Friday, May 29, 2009

Adobe Captivate Updater Now Available

Adobe has just announced that the Adobe Captivate Windows updater is now available. I am still waiting to find out what has been fixed but you can download this now by selecting Help > Updates to download and install the fixes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

First look at Adobe Presentations

Adobe PresentationsYesterday RJ sent a tweet announcing that Adobe Presentations was available on Adobe Labs, so I thought I would take a look.

Presentations is similar to Buzzword in that it enables you to for free create, edit and best of all just as with Buzzword you can share your files – no need for e-mail attachments here which is very cool to say the least.

Naturally being a Captivate user I want to see whether or not I could insert SWF files into Presentations files. At present you cannot do this (though you could insert an FLV file) so I thought I would add this as a feature request which I did.

Within two hours of sending in my request I get an e-mail back from the Adobe Presentations team telling me that this is something that they will definitely consider.

Straight away I filed another request asking that they also enable a user to import / export Presentations files to PowerPoint format. This would then enable Captivate users to convert a PowerPoint file into an Adobe Captivate project. Just as with the first request, this is something they are also going to look into.

I think that this is another tool that I will be able to integrate into my eLearning production workflow.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A spot of color for Dreamweaver

When designing eLearning course, one of the areas that I really used to struggle with was getting the color scheme right. Now when creating my learning projects I use Adobe Kuler. Adobe Kuler is a web application that enables you to experiment with color variations something that is incredibly useful for designers and developers of all shapes and sizes.

If you own the Adobe eLearning Suite, you find that Adobe Flash CS4 Professional includes a Kuler panel right inside the Flash app. However, it is also possible to add Kuler functionality into Adobe Dreamweaver as well.

Adobe Dreamweaver is included in the eLearning Suite because Adobe has added the CourseBuilder extension. CourseBuilder (first developed as a standalone extension for Dreamweaver MX) has been completely overhauled for the Adobe eLearning Suite and provides web developers with a great way to create web-based learning interactions.

Just in case your interested, CourseBuilder offers compatibility with the latest versions of web browsers, is SCORM compatible and includes the following 3 new interaction types:
  1. Matching interaction
  2. Sequence interaction
  3. Likert interaction
To add Kuler functionality into Adobe Dreamweaver, download the free WebAssist extension PalettePicker. PalettePicker is available for both Dreamweaver CS4 and CS3 on Windows and Macintosh platforms.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Interactive or Page Turning Learning

Recently I have been involved in a discussion about Interactive or page turning learning. For those of you unfamiliar with the term page turning learning, this is the kind of learning where an individual listens and watches a concept being explained by an instructor. The only time they get to interact with the training is when they are asked to click a button to move to the next page / slide. In Adobe Captivate terms page turning learning is the kind of learning you would create as a demonstration.

Before going any further, it is only fair to point out that for over 10 years I created page turning learning in the form of video tutorials for the online training company Virtual Training Company. During this period I received countless e-mails thanking me for developing what was then considered to be some of the best video tutorials on my specialist subject Dreamweaver. I am therefore not completely against this kind of learning.

Additionally, at work I still create our feature tours using Captivates demonstration mode.

However the big question is this. Does page turning training enable learners to grasp the concepts you are trying to teach and make those mental connections required to ensure that they recall what they have learned after a certain period of time?

In most cases, to ensure that a learner can fully grasp what you are trying to teach them they need to engage with the training. If you are reading this and think that this type of interaction can be accomplished simply adding a quiz at the end of your course, then be aware that this might not be a good indication that your learners have been successful. Many learners are able to pass a quiz soon after they have completed a training course, simply because they have a good memory.

So if page turning or demonstration-based learning is considered ineffective, what are the advantages of creating an interactive training course?

Below are some reasons why interactive training can be more effective:

  1. It can be measured.
    Demonstration based learning does not provide you with a clear indication of how well a learner performed, whereas with interactive based learning you have the ability to track and score every time a learner interacts with the learning.

    Adobe Captivate enables you to track and score each interactive object such as a click box, button etc via the Reporting tab. The interactive data can also be published to a Learning Management System or Adobe Acrobat Connect Professional. In fact any interactive learning project can be treated as a quiz, providing the learner with a score at the end using the Quiz Results slide

  2. Failure is acceptable.
    One of the reasons why I think that interactive learning can be so effective is because it provides learners with a safe environment in which to fail. Whilst failure isn’t always seen as a positive thing - after all who wants to fail at something, right! – making mistakes can be a very effective way to learn.

    There are two advantages here:

    Firstly, software training learners (especially those new to a subject) don’t have to worry about breaking the software. In the past when I was a classroom trainer, many students on the first day would want reassurance that they couldn’t damage the software before they were prepared to try out the tasks themselves.

    Secondly, Interactive training can provide a learner with feedback that can assist them perform the task at hand. In addition, if they repeatedly fail they can be redirected to an earlier part of the course, or at least encouraged to review additional learning before they continue.

    In Adobe Captivate you can provide visual feedback using success, failure and hint captions and redirect additional learning using branching. You can also determine what happens if the learners passes or fails the lesson or course.

  3. Learners can discover the learning for themselves.
    Thanks to the fact that Adobe Captivate includes the ability to branch, your courses don’t have to be linear. Learners can branch from one section of the course to another, enabling them to discover the learning for themselves.

    Adobe Captivate has great branching capabilities, enables you to visualize the branching using the Branching view and thanks to the new scripting feature – Advanced Actions and Variables introduced in Adobe Captivate 4 - provides you with a great set of tools for creating advanced interactivity.

    If you need to go the extra mile and own the Adobe eLearning Suite, you can create even more complex interactivity using Adobe Flash CS4 Professional, which includes a comprehensive set of Learning Interactions.

  4. It is self-paced.
    Another benefit of interactive learning is that it enables a learner to learn at their own pace. As creator of eLearning content as well as a consumer, I want to understand the steps being demonstrated before the instructor moves on to even more advanced concepts.

    There have been many occasions when watching a video tutorial where I have shouted back at the screen “back up, I don’t get that bit, show me those steps again.”

    Yes, you can always just rewind the video and play it again, but that certainly isn’t as effective as being able to try out the steps for yourself before you move on to the next series of steps.

    Using the self-paced option built into the Table of Contents feature you can enable learners to dip in and out of a training course.

Can page turning learning ever be effective?

In some cases this style of learning can still be very effective, particularly if you are creating learning for advanced learning where a learner is already very comfortable in the subject matter but just wants to take this to the next level.

It is also fair to say that in the right hands demonstration based learning can be a very powerful tool.

Both Adobe Captivate and Adobe Presenter (part of the Adobe eLearning Suite) can be used to create good quality demonstration based learning.

In some cases even with interactive training it is possible to sprinkle bits of demonstration learning. An example of which in where a learner is already performed a particular task several times earlier in the course and easing of the interactive peddle is possible.

Happy Holidays for Monday

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Clearing dat file

Sometimes Adobe Captivate (like any other piece of software) can behave oddly. Instances where the Timeline won’t open or a certain project won’t publish properly are just two examples of the sort of problems I have experienced over the years working with this program.

The blame for many of the issues you experience in Adobe Captivate can be laid firmly at the door of Captivates DAT file.

Many software applications use dat files. In short this file type is used to store some kind of data.

In the case of Adobe Captivate the .dat file is used (amongst other things) to store session preferences. Adobe Captivate has two kinds of preferences. Project and Session preferences.

Project Preferences
These are the preferences that are specific to a project, such as publish or quiz settings. Project preferences are stored in the Adobe Captivate file itself so that they can travel with the project.

Session preferences
Session preferences are ones that are applied to all projects, for example if you change an objects default settings then these are changed for all the projects. It is these kinds of preferences that are stored in the .dat file.

Adobe Captivates .dat file – in the case of Adobe Captivate 4 called captivate_v40.dat - can be found in the following location.

Windows Vista
Drive Letter\Users\UserName\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Captivate

Windows XP
Drive Letter \Documents and Settings\UserName\Application Data\Adobe\Adobe Captivate

Note: You will need to make sure that you have set the Windows Folder option – Show hidden files and folders before you will be able to see the Document and Settings Folder.

It is also possible to peak inside your Adobe Captivate .dat file by opening it up in a text editor. However I would first recommend that you create copy of any application file before attempting to open it.

Adobe Captivate 4  Dat file

Above is an example of the type of information stored in the Adobe Captivate 4 .dat file.

Why the .dat file sometimes becomes corrupted is unclear but the good news is that removing this does seem to solve many of the problems you may encounter.

