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The Magic of Starting from Scratch: Five Ways to Optimize Learning Design Sessions

By Ann Iverson, Instructional Designer 

Have you baked a cake lately? If so—and be honest—did you use the box, or did you make it from scratch? It’s okay, I’m not judging.

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The Drawing Board: Using Paper Prototypes to Proof e-Learning Design

by Hannah Hunterinstructional writer

There are some things that words just can’t describe. Articulating a highly complex, branching e-learning instructional interaction or game is a daunting task for even the most experienced instructional designers. Trying to communicate to writers, developers, media artists, and clients exactly how the e-learning design will function is often challenging. I’d like to share with you a solution that worked for us recently (and hopefully can work for you, too): turn off your computer, herd your team into a conference room, and role play your ideas with a paper prototype!

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Be an Inventor: The Importance of Prototyping for e-Learning Design

by Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist | @ethanaedwards

In December I was scheduled to teach two ATD e-Learning Instructional Design Certificate Programs back-to-back in New York City, leaving me with a weekend to entertain myself. On Sunday afternoon I was lucky enough to take the train out to West Orange, New Jersey to pay a visit to Thomas Edison National Historical Park

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Four Tips to Create the Perfectly Imperfect e-Learning Prototype

We recently redesigned the ATD Advanced e-Learning Instructional Design Certificate Program, and I had the pleasure of facilitating the first delivery of the new program. The redesign was based on feedback from previous participants, as well as discussions with participants of the basic ATD e-Learning Instructional Design Certificate asking them, “What next?” More often than not, we heard that they wanted to jump in!

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3 Fun Factors to a Successful e-Learning Project Kickoff Meeting

by , instructional writer/designer | @EllenBJohnson

I had the pleasure of visiting a client in Texas a few short weeks ago to kick off a new e-learning project. Not only was the weather much more pleasurable than what we’ve lately been experiencing in Minnesota, but the meetings themselves were productive and fun.

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Four e-Learning Design Practices to Leave Behind

by , vice president - training & marketing | @rhillsites

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SAM: The Only Vocabulary You Need to Know

By Linda Rening, Ph.D., studio executive

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Prototypes Are Essential to e-Learning Design

by , vice president - client services | @rhillsites

As many of my colleagues are at ASTD TechKnowledge 2013 enjoying the California weather, I am stuck here in the Atlanta airport – dodging tornadoes and dealing with weather delays.  For those of you at the conference, I hope you have been able to attend some of the Allen Interactions and ZebraZapps demonstrations, workshops and sessions.   We are sharing the new features of ZebraZapps Professional and the first day-long workshop about SAM, the iterative design and development process that Michael Allen and I co-authored a book about in September.

I admit I am a bit envious of those of you who, like my co-workers, are enjoying northern California in winter while participating in sessions and roundtables, engaging in conversations about building instruction and training, debating about the best tools to create high quality e-learning, or even spending time with old friends reminiscing about the old days.

I figured since I wasn't able to attend the conference and engage in some of those debates and conversations, I would share a topic that has been coming up a lot for me lately - the role of prototyping.

Designing effective and engaging e-learning can be a challenging endeavor. There are many expectations by many people in the organization – all needing to be recognized and accounted for before any course goes live. Couple those expectations with the requirements of budget and timelines, and it is easy to understand how designing quality learning events can be overwhelming.

So sadly, more often than not, we fall back on designs which made it through the approval process in the past – they are safe and reasonably effective. We fear rocking the boat with crazy notions of interactivity and settle for a fancy page-turner preceding an assessment. And why not? This has produced good results for us in the past, surely it will again. But has it produced the results you are looking for, or has it simply put a pretty course in front of a learner? Are learners engaged? Are they transferring their training to their work environment? Or, are they simply completing the course only to forget the content within minutes of exiting?

Perhaps it is time to try and push your design a step further - to avoid the trap of playing it safe. One way to make this effort more effective is through the use of prototypes. Prototypes are powerful because they provide clear insight into the design while assuring alignment of expectations of everyone involved.

Understanding what prototypes are, how they are built and their role in design is the biggest hurdle.  So what exactly is a prototype? I have seen people create semi-functional prototypes only to use them as screen captures in a storyboard. Others build prototypes which only demonstrate simple designs for assessment, like drag-and-drop or multi-select. And others simply sketch out where components will be on the screen.

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