In all the excitement over the launch of Articulate Storyline you may have missed the ‘preview’ of the updated version of Articulate Studio. Labelled Studio 12 it will be available ‘sometime this year’. It includes some things from Storyline including the new player, character libraries and crucially the ability to publish to both Flash and HTML5. Articulate Studio 12 also adds accessibility support based on the requirements of the US 508 standard.
There are also lots of improvements to Quizmaker and Engage too. Quizmaker gets drag and drop interactions and also a question/answer import via Excel feature (that will really help in creating and managing assessments). Engage gets 10 new interactions.
The $64k question is do you stick with Articulate Studio 09 and wait until Studio 12 becomes available later in the year OR do you cut and run with Storyline? Me, I’d probably want both in my e-learning developer’s toolkit (better start talking to the bank manager)!
Here’s a very quick tour of the Articulate Storyline interface.
Without warning Articulate launched Storyline yesterday (2 May 2012). I’ve been on the beta programme, and there was no indication that we were so close to an actual launch, but now we can all have a play with the new software.
Storyline is a big step up from Studio. It’s now a standalone product – no more messing about with PowerPoint plug-ins but also no more messing about with PowerPoint. However, Articulate have replicated the key functionality of PowerPoint within the tool so any PowerPoint users will be able to get up to speed pretty quickly. Probably my favourite feature in Storyline is the ‘story view’. It shows all the slides in your project in the order in which they will be viewed (indicated by a path identified by arrows). The power of this view is evident when you start using branching (which Storyline handles particularly well). Unlike branching in PowerPoint you can easily see the different branched routes and manage them effectively. This overall ‘storyboard’ view is really helpful when developing e-learning that unlike a presentation is usually not completely linear. It some respects it seems similar to Authorware – the original tool developed by Macromedia all those years back (don’t tell Michael Allen).
Interactions using Layers, Triggers, States and Variables
Powerful interactions can be created on each slide using a combination of layers, triggers, states and variables. I saw one example from the beta testing where there were literally hundreds of layers each with its own set of triggers all on one slide! Storyline also enables the use of variables so that some simple data can be entered and stored for use later (e.g. the learner’s name).
If you have ever done any programming you will be familiar with some of these terms and one of the biggest achievements of the new Storyline product is its ability to put programming power in the hands of non-programmers. However, even with the intuitive interface it’s still going to take some effort in order to get the reward. Powerful it may be but all that interaction DESIGN is going to make Storyline a much less ‘rapid’ tool than Studio.
Built-in Clip Art
Storyline is designed with scenarios in mind and so to make it easy to build people interactions there is a built-in character library with both photographic images and Articulate style illustrations (which I personally don’t love very much). In addition to the bundled art you will also be able to buy additional packages or create your own in-house. The first ‘bolt-on’ character pack is $599 – according to Articulate’s web site it’s a bargain because if you were to purchase the characters separately it would cost you $2,392)!
Built-in Screen Recorder
Storyline has its own built-in screen recorder which looks just like the Screenr online tool but there is a lot more functionality under the bonnet (hood for you US folks). You can publish the capture in either view mode, try mode or test mode (just like in Captivate). This gives you much more power when using screen walkthroughs as a training tool. Storyline also automatically adds callouts and does its best to annotate them automatically. You can also add your own callouts manually and adjust the zoom level.
Quizmaker functionality is now fully integrated into Storyline which makes it much easier to integrate question and answer interactions. There is also built in support for graphical drag and drop type questions and interactions. Engage is not integrated – I guess because you can build Engage type interactions using the slide layer and triggers.
HTML5 and m-Learning
Storyline defaults to publishing to Flash but you also have the option to include HTML5 output (primarily so that it will play on the iPad). On the iPad you also have the option of using the Articulate Player App. This allows you to download a Storyline course and view it offline – it acts like a sort of iBooks for e-learning content. Desktop and laptop PCs and most Android tablets will play Storyline in good old fashioned Flash (at least for now).
