This Spelling Bee is for the Birds

In this weeks e-learning challenge, we designers were asked to create a spelling bee interaction as the 2014 National Spelling Bee kicks off. I thought that was a great idea as it was something I’d never thought of doing before. I decided to create one based on physics terminology and have it presented by a parrot.

Physics Spelling Bee Intro

Click to play the Physics Spelling Bee

How the hxll did I come up with that?
Well, I had this beautiful image of a parrot flying over a rainforest I had used previously to create an interactive portfolio of my work. I called it “E-Learning that Soars” and I thought maybe I could do something with that. On the other hand, I’m a huge fan of this science program hosted by Morgan Freeman called “Through the Wormhole” where they talk about all sorts of fascinating topics like parallel universes, time travel, etc.

So to combine these two disparate elements of the parrot and physics, I created a story that goes like this: An up-and-coming physicist named Laurie Worthenhiemer has a pet parrot and because Laurie’s always talking about physics at home, Polly (the parrot) has picked up on a lot of the terminology. Polly has a lot of spare time on her hands, so she creates this spelling bee to challenge and entertain her house guests.

Build it and they will come…
Next, I picked four physics terms for players to spell. As is the case in most spelling bees, you’ll hear the term, then you can ask for a definition and hear it used in a sentence. I reached into my “inner-bird” and recorded all the voices using Cubase SX software and a nice Audio Technica microphone. I set up triggers in Articulate Storyline to play the different audio files when the user clicks for the definitions and the sentences.

Definitions and sentence options

Definitions and sentence options

This might sound obvious, but I also made sure that the notes button on Storyline’s player was not checked, as the transcript I was reading from would have revealed the words and thus given away their correct spelling.

The spelling part
I used Storyline’s built-in quiz question with a text entry field for players to type into. I took advantage of the correct and incorrect feedback layers to put in a few witty comments from Polly based on the words the players were attempting to define. I like to customize the colors and feedback on these to fit the situation rather then just going with the generic “correct, you chose the right answer” and “incorrect, you did not choose the right answer” phrases. I also put in a little picture of Polly speaking to the players to personalize it more.

Feedback layer for right answer

Feedback layer for right answer

Keeping score
I used Storyline’s built-in quiz results slide to keep score. Again, I customized it quite a bit eliminating the “you passed” and “you did not pass” layers. Being this was just a game and not really a quiz, I just wanted to give the players a score. I also removed the “percentage right” total and just showed the points.

The final tally

The final tally

If I wanted to, I could have used the built-in pass/fail layers of the quiz results slide to show Polly making a snide comment about a lower score, and another layer with a comment responding to a higher score. Although I didn’t do that here, it’s something you might consider in building your game. So, there you have it, a spelling bee game created in Storyline presented by a parrot all about physics. Enjoy!

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You can check out anytime you like…

So, you’re taking an e-learning module on ethics for work and you get to the end of the course and… well, you just took the final quiz and it looks like you passed, and… you’re finished right?… but how do you know for sure? It’s kind of like that Eagles tune Hotel California.

It may seem a bit too obvious for most e-learning designers, and maybe that’s why they forget it. But from the learner’s perspective, how do they know when they’ve finished the module? You’ve got to let them know!

In this week’s e-learning challenge, David Anderson asked us to come up with a creative and interesting way to tell the learner they’ve completed the module. Here’s how I did mine.

I decided it should say “Congratulations, you passed with flying colors” the assumption being they had to take a final quiz before exiting the course. That lead me to search out a free-to-use image of a bird in flight that I would animate.

click to see the finished product

click to see the finished product

Breaking up the Image in PowerPoint
I used PowerPoint’s “remove background” tool to remove the bird from the scene it was flying over. Then I right clicked the image and saved it as a picture (PNG file). Then I duplicated the slide three times and used that same “remove background” tool to isolate the two wings and the body and saved them as images as well. 

bird removed from background

bird removed from background

Creating the Animation Cells in PowerPoint
I created a new PowerPoint file, found a suitable picture of a rainforest from overhead to put in the background of all the slides, then imported the PNG images of the two wings and body to put on top of it. Then I duplicated that slide and adjusted the wings slightly on each and saved all those slides as PNG images.

animation cells in PowerPoint

animation cells in PowerPoint

Animating the Image in PowerPoint
Then I create a third PowerPoint file, imported the slide images I just created showing the wings in different positions, and set each picture to animate in “after previous” (instead of the default “on click”). Using the “save as” option, I selected the WMV file extension to save the PowerPoint as a video instead.

