poor graphics, then you’ll know how distracting it can be for learners and can turn what could have been a great piece of learning into a chore.

A bad graphic design stands out like a sore thumb, whereas good graphic design complements the learning, adds breathing space, can offer a touch of fun, and can enable the learner to engage and understand information easier. I’ll take you through what I believe are the 5 most common eLearning graphic design mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.

1. The "Image 1" Trap

This is probably the easiest trap we’ve all fallen into. There’s nothing quite like being on a tight deadline to create some graphics! It’s so easy to name your graphics or projects ‘Image 1, 2, 3 etc’ and add these graphics to your course straight away. Now, depending on your eLearning authoring tool a few things can happen if you do this:
• Your file management software will be in chaos and a no-go area (more on this later)
• Organisation in your authoring tool will be a nightmare and time consuming
• 5,000 ‘Image 1’s later and you’ll dread the day a client asks for a small tweak to that particular graphic (good luck finding it!)

The moral of the story is always, always, name your graphics correctly. I use the following naming convention religiously:

Company Name, Course Title, Area in the course, What it is

For example: ThinkBiscuit Media_Allergens_Ingredients_Sesame seeds.png

Even when I have not organised my folders correctly (which is still bad!) I can usually turn to the trusted search bar and find the graphic I need. This leads us to the renaming of linked images and moving files around in your file management software. If you use Adobe Illustrator or After Effects – don’t do it! Here’s why…

2. File Management and Linked Images

If you’ve dragged images from your file management software into your Illustrator or After Effects project, it’s most likely that they are now what Adobe calls ‘Linked images’. This means the programme is using the file name and location of the images to add them to your project, rather than embedding the image itself.

Using linked images is a great way to reduce file size as the programme is not storing these images, it is simply retrieving them from your folder.
However, if you move any of these images around in your folder, delete them or rename them, Illustrator or After Effects will be searching for them in the original folder using the original naming convention – with no luck!

If you do this, it is possible to re-link each image, but it will take time to search and replace. You can also decide to embed all your images in the first place to avoid this (Illustrator only), but this will make the file larger in size and potentially more difficult to work with on your computer.

I believe the best solution would be to organise your file management system into an order that makes sense for your business and…you guessed it…name your images correctly. That way you won’t need to move, rename or delete any original images… …unless you have HUGE images sizes, then you may have to reduce them. Take a look below at how to export the best images sizes for eLearning.

3. Go big or go home?

  • When it comes to eLearning image sizes, go big or go home is not a good phrase to follow. One of the best things about some eLearning authoring tools is that they are fully responsive. This means you can choose to complete your training on a smartphone, tablet or a desktop. This is great news for learners who prefer using, or only have, a specific type of technology.

    What that means for eLearning designers is they should think about how to create images that work best for different screen sizes. A large image simply will not work with all screens and will likely lead to bloated file sizes and cause slow loading times.

    A good sizing convention I like to follow for full-width background images is:
    Desktop: 1920px
    Tablet: 1280px
    Mobile: 512px

If you have exported your images at huge sizes and need to change them – there is good news!

You can open them up in Photoshop, navigate to File, ‘Export as’, tick ‘Smaller File’ and then type in the width of your choosing. You should now have an image size appropriate for eLearning.

This takes us onto reducing file sizes…

4. From KB to MB

Nobody likes an eLearning course that take 5 minutes to load its images. You want a smooth and fast course that doesn’t bore you with a spinning wheel before you’ve even started!  I’m guessing you also want to keep high-resolution images and not scrimp on quality?

You can have both!

Fast-loading images (without compromising on quality), is what we aim for with every image in every eLearning course we design.
We do this by compressing every single image before we upload it to our chosen authoring tool – it only takes seconds…

Best of all it can even be free!

At ThinkBiscuit, we use a website called tinypng.com, which we’ve been using for years, and it really helps our graphics maintain their quality, but minimise their size.  Sometimes images are compressed to be more than 4 times less than what they were originally. Don’t be fooled by the name either – you can use PNGs or JPEGs!  There are loads of free compression tools to choose from – I just like the simplicity of tinypng.

Top tip – have you ever exported a perfectly proportioned image from Illustrator only to realise that the image size has been multiplied by 10,000 making it a huge image and huge file size? I have.

