Sunday, November 4, 2018

Relate Roundup October 2018

For several months now at Relate Corporation / RelateCasts, we have been collecting all our blog articles and video podcast shows from each month into an e-mail newsletter.

However, starting now, we will instead post a monthly "Relate Roundup" blog post to showcase our latest media content.

Why the Switch?

We're switching to monthly blog posts because we want to have our monthly summaries available in a more readily-searchable form. We also would like to have more control over the format/layout than is possible with a newsletter.

If you're on our e-mail list and still prefer to be notified of new content via e-mail, don't worry! We'll still be sending out a link to the monthly Relate Roundup to our e-mail list (click here to sign up.)

So, without further ado, let's dig into the Relate Roundup October 2018! Read on to see our October summary and browse through this month's content. Or you can use the links below to jump ahead to your favorite RelateCasts series, guest, or topic:

October Summary: Captivate 2019 + Tech Reviews Galore

Joe Ganci and Rick ZanottiWe conducted interviews with 10 amazing guests on our video podcasts this month.

One of these was Joe Ganci (eLearning Joe), who visited us in Camarillo for a special in-studio episode of eLearnChat!

A hot eLearnChat topic in October was Adobe Captivate 2019, with both Joe Ganci and Dr. Pooja Jaisingh discussing/demoing the authoring tool's newest features on the show.

On our "Tech Down Over" series, in addition to our usual interview episodes, we put out a ton of bonus content. This included reviews, comparison videos, and opinion pieces on camera gear. In particular, we focused on the Panasonic GH5 and our brand-new Canon EOS-R.

Due to scheduling conflicts, we only had one Life Edge interview this month. But boy, was it a blast! We finally had our Life Edge co-host Dr. Susan Nash (virtually) meet our good friend Gina Schreck of Social KNX, and we all had a lively discussion about staying ahead on social media.

eLearnChat Videos from October

Who did we interview in October for eLearnChat, our popular eLearning interview series? Click on the thumbnail images to watch the videos:

Margie Meacham (Learningtogo)

Margie Meacham of Learningtogo spoke with us about how discoveries in neuroscience inform the development of chatbots & other applications of AI that are quickly gaining popularity in L&D.

Dr. Pooja Jaisingh (Adobe)

Dr. Pooja Jaisingh walks us through a demo of the two major updates in Adobe Captivate 2019: a brand new virtual reality suite & improved interactive video tools. Is Adobe's new focus on ease & efficiency of use paying off?

Dr. Stella Lee (Paradox Learning, Inc.)

Dr. Stella Lee of Paradox Learning joins special co-host Lisa Goldstein to discuss the ethical concerns of artificial intelligence use in L&D. Dr. Lee also shares tips on getting started and thriving in eLearning consulting.

Joe Ganci (eLearning Joe)

See our in-studio interview with Joe Ganci, President of eLearning Joe! Rick & Joe reflect on how instructional design & eLearning as a whole have evolved over time. Also, hear Joe's predictions for the future of the eLearning industry.

Ajay Pangarkar (CentralKnowledge)

Ajay Pangarkar, CEO of CentralKnowledge, joins us for an intriguing discussion with Lesley Price of Learn Appeal about the importance of understanding business and finance as a Learning and Development professional.

Tech Down Over Videos from October

In October, we interviewed 4 guests, did 4 reviews, and made our voices heard with 2 opinion pieces. Click the images to watch the videos.

Emily Lowrey (Micro Four Nerds)

We talk with Emily Lowrey of Micro Four Nerds about our favorite micro four thirds cameras, including the Panasonic G9 & GH5. We also swap opinions with Emily on the newly-announced full-frame mirrorless cameras & the rigors of wedding photography.

Tom Antos (Tom Antos Films)

Director & cinematographer Tom Antos joins us for his 2nd TDO interview! He explains why it's best to balance your film budget over various aspects of production rather than spending it all on the latest gear & shares what he loves best about working in film.

Pete Fox (Westcott)

Pete Fox, Westcott Technical Representative & Product Specialist, tells us all about Westcott's innovative new products, such as the company's new Cine Flex LED mats and Rapid Box line of softboxes. We also discuss the how-to's of lighting for photography and video.

Sam Seavey (The Blind Life)

We speak with Sam Seavey of The Blind Life about assistive technology and new emerging tech for the visually impaired. Rick & Sam also share their personal experiences of living with partial blindness.

Are Dual Card Slots Necessary?

A lack of dual card slots for video cameras has become a common gripe among consumers. But we think, depending on your setup, you may not even need this feature.

Canon XF405 Vs. Panasonic GH5

We compare the Canon XF405 and the Panasonic GH5! Hear our take and see for yourself the differences in focus and recording features, dynamic range, white balance, and more. We also discuss how to properly handle shooting a wide range of skin tones in the same frame.

Sigma 1.4 50mm & Leica Nocticron 1.2 42.5mm

We compare two lenses on our Panasonic GH5 - the Sigma f/1.4 50mm (using a Metabones adapter) and the LUMIX Leica f/1.2 42.5mm. Observe the results and see what you think - which one works better?

Canon EOS First Impressions

Rick & Harold do a brief demo of the Canon EOS R, the brand's new full frame mirrorless camera, and give their initial thoughts. Find out what impressed us, which features we found lacking, and try out our handy tips for efficiently using the menus!

YouTube Ad Rant

We're not fans of video ads that pop up right in the middle of a video. We argue that it's a bad practice - for viewers, for content creators, and even for advertisers. What's your take?

Canon EOS-R Vs. Panasonic G9

We compare the Canon EOS R full-frame mirrorless to the Panasonic G9 micro four thirds mirrorless camera by shooting a series of photos and videos under identical conditions. You might be surprised at how close in quality the results are!

Life Edge for October: Gina Schreck (SocialKNX)

Gina Schreck, founder and CEO of SocialKNX, a top digital marketing firm, gives her time-tested tips for rising above the crowd on social media while staying true to your company's message.

Relate Roundup October 2018: Thoughts?

That's it for our content roundup for this month! Did you enjoy the shows? Is there anything in particular that you'd like to see in a future video?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments - we'd love to see you join the conversation.

Need Help? Contact Us!

Relate Corporation is a well-established digital learning/training & media production company based in Camarillo, CA. RelateCasts is our broadcasting division.

If you need help with media production for eLearning or need any other kind of assistance with your Training & Development projects, fill out our contact form, shoot us an e-mail at, or call us at 800-428-3708 to learn more about our services.

Monday, September 10, 2018

SharePoint Modern Site Design Methods

Microsoft plans to eventually phase out Classic pages for SharePoint. Therefore, familiarizing yourself with the Modern sites standard to SharePoint Online and Sharepoint Server 2019 onwards will be essential. Continue reading in order to familiarize yourself with methods to design SharePoint Modern sites.

