I think we all agree, when developing eLearning for today’s widely diverse user groups, one of the key challenges is to make that content dynamic, engaging and full of user driven interactions. Without this the content comes across as tedious and dull and what’s worse, the message and key learning’s can be lost in a mire of text and static imagery.

Elearning developers who have already discovered the power of development tools on the market, will be aware these tools are increasingly gaining acceptance as the preferred development method. Mainly due to their immediacy, where content can be developed end to end without the need for an entire development team of instructional designers, graphic designers, flash programmers and xml/html programmers and also due to their  ability to publish the one piece of content across multiple platforms with the click of a button.

These factors represent a major step forward for the companies providing the development tools and the organisations who license and use them to build their eLearning, however they do not necessarily provide a platform from which truly engaging courses can be produced in a timely manner and in a way where the focus of the development can be course content and not the creation of interactions.

B Online Learning use Articulate Storyline development tool to create the next level of user focused, engaging content for our clients and in this blog I would like to outline three of the key concepts Storyline uses to create this type of content in a very developer friendly way. These concepts are:

  • Triggers
  • Variables
  • Conditions

I have chosen these concepts because they allow me to show how a simple concept, such as a trigger, can be easily augmented and extended, changing the user experience from standard to wow.

For each of these concepts I have endeavored to produce a written and visual example of the concept along with an example of each built in storyline (Click the links).

NB: In Storyline these concepts are not siloed, they all work both in isolation, linked as I have portrayed them and in concert with the many other features of the Storyline application. B Online Learning provides a detailed face to face training course in the full usage of all Storyline’s features.

Triggers are one of the fundamental development concepts within Storyline. In essence a trigger is what Storyline uses to carry out a command that within the content. This command can be one of many things such as:

  • Progressing to new screen
  • Showing a new item on screen
  • Playing media (Audio, Video, Flash)
  • Changing the visual state of an object
  • Controlling a quiz
  • Selecting a path
  • Submit an interaction

These are only some of the triggers available to the developer and Storyline’s ability to multiple triggers to the one action means that, from the developers point of view, interactions can be developed in a holistic manner that focuses on the broader interaction dynamics instead of the coding of individual commands.

So the basic premise with triggers, if we think in a Newtonian way, is that any user action (Click, hover, drag and drop, play, typing) will cause one or more content reactions.

Triggers are amazing and form one of the main building blocks for any engaging interaction, but what if want to have more control over the learning environment. To replicate the workings of a true learning environment the developer also needs to be able to easily add attributes to their triggers so that the experience of the learner can be controlled to suit their learning outcomes.

Using variables in Storyline adds a new layer of detail onto user interactions by providing gates or controls over what is happening on screen and when it is allowed to happen.

Let’s look a simple example. Take an action reaction trigger like the one above, in this instance let’s say the user needs to click the next button to move onto the next interaction. It could be represented like this:

On the left the user click the button, on the right the user moves on. Click the image below to see an actual example.

But what if, before the user can click on the next button, we want them to finish watching an imbedded video on the screen.

By adding a variable to the next button that only makes it active once the video has finished playing we can ensure that the user watches the required content before they move on. Visually it might look like this:

Before the video is finished the variable stops the next button from moving them on.

When the video is finished however the variable is updated and now the next button becomes active, when the user click the button now they will continue their experience.

So that is a simple one to one example but the same concept can be easily extrapolated across multiple interactions on the one screen.

In these two representations above, the same concept can control multiple selections on the one screen. On the left we might have a screen that contains four clickable items that we want to become active for the user in a particular sequence or in relation to actions previously taken and on the right our use of variables might be used to open up a variety of paths through interactions based on previous actions.

Here are the types of variables available in Storyline, I’ll outline what they are and what they could do and leave the rest to your imagination.

Finally I will look at conditions, these add an additional layer to the variables you create that allow multiple variables or triggers to work with or against one another. Lets look at this using the same graphic approach as above.

In the above example the yellow ball represents a condition, that condition can change the outcome of the interaction with the variables we noted in the previous example.

For instance lets say that at the beginning of this course the user was asked to choose if they were a manager or a customer service representative and they selected manager. Now as the user traverses the content certain items will allow them access, when the variables allow this, only if they are a manager.

Or for our branching example, conditions can be utilised to help select the path through the content again based on users previous choices or even variables that have been accumulating (In the instance of number variables) whilst user has completed previous tasks.

Here’s another actual example of variables and conditions at work, in this case a simple number variable is controlling the first part of the action and the condition allows the repeating of the initial trigger:

Click to view

So in closing we can see how content can be taken well beyond the dull read and click format by the application of a simple concept that can be readily enhanced using layers of additional logic. Building such interactions in the Storyline application is simple once the basic concepts are grasped, however the point should be made that comprehensive planning of the interaction, its mechanics, the lead in factors that contribute and also the down line consequences is of pivotal importance to making the interaction work with the desired learning outcomes.

B Online Learning provide Articulate Storyline users, new and existing, with detailed training in all of the Storyline functions from simple interactions to advanced development techniques.

Ben Saunders About Ben Saunders
For the past 10 years Ben has been immersed in the world of learning and communication (and training and development), from planning and design to build and implementation, from both the client and vendor perspectives. His experience bridges the gaps between business expectation, technology and learning theory, importantly this allows Ben to translate and articulate business needs into defined learner outcomes. He has experience with various LMS implementations including Moodle, Docebo, Plateau, SABA, DOTS as well as bespoke solutions. Ben is a Solutions Designer and Certified Articulate Trainer with B Online Learning.