Remembering September 11th

by Brad - Sep 11, 2014


For many people, the mere mention of a specific date can often bring a tide of memories and emotions rising to the surface. For those living in the United States of America, September 11th is one of those dates. Today marks the thirteenth year since all America watched in horror as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed, killing nearly 3000 people and plunging the world into the “War on Terror.”

Though I was nowhere near ground zero, I have written several times over the years about my experiences in the aftermath of the attacks. I was living in California at the time, 2500 miles away from New York City, but the aftershocks of the attacks could be felt in the local community for months afterwards. For those Americans of Middle Eastern descent the fallout lasted much longer, and many American troops continue to suffer the effects of the attacks.

United States President George W. Bush proclaimed September 11, 2002, as Patriot Day. Each year since 2009, President Barack Obama has proclaimed the day Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance. In honor of all those killed in the attacks, and in the many battles which have been fought since, we fly our flags at half-mast. Take a moment out of your busy day today to remember those killed on September 11th or visit with a Veteran and thank them for their service.

Two beams of light represent the former Twin Towers of the World Trade Center during the 2004 memorial of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Two beams of light represent the former Twin Towers of the World Trade Center during the 2004 memorial of the September 11, 2001 attacks.



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Exam Prep with Tom Carpenter

by Brad - Aug 01, 2014


Exams can be a stressful experience, but that doesn’t mean you have to go in unprepared. LearnKey and Tom Carpenter, president of SysEdCo and frequent LearnKey author, have teamed up to create a short course to help test takers understand two things:

  1. How to pick the most important parts of an exam, and
  2. How to learn the material and retain information.

Exam Prep with Tom Carpenter

Exam Prep with Tom Carpenter, created on the LearnCast platform, is broken into eight sections covering three main topics: preparation techniques, tips for retaining information, and best practices for taking exams. In this course, you will learn how to best prepare and take a technical exam leading to success.

Whether you are taking an exam for a class or preparing for industry certification, this course can provide you with tricks for retaining important information and give you valuable insights into the different ways people learn. Topics include Overcoming Limits, Strategic Preparation, and Dealing with Stress.

Exam Prep with Tom Carpenter can be purchased through the new LearnKey app, now available in the iTunes app store.



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FLVs and Creative Cloud 2014

by Brad - Jun 25, 2014


Last week, Adobe released an update to their Creative Cloud software. A major change from previous versions of Adobe’s software is now they have removed the ability to encode video into the FLV and F4V formats.

Yes, you read that right. After Effects CC 2014, Premiere Pro CC 2014, and Media Encoder CC 2014 can no longer export video to the FLV or F4V formats.

Interestingly enough, Flash CC 2014 can still import FLV video. Those who use embedded video in Flash can still import video as usual, but Adobe no longer provides the tools to create those videos.

Flash Import Dialog

Luckily, there are many other tools out there to do the job. A quick Google search will bring up a myriad of websites and free tools for converting video to FLV.

Another option is to keep older versions of Media Encoder and After Effects installed alongside your CC 2014 versions. If you’re like me and have already uninstalled your earlier versions of the Adobe software, there is still hope. From the Creative Cloud panel, you can install CC 2014, CC, and CS6 versions of the software, so simply reinstall an older version of the program you need.

Under the Apps tab, scroll down to the Find New Apps section and change ‘All Apps’ to ‘Previous Version.’

All Apps Dropdown

Click the Install button next to the desired software and you will see a dropdown giving you the option to install CS6, CC, or CC 2014. Select the option you want, and once the software is installed you should be back in business.

Available Versions



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Lee Wiley to Author Illustrator CC

by Brad - Jun 19, 2014


Lee Wiley

Yesterday, LearnKey temporarily welcomed back an old friend, the talented Lee Wiley. Lee is a former LearnKey employee and a rising star in the world of graphic novels. He is also the author of our upcoming Adobe Illustrator CC course, which began filming last night and is scheduled for release in August.

I first met Lee in 2009, when I was the Design Team Lead for LearnKey. He was looking for a job in his chosen field, and I was short a designer. The Fates aligned and Lee became the newest member of my team.

Over the next year, I worked closely with Lee on many LearnKey projects and he quickly became one of the most trusted members of my team. I transferred to LearnKey’s Salt Lake office in 2010, and a few months later Lee became the Lead Designer.

Apparently I had been holding the design team back. The next couple of years saw a revolution in the style of our courses, beginning with the Adobe Creative Suite 5 courses. Lee has never been afraid to take risks and challenge established methods, and the visual content of our courses reflected that. Although I will not be working directly with Lee on the Illustrator CC course, it’s good to know he is at the helm.

Lee has always been active in cutting-edge projects, the most notable of which is a five-part graphic novel series, Expiration Date. Written by scriptwriter Robert Zappia, Expiration Date is the futuristic tale of world overpopulation and a suspected conspiracy involving one government’s unique solution. Issues #1 and #2 were released in 2012 and 2013, and Issue #3 is set to debut this fall at Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo in Los Angeles.

projectexpdate



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My Path to Certification: eLearning Advice

by Brad - Jun 03, 2014


This article is the third in a three-part series written by LearnKey’s Online Content and Social Media Manager about achieving industry certification.
Read Part 1 and Part 2

My experience with LearnKey courses and industry certification has taught me a few things about elearning. My advice for those using online training to achieve industry certification:

9 Tips for Industry Certification Infographic

  • Take notes as you watch the LearnKey training, especially on concepts that are unfamiliar to you. Even if you don’t use them to study, sometimes just the act of writing something down helps to cement it in your head.
  • Take full advantage of the pre-tests. Pre-test questions give you an immediate ‘Correct’ or ‘Incorrect’ so you can keep trying until you get the right answer. Unless you are in a learning environment that requires you to keep track of your pre-test score, you can answer the same question several times before moving on to the next question. Alternatively, you can use the study guide from the incorrect pre-test questions to know which areas in the training you should pay more attention to.
  • Take full advantage of the labs. Not only do the labs give you experience following a specific set of instructions within a simulation of the software, they are also included in the post-test. You can run through the labs as many times as you need to, so knowing how to complete the labs will boost your post-test score.
  • Take full advantage of the study guides. When you miss a question on the pre- or post-test, that question is added to your study guide for that test. Go back through the video training and watch the sections that cover the incorrect questions.
  • Take full advantage of the project workbook. Along with containing valuable reference information, project workbooks are designed to give students experience within the actual software rather that in a simulated environment. Project difficulties range from Beginner to Advanced, so even experienced users can find something of benefit in the workbooks.
  • Take full advantage of the MasterExam. Think of the MasterExam as the post-test for the entire course. LearnKey recommends that you pass the MasterExam three times before you attempt to take the certification exam. This may seem like overkill for more experienced users, but those with less experience will find it helpful.
  • Explore the software. Open up the menus, learn the features, and just take some time to figure things out on your own. When you want a little more structure, use the study guides and the notes you took during the training to help you learn the software inside and out.
  • Don’t wait too long between completion of the training course and taking your certification exam. Unless you have a lot of previous experience or a photographic memory, you will forget things between finishing the course and taking the exam. The less time that passes, the less information you will forget.
  • And, most important, remember that certification isn’t everything. Industry certification looks good on a resume and may help you get ahead in the job market, but the ultimate goal is to know how to use the software proficiently. If you can pass the certification test but you can’t really use the software, you won’t last very long at that job you were offered because of your certifications.

Whether you choose to follow my advice or not, good luck on your path to industry certification!



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My Path to Certification: Using LearnKey’s Resources

by Brad - May 28, 2014


This article is the second in a three-part series written by LearnKey’s Online Content and Social Media Manager about achieving industry certification. Check back in a couple of weeks for Part 3.
Read Part 1

LearnKey’s training does an excellent job of covering the Photoshop exam objectives, but the exam requires that the test taker actually know how to do a task rather than simply answering multiple-choice questions about the software. While not impossible, if you have taken LearnKey’s training but never opened the software, the exam will certainly be more difficult.

In recent years, LearnKey has recognized the value of actual experience versus straight instruction. Our course workbooks have been beefed up to include comprehensive projects that allow students to apply the processes and skills they just learned from the instructor. These new project workbooks require students to actually use the software and spend some time getting to know their way around it.

LearnKey also requires our subject matter experts to not only be known in their field, but to have taken and passed the most recent version of the exam for the course they are teaching. This ensures that instructors not only study the current exam objectives, but that they have real experience with the current version of the exam. These factors combine to help students be as prepared as possible when exam time comes.

After passing the Photoshop ACA exam I intended to continue with my certifications, but life got in the way. Things get hectic when you are working full time, married to a full-time student with a part-time job, raising a family, attempting to keep up on house and yard maintenance, managing several independent blogs and websites, writing a book, and trying to squeeze in a little freelance or personal design work. Who has time and energy for extra training when the last thing you want to do at night is turn the computer back on?

Then earlier this year, LearnKey’s CEO challenged every employee to get at least one certification in 2014. Since the bulk of my job entails managing LearnKey’s website and blog, I committed to becoming certified in Dreamweaver CS6. I was able take advantage of the self-paced nature of LearnKey’s courses and watch a half hour or so of training on Saturdays in between housework and yard maintenance. This meant that my path to Dreamweaver certification was a little slower than my path to Photoshop certification, but I was still able to exceed my goal of becoming certified by June 30.



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My Path to Certification: Becoming ACA Certified

by Brad - May 21, 2014


This article is the first in a three-part series written by LearnKey’s Online Content and Social Media Manager about achieving industry certification. Check back in a couple of weeks for Part 2.

My Dreamweaver ACA Certification

Earlier this month, I earned the Adobe Certified Associate Web Communication using Adobe Dreamweaver® CS6 certification. I have used Dreamweaver for years, but I had never really considered trying to get certified. In the eight years I have worked for LearnKey I have toyed with the idea, but it wasn’t until last summer that I seriously considered taking the exam.

Last summer, LearnKey began a push toward releasing courses in a widescreen format instead of the standard 4:3 ratio we have always used. At the time, we had just finished filming about half of our Adobe Creative Suite 6 courses in 4:3 and the decision was made that these courses would need recaptured into the new widescreen format.

I was already in the process of converting our most recent courses into a mobile-friendly format, so the task of widescreen recapturing was rolled into my production processes. In the hours I spent listening to audio, following each expert’s mouse movements, and editing the recaptured footage together, the idea occurred to me that now would be the perfect time to finally get ACA certified.

In the eight years I have worked for LearnKey, the program I have used more than any other is Adobe Photoshop. While there have been changes from version to version the basic program has stayed the same, so I began my quest for certification with the ACA Visual Communication using Adobe Photoshop CS6 exam. Since I had just finished recapturing and editing the Photoshop CS6 course, I didn’t feel the need to watch the video training for a fourth time. After passing LearnKey’s Photoshop pre-tests, post-tests, and MasterExam, I felt fully confident in taking the ACA exam.

The Adobe Certified Associate is an entry-level certification. After using Photoshop for so many years I just know how to do certain things and I was able to answer many of the exam questions without even thinking about them. I learned two things from taking the exam:

  1. Anyone who has used Photoshop for as long as I have should have no problem passing the ACA exam, and
  2. Video instruction alone cannot substitute for actual time spent using the software.


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LearnKey and the Heartbleed Bug

by Brad - Apr 11, 2014


If you have paid attention to news in the IT world over the last week, you may heard of the Heartbleed bug. The Heartbleed bug exploits a vulnerability in certain versions of OpenSSL. It allows attackers to gain access to usernames, passwords, and other sensitive information, even though a site’s address bar displays the letters “https” or a padlock icon. Heartbleed is a serious vulnerability, and millions of users worldwide could be affected. If you have purchased courseware through LearnKey’s website, you may be concerned that your information has been compromised.

This is not the case. Learnkey uses a tool called FoxyCart to process transactions on our web site. FoxyCart has thoroughly checked their systems and have assured us they are not affected by this bug.

Though our systems are unaffected, you may still be vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug. Several large companies have been affected, including several popular social media sites and search engines. If you even suspect your information has been compromised, you should think about changing your passwords. ConnectSafely.org has a list of tips for strong, secure passwords. Some of these tips include:

  • Don’t use just one password
  • Create passwords that are easy for you to remember, but hard for others to guess
  • Make your password at least 8 characters long
  • Include numbers, capital letters, and symbols
  • Don’t use dictionary words
  • Don’t post your password in plain site

For more information on affected sites, check out CNET’s list of the top 100 sites across the Web.



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Understanding Image Usage Rights

by Brad - Apr 04, 2014


Disclaimer: The contents of this article are meant as a guide only, and should not be construed as expert legal advice on copyright law. Any specific questions about copyright and intellectual property rights should be referred to a lawyer with expertise in United States copyright law. Copyright laws differ slightly from country to country, so a lawyer familiar with International copyright laws may also be required.

Product or service names mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners. Their inclusion in this article should not be construed as an endorsement by LearnKey or its affiliates.

Imagine you are working on a project for a major client. You’ve spent days getting the design just right and now you’re looking for that perfect image to make the project complete. You search through your image library, but nothing feels right. You try image after image, but they all fail to meet your expectations.

We’ve all been there. Like most designers, you probably turn to the Internet. A quick Internet search yields the perfect image for your project. You visit the website, download the image, and turn your finished project over to the client. The client is happy, your boss is happy, and life couldn’t be better, right?

Wrong. You forgot something.

That image you downloaded and used in your project belongs to someone else. You had no legal right to use that image and now you, your company, and your client find yourselves in court for violating someone’s intellectual property rights.

But the image was on the Internet, so it’s free for anyone to use, right?

Wrong again. Unless the image is in the public domain, any image posted to the Internet is automatically protected by United States copyright law, with or without a copyright notice. Even sharing that image on your Facebook page without permission is a violation of the author’s legal rights. While some claims of copyright violation are more difficult to enforce than others, any legal trouble can mean bad news for a designer. Your company may survive a lawsuit, but your job and reputation likely will not.

So how do you avoid this type of situation?

The first thing you can do is avoid using images found in an Internet search. While some of these images are either public domain or specially licensed for commercial work, most are not. A better approach is to subscribe to a stock photo service such as iStock or Shutterstock. Services such as these allow almost unrestricted use of their photos for either a monthly fee or a per-photo fee.

If money is an issue, there are many sites which offer free photos, but the image quality and resolution is usually not the same as those found through a subscription service. Sites like morgueFile and Wikimedia Commons offer free access to thousands of photos, many of which are restriction-free or require only that you provide attribution to the photographer. Also, with the exception of government trademarks and logos, images created by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person’s official duties are not subject to copyright.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to pay attention to an image’s license. Many artists have licensed their work with a Creative Commons license, allowing others to use their photos with specific restrictions. If you can’t find an image’s license, you should probably assume it is not available for use.



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The Power of Certification

by Brad - Mar 13, 2014


Sometimes it’s good to take a morning away . . . away from the office, away from the desk, away from the computer.

Tuesday morning, I did just that. I took a morning away from LearnKey to speak to the Web Design class at Parowan High School in Parowan, Utah.

My wife is a student teacher at Parowan High School, and when her mentor teacher learned that I work as a Web Designer she asked if I would be willing to come talk to the class. She wanted someone in the local community to give her students a “real world” perspective on the concepts they are studying in class.

Presenting to the students at Parowan High School

The world tells us that we can become anything we want to be. Therefore, the world tells us that anyone can become a web designer. The world often fails to mention that while everyone can become a web designer, not everyone will become a good web designer. Like any other profession, to become a good web designer a person must put in a lot of hard work and dedication (a little bit of natural artistic talent doesn’t hurt either).

As an artistic professional (yes, web design is an art form), I can’t always remember the fundamentals of designing a good website. As in many other professions, the elements of good design became instinctual over time and I subconsciously implement them in every design I create. As a result, I had to re-learn the proper terms for things that have become second nature to me. I had to re-educate myself before I could properly give a presentation on the elements of a good design. LearnKey’s Web Site Design Course provides a great introduction to these important concepts and teaches students how to use the tools necessary to succeed in a web design career.

Education is a large part of what it takes to succeed in any field of employment. Even so, with the large number of people looking for work, a proper education may not be enough to set you apart from other job seekers. It’s the seemingly simple things that set candidates apart, things like extra training and industry certifications.

At LearnKey, we understand the need to rise above the competition. Many of our courses are geared toward preparing students for certification, whether they’re interested in the Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, or CompTIA’s A+ Certification. Our primary goal is to provide quality expert-led training that will enable students to get certified at a pace that works for them. LearnKey’s courseware is carefully mapped to exam objectives, with project manuals and practice tests to reinforce concepts taught in the training.

I guess even on my morning away I couldn’t stay away from LearnKey or its mission.

Thanks again to Deveny Pace and Nicole Washburn for allowing me to take up their valuable class time.



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