Thursday, April 25, 2013

Converting File Formats with Zamzar

Have you ever wanted to convert files without the need to download software? This is the question posed by the makers of Zamzar, a free online file format conversion tool that, in most cases, eliminates the need for expensive software solutions. The tool allows for converting your files to a large variety of formats without intrusive watermarks, including video file types that are usually associated with paid software such as:
  • Windows Media Video (wmv)
  • Flash Video (flv)
  • MPEG-4 Part 14 (mp4)
  • Quicktime (mov)

It will also convert:
  • Images (e.g., gif, jpeg, tiff, eps)
  • Documents (e.g., Microsoft Office files, pdf, csv)
  • Music (e.g., mp3, wav, flac)
  • eBooks (e.g., epub, mobi)
  • Compressed formats (e.g., zip, rar)
  • Video presets (e.g., Apple TV, DVD, iPod, iPad, iPhone, PS3, Xbox 360, YouTube)

Zamzar uses a simple, four-step process to convert your files:
  1. Select the file from your computer.
  2. Choose the conversion format.
  3. Enter your email address. Zamzar will send you a link to download your file after conversion has finished.
  4. Click the Convert button.

So, what's the catch? Well, files to be converted must be less than 100MB. This will rule out large video files. Also, it can take some time before the actual link to download your file is sent to your email inbox. While these two caveats may be a deal breaker for some, others will find Zamzar to be a lifesaver in some challenging media usage situations. Try it out at:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Online Privacy Policies: Do You Understand Them?

The Zero Knowledge Foundation has put together an excellent slideshow to explain privacy policies. Each time you consider requiring your students to use an online service or app, you should try your best to understand what you are requiring them to agree to. This is also a valuable topic, in terms of preparing today’s digital youth for tomorrow’s adult consequences. Click through the slideshow below, and get a grounding in the basics of this very confusing topic:


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Radio James Returns!

As a follow-up to my post on January 4th, 2013, I wanted to issue an update that the Radio James Learning Objective Builder is now back online! Tahnja Wilson of Arizona State University (ASU) Online sent word that they now host the free tool.

The Radio James Learning Objective Builder is a free, interactive web-based resource that can assist educators in creating measurable learning objectives based upon Bloom's Taxonomy.

Point your browser, and set your new bookmark, to the following address:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Finishing the "Finish" Button

Although most of us may have advanced from using Articulate Studio '09 (Engage, QuizMaker, and Presenter) to the program that replaced it, Articulate Storyline, Studio '09 can still be useful for instructional designers and educational content developers  who may not have mastered all of the features of Storyline. Sometimes I find myself making interactions in Articulate '09 in an effort to save time by using a pre-made file I want to closely emulate or use as a template, without having to recreate elements or transfer objects to Storyline.

Although Studio '09 appears to have been primarily intended for use in PowerPoint presentations, we at iDesign often insert them into our HTML course content files. When using Articulate QuizMaker '09, I always found it troublesome that there was no option to remove the "Finish" button on the Results page at the end of a quiz. This button is essentially useless when the interaction is contained within an HTML page. It does nothing and could confuse the student as to what he or she should do next.

So, of course, I was very happy to find the following resource to remove the "Finish" button from QuizMaker '09 interactions. It consists of a user-developed .swf Flash output file that can be inserted into the "Results" page of any QuizMaker quiz.

The directions are user-friendly and can be found by following the link below:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Serif vs. Sans-Serif - The Final Battle

Infographics make it easier to comprehend and see data visualization. Good infographics get the message across in a visual way. Some can be serious and some funny. The infographic below gives you the proper information (and maybe some you didn't already know) in a fun and entertaining way. This specific infographic shows you the "final battle" between the much talked about subject in typography, serif vs sans-serif.

The link below shows you more great examples and uses of infographics.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How much of your course will they remember?

I recently came across some research that was done on how much people actually remember from PowerPoint slides and got to thinking... Might these findings also have some application to online content written for delivery via a learning management system like eCampus?

“A wealth of information creates
a poverty of attention.”

—Herbert Simon, Nobel Prize laureate

Dr. Carmen Simon of Rexi Media has published a white paper on the subject titled "Are You Memorable?"

The Isolation Effect

"One of the ways to enable content to stand out and be potentially more memorable is to make it incongruent with the rest of the context in which it is provided. This technique is known as the distinctiveness or isolation effect in memory."Are You Memorable? Rexi Media

The study took a deck of 20 PowerPoint slides containing one point per slide and displayed them to research subjects in different ways. One deck was text only. Another included neutral images with the text. Another replaced the neutral images with emotional ones. Still other decks isolated some information by changing something every so many slides.

The study found that no matter how they presented the slides, people remembered an average of 4 slides. That's it. 20%. They did see a statiistically significant difference in the recall of slides after neutral images were added. But still the actual recall rate was the same—4 slides.

The thing that stuck out most for me, though, was that isolation effect placement did make a difference in which slides got remembered most. It didn't work with just any arrangment in the deck. They tried every 3rd slide, every 4th slide, etc. and got no change. But, when they placed the isolated information every 5th slide, those particular slides (5, 10, 15, 20) were recalled at a higher rate than the others. When slides were changed in the 3rd or 4th positions they were actually remembered less!

Now, I'm familiar with the idea that 7 plus or minus 2 was the number of things people can store in short-term memory. I've also heard that 3 is the maximum points m ost people can remember. This study, though, led the researchers to conclude that there's some kind of magic in the 4±1 combination when it comes to long-term memory.

So, should we consider this when constructing the pages of a learning module in eCampus? Certainly seems like an idea worth trying. So how many pages will people remember from your online course?

Addendum: This study garnered some unexpected results as well. Seems that a number of participants recalled things that weren't even there! Check out the white paper for the details of the study. It's really a fascinating one!