Storyline output won’t really work well on smartphones because of the small screen size but there doesn’t seem to be any technical reason why you can’t give it a go.
Storyline is undoubtedly a more complex product and will involve a steeper learning curve. If you are already an Articulate power user it will be great to make that step up but if you are completely new to e-learning authoring then Storyline will feel a little scary. True you can ignore some of the complexities and just use it like Studio but if that’s the case you may as well stick to Studio (the 2012 version of course which coincidentally gets a preview on the same day that Storyline launched).
There is still only one player skin in Storyline. It’s a lot cleaner than the old Articulate player but it’s still pretty limited, and because there is only one, EVERY Storyline project is going to look the same! Of course because there is so much more power in developing in-slide navigation lots of authors are going to create their own navigation – and lots of the cool beta examples have done this. However this adds a lot of extra effort and is much trickier than relying on a standard player. My guess is that third party player skins will become available pretty soon.
Storyline is a landmark product and it really does massively extend the potential of an instructional designer who is up to speed with interaction design (and hopefully graphic design too). However I would question its label as a ‘rapid’ tool. Some of the things I have been playing with in Storyline could have been done much faster by a competent Flash developer and I feel that we have to recognise that sometimes two heads are better than one when it comes to creating professional and engaging e-learning content. Nevertheless the e-Learning Heroes community is likely to be buzzing with activity as new users get to grips with layers, triggers, states, markers and variables. At some point someone may even think – “I now recognise how hard it is to get all this interactive stuff working properly!”.
Happily you get all that power for precisely the same price as Studio – at the time of writing Storyline is £860 ($1,398). That’s not cheap but if you are a serious e-learning developer it has to represent excellent value for money.
I’m always so late with my post event blogs, but then they say that you should always leave some distance between the experience and your reflection on it. This one is especially late because my website was hacked via some rogue WordPress plug-ins.
I have been attending the Learning Technologies Show (I’m not describing the conference here) almost since it started back in 1999. In the early days it was dominated by learning platforms and systems – primarily LMS’ but also KM and Talent Management systems. Since then it has re-balanced somewhat in favour of content, and these days even the technologies are so much more accessible (and affordable). In particular, the rise of DIY authoring tools and learner friendly LMS’ combined with the focus on learning content has resulted in an event that is as much about learning (or at least learning content) as it is about technology.
I spent two days at the show with a part of each day on the WillowDNA stand. I managed to see some of the free seminars on the floor of the show but didn’t get the chance to participate in the conference. Last year there was some criticism that the conference and the show were out of step but then this is a problem with all conference/show combinations. Emergent ideas don’t productise very well – there needs to be healthy signs of an emerging market before savvy entrepreneurs will risk their cash.
Here are some of my reflections of the show.
All the key bespoke content developers were there including Kineo, Epic, Brightwave, Line, Saffron and IMC. Sponge were also there with a refreshed stand and the same yummy sponge cakes. A new player on the content development front was Purple Media – the stand was modelled on the cabin of an airliner – it looked good but suffered a little from putting form before function (just like their painfully slow Flash driven website – which degrades ungracefully on an iPad). Information Transfer had the most elegant stand complete with tulips and a sort of fung-shui feel in the midst of the chaos going on all around.
Off the shelf vendors included SkillSoft and Jenison. SkillSoft were a little cagey on whether their massive back catalogue would work successfully on mobile devices but Jenison’s categorisation of their content into Shapers, Express, Pathways etc. was a useful attempt to direct buyers to content that would be appropriate for different learning contexts and form factors (see my recent article on m-learning).
