One thing I love about my job is looking for and testing out new toys. I also love a bargain, so I always look for cool free stuff – or cool cheap stuff. This is my list of the coolest free stuff I’ve found lately.
If you want to start making videos, but you’re nervous about your face appearing on screen, this is the tool for you. Sign up with your Adobe account and go to town creating your own videos. You can select from several pre-scripted formats like “Teach a lesson” or “Explain Something”. Select from several formats with preselected fonts and color schemes. Select the visuals you want from the icon library or select photos from Dropbox. The app even keeps track of the appropriate credits for all of the icons and images you use in your video. Choose from several music options, then voice each slide one by one. Don’t worry about writing a script as the app prompts you when you add a slide. When you’re done, you can share to your social media or save it to your camera roll. If you’re concerned about ADA compliance, import the video into Camtasia or other video editor and add a captioning track before you produce and share it.
These two free image sources are my go-to image bank. I use these images for backgrounds, crop them for social media images, and do image-fills that take my buttons and interactions to the next level. Unsplash allows you to download their images any time. Death to the Stock Photo will email you a set of 10-12 images once monthly.
This is my favorite animated video creation platform. If you’ve never worked with video, Powtoon is a great place to start. Their get started webinars and training materials will catapult you to animated awesomeness in no time. Select from their wide range of templates, select a character, add some voiceover and you’re well on your way. The bonus with Powtoon is their overall approach. No animation works without a supporting story. They encourage you to work on your story first. I wholeheartedly agree. Find the drama, the decision point, the deep question – then plan your animated video around that. Other approaches to creating on this platform will fall flat. Easy to use – easy to learn – hard not to come back to time and time again.
I use this to aggregate the content I share on social media. I have papers for all of the social media accounts I manage, which means one paper for each brand or offering we have as a business. It searches the web for the things you tell it to, then creates a newspaper with all of those topics represented. I review everything in my paper, then decide if it’s worth sharing with my audience. This also helps keep me up to date on what’s going on in my field. Your audience members can also subscribe to your Paper to have it sent straight to your inbox after you curate it and OK it.
This one’s purely self-indulgent. I love to learn new things. Highbrow brings me new and interesting things daily into my inbox. There are literally hundreds of courses you can choose from – but you can only be subscribed to one course at a time. That’s the only bummer here, but the course is broken down into such small chunks that it leaves you wanting more – which doesn’t appear in your inbox until the next day!
We all love free toys, especially when they all work really well. I would not put these things on my list of favorite toys if they didn’t work splendidly.
Do you have any favorite toys that should perhaps make the list next time?
Formats for online courses are as varied as their instructors. The determining factors boil down to budget and what your audience expects.
Remember that there’s good, fast and cheap – and you can only pick two of the three. If you’re going to invest time in developing online course content, do it the right way. Invest in as high a quality production as you can.
If your audience loves video, your course needs to be video. If your audience loves to read, your course should be text-based. Most of the time, audiences will be mixed in the kinds of modality they prefer – education professionals use that term to refer to whether learners listen, watch, read or interact with content.
This decision will also impact the budget and timeline for the course production. Let your Instructional Designer help you with this decision as you discuss your audience in detail with them.
This is a great place to start thinking about format. This list is by no means exhaustive:
- Video: For visual, “just show me” content. The things learners are supposed to get from your material is best shown to them. This includes skills and things that cannot be adequately described in text. Videos can be “talking head” shots of you presenting, or can be animated explainer videos. Many online courses rely on video content.
- The downside: High-quality video production can be expensive.
- The upside: Video production can be fast to help you capture the market.
- PDF: This is similar to selling an e-book, but the e-book is more like a workbook with homework to be completed by the learner. This is great for coaching material, self-reflection and for skills that can be adequately described in text and diagrams.
- The downside: This requires you to create an initial manuscript and work with a copyeditor before a graphic designer lays out your course. It can be a long process.
- The upside: The PDF can be delivered as a single file or broken up chapter by chapter and dripped out as learners finish the previous chapter.
- Interactive modules: These are multimedia presentations that can be like a “pick your own adventure” experience. Learners click, drag, sequence and interact with the content in a media-rich elearning experience.
- The downside: Good interactive modules take time to develop, and require regular input from the client.
- The upside: Interactive modules look and feel professional, are designed to hold learner’s attention and bring polish to your content in a way you never dreamed.
- Email: This approach works best if you’ve already worked to cultivate your email list. Use your email provider to set up campaigns with purchased elearning content.
- The downside: You may need to upgrade your account to provide auto-responder capabilities for this kind of campaign.
- The upside: Converting your content to bite sized chunks appropriate for an email campaign takes willingness to think about your material in a very different way.
- Mixed: You can mix and match formats above to achieve the perfect elearning course for you and for your audience.
The point here is not that you make a perfect choice – making a perfect choice can sometimes delay the fact that you just need to start somewhere. Get used to the idea that your first version of the course will not likely be the version of the course that becomes a hit.
Just start somewhere. You’ve got great content. You’ve got great ideas about how it can look and function. Let Instruction Intelligence help you make that reality. We live to see people become successful with their elearning ventures.
Who doesn’t want a piece of a $15 Billion industry that’s projected to keep growing like mad?
The real question is why NOT an online course?
As specialists, we all have a folder full of old presentations dating back years and years. In fact, if you’re like me, you’ve got so many PowerPoints that there is no hope of finding them all. We could speak on just about any given topic in our fields of expertise at the drop of a hat.
