In the time that I have been working in the eLearning industry (about 20 years), I have noticed one truth from the clients side and that is that content vendors come and content vendors go. This is not a bad thing of course, unless you’re a content vendor on the ‘going’ side of the equation, but it can cause problems. Especially if the vendor goes and takes the source files with them.

Which brings up my point, whenever you enter into an agreement with a content vendor, ensure the vendor hands over all source files once the project is signed off.

shutterstock_47383327When they do hand over the source files, make sure the files you receive are the actual source files and not just the published output. To do this you will need to know what a source file looks like and for the main bulk of your content if it has been developed in Articulate Storyline or Captivate you can look for specific file extensions (The bit at the end of the saved title of the content).

  • Storyline Files will have the extension of .story
  • Captivate will have the extension .cptx (Or similar)

So a Storyline source file for an induction might look like Company_Induction.story.

These source files will contain all of your IP, your text, media and resources. If you have the source files you can either update the content yourself or give it to a content vendor to update for you without any problems.

The issues come when you do not have the source files as one of our new clients found out recently when they came to B Online Learning to upgrade a large section of their catalogue from Flash to HTML5, which had been built by multiple vendors over 10 years and for none of the courses had the source files present. To help them we got access to the files that they did have and see what we could salvage and what we could save.

For this particular client, who had in the vicinity of 15 courses that required updating, you can imagine that they were preparing themselves for a long and costly rebuild of all 15 courses. But in effect we were able rebuild and update their courses as required through the use of Storyline templating capabilities and use of Flash decompiler (there are many available for download off the net).

The process:

  • Build a new consistent Storyline template(s) to replicate and/or improve on the previous screen design
    • One of the downsides for using multiple developers is that the content always varies in look and feel from developer to developer and the best way to stop this is partner with your developer
  • Decompile the published outputs from the old files (this is the file that gets loaded to the LMS and contains all of your content that has been converted to flash)
    • For this action you get all of the text and images as well and using these in conjunction with the new Storyline templates it’s as easy as copy and paste to get the old content rebuilt in it’s new home.
    • Whilst this is going on we are also able to re-imagined some screen interactions with features and functions that either previous developers did not want to use or that did not exist when the content was first built.
      • This is done with constant consultation with the client to ensure that any changes are audience and content appropriate
  • Now the content can be sent back to the client so that they can do a proper review of the content and provide the updates to that content. In doing so they get to see their content with some screens re-imagined.
    • This was very important for this particular client, since they were expanding their content development capabilities in house. In part by attending our Certified Training course in Storyline 2, but also to see the content we converted from their published outputs. Because we provide the source files as standard to all clients they can then use the templates and interactions themselves.

So really its not the end of the world if you are stuck with old content for which the source file is no longer available.

Another problem could be you chose a vendor with their own tool, or an LMS with its own tool that you no longer use.  Choosing a tool like Articulate Storyline with 250,000 users in their community means you have the security that your content will remain up to date and you will always control your IP.

But I think the key here really is to develop that trusting relationship with your vendor and to always insist on getting the actual source files.

If all else fails, call us and we can offer some solutions to get your eLearn on track soon.

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.