LMS’ and Platforms
On the LMS front there was a return for the two old boys – Saba and SumTotal. Certpoint were there as were Upside, NetDimensions, Kallidus and Coloni. Most encouragingly there were a variety of flavours of Moodle on show from Kineo, Epic, Webanywhere, Aardpress and Traineasy. I have always liked Moodle for its trainer centric approach so it’s great to see it finally coming of age in the non-education sector. Willow’s Pathway product is actually a sort of ‘Moodle lite’ aimed at the non-education market. So far it’s been really popular with developers of continuous professional development programmes (CPD)
As far as tools go the usual favourites were there including Adobe, Lectora, Seminar, Zenler, Luminosity and this year Articulate had their own stand manned by Don Freda and Gabe Anderson. They were demonstrating Storyline which as expected was creating a real buzz. They were handing out a Storyline brochure which includes a URL to download a FREE 30 day trial but also when I tried it you only get to register your interest. I’m guessing that Storyline will be available very soon though. The update to Studio is also in the pipeline but I got the impression that we won’t see that until Q4 2012. Kaplan ran mini-classroom sessions taking people through STT Trainer and Content Point (Atlantic Link) but these didn’t seem particularly busy. I just sense that now Mike Alcock has left the business Atlantic Link is going nowhere quickly.
I did a quick demo of Zenler with Rakesh Vallil. Zenler is a really good alternative to Articulate if you have limited budgets. I’m going to evaluate the latest version soon and write an accompanying blog post.
Of course mobile learning was high on lots of people’s agendas with mobile authoring solutions from a wide range of vendors but the solution that most impressed me was Epic’s GoMo. This authoring tool takes a straightforward approach to authoring for mobile devices. Articulate’s Storyline is also going to be able to publish content to mobile devices but it will do so on the iOS platform via the special Articulate app. I am on the Storyline beta programme but we have yet to see the ‘publish to HTML5′ option in the beta release. It’s not clear yet whether all the functionality that is available via Flash (Articulate’s standard publishing format) will be available on iOS and whether if publishing for a Flash enabled tablet whether Flash will still be recommended over HTML5.
Video for Learning
The rise of video as a ‘learning channel’ was also apparent at Learning Technologies with the biggest splash made by Fusion with their impressive mini-theatre focussing on 70/20/10 and informal learning through the medium of video. Fusion is the brainchild of ex Fuel CEO Steve Dineen and their ‘informal learning’ platform offers a refreshing change to the standard SCORM centric LMS.
Live Online Learning
Redtray are a custom content developer but their stand this year was majoring on CloudRooms – their own virtual classroom product. Clearly Redtray are confident that 2012 is going to the year that live online learning takes off!
There was some talk of this new ‘paradigm’ in the show but little evidence that any vendor had really developed anything approaching a full social learning solution. I guess that the interpretation of social learning is still a little vague in many people’s eyes so it’s difficult to pin down what features a social learning platform might provide. At LT2012 Fusion were probably closest to the mark with their Fuse product and I’m keen to investigate this, and the whole concept of social learning, more closely in 2012.
Fusion Universal is the first company to design a performance and support solution that addresses the whole 100% of learning. Up until now, nearly all learning suppliers have focused on only one component of the 70/20/10 principle – usually the 10% formal course part. www.fusion-universal.com
Of course the proponents of social and informal learning approaches will hate the idea that the concept could be ‘productised’ along the lines of a traditional LMS or KM type system but there is definitely a gap for a ‘learning sharing’ platform that really combines the best of formal and informal learning approaches.
Follow-up articles planned:
Review of Epic’s GoMo m-learning authoring tool
Evaluation of Zenler authoring software
Social Learning Unconfused
When I get time I am still playing with the beta version of Storyline – the new standalone e-learning authoring tool from those wonderful people at Articulate. I can’t say a lot about the beta because as beta testers we had to agree not to disclose details but we are now able to use Storyline to work on real client projects. I’m not planning on doing that just yet but I thought I’d whet your appetite by pointing you towards a couple of demos that Tom Kuhlmann has shared on his Rapid e-Learning blog recently. You may already have seen them and thought – ‘I don’t recognise that Articulate player?’ Well the reason you don’t recognise it is it’s the ‘standard’ Storyline player. These demos don’t do very much but it gives a flavour of the sort of output you can get from Storyline. The last example shows a screen walkthrough – Storyline has a Screenr like tool built into it. This is going to be a cool new tool in 2012.
