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Developing Learning Activities and Simulations in e-Learning Content

What turns your best dress into a showstopper? Accessories. And what turns your online course content into dazzlingly useful learning content? Learning Activities. What is a Learning Activity? In e-learning content development, we use all forms of questions for test and quizzes:

1. Multiple correct, which presents a number of choices as answers to a particular question. There may be more than one answer to this question. The students chooses all answers that are correct.

2. Single correct, which presents multiple choices as answers to a particular questions. One answer of the possible choices is correct.

3. Item matching, in which there is one column of possible answers that relate to another column of questions. Item matching is commonly used for matching the correct term to the definition.

4. Fill-in-the-blank, in which the students enters the correct word or words that complete a sentence.

5. True/false, in which the student answers whether a statement is true or false.

6. Short answer, in which the student enters a one to two sentence answer to a question.

7. Essay, in which the student responds to a question with a page (or more) long response.

All of these question types are useful for testing knowledge gained from taking a course, as well as testing the level of knowledge prior to a course. In addition, such questions are useful in the course itself as learning checks. The learning check enables the student to determine whether he understands the material. Most companies consider these questions to be adequate learning activities. However, learning activities can be much more. Learning activities that are simulations can involve the student and give him a safe environment in which to practice skills gained through the course. .

Learning Activities are interactive activities that help to explain concepts and involve the student with hands-on learning. This may include all forms of drag and drop questions (one to one correlation, many to one correlation) as well as interactive ordering of graphics or text, and finally, simulations.

An IDC article and survey, Technology-Based Simulations: Cloning the Work Environment for More Effective Learning, June 2004 by Michael Brennan, states, "By 2008 the use of simulations will quadruple.... Simulations provide a parallel universe in which employees hone their skills... Innovative companies have realized this, and others will follow."

Simulations are currently the most expensive learning activity. Simulations must be individually designed and programmed. For example, suppose you have a sales course in which you are testing the sales student's retention of the message that the company wishes to deliver to its customers. You could do a question workshop: several questions that give situations requiring an action in multiple correct or single correct formats. Another, more entertaining, method would be to have the sales person run through a scenario in which he indicates what he would do to sell his product. The learning activity indicates whether the customer would buy this product based on those actions. This feedback could be indicated by a graph indicating customer readiness to buy. It could also be complimented by video, in which the customer appears aggravated when the sales person gives his message incorrectly and pleased when the sales person gives his message correctly.

Online courses are taken privately and at the student's convenience. If the student requires several attempts with a particular scenario, praise the student for continued effort and eventual competency.

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Adding humor to simulations and learning activities is essential yet can be controversial. As the simulation developer or content developer, you do not want to add any humor that could be perceived as offensive, sexist or worse, unfunny. To extend our sales example, when the sales person is unsuccessful at selling his product in the learning activity, you would not want your customer video or simple animation of the customer to offend the sales person. Yet you want him to laugh and try again. Perhaps the customer morosely shaking his head and leaving the room, with text indicating how the sales call went dreadfully south would be acceptable and could be done in a humorous fashion. You would not want this animation to be disturbing - the customer should not shake his fist and yell for a restraining order against the sales person, for example.

In the past, I participated in designing a simulation of patient anesthesia. The computer program consisted of a patient on the operating room table and two dials that the student could turn. One dial administered oxygen, the other dial administered anesthetic. The patient's parameters could change (height, weight, age). As the student administered the anesthesia, a graph showed the patient's stats. If you administered too much anesthesia the patient would die! It was a great simulation, but scary. The death knell of the patient was accompanied by funeral music. . Ouch!

On the other hand, sometimes we encounter simulations and learning activities that add nothing to the content or the course. They are superfluous, added to maintain interest. You must be very careful in these instances. If you want to add something to maintain interest, it should still be useful and explore some aspect of the topic. A Flash movie of interesting fractals may be colorful and fun - useless in a course that is not about fractals, art or Flash. For example, suppose you are teaching contractual document details. You can still relate the content of the course to a learning activity in which the student must put the correct elements from a list into three different types of contracts. As dry as you may think detailing the elements of a contract might be, if you add audio that indicates whether the addition was right or wrong, you can keep your student's interest. "Wrong!" can be contrasted with "Oh, not that element, it does not belong" said in a beautiful feminine voice. The second response can add a smile and cause the student to remember how the contractual elements are added to a contract. A booming male voice that states, "You sir, are correct!" can bring that same acknowledgement.

In conclusion, questions and quizzes while useful are not the end of interactivity. We need to provide the means for simulations inside online courses to provide the hands on learning that students need. Through clever activities that allow seeing the consequences of your actions on the simulation model, we can provide activities that enable retention of material and practice. If these activities lead the student to greater understanding, we have provided not only an entertaining activity but also great value for our online courses.

