The Adventures of Story Lion

adventures of story lion (Storyline)invisible-line-spacerCouldn’t resist sharing the ‘Adventures of Story Lion’ series of short tutorials on Articulate Storyline by Articulate Superhero Bruce Graham. Just shows what can be achieved using a rapid e-learning tool by mixing a little imagination with some playful humour. The illustrations are by Laura (


Adobe Presenter 8 is Launched

Adobe Presenter 8Adobe has just launched Presenter 8 the latest version of it’s PowerPoint to Flash development tool. Presenter is Adobe’s answer to Articulate Presenter (the core element of Articulate Studio). Both tools started out life as presentation tools (hence the names) but it quickly became apparent that they were pretty useful for producing simple e-learning courses. Re-badged as ‘Rapid e-Learning’ authoring tools they both became popular components in the e-learning developer’s toolkit. However Adobe Presenter has always been eclipsed by Adobe Captivate while Articulate has captured the lion’s share of the Rapid e-Learning market. So where does the new Presenter 8 fit in the grand scheme of things?

I haven’t downloaded and reviewed the product yet but intitial investigations reveal a return to it’s roots as a presenter’s tool because of its focus on integrating presenter video. The integration looks pretty impressive, enabling a good presenter to create a presentation that mixes slides and presenter either interleaved or side by side. You can also add nice pre-built intro sequences and use professional looking overlays (to show the presenter name for example). It also includes e-learning type functionality but I can’t help feeling that it’s aimed more at producing video based content that is mobile friendly. One thing that appears to be missing is any HTML5 support. There is an iPad app but what about other tablets and mobile OSs? Full review to follow.

For the time being here is Adobe’s e-Learning Evangelist Dr Allen Partridge taking you through the new features.

List of features:

m-Learning with GoMo


If you are involved in e-learning then you will know that customers already have high expectations that any ‘courses’ or ‘courseware’ you develop will also be accessible on mobile devices. Now this sounds simple from the viewpoint of the customer  – a mobile device is simply another screen (even if it is sometimes short on pixel real estate). However as someone who has lived for a while with the web and the myriad of devices, operating systems, middleware and applications software it fills me with trepidation. Accessing learning content on mobile devices is ‘non-trivial’.

In practice we can’t simply re-purpose existing learning content to run on a mobile device (see my previous post ‘M-learning or E-learning?‘). What we need to do is to consider the mobile device as a delivery channel in its own right.

What is a mobile device?

The vast majority of mobile devices are smartphones (some are smarter than others) but tablets such as the iPad are also classified as mobile devices. Paradoxically laptops or netbooks, no matter how ultra light and slim they are, are NOT classified as mobile devices. Why is this? Probably because they run a desktop OS and software that is designed primarily to be used in a static location either physically connected to a network or via a secure WiFi. In the context of e-learning the key difference is probably that mobile devices are always on and are used for shorter periods of activity.

mobile devices situational-usage

Recognising that we can’t simply re-package existing e-learning content for mobile devices we need to consider what content will be appropriate on a mobile device and then develop this as part of our ‘courseware’.

What courseware will work well in m-learning?

Quick and convenient access is key but the ability to handle audio and video seamlessly is also a big advantage of mobile devices. Here are some learning activities that work well on a mobile device:

  • Quick reference guides
  • Job aids
  • Quick overviews/introductions
  • Diagnostics (e.g. survey or questionnaire)
  • Short videos
  • Audio files
  • Short quizzes
  • Infographics

I am focussing on courseware/content here. Mobile devices are also very good at collaborative/communication based learning activities (see ‘It’s Not Learning on a Phone‘ by Connie Malamed ) but this is trickier to implement and involves the idea of a ‘cohort’ of learners to be successful. I’ll look at this in more details in a future post.

Developing Content for Mobile Devices

Producing the stuff on the list above should be relatively straightforward but there are surprisingly few tools that do the job. Conventional e-learning authoring tools are aimed squarely at the big screen and use technologies that don’t work well on mobile devices (e.g. Flash).

