Book Review: Learning Articulate Storyline by Stephanie Harnett

Written By

David Kelly

October 09, 2013

Since it was introduced last year, Articulate Storyline has become one of the most popular eLearning rapid-development tools on the market. It simplifies most of the development processes, allowing users to create rich and interactive eLearning experiences without needing to know how to actually write code.

However, just because the learning curve for tools like Storyline is less steep doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn. Users of the software must still understand the user interface and the process by which you use the various functions.

Stephanie Harnett’s recently released book, Learning Articulate Storyline (Packt Publishing, 2013), works to fill that gap, leading readers through the various functions of Storyline, from basic functionality to advanced features. Sidebar 1 outlines the book’s topics, chapter-by-chapter.

SIDEBAR 1: Chapter Topics

Chapter 1—Creating a Story

Chapter 2—Adding Content into Your Story

Chapter 3—Adding Interactivity

Chapter 4—Adding Characters and Audio

Chapter 5—Extending Slide Content

Chapter 6—Using Variables to Customize the Learning Experience

Chapter 7—Creating Learning Paths

Chapter 8—Testing Learner Knowledge

Chapter 9—Adding Visual Media to a Story

Chapter 10—Publishing your Story

Chapter 11—Rapid Development

What I liked

The book has a natural flow, starting with basic functions and moving on to more complex tasks as it progresses. The writing is clear and accompanied by plenty of annotated images of screen shots showing what the writing is describing. The balance between words and images works very well, and enables the reader to follow along even if they are not sitting at a computer with Storyline running.

Of course, learning how to use a tool like Storyline is a task best accomplished by actually using the tool, not reading about it. This book accounts for that by including “Follow Along” sections that enable readers to put the skills they are reading about into practice.

While they were not available with the advance-copy provided for this review, those who purchase this book will have access to a number of exercise files for use in the “Follow Along” sections. These files contain all of the assets needed to execute the tasks listed. It’s an excellent way of converting the traditionally passive task of reading into a performance-based skill-building activity.

I also appreciated the last chapter entitled Rapid Development. Most technical books like this show you how to use a tool, but stop short on exploring the little nuances of use that enhance your overall productivity. This chapter explores the concept of reusability (leveraging existing assets, build once/reuse many times, organizing assets, etc.) in detail, and shares other ways to enhance productivity when using Storyline.

The book closes with a fairly robust appendix filled with a number of additional resources curated by the author that can continue to expand your learning once you are finished with the book.

What I would like to have seen

I originally wrote the heading for this section as “What was Missing.” I needed to change that. The purpose of this book is to explain how to use Articulate Storyline, and this book does a very good job of accomplishing that goal.

As an experienced instructional designer, I often receive questions from less-experienced professionals such as, “What resources can you recommend to learn how to use XYZ development tool?” I never answer that question, at least, not in the literal way the question is asked. I find myself mentally editing the question so that I can answer what, in most cases, the questioner is really asking: “What resources can you recommend to learn how to DESIGN EFFECTIVE ELEARNING using XYZ development tool?”

That’s a different question. Using a tool like Storyline is a technical skill, while building an effective eLearning course is a design skill. Developing an effective eLearning module using a tool like Storyline requires both the technical skill set and the design skill set.

While this book does not cover eLearning design, it does acknowledge the importance of design at various points. I would love to be able to recommend a single book to a novice instructional designer that covers both the design and technical sides of eLearning development.

The verdict

As it stands, this book is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to learn how to use the technical aspects of Articulate Storyline. The book covers all of the major functions of the software at a good pace and with sufficient detail. The exercises available with the purchase of the book enable readers to put the tasks into practice, developing and building on skills as they progress through the book.

For an experienced eLearning developer (with strong design skills) using Storyline for the first time, this book covers just about everything you need to get started. Learning Articulate Storyline is also an excellent resource for less-experienced developers who will be using Storyline in their work; just make sure that you pair the book with an appropriate book on design (such as Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen or Designing Successful eLearning by Michael Allen) to develop the complete skill set.

Publisher site

You can learn more about Learning Articulate Storyline on its dedicated page at the Packt Publishing web site.

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