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top10tools Time to participate in Jane Hart‘s annual Top 100 Tools for Learning survey for 2016! As I did last year, I will note 5 tools I use for my own development and 5 tools I use for developing resources for others. Top 5 tools used for my own development (one change from last year): [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Twitter– Still my top choice. Following amazing people makes me learn amazing things. Also, insights from respected colleagues yields better results than searches.
  • Google– Despite my prior comment about references being trusted more than search, Googling is a daily activity.
  • Youtube– What you can learn from YouTube is astounding. Last week, my kid somehow jammed a door bolt on a bathroom door so it wouldn’t retract. A quick search got a 5 min video that provided a 10 min fix.
  • Delicious– Delicious is probably not the best social bookmarking or notetaking tool (OneNote and Evernote have stronger features), but after 10K indexed links, it is a large repository I have at my disposal.
  • Stretch Goals (new for 2016)– I actively set stretch goals for myself. Some are short-burst, others are very large, ambitious goals. I use a countdown widget on my phone to track progress and hold myself accountable.
[/list] Here are the top 5 tools I use to develop learning resources for others (a few new players this year): [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Powerpoint– I do bi-weekly lunch and learns, and I have often used Duarte Slidedocs format for key deliverables from Onboarding Guides to full-fledged proposals.
  • Storyline– I remain a Storyline fanboy. It just works. Folks like it (learners, developers, and SMEs). I keep trying to push what I can do with the tool and have a very ambitious ecosystem project where Storyline plays a key role.
  • MadCap Flare– I maintain documentation for a software system. The documentation must play on many devices, and print, and update easily, and work nicely with other products. Flare has given me the most leverage to effectively manage a large document set with continually evolving content (I will more formally review it in a few months).
  • WordPress/LearnDash– A few months ago, I started hacking my site to see how effectively I could integrate WordPress with exports from MadCap Flare WHILE securing it AND enabling the potential for key documentation to be part of a larger learning program we could track via XAPI using LearnDash. We got all the answers needed, so 2016 promises to show a lot of development in WordPress and LearnDash with Flare and Storyline partnering and XAPI giving us some insight on what is working.
  • Excel– In my new role, I do a lot more analytical and reporting work so my use in Excel has increased sharply. Powerful pivot tables and charts can communicate complex and dense information providing key insights- especially if the user can manipulate the variables and see how it impacts results.
[/list] Many more arrows in my quiver (Photoshop, SnagIt, Audacity, Trello), but those are my top 5. Participate in the survey and let others know about the great tools you use.

top10tools Time to participate in Jane Hart‘s annual Top 100 Tools for Learning survey! Jane notes that the tools can be used either for your own personal learning or for teaching/training. So, my approach this year was to submit 5 tools I use for my own development and 5 tools I use for developing training resources for others. The top 5 tools I use for my own development: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Twitter– Easily, my top choice. It’s so simple: follow amazing people = learn amazing things.
  • Google– Yes, it often leads to Wikipedia or YouTube, but it is almost always the launchpad. Even my seven year old knows, if you don’t know something “google it”.
  • Youtube– Sharepoint has a help system, but I truly learned Sharepoint from YouTube. It has saved me numerous, unnecessary calls to home and computer repair services. The breadth of knowledge (and garbage) on YouTube is astounding and has something for everyone from ballroom dancing to using D3js to make online visualizations.
  • Delicious– I realize Evernote has more to offer, but I started early and have a lot of items indexed and archived for myself. It’s been a great curation and archive tool for me.
  • Udemy– with constant shifts in tools and technologies, I find it helpful committing to a structured program. Between the options available and almost constant price specials, I get courses worth hundreds of dollars for $15 (cheaper than many books on the same topics and with much more interaction/resources).
[/list] Here are the top 5 tools I use to develop learning resources for others: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Powerpoint– the most ubiquitous and familiar tool across organizations for storyboarding, presenting ideas, and doing handoffs (it takes a villiage, people!). In the right hands, it make good presentations and decent infographics. Those who really know what they are doing can create effective templates for SMEs that work very well with common development tools.
