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 connect@relate.com or call us up at 800-428-3708 today.


Thanks for reading! If you're interested in reading more articles on training and development, you can visit our blog archive.


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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:
https://www.relate.com/blogsamples/photography-q-and-a-talkmaster-test/index.html


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.

For more high-quality articles, videos, and other content on eLearning and media development, sign up for the RELATE newsletter!

Need Help with Training & Development?



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 connect@relate.com 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...


LET'S GET EMOTIONAL!!!


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 connect@relate.com 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 connect@relate.com or call us at 800-428-3708. Thanks for reading!

SCORM Cloud: What Is It & Why Should You Use It?

SCORM Cloud has been our go-to testing environment for LMS deploys into Taleo, Cornerstone (CSOD), Sum Total, SAP, and Plateau, among others.


Why We Use SCORM Cloud


Sometimes implementing eLearning courses into an LMS is time-consuming and yet you get only a few attempts. Using SCORM Cloud makes these few attempts go smoothly.


You can use it at your convenience, and quickly and easily load many different test scenarios.


Essential Features


With SCORM Cloud, you can verify your course runs, scores, and display information like the title and description.


We also use it to test multi-sco implementations, heavy media implementations, and to invite users to test their courses in an LMS environment.


How to Get Started: SCORM Cloud Pricing


Pricing for SCORM Cloud ranges from free to a monthly subscription. Subscription costs increase based on the number of new user registrations you need to accommodate each month.


Here is the official website if you're ready to learn more: https://scorm.com/scorm-solved/scorm-cloud-features/


Need Help?


If you need help with any steps in LMS implementation, contact us today at Relate Corporation. We have over 20 years of solid experience in the training industry and we are confident that we can help make your project a success! To schedule a consultation, call us at 1-800-428-3708, send us an e-mail at connect@relate.com, or fill out our contact form. We'd love to hear from you!


 

5 Things Needed to Manage a Remote Team

As it becomes increasingly more difficult to find competent resources where you are, it has become imperative to work with people or vendors that are remotely located. This can be good or bad as there are many factors that influence the success of those remote individuals and yourself. How does one effectively manage a remote team?


Following are five important things to implement or, at least, keep in mind when embarking on remote resources...


1. Establish Rules of Communication


Remote Workers Close CommunicationThis may be the most critical thing of all, the ability to communicate clearly and as often as needed for you and your remote workers.


While this sounds simple, many factors can come into play which cause you to overlook the remote worker mostly because out of sight usually means out of mind.


Daily communications, or at worst, weekly touch-bases, are critical for success.


I've managed groups of remote workers for almost 20 years now and have learned that these steps are crucial to letting me sleep better at night:


a. Daily check-ins by e-mail or by phone. That sounds easy, right? And it is... until you're really busy or firefighting problems. If your remote worker is out of your mind, then you are probably out of their minds as well...


b. Make each remote worker submit a Weekly Status report. It doesn't have to be huge or super-detailed, but it has to be there. It is an important touch-point that also makes the remote worker accountable for what they are doing.


c. Use tools like Zoom Meetings, WebEx, Skype or others to communicate with your remote workers when needed if they have a webcam. If no webcam is available then the sound of your voice will have to do.


Communications between you and the remote staff cannot be under-estimated. It is a very powerful way to build a communicative team that values the dialogue between a home base and the remote tundras...


2. Provide Tools to Chat or Share with


Using Tools To Chat And Share InterconnectionWhile this sounds a little like the first point, it's really quite different.


You want your remote workers to feel a "part of the team," to feel like they are valuable team players that contribute to the success of what your company is trying to accomplish.


Not only do you want your remote workers to communicate with you, but also to their co-workers and other team members.


Often remote workers feel isolated, apart from the team and not included in what's happening in the "real" office. These feelings of alienation won't affect all remote workers, but it could affect a lot of them and it will depend on what kind of jobs they are doing and how social they are.


