Rapid eLearning is a term used to denote short development times of online instruction with limited resources versus traditional instructional design approaches involving lengthy periods of time and large amounts of money (De Vries & Bersin, 2004). Another important distinction between the two is that rapid eLearning is oftentimes developed by the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) using simple-to-use tools while traditional eLearning is developed by a team of training professionals (SME, web developer, instructional designer and project manager). A simple-to-use and, undoubtedly, one of the most popular rapid eLearning development tools is PowerPoint.
As a graduate student developing online content, Powerpoint ranks very high on my list of “go-to” tools. The versatility it offers not only in development but also in delivery of eLearning content is the reason why this tool features prominently in most instructional designers’ toolkit. However, PowerPoint just provides a blank slate like any other authoring environment. Good instructional and visual design principles have to be employed to create interactive and compelling learning modules. It is then up to the creative vision of the instructional designer to harness the strengths of this tool. This requires the designer to go beyond the simple basics and possess a certain degree of technical know-how.
When you have less than 2 weeks to create a high quality and rich learning experience using PowerPoint, you are bound to have many, many “how-to” questions (unless you are this guy!). Here are some places I go to when I need help:
1. My best friend in this endeavor has been Google. For example, a query on the term “using PowerPoint for rapid eLearning” yields 89,500 results. Some relevant but most NOT! The drawback of this method is that filtering out the extraneous results takes time, and time is of essence in RAPID eLearning. Interestingly, Gwizdka (2010) found that formulating the query for a search engine imposes a high demand on the cognitive load than looking through the search results. Here are some queries which I use regularly and yield relevant results:
- “PowerPoint for instructional design”
- “interactive PowerPoint eLearning” and
- “PowerPoint nonlinear eLearning”
2. A quicker way is to subscribe to the following blogs that provide great tips and tricks for using PowerPoint in rapid eLearning development:
- Tom Kuhlmann’s Rapid eLearning blog
- Tom’s Learningppt
- Viral Notebook
- A J George’s tips
- Dave Hopkins’ PowerPoint index
4. Another Web 2.0 technology that I am thankful for is social bookmarking. These tools with their tag clouds hold the answers to numerous eLearning development questions and doubts. Some bookmarks that I have been frequently using are Dr. Grant’s bookmarks on Jumptags; ahayman, edtechtalk and viral-notebook on Diigo and edach , lavignet , bonni208 on Delicious. Since these tools use a Boolean search query technique, a search term like “powerpoint + elearning” would point to more resources than simply “PowerPoint”.
5. A popular networking tool, Twitter is a powerful professional development tool and works very well for finding articles, and resources on a daily basis that help in creating effective eLearning modules using PowerPoint. I follow @elearningbrothers, @PowerPointWiziq and @elearningexperts on Twitter as the resources shared and dialogs that take place benefit me in my work. Asking questions, initiating a dialog and getting responses are a lot easier on twitter than on a forum or a blog.
Besides these resources, giving “ The Insider’s Guide To Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro” a thorough read, serves as a good refresher course for rapid eLearning development. Clive Shepherd eloquently says what all rapid eLearning developers should keep in mind, “As such, e-learning is neither effective nor ineffective; it’s just a channel. What you put through this channel is up to you.”
De Vries, J., & Bersin, J. (2004). Rapid e-Learning: What Works. Retrieved February 1, 2011, from Macromedia: http://download.macromedia.com/pub/breeze/whitepapers/bersin_elearning_study.pdf.
Gwizdka, J. (2010). Distribution of cognitive load in web search. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 61(11), 2167-2187.
Guest blogger: Prashanthi Selvanarayanan is a graduate student in the Instructional Design and Technology program at the University of Memphis. She assists faculty in the Department of Higher and Adult Education with online course design and development. Her research interests include technology integration and mobile learning. She aspires to be an instructional developer in the healthcare sector which combines both her interests.
Image courtesy of Mike Licht at Flickr