November 16, 2020 |

Graphics in Learning Material (part 2)

The number one rule is that graphics should not distract the learners from your content. So, you should pay attention to the subject, colours, size, and placement of your images and while it might sound obvious, make sure you are using the appropriate images at the right time -there is no need to bombard your learners with images just to fill in space or make it look exciting. The images you use should link to the contact and are intended to reinforce and support your training material, so before using an image ask yourself whether it is relevant or indeed helpful to the learner in how they consume the material.  The famous advice of Coco Chanel in regard to what you wear of which goes along the lines of: “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off” is equally useful in when thinking of how you incorporate and use graphics.


Once your graphic has been chosen, the next step is to select an appropriate size and format. Among the most common file types that in are: jpg, .png, .bmp. tiff and .gif and you need to keep in mind the image’s file size as if it is too large it could impact the way your pages load.

If the course material will be online it is worth remembering that while high-resolution graphics looks nice and crisp, they can take a considerable amount of space. As well, high-resolution graphics may take a long time to load and that can cause annoyance and frustration for learners, so you risk alienating them to the actual course content. Probably the best approach is to start with a high-resolution graphic and then resize and squeeze it down as much as possible.  This doesn’t work as well with scaling small images up as the graphic may appear pixilated, so best to start with the bigger, better resolution and downsize it.

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November 4, 2020 |

Using Graphics in Learning Material

The main job of an instructional designer is to create instructionally sound courses and there should be no expectation that learning specialists are also professional graphic artists. However, to make our courses more visually appealing to learners we need to be aware of basic graphic design principles.  Ruth Clark and Chopeta Lyons (2010) have identified 7 types of graphics specifically in relation to *eLearning, but I think these principles can just as easily be utilised for training material which is delivered in other formats such face or face or when creating course handouts.

The 7 types of graphics are defined as Decorative, Mnemonic, Representational, Organizational, Relational, Transformational, and Interpretative.

  • Decorative graphics: their purpose is aesthetic, and while they can look appealing, they are not intended to add any specific instructional value so are typically used on book or course material covers as opposed to within the body of learning material.
  • Mnemonic graphics: used to represent factual information. By looking at images which represent relevant facts, learners are helped to retrieve facts from memory.

Mnemonic graphic

  • Representational graphics: these are used to represent text. The idea is that learners should be able to understand what the text is about just by looking at the graphic, so that might be a screen capture or a photo of a specific piece of equipment.
  • Organizational graphics: their purpose is to help orient learners to the structure and sequence of lesson content. An organizational graphic shows the qualitative relationships among the main ideas in a lesson, e.g. this might be course map or geometric visuals to show the sequence and content so the learner has an overview of what the learning is intended to provide.
  • Relational graphics: these show the quantitative relationship of variables, so charts and graphs are the best examples as they organise data and information in ways that should make it easy to compare and contrast information and allow learners to visualise the relationship between the numbers presented in the content.
  • Transformational graphics: used to show changes over time, so these would include timelines, before and after images, or a video to show a process.
  • Interpretative graphics: these illustrate abstract theories or principles and might include things such as a schematic diagram, simulations or animated images to mimic how something works.

Tip: Once your graphic has been chosen, the next step is to select an appropriate size and format. If the course material will be online it is worth remembering that while high-resolution graphics looks nice and crisp, they can take a considerable amount of space. As well, high-resolution graphics may take a long time to load and that can cause annoyance and frustration for learners, so you risk alienating them to the actual course content. Probably the best approach is to start with a high-resolution graphic and then resize and squeeze it down as much as possible.  This doesn’t work as well with scaling small images up as the graphic may appear pixilated, so best to start with the bigger, better resolution and downsize it.

*I have chosen to use the term eLearning, however depending on personal preference and the organization you work for, it might also be termed e-learning, e-Learning or elearning (just as we have dropped the dash in e-mail to the more common email, I think the hyphen in e-learning will soon be redundant).

For more on this topic see: Clark, R.C. and Lyons, C. (2010). Graphics for Learning: Proven Guidelines for Planning, Designing, and Evaluating Visuals in Training Materials. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Pfeiffer.


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October 12, 2020 |

Learning Assessment

In-house training sessions in the workplace typically tend not to have an assessment component, with formal assessment tending to be more a hallmark of an e-learning event or some type of certification training.  However their may come a type when you as a trainer will be called upon to create an assessment tool.

