There’s an old adage that states, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So if one picture is worth a thousand words, how many words would a bunch of pictures be worth? Short answer: a lot! That’s why eLearning designers so often choose to use screen captures or software simulations in their course design. For that reason, today, we’re going to provide five easy steps to help you create engaging, interactive simulations using Storyline 2.
Step 1: Size it Right
Remember that while your screen may be perfect for your viewing, when that screen capture is published into your course, it is significantly smaller and therefore the text and buttons may be more difficult to see. Therefore, choosing the right size in terms of aspect ratio is paramount to good course design when using screen captures. Make sure your monitor’s aspect ratio and your course’s aspect ratio are the same. This will ensure that you can resize the images properly without the awkward-looking stretching or compression that often happens when resizing. There are two main aspect ratios in use in Articulate: 4:3 and 16:9. The most common monitor resolution in use is 1024×768 which is equivalent to the 4:3 aspect. Another common resolution is 1280×720 which equates to the 16:9 aspect ratio. Both of those are small enough to still show your data while still large enough to be legible in a smaller size.
If you’ve already begun building your course in Storyline, you can check the current size by selecting Story Size from the Design tab on your menu bar.
You can then choose one of the two pre-formatted ratios mentioned above, or you can create a custom size. Keeping the Lock Aspect Ratio box checked ensures that the height-to-width proportions remain the same as you resize your course, and you avoid the stretching and compression that can occur otherwise. I would strongly recommend that you think carefully before changing the aspect ratio of your course.
Step 2: Be Aware of Pop-ups and Notifications
Once you start the recording, the software will capture anything that appears within the confines of the recording window. If you have chosen to capture your entire monitor, for instance, any notifications or pop-ups will also be captured. Editing them out after-the-fact is very difficult, so it’s easier to just make sure they don’t happen in the first place. But, by the same token, clicking a button often triggers another window to appear. So make sure you haven’t limited your recording down to the point where those won’t be captured.
To ensure that the necessary information appears in your recording area, select the Move new windows into recording area option from the screen recording settings menu (accessed by clicking on the gear icon at the bottom of the recording window).
Step 3: Avoid Keyboard Shortcuts
Many times, you can access certain functions of the software you are trying to capture via a combination of keystrokes. However, both the operating system and the browser may have reserved those same keystrokes for their use and will take priority over the functionality of those key combinations. A good rule-of-thumb in creating a software simulation eLearning course is to avoid, wherever possible, the use of the keyboard except when entering text. Using the mouse to perform the software functions will result in a much cleaner and easier to edit course. If keyboard shortcuts are necessary, there are ways to simulate them within Storyline. But that’s the topic of another blog.
Step 4: Write it Out and Practice, Practice, Practice
No matter how many times you may have used whatever software it is that you are training on, chances are you aren’t fully aware of all the decisions to be made (many of which are made automatically without really thinking them through). Yet, knowing those decision points before you start will help with the flow of your course design. Open up the software, run through the process you are trying to capture a couple of times, and then capture those key decision points in a script. It doesn’t have to be intensely detailed, but it can be an outline of each decision step along the way. When you have captured your recording and are ready to turn it into a step-by-step simulation, Storyline 2 captures those decision points automatically for you. Having given them some thought earlier avoids extraneous branching and wandering that can often occur when recording on-the-fly.
Once you have your script prepared, practice it! Make sure you know the flow of the course. Think like your target audience. Doing that will ensure a smooth flow to your course.
Step 5: Choose Your Publication Modes
In Storyline, there are four basic options from which to select when creating your simulation:
- Video on a single slide. This mode does exactly what its name implies: it takes your entire screen recording and places the full motion recording on a single slide. This would be a good option if you just needed a quick demonstration of the software in action.
- View mode steps. This is a step-by-step option that walks the learner through the simulation, providing captions along the way to indicate the decisions being made. See the screenshot below for an example.
- Try mode steps. This mode provides similar captions to those in View mode, except this time the learner, rather than the instructor, will perform the steps. Using the example above, in View mode, the learner will watch as the instructor clicks on Oval 3, whereas in Try mode, the caption appears and nothing happens until the user actually clicks on Oval 3.
- Test mode steps. In Test mode, the learner performs all the steps without any captioned assistance. It can be set up in such a way that, after a certain number of failed attempts, a hint appears that will guide the user in the proper decision to be made.
Understanding each of these modes can aid you in your scripting. Storyline creates the captions for you (you can edit them to say what you need them to say), but knowing that each click is captured and captioned means that you need to think through your course flow. In any course you can select one or more of the publication options listed.
Following these five easy steps will make your simulation course design much more efficient and will result in a much more interactive and professional-looking course. Try incorporating these steps the next time you are creating interactive simulations for a Storyline course and then let us know how it went in the comments!