I’ve just received an invitation to join the second tranche of beta testers for Articulate Storyline, the new e-learning authoring from those great people at Articulate. I downloaded the software and installed it on my Windows 7 machine without a hitch and so far I am really impressed. I can’t say anything more than that because as a Beta tester I’m not able to disclose detailed functionality but I’m really looking forward to putting this innovative software through its paces. Maybe I’ll even start developing my first Storyline Training Course – I seem to have been telling my Articulate Studio course participants about the ‘new product’ for ages now. I wonder if anyone is writing a book? Now there’s an idea…don’t tell Patti Shank or Jennifer Bircher though.
I have seen the new Articulate Storyline – or at least a pre-beta version of it. Don Freda gave us a demo via webinar at the Articulate UK Users conference at the University of Leeds. So what does Storyline do that Studio doesn’t? Well it didn’t feel like a full Studio replacement but that may be because of the limited demo that we saw. First of all Storyline is a standalone program – it doesn’t rely on PowerPoint as its base authoring environment. This is both both good and bad – good because no longer do we have to rely on piggy backing off another application, bad because does it effectively recreate all the functionality that we relied upon in PowerPoint? I couldn’t get any pictures sadly but here are the menus from Storyline:
Home, Insert, Slides, Design, Animations, View, Help, Character Tools (Design, Format)
So what does each of these menus do? Well I really don’t know (even after watching the demo) but my best guess is that they pretty much replicate a lot of the PowerPoint functionality in the same way that PowerPoint functions such as animations etc. were added to Quizmaker 09.
Most of Don’s demo focussed on the scenario building aspects of Storyline. Its ability to develop scenarios with different characters (using the Character Tools menus above) is really powerful. You can create libraries of different characters and then weave them into scenarios which use branching to take the learners on different routes through the content. So for example when you are presented with a scenario where two people are discussing a possible solution you can choose which solution you would go with and follow the ‘storyline’ from there. To make the scenario more believable you can even alter each character’s expression to suit the situation so Frankie can be happy, sad or even perplexed at the touch of a slider (well a drop-down actually). This capability is underpinned by things like ‘MouseOver’ or ‘Hover’ or ‘Click’ events just like in real app development. In this respect Storyline really does take hyperlinks and branching to a new level, and one which is way beyond what you can currently achieve easily with PowerPoint.
Don also touched on whether it would work with the iPad. The good news is that it will – there will be a new publish option to iOS (though there may be some features not fully supported). How this will work for the two current form factors (iPhone and iPad) remains to be seen. There won’t however be a publish to HTML5 option.
Regarding workflow it looks like Storyline will replace Studio as the core authoring environment and like Studio it will have the add Quizmaker or Engage buttons to drop in quizzes or learning interactions before finally publishing.
So where does that leave Studio? Well Studio, Quizmaker and Engage are all due an upgrade by the end of this year so it seems that Studio (effectively Presenter) will be positioned as the entry level authoring environment while Storyline will be used by more advanced users. This strategy seems sensible and it allows an organisation to buy a certain number of Studio licenses for low level users and a smaller number of Storyline licenses for more advanced e-learning designers. The pricing for Storyline is apparently going to be ‘similar’ to Presenter so I guess that means it can be bought standalone or with Quizmaker and/or Engagage for $xxx
Release date for Storyline is ‘this summer’. Will Studio users be able to upgrade to Storyline? Should we do so, or should we wait until the Studio upgrade later in the year? I don’t know the answer but it’s something I am definitely thinking about!
That’s about it. Time to start designing my new Storyline course!
I’ve requested to be included on the beta test programme so hopefully we will see more pretty shortly. Can’t wait!
Follow Storyline thread on Articulate e-Learning Heroes Forum:
Last week I spent an excellent day at the University of Leeds sharing Articulate tips and tricks with 70 other UK based users. This is actually the third event of its kind – I completely missed the others in 2009 and 2010!
