Saturday, August 08, 2009

Creating eLearning Prototypes using Adobe Captivate

There is much talk in the eLearning industry at the moment about how can you ensure your eLearning content is engaging.

One of most popular trains of thought is that instead of following traditional instructional design models such as ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Deploy Implement and Evaluate); instead you should create prototypes even before you write your eLearning specification documents.

The thinking here is that by creating quick prototypes and showing them to your learners they can then help you in the process of developing the best learning. After all, if your eLearning content does not resonate well with it’s target audience then what is the point in creating it in the first place?

Let's be honest here; if your eLearning content is as dull as dish water then the chances of your learners getting anything out of it are pretty slim.

The idea of creating prototypes before you really understand what the learning problem is, as well involvement from those who are going to consume the learning, is now seen by many as the best way to ensure your eLearning projects are successful since it results in your prospective learners / users giving you their ideas for free.

Whilst many of the cutting edge eLearning companies still rely on Flash and ActionScript to develop their eLearning content, when it comes to creating rapid prototypes is Flash – as in Flash Professional, not Flash the platform – really the best choice? In my mind the answer is, “no”, because creating eLearning content in Flash is a time consuming process and a better option most of the time is to use a rapid eLearning authoring tool.

Whilst there are many rapid eLearning tools available, I think that when it comes to creating prototypes Adobe Captivate is the best choice; here is why.

Flexible Working Environment
Adobe Captivate provides you with a flexible working environment. Because Adobe Captivate uses the Slide rather than frame metaphor, prototyping in Captivate is incredibly straight forward.

Adding and Editing Content
Adding content (even graphics created in Adobe Photoshop) is very straight forward. Not only that, but thanks to Captivate’s Library panel, replacing existing content with new imagery or audio can be accomplished within just a few steps. In addition you can edit any imported content graphics, audio, Flash files in the applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Fireworks, Adobe Flash and Adobe SoundBooth.

Storyboarding your audio
Thanks to the Text to Speech feature introduced in Adobe Captivate 4, you can now include voice-over in your prototypes, enabling you to storyboard any narrative you want to include in your prototypes.

Adobe Captivate includes great interactive objects and control. Anyone who has used Captivate will know that you can insert Click boxes, Text Entry Boxes, Buttons etc. but if you own Captivate 4 that really is just the tip of the ice berg.

Let’s be clear here; although some in the eLearning community still consider Adobe Captivate to be IT System training author tool, that really isn’t the case any more.

Advanced Interactivity
Adobe Captivate 4 introduced Variables and Actions which enable the regular Captivate user to create complex interactive effects. Need to include a button that when clicked will hide several objects? No problem, you can do this thanks to the ability to set Multiple Actions. Want to hide the playback control on Question Slides? Again, easy as pie. You can do this using System Variables.

Want to learn more about Captivate and Variables? Read the “Break the ice with Variables” post on the The Adobe Captivate blog.

Now you may be thinking this is all fine but I can create my prototypes in PowerPoint and output to Flash using other well known eLearning tools and, yes that is true; but Adobe Captivate too can import PowerPoint presentations and– thanks to the Roundtrip PowerPoint workflow introduced in Adobe Captivate 4 you can both edit and keep your PowerPoint and Captivate content in sync.

User Feedback
However that isn’t all that Adobe Captivate brings to the prototyping table. One of the biggest advantages I think that Captivate offers is in being able to receive feedback from your users and integrate this directly into your Captivate project files.

Adobe Captivate 4 introduced a revolutionary new feature called SWF Commenting. SWF Commenting enables you to send your SWF files for review. Your reviewers install a very small AIR application which enables them to add comments to your SWF files without them having to have Adobe Captivate installed. Once they have completed the review process they can then send their comments which can then be imported to the appropriate slides in your project.

Repurpose your Captivate content in Flash
In addition to these points Captivate also provides you with the ability to export your entire Captivate project to Adobe Flash Professional so even if you do want to create your main project or components of the project in Flash, you can still repurpose much of the prototyping you have created in Captivate.


In short, Adobe Captivate provides you with the best environment to create prototypes, modify the content based on user feedback and output to the Flash platform available in the eLearning space.

2 comments: said...

Great post Mark and I fully agree about the power of prototypes.

We have been doing prototypes in Captivate since version 3 was released and we have had some good experiences with it.

One of the main benefits that we have seen is that it makes it much more tangible for the person ordering the course (or thinking about ordering) when they can see some actual content and ideas on how to present their stuff.

For many people purchasing E-learning courses is still a bit of a grey area so to whip up a prototype and show them can really open their eyes.

We also found that we get a much better interaction with the customer by doing a prototype and let them take part in the development of the course.


eLearing tools said...

I like this. Very nice. Learning Management System helps students understand things easily without any hustle at the comfort of their home or anywhere they like to study.