For many desktop users, the differences may seem minimal, however, the Modern design takes a responsive approach. Because of this, the interface scales and rearranges itself for mobile users, allowing for better phone readability and access.

However, design tools are more restricted compared to with Classic sites, since responsive sites are more complex and, therefore, breakable.

If you need help with setting up SharePoint for your organization, feel free to contact us.

SharePoint Design Methods Article Banner

I'll cover two methods of redesigning your SharePoint sites. I'll also touch on CSS, and why I don't think site-wide CSS is worth using in SharePoint Modern's current state.

The first is least intrusive; therefore, if you can't enable scripts or publishing for security reasons, this is your method.

1. Change The Look

In order to change the color scheme, fonts, and background image of a SharePoint site, you can use Change The Look. This will allow you to choose from default schemes, and then make some changes.

What You'll Need

Your account will need the "Design" privilege level in order to use this tool, and that's it. Therefore, this is by far the least demanding of the three design options, in terms of permissions and site settings.

Where To Find It

Change The Look Option Microsoft SharePoint Modern"Change The Look" is inside Site Settings, but if you're not sure where this is, look to the upper right: SharePoint Settings Menu Icon

Click this "Settings" button, and then Site Contents. Afterwards, look for Site Settings near the right side of your screen.

Now you should see lists of options, one of which will be Change The Look.

What You Can Do

This means that you can select a theme from "Change The Look," for example, Green, but use another color scheme. You get 17 default themes and 32 color palettes.

SharePoint Green Look
SharePoint Color Palettes

In this same dialog, you can also add a background image. Note, however, that SharePoint will crop your image in sometimes unpredictable ways, therefore subtle images are preferable.

I detail how to perform these actions in the video below.

Finally, here's how to change the site's logo, essential for company branding. This is not done through a menu in the SharePoint site proper; rather, you go into Outlook through "Conversations."

Changing A SharePoint Site Logo

In "Conversations," you'll see a circle (probably with two letters) towards the upper left, above "+New." Click this, and then a dialog will appear on the right allowing you to change the image.

You'll need to be rather patient since, on SharePoint Online, it takes between 30 minutes and a day to change.

2. Custom Color Palette Tool/Composed Looks

This next method uses the Composed Looks feature. This allows you to add new Looks, therefore, custom palettes and, to an extent, Master Pages. However, custom Master Pages are not fully supported in SharePoint Modern, so in this case they should be avoided.

What You'll Need

SharePoint Web Designer Galleries Settings Scripts EnabledYou'll need at least Design privileges, but a Site Collection Admin or Global Admin will need to enable custom scripts. This is a relatively simple operation using PowerShell; here are Microsoft's directions for it.

Your site administrator can also enable this through the site settings in the browser, but it takes at least 24 hours to take effect.

Afterwards, you should see a few new options in your Site Settings. Master Pages, Themes, and Composed Looks, for example, will appear.

Creating Your Composed Look

Go into Composed Looks, and then you'll see the list of default looks you could use in the first method. In order to make our own, the first thing we'll need is our own SharePoint color palette file.

You can get SharePoint Color Palette Tool 2013 on Microsoft's site.

In the video below, I'll describe how to use this tool in order to create custom palettes. Then, we'll go over how to get them into a Composed Look.

While you're following the instructions, take note that you'll need to type in URLs very carefully. With Composed Looks, you won't get error messages when there's a typo or syntax error; rather, they just won't appear.

Further, you can't edit to correct Composed Looks; you have to start over again. Hence, extra care in copying URLs and checking file directories will spare you a lot of frustration.

If you're on a Team Site, your starting directory will be

Meanwhile, for your main site, it will be

3. Custom CSS & Why I Don't Recommend It

In its current state, Modern SharePoint doesn't fully support sitewide CSS. Indeed, any web designer knows that this is rather unfortunate.

While you can change fonts using Composed Looks, you can't change font sizes, enlarge elements where needed, and so on. It's not impossible to implement sitewide CSS, however in most cases I would not use the currently-accepted method.

At this time, as of September 2018, SPFx is the main way of implementing custom CSS in SharePoint Modern. SPFx, or SharePoint Framework, allows you to create apps that extend SharePoint's functionality.

In order to do this, however, you'll need access to your site's app catalog. Unless you're the site owner and administrator, or you're working with a small organization, this will be a tough one.

Therefore, I say that a graphic designer is well-advised to steer clear of this one (and the wrath of IT). But if you're still willing to forge ahead, here's further reading:

SharePoint specialist Hugo Bernier's article for best practices on creating a SharePoint CSS injector:


SharePoint is a changing tool; certainly, Microsoft will modify or improve design functionalities in the future. Although SharePoint Classic will go away eventually, I doubt it will happen overnight, as that will affect too many organizations.

Because of this, I see Classic and Modern existing side-by-side for a long while. However, I hope this article helped to get you started on how to get your Modern sites looking like they should.

If I've left anything out, or if you have a question or correction, please let us know in the comments below!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Can Neuropsychology Help You Create Effective Training?

Some of the most exciting research on cognitive learning is coming from the study of Neuropsychology. For example, I've been watching a video from Peter M. Vishton, PhD in Clinical Psychology and Learning.

Some points of interest, especially for those in Learning & Development:

1. Our Brains Work Best Early: Tackle The Hard Stuff First!

Morning Sunburst Rooster Weather VaneOur brains are most active in the morning, when we have the most energy in our oxygen and glucose levels. We're more awake and ready to take on the challenges of the day... As Dr. Vishton says, we should take on the hardest tasks right from the get-go. If we wait too long, our energy reserves drop and those tasks now become much more draining on our oxygen- and glucose-starved brain later in the day...

Are Courses in Education / Training Designed Backwards?

This brings up the idea of curriculum development in most corporations, agencies and military classrooms. Are we training the most difficult subjects first or way later in the day or week, when the brain is near coma levels?

When I used to train relational database tuning and design, the course materials I had were really easy up-front. Then, as the day, or days in some classes, wore on, the material became increasingly more complex. I used to wonder why the class was so sleepy in the afternoon. Why was it so hard to bring them back to the classroom with an alert brain?

Now it makes sense to me. The curriculum was designed to do easy first and hard at the very end, when no one had any mental oomph left to give (not to mention how the poor instructor was tired too)...

In many corporations, curriculums are developed in the same manner: easy first, hard at the end. Talk about trials and tribulations! This is hard for the teachers and let's not even talk about the poor students who are on total overload in many long, multi-week curriculums.