To save yourself hours of re-exporting images make sure you tick ‘Resolution: Screen (72 ppi)’ when you use ‘Export as’ in Illustrator, that way it exports exactly the same size as you created it to be. The higher the resolution you choose the bigger the size of the graphic it exports at.

But be aware of the pesky 1px problem! Leading me to my last top tip!

5. Illustrator’s Extra 1px Problem

Have you ever been asked to export something at a specific size and you find that it exports with 1 pixel extra, for example, 101 px by 100 px? Even though you’ve double, triple-checked that the artboard is exactly 100 px by 100 px!?

It probably means that the artboard is between points in Illustrator.

How do you fix it?
Go to the properties tab, then go to transform and remove the decimal point from the x or y axis (I’m using a Windows-based version of Illustrator). Your artboard should always be placed on a whole number otherwise it will round up the size of the artboard when you export. For example: x: 640.7 px, y: 512 px should be changed to x: 640 px, y: 512 px.

Once you’ve done that, your oddly-proportioned export nightmares should be over!

But wait…I don’t use Adobe!  For those of you who use alternative products to the Adobe software suite, it can be quite frustrating when you need to test out new products for your needs. There are however some packages that I’ve tried and tested that I think are useful for eLearning designers to use to create amazing graphics.

See below for the packages I would recommend using, all free to download:

  • Canva – This is a great app for generating photo and text overlays, useful when creating header/hero images for eLearning courses, social media images, etc. Demo the product in your browser.
  • darktable – This is a great photo manipulation software tool (think Lightroom). I would suggest watching some YouTube videos to learn the basics.
  • Gimp – A great alternative to Photoshop, again to manipulate your photos/images.
  • Inkscape – Illustrators free alternative. Useful for drawing, creating infographics, and generating pixel-perfect illustrations.

    I hope you found the tips in this article helpful and if you know anyone in the following position below at their desks, let them know about the solutions, and let’s help our fellow frustrated eLearning designers concentrate on creating beautiful, creative graphics.

Get to know the eLN Director: Jayne Davids

eLN Director Jayne Davids has been involved in Learning & Development for over 20 years designing and delivering systems training. Combining her love for teaching and enjoyment of making videos, through her company, Raiveon, she provides Camtasia video training and video production services with her husband Kevin. Jayne enjoys connecting people and creating opportunities for people. She looks after the eLN Mentoring Scheme.

What do you like most about the L&D field? Being able to help people. I also enjoy working with people in L&D, they tend to have a ‘can do’ attitude and a willingness to help.

What made you decide to stand for the eLN board? At the annual conference a few years ago, an eLN Director suggested I should put myself forward. I was incredibly surprised at the suggestion ‘Who me?!’ After parking the ‘self-doubt’ and much encouragement from friends in the industry, I applied the following year.

What would your dream job be? This may sound a bit clichéd, but I really can’t think of another job I’d rather be doing. I run my own business with my husband Kevin, and I help people develop, so I’m #winning.

If you could change 1 thing about the world of L&D, what would it be? For the past couple of years, I’ve been increasing my knowledge of how to design accessible and inclusive learning content. I’d like to see L&D professionals creating learning experiences that are designed for all.

What does a typical workday look like to you? I’m usually sat in front of my computer screen, either editing videos in Camtasia, completing business admin, or hosting online training sessions. I take a break for lunch, sitting in the garden when I can. At the end of the workday, I tend go for a walk, often a ‘walk and talk’ with friends, either in person or on the phone.

What is your favourite type of training to either build or deliver? In person, face to face. I design and deliver Camtasia video training and I love seeing people’s reactions when they experience lightbulb moments.

If you could give yourself advice when you were first starting out, what would it be?  Have a bit more confidence and try get over the imposter syndrome.

What has been your proudest moment?  Bringing 2 boys into the world who are kind and considerate.

If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?  1958 – I enjoy live music and dancing, especially rock & roll. Our company name is based on “Rave On” sung by Buddy Holly, it was our first wedding dance. It would be superb to attend one of his live gigs.

