Crash Course in Flash
and Principles of E-Learning
and Summary by Michael
walked away without a scratch after my crash course on Macromedia
Flash, e-learning, and tips on designing effective computer-based instruction.
man once said that it's better to bite off more than you can chew, and
then chew it. And so I chewed these HUGE topics down to essentials that
I hoped would satisfy the various interests of the diverse attendees.
After talking about Flash for almost an hour, we took a break and for
the last half hour I talked about e-learning and what the research shows
about effective computer-based instruction.
Informally extending the presentation beyond the 8:30 p.m. ending time
gave me enough time to also talk about an e-learning development tool
called Flash Companion, a product by Rapid
Intake that makes it easy to develop e-learning courses.
I formatted this summary to allow easy scanning so that people can more
easily find the specific topics they are interested in.
1 An Introduction to Flash and Flash Companion
Flash refers to three things:
1) The application program for creating animations, interactive
Web-based media rich Websites, user-interfaces, and rich Internet
2) The player, which is a plug-in for Web browsers, and that
enables flash created content to be viewed by a Web browser.
3) The standalone projector file, which is basically allows
you to see flash content without needing a Web browser (for things
like self-running multimedia presentations launched from the desktop
or from a CD-ROM).
a new version of the flash application comes out, a new player version
also comes out in order to display some of the new features that the
application has. The player is free and is included in the installation
of all the major Web browsers. Since the new version of Flash just came
out recently (Flash
8), my demonstrations were done using the previous version (Flash
MX 2004 Professional).
are some of Flash's benefits?
Content created in Flash will look consistent across different
computer platforms and different browsers. Check (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DHTML)
to understand why other technologies such as DHTML fail to do this.
and bitmap animations: Vectors have a much smaller file size than
bitmaps (gifs, jpegs). Flash can animate both, but has particular
features for creating vector animations. Flash uses its own compression
technology which makes the file sizes small and therefore download
and video integration without annoying popup player windows. Examples:
Website (click the music link and go to one of her albums to listen
to song clips. Some of the songs also have an icon for watching video.
Notice everything is integrated into one screen compared to the html
example which must load media players such as Quicktime and Windows
Media player which cover the Web page content).
Will people be able to see your Flash content?
The player (version 6 or higher) is on around 95% of browsers that access
the Internet. More people have the Flash player than the Windows Media
Player, Quicktime, the Real One Player, and even Java and Adobe Acrobat.
90% have the current player 7 and 80% of browsers will have the new player
(version 8) one year after its release.
animations and Flash 8 filters (and now, drop shadows!)
it very easy to animate objects. Examples:
are some hilarious Flash animations: Jib
Jab famous for the Bush/Kerry This land is my land
is a Macromedia
tutorial about character animation which talks about two new features
of Flash 8 (drop shadows & custom easing). Yes, that's right,
drop shadows generated automatically! Custom easing is another new
feature of Flash 8. Basically the new easing panel allows you to easily
manipulate how objects move over time. Instead of having objects move
at a constant speed in an animation, easing allows you to have objects
start off slow and then speed up, or start off fast and slow down.
And that is just the basics of what the easing control panel allows
you to do.
Great Flash templates to help you learn from the experts
you can get a great looking Flash Website which you can modify to your
heart's desire. These tutorials can be helpful for learning how seemingly
complex things are done in Flash. However, I would only recommend buying
one of these templates if you are already familiar with Flash basics
(tweens, masking, a bit of ActionScript, movieclips, buttons and graphic
symbols). Go to http://www.templatemonster.com.
Flash Video is soooo easy now
Filters Drop shadows, blur, glow, and more. Now you
don't have to use PNG files just to get a nice looking drop shadow
for text or graphics. Plus they can be created on the fly for your
device emulator Flash MX 2004 Professional has templates
for designing content for mobile devices (PDA's, cell phones, etc),
but Flash 8 Professional has an emulator so you can test your content
inside Flash to see how it's going to work and look on whatever device
you are designing for.
Video codec basically a new technology for compressing
video which is even better, creating clearer, smaller videos.
level undo that means you can mess around with different
objects like text fields, shapes, animations, photos, components,
etc. But if you want to Undo something you may have done hours ago,
you can just undo what you did for a particular object.
Two wild Flash sites we visited
One that will trip out your eyes, the other that lets you zoom in from
a world view down to your neighborhood. We could even see the building
we were in in REAL TIME!!!...Sorry, just kidding. It was a few years
old, but still amazing.
e-learning using Flash Companion
Flash Companion is a tool developed by Rapid
Intake that makes it a lot easier to create Flash-based e-learning.
tutorial that I created shows you what Flash Companion does, what
it looks like and the benefits of using it.