  • Storyline– I could write many articles on why, but I can sum it up with two statements. First, “folks get it”. For whatever reason (my team trialed several competing tools), folks become more productive with Storyline- faster than their competitor’s tools. And second, “community”. Even if you aren’t an Articulate user, join the Articulate community and benefit from the resources shared.
  • Photoshop- Sure, there are other tools, but I’ve been with Photoshop since it’s start.
  • SCORMCloud– I use my test account to check LMS Issues (I am between two right now because of an acquisition). I am using it as I start to experiment with xAPI.
  • WordPress– this is where I share with peers. I haven’t done as much with blogging as planed, but the next year is going to be a serious upgrade, not just in sharing, but functionality. I truly intend on turning this site into a pretty robust learning platform as I explore the evolution the industry is undergoing. And I plan on bringing as many folks along for the journey as I can.
[/list] Plenty of other tools in the shed, but those are my top 5s. Participate in the survey and let others know about the great tools you use.

Just a quick update to Jane Hart’s 10 Tools Challenge. [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Articulate Storyline – I’ve had opportunity to tinker in Storyline quite a bit to build a proof of concept for a very ambitious project. So far, Storyline is exceeding expectations. I still have quite a bit to explore, but for this project I can’t see any tool being a better fit. I will blog by year-end on this project- it is a pretty big departure from the norm for this client.
  • Microsoft Excel – I am using Excel for analytics on my Storyline experiments. Storyline can generate a lot of data so a designer can better understand user’s performance, and how to adapt assets to keep the user engaged and on a continuous development path. We’ve exported data collected to Excel for analysis. Ultimately, the client may go with full-blown reporting and analytics tool, but running these experiments in Excel have allowed me to better understand how to get certain types of data dancing together and rendering beautifully useful charts and tables, providing new insights to the client.
  • Infographics – I am still having fun with experimenting with Infographics. Storyline is a very fun way to change an infographic into an animated tour. If you have a great Infographic designed, you may have an excellent candidate to build something fun and more interactive (disclaimer: generally, I do find this to be over-engineering and a well-designed job aid can really trump the same data layered in clicks and animations nine out of ten times).

Some months ago, I was inspired to take up Jane Hart’s 10 Tools Challenge. So, how’s it going? I’m probably no different than most who took up the challenge: a well-intended list, but much of it not completed due to competing priorities. Often in life, we find ourselves too busy driving to fill up with gas.  I did make some progress, and made some adjustments due to some great opportunities. [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Microsoft Excel – The most important thing to share?: LEARN EXCEL. Seriously, do it. It is a great entry point to learning analytics, which will distinguish you in the industry. Despite all the “big data” frenzy, most of the analysis performed in training is structured data, and manageable with Excel. Excel was my top development priority and I learned quite a bit more on Excel’s data, filtering, and graphics capabilities. I created a decision-support matrix for an organization selecting a learning portal. The matrix documented and prioritized requirements and weighed vendor submissions against requirements. It calculated weighted values, filtered data, and generated graphs to visualize key decision points. I used several resources to learn Excel, most recently “Head First Excel” by Michael Milton. To learn Excel, your best source is probably your library; it is actually astounding how many resources you can find at the library for Excel development. I continue a deeper dive into developing my Excel skills- I will share any gems I find.
  • Infographics – I experimented a bit with Infographics, which can be a very powerful, engaging way to provide a lot of information in a format that most enjoy to read. For example, I condensed 9 screens of sales training into a one-page visually pleasing infographic. It was perhaps my best execution of the wise advice from Joe Harless ““Inside every fat course there’s a thin Job Aid crying to get out,” (“Performance Technology and Other Popular Myths” July 1985). My one key tip? Infographics is more about smart design than specific tools. I had to develop in a tool that other team members could work with, so I built infographics in Powerpoint.
  • TinCanAPI and LRSs – I am just now starting to truly experiment with TinCanAPI. Most prior examples I did were done through tools that essentially replicated SCORM with TinCanAPI. This doesn’t showcase the true potential of TinCanAPI. The clients I work with have been very apprehensive about moving from SCORM. Even conceptually understanding the merits of what could be done with TinCanAPI hasn’t been enough for them to change from the familiar. So, I determined something very important: I can’t wait for permission. I have to SHOW the advantages, give them things they haven’t even thought to ask for, and just do what I know is right as an L&D professional.