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? 
Scuba diving. I’m afraid of the water, I’m not a strong swimmer and I don’t like being out of my depth. I’ll probably never do it again, however, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to experience the amazing underwater world.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?  Having worked in the travel industry for many years I’ve had the privilege of visiting many different places. I am however writing the answers to these questions sat in a field whilst camping in North Devon. The sun is shining, there are magnificent views of the sea and fields, the sunset is incredible, there are not many places I’d rather be.
Finally, what would be your top 5 tips for someone new to L&D?
  • Be you
  • Be honest
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • Network
  • Grow friendships

Tales from the home school from our Vice-Chair, Gemma Wells

I think we can all agree the past year has been crazy. It has been emotional, devastating, empowering, and forced us to rethink the way we live.

If you had asked me 5 years ago if I thought I would be working from home for an extended period of time while home-schooling my children, I’d have probably said there was no way.

Well, then the pandemic hit us all!
So, what has the last year taught me? Let me share my two key takeaways from 2020:
• I have zero patience
• People can create a blurred image of what reality looks like

You may be thinking those points come across as quite a negative experience but let me flip them on their heads.

Let’s address my first point. Home-schooling my 3 children whilst holding down a full-time job alongside my wonderful husband (also working a full-time job) was – how should I put it – Hell! Some days drove me to sheer breakdown, and I wondered if I was cut out to be a mother, let alone a functioning working adult. Other days I would see messages of encouragement from their teachers saying how well they had done on a piece of work and my lack of patience and teacher skills melted away.

Don’t get me wrong, that was soon replaced the next day when my oldest point blank refused to complete his maths, but you know what? This whole last year has been about the little wins! The things we can really be proud of – we kept ourselves and our children safe during a global pandemic, one of which none of us had experienced before and held down full-time jobs. That in itself is AMAZING!

My kids have come out of it learning some small life skills – like making their parents a cup of tea or how the washing machine works, and have also had the freedom to discover the area where we live like never before.

My second takeaway refers to social media stories vs real life. We all measure ourselves against others. In the dawn of social media, be it LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, we all looked at what others were doing to get through this “unprecedented” time (sorry I used the phrase everyone is sick of hearing!!) and we really shouldn’t have.

I saw a fantastic quote online that really resonated with me:
“We are all in the same storm but not the same boat”
We should totally continue to live by this phrase, even when we come out of this storm.

No two people’s situations are the same and no two people will handle things the same, so we should all just give ourselves a break: if you didn’t manage to make rainbow spaghetti and play doh today but you did manage to have a shower, then you are winning!

I know I am not going to win “mother of the year” anytime soon, especially if the judges hear me yelling “get your shoes and bags” for the millionth time in a morning! But with that in mind I should cut myself some slack – I have achieved quite a lot in the last year.

I have successfully worked form home alongside my husband, and we are still married. I have changed jobs in the middle of a pandemic and only met people virtually, but already feel connected to them. My kids continue to surprise me with their resilience and knowledge. And I have set up a webinar series with 15 skills development sessions for eLN members that has proved very popular! All from the comfort of my living room!

So let’s all embrace the little wins, as that’s what makes us who we are! And if you feel like you want to make Rainbow Spaghetti as you are fully winning at life, here is a link – enjoy!

Get to know the eLN Director: Hannah Gore

With over 20 years of L&D experience in face-to-face, online and blended, Dr Hannah Gore has led innovations in public and private sectors. Her achievements include leading a Business School in 93 countries, working with corporate giants, to creating content for circa 10m learners globally for The Open University for iTunes U, Amazon Kindle and YouTube, to name but a few.

Hannah is an advocate of lifelong learning, completing her entire academic studies online from undergraduate to doctorate, whilst advancing her career. Since formally completing her academic studies, she has gone full circle and is now also an Associate Lecturer in research methodologies and ethics at The Open University for their triple accredited MBA programme.

Since Covid-19, Hannah has created The Canonbury Consultancy Group, providing solutions and services on a wide range of L&D specialisms; she serves as a Board Director for the eLearning Network, is a Fellow at LPI, and sits on panels for think tanks, podcasts, and conferences, sharing her views on emerging technologies and the impact of social changes across the industry.

What do you like most about the L&D field? The field of L&D is constantly evolving and there are a growing range of sectors within the industry. With the pandemic accelerating online learning it has been a time of change and growth for L&D and so many of the professionals in our industry has expanded their networks to personally develop themselves to help advance the provision within their own organisation. What I like most about the L&D field is that we as professionals recognise the need to continually evolve ourselves to lead the development of others.

