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Toolkit: ZebraZapps Goes Pro with New Release!

by Joe Ganci

November 27, 2012

Review

by Joe Ganci

November 27, 2012

“My take on this new version is rather positive. I love being able to organize my content using the Event Flow and to use templates and Master pages. LMS connectivity is a must for my clients, but I was not expecting to have ZebraZapps be ready for TinCan this soon, so that’s welcome news.”

At the beginning of the year, Learning Solutions Magazine published my article on Allen Interactions ZebraZapps, which at the time was what is now known as the Creator version. If you’re not already familiar with ZebraZapps, I recommend that you read that review first, which covers all of the most important features: http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/826/toolkit-zebrazapps-is-ready.

Now Allen Interactions has a new version ready, ZebraZapps Pro. While it contains all of the many features of Creator, it adds several important elements that any serious eLearning developer will want. This review covers all of the new features available in the Pro version. So let’s take a look!

Creating a new project

When you start a new ZebraZapps project, you’ll see some new options. See Figure 1.

Figure 1:Starting a new Zapp

 

New features include a decision as to what your project should do when a learner returns to the lesson: restart, resume, or let the learner decide. You also can choose from a lot of templates.

Templates

Both the Pro and Creator will have dozens of new templates from which to choose if you wish to use one. The templates are built in a number of different formats and sizes, and they are constructed entirely in ZebraZapps. They help you save a lot of time, but you can also change anything you like in any of the templates and make them completely your own. The templates usually include navigation controls so you really only have to enter or change the content in a template to have a full-fledged lesson ready to go, if you like the layout and colors. Figure 2 shows a Quad template, in which the learner can choose one of four pages, at which point the page zooms to full screen. Each page can contain any ZebraZapps content you wish, including full interactivity. Interactions remain fully active whether reduced to a quadrant or commanding the full screen. Thus the learner can work four interactions or simulations simultaneously.

Figure 2:Quad template

Figure 3 shows an Easy Navigation template open in edit mode so you can see how each object can be edited and wired.

Figure 3: Easy navigation template, in edit mode

Using the Event Flow

Once you’re in the main interface, you’ll also be met with a new feature: the Event Flow. The first items presented are a blank Master page and a blank Event. Figure 4 shows the interface after the developer has created some Master pages and Events. Notice below there is a navigation panel that lets you flip between Master pages and Events quickly. In this particular case, you see a project that has three Master pages (stacked on the left) and 20 Event pages. The split slider allows placing any two pages side by side. When slider sections come together, both stacks will show what comes before and after each Event. Reordering Events is as simple as dragging them to the scroll bar and dropping them in place.

Figure 4: A Master page and an Event

Master pages

Everybody knows what a Master page is, but there’s a cool, unique bonus of ZebraZapps Master pages: they can contain full interactivity that’s added to every Event to which they’re applied. As such, they’re great for centralized navigation and providing user utilities, such as a glossary or reference material. Master pages in ZebraZapps can, in fact, contain anything you like and can then be applied to any Events you create. There is an option to make objects on Master pages appear on top of objects in Events (foreground) or behind those objects (background). You can have up to 12 Master pages in any project, and you can apply as many Master pages as you like to any Event. You can add more Master pages by clicking a + sign to the right or left of a Master page. See Figure 5.

Figure 5: Adding more Master pages

Events

An Event can be anything you want it to be, from a simple text object to a full-fledged interactive simulation. Events help you to organize your content any way you like, but most use it to organize their interactions so that each is a discrete experience that can stand alone or flow into the next Event. However, this is no excuse to create linear content! An Event can link in many ways to other Events, so you can make your projects instructionally creative and your lessons engaging and true learning experiences.

You create new Events by clicking the + sign to the right or left of the current Event, just as was true for Master pages. See Figure 6.

Figure 6: Adding more Events

Double-clicking an Event or a Master page will open it for editing. Alternatively, there are shortcut icons attached to Events that allow you to run or play an Event. Once you’re editing the stage, if you’ve been a user of ZebraZapps Creator, you’re back in familiar territory; see Figure 7. However, you’ll find here a few new items, too.

Figure 7: The stage; note the Event features

At the upper left, you’ll see a new tool called Event Flow. It will zoom you back out to the Events and Master pages, as you saw in Figure 4.

At the bottom, you’ll see the Event message center, which gives you options that relate to the Event as a whole. See Figure 8.

Figure 8: The Event Message Center

At the top right, you’ll also see that the Project Message Center has been greatly enhanced. Figure 9 shows all of the In > Do options available to you there. You’ll see that many of the Project Message Center options are directly related to Events.

Figure 9: Project In > Do options

Besides the standard Restart and Quit, Go forward, and Go back Do options for Project, you now have four options related to Events as well.

Project properties have also been enhanced to include many Event options, so that you can wire an interaction to change Events, for instance. See Figure 10.

Figure 10: Project Properties

Yes, in fact, you can wire between Events about as easily as you can wire within an Event. Events play together nicely.

LMS connectivity

ZebraZapps Pro lets you tie into your SCORM-compliant learning management system (LMS) or to a TinCan Learning Record Store (LRS). Figure 11 shows you the different In options and Figure 12 shows every property you can get and set. Figure 13 shows you the different Out options.

Figure 11: LMS In options

Figure 12: LMS properties

Figure 13: LMS Out options

ZebraZapps works well with your LMS and with TinCan. Basically, remember that ZebraZapps runs in the cloud. When you choose to publish your project, you can create an LMS zip file that you can download and then upload to your LMS. The zip file contains everything the LMS needs to run the course, including the link to the SWF file in the ZebraZapps cloud. See Figure 14.

Figure 14: New Publish options

Sharing Zapps

Now you can share your Zebra projects with other designers or developers who have a ZebraZapps account. You only need to give their email address and they will receive a copy of the project so that they can review it or even edit their copy. You can then coordinate with team members to edit and change different parts of the project. For instance, one team member can be in charge of setting up a Glossary Event. Once ready, it can then be copied and pasted into the main project file.

You can also now publish to a guest list so that you can invite specific individuals to view your published project.

So what else?

One of the big differences between Creator and Pro besides what’s noted above is that Pro has the ability to manage very large projects with very fast saving, uploading, and execution performance. A lot of engineering work has gone into these improvements, and it shows.

What’s on the horizon for ZebraZapps? There’s more to come.

  1. Both Pro and Creator will soon have a full library of image and template assets from eLearning Brothers. There will be other libraries made available as well.
  2. The player will allow for custom loaders and also transparent backgrounds for easier inclusion of your projects within other authoring tools.
  3. Much more that can’t be revealed just yet.

Pricing and conclusion

Creator will continue to be licensed at $8.95 a month and Pro will have a price of $39.95 a month. A free trial will be made available for a limited time only, so be sure to go to www.zebrazapps.com and sign up.

My take on this new version is rather positive. I love being able to organize my content using the Event Flow and to be able to use templates and Master pages. LMS connectivity is a must for my clients, but I was not expecting to have ZebraZapps be ready for TinCan this soon, so that’s welcome news. There is always room for more feature requests, and I have a few myself, but the addition of these new features truly takes ZebraZapps to the level of the professional, allowing me to use it now to create courses for clients and not worry about tying-in to their learning management systems. Finally, being able to share my projects and have team members work on different parts of a project and then bring those parts together allows me to save a lot of time and effort. Yes, sign me up! I’m ready!


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Joe - When is your Zebra book going to come out?

Have you found that Zebra is running more stably now? I ran the creator a few months back and found that it crashed a lot. Also took up a lot of system resources when it was running. Does it seem to be better optimized in these ways?
Also curious why the zebra site still doesn't list pricing for Professional even though your article does |- |

I notice the Professional feature list eludes to some stuff that Zebra doesn't have yet like "multiplayer games". That sounds really interesting. Curious to see how they end up implementing that.
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