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Review: Adobe Captivate 3

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Creating Training Tools
Creating training tools is more deliberate and more akin to creating a PowerPoint presentation, although you can include recordings within the training, for example, to show the user how to use a software function. You can also create a project and then simply record a voiceover lecture-style, something that is very convenient for trainers (or even for podcasters). If you are more comfortable in PowerPoint, you can create your presentation there to storyboard the training, then import it into Captivate to create your final project and add question slides, branching, or other more advanced Captivate functions.

Captivate 3 makes it simple to perform complex tasks, such as jumping to another slide. Say you want the user to click OK to continue. You simply mark the OK button, set your branching parameters such as selecting a slide to jump to (e.g., to the end of the presentation or back to a menu), and set your incorrect feedback. Captivate 3 works without programmer assistance. This is a great feature and a huge timesaver for training developers, especially those who have some technical aptitude but are not on the programmer level.

A new feature called a Rollover Slidelet enables you to create a slide within a slide that appears when the user rolls the mouse over the defined area. You set your rollover area on the slide and indicate what is supposed to appear when the user moves the cursor over the area. I found setup a bit confusing, but it is a nice new feature that creates an interesting level of interactivity.

What’s more, you can work in the Branching tab to get a visual view of more complex scenarios or set up logical groups of slides, which you can name according to the path the learner takes. For instance, if you are creating a course on the history of TV recording, you could have a path for the VCR, a path for the DVD recorder, and a path for the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) with separate quizzes for each one and branches back to your Main Menu.

Captivate makes it easy to create quizzes; it offers a wide variety of question types such as multiple choice, fill in the blank, or matching. Setup is easy, and you can determine globally if the learner must pass to continue or not. You can customize right and wrong answer feedback and set up randomized tests that come from a bank of questions, so that students cannot share answers and returning learners get different questions each time they take the quiz.

As with the demonstration, the process requires some patience, especially when creating complex branching scenarios, but Adobe has taken a task that was once tedious and complicated in earlier generations of training authoring tools and made it simple and accessible.

Previewing and Publishing
As you create your project, you can review it without publishing, a process that takes almost as long to build, but it is absolutely necessary to preview your work. This is an iterative process since as you view your work, you see additional things that need to be fixed or tweaked. Once you are ready to publish, you can generate a standard Flash .SWF file to add to your blog, website, learning portal, or learning management system, or you can generate HTML code.

One thing I found troubling was that my test projects looked flawless in the preview mode, but after publishing they seemed to lose quality and did not appear as sharp when I posted them on my TypePad blog.

Final Word
Captivate 3 greatly simplifies the creation of demonstrations and training materials, but it is by no means a no-brainer operation. You still have to be comfortable experimenting and feeling your way through the project. That said, you can create a draft demonstration in minutes, quickly storyboard a training course, or create quizzes and tests (even randomized) with amazing simplicity. I was impressed with the process, although I was a little disappointed with the quality of the output. Still, Captivate 3 continues to help trainers, tech writers, and other parties who need to create interactive presentations, and it does so without dumbing down the program in the process.

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