Optimal Training Design with the Brain in Mind

It would make so much more sense to break classroom sessions into 30-60 minute pieces. Then go one-on-one, into labs, more breaks, etc. before returning to the classroom. In fact, the longer the day, the more breaks should be given. I can verify from classes I've taught that more breaks later in the day are not only welcome but necessary...

Have you looked at your curriculum lately? Ask yourself these questions:

a. Is the curriculum too long?

b. How can you shorten the curriculum to make it more effective?

c. Can the courses/lessons be chunked into more bite-sized pieces for easier digestion by the brain?

d. Are there enough breaks given throughout the day to ensure brain activity at the end of that same day (remember, they have to drive home usually, alert!)

e. How much hands-on can be done between shorter lecture sessions?

f. Can the curriculum goals be achieved in a much shorter time-frame with more diverse classes (i.e. diverse activities, things to do)

There are many more questions you can ask but this is a good start. You can use the graphical guide below to keep these prompts handy as you design/refine your curriculums:

Keep Learners Attention Effective Training Infographic

For more discussion on how to develop more attention-grabbing courses, you can also read my article on design mistakes that make eLearning boring.

2. Neuropsychology Findings on Memory & Gaming

Dr. Vishton also commented on memory and gaming... Whoa, wait!!! Nothing could be wrong with gaming now, could there be?

It turns out that gaming, especially when playing more repetitive, arcade-like games, definitely affects short-term memory in adverse (and sometimes positive) ways.

Can Gaming Worsen Memory by Dulling Emotion?

As I've discussed before, emotions play a leading role in learning. And playing games can reduce the emotional intensity of your life experiences, for better or for worse.

For example, if you go on a first date and feel incredibly happy after a first kiss, going home and playing Tetris, or some other similar game, could erase most of the impact of that first kiss or date.

It deadens the emotions, and the more engaged with the game you are, the more you will forget or deaden that emotion. You could even forget large parts of your recent experiences or the emotional impact those moments had...

Erasing Thoughts Memories on Blackboard

On the other hand, you're driving home and see a car crash with a person on the ground covered in blood, dying... Uggh, not a good memory at all! And yet, if you go home and play Tetris to forget the emotional trauma of what you just saw, the impact of the crash scene will diminish incredibly.

The end conclusion is that gaming screws our minds over when it comes to memory, good or bad. From studies I've done years ago what happens is that brain grooves and goes into loops. Less connections are made and the person in that groove is less capable with language and cognitive skills. Games can literally addict gamers' brains and make them highly unproductive. Not all people will react that way, but many will...

Does Gaming Really Impact Classroom Learning?

If your students are in a full day class then go home and play hours of a game, much of what was learned in the class could be diminished. If you don't believe that, just look at the randomicity of answers provided by students everywhere nowadays... It's kinda scary and corporations spend a lot of money training people who routinely un-train themselves...

Remember, gaming appeals to pleasure centers in the brain and less to areas like the frontal lobes where the executive functions lie...Pleasure and impulsivity tend to go hand in hand...

Conclusions: Analyze Your Training with Neuropsychology

I've already covered some conclusions about the two examples given. There are so many other ways to look at training if we look at it from a neuropsychological standpoint. This area of Psychology can be more easily quantified scientifically, unlike the more complex psycho-emotional sub-disciplines.

The best thing to do is to analyze the training as it stands in your organization. Break it into more pieces, smaller ones at that, and put them back together into a different order. Maximizing some of the principles we talked about could make a huge difference in how we learn and how we produce.

Please leave some of your ideas and comments below and let's start a conversation. Thanks!

Having Trouble with Course Design?

Also, if you need more advice on course design or any other assistance on your Training & Development projects, we're here to help. Give us a call at 1-800-428-3708, send us an e-mail at, or fill out our contact form to learn more about what we can do for you.

Friday, August 17, 2018

"Mics for eLearning" Microphone Reviews

Hi Everyone!

I get a lot of e-mails from people wanting to know about this microphone or that one. There are a wide selection of choices out there and when you're looking to buy a new mic for eLearning voice-over, it can be tough to discern which one would serve your needs best.

Lack of Microphone Reviews for Voice Over

There are tons of mic reviews available on YouTube. But the vast majority of them are targeted to singers and musicians. Reviews specifically for voice-over applications are few and far between in comparison.

Also, unfortunately, many YouTube mic reviews are performed by people who seem to know little or nothing about audio production, causing even some of the best mics out there to sound awful, due to poor vocal technique or a bad setup.

Now I can understand why so many people are having trouble finding an appropriate mic for voice-over — with the over-saturation of reviews and conflicting opinions out there, the process can be downright confusing!

Naturally, We Started Our Own Series!

So, several months ago, we came up with a new series for our eLearnChat show highlighting a variety of mics that are great for eLearning.

In each "Mics for eLearning" review, we:

  • Demonstrate mics with the same voice & under the same studio conditions

  • Go through our list of pros, cons, & suitable applications for the mic

  • Discuss pricing & link to the specific model tested

The playlist on YouTube can be found here:

The videos play in sequence starting with the first review in the playlist. If you'd like to skip forward to a particular mic review, click the drop-down menu in the top left of the embedded player.

As we get new mics, we'll add those to the list in order to keep you up-to-date on the growing selection of good professional mics.

Don't Skimp on Audio Equipment!

NOTE: Though I realize that everyone wants to save money, we are not focusing on the cheap mics which frankly don't sound all that good. Audio quality is important and we want you to have great audio to make your courses engaging and retentive.

Honestly, if you think about it, it's a worthwhile investment. You just can't get the clean, professional sound crucial to eLearning voice-over from a mic that costs less than $100 USD or so.

After all, it's much better to save up to purchase a decent mic that you can actually use with pride than to risk getting stuck with a junker. Why settle for a cheap mic that could harm your reputation with your clients/audience?

What Microphone Brands Are Best?

There are a number of reputable brands that are known for one or several great mics. Here are some mic/audio brands we've reviewed or plan to review:

In the end, the "best" mic for you simply depends on what you plan to use the mic for and how you'd like your voice to sound.

For example, consider someone looking to do a lot of small live seminars. The speaker will need to walk around freely. Also, in a confined space, there's no need for over-the-top amplification. So, an over-the-ear mic with a personal, intimate sound, like the Countryman E6, would be perfect.

On the other hand, a podcaster recording in a studio with a preference for a grittier, more commanding AM radio-like sound might enjoy using the Electro-Voice RE27N/D

Thus, you'll have to think carefully about your needs and let that guide you to your final decision as you watch our reviews.

Need Help with Audio Production?

We're doing our best to include a variety of price ranges and applications in addition to voice-over for eLearning in our microphone reviews. We hope you find the series helpful.

