By Mary Word
Last fall there was a call for presentation proposals for the annual national Lectora User’s Conference. Lectora is the authoring program (aka rapid development tool, eLearning development tool, etc.) that I use for the majority of the eLearning content I develop at Microassist. We create custom eLearning for a wide range of clients, using Lectora, Articulate Storyline, Captivate, and other programs as needed.
I have found Lectora the best choice for more complex courses, and those requiring accessibility support, such as section 508 compliance.
We (and by we I really mean Linda Warren, our amazing Instructional Designer) wrote up a proposal and short bio and sent it in. I was pretty busy, and while it sat there in the back of my mind, I wasn’t really expecting to hear anything back about it. A few months later, though, I received an email accepting my proposal!
Then it all suddenly moved from the back of my mind to front and center. I had to plan and write a presentation to give to a potentially large audience. I had heard there were about 600 attendees at the previous conference, so I would be speaking to some subset of that number in a parallel session with other presentations. I have participated as part of a team in a local conference on mobile learning, but this would be my first big solo presentation.
The presentation title was Developing a Simulation with Multiple Interactions and Dependencies. It was based on a few sample pages from a course which taught medical personnel how to successfully navigate a complex website, with the goal of obtaining financial reimbursement for meaningful use of electronic health records. As I asked my audience, are you still awake? While a compelling subject for those who need the information, the course topic was pretty dry for most people.
My challenge in preparing for the conference was to make the content accessible to my audience. Now, usually when I use the word accessible, it refers to 508 type accessibility, so I don’t want to confuse you here. Here I just mean that I didn’t want them to fall asleep or wander off to catch part of someone else’s talk. I found creating this course to be challenging, creative, and satisfying. (…and often frustrating and lots of work, too)
I wanted to be able to share what I thought was cool about it, in a way that both informed and engaged. My session was advertised as advanced, so I knew that I would be able to speak geek to geek, and needed to get down in the weeds with real-life problems and solutions that they could appreciate and learn from. Even though my audience was Lectora developers, and my examples Lectora code, I also wanted to demonstrate concepts that can be useful in a broader context.
So I started making lists. I listed the things about the project as a whole that had been challenges and breakthroughs for me during development. I listed pages that illustrated these things and how they did so. I listed elements within the pages that were required to make them work. And themes started to emerge.
Next chapter: Where do you take the first bite?