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Archive for May, 2007

Online Quizmaker Tips

As many of you already know, we offer two core products: Test Pro Developer (our desktop quizmaker / elearning product) and Weblearning (our online quizmaker / elearning product).

In general (and this is a very wide/general statement), our users of our desktop application *appear* to have more technical knowledge than users of our online product. A further evaluation reveals that our online users are typically trainers, educators, and other non-tech people (where we have many tech-minded people using our desktop app – presumably because it offers a programmable interface and scripting language).

Therefore, I thought the following tips for our online quizmaker product may be helpful.

1. Plan your notification strategy
The Atrixware Weblearning System gives you multiple ways to notify your students that a course is available. Decide ahead of time which way you are going to use, and stick with it – this will make managing the communication easier in the longrun.

2. Start out small – one course at a time
Frequently, I see new customers trying to create all of their content fast and at once. Unless you have a good reason (and definite need) to do this, I suggest you create a single course, and get students using it while you are creating your others. This will enable your students to provide feedback, and you will be able to use that feedback to make better courses and online quizzes and materials.

3. Use basic question styles if you can
With all the cool question styles, you may feel compelled to use each type at least once. However, I suggest starting with the basic styles (like multiple choice and fill-in). This will help you get your first online quiz and course ready for your students, and help you familiarize yourself with the system naturally along the way.

4. Be the student
After you have your first online quiz and course set up, be the student. Use the communication system you defined in #1 to tell yourself about the online quiz or course, log on (or enroll), and take the quiz. This will show you exactly what your students will see, alerting you to any changes that may need to be made before going live.

5. Think “easy to use”
I know – you want to put all these cool graphics, fancy fonts, and such in your course layout and online quiz questions. Resist this if you can – keep it simple, and therefore easy to use, and you will have less issues with your student not understanding how to use your course.

6. Define policies for names/passwords
If you are using the proctored enrollment feature (or the student self-enrollment feature), it is a good idea to set up a policy for names and passwords. If you do not, more students (and proctors) will wind up creating login names (and passwords) they can not remember. Want to keep it simple? Suggest that the login name is always all lowercase with no spaces, and that the password is the users email address, phone#, student ID, SS#, or some other unique identifier to that student that they can easily remember.

That’s it for now – hope this helps a bit.

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Looking For Hidden Keywords for your SEO?

If you have spent any time doing SEO research, you will certainly find quite a lot of information (and mis-information) on the Internet. It is extremely difficult to sift through the avalanche of sites proclaiming to be the best SEO company.

I have spent quite a bit of time across the past year or so, and recently, have been trying various tools and online products for evaluation.

The most interesting one I have come across to date is an online system called hittail: (http://www.hittail.com)

In a nutshell, this system tracks keywords used to get people to your site, and ultimately begins ‘suggesting’ phrases you can use for your SEO optimization. I have just started using it, so I do not have anything good or bad to say about it, however, it *seems* like it may provide some useful information that isn’t otherwise obvious.

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Build Traffic with Affiliates

I know you don’t want to give some of your profits away, but it *may* be worth it if you can increase your sales.

We (Atrixware) recently partnered with an affiliate management company to do just that.

If you are interested in becoming an Atrixware affiliate, go here.

If you are interested in starting your own affiliate partnership, be prepared to spend some up-front money (prices are all over the map depending on the affiliate program you choose, but minimally about $500), and spend some some tweaking your offering.

Once we have spent some time and effort building our affiliate program, I will be sure and post back here with the results. To be honest, we have minimal expectations, but we do expect some results.

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Promoting your ELearning Software

Many of you (especially those of you I personally work with) are building an e-learning business using our software and services as part of the solution.

Of course, once you build your product, you have to let people know about it, and that’s where marketing comes in. I am no marketing genius mind you (which is why we hire professionals to do that job), but I am always ‘tinkering’ around with is (as I find it quite fascinating), and consequently, I have found this article very interesting reading – I think it may give you some ideas to get started:

http://successfulsoftware.net/2007/05/07/promoting-your-software-part-1/

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Use an Email Address @yourcompany.com NOT @aol.com

I notice quite a few customers I work with, that already have their own websites, do not have an email address there, but instead, continue to use thier @aol or @msn (or whatever else) email address.

No No No!

You need to set up an email address at your company web site immediately, and start using it immediately. It’s there – you can do it, you already have the web site — you can set up an email address (probably 10 or 50 or 100 or more) for no extra charge.

