Articulate Storyline vs. Others

Articulate Storyline, the first eLearning authoring tool that’s simple enough for beginners and powerful enough for experts. With Articulate Storyline, eLearning authors can create interactivity, software simulations, and virtually any type of assessment with unrivaled ease and speed. Articulate Storyline includes one-click publishing to Flash, HTML5, and Articulate Mobile Player, a new iPad app that provides the best viewing experience of eLearning content on the iPad.

Features/Advantages over Articulate Presenter:

1. Slide layers: It makes possible to build multiple interactions on a single slide by overlaying objects, eliminating the need to duplicate and manage multiple slides.

2. The “triggers”: It controls activity which occurs when learners take certain actions.

3. The “states”: It makes objects feel alive. There are states available for buttons like hover, visited, disabled, selected etc. We also can add custom states.

4. Readymade mascots: It helps with different perspectives and poses.

5. Variables: As in Lectora, or Captivate, we can define variables to perform the action, which increases scope of functionality and customization.

6. The software simulation and screen-recording capabilities in Articulate Storyline drastically simplifies how eLearning authors create simulations. Authors record a screen session once, then insert the recording as step-by-step slides, choosing View mode to demonstrate a task, Try mode to let learners attempt the task, or Test mode to assess a learner’s ability to complete the task. Because Articulate Storyline processes screen recordings after capturing them, eLearning authors can go back at any time to choose a different mode or fine-tune frames – without re-recording.

7. The quizzing features: Many options are available, e.g. different kinds of Drag-n-Drop, free form activities and many more are included, which were not available in Articulate.

8. Templates: Ready-made interactive templates are available.

The features stated above, makes Articulate Storyline special, better, faster, more customizable, and simpler.

Apple’s Killer App

Apple unveiled its new “Digital Textbook” platform just last week.  It has taken the industry by storm signing 3 of the biggest textbook publishers (and our clients) such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  What excites me most about the new iBooks is not the digitization of textbooks by large textbook publishing companies, but that Apple has brought interactive media creation to the masses.  We’ve been waiting for an HTML5 authoring tool!  (Honestly, I thought Adobe would be the one to market first.)  The need has been there since Apple announced that the iPhone would not run Flash… which is why I emailed Steve myself back in 2010:

I know it’s cheesy but what was the chance he would read it anyway?


Apple is simply sticking to its roots by marketing its products to the Education industry as it always has i.e. Apple II.  However, I was a bit taken aback by Apple’s negative stance towards the US Education system.  It was unnecessary for them to spend the initial 5-6 minutes discussing the US’s shortfalls.  They spoke about large issues like overcrowding, teacher/student ration, dropout rates, etc. as if they are going to fix it.  Even Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing, was extremely somber during the entire presentation.

Education will still be iBooks’ catalyst.  Apple has some 1.5 million iPads already in the hands of students across the US with 1000 1-to-1 iPad deployment programs.  These implementations have occurred via school and district-wide initiatives and one such example is with nearby Burlington, MA.  Every student at Burlington High School has received an iPad to replace those bulky textbooks.  The details of this deal have not been made public, however, we know that Apple provides serious subsidies for the Education sector.  This, in conjunction with now requiring the student/family to purchase the textbooks via the iBookstore, most likely frees up enough funds for the town/district to purchase iPads (and for the publishers to capitalize on a per-student, per-year model).

iBooks video

New “App”:

Here’s our take on iBooks 2 and iBooks Author: iBooks now allows you to import .iBooks files and iBooks Author provides you with the tools to create them.  What this means is that Apple has created a brand new type of “app.”  Essentially these 2 products are the App Store and Xcode of Digital Media for iOS.

iBooks, iBooks Author, and the iBookstore together form a full-out platform that allows you to author, develop, publish, and distribute books, magazines, photo albums, activity books, pamphlets, etc.  iBooks Author, available through the Mac App Store for free, has truly brought iBooks development to the masses.  Apple has created this authoring tool using technology already existing in Pages, iWeb, and Keynote so you will definitely find the interface familiar.  It’s remarkable how simple Apple has made the process of creating consumable media; they’ve even bundled 6 templates to get you started.

As a provider of eLearning development, the killer feature for me is the HTML widget.  This will actually allow you to use HTML within a designated frame inside an iBook.  One can even build in communication with a backend database allowing for tracking of completion and grades via an LMS for example.  All of this was technically possible before but iBooks Author has eliminated the need for technical knowhow as it automates navigation, table of contents, indexing, layout, etc.  It is no doubt the “Killer App” that the iPad has been looking for.

iBooks Author


There are definitely a few areas of improvement here.  I’ll make a list:

  1. iBooks Author should have some InDesign or Quark integration.  Many of today’s books are published via these 2 tools.  If there was an import, adoption would be much faster.
  2. Apple should definitely integrate Newsstand publishing via iBooks Author.  This will allow for publications to use iOS’s background downloading feature as well as a way to provide on-the-fly updating.  Users will not need to download the newest version of a title, rather it will be “pushed” to the device.
  3. iBooks Author should have a Windows version.  Many US publishing houses use Macs, however, internationally that may not be the case.  This could be part of Apple’s scheme to sell more desktops/laptops however.  At least allow it to run on Snow Leopard!


What are your suggestions??  Email me at and I will update this post.  Thank you.