The day is the brainchild of Dragos Ciobanu from the University of Leeds Development Support Unit supported by his team; Carol, Jade and Michelle. The University of Leeds currently has 212 user licenses of Articulate Studio – quite an impressive investment!
Here are some of my observations on the day:
The eight minute rule – apparently this is the maximum attention span in front of a piece of e-learning. When I first started developing e-learning an hour was the standard length of an e-learning programme. Today clients generally want something that is no more than 20-30 minutes but even I have recognised that 10-15 minutes is more popular with time pressed learners. Maybe we really do need to break things down into even smaller easily digestible chunks but it’s also possible that we are confusing learning with information access. There is an argument that good learning is actually slow learning (article to follow on that).
Graeme Youngs repeated a message I have been telling clients and people on my Articulate courses – if something already exists as a document don’t rush headlong into putting all that content into your e-learning. Simply introduce the resource, explain why it’s important and provide it either as an attachment (file) or as a link (web based resource). Finally – if appropriate – test them on the content. All done in two slides plus a Quizmaker quiz! As well as saving heaps of time, if the resource changes it’s less likely to affect your e-learning.
Steve Rayson from Kineo walked us through some really nice examples of Articulate developed using primarily PowerPoint and Engage and Quizmaker. Even pro e-learning companies keep things simple sometimes. One challenge he talked about specifically was ‘page wait’ due to poor corporate networks. That rings true with my own experience – people really don’t like to wait for the ‘spinning wheel’ too long while an Engage interaction with lots of embedded media loads up. As far as a collaborative authoring environment is concerned he was less enthusiastic about using Articulate. I have to agree – working on big collaborative projects is not a perfect application of the Articulate ‘workflow’. Kineo use CourseBuilder but you could also use Mohive or ContentPoint (ex Atlantic Link). Steve also mentioned ‘art direction’ which is key for getting a consistent look and feel – especially in a corporate branded environment.
Matthew Lloyd from Omniplex took us through the complexities of ADDIE as it is applied to developing e-learning. Ouch! I do believe a development methodology can help but ADDIE needs serious simplification for the type of rapid authoring environment at which Articulate is targeted.
Don Freda from Articulate gave us a demo of the pre-beta version of Storyline. It looks really good but is probably not the Studio killer I was hoping it would be. More in a separate article to come.
Tony Lowe from Webducate talked about Articulate skins. Tony and his partner Rachael run Webducate which develops Articulate skins and also Flash interactions such as Dragster.
We had an interesting presentation from Richard Windle from the University of Nottingham on ‘Open Resources in Education’. Think universities adopting the ‘freemium’ model. Why? Because sharing helps promote their areas of expertise and because most of what they do is publicly funded, so providing some resources back to society is a natural thing to do. He also shared some interesting results from feedback from e-learners. Apparently both bespoke Flash work and work developed using just the Articulate tools were pretty equally liked by learners. So the message is think twice before you spend all that cash of expensive Flash. However there are some circumstances when the bespoke solution is the best for the learning experience.
In the afternoon there were some 5 minutes slots – one of which I gave on 10 gripes with Articulate. I’ll post my presentation with voice over is a later blog post.
Robert Cochrane from the University of Leeds Engineering Department also gave a really interesting talk on using online learning to get MSc students up to flying speed. Thought this was a really creative use of online learning to prepare students for the full-on lecture room experience.
And did I learn anything? Yes here are a few things I learnt:
Sometimes it’s OK to let learner’s wander around a learning resource (some of the Leeds programmes adopt this ‘learn what you need approach’).
Articulate ‘web objects’ can be used for variety of clever things – certificates, forms or even micro-web sites designed specifically as part of the course.
The simplicity of Articulate causes lots of ‘workarounds’ to be employed and this actually fosters creativity and lateral thinking.
And finally…I can’t wait to have a play with the beta version of Articulate Storyline!
See you in Leeds next year.