Tips for creating learning scenarios

Recently, Bryan Jones from eLearningArt invited me and 59 other eLearning people to share their single best tip for creating effective eLearning scenarios. The post is now live, and you can check it out here: 13 eLearning Scenario Tips that 60 Experts Agree On

He asked everyone this question:

What’s your #1 tip for creating effective eLearning scenarios?

And, here’s how I responded:

Our scenarios must be realistic but focused on the desired learning outcome.

Scenarios need to be challenging. The learner must have the chance to guide the scenario to an appropriate outcome—and to do so by making choices that require thought. It shouldn’t be easy.

In real life, situations are messy, and we juggle lots of things at the same time. Our scenarios must be realistic but focused on the desired learning outcome. Don’t include other things that might be going on if they aren’t critical to that outcome.

It needs to be authentic and believable. We’ll lose our audience if they can’t picture themselves in the situation.

If you want to see a summary of all 60 tips, you can check out the embedded YouTube video below:

Or visit the full scenario tips post to see all the detailed responses.

Who should own your learning platform?

This week I’ve been running a workshop in which we looked at all aspects of digital learning design. Over lunch, one of the delegates asked who I thought was the right person in an organisation to own the LMS (or VLE, or other learning platform).

Various possibilities were suggested by the group, including Learning and Development, IT, producers of learning content or some combination of the three.

Before I suggest an answer, I have to say I would definitely reject any option which involved shared ownership. While I would agree that there are various groups of stakeholders whose views should be considered, that does not merit having a stake in the ownership of the platform. Any effort to split ownership is more likely to stifle progress than encourage it.

It’s very clear to me who should own any learning platform, although I have no strong views about which department that should be.

For me, the ownership of any platform can only lie with whoever has ownership for supporting those people who use that platform. That is whoever provides the first line of support for learners – who is it that answers their calls and emails?

Omnifocus Completed Report for DevonThink Pro

Update 28 Nov 2019 – I no longer use Omnifocus or DevonThink Pro (or a Mac) so I can’t be sure that this script is still useful.


I’m a big fan of Omnifocus and I’ve used it since it was first released. Part of its appeal has always been the number of integrations with other apps – both official and unofficial. One of my favourites was a script created by Ben Waldie which generated a completed task report and sent it to Evernote.

It was one of the few things I missed when I switched from Evernote to DevonThink Pro. So last weekend, I decided to have a go at amending the script to work with DevonThink Pro.

The updated script can be downloaded from Github:

https://github.com/barrysampson/omnifocus-task-completion-to-devonthink

Set up Laravel 5.4 with MAMP Pro on MacOS Sierra

Update 28 Nov 2019 – I’m no longer using a Mac (and therefore no longer use MAMP) so can’t vouch for how useful these instructions are.

Update 01 Nov 2017 – Since this post was written Laravel 5.5 and High Sierra have been released and I don’t know if these instructions still work. I recorded the installion steps here as I was setting up Laravel to see if it suited us for a particular project – which it didn’t, so I’m no longer using it (which is not a criticism of Laravel). Although I had gathered together here the steps that worked for me, I’m no expert.


I regularly need to work on WordPress sites locally on my laptop, and for me nothing beats the convenience of MAMP Pro. I’ve also been working on some projects in Laravel, and so needed to add that to my local set up. There are many ways to do this, including Valet and Homestead, both of which are provided by Laravel. However, I didn’t need the power of Homestead and the last time I tried setting up Valet alongside MAMP I ended up with a mess of conflicting versions. In trying to unravel that mess I pretty much totalled my Mac install.

After wiping and reinstalling my Mac, I decided that I would try setting up Laravel to work with MAMP Pro. I couldn’t find an up to date set of instructions that covered every step, so I’ve put this here for my own future reference and in in case it’s useful to anyone else.

I’m using Laravel 5.4 and MAMP Pro 4.1.1 on a clean install of MacOS Sierra 10.12.5.

1. Set bash to use the MAMP version of PHP

The version of PHP that comes preinstalled on MacOS is out of date, so the first thing to do is to make sure that we are using the version installed with MAMP.

export PATH=/Applications/MAMP/bin/php/php7.x.x/bin:$PATH

Replace 7.x.x with the version of PHP you want to use in the terminal.

2. Download and install composer

Laravel uses Composer, so we need to downlad and install that:

curl -s http://getcomposer.org/installer | php

And then move it and set up an alias (see note at the end of step 4). I’m using nano, but use your editor of choice.

sudo mv composer.phar /usr/local/bin/
nano ~/.bash_profile

Add the following to the .bash_profile file.

alias composer="php /usr/local/bin/composer.phar"

Restart the Terminal, and you can run Composer by typing:

composer

3. Install Laravel using Composer

Now we can install and set up Laravel.

composer global require "laravel/installer"

Note: On a clean install, you will be prompted to install the Xcode command line tools (if you haven’t already done so).