Replacing the .dat file

Replacing the .dat file is incredibly straight forward. Start by closing Adobe Captivate and then rename or move the captivate_v40.dat file outside of the Adobe Captivate folder.

The next time you start Adobe Captivate, the program will automatically re-create the .dat file for you.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Removing the Captivate file bloat

Have you ever noticed that copying original slides and objects from an existing project to a new one can dramatically reduce the file size of the new project?

Manoj from the Adobe Captivate team has recently provided some insight on why the copy paste trick is so effective.

[Quote]From a programmers perspective this is what is happening.

Earlier versions of Captivate had some inaccuracy in cleaning up resources.

A resource ( there are many which are internal and not visible to the user other than those in Library) is always linked to some captivate object. When this object was deleted or changed then the corresponding resource use-count should go down.

This resource should be removed once the project is saved so as to maintain proper resources.

With the number of workflows it turned out that the use-count of these resources are not 0 even though these are no longer being used.

Once this happens captivate sees a particular resource with use-count > 0 and keeps loading/saving it all the time, slowly increasing the size of the project.

How does copy-paste help us out ?

When you copy paste, the items is copied and pasted with exactly the only resource its using, Thus the new file need not bother about unused internal resources. Hope this clears the mystery surrounding this trick.

Why has this not been done already ?

If this has to be corrected then every time a project loads we might have to check for all resources' mapping with objects in the project, without looking at the use-count. This will lead to unreasonable project load times.

A repair tool can be made, but the workaround being so simple it better be left as it is. [/Quote]

Removing Unused objects
Another great way to ensure that your Captivate project files are kept small is to select all of the unwanted objects in the Library panel by pressing the Select Unused Items button and then pressing the Delete button.

Adobe Captivate Library panel with Unused Objects selected

By default in Adobe Captivate 4 when you first open a project, you will also be notified of any unused objects that are present in your file project.

If project bloat is something that you would like to see addressed in the next version of Adobe Captivate then please file an enhancement request via the Adobe Captivate Feature Request/Bug Report Form. According to Manoj since Captivate is currently being overhauled for the next version (Adobe Captivate 5) now is the best time to get this kind of request from the Adobe Community.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Adobe announces beta for Captivate for the Mac

Ok so it is official. Adobe has announced the first of the software builds for Captivate for the Mac. This is a momentous occasion and therefore something I just had to blog about. If you own a Mac and can put some time into testing the first ever build of Adobe Captivate for the Mac OS then complete the Adobe Prerelease form

Adobe Captivate 4 Success Story

In many of my posts you will have noticed that I tend to write about examples of work that I have created for my employer so I though in today's post I would share the link to the Adobe Captivate success story we had the privilege to create for the launch of Adobe Captivate 4

You can read how as training manager for the company I (and others) use Adobe Captivate in our day to day lives. WebAssist Adobe Captivate 4 Success Story

Friday, May 08, 2009

The case of the disappearing Captivate objects

Recently I have been working on updating a number of existing Captivate projects, most of which have the following type of ending slide.

Having made the required alterations to the first project when I previewed this in Adobe Captivate 4, I noticed that everything (part from the slide background) on the last slide disappeared after the playback head had reached the end of the project.

How strange I said to myself (or words to that effect) and tested this with another project – same result. Maybe the original project file had become corrupted I thought and proceeded to create a new blank project and copy all the slides to this new file. Yet again when I previewed, low and behold all the objects on the last slide behaved the same way.

After some head scratching I found that if I set the duration of all the objects on my last slide to “Rest of project” and select the “Place object on top” check box then all the images, text captions etc remained on screen.

Happy that I had managed to find a solution, I applied this duration setting to the rest of the objects on the last slide of all my projects and carried on working.

Once I had finished the task at hand, I then decided that it would probably be a good idea to file this as a bug.

Yesterday I received an e-mail back from the Adobe Captivate team with another solution to this problem. Instead of setting the object duration to Rest of Slide, setting the Slide exit navigation menu to “No Action” also resolves this issue.

Even though sometimes Adobe Captivate 4 does seem to behave oddly, it is always reassuring to know that 9 times out of 10 if you report a possible bug to the Captivate team, they are able to provide you with a workaround solution.

You can report bugs as well as make feature requests using the Adobe Captivate Feature Request/Bug Report Form