Instructional Design

Free Course Starter Template

Each week when I start a new project at work, I love trying to think up ways to put a slightly unique spin on the experience while still staying true to the format I’ve been using. There’s something about consistency that is both helpful and boring at the same time. One on hand, the learner can concentrate on the content because they know what to expect out of the user experience–so no guessing on “How do I interact with this object,” or “what am I supposed to do here?”

But at the same time, the user can quickly become bored and think, “Not another lame eLearning.” This is where a slight tweak comes in handy.

I think it’s possibly to have unique “slides,” each serving their own purpose but still having the tie in of a theme through use of:

  • Color
  • Font
  • Image theme
  • Transition
  • Animation

This week I created a Storyline 2 template that is a blue photography theme. I’m hoping this will inspire others out there to download and modify the theme as needed. Change the images, modify the colors, choose a new font! Go crazy.



Download the Template

Freebie: Three (OK, Four) Interactive Tabs

When developing eLearning or online courses, it is important to remember that you are not just “information dumping” on the learner. But what happens when learners need to be presented with information that isn’t so interaction-friendly?

I recently had to create an Corporate Compliance eLearning where some of the information just NEEDED to be displayed for employees to read because it was mandatory that all employees were presented with and acknowledge that they received certain compliance regulations.

But we can still do it in a way that involves the learner being an active participant somehow…right!??! Of course.

In this particular case, I wanted to take these bits of somewhat-legalese and chunk them into more concise, digestible bits–so I got creative with interactive tabs.

Tabs are a great way to highlight key points, number steps of a process, allow a learner to choose to explore more information, and make it interactive.

I created a little freebie with a blue theme for anyone who’s interested.





eLearning Helper Challenge: Custom Course Player

Creating a custom course player can really enhance the user experience and take a course from “Oh, that looks like it was made in Articulate,” to “Wow!”

I am guilty of being the course player snob at work when I am evaluating pre-made courses that my company purchases in HR. Once I spot the player, I can usually tell which eLearning software was used to build the course. But every once in a while, they leave me stumped…and I love it!

Thinking outside the box about how to use features makes work fun. I’ve seen people use two features together in ways that I’ve never even thought about…and sometimes I’m a little embarrassed that I never thought about it!

As far as creating a player goes, I pretty much gave up in interest once we decided on a theme, logo, and style for my eLearning player at work–Marketing says we’ve got to be consistent for branding and multimedia style guidelines! I get it, and I agree.

But for today…here’s a little break from my norm.

*Updated: I was playing around trying very hard to lightbox language selection in the upper right tab, but then after much research and trying found that you cannot really put variables in a lightbox because the original slide you are on becomes paused. I am hoping for some more advanced features in Storyline 3! My Language Selection tab isn’t a 100% solution for dual languages, but it’s a start.




Download with updated language selection tab


eLearning Helper Challenge: Labeled Graphic Interactions

In this week’s challenge, the Articulate community was asked for labeled graphics that contain click-and-reveal interactions. Interactions like this help the learner to access information if and when they want it.

I find these kind of interactions great for:

  • Maps
  • Virtual tours
  • Blueprints
  • Factoids in a video

While the built-in markers are great for quick projects, I personally like to create my own labeled markers to give me a little more control over how content appears. One negative thing about creating my own markers is you can’t apply a constant “swirl” or “pulse” effect like the built-in markers…unless someone wants to write some tips in the Comments below! 🙂

I make a lot of labeled graphic interactions during work, but unfortunately our content is for internal training purposes. So for this challenge, I made a little dental x-ray just for fun. There are some CC-BY-SA on some of the images in this one. You can find more information in the Notes section.





eLearning Heroes Challenge: Parallax

I use Articulate on a daily basis to create interactive eLearning activities, but this eLearning Heroes Challenge was definitely a…challenge. This week, “Articulate Dave” asked the community to create a parallax using sliders in Articulate Storyline.

As Dave defined, a parallax is:

…a motion effect that’s used to simulate depth by animating background images slower than foreground images. 

Basically, it’s that fancy feature with your new iPhone that makes it seem like the background on the phone is moving when you tilt the phone around from side to side.

I plan to update later about what I did to create this effect. I’ve got to be honest; it took me forever (or so it felt like it), but I’m really excited about the end result.

And I always feel like I need to make the challenge relevant to some kind of subject matter. So…here ya go.











Demo Available 


Using iBooks to Create Interactive Learning Materials

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 12.52.30 PMMany educational establishments are creating their own textbooks online in an effort to bring learning into the 21st century. The iBooks authoring program is a great way to create educational materials that are interactive as well as informative.



Here is a small sample of the iBook I am currently working on that will help people become familiar with the features of Google Drive and three useful apps, Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

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Designing, Developing, and Implementing

The video above shows a brief look at the features and content provided in MISSION:RECON. Video produced by Lauren Franza.


For three years, I was the Lead Instructional Designer at ATLT Games. I met daily with a team of instructional design assistants, subject matter experts, and game developers to create an educational video game that helps entering college students prepare for their college math placement tests.

Visit the MISSION:RECON website for more information.

Designing, Developing, and Implementing

The video above (not produced by me) shows a brief look at the instructional process, features, and content provided in Pi & The Lost Function.


For three years, I was the Lead Instructional Designer at ATLT Games. I met daily with a team of instructional design assistants, subject matter experts, and game developers to create an educational video game that aligns with 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Common Core Standards of mathematics.

Through development, our video game and the instructional content was evaluated by superintendents, principals, math professors, video game developers, DoDEA employees, WHRO employees, Virginia Beach City Public Schools, story writers, math teachers in several school districts, math tutors, and students.

We also conducted a math camp in which 113 students played Pi & The Lost Function over a two-week period. The students took a pre-test, used Pi & The Lost Function, and then took a post-test. The study results indicated that participating in the math camp had an effect of improving students’ post-test math performance. The results of the study can be viewed here.

Using Adobe Acrobat to Create Activities


Link: Interactive Scavenger Hunt


When I was the Lead Instructional Designer at ATLT Games, I noticed that our SMEs were using Google Forms to create interactive scavenger hunts for students. After further identifying the needs of the students and teachers, I found that we did not actually need to be collecting any information from the students via form; the teachers were just looking for a fun activity that would introduce the students to using the game and learning game mechanics.

After collaborating with the SMEs to identify key features of our game, I created this interactive scavenger hunt for ATLT Games, which will allow students the freedom to “search” the game but will also provide them with hints and tips if they cannot find an answer.

*Requires latest version of Adobe Reader to view hints.

Designing, Developing, and Implementing


Link: Instructional Design Documents


When I was a graduate student in the Instructional Technology program at Virginia Tech, I completed a very rigorous course where I had to analyze, design, develop, implement, and then have my program evaluated by my peers.

I chose to create a set of 4 instructional modules that would help teachers learn how to use and create their own instructional materials using Kidspiration software.This document shows all analysis, objectives, storyboards, and design documents that I created for this course.