Importing into Storyline
I then created a Storyline file, and imported the WMV file. I set the video to start playing automatically. I also added a trigger telling Storyline to play the video again after it stops, so that the video would loop indefinitely. Lastly, I used the eyedropper tool to match the colors of the player and the text bubbles with the bird and the trees in the picture. Click here to see the finished product.

And now, in case you’re wondering, you’re done reading this article. You can go home now.

E-Learning Feud

This week’s e-learning challenge from David Anderson was to present a top 10 list. I decided to present the top 10 things you can do in Articulate Storyline in the context of a Family Feud-type game setting. Besides creating the actual module in Storyline, I used a combination of Macromedia Fireworks and Microsoft PowerPoint to edit the graphics. And I recorded original music for the theme song and all the character voices in Cubase SX.

click here to play e-learning feud game

click here to play e-learning feud game

Graphic Editing in PowerPoint and Fireworks
The game show logo was created using PowerPoint’s Word Art for the chunky font. I actually copied the logo making one version with an orange fill and a second one in yellow, then imported them into Fireworks where all the other shapes and fills were created and layered. I used an existing Family Feud logo as inspiration to create the layered look.

e-learning feud logo

e-learning feud logo

One graphic editing tool I love in PowerPoint is the “remove background”. Oftentimes I need to crop an image, but don’t want to just crop it into a rectangular shape. I had this picture of an audience that I needed to crop around the heads instead of a straight line, and the “remove background” feature allows you to do this easily. Then you can just right click on your cropped version and save it as an image.

Audio Recording and Editing
With very affordable digital editing software, these days all you need is a simple interface to go from a ¼ inch cord into a USB you can plug into your computer, a couple good mics, and you can make professional recordings easily at home. I’d like to thank Jackie Van Nice, an excellent voiceover talent and e-learning designer, for doing all the female voices. I did all the male voices and played all the musical instruments.

Audio editing in Cubase

Audio editing in Cubase

Cubase is a great tool because you can do very precise edits, remove all the surrounding background noise, apply compression, do the most subtle of crossfades, and a add host of other effects to your recording.

Storyline Variables and Triggers
To switch from the slide with the Johnson family to the Smith family, I created True/False variables named after each character with an initial setting of False. Then I created a trigger on the last slide for each character, changing each variable to True once the timeline for the last slide started.

Johnson family slide

Johnson family slide

Basically, you’re telling Storyline when the last slide for a particular character has been visited. Then I created another trigger on the Johnson family slide that tells it to automatically go to the Smith family once all the Johnson family members have been visited.

Then, after all the Smith family members have been visited, I wanted Storyline to go to the final slide for the game. So I did the same thing I did on the Johnson family slide; except I told the Smith family slide to advance to the final slide once all the characters  (for both the Johnson and Smith families) have been visited.

Resources
If you want to get the most out of Storyline, I strongly suggest taking Daniel Brigham’s Advanced Storyline course at Lynda.com for step by step instructions on variables, triggers, and a host of other tools. Also, the forums at Articulate’s E-Learning Heroes site are very helpful.

Let Me Try – Creating Interactive Software Simulations

Most people will remember something they’ve actually done more readily than something they were just shown how to do. With programs like Storyline it’s possible to create
e-learning modules that offer the learner the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned. To demonstrate how this might work, I created a short sample module of how to use the Player in Pinnacle’s Studio 17 video editing program.

View of Entire Interface

View of Entire Interface

I started by giving the learner a view of the entire UI, then zoomed in on the Player itself.

Bubble appears with description of button

Bubble appears with description of button

By simply using hotspots, triggers and layers in Storyline, I created a second slide where learners could click on each of the controls of the player for a description of what they do. Then it was time for the learner to get their hands dirty and try out the controls themselves.

It’s just a simulation Jim!
Because this was just a simulation and not the actual program, I needed to be sure learners could only click one button at a time following my instructions. Otherwise, there would be no way to predict where in the video they would be when they hit the rewind button for example, unless you knew where they’d left off.

To accomplish this, I created individual images of all the player control buttons and used Storyline’s “Hidden” state to hide them when I didn’t want learners to click them. Underneath all those images, I still had a picture of the entire player including the controls, so learners would still see them – even when the “clickable” images of them (on top of the picture of the player) were hidden.

Trigger Happy?
I created the following Triggers for each of the clickable images of the control buttons:

  1. A trigger to either play a video or change the state of a picture (a still shot of where the video would be) from Hidden to Normal. I should mention here that I had to set the “initial state” of all the still shots to Hidden, so learners would not see them until they clicked the button with the trigger.
  2. A trigger to play the audio clip with the instructions on which button to click next.
  3. A trigger to change the state of that button from Hidden to Normal.
  4. A trigger to change the state of the button they just clicked from Normal to Hidden – remember, I don’t want users to be able to click any other buttons because I need to control the order in which they click them to make the simulation work properly.
  5. In one instance I had to set a trigger to take learners to the next slide. I only did this once, because I had a second video showing the looping effect and thought I might be pushing my luck placing a second video on top of the first one on the same slide with all the other triggers and things going on. I guess I’d say that was a “judgment call”.