The problem with this is that we are limited to the audience right in front of us at the current moment – whether that’s a professional development event on a Saturday or at the annual professional conference.
And you and I both know that by 5 minutes in, only about 30% of the audience is paying attention. The other 70% are starting to feel their hangover or are more interested in their social media feeds than in your slides.
So what’s the problem with that? Doesn’t everyone know that this not-paying-attention deal is part of the gig? For those of us who don’t want to cast our pearls before swine, this is a huge problem.
We put hours into developing material, finding images, perfecting the right anecdote. Of course, we want people to pay attention and actually get something from our presentation.
So – why NOT an online course?
You can go back and re-use those old presentations that you think no one is interested in anymore (mainly because you’re not interested in it anymore – but that doesn’t mean others would not eat up every word you had to say).
You get to chunk your material in smaller pieces so that your audience can take it in as they have time for it. They can also go back and review it as they need to – because people don’t always get it all on the first round, and sometimes your kid comes in with a boo-boo needing some TLC.
This can be a passive income stream for you. Remember – the online course business was a $15 Billion industry in 2015. Why shouldn’t you capture a piece of that pie?
Don’t know where to start? Don’t let that stop you. That’s where Instruction Intelligence comes into the picture. We develop and distribute elearning to the adult continuing education market all day, every day.
You’ve made it through the part where you give up your deepest, darkest secrets. Your Instructional Designer has been socked away secretly turning your content into golden eCourse beauty. You kinda wonder at this point – what is she doing with it?
The day finally comes – the day where all of his questions to you should suddenly make sense. It’s review day. Usually, we see one of three responses:
- Complete shock and awe. Angels sing. Rainbows spring forth from the horns of unicorns. We become eternally revered because of the wondrous amazingness of your ecourse. This is very rare – and usually makes us ultra suscpicious that you did not look at the material as deeply as we wanted you to.
- Meh. This response is deeply disappointing – even abject hatred is better than this kind of lukewarm response. This usually means you also didn’t look at it as deeply as we wanted you to, that we completely missed the mark (and you’re being really nice) or that the goals you have for your course won’t really make a difference for you in the long run.
- Yeah, that’s great, but couldn’t you do…? Now we are getting somewhere. This means that you’ve gone back and forth with it. You’ve found some good things, but you’ve also identified some gaps. The best part? You can be specific about those gaps.
If you can find some great things – say those things. We need to know what you like and what you don’t like. If something needs to be improved, changed, edited or modified in any way – be specific and straightforward about it. If you don’t tell us, we can’t change it.
What kinds of feedback are best for an instructional designer?
- That is not the right vocabulary to use in that case study – for that example, you should say X.
- We don’t know it all – you do! Help us understand where we are missing the boat on the small details.
- This animated video is incredibly effective for demonstrating that process, but you’ve pronounced that word wrong in the narration.
- Things like this help resonate with your audience – who know this vocabulary inside and out.
- That’s great depth for this material for this audience – could we include an image showing this example for this case I get asked about all the time?
- Really, this should have been part of the outline from the beginning, but a change this small should be no big deal.
- The quiz answers were a little confusing – can you explain your thinking on that?
- Instructional Designers should be able to clearly articulate their reasoning for constructing things the way they did.
What kinds of feedback will get you a silent eye roll and then the pleasant smiling face of “are you kidding me”?
- Can you scoot that image one pixel to the left? No…to the right? Hmm…maybe move it up some.
- Can you include 75 more ideas, completely change the design, the color scheme and the learning outcomes?
- Well, the way I had envisioned it, it would be much better because it’s my idea. I know I’ve never taught an online course or produced an ecourse, but my idea is much better than yours.
- Can we move our meeting again? I just don’t have time, this week’s been crazy – again, so I’ll squeeze you into a 12 minute slot next Friday at 4:45 before my CrossFit workout at 5 and my kid’s soccer game at 5:30.
- It’s all great – everything’s good – it’s awesome – no changes whatsoever – I really didn’t even look at it at all – but it’s great!
To contact an instructional designer worth giving your content and your opinions to, complete a contact form. We’d be glad to walk you through the eCourse development process.
You’ve worked for years to gain the expertise you have. People come to you because you’re the best in your field. You’re thinking about adding an online course to your business so you can monetize that experience and expertise into a passive income stream.
But is your idea really a course? Or is it just information?
There is an easy way to tell.
It’s just information if:
- There’s nothing to do with the information after people get it, and there’s no way to tell if they actually “got it”
- There’s no skill that you show
- There’s no change of heart, which in turn will change action
It’s can become a course if:
- People need to know what you know to do something with that knowledge and need specialized guidance or accountability in implementing that knowledge
- People depend on you to show them a skill and walk them through it step by step
- People can be motivated to adopt certain best practices in your industry
For us at Instruction Intelligence, an ecourse offers knowledge, skills and motivation in a structured platform that ensures that people are actually learning your content. It’s more than information, it’s how they can implement it. It’s more than a skills video, it’s step by step guidance with the right support materials to move people toward mastery. It’s more than a heart to heart, it’s a holistic approach to instilling professional values.
Most content experts have no formal training in how to educate. They know a lot, and sometimes have trouble translating that into something that will really move folks to the right kinds of activities. Our course development processes ensure that each learning module has a solid learning target, and that the content in the unit is designed to meet that learning target.
You don’t have to be a great educator to have a great online course – you just have to trust Instruction Intelligence with your content. We’ll make the educational eCourse magic happen. Click here to learn more.