Wow, when it rains it pours

posted in: elearning | 2

The “sample” course I am using in my DevLearn presentation has morphed into more than originally planned. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I did not want to just make a lesson on baking cookies (any sample will work, but my day job’s courses are all proprietary).  Don’t get me wrong, I love cookies.

So with the help of my lovely subject matter expert (I am biased as she is my spouse), we hammered out a course that will hopefully add to the corporate enterprise goals of Second Life in a very small way.  Making Meetings Matter is the name of a series of seven courses on meetings tools.

So what is the morphing bit?  Well, I was “encouraged” to submit the final course for DevLearn08’s DemoFest.  This is a competition for eLearning material and is intended to show off new and novel approaches to delivering eLearning.  Our course was selected as one of the entrants!

That is a nice accolade and the material in the DemoFest is different than in my presentation (Session 708, Friday at 10).  The presentation focuses on how to use Second Life as a film studio for those of us on a limited budget (read: $0) and shows how video clips can easily be inserted into your existing training in a rapid and inexpensive manner.

The DemoFest submission goes beyond this by taking a complex (and dry) topic and serving it up as a short podcast.  Think a bit of a blend of CommonCraft simplicity (in the way that the complex concepts he teaches are so easily digestible) with Second Life video as the medium.  A very user centered approach explaining what is often made to be a dry topic.

My day job is with a company that creates software for the hospitality industry that deals directly with meetings. Thus, I am aware of the dire lack of real meeting skills in Second Life. 

I hope that our Making Meetings Matter series also adds to the meetings community in Second Life (they will be available free inworld).

oops! Our bad! And happy Halloween!

posted in: elearning | 0

A funny thing happened on the way to the sim . . . it seems that we (myself and Ener) overlooked the sl issue of teleporting to map found places.  In other words, when you do an inworld map search without coordinates, you end up at ground level in the centre of the sim (128,128).  The map search has no way of knowing if any structures are at that location and so drops you at ground level.

Well, I have been telling folks to search for Enercity Park as a starting place to use our resources.  Only problem is that Enercity Park is part of a planned nine sim city.  And that city has catacombs under the streets.  The catacombs are there just for fun, but they are “trenched” and under the apparent ground level.

So if you TP straight to Enercity Park you end up under the catacombs and this can be disorienting for new sl folks.  And to add to the confusion, if you have audio on, you will hear moaning.  And although it’s not funny, I had to laugh at what kind of experince that must be!  Teleporting ans ending up under water, under a structure that you can’t walk out of and hearing moaning!!!  =D

Well the moaning is from zombies placed there for Halloween!  Only they are spawning above you so you might have no clue what the heck it is.

Well, maybe it’s a learning experience (gee, that sounds good).  Since you are allowed to create objects in that sim, just rez a box and sit on it.  Then edit it’s position to about 34 metres up.  Ta dah!  Out of the catacombs to freedom!

Obviously, we will address this, but can’t help to wonder how many people experienced this.  Beware, damage is enabled and the zombies do bite . . . happy Halloween!

First eLearning Guild video podcast

posted in: elearning | 4

Thanks to the patience and phenomenal work that Brent Schlenker has been doing for the elearning Guild, their first video podcast is up on GuildCasts!  And I am humbled to be the first one, albeit there were some technical difficulties.  Brent was very patient and it was a new exercise for me.  I never use audio in Second Life mainly for selfish reasons.

With the ability to IM anyone anywehere in Second Life, it is not uncommon to have several IMs going on while chatting to one or two people working together.  I can not imagine doing that with voice!  I also find that text chat is more cocise and to the point.  Imagine how much I would ramble if talking!

So we started off great guns and then I lost his audio.  Well, not so much lost as it went from clear and an equal level to mine to being what sounded like a fly!  We bothe relogged but to no avail. 

Fortunately, Brent was quick on his feet (and that was after he had done a full day of online forums!) and recored himself and sent me the file.  The final video is clearly edited (as in obvious) and a combination of his audio track, the original audio track pulled out from the video to remove the failed audio noise.  This then resulted in some whacked out lip synching (but SL is not the best on that front yet).

It did reinforce the approach I have to using audio in Second Life when being fiolmed for elearning material.  In the time it took to piece (butcher?) the vodpod for the Guild together, I could have filmed enough material for a lesson!

Well it was fun and frustratiting, but a great learning experience as well.  And done mainly with free tools which is a big part of my session.  It’s great if you have Avid and Adobe Premiere like we do and certainly makes editing go far faster, but the reality of corporate eLearning departments is that they have very tight budgets.  And that is important for me to get accross and also opens this up to the person doing this as a one person shop.

Thanks Brent!

First Guild vodpod

DevLearn08 Breakfast Bytes

posted in: elearning | 0

Come participate in an informal discussion, Second Life – Giving it a Second Try, over breakfast Friday November 14th with David Anderson and myself.  You will come away with a greater knowledge of Second Life and it’s place in eLeaning.

About the facilitators:

David Anderson is offering a DevLearn08 workshop entitled A Practical Guide to Using Virtual Worlds/Second Life for Learning.  If you are new to Second Life, thinking of exploring it, or ready to move ahead, his workshop will be incredibly valuable for you.  I have participated in online forums held by David and his information is not only current, but he provides resources that allow you to act right now.

My DevLearn08 session, Add Second Life to your Training without Having Users Log into Second Life, follows a case study in which a text-based lesson is converted into a more immersive learning experience.  Starting with a “text and image” lesson written by a subject matter expert, we will write an easy-to-follow script that will help us create inexpensive video footage using Second Life.  This video footage will then be integrated with the lesson to create a richer learning experience.

If you attend David’s workshop and my session, you will be equipped with the knowledge to effectively start using Second Life right away.  We both will provide resources that will help you right now.

