How to Find Your Happy Place with Free Stock Files

iStockPhoto.com free stock filesIf you work with media, you are probably already familiar with iStockPhoto.com – if you aren’t familiar with them, I’m happy to introduce you!

e-Learning instructional designers and developers, graphic artists, Web developers, technical writers, video production specialists, voice-over actors, eBook authors and publishers, copywriters, advertising gurus…the list could go on for several more lines. I know that there are several terrific sites on the WWW for finding and downloading stock photos, illustrations, audio, and video files.

For years, I’ve stuck with iStockPhoto.com because, well…they just make it easy for me to find, save to Lightbox, purchase, and download stock files. Awhile ago, they began sending emails to members highlighting free, high-quality stock files.

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Review: mLearning Studio by Rapid Intake

Rapid Intake has come out with a rapid development tool for creating mobile learning that is SCORM compliant, and the HTML5 compatible courseware output will run on both Apple iOS and Android OS mobile devices (no version for BlackBerry yet).

Click this link to learn more from Rapid Intake’s mLearning Studio page.

I Test Drove the Demo

With my iPad in hand, I decided to take their demo for a spin. As an attendee at The e-Learning Guild’s mLearnCon in June 2010 (San Diego, CA), I sat in on a few sessions on HTML5 and “HTML5 vs. Adobe Flash”. The excitement buzzed around the fact that, yes, HTML5 is an infant, but it is quickly going to learn to crawl, walk, run, and then compete in the Olympics of mobile learning development. Some pretty big names with huge wallets are funding the HTML5 Working Group, and those big names are investing heavily in the future success of HTML5.

Before you read my review, please know that although I confess that I am a MacGrrrl and a bit of an Apple FanGrrrl, I can do basic interactions in native Adobe Flash. I am an OS agnostic, and I might end up getting an HTC Droid smartphone instead of the Verizon iPhone… maybe.

For mobile devices, I do prefer tablets over smartphones due to the larger screen size. However, some learners, such as field technicians and sales representatives, will use iPhones or Android smartphones over tablets because the device fits easily in their hands (pockets and purses).

That said, I was happy to see the invitation on Twitter to review an m-learning development tool that uses HTML5 to output to any mobile OS device, especially for tablets!

Caveat: This is Rapid Intake’s early, early release, and I’m sure their development team has a ton of upgrades already on a long list. However, I’m going to provide an honest assessment of what I saw tonight on my iPad.

My first screen grab with comment:

Sample Content Screen | Intro - Rapid Intake

Nice interface for the iPad. Menu on the left. Gesture sensitive content screen on the right (Landscape, my preference). But, the Swipe gesture wasn’t consistent. I ended up using the Next arrow in the lower right corner.

I did feel disappointment that the Swipe gesture didn’t always swipe. User error? I don’t think so, I’ve had my iPad since early May 2010, and I’ve got Gestures down.

Dirty iPad screen? Umm… maybe. I think the mLearning Studio App just needs to get a few bugs out.

My second screen shot:

#2 screen shot of Rapid Intake

At first, I felt disappointed. After using Articulate Studio (and PPT 2007) and Adobe Captivate to develop elearning, this mLearning Studio screen made me think of the early days of ToolBook Instructor and linear e-learning. I really, really hope Rapid Intake is working on some more interactive and engaging templates.

I caught myself and halted my critical gene. As a first-generation HTML5 rapid e-learning development tool, sure, the initial templates will be basic. Heck Rapid Intake is having to work with what HTML5 can do… today, February 2011. Sure, this screen reminded me of some ToolBook Instructor courses I developed some years ago: Text on the Left, Image on the Right. Click… Next! But, I set that aside and thought about what this new App is doing… on my iPad. I think it’s pretty darn cool… for a start. However, honestly, with Lectora as a competitor in the HTML5 mobile learning market with Lectora Inspire, and Adobe making HTML5 tools, Rapid Intake will have some pretty big shoes to fill in terms of engaging and interactive course templates. (We who are Articulate FanGrrrls and FanGuyzzz are waiting PATIENTLY for our next upgrade for an iPad-compatible tool…hint, hint. However, today, @GetAdam tweeted the need for a Web App tester…. please, please, hoping, hoping!)

My third screen shot:

#3 screen shot of Rapid Intake

Again, a static template, but this time the image is on the left and the content is on the right. The WARNING message at the bottom is not interactive; it’s static content.

From this screen, I see some variation in the mLearning Studio template. I’d like to know if the Warning message at the bottom is an image file in its entirety (exclamation mark plus text), or is it an area in the template where I can insert and image file and enter content into a text field. It would be fun to see behind the screen. After viewing the demo, I did add my name to Rapid Intake’s email list. (And, to make things clear to the FTC, I have no business nor personal relationships with anyone at Rapid Intake, and I receive no benefits from them, nor do I expect to.)

My fourth screen shot:

#4 screen shot of Rapid Intake

For the “8 Steps to Awesome Service”, this is Step #1 – Answer the Phone.

Again, this screen in their demo is quite plain and linear. What I’d like to see is a template that will allow me to insert an iOS-compatible video, for example. And, mLearning Studio does have a video template page. If I were using this template page, I’d like to insert an image file or two to build visual scenarios. Or, I’d use the Quiz template pages to challenge the learners on the 8 Steps instead of a text dump. But, that’s an instructional design decision and not a comment on the HTML5 functions of mLearning Studio.

My fifth screen grab (Quiz screen):

#5 screen shot of Rapid Intake

This is a basic T/F quiz template screen. mLearning Studio also offers a multiple choice template.

