You Already Know How to Build mLearning (You Just Don’t Know It)

Here are the slides from my recent FocusOn Learning session in Austin, TX You Already Know How to Build mLearning (You Just Don’t Know It)

A big thank you to everyone who was there and feel free to share it with others!

Top 10 Tools

It’s that time of year again to update the Top 10 tools list. I’ve been making my contribution to Jane Hart’s Top Tools compilation for several years now. So, wIthout further ado, here is this year’s list.

  1. Google Reader (RSS) This is my single most used source for my personal learning. It’s increasingly rare that I actually visit the Google Reader site since there are so many methods for connecting to your Google Reader subscriptions.  I do most of my reading on the iPad via Mobile RSS.
  2. Twitter This is *THE* place to connect with all the amazingly smart people in our field. If you’re in the learning profession and new to twitter check out this list of “The first 99 learning people to follow“. (Which reminds me I need to update that list too. )
  3. PowerPoint Love it or hate it PowerPoint is here to stay…at least for the forseeable future. Personally I believe it’s not PowerPoint that is the problem – it’s the people using PowerPoint.
  4. Evernote This is my storage place for things from literally everywhere. Accessible from my laptop, iPad & iPhone I can browse my notes and/or create new ones from virtually anywhere. I use this for gathering background information and resources for courses and presentations.
  5. WordPress In addition to this site I also post a weekly tip blog to go along with my grad school Master’s program portfolio which also lives on WordPress.
  6. SnagIt Anyone who does any amount of training design or documentation needs a great screenshot tool and SnagIt is as good as it gets.
  7. Camtasia Like SnagIt above, Camtasia is a fantastic tool for recording screenshots, producing basic videos and more. If a pictures worth a thousand words, how many is a video worth?
  8. Zite Another great learning resource, this iOS app is great for discovering new sources on the topics you’re interested in.
  9. Dropbox A must have for keeping all your files updated and available no matter where you are.
  10. Word Much like PowerPoint I think we’ll always need a way to create and edit documents. If you need control over a wide variety of formatting options you’ll probably be keeping this around. I use this for outlining, story boarding, and documentation among others.

That’s my list. Now where is yours? 😎

Audience Feedback with Poll Everywhere

At the Learning Solutions session I presented with Patti Shank last week I wanted to try some way to include live, real-time audience feedback. After looking at a few different options I decided on Poll Everywhere and it worked out really well. (At least I think it did. If you were there and have a different opinion please let me know!)

Check out this video to see it in action:

Here are some of the reasons I chose Poll Everywhere:

  • Cost:The free account allows up to 40 responses per question/poll which is probably plenty in most cases…especially for me. You can check the official pricing here.
  • No hardware required: Another great benefit is that your audience can respond using their phone via text message, twitter or the web.
  • Easy setup*: It’s pretty easy to create your poll questions and each question comes with a downloadable PowerPoint file which you can use as is, or copy/paste into your own slide deck.

A few things you should know before you try it:

  • You’ll need an internet connection to see the real-time updates. So test your connection in advance and always have a back up plan. I did an online survey of the same poll questions in advance and had that data as a backup. It also helped confirm what type of responses I could expect in the session.
  • Although it is easy to setup, their default instructions for participants that are included on the downloadable slides are a bit confusing. I made up my own version, which seems to work well.


I’ve had a  “royal” request for a job aid so stay tuned for that.

UPDATE: Here is the first attempt at a quick job aid for using Poll Everywhere in your presentation.


I do a lot of reading and try to share a lot of the best stuff I find via twitter. Usually this resulted in a big mass flood of tweets in the dark hours of the morning when most people here in the U.S. are still sleeping.  Recently I discovered a much better way to do this by using Buffer. The beauty of Buffer is that you can queue your updates and it sends them out at the optimum times to reach your audience.

Buffer is very simple to use and there are a bunch of different ways for you to queue your posts including:

If you like this, you might also be interested in “The Ultimate Guide To Becoming An Amazing Twitter Curator” from the Buffer blog.


Using Animated GIFs for Universal Video Delivery

Most of us who design & build elearning materials have probably worked with video at some point. Typically working with video involves making a decision on what video format you will use for the final output. This decision is based on things such as what hardware/software your audience will be using, what kind of speeds are they connected at, etc.  For example, if anyone in your target audience will be viewing on an iPad/iPhone then flash is immediately ruled out as an option. And that is only one of many scenarios you’ll need to grapple with.

What if I told you there was a video option that plays on virtually any device with no plugins of any kind required and even plays automatically INSIDE emails and Microsoft Office documents? I’d like to introduce you to consider….the “’lowly’ animated gif.

In certain situations, particularly when the recording is short, an animated GIF might make more sense than some other video formats. As a general rule, animated gifs load quickly, work on virtually any device and you don’t have to hit play to watch them. (As you can see in the example below.)

I use animated gifs for including screencast videos directly within emails and people love that they don’t have to launch any new windows or separate applications to see the video. What other video format will play anywhere from IE6 to iOS 5 and not blink an eye?

How It Works

Animated gif are very simply a collection of still images played in succession the same way you would see with a flipbook.



I use Camtasia to capture and produce my animated gifs. I like that I can do everything from the capture and editing to the final output in the same tool. For me the editing it the most important part since you want these to be pretty lean and lightweight files. Free 30 day trial available |


Screencast-o-matic is a popular web-based screencasting tool that lets you create movies of your computer screen right inside the browser without requiring any software. It runs as a Java applet and can therefore record movies of any Windows, Mac or Linux machine.  |

Do you use animated gifs for anything? What has worked well for you?