2 E-Learning and Instructional Design Principles
the information about what e-learning is, and how to design effective
e-learning comes from the book E-learning
and the Science of Instruction by Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer.
These two highly respected professionals in the field of instruction
review what the research shows about how people learn from computer-based
instruction, which factors inhibit learning, and how to design effective
E-learning has many definitions, but Clark and Mayer basically define
it as training delivered on a computer (via CD-ROM, Internet, intranet),
which uses content relevant to the learning objectives, and uses some
instructional methods, such as examples and practice.
Types of e-learning:
the growth in e-learning?
is a multi-billion dollar business, with thousands of universities and
businesses using it in some form. The main reasons are:
travel costs for training/learning, reduced instructor and facility
costs. Reduced instructional material duplication and distribution costs.
consistency in training delivery.
If you build something for 10 people, it can be relatively easy to have
10,000 use the same material with little effort or incremental cost
if the infrastructure is there.
- If people have an Internet connection.
collaboration among disparate populations.
Specific advantages of e-learning
can have practice exercises with automated tailored feedback.
So as learners make decisions during the e-learning they can receive
feedback about their decisions.
of collaboration with self-study and blending learning.
of simulations to accelerate expertise. This is of particular
interest to me. According to Gartner Inc., a premiere research and
advisory firm, by 2006, 50 percent of enterprises will use simulations
to train sales and customer support personnel and 70 percent of all
off-the-shelf and custom e-learning content will include some use
of simulations (Gartner, 2003). According to their research interviews,
e-learning simulations are the fastest growing sector of the e-learning
industry. They predict an increase in spending for simulations from
$300 million in 2002 to $37 billion by 2011.
Why use Flash for e-learning?
displays multimedia content consistently across different browsers
and platforms (MacOS, Windows, Unix, Linux). HTML is limited in terms
of interactivity and integrated multimedia, and DHTML is not integrated
consistently on the major browsers.
can create highly interactive, multimedia experiences using video,
audio, animations, and simulations all integrated into one screen.
With proper design, usability can be greatly increased and facilitate
the learning experience.
has pre-built learning interaction components
you can use for testing, and all the data can be tracked using a learning
management system. For example a company with 1000 learners can track
who has taken certain e-learning courses, what their scores were,
the date and time taken to complete courses, etc.
issues Flash can be used in multiple ways to create e-learning.
Flexibility is crucial for e-learning. You want to be able to modify
aspects of your course such as layout, navigation controls, and text
format, without having to go through every screen in your course and
editing it. If you are serious about trying to understand these types
of issues, I would recommend the book Using
Flash MX to Create E-learning.
spacing effect, and importance of retrieval for learning
Before getting into what the research shows about designing effective
computer-based instruction, I first asked the attendees a couple of
questions that are related to research about learning in general. The
following questions are from a respected researcher in the field of
learning and e-learning named Will
Thalheimer, Ph.D. He has a number of white papers I highly recommend
that discuss the results and implications of leading peer-reviewed research
1: Who will know more on May 1st?
A) A learner spends 6hrs/day for 3 days (Feb 1, March 1, April 1)
B) Learner spends 6 hrs/day on April 1, 2, and 3 learning material.
C) Both the same.
The answer is (A). The reason for this is due to a well researched
phenomenon called the spacing effect. Spacing essentially
means repeating the things you want learners to know. Spacing can
be achieved by: including learning objectives or pre-questions in
the beginning of the lesson, and having post questions after the lesson.
It is also very effective to space out repetitions of learning such
as practice opportunities, quizzes, and examples. Repeating the learning
material in different ways and over time will aid in learning and
long term retention.
2: Which will create the best performance 1 week later?
A) Listening to a 4 hour presentation followed by 2 hours of listening
to a review of the material.
B) Listening to a 4 hour presentation followed by 2 hours of answering
questions, without any feedback.
C) Both the same.
The answer is (B). The reason for this is because answering
questions requires retrieving the information you learn. Retrieval
leads to recall. Basically the more you retrieve information, the
bigger the retrieval path becomes, making it easier and faster to
recall it. Retrieval is another well researched process.
3: Which will provide the best learning outcomes?
A) Provide 5 learning objectives before they start a 45-minute presentation.
B) Provide the same 5 objectives, one at a time throughout a 45-minute
C) Both the same.
The answer is (B). The reason is that learners often don't
remember the objectives they read. Plus, learners often don't pay
attention to learning objectives. Therefore it is better to space
them out and have them close to the learning event the objective is
about. Personally I don't pay much attention to learning objectives
when I'm taking a class because they are either boring to read or
require too much effort to memorize. Or sometimes objectives have
terminology that I've not yet learned and therefore I can't incorporate
them into my existing knowledge.