The simple demo provided samples of one T/F question and two M/Cs (multiple choice). Will mLearning Studio also have templates for M/R or multiple response questions? Can I add images or iOS-compatible video to this page?

It will be interesting to see what other quiz templates are available. And, again, I’m sure the mLearning Studio team has a long list of enhancements in mind.

My sixth you-know-what:

#6 screen shot of Rapid Intake

The feedback template page is adecuate, but I’d like to learn more about what I can do with it other than enter text.

I liked seeing the feedback box appear as an overlap in Landscape mode on my iPad (my only testing environment for this review).

From a design and development viewpoint, can I change the color from gray to another color? Can I import image files or a video file to reinforce the intrinsic feedback?

I do understand that we’re working with HTML5 today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring in terms of new development options… especially for the iPad specifically.

My seventh screen shot:

#7 screen shot of Rapid Intake

Nice Quiz Results page. And, it’s nice to think of how happy the SCORM-compliant LMS will be. Not too mention the customer service managers. ;-)

When I saw this page, I began to think of the possibilities of LMS reporting and tracking from mobile devices! When I felt my excitement rise inside of me, I realized I need to go outside and get a life… enjoy smelling flowers and petting puppy dogs in the park.

Seriously, as an attendee of a mobile learning conference in 2010, I am so excited about mobile learning, I just can’t tell ya!

My final screen grab:

mLearning Studio | Product Page - Rapid Intake

I found it funny that on my iPad, I couldn’t view the demo vid of mLearning Studio because it’s a Flash video (see gray text on the right side). They could have used Articulate’s Screenr to create an HTML5-compatible MP4 vid file. :-)

So, I’m cheering on Rapid Intake and it’s mLearning Studio HTML5-compatible development tool. This was a nice first look, and there’s lots of room for wonderful growth.

(As an independent consultant, I need various tools in my tool box. So, I cheer on just about any tool maker because my clients typically select and use only one or two tools. What they use, I use.)

Thank you, Rapid Intake, for your first steps with an HTML5-compatible rapid mlearning tool (for the iPad!) for mobile devices. As a consultant, I do look forward to your future success.

(And, as a disclaimer as a consultant, I am happy to review anyone’s new tools, without remuneration to keep the FTC happy, of course.)

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mLearnCon 2010: Richard Clark – Surviving without Flash

Surviving without Flash: Some Practical Alternatives

Richard Clark
NextQuestion
http://nextquestion.net

mLearnCon Resources http://rdclark.github.com/mlc10

My first session on the last day of mLearnCon (Thursday, June 17th) focused on JavaScript reources to use while we all wait for HTML 5 and potential WYSIWYG editors to be as robust as we will all need. Here’s my live blog of the session, and please keep in mind that I’m an isntructional designer with basic Flash timeline and AS2 skills = I’m not a programmer, but I have the heart of a programmer! I enjoy working with programmers and try to understand their world so the storyboards I write make sense from their development perspective.

HTML + Graphics
Online, static art, possibly server generated.

——
knowledge gap
——–

  • HTML, JS, Graphics (Sprites/static Bg w/ animations, SVG/scalable vector graphics).
  • So-called HTML 5 -JS (On/Off-line, <canvas> tag, SVG, sensors.
  • Cross-platform toolkits (Common subset)
  • Native apps (write specifically for that platform)

Moving to JavaScript

Is very similar to AS2 and AS3. Very good resource: “Javascript, the Good Parts” by Douglas Crockford (O’Reilly) and Crockford’s YUI Theatre lectures. Talks about the danger points and what to watch out for. Free tutorials on JS. The graphics model is still the JS world instead of Action Script.

Sprite-based Animation

spritely.net (This blew me away… really nice!) The bird animations are just a 3-layer PNG file, the JS plays through the layers. (Me: Cool!) Open source, under the MIT license, even for work-for-hire. Your code can remain proprietary.

$fx() Library  Sprites w/ movement and alpha

jsAnim  Sprites, tween any property

Glimmer  Free set of Wizards that run on Windows that create animations using jQuery, animations on top of jQuery (MS OS).

SVG

Raw XML / Using Raphael JS library   Have to create without a timeline, do it all programmatically. Richard says it’s the better option, but not easy.

<canvas>

2D drawing surface in the browser. Supported by WebKit, Firefox, Opera, IE8+. WebKit is leading the charge currently.

Will it Run?

Basically, everyone is adopting WebKit; maintained by Apple but is open and supported world-wide. WebKit for iPhone is one version behind for desktop, so you have to test on both devices. That’s the way the build cycle is currently. Android is about 2 versions behind. Animations caveat… processing on the handheld devices is slower than on the desktop (hardware acceleration). May need to scale down for mobile.

Moving from Flash Development

  • From timeline to code… Use the Graphics class in AS3 to practice inside Flash.
  • Design for sprite-based animation when possible (avoiding drawing at run time).
  • Consider Glimmer wizards
  • Mock-up in Flash, export the tweens to XML (XFL in Cs5)
  • Separate content layer from the presentation layer
  • Automate unit testing (QUnit),
  • Use source code control (Subversion, Git)

Summary

  • Cross the gap
  • Learn graphics programming
  • WebKit and Opera are your friends
  • Evaluate the JS graphics libraries (see if they do what you need to do)

Richard Clark
NextQuestion
rdclarck@nextquestion.net and rclark@intrepidls.com
Ph: 1.408.605.2653
http://nextquestion.net

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