Bert’s Sliders Returns

When David Anderson announced this week’s e-learning challenge would involve avatars, I thought this might be a good time for a sequel. We find ourselves back again at Bert’s Sliders. This time, instead of learning how to cook the perfect burger like we did in Part One, instead we’re going to concentrate on customer service issues.


In keeping with the challenge, the first thing the learner does is select their avatar, a character which will represent them throughout the interaction. Considering how I wanted the interaction to look, instead of using variables and triggers, I just used simple navigation triggers to move from one scene or slide to the next.

Some of you will know that the 3rd avatar is really Bert himself which I’m hoping does not cause confusion as Bert is supposed to be the proprietor of the restaurant and you are actually an employee working for him. But sometimes, I like to just run with the absurdity and let the cognitive dissonance remain. Maybe Bert has a split personality, or perhaps the learner is suffering from “delusions of grandeur”?


So what we have hee-agh is your basic branching scenarios with three possible answers and feedback for each. Nutin’ fancy, but it’s fun. Let me know what you think. Click here to play.


Designing More Engaging Software Simulations

This week, David Anderson’s Articulate E-learning Challenge was to create an engaging software simulation. I used Storyline to create two software simulations, one which also gives the learners the opportunity to try it out themselves and a second one which merely demonstrates what to do, but also adds a closed captioning element for the hearing impaired.

Video Editing Software Simulation
Pinnacle Studio allows you to edit video professionally at a low cost. I created this demo to show users how to use their player and then gives them the opportunity to try it out themselves. Try it out here.

Bubble appears with description of button

Video Editing Software Simulation

For more information on how I created the simulation, visit my previous blog post.

Map Tools Demo with Closed Captioning
I designed this software demonstration/tutorial with closed captioning for Texas Parks and Wildlife. To make the course accessible to people with both hearing and visual limitations, I added closed captioning at the bottom of the screen and also used Storyline’s built in option to name all the graphics on the screen. You can view it here.


Map Tools Demonstration with Closed Captioning

To read about how to add closed captioning to a Storyline e-learning course, visit my previous blog post about it.

Pantone’s Ultra Violet

Every year Pantone puts out a new color of the year and the Articulate challenge of the week is to create an e-learning piece based on that color. This year it was Ultra Violet. The folks at Pantone were kind enough to also provide a list of color swatches (groups of colors that look good together) and so I selected their Desert Sunset swatch.

Being that I’ve been creating a lot of e-learning modules for the aeronautics industry, I created a menu for an imaginary course on aircraft fueling and maintenance.

Shapes and Fills
I used one of Articulate Storyline’s built-in shapes filling each with one of the colors from the swatch and making them all semi-transparent. Then I copied each of the shapes and for the duplicates, replaced the color fill with a picture. Then I simply layered the semi-transparent shape over the picture for each. To see it in all its animated glory, click the picture below.



Spring Cleaning in Winter

This last week, I’ve taken some time away from my project work to do a little spring cleaning of my WordPress site. Most of you reading this are elearning designers and developers, so you may have noticed that after you publish a file, if there’s a browser update, it can render your course/interaction inoperable. The sound or images might have gone out, or as often is the case, the whole thing won’t load.


Here are a few things to keep in mind when republishing your elearning courses:

  1. Make sure the fonts look right. Many of the courses I had up on the site were created on a different computer and some of those fonts did not make their way onto the new one. In Articulate Storyline, when you click on the text, it will tell you which font name to look for. Even if the font doesn’t reside on your computer, it will tell you what font it used to be. This is true even though Storyline has actually replaced the named font with a substitute. I either had to find and copy the old fonts onto my new computer or replace the fonts with something else altogether.
  2. Look out for outdated information. One of my old courses made reference to an old email address and website of mine which no longer existed.
  3. Keep the published folder names the same. That way, all the links on the other websites and pages which are pointing to them will still work after you upload the new version. Fortunately for me, I kept my published folders all in the same place, so I’d highlight and copy the name of the old folder, delete that folder, then paste the old name into the new folder before uploading it to the site. I also like to delete the old version on the remote site before I upload the new version. I don’t like to leave it up to the FTP what should or shouldn’t get replaced completely.
  4. When reviewing your new published files, make sure you’re not looking at the old cached version. In Google Chrome, I’ve noticed that I actually have to delete my ENTIRE browsing history to prevent it from opening up an old version. There may be a better way, but I’ve tried to search for and delete all the files with the old name from my browser history and those older versions still would pop up. The only thing that seemed to work was to delete all the browsing history from the beginning of time! One way to know you’re looking at an older version is the browser will ask you if you want to continue from where you left off.
  5. Make sure any links in the lesson/interaction are current and functional. Being that you’re having to update and republish your elearning files, the fact that some old links may no longer be working shouldn’t be any surprise, but when you’re republishing 20 or more courses/interactions, to check for them at all may not have entered your mind.