For example, if your website name is www.somegreatcompany.com, you want to have an email address like you@somegreatcompany.com, and even something like sales@somegreatcompany.com and support@somegreatcompany.com. These can all be configured to forward to your main you@somegreatcompany.com if you want, or, can be separate email boxes.

But let me not get out of hand here. The most important thing you can do right now is have an email address at your website instead of using your @aol address, which has ‘i am not serious’ written all over it.

Imagine if you placed an order with Walmart or BestBuy, and you received an email for your order confirmation from bobsmith@aol.com — would definately reduce the credibility, right? Difference is, everyone knows who Walmart and BestBuy, but they don’t know you. You need to portray credibility, and an @aol address does not.

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Optimizing Powerpoint Presentations

As much as we (Atrixware) would like you to only use our e-learning software exclusively, there is no denying that PowerPoint is extremely popular (hey – even we use it).

I come across a lot of projects that require integration of PowerPoint shows into either e-learning packages created with Test Pro Developer, or integration into Online e-learning courses.

It is especially important for online delivery to keep the size of the PowerPoint shows small (in filesize, not length). However, I notice some common things people put into their shows that add to the file size significantly.

If you are looking to trim off filesize from your PowerPoint shows, here are some tips to help you:

1. design for a smaller window size/delivery. For example, sometimes, a 600 x 400 delivery is adequate and will save quite a bit of file size from an 800 x 600 delivery.

2. Do you have lots of movement? Things sliding in and out? Fades? Mouse movements. Try to remove them unless they are absolutely essential to the subject (especially if you are converting your show into another format like Flash or AVI).

3. Do you have PowerPoint 2003? If so, Apply Service Pack 1 Immediately

4. Get rid of the Fast Saves option (Tools > Options > Save Tab)

5. After Step #2, perform a SAVE AS action and give your show a new name

6. Once you know you don’t need to edit the presentation any further, ungroup then immediately regroup any embedded graphics, spreadsheets, charts, etc, which converts them to PowerPoint objects & discards all data behind the object — it’s best to do this on a COPY of your original in case you have to edit it again later.

7. HOT TIP: If you’re creating a presentation that’ll be viewed as a screen show, your images should be sized to match the resolution of the computer where you’ll play the show. In other words, if you’ll play the show on a laptop running at 800×600, your full-screen images should be 800×600 pixels. Anything bigger than that will make your files needlessly large, will slow down the screenshow, and won’t add a thing to image quality.

8. If you Save As to any format that includes PowerPoint 95 or 4 in the name, your file sizes will get very large if they include images (so, DON’T do it).

9. When you embed a font in your presentation, the presentation may grow by as much as the size of the font file. Before you decide to embed, check the size of the font file. Double-byte and Unicode fonts can be enormous, 10 megabytes or more!

Resources:

1. Free PowerPoint Viewers (where to download them)

2. Cool Tool: I found this -> Bill Dilworth’s Size Me add-in. At the time of this writing, it’s in Beta, but apparently, it will give you a report on what’s making your shows so large (so you can perhaps fix them) on a slide-by-slide basis.

3. We use Camtasia to convert our PowerPoint shows into flash videos. There are others like it, but Camtasia is reasonably priced, and easy to use for the non-techies. Highly recommended -

4. Did you know? You can wrap PowerPoint shows and Flash Videos into e-Learning modules that can be wrapped into e-Learning packages with Test Pro Developer? It’s actually really easy. From the New Test wizard, choose the Presentations tab for the options.

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Interesting Blog on Marketing Tips for Small Biz

I came across this in my travels, and thought I would pass it on – looks like Scott has some nice (and useful) tips for marketing your small business, and while all of these tips are not focused on building an e-learning business, they are still extremely valid and helpful:

Here is the link: http://www.synapsoftware.com/blogit/

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Tips for Website Creation

Does this sound like you?

  1. You want us (or someone else) to create a web site for your company.
  2. You have some practice quizzes (or online quizzes) you want to sell.
  3. You want the web site to do all the work and make you money while you sleep.

Not a problem – we do this all the time. That is what we do – help people get set up with their own online e-learning business. But when you are starting up, you will need to be realistic about how much time, and money it will take to get started.

In the years (and years) I have been doing this, the most common misconception I have found is that people starting up their online e-learning businesses do not know how much it takes to get the web site set up (money and time).

Be prepared to spend a lot of time, or a lot of money.

