Hello world. I first have to apologize for the extensive break I had on writing on the blog. It’s been some busy time with like and work. I hope to get back in track and keep sharing some -hopefully- interesting content with all of you out there.
I wanted to talk today about a software I have been using extensively the last few months to create high end Learning Objects, Articulate Studio ’09. I hope my experience helps people better decide to choose the right tool for the work.
I have used a variety of eLearning software to create courses in the last few years and I can’t say I have found a perfect solution for my workflow. Articulate Studio ’09 is a fairly expensive suite that works as a plugin for Windows PowerPoint, and here is where one of the first challenge come for a Mac user like myself.
Having installed the software, you will realized that your PowerPoint will get a new tab with all the Articulate Presenter options to build your course. You can then start building your course as a regular PowerPoint presentation with animations and all PowerPoint features. Now is when some of the power features of Articulate start to show off, and that is with the Engage software.
This software adds advanced animations to your courses. The best way to imagine it is a dynamic slide generator that will help you produce content to display in different ways. The different templates are pretty fixed and you need to use them ‘out of the box’ unless you are a Flash developer that want to contribute to the community with a new template, there currently are some available. The effects are nothing fancy and it is advisable to use a small amount of slides, otherwise you run into the risk of having your LMS streaming the course slow or hanging up your learner in the middle of the course.
The other software included in the Suite is Quizmaker, that as it name implies, it helps you create quizzes for assessment. This is a very powerful tool that helps you create fairly complex quizzes with the option of branching the answers. There are plenty of formats to choose from in order to produce the quizzes, you can even map images for your learner to click on certain areas. Then the metadata can be stored on your LMS via the SCORM package.
One last piece of software that is included is a video encoder that transforms video formats, this can be handy if you don’t have other software that can do this, otherwise is not really a critical part of the Suite.
Some issues that have been giving me some trouble:
- It is a Windows based software and being a Mac user I have a higher standard on the software design, the use of the Windows ribbon navigation is still not the best user experience ever created.
- Also related to the design of the software. When you are exporting your courses there is a big design flaw, the software uses your clipboard to produce the final course, this might sound harmless but think of not being able to copy/ paste anything for the time your software is exporting, this might be ten minutes, can you do something else on your computer and remember that you can’t copy/ paste? I might be very slow because I have messed up so many publishing courses I ended up trying to make my publishing actions coincide with going to get coffee or just get to the restroom.
- Also be careful with exporting from a Virtual Machine, your temporary files can be filled up easily (I realized of this when I went over 200 Gigabytes of temporary files)
- It can import flash movies with actionscript 2.0 but not 3.0, the 3.0 ones have to be imported as plain movies.
- It is not flexible, I always like to produce very different products and with Articulate, even thought you can change the skins of the published course there isn’t that much customization after all.
- I have not been able to make the audio tools work out properly, I ended up working on my audio externally and importing it to the course as a finalized file.
On the positive side:
- It is a very strong tool to produce learning content very fast and and easy with a decent final quality.
- If you are creative enough, with a good copy and professional graphic work you can get more than acceptable results.
- The SCORM package didn’t give me any problem at all in any of the three LMS I used.
- The learning curve is not very steep, you can get your hands on this software and be producing compelling results in no time.
- The flexibility to make quizzes is fantastic.
Overall this software is a double edge sword, it has some strong features like the Engage animations or the creation of strong assessments but at the same time, this might not be for everyone. You can always try for yourself for 30 days and mess around with it.