About the Writer of this Article

Dana Fine is a Senior Instructional Designer at SyberWorks, Inc. SyberWorks http://www.syberworks.com is a custom e-learning solutions company that specializes in learning management systems, e-learning solutions, and custom online course development. Dana is also a frequent contributor to the Online Training Content Journal http://www.boggse-learningchonicle.typepad.com/the_online_training_conte/

Article Marketing Part 1 - Content Is Still King

Since the beginning, you've been told that "Content Is King" but there are so many web site owners - who have been trying to win the search engine battles - ignore the rules and try to be 'smart'. They used software and tools to trick the search engines to get their web sites indexed highly but only to find out that their web sites were banned a month later.

Don't get me wrong! There are actually some legitimate tools that can help you get your web sites ranked higher. People pay a hundred dollars or more just to own them. That is fine as long as it works and does not violate the criteria search engines are looking for on a web site.

But why are they doing it?

For an obvious reason, I guess - to get as much traffic possible to their web sites, which in turn produces more revenue to the web site owners.

And then, there are really smart marketers who go by the "Content Is King" rules and are really winning the search engine games day by day. These marketers use words to turn into traffic. With a single 500-word article, within time, they can create hundreds of backlinks to their web sites - resulting in more web traffic, more sales, and more profits. Then, they write one more article, and some more.

That's right - we call them article marketers. You can see their names when you search a keyword and their articles appear on the main page of the search engine. You click on the links and their articles come up.

Now let me tell you a little secret. These marketers don't write these articles and post them only on their web sites.

First, they write these articles and at the same time allow others to reprint them for free. That makes you able to forward these articles to other people and these other people can also forward to more people provided the content of the articles are not changed or modified. In short, these articles are viral.

Second, they submit these articles to various article directories and online publishers to get maximum exposure. The more publishers they can find, the more audience they can reach. Thus, the more sales they can make.

Think about it. If the pros are doing it and they are getting tons of traffic and sales, then you too can have the same privilege - only if you follow their steps.

Wouldn't you want to generate sales without having to pay a single red cent?

If the answer is a resounding 'yes', then consider article marketing seriously.

About the Writer of this Article

Zamri Nanyan owns http://www.BigArticleDirectory.com and he welcomes authors worldwide to submit articles to his well-maintained Big Article Directory for free. To get to know Zamri Nanyan more, visit his other web site at http://www.ZamriNanyan.com today.

"Chase Those Page One Blues Away...Get Themed Content On Your Site And Get On Page One!"

Here is my latest article. It may be freely used in ezines, on web sites or in e-books, as long as the Resource Box is left intact.

I would appreciate notification of where it was used, and if possible, a copy of the ezine or newsletter that it was used in. Please send notification mailto:webmaster@online-wealth.com

______________________________

Not on page one of the majors yet?

Elsewhere, I've written about getting on page one of the major search engines with an article here: http://online-wealth.com/yahoosuccess.htm and the relative ease of actually developing a web site to do just that here: http://online-wealth.com/articles/getting_on_page_one.htm .

If the process is so easy then, you may ask, why are there so many services touting their ability to "guarantee a top 10 placement" for your web site?

The easy answer, of course, is that most people do not know how to go about designing a web site that SEs drool over, and have even less knowledge about the HTML coding required to display the web site on the web. For a relatively easy approach to site building for yourself - and a fun one at that - go to this link: http://online-wealth.com/buildasite/ where you'll get the help you need...and then some!

Of course, there are many services that will do the job for you, and obviously, many of them do a good job. But again, if you're gonna do the job yourself, you have a lot to think about...

First of all, however, just what do SEs drool about? Well, the best phrase I can think of is "a web site with themed relevance".

Meaning? Well, suppose you're an expert on the sport of baseball, and you want to build a web site that ranks in the top ten SEs. Most of all, you want to have a site devoted to baseball rules and terminology - a narrow-focus topic, but still having broad appeal and relevance to all baseball players and fans (your target audience, naturally).

Well...a couple of days ago (it's June 18, 2001 today!) a quick search on a few of the majors, for the search term 'baseball rules and terminology'(the 'and' in the phrase isn't required, actually), drew quite a mixed bag, thus :

Altavista: 17,115,664 Google: 8720 Excite: 1,621,610 Lycos: 5728 Northern Light: 6086

Now they were the results when I entered the above search phrase *without* quotes. When the phrase is entered *with* quotes, the results are markedly different, thus:

Altavista: Zip Google: 2 Excite: Nada Lycos: 1 Northern Light: 4

*By placing the quotes around the phrase, I forced the SEs to find the exact phrase somewhere in their databases.* However, not *one* of the SEs returned the exact phrase, which means it may not even exist anywhere on the web.

Furthermore, when I enter the same search phrase in one of the meta-search engine (a fancy term that means it searches the search engines), I get the following:

Ixquick.com - Without quotes: 20,346. With quotes: 1.

And, just so that you know I haven't ignored the one and only:

Yahoo.com - Without quotes: 2230. With quotes: 1

So...all of *that* means you have a golden opportunity to be number one in the majors, with your baseball rules and terminology site.