I’m not sure why or how but the example above is actually a .jpg.  I *THINK* WordPress may have changed it from a .gif. Below is an animated .gif. Does it make any difference?

Top 10 Tools

My contribution to Jane Hart’s 2011 version of the Top 100 Tools for Learning

  1. Twitter:
    The best source for finding, following & talking with smart people.
  2. Google Reader:
    …so I can subscribe to those smart people’s blogs and
  3. Diigo:
    Diigo has stepped inherited bookmarks after the horrendous Delicious debacle.
  4. PowerPoint/Articulate:
    The Articulate community alone is worth a top 5.
  5. Adobe Connect:  
    Web conferencing & online training
  6. WordPress:
    For hosting this personal blog and weekly tips
  7. SnagIt / Camtasia:
    The gold standard for screen capturing
  8. Dropbox:  
    So I can get my files when/where I need them whether it’s at home, work or on the road.
  9. Survey Gizmo
    Excellent for gathering feedback & survey responses. So many uses for this..use it virtually everyday.
  10. SharePoint
    Necessary evil but a step in the right direction away from email, network folders, etc towards more open collaboration

Displaying Documents in PowerPoint

This is in response to a good thread in Articulate’s Elearning Heroes community about “Creative Ways to Include Links

Here are a few ways that I’ve incorporated documents and attachments in presentations / courses:

This document graphic is from one of Tom Kuhlmann’s blog posts.  In the post he shows how he built it along with providing a downloadable copy.

Plain Document:

I usually drop a screenshot of whatever document I ‘m referencing on top of this….which leads to something like this:

At the end of a course I’ve used multiple  smaller versions that are animated with each document rising out of a pocket which is then linked to the actual document.

Download the PowerPoint Template

If you’re interested here is a PowerPoint file containing these examples.

View the published demo

and an Articulate published demo.

Publishing PowerPoint/Articulate to DVD

Since we’re developing materials for people working in power plants, we have a fair number of the people in our audience do not have easy access to a PC. ( Imagine the guy driving a bull dozer in a coal yard for instance.)  It’s much easier for them to find a TV/DVD player than a computer, so we often make DVD versions of our Articulate classes to make it easier for them to access certain courses.

One important thing to remember is that just because you save your project onto a DVD does NOT mean that it will play on a TV/DVD player.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. PowerPoint slides (duh!)
  2. Audio files/Narration (I use Audacity)
  3. Your favorite screen capture tool (optional – I use SnagIt)
  4. A video editing program (I use Windows Movie Maker)
  5. A DVD authoring tool (I use DVD Flick)

Here is the process we use:

Step 1. Save your PowerPoint slides as “PNG”,”JPG” images.

There are different ways to capture your slides as images. The easiest way is to do a “Save as…” from PowerPoint and choose one of the image formats.

However I’ve found that the best way is to take screen shots. This has two benefits. First I get better image quality by taking my screenshots of the slides with SnagIt in .PNG format. And secondly, you can “fake” animations by incrementally capturing slides with bullet lists, etc.  For example a slide with 3 bullet points would be captured with three screenshots – one for each bullet. This gives the appearance of animation in the video.

Step 2. Import the pictures into Windows Movie Maker

Step 3. Select all the imported images and add them to Storyboard

Step 4. Import the audio/narration into Movie Maker

Step 5. Add the imported audio files to the Storyboard and sync them with the images

(Optional) You can add titles, transitions, call outs and video effects to the slides if you like.

Step 6. Save the slide show as Movie File

When you save videos to DVD for viewing on television, it is important to be familiar with the various standard media formats for televisions, because most of the formats are mutually incompatible. In the US you’ll want to select the High quality video (NTSC) option.

The format used in America and Canada is NTSC (National Television System Committee). Western Europe and Australia use PAL (Phase Alternating Line) formatting, and Eastern Europe and France use SECAM (Sequential Color with Memory) formatting. Most DVD authoring software , including DVD Flick, gives you the choice of saving your video to either NTSC or PAL formatting for television.

NOTE: If you save your file for viewing on a television, the resolution may appear blurry on the computer.

Step 7. Burn the resulting .avi video file using your DVD authoring software.  See the DVD Flick help guide for details.

Depending on your content, you might want to consider creating a menu that allows viewers to navigate various sections of your DVD.

ADDED BONUS: If you want or need to get your PowerPoint/Articulate content into a format compatiable with the iPad you could use this same method and publish to an iPad compatible format instead of DVD format.

Another option that I’ve used in the past is to simply play your published Articulate course and use a screen recording program, (I use Camtasia) to capture it as a video file, then burn that using your DVD authoring software.  This option also works well and might be a little bit quicker if you don’t need to add or tweak anything in the video version of your course.

Elearning Support tools

So I was looking for a really nice website that would tell you what browser you had along with a bunch of other details relevant to helping troubleshoot elearning courses. I’ve come up with a few but still can’t find the one I originally had which present the info in a much more polished format. I’m still searching for that one but in the meantime here are a few other options. ( If you have others you like, please leave a comment….I’ll find that dang site eventually!)

Update: I finally found what I was looking for This site allows people to email their browser info and looks like this. Looks like you can even pre-fill some of the fields. For example adding your email to the end of the url prefills the ‘send to address’ as in

Browser Hawk:

Is Java enabled?

What version of Java is installed?

Oracle Java Info:

Plateau content testing tool:

Adobe -Find version of Flash:

Browser settings:

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: