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Toolkit: Mobile Challenges, and Notes on Seven New Tools

by Joe Ganci

October 25, 2011


by Joe Ganci

October 25, 2011

“Toolmakers are well aware that if they don’t provide a mobile solution as part of their publishing options, they will very soon be left behind.”

Ten years ago, I gave a keynote speech, once in the States and again in the Netherlands, that I titled, Two Steps Forward, One Step Back. In it, I described what I had witnessed over my years in developing eLearning regarding new technologies. For each two steps forward, we had to move back a step.

This happened when we went from delivering learning on floppy disks to having the huge expanse of hard drives, allowing us five, even ten megabytes! However, it was now harder to deliver eLearning to learner machines because we had to create installation disks.

When we went from videodisc-driven full-screen video to QuickTime and other video formats, we were able to get rid of a huge expensive accessory, but now we had to go with postage-stamp sized video.

Moving from desktop to Web-based delivery meant that we could now update our applications much more easily and save ourselves the expense of sending out CD-ROMs to all learners, but the Web was slow, and we had to redesign our courses to eliminate heavy video and audio.

Of course, with time, all the downsides of new technologies have mostly gone away as hard drives have become much larger, and video processers and Web connections have become much faster.

There are more examples of the two-steps-forward, one-step-back syndrome, but let’s focus on the one facing us now. Just when we had become accustomed to fast Web connections, large flat screens, and huge storage space, we face our next big advance that also forces us to step back a bit: delivering to mobile devices. Ah, now we can reach learners wherever they are! However, we now have to accommodate smaller screens, slower processers, and slower Web speeds (mostly), and learners who are much more prone to distraction. When was the last time the same device you used for learning interrupted you with a phone call?

This will improve, just as every new technology has. More importantly, toolmakers are well aware that if they don’t provide a mobile solution as part of their publishing options, those who do will quickly leave them behind. I’ll also focus in coming columns on what tool vendors are doing to make their products mobile.

So whom have I been investigating lately?

Bloomfire logoI’ve kept my eye on Bloomfire since it was launched more than a year ago. Basically, it is a social learning platform that you can customize to your needs. I don’t for a minute think that it should replace eLearning lessons, which should be the foundation of the learning process. However, Bloomfire is a good way to keep the learning going by giving learners the opportunity to share tips, ideas, videos, and more. Now word comes that Bloomfire has just released a free iPhone app that extends the Web-based platform. You can find out more at

Adobe logoAdobe has made it no secret that the most important feature of new versions of their development tools will allow for multi-screen publishing. Develop once, and then deliver to the desktop, the Web, and to mobile devices. They are very focused on that idea. Look for Captivate and other Adobe tools to sport this feature in their next versions. Like all versions not yet released, Adobe won’t tell anyone when they’re coming, but as Captivate version 5.5 was just recently released, I wouldn’t expect a version 6 in your Christmas stocking this year.

Adobe LabsHowever, in public beta right now is a Captivate to HTML5 converter! Excited? It’s still early, so don’t expect much yet, but you can download it yourself at

articulate logoLook to Articulate to make a major announcement at DevLearn at the start of November. I expect that their long-awaited Storyline tool will finally be made available. I got a quick glance at it last year and liked what I saw. However, voices are whispering that while it’s a great tool, it may fall short a bit in some areas. Still, it’s version 1.0 so I wouldn’t expect it to have every feature yet, otherwise what would they put in future versions? I am really looking forward to this tool because I believe it provides a lot of power. We shall see. I definitely hope that it will be able to output HTML5 as well as Flash.

ZebraZappsCan we hope to see ZebraZapps, the other tool we’ve been awaiting, this one from Allen Interactions, out for DevLearn? I have my doubts.

Lectora logoTrivantis has announced Inspire, which is a suite of products that are tied together. It includes the Lectora authoring tool, Flypaper, which provides hundreds of Flash templates, and versions of Camtasia and Snagit, both of which are from TechSmith.

SumTotal logoHey, old-timers, remember ToolBook? Paul Allen’s baby from the early 1990s has come and gone and been resurrected more than once. Its current owner is SumTotal and they released version 11 this year. Not an overwhelming update, but ToolBook users will want to look at its new question wizard and enhancements to randomizing questions and more. I’ve always enjoyed the power of OpenScript in ToolBook, but, for various reasons, it has never been one of my main tools.

Speaking of Paul Allen, as authoring tools became popular in the ‘90s, there were three at the top: Authorware, created by Michael Allen, Toolbook, started by Paul Allen, and Quest from Allen Communications. Allen, Allen and Allen! My friend Robert Milton once noted that there is only a slight difference between the words Allen and Alien. Now you know who’s really behind authoring tools! ET, update my tool!


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Appreciate this!

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I can't undertstand why there is no even a one good opensource tool.
Great article Joe. With regard to the comment about open source, look into Phone Gap paired with HTML and/or Adobe Flex.
I really appreciat this articule. I am a graduate student at Rooosevelt University and am looking to expand my knowledge of alternative learning solutions. My organization has an office in China, and would like to see how we can leverage mobile learning for these remote employees.
I've used ToolBook since the 1990s and am comfortable with it. Alas, there are but a dozen people left in our international company who are quasi expert, so we have shifted to Captivate 6/7. Adobe makes nice tools and has great forums and user groups.
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