4. Make the laravel command available

So that the system can find the Laravel executable we need to run:

echo 'export PATH="$PATH:$HOME/.composer/vendor/bin"' >> ~/.bash_profile
source ~/.bash_profile

Note: At this stage trying to use the laravel command produced an error saying that composer could not be found. Following advice in this thread on Laracasts I renamed composer.phar to composer and updated the alias.

sudo mv /usr/local/bin/composer.phar /usr/local/bin/composer
alias composer="php /usr/local/bin/composer.phar"

5. Create a Laravel project and make it available via MAMP Pro

Create a new Laravel project

cd ~/Code
laravel new blog

Edit 20 Sep 2017 – Thanks to Sergios who found that these additional commands were needed to get things working.

cd blog
composer install
php artisan key:generate

In MAMP Pro we create a new host (I chose blog.dev) and then point the root to the public folder inside the Laravel project. I also chose to let MAMP Pro create a new database named ‘blog’.

MAMP Pro hosts screen showing blog.dev set up

Start the MAMP Pro servers and the site should be accessible at http://blog.dev

A blank Laravel app running in Safari

6. Using MAMP’s MySQL

If we want to use a database with our app we need to add the details to the .env file:

DB_CONNECTION=mysql
DB_HOST=localhost
DB_PORT=3306
DB_DATABASE=blog
DB_USERNAME=root
DB_PASSWORD=xxxxxx

Note that we’re using localhost rather than 127.0.0.1. If you want to use 127.0.0.1 you need to set MAMP Pro to ‘Allow network access to MySQL’ on the MySQL settings screen.

The MAMP MySQL settings screen

When you run php artisan migrate you may see this error:

[PDOException]
SQLSTATE[42000]: Syntax error or access violation: 1071 Specified key was too long; max key length is 767 bytes

This seems to be caused by the version of MySQL that MAMP Pro uses. Following advice in this thread on Laracasts I added the following to AppServiceProvider.php:

use IlluminateSupportFacadesSchema; //Add this to the top of the file

public function boot()
{
Schema::defaultStringLength(191); //Add this line to the boot function
}

If we delete the tables created in the previous attempt and then run php artisan migrate again, it should now work and you should see a message similar to this:

Migration table created successfully.
Migrating: 2014_10_12_000000_create_users_table
Migrated: 2014_10_12_000000_create_users_table
Migrating: 2014_10_12_100000_create_password_resets_table
Migrated: 2014_10_12_100000_create_password_resets_table

Now that everything is set up we should just need to follow steps 5 and 6 each time we want to create a new Laravel project.

Dropping the Tech Giants

There was a nice simple interactive article published in the New York Times last week titled Which Tech Giant Would You Drop? It links to a much more in depth piece on how our lives are increasingly dominated by five tech giants – Alphabet (Google), Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon.

It then poses one simple question – if you were forced to, in what order would you give up these companies?

Here is my answer:

  1. Facebook – This is simple because I’ve already done it. I’ve never used Instagram, didn’t find Whatsapp useful and deleted my Facebook account earlier this year. I don’t miss it at all.
  2. Amazon – Although this global market place is convenient, it doesn’t offer me anything that I can’t get elsewhere. I wouldn’t miss the shopping side too much and I definitely wouldn’t miss Amazon Video (what they offer is of little interest to me). That said, I would miss my Kindle.
  3. Alphabet/Google – I don’t use as many Google services as I used to, but some are just that much better than their competitors that they are hard to give up. No other mapping service comes close to Google Maps  for accuracy, and although I prefer Vimeo, I find more useful content on YouTube. My default search engine is Duck Duck Go, but  some times I still need to use Google to get more relevant results.
  4. Microsoft – The giant from Redmond would be hard to do without. I continue to use some software that only runs on Windows. I also use Office every single working day, because it is the tool that all of my clients use.
  5. Apple – I’ve used Apple products for more than a decade and although I’ve been less impressed with them more recently than I used to be, their products are so embedded in my work and personal life that they would be incredibly difficult to replace.  Although I could replace all of the Apple products and services I use (and I have considered this), the almost seamless integration between everything is just too useful.  There are also some Mac and iOS apps that have no alternatives of equal quality on other platforms. I’m thinking of apps like Ulysses, Alfred and DevonThink.

This was an interesting exercise that made me realise a few things. Although I’d been on Facebook for nearly ten years, leaving was incredibly easy and I haven’t missed it once. I’ve used services from Amazon and Google pretty much by default, and have only recently taken the time to think about the value that I get from them and the cost of that.

 

I have also been less satisfied with Apple now than I was a few years ago, and I have looked for alternatives. This exercise made me think carefully about how I actually use these products and services and whether I would be better served going elsewhere. I’m now sure that I wouldn’t.

I think we should all be more conscious of the technology that we use, and regularly review our choices.