What made you decide to stand for the eLN board?
When I started out in the world of work, I always knew that I needed to always give back to the community. So, when places on the board became available, I wanted to stand for a place to share all the knowledge I had accumulated with others in the field. For the past 15 years I have been working specifically in online learning and we are at a crucially important time to share that information, as well as my experiences within both the academic and corporate worlds.

What would your dream job be?
What I do is genuinely my dream job: helping people become the best versions of themselves is why I get out of bed in the morning. I did not take the traditional route in adult education, only attending university from the age of 23 through The Open University whilst working full time there. Having taken this route with my studies gives me more drive to help others find the route best for them.

If you could change 1 thing about the world of L&D, what would it be?
That more focus was given to the development of L&D professionals. The focus of conferences, podcasts, etc. is on developments within the sector, with very little on the type of skills that L&D professionals need to develop themselves to become the leaders we need for our sector in their organisations. These include soft skills such as negotiation, presentation, communication, and business skills to work more seamlessly with their colleagues within their own organisations to advance the L&D provision.

What does a typical workday look like to you?
I’m freelance, so I work with a range of clients, often in different time zones, so sometimes I have early starts or late nights. After 21 years in L&D I’ve pretty much covered most roles in the industry, so I can be discussing and creating strategies, creating content, writing wireframes for learning platforms, analysing data, or researching and writing papers. No two contracts are the same, and I really enjoy the variety. I then work some evenings and weekends as an Associate Lecturer for The Open University to give back to the student community as an OU alumnus.

What is your favourite type of training to either build or deliver?
I’ll be honest I love all types of training, because it’s not about me, it’s about the training, helping others to be better versions of themselves, helping companies become more efficient thus safeguarding them in these turbulent times, and helping business managers see the benefits and importance of continual development of their teams.

If you could give yourself advice when you were first starting out, what would it be?
Never stop learning and developing yourself. Not just in terms of changes in the sector, but your skills and knowledge that you need to be the best version of yourself. I’ve always worked and studied at the same time and that also helps to give me insight as how best to design content and platforms for learners to undertake.

What has been your proudest moment?
My doctorate. My thesis dedication is: “This thesis is dedicated to my late father who taught me that I could achieve anything, and to my dog who has impatiently waited for me to finish.” I crossed the stage at my graduation with six of my closest friends loudly cheering, a very misty-eyed moment!

If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
2000, the year I took the non-traditional work and study path and told myself that my instincts were right, and it would work out better than I then imagined.

If you were a super-hero, what powers would you have?
That is a tough question! My favourite superhero is Wonder Woman. I love her not for her superpowers, but her confidence, insight, and phenomenal female independence.

If you could share a meal with any 4 individuals, living or dead, who would they be?
My late father. I miss him a lot, he passed away when I was 23 so never go to attend any of my five graduations. I know he would be really proud and then we would discuss the changes in motorsport as we used to watch every F1 race together and talk about our next track day. I would forgo the other three guests for that moment.

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? I’ve always been petrified of bridges, but 10 years ago whilst I was in Ireland, I decided to face my fear and cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope brick in Northern Ireland. It’s 20 metres in length and a 30-metre drop to rocks and sea below. It was a cold, rainy and very windy day so the bridge was bouncing and swaying, but I crossed it anyway to only discover that you had to cross it again to get back to the mainland! Afterwards I had a very stiff drink at the local whisky distillery, and I am the proud owner of a certificate to commemorate my crossing!

What three items would you take with you on a deserted island? Definitely a copy of the complete works of Jane Austen, my dog Toby and his favourite treat Dreamies (he thinks he’s a cat), otherwise I’d never have a peaceful moment!
Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
Probably Spotify or Audible. I have limited time to read a physical book, so I have my Spotify and Audible apps to listen to podcasts and books as I’m walking Toby, doing housework, etc.

Finally, what would be your top 5 tips for someone new to L&D?
1. If you are unsure, ask. The community is full of amazing and helpful people.
2. Networks are your strongest ally, you learn so much from other people, the eLN tea & talks are a great way to meet people.
3. Take advantage of all the great resources, from websites, webinars, newsletters, podcasts, etc.
4. Get to know all the different areas of L&D to find your happy place.
5. Remember to always be developing yourself – you can’t blaze a trail if you’re not at the front of the queue.