I don’t say this to scare you off, but to make you understand that you will be spending either a lot of your time, or a lot of your money to do it right. Have lots of money? Great – we can do it all for you. Have lots of time? Great – save the money and do as much as you possibly can on your own, and just broker off to us the pieces you cannot do by yourself.

Tips for those without a lot of money (most of us)

The reality is, most of us don’t have a lot of time or money. However, most people are able to squeeze some time more easily than money, so here are some tips you can use to shave off some expense in exchange for your time:

  1. Draw a diagram/flow chart of your navigation so you understand where users will be able to get from each page.
  2. Create your top-level menu (like home, products, support, store, about us, etc etc) ahead of time
  3. Create the bulk of the content to go on each page (this saves lots of billable time)
  4. Minimize the # pages to what is absolutely necessary to start (you can always add more later)
  5. Keep your purchasing system simple. You DO NOT need a shopping cart if you are only selling a few items. Simple “buy now” links for each product are easier and quicker (and cheaper) to implement
  6. Forgo the automated enrollment/automated keycode creation for your first go. Automating these things means paying us to write code, which takes our time (and your money) – this can be saved for when you are generating revenue from your site

By following the above steps, you could easily cut the development costs to less than 1/2 of what they would be if you had us do it all, and, you will learn a lot about the process along the way.

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ECommerce Thought Process

A common project I do here at Atrixware is integrating ECommerce into web sites, primarily to automate an enrollment of a student into an online couse (via the Weblearning system), or to automate the creation of an activation key (for a Test Pro Developer ELearning Package protected with Activation Technology).

This kind of integration is much different from a standard e-commerce site, because in addition to actually accepting the money, we want the web server to actually do something in order that we can avoid doing it manually.

For example, let’s say you are selling a book. It looks something like this:

Customer : Buy Item -> Enter CC Info -> Submit -> Wait for Shipment
You: Receive Email of what they ordered -> Pack Book -> Ship it

Here is the same thing for an online course (without the automated enrollment):

Customer : Buy Course-> Enter CC Info -> Submit -> Wait for Login Info
You: Receive Email of what they ordered -> Enroll Them -> Email them login instructions

Problem is, your customer probably wants to log in right after they purchase, and, you don’t want to be bothered with having to manually enroll students and email them instructions (especially for high volumes of enrollments).

So, here is the process for the automated ecommerce:

Customer : Buy Course -> Enter CC Info -> Submit -> See Login Info On Screen -> Also get email with info
You: Nothing
Server -> Enroll Student into course -> Generate response page with login info -> Generate Email with login info -> Email YOU

Looks good, right? Ready to make money while you sleep? Well, there is a lot of ‘up-front’ work to do, and some money to spend as well to get this done.

Essentially, you are defining a business process for every product, and automating it (and we are implementing your process). Here are some things to think about:

1. What do you want the response page to say if their credit card was declined?
2. What do you want the response page to say when they are approved (login link to the course? name and password? link to your site?) What colors, fonts, and layout? Logo?
3. What do you want the email to say that gets sent to them with their course login info? How about the email subject?
4. Do you want a copy of the email?
5. Do you want to allow people to enroll into multiple courses in one purchase? If so, are the above emails and page responses condensed, or, do they get an email for each one?

There is a lot to think about, but once it is complete, it really works nice. I do these kinds of implementations all the time.

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I can’t spell (or can’t type)

You would figure with all the coding I do, my typing skills would be top notch, but not so. You see, when you code, the code editor is loaded with all kinds of features that helps you complete your words (commands and syntax). Yes, this blog software has a spell-checker, but it doesn’t work great (or my misspellings are outsmarting it).

So, I will make a pledge here to *try* to spell everything correctly, but please don’t beat me up when I misspell one (or ten) words in my posts.

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Hello World

I thought those of you in programming (or who have taken a programming class) might find the title of this post funny (hence the broad belief that nerdy coders like me have no sense of humor).

In the ‘coding/programming’ world, typically a ‘hello world’ program is the first one you write when learning a new programming language, and as the lead developer here at Atrixware, I thought it would be somewhat of a fit.

So what am I going to be writing about? Well, not sure exactly, but I know it will include lots of tips and tricks regarding how to use our ‘stuff’ (can I call it that?), along with integrating other products with ours (or ours with others). I work on a lot of projects, and have come to understand much about how our products are being used in the real world, and hopefully, my experience can be put into words to help you make the most of it.

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