I was going to write this blog post on a instructional design topic, or weather-related topic (devastating tornadoes, Mississippi flooding, Cincinnati record rainfall – April 2011 was the 2nd wettest month EVER in Cincinnati, or Pittsburgh wet days – 39 of the last 50, but who’s counting?), but after talking with TiER1’s Mr. Rod Ford recently, I felt I could use this posting to articulate my experiences with Articulate. (Kills two birds with one stone (sorry, PETA), since I promised this content to Rod separately.)
Although Articulate has been around for nearly a decade, not until a few years ago did the rapid-development software package start to gain significant traction and recognition in the marketplace and win awards in the industry. Articulate is a very simple tool that primarily converts a PowerPoint file to an eLearning course that can be launched as a SCORM or AICC package for a Learning Management System, a stand-alone course that runs off a CD, or as HTML pages.
As Greg wrote in his Keys to an Effective Learning Strategy post, the discussion on which tools TiER1 should consider for development depend on the goal of the client. If the goal is to provide foundational knowledge and awareness of information, and the client needs to rapidly deploy and maintain the solution, Articulate should be near the top of the list of tools to consider. Do recognize, though, that the client will need an Articulate software license to make edits.
So you may be thinking, can you cut to the chase and articulate what Articulate can do? (Or you may be thinking, why does he keep using articulate and Articulate in the same sentence?) Articulate is a suite of three software components.
1. Presenter – This required component takes a PowerPoint file and all its embedded animations and transitions and builds an eLearning wrapper around it. The wrapper pulls all content from the PowerPoint Notes view into a Notes area that is viewable to the student. The wrapper also creates a table of contents that can be used to navigate to other pages, provides a search feature, displays audio controls, calculates audio page length, and creates page navigation. Attachments can also be linked, pages can be bookmarked by the student, and branching scenarios can be planned.
2. Quizmaker – A separate software tool builds scored tests and quizzes and un-scored survey or knowledge check questions that get incorporated into your base PowerPoint presentation. Scores from Quizmaker can be tracked in an LMS.
3. Engage – A separate software tool that provides a handful of templated interactions, such as labeled graphics, timeline, click to reveals, and slideshows with captions. These interactions are simple to build and also get embedded into the base PowerPoint presentation.
When you’re scoping a solution or developing a strategy, if the goal is to develop a highly animated and very customized message, Articulate should not be considered. Although custom Flash animations can be imported and included into an Articulate eLearning course, there are known challenges with audio synchronization, playback controls, and display location. Also, if the client wishes to easily update their courses going forward, creating custom Flash animations contradicts that objective. Another major concern is the use of screen captures or simulations. Since Articulate is designed to be flexible with its display and expand to the size of the student’s screen, fixed-size images, such as screen captures, become distorted when pulled into Articulate. A client that wishes to have 100% clear screen images should be directed to use a Captivate or Flash-based solution, or at least sign-off that poorer quality screen captures are acceptable. (Can you tell that I had some valuable lessons learned from a previous experience?)
In summary, Articulate should be an option when the client needs a rapidly deployed solution, desires to maintain content going forward, and does not need or want an expensive or highly engaging/interactive eLearning course.
P.S. A new version of Articulate (currently the latest is the ’09 version) is rumored to be launched by the end of 2011.
P.S.S. A new program due out this summer called Articulate Storyline seems to be similar to Lectora in that all content is developed within a desktop authoring tool.