So, do you want to see the finished product? Just click here.

As always, if you need any clarification on how to do this, feel free to comment below and I’ll get back to you. I hope you enjoy creating your own software simulations. I also welcome you to check out David Anderson’s Weekly Challenge blog at E-Learning Heroes. It was because of his latest challenge that I created this simulation.

Hiding the Quiz Until the End

You have an e-learning course where your client wants the Take Quiz box to appear on the main menu, but doesn’t want learners to be able to take the quiz until after they’ve visited all the sections in the course.

They also want learners to have the option to take the different sections in any order they wish. As learners complete each section, they’ll return to the main menu. After they’ve completed all the sections, the Take Quiz box will become active so they can take the final quiz. Does this sound tricky? Fortunately, I’ve been there and can show you how to make it happen.

Main Menu with Take Quiz box on right

Main Menu with Take Quiz box on right

1. Create Two Versions of the Take Quiz Box
I needed two versions of the Take Quiz box; one that was clickable and would take learners to the final quiz, and one that was not. I named one “TQ With Link” and the other “TQ No Link”. Learners will see the “TQ No Link” box until they complete all the sections, at which time the “TQ With Link” will appear.

I put the “With Link” version on top of the “No Link” version in the timeline. Both boxes look the same to the learner, with the exception of what they say if the learner rolls over them. Since this requires that the boxes be the same size and in the same position, you can either select them in the timeline, or have one of them off to the side and set its final position after you’re done working on them. Either way, it’s a good idea to name them in the timeline to keep them straight.

2. Add States to the Two Boxes
For the “TQ With Link” box I created four states: an initial state of Hidden, and three other states; Normal, Hover, and Visited. For “TQ No Link” I created two states: Normal and Hover.

3. Add Layers and Triggers to the Two Boxes
So learners would understand why and when the Take Quiz box would be active, I created a layer called “Quiz” that said “Not available until all other sections completed” and added a trigger to make the “Quiz” layer appear when learners rolled over “TQ No Link”.

Then I created another layer called “Quiz 2” that said “Ready for a final quiz?” and added a trigger to make the “Quiz 2” layer appear when learners rolled over “TQ With Link”. And of course, I added a trigger to “TQ With Link” to go to the Quiz when the user clicks on it!

Layers with additional text appear on rollover

Layers with additional text appear on rollover

4. Create Variables and Triggers for All the Other Sections
Next, I needed a way for Storyline to know when each of the sections were completed. To do this, I created a variable and a trigger for each section.

I gave each variable a unique name I’d easily associate with the particular section and had them all start with a value of False. Then I went to the last slide of each section and created a trigger that changes the value of that variable to True when the timeline for that slide starts. That way, Storyline would know when the learner got to the last slide of each section, that meant they had successfully completed that section.

Click X symbol on right to create/edit variables

Click X symbol on right to create/edit variables

Variable created with initial setting of "false"

Variable created with initial setting of “false”

5. Create Trigger on “TQ With Link”
Lastly, on the main menu slide I added a trigger that changed the state of “TQ With Link” to Normal when the timeline for the slide starts AND when all the variables for all the other sections changed to True. Because when all the variables for all the sections are True, we know that all the sections have been completed.

When setting up this trigger, click the + sign to add as many variable changes as you need. ONE CAUTIONARY NOTE: I initially tried to just have the trigger activate when all the variables changed, but learned that that wasn’t enough, you also need to tell it to do it when the timeline for the slide starts.

Select when "timeline starts" on current slide

Select when “timeline starts” on current slide

Click + sign to add variables to trigger

Click + sign to add variables to trigger

To see a stripped-down version of how the menu looks and works, click here.

As always, I know some of this can be a bit challenging. So feel free to contact me if you have any questions about any of these steps.

Creating a Custom Drag and Drop Activity Using Triggers, Variables, and States

Last week at Articulate’s E-Learning Heroes, David Anderson presented us with an interesting challenge to create a drag and drop activity that was not quiz-based. David gave us three options:

  1. Create a drag over that would reveal something.
  2. Create a drag and drop that would complete something.
  3. Create a drag and drop to trigger a response.

I actually created one in Storyline that was sort of a combination of numbers 2 and 3. Learners would drag and drop food items onto either a microwave or convection oven and get positive or negative feedback as to which was the best option. Then when they got all 4 food items in the right oven, they’d get a final confirmation saying they had successfully finished the job.