Let learners control the pacing have 'next' and 'previous'
buttons for navigation. Let learners replay and pause audio narrations,
videos and animations.
2) Give learners control, but not too much control.
Learners want control but don't know the best ways to improve their
learning. They overestimate what they think they can remember. Therefore,
instead of letting learners skip over a lesson without taking any kind
of quiz or doing some practice which will show them what they do and
do not understand, have your navigation controls force the learners
to go through the quiz or practice BEFORE they can skip to the next
lesson. This is less important for advanced learners who may already
know a lot of the content and should be able to move freely through
a course. So it depends on your learners.
3) Irrelevant graphics/sounds/video can depress learning.
This is a 'no brainer.' Everything should support the learning event.
4) Conversational style is more effective than formal style.
This program is about what types of plants survive in different
environments. The goal is to learn what type of roots, stem, and
leaves allow a plant to survive in a certain environment. Some hints
are provided throughout the program.
You will be visiting different countries to see how different
plants survive in different environments. Your mission is to learn
what type of roots, stem and leaves will allow a plant to survive
in each environment. I will guide you by giving you some hints.
Use audio narration when you can. As Ruth Clark and Richard
Mayer mention in their book, When it's feasible to use audio,
there is considerable evidence that presenting words in audio rather
than onscreen text results in significant learning gains.
I was particularly happy to see that sentence because it has been something
obvious to me for a long time. For me personally, reading takes a lot
more effort. However, they mention that you should
provide text of the narration if learners will have a hard time understanding
or hearing the audio (e.g., English is not their native language, deaf
learners, a lack of sound cards or speakers, etc.)
There are several development issues regarding the use of audio. It
is a lot easier to edit some text in an online lesson than to redo an
audio clip, especially if you hired professional talent for the narration
and you want to make changes later on. This could require you to hire
that talent again, just to re-record small changes. However, it is easy
for designers and developers to use their own voice, and editing and
compressing audio for Web delivery is fairly easy. The other concern
is whether learners have a speaker on their computer.
can improve learning. Online or pedagogical agents, as they
are often called, are characters that are like coaches that pop up on
the screen to help guide learners, or give them feedback. The initial
research shows that they can help learning, that animated characters
are just as effective as a real person, but that a real voice (for audio)
is more effective than a computer generated voice. However, they mention
that further research is needed. Personally I would find it a bit odd
listening to a Mickey Mouse character give me feedback or hints about
doing heart surgery, or leaderships skills.
Use audio descriptions for animations and graphical simulations.
This is because trying to read text and at the same time watch an animation
or graphical simulation overloads our visual processing abilities.
8) Using text is important for constantly referenced material,
9) Use frequent job-relevant practice This
forces review and retrieval of the information taught, and provides
a real-world context to the learning material.
10) Use worked examples worked examples are
problems that are partially worked out and require the learner to
complete the steps. Clark and Mayer mention that they are on
of the most powerful methods you can use to build new and rich knowledge
in long-term memory.
three examples are from an article by Ty Johnson, Vice President of
SoftAssist, entitled The Nine Too-Often-Neglected Principles of
e-Learning Design available through the E-learning
Give students opportunity to mess up. We often remember our
screw-ups the most. E-learning can let us make mistakes in total privacy
without the embarrassment of doing it on the job.
2) Here's a good feedback technique for tests. After
learners have made a commitment by choosing a particular answer, let
them have the option of seeing why the other answers were either right
or wrong. This allows them to learn even if they got the answer wrong.
The feedback become the instructional strategy
3) Cheap simulation branching. E-learning often incorporates
some use of simulations to facilitate learning. There are a number of
different types of simulations, but many are 'branching' simulations
where the learners must make a choice about something, and the content
they are presented with is dependent on their choice.
For example, an e-learning course on diagnosing hypothermia might present
a learner with a scenario where they are given symptoms of a patient
and then they have to make a decision about how to treat them. They
might be given three choices of what they can do. When they make a particular
treatment choice the program can 'branch' to a new page where the patient
starts having a reaction to the treatment. These types of simulations
can get very complicated if you have to design and develop for a huge
number of choices that a learner can make. This can take a long time
to create and be very expensive, but is sometimes necessary.
If you want to give the learner choice, but limit the work needed to
create all the consequences of all the possible choices, you can eliminate
the branching and have a completely linear program. When the learner
makes a choice that isn't the best choice, you can have feedback that
tells the learners why their choices aren't the best, and then simply
say something like let's assume you chose the correct answer and
see what happens, and then continue along a linear path you have
developed. No branching, less development, less cost, less time to create.
by Bruce Mills