We hope to see you at DevLearn08! And join us for breakfast!


David Anderson
Elearning Guild Annual Gathering 2008,Originally uploaded by oque

David Miller
elgStageComplete_009, Originally uploaded by iliveisl

Meet me for virtual coffee?

posted in: elearning | 1

Well, I was flattered to see this (first off, I did not know that a DevLearn08 Twitter group had been started – so job well done by the Guild!).

Twitter is such a great tool for conferences, especially when used for spontaneous meetings such as “hey, 2nd floor by the coffee cart, come talk about sl in between session.” Must be a tweet from me, Mr. Second Life on the Brain!

Gee, I could Tweet from within Second Life via that Tweet HUD and we could meet next to the coffee cart I have next to . . . ”

elgStageComplete_003,Originally uploaded by iliveisl

A Life Transformed

posted in: elearning | 0

The original proof-of-concept video to see if Second Life could provide video for use in eLearning.  It had to be rapid to develop and low cost.

It took eight hours from scripting to final rendering and cost $39.00.

The topic was the promotion of a new certificate program which was depicted with the video running on the screen in Second Life and the display in the laptop computer.

Many lessons have been learned and the technique has been refined in the last year, but this video still stands as what can be done by starting with no video experience at all.

Discussion at Ning – Work Literacy: Web 2.0 for Learning Professionals

posted in: elearning | 0

There is a really great, and free, opportunity on Ning for learning about Web 2.0 and it’s place in eLearning. On one forum I posted about why we use Second Life as a film studio.  Here is what I wrote:

 We had the issue of wanting to use video in our elearning. Our training reaches 70,000 people in 110 countries so this type of decision is not taken lightly. There are many issues with real video such as cost, actors, sets, and so on. The choice of actors is a difficult one, let alone being able to find the same actors a year down the road for updates. And cost is very high for the initial footage plus the software needed to edit it (like Avid).

So what could we do that was inexpensive (free) and used our current software (Flash)? We had been toying with Blender 3D and isometric sets in Flash.

Blender 3D yields beautiful results but takes a lot of time to create and render (we did a 1956 chess match as the background for a Vegas conference piece and it took 22 computers two weeks to render out about a minute of animation).

The isometric Flash work was very fast to do but had a very strong and distinct look (think Habbo Hotel).

So along come some of our clients who are in Second Life. Presto! A 3D world complete with physics and avatars (if you think SL avatars look crude, you should have seen my attempts with MakeHuman, a tool for use with Blender).

Second Life though has some serious obstacles that made it impossible for us to use for our training. Even though we deal with training on how to use function space and meetings software (something SL is used for regularly) Second Life has firewall issues for our clients (and us in house), a reputation for crashing, and a learning curve that can be daunting (the new Orientation islands are much easier and faster to complete).

So we started using it as an inexpensive virtual studio. Keeping the avatars somewhat simple in appearance helps address some issues plus they don’t age and we can build as many sets as we like. And we were also able to use inexpensive software and bring it into Flash for scenarios, how to videos, and quiz questions.

It is certainly a very “specific” look but is well received and, based on metrics, more engaging to users and increases retention.

Since the purpose of this Ning group is to help people learn about Web 2.0 and how to use it in elearning, you will be able to download user guides and work files after the DevLearn08 conference on how I create video footage that can be used several times over and be done in a relatively short order.

The technique I use is not revolutionary by any means; just planned, cost effective, and somewhat efficient. If you are at DevLearn08, look me up even if just for an informal chat.

Case Study Site for DevLearn08

posted in: elearning | 0

We are in the process of developing the website that will be used as the example site for DevLearn08 session 708: Add Second Life to your Training without Having Users Log into Second Life.

Why?  I like presenting information in a holistic manner and since I can not use examples of eLearning from Newmarket International because it shows specifics to our software function, I decided to create a real example that will actually be sold.  This forces a different approach than talking in terms of generic examples.

I become frustrated if I attend training and am unable to walk away with real examples and did not want any attendees to feel this way from my session.

The first challenge was to pick a topic that would actually teach something and be able to teach it in less than an hour.  Plus, it had to apply to the real world so that it would have meaning on it’s own.  First I considered making this lesson about something in Second Life.  So that you could learn a real skill in Second Life while learning how to do Second Life video to enhance your real training.

But that seemed confusing and could set the focus on the elearning example rather than the technique to enrich your elearning. So what would be a topic that everyone deals with?  Meetings!

And it just so happens that I have a suitable subject matter expert!  Her bio is on the site and you will soon see my bias.  However, it was important that the content not be written by me so that it would more closely follow what you may be faced with in real life.

And it is going even a step further.  As mentioned above, the case study will result in a lesson that we actually place for sale. So the end customer/learner is very real for this.

This case study lesson will be the first of a seven part series and that also helps in making sure that the flow I teach is a flow that works as being truly reusable.  For example, knowing that there will be several lessons built allows me to create a flow that would be like your work.  Where you develop a style guide for a particular set of your eLearning so that you use the same image styles, treatments, arrows, call out boxes, et cetera.

It is paramount that what I teach is as applicable to your training as it can be.  I want you to be able to walk away from this session with concrete principles with solid examples.

So that is a little background for you to help you decide if this is a good session for you to attend.

Oh, and the site being developed is very small:  There is an efficiency in the layout. After all, it is designed to sell courses and should be light in content (think Amazon, as soon as you hit the site you can shop, you don’t need to read about Amazon, just get books).

It is in its early stages of development and the Moodle component may get swapped for a simple PayPal purchase option (with the go daddy hosting, it was incredibly easy to set up Moodle with its PayPal component, but seems to be far more than what we need to sell the course).

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