1. Understanding File Formats
Learning content may be developed and presented in a number of
formats. There are many options, and the choice of format is usually a
tradeoff between ease of development, ease of delivery and
effectiveness. FlexAuthoring is the preferred method of
assembling and delivering your content and can even be used to create
lessons from scratch.
Below is a matrix of file formats commonly used in e-Learning
projects with notes about the usefulness and utility of each.
Learning Content File Formats
||Fast delivery, easy to create.
||Keep images fairly small for fast delivery.
||Dynamic, interactive. Difficult to create
from scratch, but many tools can easily build Flash from other
||.avi .wav .mov .au
||Very slow if actual files are used. Need to
convert to another format before using.
||Faster than using raw files, but students need a
Windows player to view.
||Quick and easy development, but very slow
delivery, and students need a viewer.
|Word or Excel
||.doc or .xls
||Easy development. But content can be dry and "textish",
and students will need Word/Excel to view.
||Easy development. Content can be dry and slow, and
students will need PDF viewer.
|Specialty / proprietary
||Slow, bulky, need plug-ins
FlexTraining's integrated FlexAuthoring Tool is not a file format, but
rather a means to pull together content of various formats (especially
text, images, video, audio and Flash) into a consistent delivery and
tracking interface with built-in navigation and bookmarking.
If you did not license FlexAuthoring with your FlexTraining system,
you will still have basic authoring functionality. FlexAuthoring
simply adds a much wider variety of templates.
2. Subject Matter Determines Format
Your subject matter will often determine your choice of file
formats and how you will actually build your learning content.
For example, if you are training an audience on sales techniques and
methods, you will likely want to use video as the basis for most of
your lessons. On the other hand, training customers on how to
use a new software product would not be a good fit for video.
In some cases, you might be in such a hurry to get your training up
and running that you would develop content using text and images,
where a better long-term choice might have been narrated video or
Flash. Fortunately, you can make gradual changes to your content
after your project is launched without starting over or rebuilding an
3. Keeping it Simple
If you are like most FlexTraining course developers, the primary
goal is to deliver and track effective training in a timely and
cost-effective manner. Most developers need to take a realistic
look at the people and resources available to them as they begin the
task of developing learning material.
Sometimes people strive for complex, elegant training content where
cleaner and simpler material would get the job done. Here are a
few questions to ask yourself about the content you are developing:
- Does the content make sense and flow logically? Ask a co-worker.
- Is it clean and error-free? Typos and bad grammar can distract
- Is it interactive? FlexAuthoring's Learner Exercises make adding
interactivity simple and easy.
Multimedia is a great way to spice up your content, but for many
companies it is a luxury and might just as well be added in a
subsequent development phase.
4. Shared & Re-usable in FlexTraining
Many people are concerned about spending time and resources to
develop multimedia files for use in one training system, and then
having to recreate everything if they change systems. This is an
issue that should never come up. All your image and multimedia
content should be completely re-usable once it is created.
FlexTraining uses built-in libraries to manage your images, audio,
video and other multimedia content. In fact, your content files
remain in these libraries at all times and can be used by as many
courses as you like without creating additional copies or undergoing
any type of conversion.
This architecture provides total re-usability for your media files,
both within FlexTraining courses and outside of FlexTraining if you should
decide to use another training system at some point in the future.
5. Software/Document/Forms Training
Online courses covering computer software, business forms or
specialized documents would normally be best developed using a
"screen-capture" tool such as Adobe's Captivate product. These
tools capture movement and data entry from your computer screen and
produce Flash files as their output. These Flash files can then
be placed in the FlexTraining Media Library and combined with the built-in
navigation tool in FlexAuthoring to create professional-looking training
As a simpler but less effective alternative, you could take "still
images" of your documents or software screens and save them as GIF and
JPEG files, using FlexAuthoring to combine them with text and built-in
6. Soft Skills and Streamlined Video Production
A course on phone-answering skills or sexual harassment might be
termed a "soft skills" course. These courses would not likely
utilize screen-shots or document images. More likely, you would
shoot video clips of certain realistic scenarios involving your
subject matter and use the videos in combination with text and
navigation in FlexAuthoring.
Most video capture equipment and software will generate what's
called raw video, which might be in a very large format such as "AVI."
AVI-format video is too large to efficiently deliver over the web,
especially in a training environment. So you would likely
convert the video to a "streaming" format such as "WMV" that consumes
less bandwidth and does not cause the student to experience long
Another alternative for video delivery is to use Flash to convert
the video to a ".SWF" flash file. This format is also efficient
for internet delivery. See the table above in the "Understanding
File Formats" section.
In this example, the production steps would be as follows:
Capture videos with a common digital video camera (recommend using
a tripod and decent quality microphone)
Edit your Video using an inexpensive desktop video editor, such as
Studio AV from Pinnacle Systems. Add transitions and titles for
a professional look.
Convert your edited AVI-format video to a streaming format like WMV.
Or, use Flash to convert the Video files to a Flash format
Load the finished videos into the FlexTraining Media library for
use in the courses you will soon be developing.