  • Badges – The achievement-based curriculum redesign (see Khan Academy, below) is a perfect case for implementing a badging system. We are early in the process, but badges is a component that we have committed to and will implement.  It’s just a bit early to speak to it in a concrete manner.
  • WordPress – I’ve done some backend updating on the site, and applied an updated theme to be more mobile compatible (which was more of a learning experience than anticipated: heed all backup warnings!). I have not yet had the opportunity to explore LearnDash, but I am impressed with the speed at which they continue to upgrade the product. So, I will continue exploring and expanding WordPress (even a lot of things you don’t see), and I certainly will be getting into LearnDash by year-end.
  • Articulate Storyline – This week, I was approved to begin a enormous project with Storyline as the primary development tool. So, I know the next few months of this 10 tools challenge put Storyline to the front of the line.
  • Here are things I didn’t get to!
    • Kahn Academy – Unfortunately, no true progress with Kahn Academy, but I referenced it’s design to promote redesigning a program from the traditional “progress through content on a timeline” to an achievement-based progression with content playing a supporting role.
    • YouTube – Video-based training is the future. Unfortunately, it isn’t in any of client’s foreseeable future. Backburner for a bit.
    • Google+ – Google+ is perhaps my biggest missed opportunity.
    • Domiknow Claro – Just as I didn’t get to Storyline until very recently, I didn’t get the opportunity to concretely work with Claro.
[/list] My missed development were counterbalanced with new opportunities.The timeline of my lack of blogging and my lapse in participating in #lrnchat and LinkedIn groups shows a distinct pattern: something pretty big went down between February and September this year. I assisted a local company in selecting a learning platform to transform their learning function. Over 50 options were reviewed and I discovered some very unique new tools and trends in our industry. I will certainly blog about the project, the tools used, and several of the platforms reviewed. Here are a few that I learned about, and will certainly be reviewing in detail in the future (listed in alphabetical order): [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Axonify – Don’t know about Axonify? Give it a look. It is one of the more unique platforms available for learning and development. It offers interval-spaced, personalized training, gaming options with great controls, and perhaps the best reporting interface I have seen on a platform. I have much to say about this platform. Be on the lookout for a detailed review in the future. This one is really something special.
  • docebo – A very powerful, affordable, and well-designed LMS. Go to docebo’s site, to learn of it’s benefits and it’s transparent pricing. The one benefit I’d highlight? It’s App ecosystem. docebo has integration with many applications such as Google (mail, analytics, google apps), WordPress, Webcasting platforms (Connect, WebEx, BigBlueButton), LiveHelp applications, and more. The power of being able to extend the functionality of your learning platform, and the flexibility of options (many LMSs limit options) is something that distinguishes this platform from many LMS players.
  • Growth Engineering – Growth Engineering Academy LMS was a platform I had not heard of prior to this project. They are a vendor based in the UK, offering a very powerful, easy-to-use, game-focused LMS system featuring badges, leaderboards, very good communication tools, and solid reporting. This was one of those platforms that we don’t hear about here in the US, but should. I was very impressed with the platform and was pleased to see shortly after I reviewed it, that  Craig Weiss rated it one of the Top 10 LMS Systems on his eLearning 24/7 blog.
  • Totara – Totara is essentially a corporate version of Moodle, the most popular LMS system in the world (and powerhouse in the education market).  Totara offers the same deep ecosystem of plugins as Moodle, but addresses Moodle’s biggest shortcoming through it’s partnership network. Partners help configure Totara with the right plugin components to provide the functionality your organization needs, develops a theme to make your site as usable and aesthetically pleasing as it is functional.
[/list] A bit more to go this year. Much more to come!