Assessment stress

When assessment is done, the objectives of the learning event will govern the type of types of assessment actions chosen with the assessment ensuring they are appropriate to your specific situation. As a broad principle, concentrate on the learners’ ability to apply content rather than their ability to recall facts when creating assessment items. In the type of most IT based/technical training that I deliver this tends to be the most common way of achieving this.  For example, if it is a PowerPoint course, the latter part of the session will be asking the attendees to put their new skills to use in creating a specific type of presentation.  This is basically a free form activity that allows the learner to assess their own abilities and gives them a chance to work out if there are any gaps.  The activity is not “scored” or judged, but instead is a litmus test to help the learner self-assess their progress. This is non-confrontational for adult learners to experience some feedback and assessment and fits in with the principles of Adult Learning Theory (Malcolm Knowles,1970) as it allows for a more self-directed than didactic approach.

But, if an assessment instrument is necessary (e.g. for an e-learning module), then the following should be kept in mind:

The assessment itself should be valid. To achieve this need to write test questions which accurately assess the knowledge and skills specified in the learning objectives. The assessment questions should obviously be clearly written and easy to understand. If the question is poorly worded and the learners (through no fault of their own) misinterpret the intended meaning of a test question, the results would no longer be valid. To improve validity, you should write assessment items that focus on the application of knowledge rather than just comprehension levels. As you create the questions you should consider having professional colleagues (e.g. SMEs, other L&D professionals or instructional designers) review them for you and then if necessary, they can be revised based on the reviewers’ feedback.

The most common types of assessment questions are:

  • multiple choice: probably the most popular type of assessment in eLearning. Multiple choice questions require learners to choose the best response from several options.
  • true/false: typically measures understanding of facts such as names, dates, and definitions.
  • fill-in-the-blank, also known as completion items. This type of question requires learners to finish a sentence by filling the correct word or phrase in a blank.
  • matching: consists of a list of questions or statements and a list of responses, with learners required to find a match or association between each question and response, and
  • free responses or short answers or essays: not as commonly used, this type requires learners to understand the content in order to answer the question. and require a higher level of thinking, analyzing, and logically presenting information.


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September 25, 2020 |

Motivating Learners

The ARCS Model of Motivational Design was developed by John Keller (Keller, 2009).  The intention behind the use of Motivational design theory in learning and the ARCS Model specifically, is to connect the instruction to the goals of students.  Keller combined the elements from many motivational designs into 4 major categories which he called the ARCS Model of Motivational Design. The acronym stands for: (A)ttention, (R)elevance, (C)onfidence and (S)atisfaction and he believes that all of these aspects must be addressed for a successful learning event to have occurred.

Learner Motivation

In this model you are encouraged to think about and address the following aspects when designing your instructional session:

Attention: capturing the interest of learners and stimulating their desire to learn.  Ask yourself: how can I make this learning experience stimulating and interesting.  Depending on your audience this might be through, This can be done through games, role-plays, humor, visuals, discussion or rhetorical questions.

Relevance:  ensuring the learning is applicable to the learners’ knowledge and addresses their learning needs. In designing the learning event ask yourself how will this learning experience be valuable to my students? Ensure you explain the importance and usefulness of the content by providing relevant examples and learning goals so they can make these connections themselves.

Confidence: helping the learners to steer the learning and feel they will succeed and have control their success. To facilitate learner success you would design challenging but doable activities and ensure you are providing evaluation and feedback.

Satisfaction: this results when the learner finds the overall experience positive and worthwhile and feels good about their accomplishments. To ensure this step is met you need to make sure that you offer reinforcement of what they already learned and provide opportunities to practice the newly acquired knowledge and skills. It might include some type of reward or acknowledgement such as a certificate of achievement.

For more information see: Keller, John (979) Wikipedia

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March 3, 2010 |

Welcome Students of University Ballarat TAFE

Hello to all of you doing the Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing with Yvonne Mantelli. I look forward to getting to know you as you work through the unit – and keep your comments and interaction going!If you would like to ask any questions regards Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc, I would be happy to write a hint around your questions.Look forward to chatting with you :-)PS: if you’ve made a comment, check back as I will also respond to your comments.Kind regardsAngela

January 30, 2010 |

Webinars and me….