I would be VERY interested to hear if you have any items to add to this list of things to look out for. If you do, please leave them in the comments section below.


Video Interaction with Closed Captions

This week’s Articulate E-learning Challenge was to create an interaction in Storyline using only shades of grey or in other words, black and white. As it turned out, I already had created a video for my band’s song “629” and it was about 90% in black and white. Being that the tune was based on a very interesting person from US history, I thought it would be fun to create a guessing game called Name that Scoundrel to determine who this person was, what he did for a living, and what organization he’s associated with.

Closed Captions
Recently, one of my clients needed CCs (or closed captions) for a piece of software training I was creating for them. And since the interaction for the e-learning challenge was going to be based on song lyrics, I thought it would be a great idea to use CCs so people could more easily make out the words.

There are a couple things you typically need to do to add CCs to a Storyline interaction.
1. You’ll probably want a button to turn them on and off. I didn’t need or want this in my
e-learning challenge, but it WAS a requirement for the software training piece I created for my client.
2. The words in the CCs need to appear as they are spoken. Because of this, you can’t just use the Notes tab in the Storyline Player.


Turning CCs On and Off Using Layers
Tom Kuhlmann from Articulate shows how to add CCs you can turn on and off by putting them on a layer. Tom’s video also explains how to make the words appear in the CCs as they are spoken on the audio. After watching this video I realized that when you get to the next slide, they disappear. Fortunately, Brian Batt (also from Articulate) shows how to get CCs to continue from one slide to the next.

Turning CCs On and Off Without Using Layers
But what if you can’t or don’t want to use layers? Thankfully, Articulate Super Hero Steve Flowers thought of a way to add CCs without using layers.


I know this blog has just focused on the CC aspect of this game. So please use the comments section below if you have any questions about how I created any of the other elements in Name that Scoundrel. And definitely, let me know what you think!

How to Get Better Video & Image Quality in Storyline

Have you ever previewed a course in Articulate Storyline and everything was looking great, then after you published it, suddenly the video and image quality has gotten fuzzier? I’m going to share with you some settings that will improve the quality of your videos and images.

It’s Not Your de-Fault!
Storyline has default settings in both the Player and the Publisher which if left alone, will reduce both image and video quality. Here’s what you can do about it.

Adjusting the Player
Open the Player and click on Settings.


Under Browser Settings, use the dropdowns to select “Resize browser to optimal size” and “Lock player at optimal size”.


Click OK to save your Player settings. When you’re ready to publish, click Publish.


Select the tab on the left to publish to the Web, LMS, Articulate Online. or CD (the settings I’m about to show you don’t apply when you’re publishing to Word). Then under Properties/Quality, click Custom optimization.


Using the sliders, adjust the Video quality and Image quality settings to the maximum (all the way to the right). You an also do the same with the Audio bitrate if you wish.


Click OK and make any other adjustments you want, then click Publish.

That’s all there is to it. Making these adjustments to the Storyline Player and the Publish settings will give you the best video, audio, and image quality you can get. Of course, none of these settings will actually improve an existing video or audio file from the original, that would need to happen before you import those elements into Storyline.

Stretching Your Video Content

You’re working on an e-learning course and on one of your slides you have 36 seconds of voiceover talking about conducting safety meetings, but you only have 12 seconds of video showing a safety meeting in progress. What are some simple ways you can stretch that video content to match up with your voiceover narration?

Click to View Original Video

Click to View Original Video

Pan and Zoom
I use Pinnacle Studio video editing software, but most other reasonably-priced products out there have pan and zoom effects. I was able to take that 12 seconds of video and copy it two times on the video timeline. I kept the original copy as is, to use it as an establishing shot showing the speaker and participants all together.

For the first copy, I started zoomed in on the right on one of the participants, then panned over to the left to two more participants. And for the second copy, I started zoomed in on the speaker, and then slowly zoomed out to include some of the participants in the shot.

Click to View Enhanced Video

Click to View Enhanced Video

Most people will never notice that they are essentially looking at the same footage three times in a row, and because of the way I approached the panning and zooming effects, it gave the whole thing a sense of composition and symmetry.

Take a Still Shot
Another very simple approach is to take a still shot of part of the video and then stretch that still shot to whatever length you need it to be. I have also added pan and zoom effects to those still shots to give them a little movement as one of my clients doesn’t like pictures to linger too long without anything more happening on the screen.

Click to View Still Shot With Zoom

Click to View Still Shot With Zoom

Pinnacle Studio has a snapshot feature which allows you to get a still shot from video, or you can play and pause the video at the desired spot and use SnagIt to capture your still shot.

I hope these very simple methods help you to stretch your video content and keep things moving at an engaging pace for your learners. What are some methods you’ve come up with to stretch your video content? Feel free to share any ideas you have in the comments.