Why? The first set of results ranged from many thousands to multi-millions, so how can that be beaten, you say? No problem - those first set of results covered *any* occurrence of 'baseball', 'rules' and 'terminology', so there were even sites for cricket, public administration, medicine, religion and goodness knows what all on the results page I received!

Do you see my point: if there had been a site with that exact phrase, the search engine software *had* to pick it. That's the way search software works, basically.

To make sure your site appears on page one though, you have a bit more work to do.

A quick check with Betterwhois.com for 'BaseballRulesAndTerminology.com' showed that it is available for purchase. Guess what? So are the .net and .org names available, and I'll bet .TV and .biz are also!

Now, for ranking purposes, most - if not all - SEs place more emphasis on the domain name, the domain title, the domain description and the themed content of the site. The last is perhaps the most important. The keyword meta-tag is all but dead (I'd make sure I followed the rules, but I wouldn't worry about keyword meta-tags much). Links are important, but they're last in priority.

Now, if I were that baseball expert, I'd boogie on down to my favorite domain registrar, buy the name(s), build the site and get on page one...

Well, now...how can I be *so* sure, you ask?

Let me answer that with examples from my own domain, online-wealth.com. The two words - 'online' and 'wealth' - are pretty common on the web, right? And, when used as a phrase 'online wealth', you'd be inclined to think the same, right? Well...right again!

Here are the results (i.e. number of web pages) for the search phrase 'online wealth', using the same search engines, without quotes and with quotes:

First up, without quotes: online wealth Altavista: 105,722,390 Google: 946,000 Excite: 15,634,290 Lycos: 525,516 Northern Light: 490,409

Yes, those figures from Altavista and Excite *are* the numbers returned to me, I assure you!

Now, with quotes: "online wealth" Altavista: 1556 Google: 1750 Excite: 490 Lycos: 1662 Northern Light: 871

The only results page that does NOT include our domain of online-wealth.com on page one, is that from Lycos. All of the others have us on page one, and usually number 1! (I'll have to find out why Lycos is ignoring us!)

What does all that mean? Simply this: anybody who punches in "online wealth" or 'online wealth' (no quotes), into a search box, will find our site on page one of the majors and probably in number one position. And that includes Yahoo, Ixquick, and a few others!

So, you expert on baseball...with more information about the topic than anybody else...get that domain name, organize that information into a coherent whole - be it a catalog, a dictionary, a database, an e-book or whatever - develop a killer title and description that precisely encapsulate what your new site is all about, promote it to all SEs and directories and...

Hey, don't expect *me* to click through...I prefer deep-sea shark fishing...even if you are on page one of the majors, for your theme! ;-(

Huh!?

Well...that's the web! Even if you are on page one, 30% of searchers will ignore you, anyway!

But, at least you'll *be* on page one, and ahead of the rest, whenever your target prospects find you.

P.S. When I last made enquiries, there were maybe only 48 links pointing to online-wealth.com. I get different results from different SEs...so I don't worry about links at all.

Roger Burke has been involved with computers since 1967, and has managed to break quite a few, over the years. He, and his wife Sherry, are now actively engaged in online self-publishing and promoting specific affiliate programs at http://online-wealth.com . If you have any comments or questions about this article, please send emails to mailto:webmaster@online-wealth.com . Copyright 2001, Online-Wealth. All rights reserved.

How to Choose a Web Content Subscription Service

When you're researching a business and/or trying to build one, there certainly is a lot to learn. There are a lot of subscription based web sites offering information for business focuses. Some are good, some are not so good, and some are just plain lousy. So how do you tell before you plunk down your hard earned dollars on a subscription commitment to an information site?

Free Sample Content - Does the site offer free samples of their content? This should be real content, not just 'teaser' sales-letter pages. A good content provider will gladly provide valuable, sample content to demonstrate their value.

How much commitment - What level of commitment do they require? Can you pay for a short term like one month? If you can't make your decision based on the free sample content, then you will want a short term 'test commitment'. This will give you a way to determine how valuable their content is before making a long term commitment. Be suspicious of subscription-based web sites that require longer term commitments right up front.

How often is the content updated? If you do sign on with a short term commitment, you can look to see how often content has been added over the past year or so. Are they only adding one new content article per month, for example? A site that doesn't update their content very often is not very valuable as a paid subscription service.

Getting Out - Sooner or later, you'll want to cancel your subscription. Are there clear instructions on how you cancel your membership? Do they post their phone number and address, as well as email address contact information?

Money Back Guarantee - Does the site offer a satisfaction guarantee? Legitimate content providers who have confidence in their quality will have no problem offering a money back guarantee. The absence of a money back guarantee on the other hand, also says a lot.

There are plenty of poor quality information sites on the internet. Just like making any commitment, it pays to do your homework first to avoid getting ripped off by 'information sharks'.

Frank Ross is a 20+ year veteran of the Information Technology industry. He has worked in corporate America at various management and administrative levels, but for the past few years has struck out on his own - from his home. He owns and operates several home-based product-based e-commerce web sites. He also maintains a Home-Based Business weblog .

Hey, please visit the Internet Marketing web sites:

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