Thursday, August 21, 2014

Interview with Chris Charuhas, In Pictures: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Computer tutorials are often difficult to follow if they do not have effective graphics.  To correct that gap, In Pictures provides graphics-based instruction for all kinds of learners. These illustration-based computer tutorials that are free for any student or teacher to use, and available at were developed through a research study funded by the U.S. Dept. of Education. There are new tutorials, on Office 365 and Google Drive applications. Considering the rapid adoption of Google Apps in schools, this might be of interest.

Welcome to an interview with Chris Charuhas, founder of In Pictures. 

1.  What is your name and your relation to elearning?

Chris Charuhas. I've been involved in elearning since 2000, when I started a company that provided textbooks in electronic format. That was Visibooks, an early provider of textbooks as bound books, and as PDFs. With In Pictures, we've decided to move the learning materials online. 

With the widespread adoption of larger monitors, online tutorials have become a more attractive proposition. You pull the tutorial off to one side, which leaves room for you to view the program you’re learning. Viewing both simultaneously makes it easier to take a tutorial. 

Chris Charuhas, In Pictures

2. What is your philosophy with respect to elearning? What approach do you see as being most effective?

I conducted a U.S. Dept. of Education-funded research study on what sort of learning materials are most effective: 

The study showed me that simpler is better when it comes to elearning tutorials: fewer words, more pictures, and proceeding step-by-step. It's also why our tutorials employ screenshots instead of video. Screenshots that show how to do things step-by-step are simpler and easier to work along with. 

3.  What do you believe is the best way to present technical training?

Online. In a simple, self-paced tutorial, based on real-world tasks. Each task should build upon what was learned previously. 

When people can feel themselves progressing through a tutorial, performing more complex tasks as they go, it gives them a feeling of confidence and accomplishment. That's very important in learning new things, as all teachers know! 

4.  What are some of the challenges? 

Creating the hundreds of screenshots required by each tutorial. Each screenshot must be taken, processed for size and color, and have the blue "look at this" oval placed on it. This is a time-consuming process. 

Then hundreds of pages must be linked together to comprise a full tutorial. Web coding is tricky--one small mistake can derail an entire tutorial, so each tutorial must be carefully checked and edited. 

5.  Please discuss the training that you've developed.

It's based on the idea that Show is better than Tell in learning technical subjects. What people can see, they find it easier to do. And learn. 

We've gotten kudos from people all over the world, praising this approach. It lends itself well to learners who might not speak English very well. For example, in India, where most people speak Hindi as their first language, over 2000 people have used our tutorials this month. 

6.  What do you have planned in the future? 

Supplemental tutorials for Office 365 applications that are more in-depth, such as creating complex queries in Access, using Excel like a database, and employing multimedia in PowerPoint presentations. 

Also, we plan to create complete tutorials on Google Forms and Sites. Creating an interactive, data-gathering Web site should be as easy to accomplish as creating a Word document. We aim to help make that happen. 

Thank you!

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