For my instructional designers and e-learning developers, they loved creating courses.  However, I found for the masses, including myself, it was a tedious but necessary part of the job.

Sure the courses were interactive and engaging, but I found it as fun as starring at Magic Art (actually that was fun, for about 20 minutes before a headache set in).

I never found course creating on par with playing an X-Box game. Nor, did I find it on par with petting my dogs – which heck is fun.

Nope, never..until now.

After diving into Articulate Storyline and using all its features, I found myself having fun. Real fun.

The first time I have had fun creating courses via a course authoring tool in 15 years.  Granted it wasn’t as much fun as attending a Linkin Park concert, but nevertheless I had a smile on my face.

Breakdown

Good

  • Layers and Conditions – if you have experience with Photoshop or similar products that use layers, then your learning curve is less
  • Trigger wizard – just “action” alone had 21
  • Lots of animated characters
  • Ability to change the animated character in a set position, simply by inserting another – even though the other character is not set up in that position
  • Preview function
  • Mouse over any of the header functions and you will view a brief statement about what it does
  • Likert scale as an option in surveys – finally!
  • If you like interactions, features and lots of capabilities – you will love this product
  • Tutorials – but as you see below they really messed up on how to view them
  • Learn more – great idea, but they failed at this too (more in a sec)

Average

  • Screen layout – can be overwhelming to someone who is used to the Studio layout
  • Audio recorder/editor/capture tool
  • Free templates and characters (more on this later)
  • Terminology – follows the Studio approach – which is too bad – example “screen”
  • Create a new project

Poor

  • One photo character – I mean seriously?
  • After clicking to view the tutorial, you go to the Articulate community web site and often it takes you to the top of the page, so you have to scroll down to see the tutorial
  • Mobile Player app – Major stinker. Main reason IMO, that the product is desktop. Numerous steps to view in HTML5

Directly from Articulate

“Upload your content to a web server, you just give your learners a link to the story.htm file” – This is to view the course in HTML5 on your iPad.

Now if you want to download it for offline viewing on an iPad series device:

To do so, you (whomever that may be) allow your learners to download the course. Then you have to click another link within the article to learn how do it.

  • Learn more – again to view it – takes you online – question: if you do not have internet access how are you supposed to see it?
  • Desktop – The e-learning market is moving to SaaS – you aren’t
  • To download free templates and characters you have to first register for a free account on the e-learning community. I just spent some serious cash for your product, why force me to waste time to register?

Entering Storyline

Every time you start Storyline, you will always see this opening screen

On the left side, you can create a new project

  • Record a screen
  • Import PowerPoint
  • Import Quizmaker – which assumes you have Studio

From a project template

You can also open a recent project, by clicking on the title of the folder. In my test, I used “neverendingstory”.

Once I clicked my title, the layout screen opens right up with the course, enabling you to jump right in and start editing. A super feature – simple!

You can also browse for other projects too.

Main Screen

If you are still working on a course or preparing it for publish, the main screen will show you the progression in a vertical linear fashion. This is the “Story Screen”.

On the right side of the screen you will see your triggers and properties.

If you are entering Storyline for the 1st time, i.e. with a new project the layout screen looks quite different.

It is completely blank ready for you to begin work.

The top header of the layout screen stays the same regardless of the mode.

Tabs

Home

  • Paste, cut and copy
  • New Scene – add a new scene to the project
  • Starting Scene – set the selected scene as the new starting scene of the project
  • Question bank. Click and choose from the following: New draw from Question Bank, Question Bank 1, Create a New Question Bank, Manage Question Banks
  • New Slide – add a new slide to the project (more on that in one sec)
  • Layout – Change the layout of the selected scene
  • Reset
  • Duplicate
  • Record screen
  • Player – edit the player properties
  • Preview
  • Publish

Add a New Slide

Storyline as noted earlier is a robust product and this robustness is seen the moment you decide to add a new slide.

After clicking the “Add a New Slide” a popup screen appears with the following options

  • Templates – Default is “Character Display Panels”, the other choice – “Top Interactions”
  • Basic layouts – Clean (Title and Content, Content only, Question, Question with media, Blank) or Articulate with the same choices as Clean
  • Quizzing – Choose from the following tabs: Graded, Survey, Freeform, Draw from Bank, Result Slides). Each of the tabs has an extensive list of choices
  • Screen Recordings – Record your screen. One note about this. When you record screens, regardless if you are in edit mode or within this screen, make sure that when you click it you are on the page or whatever you want to edit. I wasn’t paying attention and it started to record a blank screen of another audio product I was using
  • Import

Edit Screen – Your Best Friend

When you add a new slide or are editing any of your slides, this is going to be your quintessential screen.

This is especially true of your Insert toolbar.

The ones I used the most (it could be different for you)

  • Character – Illustrated or Photographic
  • New Slide – offers the same options and capabilities as seen on the home screen of “adding a new slide”. The difference is that when you choose the slides, they will be inserted into your project
  • Slide Layer – add new layers to the current slide
  • Video – from file, from web site, record webcam
  • Sound – from file, record mic (built into the system, of course you need a headset with a mic or a mic itself)
  • Web Object – insert a web object
  • Text box – add text
  • Trigger – add a trigger to the selected object

Main one I did not use

  • Flash – since my goal was to have the course visible on an iPad, I did not select this feature. Flash does not work on the iPad series

What you will see within the “Insert” screen

Left Slide

This is where your screens will appear. You can move the screens around at any time.

