Sunday, July 8, 2012

What's New in Captivate 6

I sat in on another Adobe Webinar for Captivate 6, this one titled: “New in Captivate 6,” that covered the new features in the latest release. I will say this, Adobe really seem to be doing a good job of offering a lot of training courses on Captivate, so I’ll give Adobe a big thumbs-up for that, even though I am a little annoyed at them as they have been harassing me recently, constantly calling, trying to sell me Captivate(!)

A great resource is the Captivate blog, which lists upcoming webinars, and downloads of previous ones: Other resources include:

The seminar was given by Allen Partridge, and while noting that there were many improvements in Captivate 6, he said that the three major priorities of this release were:
  1. HTML 5 support for mobile solutions to have it play back on iPads.
  2. Making sure the content can be created in an aesthetically pleasing way without costing a lot
  3. Support for high definition video

Creating Content
This release added Themes, which you can apply to all of the slides. Think of it like Master Slides in PowerPoint. And important note: while Captivate 6 installs several themes, but you can download more, and he added that there will be more available soon.

A Theme is a collection of information about a slide: font, style, captions, smart shapes you use, and the skins used. Each theme has a number of different layouts for standard slides and quiz questions. You can use the Skins editor to edit Themes.

Smart Shapes

Smart Shapes: Another new feature is Smart Shapes. In demoing these, Partridge noted that the current Captions feature uses bitmapped backgrounds. This means their quality degrades when zoomed, and they aren’t editable in any way. Smart Shapes are vector graphics, and you can edit the shape of the backgrounds as well as choose different backgrounds (including gradients.) Smart shapes will probably end up resulting in the deprecating of Captions.

Actors: Another new feature is Actors; bitmapped photos of people that you can use as cutout art. You can download more characters, and also create your own. I wondered what advantage there was to create a custom actor (vs. importing the images as individual graphics) and got the response; “Let’s say you had an eLearning piece and wanted someone to be in the piece. Those pre-built poses offer the chance to use the same character.” There is a video tutorial here: Adobe Captivate Sneak Peek 04: Actors and Smart Learning Interactions

Smart Learning Interactions are similar to the Smart Art objects in PowerPoint, and can be customized.

This version of Captivate adds HTML5 export as an option. You can now choose to publish to swf, HTML5, or both. If you publish to both, Captivate will insert a file that checks to see what platform the user is on and serve up the appropriate version.

The HTML 5 Tracker shows any content in your Captivate project that is not supported. The export does support Smart Objects and Advanced Actions. It does not support Effects - except motion effects -, rollovers, not all Question slides are supported, and there’s no pool. They have added support for HTML5 widgets, and they say that widget developers are starting to deliver widgets in HTML5 and swf format. Only static widgets will translate to HTML5 at the moment. SWF is not supported as animation for HTML5 conversion, only animated GIF's are supported.

A list of all the unsupported objects is in the Help, but this list may not be exhaustive, it was pointed out that they forgot some Effects that are not supported. A participant in the webinar noted that with phonegap HTML5 projects can be made into native apps for most smart phones.

Editing Video tracks in Captivate

High Definition Video Capture
The new High Definition video support in Captivate 6 is described as “a true high-definition MP4 video. It’s high definition, not a streaming video solution,” which makes it “much easier to work with in editing.”

Previously, Captivate captured either only the changes that occurred onscreen – rather than the entire screen – or short sequences of real-time frames that were captured when the mouse was down. Now, Captivate will capture frames of video; you can even record video playing inside an app.

This was one thing I preferred about Camtasia over Captivate; the way that Camtasia captured screens with more fidelity because it captured everything that’s changing rather than the actions that Captivate records. Captivate’s method provides more flexibility in editing, but was not always as faithful. There’s pros and cons to both methods, of course, but this new capture capability is welcomed.

You can now publish as an MP4 using the MP4 publish feature, or publish to Youtube. They’ve added several editing features – which resemble features in Camtasia – the ability to Pan & Zoom. You can split the video - and insert something in the middle – and you can layer elements on top of video as well. It’s not quite editing in Premiere Pro, but it’s a step forward. While it supports Closed Captions, they can not be exported to YouTube. The Editing is non-destructive.

