Since joining B Online Learning at the start of 2013 my world view of eLearning development practice and more importantly the capability of the so called rapid development technologies has changed. Prior to working with B Online Learning, I was working with consultancies that ran a local design, offshore development model. This is where the instructional design, graphic design are built by local professionals and culminated in a static storyboard, then the actual content build was managed in South East Asia or India by teams of Flash/Java/HTML programmers.

At the time I could not see how this model could be challenged by the emergence of the rapid development tools such as Articulate Storyline, because in my ignorance I believed, like so many other people still do, that the capabilities of the rapid tools were limited to cookie cutter templates that all looked the same. Where the use of a highly skilled development team would provide for a much wider range of functional capabilities.

I was wrong.

Since working with Articulate Storyline, in fact within 3 weeks of starting to work my prejudices and pre-conceived notions were delightfully shattered.

This re-adjustment of opinion happened on quite a number of levels. The most significant of these was the realisation that concept of design restrictions imposed by a rapid tool was patently false. One of the first things I noticed when developing content is that all of the items in the content player, this is the frame around the content (See image below), can be turned off.

Rapid V Offshore

 

All of these features, such as the Menu, Navigation buttons (Next & Prev), Resources, Notes etc can be easily replicated within the actual slide. This freedom allows you to really focus on slide design, interaction and user centric navigation.

More than this the next big realisation with developing content in Storyline was the immediate feeling of control. Animation and interactive can be considered, designed previewed and confirmed immediately. Using the offshore development model there was often a disconnect around the static storyboard as it was viewed from the different perspectives of client, designer and developer. This factor alone often contributed to scope changes and considerable re-work to get the content aligned in everyone’s eyes. With Storyline it’s a one step process to develop a living breathing piece of content that can be immediately understood and objectively reviewed by the project stakeholders.

The next myth of the rapid tool that was successfully de-bunked by my working with Storyline was the idea that these types of tools were just PowerPoint on “Steriods” and as such there were limitations on the look and feel that could be achieved in the actual slides. I have to say that I have seen a great many pieces of eLearning content that were really no better than a PowerPoint presentation, but this was actually more to do with the person designing and building the course than the development tool being used.

A good designer, using a tool like Storyline is only limited by their own imagination as to how they can present the learning on a slide by slide basis and your course wont look the same as someone elses.

Elearning Examples

Since Storyline can seamlessly incorporate a wide range of media and graphic elements coupled with the ability to combine these elements within dynamic interactive exercises. For evidence of this you should check out the eLearning Hero’s weekly challenges and responses.

I will close off with a quick note on assessment functionality in Storyline too, since this is also an area that people believe is limited in some way in the rapid tools. I can assure you it is not so. Within Storyline you can build all of the standard question types, such as:

  • True/False
  • Multiple Choice
  • Multiple Response
  • Word Blank
  • Drag and Drop
  • Pick One and Pick Many
  • Hotspot

On top of this Storyline lets you easily build your assessments into randomised question banks, have multiple (unlimited) assessments in any course, assessment timing options, feedback based on individual user responses, branching navigation that sends the user to different locations with correct or incorrect responses and the list goes on.

With all of the above in mind I think I can safely say that not only has my view on the capabilities of rapid development tools changed, I am now firmly of the belief that they, especially Storyline, represent the best practice approach to eLearning development today.

Their range of capabilities is truly unbridled and at least in the case of Storyline, the complete ease with which people learn to use the system, means that our focuses can shift to the most important part of eLearning development and that is best presentation of the content aligned to learning objectives.

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.