So Many Layers, So Little Time

Like an onion, too many layers can make an e-learning developer cry. You’re creating an e-learning lesson in Storyline and your client has a number of slides with multiple layers. Your client requires that the learner visit all of the layers on each slide before they can advance to the next.

Normally you’d disable the Next button in the Storyline player so that it won’t work until all the layers have been visited, or you have a customized Next or Continue button on the slide itself with an initial hidden state that switches to Normal after the learner has visited all the layers.

Layers1

Each red dot reveals a separate layer, that’s 10 layers!

True/False Variables
To accomplish this, you create a separate True/False variable for each layer and when the timeline begins on each layer, or when learners exit each layer, you have a trigger that switches each variable to True. Well, it’s easy to see that if you have a lot of layers and a lot of slides with layers, you could end up with 100+ variables to create. Fortunately, there is a much better way, and it works!

Number Variables
Instead of creating True/False variables for every layer, create 1 Number variable. Let’s say you have 10 layers, simply create a Number variable (I’d name it after the slide you’re on, but you can call it anything) with an initial value of 0.

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Why Greater Than or Equal To?
Then add a trigger on each layer to add 1 to the numbered variable you just created. And finally, on the base layer, add a trigger which says to change the Next button to normal when that variable is greater than or equal to 10.

In case the learner decides to visit one or more of the layers more than once before advancing to the next slide, it’s a good idea to use the “greater than or equal to” setting on the trigger. Also, if you try to set up this trigger, you’ll notice you don’t immediately have the option to set the value of the variable, you can only change it, uh oh!

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Not to worry, you just set the variable to change, then you Add + a Condition that says the variable is greater than or equal to 10 and you’re done.

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Click + and add a trigger condition

Disabling the Next Button
In case you don’t know how to do this, you can add a trigger on the base layer that says to disable the Next button at a certain point on the timeline. I usually set it to be disabled within the first second. You can do this by either entering the time (When Timeline Reaches) or adding a cue point to the timeline and setting the trigger to disable the Next button when it reaches the cue point.

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If you’re using a customized button, and not the one on the Storyline player, just set the initial state of the button to Hidden, and have it change to Normal after the variable has reached 10 or more (or whatever value you need based on the number of layers).

It’s also important to make sure all the triggers are in the correct order to work. In my lesson, I have the trigger to disable the Next button appear ABOVE the trigger to change it to Normal.

I hope I made this all very clear and easy to understand, but let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

 

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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.

3Avatars

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”?

AvatarFeedback

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

NameThatScoundrelStillShot2

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.

NameThatScoundrelStillShot3

Conclusion
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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Am I in Sync?: Using Video in E-learning

One of my clients provides fuel and services to the exciting aeronautics industry. They LOVE video and use it extensively in their training courses. In designing a number of courses for them, I had the opportunity to do a lot of video editing. As much as I enjoy working with video, I always want it to support and not detract from the message being conveyed in each scene.

This week’s Articulate e-learning challenge is all about how to sync video up to your content. So in this article, I will share three different ways to do just that!

Back and Forth

In this first example, I had a picture and text layout that I really liked. So, I brought out each bullet with the picture and then faded in the video to support the more detailed explanation of each bullet, going back and forth between the still shot and the video.

No Bullets, Just Video

For this one, I didn’t use any bullets, but just edited the video so it would be in sync to the audio content. So when she’s talking about smiling or shaking hands, that’s what you see on the screen. I also edited the video so that the actual sound from the video comes in for just a couple seconds so you can hear the CSR saying “Hello, Mr. Smith…”

I used Pinnacle Studio video editing software which allows you to have video on separate tracks, just like in a music recording studio soundboard. I clipped out that little bit of video with the CSR greeting the customer and put it on a separate track from the rest of the video which was on a muted track. Then, for the voiceover audio track, I added a couple seconds of silence, so the narrator would pause while the CSR was talking. It’s a neat effect, and it also gets the learner’s attention!

You can add silence to any track either in your video editing software or after importing it into Articulate Storyline (which is my favorite e-learning design and development tool).

Bullets on Top of Video

In this final example, I added a semi-transparent rectangle on top of the video and animated in the bullets in sync to the voiceover. This is my most common approach.

Whatever media you are using, always strive to make it support the content. Yes, using advanced animations and creative visual effects CAN effectively keep the learner engaged in the course, but don’t get too carried away and end up distracting the learner. Let me know what you think. Do you have any other ideas or approaches to using video you’d like to share?

Creating a Video Quiz

This week’s Articulate e-learning challenge was to create an interactive quiz using video. Fortunately for me, I had already created one for a client in the aeronautics industry about how to tow an aircraft. Video interactions and quizzes are excellent for teaching learners how to perform step-by-step processes.

The Inspiration
Using Montse Anderson’s similar interaction about airport security for inspiration, I created my video quiz.

How It Works
At each step in the process of towing an aircraft, a question mark appears asking the learner what they should do at that point. As you’ll see in the video quiz, question marks appear when the tow vehicle approaches the aircraft, stops in front of it, and again when the tow bar is attached to both the tow vehicle and the plane, and finally when the actual towing of the aircraft begins.

videoquizquestionmarkappears

Clickable question mark appears prompting learner to answer question

The learner is instructed at the beginning of the quiz to click on the question-mark prompt to open up the quiz question for that step in the process. To make things look seamless, I took a still shot of the video, layered it to the back of the quiz slide and darkened it with a semi-transparent background.

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Quiz question

The learner makes a selection and the video resumes. As in most quizzes, this one also asks a few standard quiz questions and then gives the learner their final score upon completion.

How I Built It
I edited all the videos in Pinnacle Studio, then imported them into regular blank slides in Articulate Storyline.

videoquizpinnacleediting

Pinnacle Studio video editing software

I added question-mark prompts to each of the video slides, adjusting their entrance points to come in at the proper time and place. Then I created quiz question slides; multiple choice, true/false, etc.

Then going back to the video slides, I added a trigger to the question marks telling Storyline to jump to each corresponding quiz slide when the learner clicks them.

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Adding a trigger

If you create your regular video slides and quiz slides in order, you don’t need to tell the quiz slides to go back to the next video slide. However, if you need to rearrange the order of the quiz questions and their corresponding video slides, you can re-position them in “Story View”.

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Story View in Storyline

Finally, the Results slide and layers work the same way they normally do in any Storyline quiz. You can check out the video quiz here and let me know what you think!