Learning Network Mastery Day: eLearning Development

I love a hands-on workshop. Since the pandemic, there have been a lot less of them around, so when I received the Learning Network newsletter which advertised an eLearning Mastery Day, how could I resist? So off I went to Chester, and this was my experience.

The eLearning Network rebranded itself a little while ago to simply The Learning Network. It’s been a while since I engaged with the Learning Network, and I’ve been trying to attend more events such as this with like-minded individuals and generally reconnect with the community.

The last in-person workshop I attended was probably the Articulate Roadshow – and I loved it! And I’ve been really looking for more events like it. For me, these workshop-style events are so much more important than conferences – because you get hands-on experience and work through examples and projects together. The only downside is that they can be a little fast-paced, but overall, you usually get exposed to different tools, technologies and expertise.

The Benefits

The event was a member event, but it only costs £29 to become a member for a year, so overall, it was an absolute bargain. As the event was in Chester, I decided to stay in a local hotel for a night, so I needed to purchase that and train tickets. However, because the UK transport system is a nightmare, I did get a refund for my journey out, as my train was horrendously delayed.

By chance, I also met someone that I knew at the event, so win-win!

What I would say, though, is that these types of events are absolute gold to anyone new to the industry. Unlike a very expensive conference ticket, you can walk away with several new portfolio pieces to show off to prospective employers or clients. You’re also doing something the entire time; on the flip side, with some conferences, you start to switch off and become passive towards the end of the day.

Downloadable resources were provided, and I believe all the software needed for the day could be accessed by signing up for trials if participants didn’t have full license access.

Structure of the Day

The day began with Rebecca McDowall at iAM walking through the creation of a multi-level game-style assessment. This was something very familiar and the typical type of eLearning project that I work on. Chris Hodgson from Discover eLearning ran the second session, which covered using the GSAP JavaScript library within Articulate Storyline.

There was a change in the schedule, and Tom McDowall ran the third session on crafting branching scenarios using Twine and Articulate Storyline. The day then ended with Rosie McQueen at Mind, who created an Antarctic Adventure in Evolve.

Reflection

In this section I am going to give my personal reflection of the day and outline some key takeaways.

Session 1 Takeaways

The first session was a stark reminder to me that in order to make eLearning visually pleasing, you need to have access to good graphics. The resources we were given for the first session were visually stunning. However, the steps in the storyline were very basic. For me, this emphasised the importance of design and visual language. We often put a lot of focus on getting the content right, which is obviously important, but I strongly believe that if it doesn’t look good, it can negatively impact the learner’s experience.

I’ve spoken in the past about how eLearning developers often have to wear many hats. Typically, if you’re working in a large organisation, there is usually a marketing person, graphic designer, asset library, or team of visual experts who will be accessible or involved in creating imagery for your project. If you’re like me, however, you’ll probably find yourself doing this role alongside developing all the other eLearning material.

I try to make it clear these days that while I can do basic graphic design work, hiring a graphic designer or illustrator is your best option if you want something highly customised. The same goes for video editing. For example, in the past I’ve had clients talk to me about moving away from things like Vyond as they want to develop their own style and identity. Many people don’t realise that a piece of work like that is a huge undertaking, and your best bet is to involve a specialist.

Obviously, there are eLearning developers out there who have come from a graphic design or video editing background, so there are some unicorns out there who are multi-talented in that regard. The issue here is that when you find someone who can do both, they can’t work on everything at the same time, so in my experience, it can extend project timelines. Hiring an eLearning developer who can concentrate on the mechanics of piecing everything together and a graphic designer who can work on the imagery is a much better approach.

Session 2 Takeaways

Session 2 was probably my favourite session. I’ve blogged in the past about my passion for learning programming languages; my current language of choice is PHP. While I love Articulate Storyline, there have been projects I’ve worked on in the past that require a more complex touch, and adding some basic JavaScript has really helped elevate and enhance the functionality.

During the session, we walked through making some visual and motion path changes to a Storyline activity using GSAP. Having some previous knowledge of coding, I would say, would be helpful, but with enough time and effort, a beginner could get to grips with some of the basics to do some very cool things. I’m not sure how many people were able to follow along, as there was quite a lot to pack into the session. Chris did an amazing job at presenting and I definitely think we could have spent more time on this.

I’d never heard of GSAP before, so this is going to be a bit of a gamechanger for me. What I’ve generally struggled with is understanding how JavaScript fully interacts with Storyline. Articulate doesn’t provide much on this, as I get the impression they don’t really want to support the functionality. I could happily spend a whole day focusing on a topic like this, so I am definitely going to be experimenting with GSAP in the near future.

Session 3 Takeaways

Session 3 was about creating branching scenarios using Twine and Articulate Storyline. I have a lot of experience in this area, having created a huge branching scenario project for the ICCA a few years ago. So, while this session was aimed at beginners, I liked hearing Tom’s approach, and I liked how he used generative AI to create all the imagery and the story. I came away feeling like this session was a rapid development approach for branching scenarios. Depending on the content, there are a lot more considerations you have to make when creating these types of interactions, but it was a brilliant starting point for someone who may not have had any experience creating branching scenarios.

Session 4 Takeaways

I haven’t personally used the Evolve authoring tool for a very long time, so this session wasn’t the most relevant to me. However, it was a good refresher. It was good to see a different tool being used to create eLearning, but again, it really brought home the message that having good, well-designed graphics really makes a difference. Part of this session involved using different parts of a graphic to create an interactive ‘hot graphic’ interaction. It’s one of those workshops that looked very easy to put together because we’d been provided with all the materials. In reality, it would take twice as long because there would be so much preparation involved in creating the graphical assets.

Summary

I came away from this event feeling inspired and excited about eLearning. Sometimes, I get so bogged down in monotony that it’s hard to think of new things to create and develop. For me, these sessions are so important as they really help me see what others are doing, use new tools, gain inspiration, and gather ideas.

If you’re stuck in a rut, want new ideas, a beginner or want a refresher, workshops like these can be a much-needed tonic compared to the more traditional conference-style events. I’ll definitely be looking to attend more of the LN mastery days in future, and I really applaud the Learning Network for arranging and hosting this new style of event for members.

Resources

To learn more about joining the Learning Network, please visit their website.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.