I’ve yet to attend a great webinar…there you go…I’ve said it.  It isn’t fashionable but I haven’t been to one where I haven’t fidgeted, opened email, got a snack…well you get the picture.  My latest webinar was Demystifying Webinars which I paid to attend.   Actually before going further: the webinar is a seminar run online and is a mix of a seminar, a video conference, a chat session and a Powerpoint presentation.  It allows people from anywhere to attend a presentation/seminar from the comfort of their own computers.  If you need a fuller/better explanation, try Wikipedia ☺. Anyway, back to my webinar: while it did try to get the point across, and took us through some justifications for a business case for why you may use it in your organisation ( reduced travel costs, delivering to people in remote locations, reduced staff downtime and supposedly only taking one hour to deliver 4 hours of content – you think??), the problem with people new to this way of delivery, and really this is most people at this point; is that they are new to it.   The webinar I went to was attended  by folk who are learning and development/training people, so they deliver training on a day to day basis.  However the session was constantly interrupted by people whose lines had fallen out, by them constantly asking questions in the chat box such as ‘how do I ask a question, I missed the last thing you said’, and despite the fact that I am a good multitasker, I found it a real problem to listen to the woman presenting (the only voice), looking at her slides, (our only common point,) and watching the often stupid questions (sorry, saying that respectfully) in the chat-box that we could all see. This whole exercise was fantastic for me because it highlighted the very real problems associated with webinars and the fact that attendees need to be given some ground rules and basic instruction on how to use the tool before attending- me included. I’m not saying I knew it all, but  keep in mind my group were professionals in the training and development industry and if they were all over the place, true learners are going to be more of an issue.  I guess it is a new mode of delivery and it will get better as we all learn the ropes – just in case anyone thinks I am being a smarty pants!!!

December 28, 2009 |

Impact: Journal of Applied Research in the Workplace

I am on the editorial board of Impact: The Journal of Applied Research in the Workplace.  I’m very pleased to announce our inaugural issue has just been published.  Membership is free – just visit the site.

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October 6, 2009 |

Attention and Multi-tasking

I’ve just signed on for what is termed a ‘lunch and learn’ webinar on using Facebook for Business. This time I am going to make a conscious effort to focus and remain present for the duration of the webinar…because I have to confess I have trouble staying in the webinar moment.  Take the last one I attended:  it was again during lunch so while the webinar ran:  I ate my lunch (as you do), flipped to email each time it pinged, had a brief conversation with a colleague when he dropped into my office and answered a text. Yet when I am giving a face to face class I don’t like it (and have something to say-politely of course!), if participants are emailing, twittering, facebooking or texting.

Some people might just write multi-tasking off as the curse of this century and accept it as the way of the world – while others (like me), require that learners are actively present in the moment so that learning and engagement can occur (says the pot calling the kettle black). While all the organisations I work with in fact ban Twitter, Facebook, Myspace  and IM, this just leaves texts, mobiles and email to impinge on in-house workshops and meetings, whereas students with their own laptops are mostly free to indulge in social networking in the learnng space.

Howard Rheingold blogged about this very thing: in a post titled ‘Attention Literacy’.

…I want my students to learn that attention is a skill that must be learned, shaped, practiced; this skill must evolve if we are to evolve. The technological extension of our minds and brains by chips and nets has granted great power to billions of people, but even in the early years of always-on, it is clear to even technology enthusiasts like me that this power will certainly mislead, mesmerize and distract those who haven’t learned – were never taught – how to exert some degree of mental control over our use of laptop, handheld, earbudded media.

To which I say Hallelujah!

Is there such a thing as multi-tasking? I don’t think so – to me it is just  a way of masking the switch of attention from one thing to another. If you are reading a text you cannot possibly be fully listening to the person talking to you, what you are doing is a bit of reading then a bit of listening, then a bit of reading and constantly playing catch-up between the two – what’s effective about that? I say call it what it is – attention switching and accept it means that the person supposedly multi-tasking is not paying full attention to any one of the things he or she is currently juggling at the same time.

Note to self:  make a point of re-reading this before attending the next webinar.

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October 3, 2009 |

Camtasia here I come…

Well, I have The Definitive Guide to Camtasia Studio 6 sitting in front of me, to get ready for creating my own online training videos.  One of my clients will be rolling out some software nationally next year and logistics mean that it is not economically feasible to send trainers to all remote sites.  Our plan is to record training sessions with the Camtasia, product, which allows screen capture and narration, so the viewer experiences  the training being delivered to them as it would be if the trainer was using an overhead.  I’m excited!

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