To give you a little background, I am a graduate student (soon to be a graduate) of the Information and Learning Technologies (ILT) – Instructional Design and Adult Learning program at the University of Colorado Denver. Over the course of the program I heard and read a lot about the eLearning content that one could create by using Flash. Unfortunately, the University didn’t offer a course in Flash so my advisor recommended taking a class at a local community college. I put that idea in the back of my mind and continued on with my coursework in the program.
With two semesters left in the program, I started thinking about my internship. I wanted more exposure to eLearning than what was offered in the Instructional Design and Adult Learning concentration. Thomas was the first person to come to mind to help me with my internship. We talked about what I wanted to learn and came up with a few projects involving eLearning that met my objectives. Thomas had a fantastic idea to convert a course that I attended in person to an eLearning course, and design a module from the course in Flash. I chose to convert a presentation and public speaking class that was offered at work.
My timing for the internship was far from perfect. I saved it until my last semester in the ILT program – Summer 2010. The summer semester is half as long as Fall and Spring so I had 10 weeks to work on my three projects. I reserved the last month to work on the Flash portion of the project. The following list includes the resources and things I learned while working with Flash.
1. A good Flash “how to book.”
Thomas recommended a book from Friends of Ed. I read Foundation Flash CS4 for Designers by Tom Green and David Stiller. It took me about a week to read through the book and complete the exercises. I don’t typically learn by reading the book or the manual on my own but the hands on exercises really helped me to understand the concepts behind Flash and ActionScript 3.0.
If you aren’t familiar with it, Lynda.com is a subscription service that provides online software training via video. I signed up for a 7-day free trial because I wasn’t sure if I would like the service but I did.
When the book wasn’t making sense to me, I watched the videos on Lynda.com for another perspective. The videos were great because they match my learning style. If I can see how it’s done, I can usually do it myself. I had a few “that’s what they meant” moments when the video made the concepts in the book click for me.
3. Someone who knows Flash and ActionScript
Thomas and I met up on Fridays during my internship. Each week I had the chance to pick his brain to learn how he uses Flash. His blog is a great resource because it contains many Flash tips and tricks. I also sent him a few late night emails asking him “How do I…” I’m going to blame the “How do I make the movie stop?” question on fatigue.
4. Cartoon Solutions.
Part of my internship was to research Accelerated Learning and apply it to my eLearning project. Storytelling is one way to reach a variety of learners and it’s something one can use in the eLearning environment. For the introduction to the course, I wanted to tell the story of someone who gave a terrible presentation at a convention that would set up the objectives of the course.
I included this story in my storyboard that Thomas reviewed. The storyboard was drawn by hand and I mentioned to Thomas that I didn’t think my stick figure drawings were what I wanted to use in the Flash movie. Thomas pointed me to Cartoon Solutions’ website where I found a character and backgrounds to use in my movie. Two backgrounds and one person cost me about $30, which was worth every penny since they made my movie look more professional than my hand drawings did. Don’t get me wrong, I love drawing on a whiteboard during a facilitated training session but my drawings just didn’t translate in Flash.
There were a few moments working on the Flash portion of the project when I thought about giving up on it. I could set up a few PowerPoint slides, drop them into Captivate and have a Flash training module in a matter of a few hours. I was frustrated that I couldn’t make Flash behave as I wanted it to. This is when I knew that I needed to walk away for a few minutes, or quit for the day. The important part is to come back to your project. It was easier to reread a portion of the book to understand a concept when I had a clear head.
Another thing to remember is that you’re not going to have advanced skills right away. My story had a scene where the character walked out on stage. In the final product, my character slides out on the stage instead of walking. Flash has the capability to animate the walking motion and my pre-made cartoon man was set up with joints for this purpose but I didn’t have the knowledge or the time to figure out how to make the character walk. Sure my Flash movie would have looked extra slick if the character walked across the screen but it didn’t add to or take away from the content so it wasn’t necessary.
Your skills will improve with time. Master the easy techniques then add more advanced skills in later. I submitted my final project to Thomas and my professor for review and received my grade for the internship. I plan to go back to my Flash movie to work on making my character walk across the screen. I don’t have a deadline now so I can take my time and figure this out.
The bottom line is that Flash isn’t all that scary. Flash is a powerful tool that you can add to your repertoire of eLearning creation tools. Just like anything new, it takes time to master. However, the basics are relatively simple to pick up in a short amount of time. In just one month I created an eLearning module that I was happy with and that I wouldn’t hesitate to use as a real eLearning course rather than just a project for school.