Making a remote worker feel part of a team will greatly affect the productivity and performance of that individual. When all else fails, go back to Point 1, communicate often...


Recording And Taking Notes3. Document Everything!


Talking with someone remotely is important, and so is documenting what you talked about either before or immediately after a talk.


Verbal talks are great and build camaraderie. But if you don't document what was discussed, there's a good chance that within minutes the talk will be gone along with what was required of your remote worker.


Don't assume that what was discussed will be acted upon.


Part of the documentation process is to establish the following:


a. Tasks
b. Due dates
c. Final deliverables


If you have an on-line project management system, that will go a long way to communication and making clear what is required of everyone, including inter-dependencies between tasks and deliverables. There are many great simple project management tools like:


a. Smartsheets


b. ProProfs Project (formerly called Project Bubble)


c. Asana


d. Basecamp


4. Understand that Not all Remote Workers Should Be Remote


Separated Worker Remote WorkerWhile many workers can successfully work remotely, it's not appropriate for ALL workers to be remote. In fact, in some cases, working remotely can actually be a detriment.


If you run a Learning and Development group which develops media-rich digital learning courses, do you think every one of these team team members could work remotely?


a. Project leaders
b., Instructional Designers
c. Graphic artists
d. Voice-over talents
e. Video editors
f. Quality control reviewers
g. Social Media posters


Did you answer, "Yes", to everyone one of these?


Did you say, "No remote work..." for some of them?


In both cases you would be right!


Every job listed could work remotely. What would change with each of these is the amount of extra effort it would take to make each worker successful.


In my experience, those workers having the most to do with media, like graphics creation, are better kept in-house.


It's not that they cannot work remotely, it's that the amount of communication required to make this type of worker successful may make it very difficult to achieve quick turnaround times when the person is remote. The more creative the individual, the more it's like herding cats when they are remote and not understanding your vision...


If a particular worker is part of a vendor providing services to you , then anyone can work externally because the vendor should have the necessary staff to manage and ensure completion of tasks and designs.


5. Make Sure You Have Adequate File Sharing


file-sharingIt is often amazing to see how many remote workers don't have a sense of Risk Management and how crucial it is to make backups of the work they do.


This often causes millions of dollars in wasted time and lack of productivity because things can and will go badly (that old Murphy guy always shows up).


To ensure that your remote workers, especially if they are developing things that are not necessarily on-line, provide them with tools like Dropbox and SharePoint.


There are many other online services that will allow teams to work well together remotely. In my case I use Dropbox and we're about to implement SharePoint.


Make sure the remote workers are saving their work often and definitely at the end of the day. If a remote worker often loses the work they did, forgets to save it, or simply doesn't follow your guidelines, then maybe that's the wrong person for you...


I would also recommend that remote workers not have 'Delete' rights to anything . We have had people that inadvertently deleted 30 GB or more of information. Not a good thing. And while it can usually be retrieved and restored, it can delay your team for hours.


Summary: How to Best Manage a Remote Team


In closing, using remote workers can be a life-saver. Make sure you interview the remote workers well and try as best you can to ascertain their sincerity and discipline. Not everyone is good at working remotely and not everyone should.


About the Author


Rick Zanotti is the CEO of Relate Corporation, a Training and Development company developing media, corporate video, eLearning, ILT, broadcasting and more.


In Need of Help?


If you need help with training & development, we offer professional development services including corporate video and audio production, as well as management consulting. Feel free to send us a note on our contact form, e-mail us at connect@relate.com or call us at 800-428-3708, and we'll be happy to help you out. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

iSpring 9 Cam Pro Quick Look: Fast And Easy Integrated Video Editor

If you're not familiar with iSpring, it's essentially a full-featured eLearning authoring tool that integrates with Microsoft PowerPoint. iSpring Suite 9 Cam Pro's new video studio is the forefront new feature of Suite 9, released on April 24, 2018.

We were eager to see what iSpring's team came up with, so we've done some tests of the editor.