Drag and Drop Slide

Drag and Drop Slide

It was simple enough getting the positive and negative feedback slides to appear when learners dropped the food items on the 2 ovens. All I had to do there was add a trigger to say when the microwave popcorn gets dropped on the microwave oven, to jump to the positive feedback slide.

Positive Feedback Slide - Popcorn

Positive Feedback Slide – Popcorn

And when it gets dropped on the convection oven, to jump to the negative feedback slide. That was easy.

Negative Feedback Slide - Popcorn

Negative Feedback Slide – Popcorn

But, because there were 4 food items to drag and drop, I also wanted to take learners back to the drag and drop slide – and when they got back, to have the microwave popcorn disappear after they got it right. That way learners would only see the food items they hadn’t cooked properly yet, so they would know how far along they were in the exercise.

Microwave Popcorn Disappears

Microwave Popcorn Disappears

Create Variables
To make those items disappear at the right times, I had to create variables. In this case, the variables were named after the name of the food; pitabread, pizzarolls, chilidip, and popcorn. All 4 variables were true/false with an initial setting of false.

Create Triggers on the Four Positive Feedback Slides
Then on all the positive feedback slides for each of the 4 foods, I created a trigger. The trigger would say for example, that when the timeline starts on the positive feedback slide for the microwave popcorn, that the popcorn variable would change to a value of true. Because the only way the learner would have gotten to that slide would be if they had dropped the microwave popcorn onto the microwave oven, and so the popcorn was cooked properly.

Create “Invisible” States
So we now need the popcorn to disappear. To do it, I went back to the drag and drop slide and added a custom state to the popcorn picture called “Invisible” and just deleted the popcorn picture from that state.

Add Triggers to the Drag and Drop Slide
Then on the slide properties for that slide, I added a trigger. I set up the trigger so that when the timeline starts for that slide AND the value of the popcorn variable is true, that the state of the popcorn picture should change to the “Invisible” state.

I then set up the same combination of triggers and states to the pita bread, the chili dip, and the pizza roll pictures.

So to summarize this: I…

  1. Created the 4 variables with an initial value of false
  2. Added triggers to the 4 positive feedback slides to change the values of the variables to true once those slides were visited
  3. Created “Invisible” states for the 4 pictures of the foods on the drag and drop slide, and
  4. Created triggers on the drag and drop slide that said when the values of the variables change to true, to change the state of the food pictures to “Invisible”.

One Final Slide
And finally, after the learner got all 4 foods into the right ovens, I set up one more trigger to take them to a final slide showing the guys on the couch with all their munchies watching the Super Bowl – all smiles. Since I’d already created the triggers and variables for the 4 foods, I just added one more trigger to the drag and drop slide saying that when all 4 variables changed to true, to jump to this final slide.

Final Slide - Mission Accomplished!

Final Slide – Mission Accomplished!

To run the complete exercise for yourself, click here. I know this process was a bit complicated, so feel free to write me if you have any questions or comments.

Using Branching Scenarios

I just recently completed development on an ethics course for a non-profit organization that used branching scenarios. The client gave us a number of approved scenarios to illustrate how their code of conduct would apply in real life.

For one of them, they simply told us that one of the managers had invited a group of male managers to lunch, but did not invite the female manager. To determine whether this was something that should be reported or not, the client gave us a number of questions that needed to be answered first.

The Scenario in Pictures
To make the scenario more interesting and memorable, I showed our protagonist watching the male managers enter the restaurant.

Scenario is presented

Scenario is presented

The Primary Branch
I then presented the learners with three options of what our protagonist should do: 1. Report it, 2. Do nothing, or 3. Ask more questions.

Primary Branch - 3 Questions

Primary Branch – 3 Questions

When learners clicked on one of the three options, I had a layer appear with feedback either telling them they needed to rethink their answer and try again, or that they made the right choice and to continue on to ask more questions.

Learner prompted to ask more questions

Learner prompted to ask more questions

As they clicked on each question, they would get the answer they needed from one of the characters.

Learner gets more information

Learner gets more information

The Sub-branch
After they clicked on each question to get all the information they needed, two new options appeared; 1. Report it and 2. Don’t do anything.

Sub-branch with two final questions

Sub-branch with two final questions

After they clicked on each answer, a final feedback slide would tell them whether or not they made the right choice.

Final feedback at end

Final feedback at end

Final Answer Delayed
The idea behind all this is that the final answer is delayed. Just like in real life, sometimes we don’t have all the information we need to make the right choice.

To accomplish this, I used a combination of layers, states, triggers, and variables in Storyline. Here’s what the final product looked like: