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Toolkit: Adobe Presenter 8 Leaps Ahead

by Joe Ganci

August 30, 2012

Review

by Joe Ganci

August 30, 2012

“Presenter is not meant to replace Captivate or any other stand-alone authoring tool. As a product that you access from within PowerPoint, you are of course expected to be familiar enough with PowerPoint to design your learning well. Presenter lets you then further enhance and expand on PowerPoint’s abilities with real eLearning capabilities, especially in terms of interactions and quiz questions.”

Until this summer, the last time I reviewed a tool from Adobe was in June 2011. During the year that followed, every tool vendor seemed to publish a new tool or an updated version of an existing eLearning tool, excepting Adobe.

This summer, however, Adobe has released updates of three of its most important eLearning tools, so after reviewing Captivate 6 in June and Connect 9 in July, I’m now presenting my review of Presenter 8. In every case, Adobe has focused on making these updates substantial with lots of new features, and Presenter is no exception.

An Update That Is Not Just “More of the Same”

You might be surprised to see how much Adobe is applying many of the same principles and features to its different products but upon further thought it makes perfect sense. Presenter has always been a way of taking PowerPoint files and turning them into eLearning lessons, and in that regard it has appeared most similar to Acrobat Presenter, Trivantis Snap, and iSpring Pro, offering many if not all of the same features as those other products.

The new version of Adobe Presenter attempts to leap past the features found in the other tools. That’s good: many instructional designers tend to look down on the use of PowerPoint as a starting base for eLearning lessons because of the many bad examples that have come from the process. These are usually due to a lack of good design in general and are not necessarily a problem with PowerPoint itself. However, it must also be noted that dedicated authoring tools usually offer up many additional features for more advanced designs, such as personalizing lessons or allowing for sophisticated branching based on pretest results or other variables.

As such, the new features in Presenter are welcome as they can really help instructional designers to create better designs. So let’s take a look at what Adobe has added to Presenter. Note: like its competitors, Adobe Presenter works only in PowerPoint for Windows.

New Feature #1: One-Click Integration with Adobe Captivate 6

As Figure 1 shows, Presenter now has three different Record options. The first lets you record audio, synchronizing it to your slides and animations. The second taps into your Webcam to record video of yourself (or anything or anyone else you like), and the third lets you tap into Adobe Captivate’s screen-recording abilities. This last option is available only if you have Adobe Captivate installed.

Figure 1: The three recording options

Choosing the Record Application Simulation option gives you access to Captivate’s recording dialog (without the rest of the Captivate interface). There you have all the options normally available, including the ability to simultaneously record different types of simulations: demonstrations, in which you are showing learners how something works; training, in which you let learners practice without penalty, providing hints along the way; and assessments, in which you test the learner’s knowledge, keeping track of the learner’s answers and progress. You also can create a fourth type of simulation: custom, in which you choose what to include.

Once you’ve completed the recording, Presenter will create a slide for each type of simulation you created. Each slide will contain a simulation SWF (published Flash) file. For instance, if you choose to record both a demo and an assessment, you will see two new PowerPoint slides created in your slide deck. The first will contain the demo SWF file and the second will contain the assessment SWF file.

You also will notice in Figure 1 that there is an Edit option for Application Simulations as well. Once you’ve recorded a simulation, clicking the Edit button will return you to Captivate and then you will be able to access all of Captivate’s features to edit the recording you created.

For those who use Captivate and Presenter together, this is a very useful new feature.

New Feature #2: Video Production

As mentioned above, there is also an option in Presenter 8 to let you record your own videos. The cool thing about this option is that you can be on camera while you move through your slides, simultaneously recording both.

Once you click the Record Video icon (see Figure 1) you’ll be able to set your preferences, as Figure 2 shows. If you have more than one microphone or Webcam, you can choose the one you want to use.

Figure 2: Video preferences

Once you’ve recorded yourself, you are able to edit the video using the options in Figure 3. You can:

  1. Apply your own branding
  2. Pan and zoom your video and/or your presentation
  3. Trim your video

Figure 3: Editing options

As Figure 4 shows, you can also choose different layouts for different portions of the video. You can choose to:

  1. Show only the presenter
  2. Show only the presentation
  3. Show both with the presenter on the left
  4. Show both with the presenter on the right

Figure 4: Layout options

What I really like about the above is that you don’t have to stick to only one layout for the whole video; you can switch out layouts at any time along the way. For example, you can start with just the presenter, and then have the presenter and the presentation share the screen. At any point where you want to show a lot of detail from the presentation, you can switch to making the presentation full screen.

When you’re ready to publish, Presenter offers you the four options shown in Figure 5:

  1. Publish it to your computer
  2. Export it to PowerPoint
  3. Upload it to YouTube
  4. Upload it to Adobe Connect

Figure 5: Publishing options

Other options in the video editor include automatically adjusting brightness and sharpness, reducing background noise, and more. All in all, this feature is pretty cool for anyone who has wanted an easy way to incorporate video into presentations.

New Feature #3: Smart Learning Interactions

If you’ve seen Captivate 6, you’ve seen the new smart learning interactions that they added. The ones that Adobe has added to Presenter 8 are largely the same.  As Figure 6 shows, they include:

  1. Accordion
  2. Certificate
  3. Circle Matrix
  4. Glossary
  5. Process Circle
  6. Process Tabs
  7. Pyramid Matrix
  8. Pyramid Stack
  9. Timeline
  10. 10.  Word Search

Figure 6: Interaction options

After you choose the interaction you want to include at given moment, you can select a theme for it. Selecting the same theme for all of the interactions you include will ensure a consistent look and feel. Presenter lets you customize the theme you choose. For instance, you can either change the header text and the background color or remove them altogether.

In addition, you can add images and sounds to any of these interactions. Once you’ve inserted interactions, you can choose the Manage Interactions option to further edit the interactions.

New Feature #4: More Quiz Question Types

Figure 7 shows the two new question types that have been added to quizzes:

  1. Sequence
  2. Hot Spot

Figure 7: Additional questions

New Feature #5: eLearning Templates, Actors, and Scenes

Adobe has teamed up with both eLearning Brothers and eLearning Art, two companies that sell resources for eLearning designers and developers. The result is a good sample of templates, actors, and scenes in Presenter, with links to both companies if you want to purchase more.

To use an eLearning template, you choose from the several included when you create a new PowerPoint file; see Figure 8. Each template includes over 100 different layouts.

Figure 8: eLearning templates

You can also add Scenes from the several available to any slide in a PowerPoint file. These can help enhance the look and feel, plus allow you to put learners “in the scene” so that they are more apt to learn. See Figure 9.

Figure 9: Scenes

Actors, or characters, are also included in Presenter 8. They come in different poses so that you can use them in a variety of ways, and there are both photographic and cartoon characters. Use them as spokespeople, mentors, or simply to add a human element. See Figure 10.

Figure 10: Actors

New Feature #6: Publish to Tablets

Adobe has provided a new app you can download for both iPads and for Android tablets, called the Adobe Presenter Mobile App. When you use the app, you enter the link to the Website where you publish your Presenter files. While learning, users can swipe left and right to go to the next or previous slides. They can tap to get more information, and they can pinch to see the table of contents. See Figure 11.

Figure 11: The Adobe Presenter Mobile App

Pricing

Adobe has sold Presenter for $499 in the past, and that price has not changed despite all the new features they have added. If you own a prior version, upgrade prices start at $199.

What’s missing?

Ah, the eternal question – what can they do to improve this (or any) product? Start with the basic idea that Presenter is not meant to replace Captivate or any other stand-alone authoring tool. As a product that you access from within PowerPoint, you are of course expected to be familiar enough with PowerPoint to design your learning well. Presenter lets you then further enhance and expand on PowerPoint’s abilities with real eLearning capabilities, especially in terms of interactions and quiz questions.

Remember that this review only covered the new features in Presenter 8. Many other features are in Presenter from prior versions, and if you would like to try it you can access a trial version from Adobe’s site.

What’s missing? In future versions, I’d like to see the ability to personalize courses by allowing learners to type in their names and then use those names later in the lesson, for instance. It would be nice to allow for more robust navigation, too.

What would you like to see added? What do you think of the current version of Presenter? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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