For Instructional Designers and eLearning Developers, there is not limit to the number of tools we come across on a weekly basis. Many tools have wonderful functions and purposes, yet I only have a few I stick with. Here are three I use weekly.
Of course! I use Google Docs all the time! I use it to collaborate with my team, manage my files in a cloud, and even create quick sketches of ideas. If you haven’t joined the Google Suite band-wagon, what have you been using?!?!
I use Google Sheets for my to do list and track project progress through this sheet. This is something I share with my supervisor. Since it’s in the cloud, she can view this document whenever she needs to do check-in on the status of a task or project. I also use Google Sheets to create project timelines and track program schedules.
I use Google Docs for taking notes and sharing ideas immediately. How many times have you been in a meeting taking notes on a brainstorming session and then 10 minutes later you cannot remember that wonderful idea the group came up with? This has happened enough to teach me to either take hand-written notes and transfer them or open a Google Doc right away.
I also use Google Slides to create wireframes of ideas and explore visual layouts of ideas. I often draw my ideas on paper first and then transfer them to Google Slides or PowerPoint. There are some things Google Slides doesn’t do yet, so then PowerPoint comes into play. For the most part, though, Google Slides allows me to collaborate with others on design concepts they may otherwise take a very long time to explain to me.
The best part about Google Docs is it’s a free software suite. In the world of Higher Education, it’s a boon for students who cannot afford expensive software and turning in assignments using Google Docs is a breeze. It’s also a great tool to use to provide students with collaborative online activities they can bookmark and save forever! Great for webinars and trainings, too. I once used Google Docs to do a supplemental overview of a tool and had the attendees go in and add content to the document as the webinar ran. In the end, we had a fairly robust take-home material.
Bubbl.us or Gliffy
Flowcharts, swimlanes, sitemaps, oh my!
I’ve been using Gliffy as a Chrome Extension for many years. It creates a Gliffy file, which is unusual, but I can export as a .jpeg or .png. I do flowcharts, course maps, sitemaps, and page layouts on here. This is a great tool for quick creation of flow charts of all sorts.
Bubbl.us works similarly to Gliffy for mind mapping and flow charts. It’s a bit clunky and has a steeper learning curve than Gliffy. I like it because I can export larger, high resolution files to print or include in posters and presentations. It’s wonderful for our course and program maps, yet difficult to use for detailed matter.
Again, similar to Google Docs, this tool can be used in the online course setting as well. In one course, I created a learning activity where students were assigned to create a mind map of their self-assessment, areas for growth, and resources. Throughout the course, they revisited the mind map to add more layers. In the end, they had a great tool to reference beyond the course.
The best way to use Gliffy is as a Chrome App, otherwise it wants you to pay, which isn’t necessary.
Bubbl.us has a free version, but the paid version is what is worth it. It’s about $5/month and allows for real-time collaboration, revision history, and link sharing.
Snagit from TechSmith is my go to for video recording my screen. I use this instead of Camtasia or QuickTime for quick grabs because it is so dang easy to use. Camtasia is fairly robust and takes some setting up. QuickTime is somewhat confusing and doesn’t always do what I want it to do (user error… I know). Snagit is a simple app with quick video editing, if needed.
Also, when I take a screen grab of my screen, Snagit pops-up to allow me to save and edit the grab. This is especially helpful in reminding myself I have taken a screen grab and avoiding them piling up on my desktop… which is just simply messy.
The best part so far, is it is attached to my TechSmith Relay account, which hosts my videos. I can share the videos publicly with my institution, by link only, or keep them private. It’s a one stop shop for cloud storage for my videos. I love it…
Now, for the pricing. Snagit is around $50 for a one-time license. Seems steep until you realize how expensive is ($199).
So, if all you’re doing is capturing your screen and video conferences and doing minimal editing, the Snagit tool is for you!
Do you have any tools you use often in your eLearning Development and Instructional Design work? Share it with me and I’ll do a follow-up sometime with other tools.
Photo in featured image by chrisreadingphoto on Pixabay.com, used with permission from Creative Commons CC0 license. Feature photo made using Canva.com.