Existing tool vendors are rushing to fill the gap but in many cases the environment is so different that it’s a struggle to develop content for mobile devices that will also work on existing PCs. The idea of ‘single source’ publishing is a tough one to crack in view of the vast numbers of devices.

Introducing GoMo

The most successful approach so far is that taken by tools like GoMo which are designed specifically to develop content for mobile devices. GoMo is so far the ONLY authoring environment that really has been built from the ground-up to develop e-learning type content for mobile devices.

GoMo is designed to deliver content on both smartphones and tablets. It adopts a cleverly simple solution for dealing with the extra pixel real estate of a tablet compared to a smartphone – it uses the left hand side of the screen on a tablet to display the content menu (see illustration below).


Using a demo version of GoMo (thank you @craigtaylor74) I was able to build my first demo app in less than an hour. Of course like any e-learning development project all the real work is done in the storyboard – yes you do need to storyboard for m-learning.

The GoMo user interface is reasonably user friendly with ‘smartphone’ sized screens helping you to think about the layout challenges of a small screen device. You can create main menus, with sub-topics and you can also create simple topic branching.

GoMo’s most useful feature is its question and feedback capability. It includes either a ‘one answer is correct’ option or ‘many answers are correct’ and provides appropriate feedback depending upon whether the correct or incorrect answer is selected. You can also branch to topics based on the feedback so simple scenarios are possible. There is also an assessment mode enabling to you set a scored quiz and to capture the results via SCORM.

GoMo also supports video and audio enabling you to easily incorporate video and audio podcasts into your learning content.

GoMo can publish either as a native app or as a web app. If you publish to a native app then you will need to go through the publishing process to get your app onto an app store (Epic can do this for you at a charge of £595 per publish). In practice most e-learning users are likely to publish as a web app and provide access through an LMS. This option also provides SCORM tracking functionality.

GoMo comes with three standard ‘skins’ but you can develop your own or get Epic to craft one for you. The skin is important because it gives your content some personality. I can see most customers wanting their own ‘branded’ skin which would then be re-used across a range of m-learning courses.

I like GoMo. Hopefully other m-learning authoring tools will follow but for now GoMo does a good job of creating m-learning content.

Related Links

Learn more about GoMo

Articulate Studio 12


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)!


Articulate Studio 12 Preview


Articulate Storyline Very Quick Tour

Here’s a very quick tour of the Articulate Storyline interface.

Learning Technologies 2012 Show Review

Learning Technologies 2012

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.

e-Learning Content

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)

Authoring Tools

Don Freda demonstrates Articulate Storyline

Don Freda demonstrates Articulate Storyline

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.

Mobile Learning

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!

Social Learning

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.

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


Twitter stats for #LT12uk

iBooks 2.0 is now in my 'bad books'

Yesterday I wrote about Apple’s two new releases that are significant for those of us working in online learning – iBooks2 and iTunes U2.

One of the issues for those of us in online learning, but in the non-education sector, is that iTunes U is aimed at educational institutions. True we can all consume the FREE content in iTunes U but ONLY educational institutions can use the course development platform (iTunes U Course Manager). This is a pity because it would provide a valuable alternative for those designing learning programmes in the non-education sector. I guess a ‘commercial’ version may feature somewhere on Apple’s secret roadmap but I think Apple also needs to recognise that ‘education’ is a business too and not get too carried away with its ‘free stuff for future Apple customers’ strategy.

More significantly there appears to be an even bigger spanner in the works when it comes to iBooks2. This product isn’t targeted just at the education market; though most of the posts on it over the last 24 hours have made a big play of interactive textbooks for students. Unlike iTunes U the authoring software for iBooks, iBooks Author, is available FREE to all (provided you use a Mac of course). The problem appears to be with the licence agreement. If you develop a book in iBooks Author the copyright of that book belongs to Apple! What’s more you can only sell an iBook through Apple – though you can give it away free on another platform (such as your own website).

Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. Dan Wineman

Learn More:

Articulate Storyline Sneak Peeks

Articulate Storyline Demos

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.

A Disaster Can Strike

Are you Prepared?

Screen Walkthrough


Articulate Storyline Beta

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.

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