This article is an excerpt from eLearning Guild Research’s Getting Started in e-Learning Report on Rapid e-Learning published February 10, 2010. In it, Patti Shank highlights four related circumstances that lend themselves to a rapid e-Learning approach. She also provides a high-level overview of the five types of rapid authoring tools, and some basic information on the relative market share of rapid authoring tool providers.
Rapid works well for lower learning levels
Dr. Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist, helped to develop a learning outcomes classification system, a hierarchy of learning outcome levels associated with what the learner should be able to do at each level (see Figure 1). This hierarchy helps us think about the level of learning we want the information or instruction to foster, and what we want the learner to be able to do because of the instruction (typically called a learning objective or instructional objective).
|What the learner should be able to do|
|Recommend, assess, choose...|
|Design, plan, construct...|
|Compare, calculate, examine...|
|Complete, use, demonstrate...|
|Describe, identify, give an example...|
|List, define, label...|
Figure 1: Information -- instruction continuum.
A major factor that impacts whether you can complete a project rapidly is the availability of existing, usable content. Content development often takes a great deal of time, so a rapid approach works best when needed content is already available and adequate for the job at hand. Lack of adequate content is one of the single biggest risk factors associated with rapid e-Learning projects! Even if a rapid approach otherwise makes sense, lack of adequate content will automatically add time to the process.
When considering whether you have adequate content for a rapid approach, you may need to consider the following content type issues.
Slides: If you are using the content from PowerPoint slides as a content source, it’s likely that this content alone will be inadequate unless you are the subject matter expert who created them. That’s because, typically, PowerPoint slides contain abridged content so you will need to consider the effort needed to turn slide content into adequate content. Also consider whether the content you are using will need to be updated, verified, or approved (all of which will add time to the project).
Documents: If you are using content from documents, consider whether the audience for the documents is the same as the audience for the information or instruction. If not, you may need to rework the content. Content from documents often needs condensing, so you will likely need to prioritize and condense it. And, of course, you’ll need to consider whether the content will need updating, verifying, or approval (all of which will add time to the project).
Graphics/Media: Graphics and media can take some time to develop. Consider what graphics and media would be most useful and whether they are already available. If they are available, consider whether they will need to be updated, verified, or approved. If they are not available, consider the time it will take to develop them and whether you can complete the project without them.
Other: Other content may be available or needed. You still must determine if the content is adequate or whether you need to modify it.
Rapid often works well in a hybrid approach
After some analysis, you may discover that a rapid approach won’t work for all elements of an information or instruction project. But that doesn’t mean a rapid approach won’t work at all.
For example, let’s consider a project whose purpose is to train sales staff on a new product. They will need to know the product’s features and benefits, how it fits into the company’s product portfolio, and how it compares to competitors’ similar products. They will also need the skills to effectively sell this product, alone and alongside other company products as well as against competitors’ products. Let’s consider how this situation lends itself to a rapid approach and a traditional approach.
Lower-level learning outcomes: The following are lower-level learning objectives:
- Describe product features and associated benefits
- Identify how the new product fits into the company’s product portfolio.
Disposable information and instruction: New product information is extremely time sensitive to sales representatives and others in the organization.
The project is on the information end of the information/instruction continuum: The product’s features and benefits, and how it fits into the company’s product portfolio, are closer to the information end of the information/instruction continuum.
Being able to sell against similar competitors’ products, and effectively selling this product alone and alongside other company products, are higher-level learning outcomes. They are also closer to the instruction end of the information-instruction continuum.
Whether you can use a rapid approach for part of this project, however, may depend on the availability of adequate content. Since marketing staff often prepares sales materials well in advance of a new product launch, there’s a good chance that at least some product information will be available for use in this project. You should analyze whether it is adequate before proceeding.
Types of rapid authoring tools
Rapid authoring tools come in a variety of “flavors.” Table 1 describes five commonly used types of rapid authoring tools, what they typically create, and examples of commonly used rapid authoring tools in that category. Remember, for the first four tool types here, the more capabilities you use, the more complex and less rapid the project becomes!
|Tool Type||Typically Creates||Examples of Commonly Used Tools|
|Screencast||Produces a digital recording of what is happening in a computer screen, window, or application. A tool may also allow the addition and editing of narration, links, graphics and media,
|Captivate Camtasia Studio|
|PowerPoint-to-Flash||Produces Flash content out of Power-Point slides, typically with narration. Tool may also allow the addition and editing of links, graphics and media,
|Adobe Presenter Articulate Presenter|
|Forms-to-Flash||Produces Flash content such as pages or rollover graphics from content placed into forms. The tool may also allow the addition and editing of narration, links, graphics and media, and interactions.
|Other-to-Flash||Produces Flash content such as pages, games, or scenarios from content placed onto screens or imported. Tool may also allow the addition and editing of narration, links, graphics and media, and interactions.
||Articulate Presenter Captivate|
|Webinar||Enables a live presentation with slides over the Internet using a virtual class-room application. Tool may also allow presenter to share his or her desktop, poll participants, and incorporate other presentation and participant interaction tools. Many record the presentation as it is happening so it can be made available later, non-live. (Again, the more capa-bilities you use, the more complex and less rapid the project becomes.)
It is easy to see that the dividing line between rapid and more complex authoring may have more to do with what is included in each project and less to do with the tool you use to create it. One critical takeaway: When you use any tool to create more complex content, the project you create will typically take more time and therefore be less “rapid,” regardless of what tool is used. Rapidly produced projects typically produce less complex information and instruction.
Rapid authoring tools vendors and tools
The rapid e-Learning authoring tools marketplace includes numerous vendors and tools. Figure 2 shows the top vendors of rapid authoring tools, and the percentage of responding Guild members who use one or more tools from each vendor. Figure 9 on Page 19 of the complete report shows the percentage of responding Guild members who use each rapid authoring tool.
Figure 2: Percentage of responding Guild members who use at least one of each vendor’s rapid authoring tools.
The majority of responding Guild members use one or more of the Adobe tools (See Figure 8 on Page 18 of the complete report). Captivate was initially an authoring product mainly designed to produce quick and easy software application demos. As you might imagine by the large percentage of responding Guild members who use Captivate, the product is no longer limited to that use (although it can still make very rapid and terrific application demos and simulations). Approximately 25% of responding Guild members use Adobe Connect, a synchronous virtual classroom tool. Many of the companies new to e-Learning get started by putting some of their face-to-face classroom-based training online.
One or more Articulate products are used by more than 40% of responding Guild members (Figure 3). Their Presenter tool is the second-most-widely-used rapid authoring tool, and their Rapid E-Learning Studio (which includes the Presenter tool) is one of the most used products by those who are new to e-Learning (see Figure 15 on Page 23 of the complete report). It is also the fourth most popular rapid authoring tool with responding Guild members (see Figure 9 on Page 19 of the complete report).
This article is an excerpt from the Guild Research Getting Started in e-Learning Report on Rapid e-Learning published February 10, 2010. Access to the complete 36-page report is available for all eLearning Guild Member, Member Plus, and Premium members. Learn more.