What are the things you don’t hear about Articulate Storyline in most of its press?
While Storyline is no new kid on the block, we’ve noticed a recent surge in usage. The eLearning authoring tool market has shifted from specialised tools for different deliverables (i.e. Captivate for system simulations, Lectora for course building etc), to a one-stop-shop approach. There’s no denying that Storyline delivers on that account (as notably does more recent versions of Lectora and Captivate – they took the lead from Storyline perhaps?).
(This is my first blog for The Learning Hook by the way – woohoo – I hope it’s a help and of interest!) As Production Manager here, naturally I’ve taken some time to investigate this ‘PowerPoint on steroids’ product in more depth to see whether it lives up to all the hype.
And does it? Well… yes and no.
Below I’ve listed what I believe are the top four pros and cons of Articulate Storyline. Obviously there’s a lot more to say about Articulate Storyline, so this is not the whole ‘story’… but for the sake of brevity, we’ve highlighted the most salient points – those which make a significant impact on the efficiency of the course build stage of eLearning projects. Will this review impact your decision to purchase Articulate Storyline? Probably not, but if we can help our clients and associates understand the product a little better, then this is a good thing.
It’s a big thumbs up
Easy to learn (and quite fun)
As hinted above, the Storyline interface is suspiciously ‘PowerPoint-y’, but this is a good thing. Just like PP, it’s very simple and intuitive to move about and find what you need. Being a big-picture person I love the Storyline view and the ability to drag and drop slides and scenes. The WISYWIG nature of the interface suits ‘non-developers’ as it intends to. In my opinion, anyone familiar with PowerPoint can learn 80% of Storyline in one day, just by playing around.
Forums / tutorials / community
While not part of the actual Storyline tool itself, the level of support provided by Articulate is well worth a mention. The online community includes tutorials, documentation and forum support, and unlike many software support sites, the support structure and instructional content is of a high quality. Plus it’s free to sign up. If you get really stuck you can submit a service request and upload your files. Articulate definitely walks the talk in the support arena.
Many eLearning professionals will agree that it can be challenging to find suitable generic course characters/guides on standard stock photography sites. Storyline includes a range of illustrated characters – each with a variety of expressions and poses. And whilst a little cheesy, they can do the job. There are also character packs of photographic characters – although if you don’t want to pay extra you will have to live with the default ‘Atsumi’ character (who looks a little wooden). If you’re serious about Articulate Storyline, then I think it’s worth investing in some additional characters (or even better, run a photo-shoot once a year for custom images and ‘real people’).
Variables, Conditions and States
It’s a thumbs down
No asset library
So, what if you add an object to multiple slides (e.g. a graphic), and then you come to the last slide, and realise your object needs tweaking? Well, you need to go and change every instance of that object – slide by slide and re-code the interactions on each one. Painful – especially for developers who are unused to such ‘manual handling’. While there is (similar to PowerPoint) a slide-master, it’s really only useful for some objects e.g. logos, repeating layouts etc, and not for individual assets themselves. Here Storyline is really letting the team down. An asset library where changing a ‘template’ asset / object updates all instances of that object (plus any associated states or interactions) like Adobe Flash does, would be incredibly useful and save so much time!
One really obvious thumbs-down is that there is no ability to play audio across slides – even PowerPoint can do this! One way you might address this (but it’s not ideal) is to include the content for various screens onto one and make it look like they were different slides by using timing techniques. Not a great solution as it’s time-consuming, messy, and very difficult to maintain over time and people (especially across multiple content editors).
Limited animation options
Overall, I’m not impressed with the animation options on offer – only a few simple entrance and exit animations. So what happens if you want an object to move on screen in a certain way without it arriving or leaving? Unless you get creative then you’re out of luck. You can find some little tricks, like doubling up the object and aligning it perfectly (but with different timing) so as to trick the eye into thinking that it’s one object, but for an off-the-shelf product like this, why should you have to spend time creating workarounds for such a simple on-screen effect? At a minimum, the standard PowerPoint emphasis animations should be included. Storyline is definitely not a game-changer here – in fact they’re the last one picked for the team.
Now it gets interesting. While most of the points above can be managed using workarounds, when bugs come to play in a .story file, Storyline users (on the whole not being qualified multi-media developers) can feel a little out of their depth. Organisations considering publishing for mobile devices should pay special attention to this point. There are a considerable range of bugs with the HTML5 output. Storyline forums and Articulate’s own list of HTML5 limitations (http://tinyurl.com/kus5wdc) don’t adequately explain or cover the myriad of bugs in behaviour when publishing storyline to HTML5 (usually aimed at tablets/mobile) – particularly when you plan to access via the web as opposed through an Articulate Player app. Sure, there’s things you can do to get around bugs (like re-designing whole screens!), but as paying consumers of this product we expect it to be more stable and thoroughly tested that this (some of the bugs are so obvious ‘like no scrolling’ etc that you have to question thorough testing). With such a strong Articulate community, increasing market pressure, and a continued rise in mobile learning, I believe that Articulate will act to iron out these sorts of issues sooner rather than later (new release is around the corner). However, that doesn’t fix some immediate problems.
In my opinion, Articulate Storyline doesn’t live up to ‘game-changer’ status (as quite a few Google searches would suggest). Well, not yet anyway. I think of it like that charismatic kid on the sports field who’s been doing some good solid stuff, but no one’s seen a home run yet. There’s obviously a lot of expectation there, and a lot of potential, but it just hasn’t been fully realised when compared to the hype.
There’s a lot more to say on this tool, and a lot more specifics we’re happy to share. Just contact us at: email@example.com and we’re happy to share some advice/experiences.
Bronya Wilkins | Production Manager/Learning Designer
The Learning Hook Pty Ltd
For more eLearning, visit www.learninghook.com.au