Other features
Other improvements that were noted are extensive changes to SCORM, made using technology from third party. They have a list of third party LMS’s that they support, and so far they’ve had no one report any problems with LMS connectivity, which is evidently a first for a release of Captivate.

PowerPoint integration has been improved. When you import a PowerPoint 2010 project, it gives you an option for “High fidelity” import. If you used animations, you should use the “slide durations,” option for best results. If you are using 2007, 2010 then Captivate supports “native PowerPoint,” there’s no conversion. One participant noted that they’d had problems with PowerPoint crashing been editing in PowerPoint, but this was fixed by disabling Adobe Presenter in PowerPoint.

Branch aware quizzing allows you to leave the quiz scope and then return to it. There’s now partial and negative scoring in quizzing (points per answer) and negative scores can be associated with an individual item.

One interesting widget demoed was the Adobe Captivate Course Companion. This tool gives you states on the usage of a project; how long people spend on a slide, whether they drop out, etc. Unfortunately, they didn’t really explain how it’s set up and used!

Other questions:
Q: Is Captivate 6 backwards compatible? You can bring 5.5 projects forward, but you can’t go backwards.

Q: Is Captivate integrated in Creative Cloud? It is available as a subscription, but it’s an add-on, it’s not part of the Cloud.

Q: When is the new eLearning Studio coming? Coming fairly soon, but be patient because there’s a lot of really cool stuff coming

Q: Can you make your own Smart Learning widgets? Yes. They are static widgets in HTML5, and there is a full API that will be released through the Captivate Blog this week.

Q: How many voices are available with text to voice? 5 voices.

Q: Can I Capture Captivate with Captivate? Yes. Just go to Start menu, and click on the Captivate application while it is running. A second instance will then launch and then you have a second instance of Captivate. Be careful, you need a lot of RAM.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Adobe Captivate/eLearning webinars

Adobe has some interesting webinars coming up over the next couple of weeks that cover Captivate 6:
Find out more here: Adobe Webinars

Adobe Captivate 6 is here. See what's new!
July 03, 2012
Join Dr. Allen Partridge, Adobe eLearning Evangelist to learn more about the new release of Adobe Captivate 6 - the industry leading rapid eLearning authoring software tool.

Working with Advanced Actions: Upgrade to complex conditional advanced actions
July 05, 2012
Join Lieve Weymeis, Adobe Captivate Expert, with Vish and Dr. Pooja Jaisingh on yet another journey on using Advanced Actions in Adobe Captivate. We will focus on conditional advanced actions, from simple ones with only one decision and one condition to complex actions with multiple decisions and complex conditions.

Just Add Content: Instant eLearning with Awesome Out-Of-The-Box Assets
July 11, 2012
Join eLearning Evangelist, Dr. Allen Partridge for an introduction to the awesome assets, tools and powerful theme based workflows available out of the box with Adobe Captivate.

Branding eLearning Development with theme-based templates using Adobe Captivate
July 12, 2012
Join Anita Horsley, the community expert for Adobe Captivate with Vish and Dr. Pooja Jaisingh to learn how to Brand your eLearning courses with the use of Styles and Theme-based templates in new version of Adobe Captivate. During the session we will not only discuss how to modify the existing branding in the courses but would discuss how to create new themes for the use in other courses.

High Definition Video for Application Simulation, Screencasting & Everything Else
July 18, 2012
Join eLearning Evangelist Dr. Allen Partridge for a demonstration of High Definition Video creation and editing in Adobe Captivate. See why Captivate is the industry leader in Application Capture and Simulation and learn how Captivate can make a huge difference for your entire organization when it comes to creating awesome videos, incredibly fast.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Polling Questions

I sat in on the end of a webinar that Adobe put on: "How to present a webinar without PowerPoint slides"
In this highly engaging session, Dr. Carmen Taran will show you how you can present virtually without slides. You will learn several practical techniques that move beyond keeping an audience engaged with chat and polling questions. The techniques will involve innovative activities that attract an audience's attention, promote creative thinking and intellectual stimulation, and overall make them feel like the floor has been lifted.
Unfortunately, I missed the first half, but the section I saw was mostly devoted to using polling questions in imaginative ways. Recommendations included:

