Entrepreneur and eLearning expert James Kingsley has joined our ranks as Senior Technology Architect, and we are very excited to have him. James has over 15 years of experience in the eLearning industry and brings a unique perspective to our ranks. We were able to pick his brain yesterday, and here’s what he had to say about his experiences in eLearning.
Zach Batty: Tell me about how you got started in the eLearning world.
James Kingsley: I always liked programming. I like solving puzzles. My last three years in the Navy, I was a classroom instructor and I really liked it. So when I got out, I wanted a job that combined the two. I got a job teaching Windows to Unix users. The company had 90 locations around the country. I had to fly to each and set up a Windows network with 20 laptops. Then teach the class. I convinced my boss that it would be cheaper to develop Computer Based Training (CBT).
ZB: Wow. Thanks for your service in the Navy.
JK: No problem. I learned a lot there.
ZB: At that time, were CBTs a new idea? Was it hard to convince your boss?
JK: It was ’91-ish. There were CBTs mostly in government and big corporations. She [My boss] was a numbers person, so I showed her the ROI. We even made videos that showed people how to set up the PC and put in the CD-ROM.
ZB: That’s awesome. What were you using to develop the courses back then?
ZB: I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of change in the industry since ’91. Can you put your finger on any major catalyst? Anything that gave eLearning a major shot in the arm?
JK: Rapid development tools. Back then, only folks that could afford a Flash programmer could make eLearning, so it kinda plateaued. But then tools like Adobe Presenter opened it up to a lot more people.
ZB: It seems plug-in tools like that make it much easier for people to dip their toe into eLearning.
ZB: What direction would you give somebody who was debating whether to get a plug-in or a stand-alone tool?
JK: Stand-alone. Plug-ins are nice at first, but in the long run, they are limited.
ZB: Is there is solid cutoff in your mind? For instance, “If you want to do xyz, then a plug-in will be fine, but if you want to do more, you need to dive in all the way.”
JK: If you want your non-eLearning developers to help you create the content then a plug-in is a good start. Like if SMEs need to develop, they can do it in PPT and you can convert it. But really now that I think about it, you can import PPT into most tools, anyway. One real advantage to plug-ins is that you can move the content.
ZB: I see. What do you do most of your developing in these days?
ZB: Tell me about coming to eLearning Brothers. What made you want to join the family?
JK: I met Andrew about 5 years ago. He really impressed me, and we had some good talks over the years. Lately, I have been helping with more and more eLB projects. And (as a small eLearning business owner) I had a lot of respect for the quality of products eLB produced. I saw an opportunity to help create some awesome next generation solutions, beyond just rapid development stuff: truly interactive stuff that engages users, and offers developers methods to capture more analytics. I really enjoyed the Google project I worked on.
ZB: So what are you doing for eLB now?
JK: A combination of things…
Development: Full stack server solution to capture/display learner responses (that’s the eBay/PayPal project). That is in Node.JS, AngularJS, Mongo, and some Flash development. I spend a lot of time answering questions from course developers and from the sales team. For the Mercedes project, I read through all their API documentation to see how we can dovetail our courses into their systems. Now, I am consulting with the course developers to show them where our opportunities are for it. I also help make sure eLB is using the latest tech for ourselves. I recently set up a server to run the Adapt Learning authoring tool. We are having a contest to see who can develop the best sample course in it. Facebook uses it and we want to impress them 🙂
ZB: You’re a busy man.
JK: Yeah 🙂 I enjoy it. While chatting with you I have been helping a developer play and stop sounds in Flash, and I am replacing text boxes with scrolling text boxes in a Flash project myself.
(Editor’s note: This interview was just an easy-going Skype conversation.)
ZB: That’s great. Tell me about eLearning Enhanced. What’s the story there?
JK: I had started hacking apart Articulate Presenter because it wasn’t powerful enough for us. I was posting stuff on my own site (FrameEntered.com–pretty out of date now) and I was posting on the forums. Folks started offering to pay me to help them do the same, so I started a business with my friend Jeff Layton. Around that time Articulate named me an MVP, so we started to get more business and we setup eLearning Enhanced (EE). Our company is BuiltClean.com. We have a few other things there and we do custom web/mobile development, and of course there is ReviewMyElearning.com.
ZB: Yes, I’ve heard a lot about that. Tell me more about ReviewMyElearning.com.
JK: As EE grew more popular, folks asked if we could create their courses too. We ran into the same problems that most eLearning developers have: How do you collect feedback from your SME’s team, clients, etc.? Most of the time, it’s emails or spreadsheets. Not very practical. From our experiences in web development, we had seen great tools for “bug tracking,” so we decided to build something for eLearning. It works much like an LMS: upload your course and send invites, and then it adds a form to the course where reviewers can enter their comments and discuss other reviewers’ comments. Then the developers can see them all on a nice table. We have an example course with a tour you should check out.
ZB: That seems like it would be a really valuable tool.
JK: It works for all the major development tools: Adobe, Lectora, Articlate, iSpring… We can do custom stuff too but we have to set it up.
ZB: Wow. You’ve really built that out. One last question, then I’ll let you get back to work. Your LinkedIn picture…some say it’s a James Kingsley self-portrait , some say its Ronald Reagan. Would you like to put the rumors to rest?
JK: Ha! Back when those types of profile pics were popular, I paid someone on Fivrr to make it. I should really update that! I don’t look a lot like Reagan, more like Clooney 🙂
ZB: I love it. Thanks very much for taking the time to do this. Have a great day.
JK: You too!
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