Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why Instructional Designers Should Be Familiar with Flash

by Donna Bryant
Why should we instructional designers become familiar with development programs such as Flash? After all, most development is not done by writers or designers--it is usually done by technical developers. Here are some reasons to consider:
  • Helps you to gauge time to create interactions so that you can provide better overall time estimates for a given project
  • Helps you to decide whether to include an interaction--just because you can do it doesn't mean you should
  • Helps you to know what is possible to do with the program so that you are inspired as you write and design content
  • It could enhance your resume if you are able to "talk" development with knowledge and skill
  • You won't ever take development for granted!
If you're not able to actually take a Flash class, you can still learn enough from online resources to educate yourself. Here are some example links you can bookmark that can help you to find out about Flash and what is possible without having to take a full-blown class:

Flash Drawing - A readable tutorial that describes basic drawing tools available in Flash.

Collected Flash Tutorials - Flash tutorials, covering various topics.

Adobe TV - Flash (and other Adobe products) how-to tutorials.

If you Google "Flash Tutorials" you'll find even more. Some of the tutorials are readable step-by-steps, and some can be viewed as videos. You can also Google specific topics like "Create Buttons in Flash" and view how to create certain pieces. This type of information can be handy if you are considering how to approach something specific you are working with. You can also learn about development topics you may not be familiar with, such as "tweening" (a term for moving shapes from one point to another over a set time) or "masking" (which you can use to hide part of a layer so that you can see through to the layer below).

How can you apply your knowledge of Flash as you organize and lay out your content for a typical eLearning lesson?

Let's say that you are creating an eLearning lesson that covers the latest company marketing slogan. You'd like to highlight the slogan in a memorable way so that learners see it visually in their minds as they read it. You know that Flash can do such effects as blink the slogan, stretch the slogan, or make it come onto the screen and disappear. You aren't sure which approach would achieve the most memorable results, without being too obnoxious for the learner. You also don't want your developer to have to spend a lot of time creating the effect.

You Google "Text Effects in Flash". After searching through some links (WARNING--you may have to put up with ads or bikini-clad ladies) you find an interesting effect:

Flying Text Banner

You find step-by-step instructions you can share with your developer, and you find an example of how the flying text banner effect looks when done. When you show the examples to your developer, he or she might have variations that could be even more effective for your application. You will have opened a fun, interactive dialog with your developer that will result in an even better eLearning lesson. Isn't that what it's all about?

There are many tutorials and examples on the web for Flash. Once you know more about what is possible, you can give your eLearning lessons just the right punch.

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