  1. Take more risks with your polling questions: Don't use the same old dull and boring questions about what computer you have, what software you use, etc.
  2. Don’t just use a poll to gather information; provide feedback. For example, relate the responses to studies (i.e. after asking how many people owned a pet, revealed that usually 50% of people own a pet, and in this group the number is…) 
  3. Try “Have you ever?” questions.
  4. Allow your participants to contribute info and create their OWN polling questions.
Some examples of useful questions:
Do You like to manage people?
Do you know how to measure your effectiveness as a manager?
Have you ever misjudged someone?
Do you regularly check yourself out in store windows and mirrors?
It was suggested that if you're polling a large group (i.e. more than 100) you don't have to wait for 50% or greater response to get a valid response. A 20% response rate to a poll is sufficient to move on, particularly with a large group.

The suggestions reminded me of an episode of The Prairie Home Companion where they polled people, but they said that while they wanted to get some demographic information, they didn't want to be too intrusive, so they asked questions like:

How much education have you had:

  1. Not enough
  2. About right
  3. Too much
  4. Not finished

What kind of vehicle do you drive?:

  1. Junker
  2. Economy Car
  3. Luxury Car
  4. Public Transportation

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Adobe Captivate 6

Somehow I missed the announcement last week, but Adobe rolled out Captivate 6, and as expected, one of the features it adds is an HTML5 exporter. There are other new features too, including improved HD screen capture, "Smart Learning interactions" and Round tripping with Microsoft PowerPoint, but it's the HTML5 support I'm most interested in at the moment as it will make it possible to use Captivate to create materials that will play back on an iPad, iPhone, or even an Android device.

Of course, it doesn't support any .swf (i.e. Flash) elements you have imported into your project, but the HTML5 Tracker helpfully lists anything that it doesn't like.


You can already download a 30-day trial version (Note that it requires an Adobe ID, and can take a bit of time to download.) Adobe has posted some YouTube videos that explain the new features too:
1. Importing Microsoft PowerPoint into Adobe Captivate 6 Tutorial
Dr. Allen Partridge, Adobe eLearning Evangelist describes how PowerPoint is imported and translated in Adobe Captivate 6. The new PowerPoint import includes import of complex animations, triggers, Smart art and sophisticated effects. Partridge explains PowerPoint round-tripping with Adobe Captivate and describes the new high-fidelity import option in the import dialog.
2. Themes Tutorial
3. Smart Learning Interactions Tutorial
4. High Definition Video Capture Tutorial: Adobe Captivate 6
5. Using Play Audio Action in Adobe Captivate 6
6. Tutorial: Adding pre-tests
7. Tutorial: Branch-aware Quiz
8. Adobe Captivate 6 Sneak Peek 01: Publish to HTML5

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Double Negatives, and Negatives

While they are often used for back-handed compliments or humor, Double Negatives are generally discouraged in communication because they can be difficult to untangle: "Never have I owed nothing to no one."

But what about negatives? I think those can be a problem too. Take for example my GPS, which gives the following warning if there's a toll road in the route it has calculated:


The problem with this message (and I say this having pressed the wrong button on multiple occasions) is that it takes a bit of thought to figure out which button to press! The answer to a simple question: "Do you want to use toll roads" has been made needlessly complicated by adding a sentence, and switching the response.

"The current route involves toll roads" is the first sentence. Most people would expect that it's asking; "do you want to use this route" (i.e. the toll roads?) after all, that's what it just said it came up with. So this immediate instinct is to click 'Yes," not "No."

But then it switches the question around with the second sentence, and frames it as a negative "Do you want to avoid the toll roads" or put another way "Do you not want to use that route?"

Either way, you have to stop for a second and think about what it's asking.

It would have been so much simpler - and less prone to operator error - if it had just asked: "Do you want to use toll roads"

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I remember floppies...

This is a cute post that lists some of the increasingly archaic items used in interfaces to represent certain operations.

It's fun, though I want to point out that my car radio still has radio buttons (and it's only ten years old...):

The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other old people Icons that don't make sense anymore