If you don’t mind venturing into the cuddly world of cartoons for your eLearning (which I don’t mind doing once in a while because it can make boring information fun), there are some awesome tools for creating character driven scenarios that you really should check out: GoAnimate and Xtranoral. Each are micro-transaction and subscription-based services primarily targeted at the socially networked Machinima crowd (budding film-makers who like creating their own spoofs, stories, and satires using game software or other easy to use tools) but would be equally useful for groups wanting to add a little something to their eLearning courses. In this post, I focus on GoAnimate but hopefully will cover XtraNormal at a later date.
GoAnimate is a flash-based web-application that allows you to build anything from very simple template driven cartoon dialogues to complex mini movies with animation, voice-overs, and special effects. Take a look at this simple harassment scenario I built in a couple of hours using the tool (no audio).
GoAnimate comes with hundreds of different characters, scenes and props allowing you to build anything from a sweeping period-piece epic to a sci-fi action adventure depending on your budget and the amount of effort you want to put into it. If you don’t like the stock characters and scenes provided, GoAnimate let’s you customize to your heart’s content by giving you an interface where you can swap facial features, clothes, props and even import your own backgrounds and other items. If you have ever played an RPG video game where you can customize your character, you get the idea. If you haven’t, building these characters can sometimes be the most fun part of the creation process. Ok admit it. We all want to see ourselves in an episode of The Simpsons.
Once you have your characters built, you can start constructing your cartoon animation. Goanimate provides two mechanisms for this. One is a simple template-based process that allows you to make simple choices and create a fairly basic dialogue between two characters. This can be perfect if you want to quickly create a scenario where two people are discussing something. The other is a more complex tool that provides a timeline interface where you can create some very complex and impressive scenarios with many actions, characters and scenes.
In terms of eLearning, there are hundreds of applications. Maybe you want to do some soft-skills training to show how to resolve conflicts or demonstrate some of your cutting edge sales principles in action or management training (come on! don’t tell me managers don’t like cartoons too!) GoAnimate can help you depending on your level of creativity and imagination. Now I do suggest that you assign the job to someone who possesses at least some of these two last qualities not to mention, an ability to write and a sense of humour. Basically what you are creating here is a short film so make sure you think it through before you attempt one of these cartoon based scenarios.
You can incorporate dialogue into your movies in 3 ways. The first is by means of your standard voice bubbles. This is a classic cartoon convention that almost everyone understands. The second, is a simple text-to-speech feature where all you have to do is type in some text and the characters will dutifully say their lines, albeit in an awkward robotic voice. The third is a voice-over option where you can import your own audio clip and the characters will lip-sync their lines. Perfect for when you have some pretty good voice talent on hand. Personally I don’t think I would use the text-to-speech option because the awkwardness distracts from the presentation. It’s either professional voice over or voice bubbles for me.
Goanimate is a powerful tool for creating compelling cartoon scenarios. It has a breadth of options but you need to be aware that costs for creating this can add up as you have to purchase GOBUCKS in order to select different options, characters and props. Also, if you want to download an MP4 version of your movie to include in your projects you will need to find out more about the commercial licences they offer.
All in all, though, a great way to add some fun when building your eLearning scenarios.