[imageeffect type=”reflect” align=”aligncenter” width=”200″ height=”65″ alt=”LearnDash – WordPress-based LMS (Logo)” url=”” ] LearnDash, the WordPress-based LMS releasing Jan 28, is a product that I have been eagerly awaiting (as I hinted in my post taking up the 10 Tools Challenge from Jane Hart). Truth be told, I am more excited to try this out than any other product on the market currently (and that’s a tall order with some great tools like iBooks Author and Storyline to experiment with). Looking at the features of the product, it is quite easy to see why I am so excited, but here are some key points: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • TinCanAPI – Yes, LearnDash is offering some nice tools to help build courses, assessments, and enable video upload, but as an early adopter of TinCanAPI, it seems to have the opportunity to beyond courseware. For those of us that have been frustrated with the limitations of SCORM, this is extremely liberating. I am very excited to see how we can learn more about our users’ activities as they interact in work ecosystem.
  • Analytics – In addition to TinCanAPI and the Reports offered by LearnDash, there are many analytics plugins for WordPress (such as Google Analytics). Analytics can track “flow” through a site and find breakdown, stall, and abandonment points, and provide many other insights that tell stories about how well resources in that environment are supporting workers.  The great thing about WordPress is that plugins generally aren’t “either/or”, it’s almost always an AND/EXTEND. Thus, you may be able to extend the features of LearnDash through utilies offered from other WordPress plugins.
  • Mobile/Responsive – This is where I see LearnDash having a tremendous advantage over many other tools in this space.  Few LMS systems are mobile/responsive. Most LMS system interfaces are dated and just make users very sad. Brading? Most LMSs let you replace their logo in the upper right or left corner with your logo- as long as it fits in the predetermined size they’ve left for you. Most don’t let you customize navigation in any way. LearnDash notes that it can work with WordPress themes- and WordPress has hundreds choose from; colors, layout, navigational approaches that YOU select to work for your company. Many themes are mobile and/or responsive. So you can have content deployed with WordPress that resizes dynamically to best use the real estate on each device it is viewed on.  For LMS systems, I see no comparison, but this is not only an advantage from an LMS perspective, but it also concerns the content deployed from LearnDash (i.e. quizzes, learning content). The content can be more dynamic than many of the content tools that author for a “one-size-fits-all” perspective (even some of the mobile authoring tools trap you into small-screen templates that don’t “size up” if you jump to a tablet or desktop).
  • Social – The power and importance of social components in the learning process are well-known. LearnDash certainly offers a set of tools to facilitate social learning. However, just as with analytics, other plugins (such as BuddyPress, rating tools, etc.) should be able to further extend the utlity of the core features set.
  • The LMS “stuff” – Let’s not overlook or ignore the importance of core LMS features. For many organizations, identifying key groups, assigning them training, and tracking their progress is critical. Scheduling, granting access, notifications, reporting- these functions are important when formal learning is required. LMS systems do serve an important service in providing the “glue” to hold these services together. In  Clark Quinn’s When To LMS, there seemd to be a consensus that users want this “glue” to be on a flexible platform that gave users more control and options than traditonal LMS systems. I hope that by building on WordPress, LearnDash has a good chance to deliver on this vision.
[/list] I could go on and on, but I will stop here. I am eager for Jan 28 to get my hands dirty, and I will report back what I learn as explore.

I am joining the group of people who have been inspired to take up Jane Hart’s 10 Tools Challenge as part of Project 4T2 (more on that in a later post). This blog will chronicle my plans and progress under the tag 1oTools. I hope to find colleagues with similar goals to offer my partnership in sharing resources and findings. At the time of this initial post, here are my intended tools to explore and reasons behind my choices:  [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Microsoft Excel – I use Excel, but really need to raise my game here: more interactive spreadsheets with filters and pivotcharts. Virtually every business system exports data to an Excel-friendly format.  So, the ability to create mashups of interrelated data from multiple feeds coupled with some fairly powerful yet approachable tools to massage that data to actionable insights make this my top priority.
  • Kahn Academy – Aside from my personal interest in having a better understanding of the educational environment my kids will be exposed to, there are many tools used in the Kahn platform that I want to explore more deeply. The feedback loops and  learning paths, progress metrics, and gaming/rewards aspects of Kahn Academy illustrate some interesting components of a larger learning ecosystem from both teacher and learner perspectives that I find much more rich than most corporate learning  systems.