Micro Learning Tools

On 11th May, along with my colleague Clive Shepherd I presented on the subject of microlearning at the CIPD L&D Show. One topic of considerable interest was the tools that you could use to create content. Here, as promised to those who attended is a non-definitive list of tools. If you have any tools you’d like to suggest, please add them in the comments.

How-to-videos

Adobe Premiere

Final Cut Pro

Quik

Screencasts

Screencast-o-matic

Snag-it

Camtasia

Adobe Captivate

uPerform

Infographics

PowerPoint

Piktochart

Canva

Visme

Venngage

Adobe Illustrator

Affinity Designer

Scribus

Inkscape

Explainer videos

PowerPoint

Prezi

Powtoon

GoAnimate

VideoScribe

Adobe After Effects

Quizzes and games

Qzzr

H5P

Moodle quizzes

Articulate Quizmaker

Web articles

Any web editor e.g.

WordPress

Drupal

Sharepoint

Sway

Interactive lessons

PowerPoint

H5P

Articulate 360

Adobe Captivate

Elucidat

Apple – style over substance?

I’ve been a Mac user for close to ten years, but for the past six months I’ve been splitting my time pretty much equally between a Macbook Pro and Surface Book. So as someone with a foot firmly in each camp I was very interested in the Microsoft and Apple events last week. In the few days since those events there has been a lot of comment, much of it highlighting the innovation coming out of Redmond and the perceived lack of it coming out of Cupertino and in particular Apple’s lack of support for the professional market.

I don’t intend to add a huge amount as so much has already been said, but I do have a view.

As a long time user of Apple products I have often rejected accusations that they are all about style over substance, but I no longer think that’s true. I read two posts on Daring Fireball this morning, in which John Gruber summed up Apple’s approach.

In the first he said:

Apple simply places a higher priority on thinness and lightness than performance-hungry pro users do. Apple is more willing to compromise on performance than on thinness and lightness and battery life.

And in the other:

But the price you pay for the MacBook Pro isn’t about the sum of the components. It’s about getting them into that sleek, lightweight form factor, too. In a word, Apple is optimizing the MacBook lineup for niceness.

If that isn’t a description of style over substance I don’t know what is.

I think this is an indication that Apple is completing its transformation from a computer company to a consumer electronics company. That’s fine – it’s been a very successful strategy for them – but it’s time to accept that’s what they are and stop pretending that they’re the natural home of creative pros.

Most of the time I spend in front of my Mac or PC is focussed on creating things (words, images, videos etc.). I’ve been leaning more and more to the Windows machine lately as it seems to be more reliable, it’s noticeably quicker and I find it just plain nicer to use – and I don’t think this is by accident. It really does appear that Microsoft are more interested in the pro market than Apple are, and they’re making the hardware and software to support them.

Welcome back Opera

Update 28 Nov 2019 – I’ve been using Firefox since the beginning of 2019. Maybe you should too?


Back in the early 2000s I used to use the Opera web browser. Then, as now, it was eclipsed by its rivals and never really got the adoption it deserved. I liked it it partly because it was a really good browser, but mostly because it was the underdog competing with the heavyweights at Microsoft and Netscape.

Ultimately I left it for Firefox and since the  have been a regular user of pretty much every browser you’ve heard of – and some you probably haven’t (Midori anyone?).

Happily I’m now back using Opera as my daily browser. Why?

  • It’s based on Blink – the engine that powers Google Chrome – with all the speed and other benefits that brings
  • It supports Chrome plugins
  • It’s not a Google product and doesn’t track me
  • I use Windows, Mac, iOS and Android and Opera gives the best cross platform experience

I can recommend Opera as an alternative to any of the mainstream browsers.

Specialization, Polymaths And The Pareto Principle

Reading this article on Techcrunch I was struck by two things:

Deep expertise is less and less useful

If you consider just two things – the pace at which we increase our understanding of how human beings learn and the pace at which the technological environment around us is changing – its seems obvious that L&D should be a fast moving field.

The reality is usually different, with people who work in L&D investing their time and effort in developing deep expertise in very narrow topics. Often tied to qualifications that are rooted in the past.

As an industry we would surely benefit from us all having a more diverse skill set. To use the terminology from the article, we need more Journeyman than Masters.

It isn’t just the tech industry that needs more polymaths

The most exciting and impactful projects that I work on are those driven by cross disciplinary teams that work together throughout the project.

They work because at least some of the people in those teams have knowledge and skills that crosses multiple domains, not just the one attached to their job title. They play a key role in helping people communicate and share ideas.

Being experts in learning is not enough, nor is just ‘talking the language of business’. We need people with diverse skills that are relevant to the organisations in which they work.

 

On the long slow death of Twitter

I came across this great cartoon in The Guardian over the weekend. It sums up much of what I think about Twitter – except for the final frame.

The cartoon uses the analogy of Twitter being a bar and concludes by wondering if “maybe it’s time to find another bar.” For me, Twitter feels more like that bar you went to at a certain time in your life, but now you have other things to do. You look back at it with good memories, but you don’t need to replace it.