Center

Where you work on your screens. Add characters, text, etc. or edit.

Below Center

Three tabs are listed:

  • Timeline – Again, if you have never used a timeline  you will find this challenging. The timeline shows you the layers of the slides.
  •  I surmise the “eyes” will create confusion with many e-learning folks who have seen this functionality.

The current “eye” view means that the layer is visible. If you do not want to have the layer visible, click on the “eye” and it will change it a closed eyelid.

  • The open box next to the eye means that you can lock or unlock the layer. The default is “unlock”. To “lock” simply click on the box and it will change to a lock.
  • States – To view the state of the object, click the object.

Within “States” you can “Edit the States”.  On the right side of the “States”, “Normal” is the default. This means that the object on the screen is the state that currently exists.

Let’s assume that you decide to “Edit the States”.  In this example, I have selected one of the objects on my screen. Listed below the “Edit the States”, I am given(and you will as well) four choices

  • Notes – I found this feature to be underwhelming. Worse, if you want to learn what are notes, once you click “Learn More” it takes to an online page called “Add Recordings” and then you have to scroll down a tad to see what are notes and an example.

Right Side

Triggers and Slide Layers

This is the meat and potatoes of the product.  You will either love this or hate it. Plus it can be overwhelming unless you are used to this functionality.

Trigger Options

  • Create a new trigger
  • Edit the selected trigger
  • Copy the selected trigger
  • Not live
  • Delete selected trigger

Trigger Screens

As noted, this is one of the most robust and key functions of Storyline.

Within the “Trigger” screen you will see the following

If you decide to add a “Trigger Condition”, which is an advanced option, you will see

An example of a completed “Trigger”.

What you will see on the right side of your main edit screen

Every time you add new “Triggers” you will see them appear on the right side of the screen

Changing Characters Positions

Many products offer templates, including those with avatars. The downside though is that whatever position the character is within the template, they stay that way – i.e. you cannot change it with another character – and specifically in that position.

With Storyline you can.

In my test course on 80′s music, I used a male character in the following position

But after thinking about it, I decided to change the character to

After selecting the character, you will see a preview on the right side of this window

If you like this new version, click “Insert”

Tip

To change a character, right click the character object and you will see “Change Character”. Click it.

Other Capabilities

With this product, I could easily write a four thousand character review, but time is short, so I’m going to hit a few points.

The audio recorder and editor is very simple to use, and I especially liked the countdown before it started to record your audio. Many audio products upon clicking the “record” function immediately starts to record.

However there is one downside to the recorder. After recording your voice or whatever it appears as one wavelength, which is standard for any recording – and not the problem I have with the product.

It is when you add more sound recordings within that record. Thus if you decide to import a music file for that record as a second audio layer, it appears on the same wavelength as the initial voice recording, rather than a second record line for that one recording.  I hate that.

If you prefer to have multiple layers of recordings for one record, I strongly recommend using Audacity (which is free), then save and export the recording to Storyline.

Editing 

The main one is the ability to turn background noise or perhaps something you do not want on the final recording, to silence. I wish though that Storyline offered plug-ins to add to the editing sound screen.  Even if they offered the option for you to add plugins via the net (freebie ones and/or paid) that would work.

Right now it is a very simplistic editor which is a disservice to such a robust product.

As a result, I recorded in Audacity and then used various plugins to enhance it, including the changing of tempo and pitch.

Final Preview

I highly recommend previewing your project before publishing it.  While you can click through slide by slide of your project within the preview, it would be nice to just click a button and see the whole project in action. A nice time saver, especially if you want to see the whole flow.

For example, when I previewed my course, I realized that the audio recording of my first slide was not working.

I went back to that screen, clicked “recording” in my timeline and verified that the audio in fact was working (with this audio,  I had used the audio recording in the product).

When I went back to “preview” it still did not work. I’m not sure if that was a bug with my trial, but for another recording I did within the product, it worked just fine.

When I re-recorded it, the wavelength appeared in my timeline, thus verifying the sound now existed within my course.

Publish

If you are ready to publish your course, click “Publish”.

A new screen popups with the following choices (the default is web).

Here you can add a description and choose additional options.

For me, I selected “HTML5″, “Use Articulate Mobile for viewing on the iPad”, allow downloading for offline viewing.

I tested Articulate Storyline in the eLogic Learning LMS and found that it worked extremely well. Uploading it to a web server is not ideal, especially if you are unfamiliar with doing so, or your IT folks are not standing by ready to help you.

Final Word on the Mobile Player

An ideal would be the ability to edit your course within the mobile player. Hopefully that will be a future option.

Bottom Line

If you are used to Articulate Studio and assume this will be as simple to use, you will be in for quite a shock. I’m not sure why Articulate claims that a beginner can jump right in and use it, because I didn’t see it.

Even the folks at Articulate told me that it had a learning curve and it was recommended that you go and learn the product before jumping right into it.

For those who are used to layers, triggers, conditions and other robust capabilities the product is going to be your new best friend.

For others it may be your new frustration.

For me though it was not frustration but exhilaration.

What will it be for you?

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