If you have any questions please ask them in the videos or place a comment in the comments area below.

And if you're having trouble with audio production for eLearning or need any other kind of assistance with your Training & Development projects, don't be shy to call us at 1-800-428-3708, send us an e-mail at, or fill out our contact form. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Easy Paginated Course Content in iSpring 9 Visuals

iSpring Interactions IconToo much text overwhelms your learners, so today we'll see how iSpring 9 Visuals lets you organize and paginate content.

Certainly, a lot of new ways to do that are available in iSpring Suite 9, using the Visuals editor.

In essence, the Interactions you create in iSpring Visuals can be organized like mini websites. This allows you to include a lot of content that is not only familiar in format, but varied and interesting.

If you're interested in iSpring 9 and its features, we've also done articles on TalkMaster and Cam Pro.

You can either keep reading, or skip ahead to later sections with these links:

Why Use Paginated Content?
How Easy Are Visuals Pages To Make?
Text Editing
How Does Paginated Content Appear In Courses?
Concluding Thoughts

Why Use Paginated Content?

iSpring Visuals Tabs Demo Gif

With iSpring's visuals options such as Tabs, Accordion, Catalogue, Media Catalog, you can fit a lot on a single slide. For eLearning courses, you'll often have a lot of content to fit on each slide, but little space for it.

Check out our demo of iSpring Visuals in order to see some of these features in action.

Therefore, we often struggle to fit everything without boring our learners with big, lifeless blocks of text. Generally, things like pop-ups, fading-in content, and animations help break the monotony.

iSpring Visuals doesn't necessarily replace those, but rather, it adds a lot of easy-to-use options. Thus, with minimal effort, you can create a nice-looking course with plenty of variety.

iSpring Visuals New Interaction Screen

And when I say a lot of options, I mean it. There are 13 iSpring Visuals options at this article's writing and, last I heard, even more are coming.

However, I'll only touch on some of the simpler ones here, including Tabs, Glossary, and Accordion. Rather than going over all of the types in detail, we'll go over some general features.

How Easy Are Visuals Pages To Make?

When you click on the Interaction button, the active slide creates an Interaction object, and the Visuals editor opens. This also creates a corresponding ".visuals" file which contains all of the data for that Interactions object.

You can, therefore, import Visuals slides into other PowerPoint files, if needed. In order to make several similar Visuals slides, you can copy the file and import a copy to another slide.

Once the Interaction object is on your slide, it will look like this, with a small preview of your Interaction.
iSpring Interaction Slide

The actual Visuals editor is easy to learn if you know PowerPoint, because the controls use a similar layout. On the left side, rather than slides, you have whatever subpage type applies to the specific Interaction you're using.

Each Interaction type has its own subpage type, but it's nonetheless intuitive; the button is always in the same place.
iSpring Visuals Different Subpage Types

Once you've chosen your Interaction Type, it's quite simple to start adding tabs, panels, hotspots, and get started! So, let's take a look at how you build these subpages.

Text Editing

Screencap Text Editing Tabs

Above, you can see the text editing interface, which works similarly to something like Microsoft Word. Rather than text boxes which you can move around freely like in PowerPoint, the content automatically aligns and wraps.

Screencap Text Wrapping Options In VisualsTherefore, inserting images is also similar to Word, where you can align images with paragraphs, selecting how they wrap.

This may be somewhat restrictive, but it's for a good reason; making these pages is very fast and streamlined.

Standard text formatting options are available, such as paragraph alignments and justification, as well as customizable default text styles. Specifically, with the latter, you can set font, size, and use of bold or italic in four different styles.

These styles determine the subpage's title, that is, Item Title, two types of heading, and normal body text.

However, note that these are unique to each Visuals file, not each course or PowerPoint file. In order to re-use styles, you'll need to make a copy of the Visuals file to use as a template.

How Does Paginated Content Appear In Courses?

When you're making an eLearning course, it already has pages and, most likely, plenty of them! Therefore, you may be wondering, "how does pagination within pagination work—won't it be confusing?"

Inside the published course, the main "Next" and "Previous" buttons operate both main slides and subpages of Interaction slides. Therefore, it can work quite seamlessly, eliminating the risk of readers clicking the wrong button.

However, you can change navigation options in the main iSpring PowerPoint plugin. In order to do this, you need to go to the "Player" options on the ribbon.

Screencap Player Icon

Here, in case you need learners to easily access other course pages, you can enable Outline navigation. This allows movement from one slide to any other at any time, unless a restriction is present.

Of course, you'll need such a restriction for most courses, as you won't want users intentionally or accidentally skipping content. In order to do this, you can change navigation options in the aforementioned Player window.

Screencap Playback Navigation OptionsBy default, iSpring will add an Outline sidebar to your course, which then allows users to go to any page. However, you have the option to prevent them from accessing pages in the Outline which they haven't visited.

You can see an example of the Outline feature in the demo included in this article.

Access these with the "Playback and Navigation" button, where you can then change the navigation type. This will affect both the Outline feature and the main Next and Back buttons.

Concluding Thoughts

Firstly, for more info on this handy tool and details about its features, check out the in-depth webinar by iSpring themselves!

iSpring Visuals is, similarly to many of the Suite's features, an effort to make interesting and varied content accessible. eLearning pieces are oftentimes a dull affair, as we all know, but not without reason.

Making a course stimulating and interesting to look at takes time, resources, and people, more than many training departments have. Therefore, generously-featured authoring tools like iSpring which emphasize ease and efficiency of use are a potential godsend.

All in all, iSpring Suite is a ambitious and rapidly-growing authoring tool. We at RELATE are quite interested to see where it will go next.

In order to read about other features of the Suite, visit our iSpring articles category. Otherwise, check out the official site.

iSpring Audio Editor: Quick Audio Editing Inside iSpring 9

iSpring Audio Editor IconiSpring Audio Editor came out with Suite version 8, therefore, you may already be familiar with it.

However, we mentioned it in other iSpring 9 articles, so we'll cover how it works inside the Suite and beyond!

Firstly, we'll go over what it's useful for, then where it shows up inside the Suite.

If you'd like to skip forward, use these links:

What Is The Audio Editor For?
What Features Does The Audio Editor Offer?
Where Is The iSpring Audio Editor?
How Do I Use The Audio Editor Outside PowerPoint?

What Is The Audio Editor For?

Because iSpring is an eLearning authoring tool, the Audio Editor specializes in voice-over narration.

Certainly, courses often have a lot of narration in small clips. Therefore, having the ability close at hand to adjust volume, clip out sections, and insert silences is very convenient.

Convenience is the key, since this editor does not intend to replace things like Audition, Sound Forge, GoldWave, et cetera. Rather, like many of iSpring's editing tools, it provides a quick and effective solution for small tasks.

What Features Does The Audio Editor Offer?

This audio editor has a set of tools with a specific purpose in mind, so it's basic but convenient. Therefore, you can quickly tweak and edit VO clips recorded in iSpring with its features.

The two workhorses will likely be Adjust Volume and Remove Noise, thus they are prominent on the ribbon. Adjust Volume, rather than working on decibel levels, uses percent increases and decreases in loudness.

iSpring Audio Editor Controls

It also shows a visual representation of what it's doing to the waveform in real time, which is nice. Of course, if you need clips within specific decibel ranges, you might use another audio editor, but this works well.

Remove Noise is just as easy, since you only need to select a region without speech and click Remove Noise. Then, it asks you to confirm, and removes noise based on that profile.

While experienced users with specialized audio software could remove more, I find it does a fantastic job with no effort.

Other tools are related to cutting and adding silences, such as Silence and Trim.

When you select an area and click Silence, it preserves the selection's length but removes all sound. Trim, on the other hand, cuts out everything but the selection.

Finally, Fade In and Fade Out are suited to making small clips out of imported music. Another situation where these would be useful could be voiceover with intentional ambient sound in the background.

For example, if a character is talking with factory equipment in the background, and you're leaving in those background sounds. Of course, cutting off at the end without any transition will sound bad, so Fade Out would help here.

Where Is The iSpring Audio Editor?

iSpring Record Audio Button
The first way you might come across the editor is when recording slide narration audio. In order to do this, you need to click the "Record Audio" button, the first option in the iSpring tab.

This opens an interface to record audio and, afterwards, you can click Manage Narration to make changes.

If you're bringing in audio from an external file, however, you'd just go to Manage Narration first.

The next place you might encounter it is from within the iSpring Visuals editor. You won't see the Edit Audio interface unless it's relevant, therefore it won't show up unless you use Insert Audio.

You need to insert audio, but afterwards, to get to Edit Audio, find this icon:iSpring Edit Audio Icon

Depending on how you're inserting audio, it shows up in the Sound Recorder interface or the Audio Tools tab.

Check out our video on using the Audio Editor when recording voiceover in Visuals:

iSpring Sound Recorder Interface

The button above appears when you record audio in iSpring Visuals; it opens up the audio editor.
The Audio Tools tab only appears in iSpring Visuals once you've added audio and selected it in the subpage.

iSpring Visuals Audio Tools Tab

How Do I Use The Audio Editor Outside PowerPoint?

Finally, if you want to use the program outside of PowerPoint or the rest of iSpring, use the Start Menu. It will then come up under iSpring Audio-Video Editor 9.

The executable itself installs to \iSpring\Suite 9\bin32\AVEditor.exe in iSpring's installation path. Afterwards, it works much the same way it does from inside the Suite; simply open files and edit them.

Should I Use This Audio Editor?

To summarize, iSpring Audio Editor is a lightweight, convenient audio editor, perfect for small tasks. As I said above, I find it similar to the old Windows Sound Recorder, but geared to voiceover.

For simple jobs like increasing volume, reducing noise, clipping and adding fades, it's a good choice. The program lacks controls for compression rates, audio channels, codecs, and only saves in .wav or .mp3.

Therefore, you might want a beefier audio suite if you need finer control of filesize, mono or stereo channels. Editing is only single-track, as well.

Overall, if you have or plan to get iSpring Suite anyway, I'd recommend trying this program out.

If you want to read more about iSpring, check out our other articles. Also, you can visit the official site.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Systems Analysis: Why It's Much More Useful In Training Than Needs Analysis

You've probably studied, read about, or done a Needs Analysis. Many schools teach the concepts of Needs Analysis in order to help you understand how to justify the feasibility, results, and costs of performing some Training project. You often graduate with a degree in Instructional Design or Technology all ready to perform needs analysis repeatedly, often to find out you may never do one again in your entire career. What happened?

Needs Analysis Is Rarely Needed

In most companies, there is often no actual need for a Needs Analysis from a Learning and Development department. Projects usually come to L&D from Operational or other groups that already know what they need in order to achieve a certain result, be it performance or compliance.

In fact, in my over three decades of L&D involvement, I've performed exactly two Needs Analyses. Not one, not three, two! That's it.

"Two?" you ask incredulously. Yes, only two, and I barely even remember the second one...

On the other hand, in both my IT and L&D careers, I've used my skills as a Systems Analyst to perform many analyses of Systems!

"Systems?" you utter, "Isn't that the same kind of analysis?"

No, it isn't.

What Are Systems & Why Are They Important?

Going back to Set Theory from our days in Math, a System can be:

  • Very large. Examples of this can be a government, an organization, a food supply, a planet, or a universe.

  • A combination of smaller systems, e.g. a company comprised of many departments and processes.

  • A small, reasonably self-contained thing, e.g. a plumbing system in your home, or a network system at work.

Systems come in all shapes and sizes. They can be extremely complex or pretty simple and intuitive. In the world of Training, including eLearning, you often have to teach students or employees how parts of systems, or whole systems, work. But you often don't see the training as part of a system or a system itself. The system, while there, often remains invisible to L&D departments.

Why is this?

In its most basic sense, we are often unaware of the system, or the part of the system, that we are in. We think of processes and controls, rules and regulations, passing a test, or mitigating risk. But we rarely, if ever, think of the system that these items belong to. We don't notice or understand the intersection of systems or events in the organization that trigger actions and responses. We train to items within the system, often unaware that there is a system. I know I'm repeating myself, but it's a very important key point to keep in mind.

The Why and How of Systems Analysis

While a Needs Analysis is often pointless, a Systems Analysis can provide much more information to an organization which can improve performance, cut costs, provide better customer service, enable growth and so on.

How to Start Learning About Systems Analysis

If you don't know much about Systems Analysis, look up some books on the subject on Amazon or elsewhere. Find primers on the subject. Look at the organization you're in and see if you can identify the "Systems" where you work, earn, or play. Systems are everywhere and they often intersect in many ways and with external as well as internal systems.

Systems are similar to the concepts of Macro and Micro Economics. Macro is the whole system, a very complex one. Micro is the magnifying glass or smaller systems or processes that tie back into larger systems. Where you are in a system will frame your point of view...

To understand a system, large or small, you need to take a step back to see it. Large systems are often invisible because they are all-consuming. Stepping back allows you to look at the system in either its parts or as a whole. Being aware of a system will help you understand the needs of the learners and training regimens.

Benefits of Understanding Systems & Their Interactions

Aside from learning about systems, you need to start identifying systems everywhere you go. Once you do that, your viewpoint will become more global and more understanding of the nuances in any corporation. You will understand where data comes from and what they affect. You will also see the intersection of systems and processes more clearly.

How will this benefit your L&D? It will help you understand that your training may involve other systems within your organization which you never considered. For example, process A may be fed by Process B or C or some other external process. Your training could benefit from this knowledge and it could improve workflows, best practices, and bottom-line results.

Knowledge of Systems Gives You an Edge in Training

It's not enough to simply know some meta-talk about Training. You need to understand the systems in your organization to better serve your clients (internal or external). This Systems knowledge will provide you with an edge, especially as you move up the ladder.

Think of yourself as a holistic, or integrative, doctor. One that looks at the body as a system of organs and processes all tied together and treats it accordingly—rather administering treatments for individual symptoms that never cure a system, usually causing more harm than good.

Systems are everywhere. See how many you can identify at work today. See if you can identify the relationships and even cause and effects between systems. But always be aware of the existence of systems and you'll learn a lot more easily how things work in the real world...

Now It's Your Turn!

What do you think about Systems? What experiences with them have you had that helped your Training development? Please share them in the comments below and start a dialogue. Thanks for reading, and we look forward to your input!

Need assistance achieving your Learning & Development goals? Give us a call at 800-428-3708 or shoot us an email. We're here to help!

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Monday, May 21, 2018

5 Things That Make eLearning Boring: Mistakes to Avoid

I'm sure you've heard that some eLearning is boring, not stimulating, forgettable, etc. In order to avoid creating tiresome training, it's essential to be aware of less-than-stellar instructional design choices that tend to bore learners. Here are five things that can make eLearning boring (and therefore, not quite useful):

Fig1 Slow Snails1. Pacing

I'll define 'pacing' as how fast, or slow, the course moves along. Pacing is related to time and we are all very acutely aware of how slowly or quickly time passes. All of us have preferences as to how we'd like to learn from a time perspective...

Pacing can be:
a. Continuous and monotone. i.e. time never speeds up or slows down, it merely proceeds at a very specific speed.

b. Time could fly by quickly, which would result in some learners getting something out of the training while others may be left behind. A pace that is very quick is not suited to the vast majority of people that learn more slowly.

c. Time can be very slow. This can make the fast learners become disengaged and bored very quickly (a paradox).

d. Variable speed. This is where the course can speed up and slow down at different places in the training. This is certainly more engaging than a monotonous pace. But this has a problem too: you are constantly losing and winning student attention at different times thereby losing engagement at different points of the course.

d. User-controlled time. This is usually the best way to pace training because the learner tends to control their own speed of assimilating information and feels more engaged and happy with the course duration.

User-controlled pacing can be implemented in various ways. For example, it can done by allowing users to control navigation from one place to another in the lesson or by interactive elements which can be done either quickly or slowly based on your preferred pacing.

Fig2-Random-Letters-From-Book2. Lack of Context

Think of context as how we frame what we are learning. In other words, what are we learning, why, and how.

If context is ignored, incorrect, or confusing, the learner will, in turn, be confused and in a short time become bored and possibly give up.

It is very important to ensure that the learner is learning what they really need to learn, what puts the training into a perspective that is understandable and easily grasped.

Fig3-Too-Much-Interaction3. Needless or Useless Interactivity

You've all heard that interactivity is important in eLearning and that it should be used freely in a course to keep the content engaging, fun and interesting.

So what do many Instructional Designers do?

They often create long lists of letters or graphics that you have to click many times in order to reveal something that could have been read more quickly if it had just been visible in the first place.

Others repeat over and over that you need to "click the Next button to continue." We've all done this one and I have personally experienced what happens when we don't state this: we get calls from clients saying, "one of our learners has been sitting for 90 minutes waiting for something to happen..." Sadly, many of these calls were about PhD learners... Hmm? But that's another story...

Drag-and-drops done incessantly with no real context are also painful. Matching questions take a long time to complete and are usually badly put together.

All of these and many more examples of interactivity take time but don't provide much value for the learner or the company paying for their training.

Interactivity for interactivity's sake is not valuable and not enjoyed by most learners. Boring!!!

Fig4-Garbage-Pile-Marked-As-Game4. Creating Games That Are Not

Many people think a quiz or assessment is a 'game'. I'm not sure how taking a test even has elements of game design or how many of these game writers truly enjoyed taking tests in their youth (then again, there are some who did.)

I've seen many examples of games in eLearning that usually:
a. are out of context and have nothing to do with what's been taught
b. have no worthwhile interactivity and are either too difficult or too easy
c. are simply badly-written (people do notice bad writing)
d. do not have proper audio, video, interactivity, or other elements to make it interesting

If you're not a game designer or writer, it would probably be better to delegate these tasks to someone who is. It takes a lot of understanding of game design, principles, content, elements of interactivity and more to create an engaging game. Real game design is not cheap—it's actually pretty darn expensive.

Most games in eLearning are boring, repetitive and have little or no value for non-knuckle-dragging learners.

Fig5-Using-A-Pigeon-For-VO5. Bad Voice-Over Talent

Everyone loves to hear great voices in eLearning. But often, due to lack of budget, wannabe "talent" with no talent, bad reading, or lousy interpretation of the scripts and other reasons...Sorry, that was a long sentence! That brings up a good point - don't write garbage and then expect the poor voice-talent to read it like a Shakespearean play...

One of the worst things is when the instructional designer uses their own voice to read their script and it sounds monotone, unemotional, etc. This will kill a course's effectiveness instantly. People judge audio harshly, much more harshly than video.

Hire a good voice-over artist(s) that can read well, interpret, bring the text to life, and have a pleasant voice that keeps someone's attention. Keep in mind that a "nice" voice is not necessarily a suitable voice for voice-over work.

If you're curious to learn more what makes good voice-over, you can watch one of our classic eLearnChat videos on voice-over techniques for eLearning below:

Summary: Avoid These Hallmarks of Boring eLearning

These are just some of the things that can go wrong when creating courses. Pay attention to these points and you'll be on your way to creating training that is engaging, retentive, and ultimately makes the learners more productive in their jobs.

Need Help or Want More Info?

If you need help writing courses, we have trained Instructional Designers on staff that can help. Send us a note at or call us up at 800-428-3708 today.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

iSpring TalkMaster Quick Look: Easy Conversation Scenario Designer

Although iSpring TalkMaster debuted in version 8, we hadn't looked into it until the recent release of Suite version 9.

On the surface, it looks like a quiz design utility, like iSpring's QuizMaker, however it's a distinctly different animal.

