At long last, after much tweaking and editing, I’ve managed to finish my Articulate Storyline presentation for my Ugly PowerPoint on Reclosers. This is where it all comes together. So, instead of discussing every step of the process, I’d like to focus on some of the things I learned. And, that’s what I find the most exciting about instructional design… I’m ALWAYS learning something new! Of course, in order to do that, I had to push myself beyond my comfort zone. I pushed myself to learn how to create vector art in Photoshop, use a new authoring tool, and work with sound files. I hit a few roadblocks along the way, but I figured out enough to make the presentation professional and effective.
Getting to Know Storyline
I’ve had a lot of experience with Articulate Presenter. Your authoring is done in PowerPoint and then it’s published in Flash format to use on the web. It’s an old, comfortable friend and I’ve figured out a lot of its quirks and ticks. I’ve also used Adobe Captivate and found it pretty overwhelming and amazing. Authoring always took a little longer in Captivate because there’s so much more to control. So, when I made the decision to go with Articulate Storyline, the “new kid on the block”, I was hoping I’d get the best of both worlds. There’s a lot that Storyline can do that Presenter just can’t. And, it’s just about as configurable as Captivate. I found that the timeline authoring in Storyline is very similar to Captivate. And, the slide authoring is very similar to PowerPoint, as you would see in Presenter.
Cue points were something new to me. In Presenter, when you needed an animation to happen at a particular point during your narration, you would watch and listen to your slide and click to cue your animation points. In Storyline, you add cue points to your sound track and line up each element to these points on your timeline. It’s a very different approach, but I really like it. You can record your narration in Storyline or you can use a different program to record and then import your sound files. Either way works great and either way you get your sound files into the program, you can still use the sound editing tool to make quick edits on the fly.
One thing I did encounter was an issue with using the wrong bitrate when I recorded my voice over. I like to record my sound files using WavePad, an inexpensive but very flexible sound editing program. My past experience with Presenter taught me that recording in the program itself produced lower quality audio and did not give me access to each sound file. Uncompressed wav files are larger, but much better quality and I have a lot of flexibility with each file. My problem was that I recorded using the wrong bitrate settings and the files would not import properly. So, I consulted the E-Learning Heroes website and posted my problem on their forum. I had answered pretty quickly! Articulate staff and veteran users post tutorials, program issues, questions, and comments pretty regularly. Once I got the answer to the bitrate question in the forum, I was able to convert my sound files pretty easily using a batch process in WavePad and get going with my work.
Fun with Triggers
So, triggers are something new to me in Storyline. It’s not a feature in Presenter and it really opens a whole new world up. Triggers are actions you can create to make any element do an action. They are essentially little bits of code and most of them are created behind the scenes and you don’t need to know much about them for most actions. For example, you can insert a button into Storyline and the triggers are preset to go to the next slide when the user clicks on it. But, if you want to make it do something different, like show a different layer or make a certain action happen when the user clicks it, you can edit the trigger pretty easily. No coding required!
I got a little more personal with triggers when I wanted to do something that wasn’t already a preset action in my quizzes. In Presenter, there was always a counter in the upper left that let the user know which question they were on and how many they still had to do in this format: Question # of #. It kept a running count of the user’s activity. So, I consulted the E-Learning Heroes site to see if any other users had an answer for this dilemma. Sure enough, they did! I had to create a couple of new variables and then add a text box with the call to the variables. At first, I broke out into a sweat… coding is just not my thing. But, I have taken enough classes to at least get the basic concepts. So, once I stepped through their suggestions, I was able to find a way to do it that worked for my testing set up. Not painful at all!
Time for Feedback
At this point in the project, I would need some final feedback from my team of subject matter experts. If I had a public folder, I’d publish a web version of my Storyline project to that server and send a link out to my team with instructions to take a look at it and send feedback my way by a certain date. They would be instructed to find any production errors, make sure the quiz questions were correct, and do their worst to try and “break” the course. By that, I mean they should try and do things that the course did not intend, like jump from place to place, click the wrong things at the wrong time and that sort of thing. My hopes would be that the feedback would be minimal because we had already done a lot to build the course in the early stages. They would be looking for structural problems and hopefully not find any content issues. The good news is that if anything did come up, it’s a pretty painless process to fix it and republish.
So, when all of the feedback is addressed, it’s time to publish for the LMS and add it to the system. I have found that before that process begins, it’s a good idea to know what’s involved in that whole process.You may need to ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you need to submit the presentation to an LMS governance board for approval? Do you need to go through an official submittal process? Is there a file naming scheme that you need to be aware of?
- Do you have an official description written? Is it part of another series of courses?
- Will you need to create separate attachments in the LMS for a roster and handouts?
- Do you need to publish a CD ROM version for facilitators to use in the classroom for learners who don’t have access to computers?
- Do you need to create a printable quiz and answer sheet for classroom learners?
I have found that using my Project Checklist is very useful at this stage of the project. I have a Word version of the Project Checklist available for download that anyone can use and modify as needed. Every company is going to have a different process at this stage of the game, so it’s a document that I modify pretty regularly. But, it keeps me on track and from forgetting something important.
So, I’m pretty much finished with this presentation and I’m ready to move on to the next challenge. For the purposes of my portfolio, I’m ready to take on subject matter different from the electric utility business. And, I’m eager to continue to challenge myself by expanding my Instructional Designer Toolbox. My thinking is that prospective clients will want to see a variety of formats and my handling of different subject matter. Clients tend to need not only one kind of learning format, but many. They need to make the most of the content that they have to deliver. Some clients need to have a means to train in the classroom as well as online. They might also need a way for learners to access information after they have completed training. And, they might need a way to follow up on that training to track whether those learner have retained what they have been taught. Of course, the “bottom line” is very important and knowing how to evaluate ROI is essential. So, I’m going to be exploring these thoughts as I move on to my next project.