This is separate from both the "Record Audio" and "Record Video" features for presentation narration, and their corresponding editors. Cam Pro, accessed from "Screen Recording," lets you create and edit videos and save them as .mp4 or other video formats.

iSpring 9 Menu Ribbon Recording Options

The video studio is a new addition to iSpring Cam, the screen recorder tool available since Suite 8. Similar to something like Camtasia or OBS, Cam Pro chiefly focuses on eLearning and instructional presentations.

Keep reading for our first impressions on this handy new feature of iSpring Suite 9. You can also check out article sections with the links below.

Interactive Canvas
Video Editing in Cam Pro
Cursor Recording
Performance
Conclusion

Capabilities of iSpring 9 Cam Pro's Video Editor



Continue reading for our quick look at the abilities of this powerful new feature.

Interactive Canvas



Cam Pro has the ability to insert shapes, text, images, audio, and video with ease. These then go into your video timeline, where you can adjust volume, transparency, add transitions, or split them into segmenmts.

All of these elements can be overlaid above each other, moved around, resized, and made more or less transparent. This is the Interactive Canvas.

Cam Pro accepts most image and video formats. Similarly to PowerPoint, it accepts PNG transparency. However, animated GIFs will not play.

If you'd like to see an example of this, please watch the video we made to demonstrate these features:


Double-click the video for fullscreen.


Video Editing in Cam Pro



Because the editor is a new addition, many of the features feel like they have room for expansion.

For example, the noise reduction feature in the Narration section's Video Editor is not available in the Cam Pro editor. However, the options you do get already greatly improve iSpring Cam's usefulness.

Although the available transitions are similar to PowerPoint's, they are all animated on a whole-frame basis. This is unlike PowerPoint, where transitions are scaled to the size of the animated element.

For example, watch the following animations:

iSpring 9 Cam Transition Test Big FaceiSpring 9 Cam Transition Test Small Face

Both animations were made with the same transition settings and timing.

Overall, I think the transitions work very well, and I like their smooth appearance. However, the entire-frame nature of the transitions means they're less suited to animating discrete lines of text or small images.

Cursor Recording



Cam Pro has good functionality for showing and emphasizing the mouse cursor during a presentation:

iSpring 9 Cam Pro Cursor Options

You can show or hide the cursor in a presentation, which takes effect in all screen recordings in a project. Also, you can highlight the cursor for easier visiblity, with different colors shown for left and right clicks.

Screen recording in Cam Pro always captures mouse movements and actions, therefore, they can be shown or hidden easily.

Another thing I noticed, though minor, was that the tool cannot record itself. UPDATE: I was mistaken. In fact, you can have multiple copies of iSpring Cam Pro open at once, able to record each other if needed!

Certainly, the ability to record multiple screen regions at once opens some interesting possibilities, especially for computers with multiple displays. See video below for a demonstration of recording Cam Pro with another instance of Cam Pro:



Performance



I did notice that, when recording 4K video from a camera, the program chugs a bit and records at a lower framerate. Hence, the video above is 800x600, since the webcam I used only records at those two resolutions.

Therefore, for best performance and quality, I'd recommend an HD, not 4K, webcam. At any rate, 4K video is not particularly essential for the talking-head-type videos that most users will record with this.

Even though it's lower, the framerate in 4K was still good enough for a presentation. To illustrate, I'm including an image below:

iSpring Cam Pro Framerate Test 4K Webcam

Aside from recording, I didn't observe any performance slowdown, so far. I was able to play back several 1920x1080 videos in a project simultaneously and the program still ran smoothly.

Conclusion



So far, iSpring 9 Cam Pro's video editor is shaping up to be a very useful and convenient editing tool.

I did have one PowerPoint crash over several days of testing, however I'm not sure if Cam Pro caused it. I haven't been able to reproduce the crash so far.

Overall, it's performed well and the videos I've made with it have come out nicely.

Therefore, this video editing tool promises the same high level of quality we've come to expect from iSpring. I'm looking forward to see how iSpring will continue to develop and improve this function.