  • YouTube – More video than you could watch in your lifetime was uploaded to YouTube yesterday. I don’t know of any other video distribution platform that does as much to facilitate delivery to the multitude of devices available today. So understanding YouTube, and options like private channels for customers with access concerns, is another arrow I want in my quiver.
  • Google+ – Google+ seems like it may have more of an opportunity to be considered a more viable platform for social business than Facebook. It is fairly early in it’s growth curve. Time to explore the potential is now.
  • Infographics – It’s great to massage data into insights with Excel, but to package it in an engaging, information-dense visual package? That’s what gets stakeholders attention. In my prior marketing career, I was told “data proves, but stories sell”. Infographics are an interesting approach to telling data stories, and many tools are available to facilitate development. And let’s be honest… this will just be fun to try.
  • TinCanAPI and LRSs – SCORM is no longer being developed. TinCanAPI isn’t just replacing SCORM. It is redefining it’s capabilities.  If you not aware of it’s vision and already tested capabilities, I encourage you to explore I will be tinkering with many of the tools posted on their site, using my SCORMCloud account and trialing some of the other LRS systems and TinCanAPI tools listed on the site. I want to explore how I might more deeply understand the activities workers engage in, so I can provide better resources in supporting them.  Oh- and those Excel skills listed earlier- I bet those are going to be VERY handy.I also have a high level of interest in the data ownership and portability aspect of TinCanAPI. The concept that a learner can get a personal record of workplace learning (when appropriate) is fantastic. The prospect of learning records not being lost with each job change because they are trapped in a company LMS lockbox, is very exciting. I remember when my best friend earned his Ducktorate Degree from Disney. He listed the achievement on his resume. Inevitably, he got more interviews than most of us, and interviewers invariably asked him about the Ducktorate Degree. Many of us considered adding it to our resumes just to open some doors.  Now, imagine if Disney had a method to allow those who earned the Ducktorate to take an authenticated copy of that achievement to their own personal record store- maybe even add a badge system so they could proudly display this on a LinkedIn profile. Disney spreads its brand, learner gets authentic record of their own achievement, and reviewers get an understanding of what the individual achieved and who certified this achievement in a fairly transparent and manageable way. Yeah, that’s the kind of cool I am excited to explore.
  • Badges – Medal of Honor, Silver Star, 4-Star General, Merit Badges…  badge systems (and it’s cousin, the karate belt system) give a very quick and clear picture about the level of achievement possessed by an individual or group. Implementing a badge system in a business can give HR and management a very clear picture of organizational capability. I think this- more than “gamifying” – is the benefit of badges.
  • WordPress -This site runs on WordPress. It is a very adaptable and extendable platform that can deploy responsive sites (my site will be changing to one) and a myriad of interactive tools. It also provides superb tools for web analytics which can help me better understand the type of metrics used evaluating web-based business systems. My deep-dive into WordPress will provide me a familiar platform to further explore more mobile/responsive design, interactive design, analytics. I might even explore playing with a WordPress-based LMS.
  • Articulate Storyline – Guilty pleasure admission: I am an Articulate fan. I have had a lot of fun building in (and hacking) Studio. I haven’t had the opportunity to develop in Storyline yet, but after seeing all of the great screenrs on their site, I have to play in this sandbox. Guilty pleasure.  I hope somehow it turns into an opportunity where folks would be perfectly willing to pay me to play in building them some cool things.
  • Domiknow Claro – Claro doesn’t have the fandom and frenzy that Storyline does.  However, after seeing a demo, I am confident it is a very capable system. And it has one key distinguishing characteristic: it has some very good workflow tools and controls to enable multiple authoring. If you work in teams of multiple authors that perhaps may have unique roles (designer, editor, lead programmer, graphic designer), you also may want to give it a peek. 
[/list]  Well, that’s the starting plan anyhow. I have a toe in the water with Excel currently, and certainly will be fully immersed in February. So, any folks putting Excel on their own list of 10, I am happy to partner up.