Saturday, August 22, 2009

Using Captivate 4's System Variables

One of the new features of Captivate 4 is the ability to access and use system variables. I recently was able to explore how these might be used to turn on and off the navigation bar within the skin of my Captivate lesson.

Many designers include assessments within their Captivate lessons. During the informational and practice portions of the lesson, the students can use the navigation bar included with the Captivate skin to proceed through the lesson. However, when they reach the assessment, it's often desirable to disable navigation back to the course content so that the assessment is a true test of what the student can recall. Upon arriving on the scoring and results page, the navigation bar would be turned back on and the student would be able to review the lesson and retake the assessment if necessary.

Now that I've covered why we might want to access these system variables, without further ado, below are the steps I took to accomplish this.

First you need to set up Advanced Actions to turn on and off the navigation bar.

1. Select Project > Actions from the menu and click the Advanced Actions tab.
2. In the Edit / Create Action drop-down, select "Create a new action." Result: A "New action name" field appears

3. Enter a simple and descriptive name for the action.
4. Click Save.
5. Double click on the "Add Statement" text that now appears and double-click again to see a drop-down list.

6. Select Assignment. Result: the system variables will replace the current drop-down options.

7. Select cpCmndShowPlaybar. The variable will display now with an equal sign to the right of it. To the right of the equal sign, a drop-down appears with the options of Variable or Value.

8. Select Value. A text entry prompt will appear.

9. Enter the value of 1 to turn on the Nav Bar. (Enter a value of 0 to turn off the Nav Bar.)

10. Click Save.
11. Repeat the steps above to create an action to turn the navigation bar off.

Now, here is how we used these actions within the Captivate lesson itself.

1. On the assessment introduction slide, add a start button with the setting "Go to next slide" when students click the button. (This is obviously important as the student will have no other means to navigate once the navigation bar is turned off! You could choose to place this action where-ever it makes sense in your own course.)
2. Select Slide> Properties from the menu.
3. Change the "On slide enter" value to "Execute advanced action." A second drop-down will appear with the actions you set up.
4. Select the action to turn the navigation bar off.
5. Select the slide where you would like to turn the navigation bar back on and repeat steps 2 and 3, this time selecting the action to turn the navigation bar on.


Test your results! NOTE: I have not tested all different publishing options with this setting, so it may help you to know that I published this to Flash Player 9 and ActionScript 3.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Understanding Web 2.0

Do you know the reasoning behind why the world-wide web was created? (Hint: it was not to exchange music and books for credit card information) It was created to help people share information. Actually it was created for physicists across the world to share information in an easy to read format. They shared this information through documents connected together through hyperlinks. It's not that far of a stretch to say it was created to be the ultimate e-Learning tool.

As the web transformed over time people discovered that the ability to collaborate on projects over the web made it an even more powerful tool for sharing information. The ability to collaboratively work on documents, to share web services, and use software on the web instead of installing it on your computer is what many people refer to as web 2.0. Web 2.0 has opened many doors for new businesses, as well as, new e-Learning opportunities.

Wikipedia has a write up on Web 2.0 where you can get some background on Darcy DiNucci's mention of the term "web 2.0" in 1999, followed by Tim O'Reilly in 2004, and then the 2006 Time magazine article Person of the Year - "You". You may even want to check out the original web 2.0 wikipedia entry first written in February of 2005 to get a better appreciation of how this terminology has morphed (somewhat) over time.

Christopher Barnatt explains web 2.0 in a clear way that helps to define what Web 2.0 means versus the hyperlink focused Web as it emerged in the 1990's. Take a look at the following video.



The ideas that make up Web 2.0 are social networking, web mashups, and using the web to store and create content.

1. Social networking is a crazy buzz word right now. "Follow me on Twitter" has become a popular fad for people to market themselves. Twitter, a micro-blogging and status update technology, is one of among many ways that web users are using social technology to share information. I think of popular web based social networking technologies as breaking down into three categories. Object centric networks like Flickr and YouTube use content as the impetus of social networking. Ego centric networks like Facebook, Linked In, Blogs, and Twitter use human instigated actions as the impetus for social networking. And finally, knowledge centric networks like Wikipedia and other wikis use information as an impetus for social networking.

2. A web mashup is the second concept in what makes up Web 2.0. Web mashups make sharing information easier by allowing web technologies to comunicate with each other through web services and other technologies. A web user may see one page of information but it can come from more than one web technology or provider. One example of this is Woozer which combines Google Maps and Weather.com technologies to give 10 day forecasts from all over the world. The Twitter API has been used over and over to create a plethora of cool little Twitter based apps. Many mashups are done to combine air, hotel, and other reservation technologies to provide travel services in a one shop location. Another simple way to mashup web information would be to embed objects like YouTube videos, SlideShare demonstrations, and Google Calendar into your web page. iGoogle does a good job of this type of mashup by aggregation.

3. Using the web to create, edit, and store information is a relatively new concept. While the idea has been around for a while, it is only recently that speed, reliaility, and consistency among web standards have made this practical. However, even today you'll here people still complaining about the errors or slow response times of web applications. One of the most popular web applications now-a-days is Google Docs. Google Docs allows people with Google accounts to create and edit common office documents like word documents and spreadsheets. With the release of Microsoft Office 2010 (See Office Web Apps), you'll have similar functionality from a Microsoft product. With these applications, not only do you have the ability to do all your work online (no software to install), you can also collaborate with people so that more than one person can view and edit the document you are working on. This type of social collaboration really solidifies this as a web 2.0 product. Another good example of a software service is the online mind mapping (or brainstorming) software by Mindomo. Mindomo does not have the collaborative authoring component but there are similar products that do.

So what is the impact Web 2.0 has on e-Learning? Web 2.0, as I've described it here, is one more tool that can be applied to create a better quality training environment. It does not replace any one particular technology. Each technology has it's strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you followed some of my links to Wikipedia, you probably noticed some of its weaknesses. The articles written are targeted towards a broad audience and some of them are not even written well for a broad audience. Work place training is always most effective when it is targeted to a specific audience and attached to specific performance goals. From that perspective collaborative knowledge tools like wikis, while great for collecting ad hoc information, will not replace a well designed and performance targeted self-paced web course. However, Web 2.0 technologies are "living" technologies that are constantly updated and can provide a quick way to get information updated.

I hope I've been able to help build your definition of what Web 2.0 is. What did I leave out? What is your perspective? How are you using it in your training?