Phases 4 and 5: Interactivity and assessment
What about adding interactivity such as games, knowledge checks, simulations and assessments to your e-Learning module? Animation and audio are great, but wouldn’t it be great to add some elements to engage the learner and reinforce the material being presented? Phase 4 (Interactivity) and Phase 5 (Assessment) address these important areas.
Articulate provides several options for adding interactivity to your e-Learning module with the “Insert Interaction” option available from the Articulate dropdown menu in PowerPoint. This feature allows you to create three different types of quizzes through the Learning Games Wizard: Choices, Word Quiz and Sequence. (See Figure 4.) In “Choices” the user’s objective is to answer multiple choice and true or false questions before the time runs out. The “Word Quiz” offers a bit more of a “game” by asking the user to reveal the hidden answer one letter at a time before the time runs out. Finally, the “Sequence” interaction requires the user to arrange a series of items in the correct sequence prior to the time running out. All three interactions provide a great way to break up the e-Learning presentation, offer user interaction, and reinforce learning. These interactions are developed completely within the PowerPoint application.
Figure 4 The Learning Game Wizard provides support for development of quizzes.
But what if you’ve developed some great games or interactions using Flash, or using tools such as the online eGame Generator available from Collaborative Learning Systems (http://www.collaborativelearningsystems.com (Editor's Note: As of January 25, 2010, this article appears to have been removed from the Web.)), or even simulations created with Macromedia’s Captivate? Not a problem. Articulate offers the ability to insert Flash movies, Web objects or attachments. For example, the eGame Generator provides numerous games that the instructional designer can create online and package to a Flash SWF file. Using Articulate, it is simple to import the Flash game into your PowerPoint Presentation.
Articulate provides a Flash Movie Wizard to guide you through the steps of inserting a Flash movie into your Power-Point presentation. You have the option to display the presentation directly in the Articulate Player, or within a new browser window. The Articulate Player is the interface used to display the final e-Learning presentation via the Web. We’ll discuss this further in a moment.
Articulate will detect if the Flash movie will “fit” in the space allowed by the Articulate Player. If the Flash movie is too large, Articulate requires a new browser window to display the movie. Articulate offers additional control with options for displaying the movie after a specified time, allowing the user to advance the slide navigation, and allowing player seek within the inserted Flash movie. Using these controls, the designer can determine how soon after the slide loads that the Flash movie will play, whether the slide will advance automatically after the slide completes, or if the user must manually advance the slide, and if the user will be able to control an inserted Flash movie using the Articulate Player controls (seek, pause, etc.).
Articulate’s interaction options offer one level of assessment capability. However, these interactions work best as knowledge checks to break up the presentation and validate knowledge transfer. One key component lacking from these interactions is the ability to provide feedback. The interactions are also limited to the four question types available. However, Articulate has recently released a new product, QuizMaker, which provides an answer to these limitations. With QuizMaker, the designer can select from a variety of question types, offer the learner feedback based on their response, import images and Flash movies, and track results via email or a LMS. In addition, a quiz created in QuizMaker can be integrated into an Articulate presentation, or be published to Flash for delivery via the Web.
So, using the features provided by Articulate, interactive elements and assessments can easily be added to your e-Learning presentation with no programming effort.
Phase 6: Conversion for Web and LMS
Finally, we are ready to move on to Phase 6: conversion for the Web and LMS. Let’s step through how to package the e-Learning presentation for the Web. Using Articulate’s Publish option, we are given the choice to publish for CD-ROM delivery, or for the Web. Both will publish the presentation to a combination of Flash, HTML and XML files that are optimized for the specific delivery method. Prior to publishing, the designer has the ability to add a company logo, provide information and a photo of the presenter, control the level of compression, display SCORM or AICC players for a LMS, or set language and timing options. Let’s take a look at the flexibility Articulate offers concerning the final Web interface or “skin.”
Articulate provides several templates to use when publishing a presentation. However, the designer can edit these templates and save them to be used again. Figure 5 shows an example of the Articulate Player with all the available options displayed and selected. The left hand navigation panel provides several options. First, if a company logo was selected and uploaded using the Articulate Options previously discussed, this logo can be added to the Articulate skin along with specific information on the individual presenting the e-Learning module, such as their photo, bio and contact information. Of course, simply un-checking the selection boxes will remove each of these elements from the skin.
Figure 5 The Articulate Player provides the “skin” for the e-Learning presentation.
In the upper right hand corner of the Articulate player, you can add a tool bar with options to view attachments, add bookmarks, access related Web links and review the speaker notes. The Display options provide the ability to show as much or as little navigation as necessary. For example, perhaps you want the learner to view the entire presentation without the ability to jump from one slide to the other, or pause and play the presentation. Using the Articulate Player Template editor, the designer can fully customize the look and feel of the player with a few mouse clicks. In addition, each of the text labels on the player can be edited, the color scheme changed, and advanced settings such as allowing keyboard short cuts can be controlled by the designer with no programming required! The end result is an e-Learning course that maintains your company’s look and feel. Once you have specified the settings within the player template editor, simply save them to use on your next e-Learning presentation.
In addition to specifying a player template, you are able to choose whether the presentation should be published to “talk” to your LMS. In order for the presentation to work with the LMS, additional information will need to be entered, such as specific course information and the method of tracking progress and completion.
Articulate tracks a participant’s progress and completion based either on the number of slides viewed, or on the quiz results. For example, if your presentation consists of 40 slides, you can track what percent of the presentation the learner completed. Or, if you have included an Articulate interaction or QuizMaker quiz at the end of your presentation, you can track the participant’s score. In order to track progress and completion, Articulate requires the exact URL address on your LMS server that will launch the e-Learning presentation. (You may need to contact your LMS administrator to obtain this information.) All the programming necessary for communication with your LMS is automatically performed by Articulate during the Publishing process. Although communication with your LMS is relatively seamless, it is worth taking the time prior to development to publish a few of your articulate files and load them on your LMS server for testing.
Finally, the presentation is ready to be published. Articulate packages the presentation into a combination of HTML, XML and Flash files that can easily be accessed and played via the Web. All of these files are placed in a single folder and launched via an index.html file. So, using PowerPoint and Articulate the designer has managed to develop a complete e-Learning module without exiting PowerPoint or writing one line of code!
Today, instructional designers are being required to do more and more e-Learning development — pushing from the design role to the development role. This requires an entirely different set of skills such as graphic design and Web programming. Although many designers may acquire skills in the areas of graphics and HTML, programming skills are a
bit more complex and require a steeper learning curve. For example, becoming proficient in Flash Action Script is not accomplished overnight!
Often, because of our limited programming skills, designers are required to use contractors for the development phase of the e-Learning project — a costly option. The design of the training is usually affected by these limitations as well. For example, once outside contractor fees are factored in, the most effective method may not fall within the budget.
Articulate may not offer all the features and functionality of programs such as Flash, but it does provide designers with an alternative. Without having to learn a new software application or programming language, designers can now add audio and animation to their e-Learning presentations. Without writing any additional code, the presentation can be packaged for the Web and pass progress and completion results to your LMS.
Most designers are already familiar with PowerPoint. By simply adding Articulate Presenter, the designer is equipped with the tools they need to produce high-quality, interactive e-Learning with absolutely no programming knowledge!