Continue reading to learn more, or click a link below to jump to a section.

What Is TalkMaster For?
What Features Does TalkMaster Have?
Why Is The Emotion Function Useful?
Video Quick Look

What Is TalkMaster For?

iSpring TalkMaster interface overviewRather than focusing on a linear series of questions which students receive grades for, TalkMaster simulates conversations.

Integral to this is the visual interface that allows you to link dialogue options to scenes by dragging and dropping.

This makes it less confusing to create and keep track of complex multi-path dialogue trees.

Therefore, its primary use is to train by simulating conversations with customers and clients. However, it's also useful for other things that require a complex dialogue tree.

Take a look at the quick demo we made to get a hands-on idea of what the program is capable of making:

What Features Does TalkMaster Have?

Because it has a pretty specific purpose, this program is relatively slim in terms of features. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since this streamlines it, making it fast to use.

Graphics are easy to swap out, and interface colors may be changed, but the basic scene layout is always retained.

From the student's end, the conversations look like this:

Annotated iSpring TalkMaster Screen

Labeled here, we have the components of the conversation:

  1. Character speech. This is the main text for the scene.

  2. Character. There are five different emotions for each character.

  3. Emotion meter. This corresponds with the character's emotion.

  4. Responses. You can link these to any other scene in the conversation.

  5. Background. These are set for each scene.

iSpring TalkMaster Example Of Dragging ScenesIn order to create dialogue, you drag out branching paths from conversation scenes in the visual editor.

The visual interface allows you to organize your conversation any way you need in order to facilitate visibility while editing.

You can see how this looks from the learner's end in the demo linked above.

iSpring TalkMaster Voice Over InterfaceVoice over audio is also available, and may be recorded in-program, or imported.

When recording inside TalkMaster, you may edit recorded clips using iSpring's audio editor.

This then gives you the ability to trim out pauses, adjust volume of selected sections, remove noise, or add fades.

You also have the option to export voice over audio you've recorded and edited in TalkMaster.

iSpring Audio Editor example

Why Is The Emotion Function Useful?

iSpring TalkMaster Emotion OptionsAs I didn't initially understand the utility of the emotion feature, I didn't use it in the demo above.

What it's useful for, however, is immersive call simulations.

The emotions combine with voice over to create immersive customer service scenarios.

For example, rather than a message reading "The customer is now angry," you can show an angry customer.

And in case the learner doesn't pick up the meaning, the emotion bar gives quantitative visual feedback.

Video Quick Look

You can see what the TalkMaster interface looks like in general by watching the video below. Double-click for fullscreen:

Double-click the video for fullscreen.

As shown above in the video, you can easily add custom characters and backgrounds. Even more, these can be given all of the functionalities of the stock characters.

Of course, you can also download professionally-made assets from iSpring's Content Library.

Thank you for reading this quick overview of iSpring TalkMaster. We haven't used it much so far, but we're excited to see how it develops, and what uses we can find for it.

If you're interested in reading more about iSpring Suite 9, you'll also like our Cam Pro article.

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If you need professional development services including corporate video and audio production, want some management consulting or are in need of help, send us a note on our contact form, e-mail us at or call us at 800-428-3708. Thanks!

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Power of Emotion in Learning

When was the last time you remembered a boring class? I'm not talking about how boring the class was but how much content from that class was categorized and stored in your brain for later usage...

Why Boring Training Wastes Time

Students Asleep In ClassIf you are like most people, not much was remembered, used or thought about once the class was over and you ran screaming for joy out of the classroom!!!

We remember boring, but we don't remember why it was boring.

In other words, the training was useless, a waste of time, took some minutes or days from your life's longevity and left you with a dull ache in your brain somewhere; if you only remembered where that pain got stored from that unbearably boring class...What to do?

The above scenario happens daily across the world in classrooms of all types, sizes and needs. People often say:

a. The training was really boring
b. I hated/loved the instructor but he/she was teaching a horrible class
c. I don't remember what I learned
d. I don't know what to do with what I learned
e. It was all out of context
f. It's not my fault I didn't learn anything. No one could learn from that class!!!

And the list goes on...


Okay, everything you just read is true. How can you or I change those results?

One thing you could do is to add some emotion to the training.

"Emotion..." you say???

Yes, emotion! Something simple that we use all the time in our methods of communicating with one another.

If you like to tell stories, then you are probably familiar with the role of emotions in those stories. You know that emotions can make a story interesting, dramatic, scary, hilarious, sad or just about anything else.

Why Emotion in Learning is Powerful

What does the brain do when something emotional comes its way? It remembers those things. They carry some impact and, well, emotions etch a little place in our cortex (the flat part of the brain that kinda looks like a big credit card that stores stuff, a lot of stuff!)

Emotions bring things to life, not always in a good way, but always in a way that we remember! You will rarely remember anything that triggers no emotion at all within you...

Real-Life Example: Evoking Empathy

In instructional design, you'll find many crucial areas to make good use of emotion, to make the training both more memorable and more effective. For instance, a common scenario in financial services:

Oh, if you don't enter the invoice correctly, we can't pay you and you can't pay them, who can't pay us, and so forth. People will get angry and not use your business anymore and the other business will die around you and...

Well, you get the point. There's some potential for real emotion and empathy in that scenario...

Did you just say, "empathy"?

Yes we did, empathy is an emotion and it lets us put ourselves in the mind of another person to feel what they're feeling. For example, in our SMILE Customer Service training, SMILE stands for Service Means Involvement, Listening and Empathy.

Key Emotions to Work into Training

Some emotions we should add to our training in whatever way we can to highlight points we want remembered:

a. Happiness
b. Sadness
c. Anger
d. Frustration
e. Satisfaction
f. Enjoyment
g. Empathy
h. Desire
i. Greed
j. Gratitude

Each emotion evokes a different kind of reaction. And emotions can be subtle or harsh.

When you write your 'story' or 'training' then tell a story and don't forget. Whether the training is soft-skills, technical or a hybrid of things, try to always put some emotion into the training itself. Something that people can relate to and not feel embarrassed.

Always make an emotion a key aid in your Learning & Development work. The power of emotion is quite strong and it will always evoke something from someone.

About Rick Zanotti

Rick Zanotti is the founder and CEO of RELATE, a well-known Training & Development company specializing in eLearning, media production and Internet broadcasting.

Need Help with Training & Development?

If you have more work than you can handle, need professional development services including corporate video and audio production, want some management consulting or just need some help send us a note on our contact form, e-mail us at or call us at 800-428-3708. Thanks!

What an Instructional Designer Needs to Know: 5 Things to Understand

In today's day and age, as an Instructional Designer, you are placed into many roles you're not fully, or even partially, qualified to do. Here are five things you need to understand to make your job, and life, simpler and easier:

Businesswoman-With-Too-Many-Targets1. Know Your Limits

If you are like most Instructional Designers today, you have been thrown the kitchen sink.

There is so much on your plate, and no mere mortal can truly do all that is asked of you. And yet, you try.

Sometimes you succeed and other times you fail. People only remember your failures and you are not appreciated for what you were never hired to do or be...

As an Instructional Designer you probably want to please everyone including your clients, your managers and the learners that take your courses either online or in person.

What's (Unfairly) Expected of Today's Instructional Designers

You've been asked to:

a. Do a needs analysis
b. Interview the SMEs
c. Write the course
d. Author, or program, the course using advanced tools
e. Record your own voice-over with an untrained voice
f. Take your own videos
g. Record your own audio
h. Edit everything with tools you've never heard of
i. Publish to the LMS (Learning Management System) which you have no clue about
j. Test and approve everything you've done

Over a decade ago your job was done by:

a. Instructional Designers that wrote the course
b. Graphic artists that created or composited the graphics
c. Audio and video professionals who recorded and filmed everything
d. Audio and video editors
e. Authors, or programmers, who created the eLearning course
f. Quality control people who made sure it all worked
g. Everyone else who helped

All those people are now just YOU!!!

Ask Management for What You Need to Improve Performance

Wow! How did your world turn into this nightmare???

The answer is simple: bad economy, cost cutting and management unaware of what it takes to really do your job.

In many cases you just tried to do the best you could but that became increasingly difficult. You knew the courses could be better but you had no time and other courses were waiting to be done. You had NO bandwidth.

If you can do some of the tasks required, or even if you have the skills to do all of them, you should still let your management know where you need help in order to produce a better, more retentive course that improves performance. Keywords you need to know well: performance, retention and productivity... The less your learners retain, the worse the training is deemed.

The skills required to create good training are many and it's extremely rare to find professionals that can do every one of these tasks. Ask for help explaining the importance of the end result. If you don't, you'll be fighting an uphill battle that will only tire and demoralize you in which case no one wins...

2. Know What Gamification Is

It's buzzword time now: GAMIFICATION!!! Yaayyyy!!! Ding ding ding... WOW!!!

Uh, OK, flying monkeys be gone, let's talk about trends, words and results...

Do you know what Gamification is? Is it playing a game? Is it creating a game? Is it making your course like a game? The answer is sort of, but not really...

Gamification is using elements of game design in your stand-up or digital learning.

Elements of Game Design

"Elements" means components or pieces of game design. For example, here are some elements of game design which can easily apply to learning:

a. Video
b. Audio
c. Interactivity
d. Storytelling
e. Special effects
f. Engagement
g. Assessments or skills testing
g. Gathering of points, badges, leader boards, etc.

Gamification Is Nothing New

Gamification-new-old-toolsGee, don't these already exist in classroom and digital learning? Why yes, they do. Amazing, isn't it? You already know elements of game design and gamification.

These elements have been around for decades. But clever new phrases make people think it's new! But, it's not. Been there, done that.

If you understand this, you are now an expert in Gamification and can see through the hype that any vendor is spewing at you.

Elements of game design have existed for many decades. It's not a mystery and it's all about engagement and retention... It always is and it always has been.

3. Know Your Business or Agency

This is an area that puts Learning and Development professionals in constant fear of being laid off.

If you don't understand the basics of the business or agency you work for, you won't be perceived as having any value when the hard times hit.

This is why the top two departments that get laid off during economic downturns are Marketing and Training.

We've had this discussion often on our eLearnChat show.

Business-TeamThe more you know about the business processes, activities, tasks, and goals of your company, the more valuable you become.

For instance, if you work in:

  • an Operations group, then it's important to become familiar with the workflow and processes.

  • Manufacturing, then you should learn as much as you can about how your products are made and sold.

  • Insurance or Finance, then try to understand how policies and money work.

Wherever your are, make it a point to learn as much as you can. It will help you develop better training and also to make an impact on the company's bottom line.

If you don't... Let's not ponder that now. Give it your all and learn what your place of employment does...

4. Know What Your Authoring Tool Can Do

If you develop digital learning or media-based learning, it would really help your writing if you knew the capabilities of the authoring tool or video editor that your team is using (or that you need to learn).

Puzzle-WrenchAuthoring tools come in many different flavors. Here are some of the top ones:

a. iSpring
b. Lectora
c. Articulate Storyline
d. Captivate
e. Flow

There are many more. These tools range from simple/easy to much more powerful in terms of features and capabilities.

I'll keep this one short: understand the feature set of the tools your company uses. Become familiar with what can or can't be done. Then write or create appropriate content for the course you're trying to develop.

Many tools have tutorials or webinars online. Do your best in learning these tools and your abilities to create content will improve dramatically.

5. Understand How People Learn

Ah, this is one of my favorite subjects, how we perceive and retain information. The cognitive side of things. It's time for a super-brief primer on neuropsychology....

Information goes into our brains through the senses, including vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. In essence, these are all a series of patterns which enter the brain through one of our senses and then get stored in our cortex (our memory center).

Things get stored as memories which contain emotions and other properties. The stronger the emotion, the more we retain it and remember. The less powerful the sense or emotion, the less we remember or retain it. We may even forget it completely.

Learning-Through-Funnel-Brain-NeuroscienceTa-dah, complex neuroscience in a nutshell!!!

If you create training that can trigger an emotional response of some sort, there is a very good chance that it will be retained or remembered for a very long time.

If you develop something boring, non-engaging or out of context to the learner, it will most likely be forgotten or placed way low in the cortex under a folder named, "BORING." You don't want to create "boring" content, trust me...

So when you're creating content, think emotion. Think retention. Think performance improvement and think engaging.

If you can write scenarios, or stories, with some emotional impact, or some "gotcha!" moment that ties something together for a learner, then you've succeeded in what you set out to do...

Summary: What an Instructional Designer Needs to Know

You have a demanding job. Try to control as much of it as you can. Remember that it all comes down to engagement, retention and performance. If you can get those three into your training results, you've succeeded!!!

If not, keep at it and try again. Get help from others and put your heart into the stories you create...

Written by Rick Zanotti

Rick Zanotti is the founder/CEO of RELATE Corporation. Relate is a well-known Training & Development company specializing in eLearning, media production and Internet broadcasting.

Relate Can Meet Your Training & Development Needs

If you have more work on your plate than you can handle, seek professional development services including corporate video and audio production, are looking for some management consulting or just need some help in general, send us a note on our contact form, e-mail us at or call us at 800-428-3708. Thanks for reading!