Rajiv is Sales Manager at M&R Consultants Corporation (MRCC) based in Billerica, MA.  MRCC provides technical and creative services to publishing, training, and development groups across all industries around the globe.

The Art of eLearning

I’m not interested in debating or solidifying the argument notion that eLearning is “better” than instructor-led, live training. I mean, how is that even possible?  Yet, this post-Web 2.0 world has had a very curious impact on how we engage in the often mundane process of being “trained.”  Sure, in some instances, new media technologies have little or no impact on training and its development, but in other cases, new media technologies have made training a virtual art form by adding spectacular dimensions that weren’t previously possible.

Before film and video production, theatrical performances were by far the most popular medium for visual storytelling.  Just as the invention of video recording technology added different dimensions to the art of storytelling, eLearning has expanded the artistic potential for creating and delivering training programs.  Consider the role that art has played in the eLearning development process.  Video production has always played a major role in training, probably since its introduction in the early 20th century.  Of course, video production still plays a major role in eLearning content, but the new fusion of post-Web 2.0 technologies and art is what really fascinates me about this new medium so casually referred to as “eLearning.”

Has new media technology made training more efficient and effective?  I guess that’s up for interpretation. Along the same lines, did the three-point line and slam dunk make basketball more intense and exciting?  Some may say no—traditionalists, I would assume—but, on the larger scale, whether you agree or disagree, the three-point shot and slam dunk certainly added new, dynamic dimensions that didn’t previously exist.  Similarly, the tremendous fusion between new, previously non-existent technologies and art has produced an exciting, dynamic, and engaging alternative to the instructor-led, and often live training of the past.

Again, preference plays a large role in whether or not you agree with the direction training has taken, but consider the new possibilities eLearning has offered.  The eLearning developer ranges from the computer scientist to the screenplay writer, and it doesn’t stop there.  The depths of the pools resources are selected from to create modules for the viewing and learning pleasure of the audience is something of an art form: a project aimed not only to train, but to entertain.  I’m sure video training courses or classroom ILT courses are not designed to be prosaic and routine, yet for reasons obvious to anyone who has ever spent time in a classroom, non-interactivity is a catalyst for wandering eyes and fantastic daydreaming.  Through techniques introduced by new media technology, eLearning intermixes resources aimed at exciting and engaging an audience in a way that was not necessarily possible before, creating a partnership, if you will, with the artist, the scientist, the teacher, and, most importantly, the learner.

I think the reason I enjoy working with custom eLearning so much is that it allows me to be imaginative, seeking out clients that could use our services as an asset to help develop their employees and their businesses.  Art is about perception; the nonlinear yet sensational visual, sound, and structural aspects of art have been further enhanced by technology. In turn, this improves our ability to create technologically-relevant programs that allow the individual—and, in the case of eLearning, the corporation—to  create a perceptive and engaging way to develop their most important assets: their people.


Steve Melville is a Junior Account Executive at MRCC.  This is his first post and we hope for many more.

Instructional Design for Content on the Go!

Most corporate training is for employees who have performance gaps.

How do you best describe a performance gap?

A performance gap is the difference between an expected output and an actual output. A detailed analysis will reveal several factors for the same.

Often, the most common and most overlooked factor is the employee’s inability to perform on the job and deliver a measurable output.

Training courses to reduce performance gaps also address skill areas, which influence an employee’s performance on the job.

How would we design the best eLearning to address performance gaps?

At one extreme, we create simulations where the user enters a virtual environment and simulates the entire job task to understand how to optimize his/her performance. Another way is to create simple branched scenarios with decision points, which will help the user identify actions and consequences. Both of these are treatment options that usually require Flash and a high graphical output.

Now, with HTML5 or mobile delivery platforms, these approaches become critically inapplicable. Thus, as instructional designers, we need to innovate and suggest an instructional approach to address similar content for mobile and new technology platforms.

If your target learner is in the field, such as a salesperson, or takes the course as a certification, then he or she will tend to be more comfortable using a smartphone, tablet, or other portable computing platform. Most of these do not support high-end flash runtime environments. So, how do we create exciting content for these platforms?

The idea is to engage the user while he or she is on the move. Keep in mind, the user is accessing learning in a possibly highly distracting environment.

We have to deliver content “nuggets” which a learner can view and interact within a span of 15-20 minutes or less.

We not only have to engage the user, but also deliver retention-value content.

Let’s explore options with entertainment value and higher retention?

Our Options

Short videos

Audio podcasts or Audible

Text based content nuggets with low-end graphics or no graphics

Comic based applications

Small learning games


Comics with minimal graphics are another exciting approach. They are shorter, have conversation, context, teach value of scenarios and are continued on a daily basis. Dexter and Calvin and Hobbes are examples of the same.

Can we provide a simulation without Flash and yet make it engaging?

The art of theatre has been low since the popularity of other media. The drama form is the best simulation that we have witnessed over the eons. Can I create a small drama to address my audience? The instructional designer can create a script, with characters and storyline, to record as an audio podcast or short narration video.

More and more, instructional designs need to adapt and innovate with their approaches to learning and deliver with it new tools and new technologies.



Karuna Sanghvi is Instructional Design Practice Lead at MRCC.  She currently operates her own blog, Design Gyan, at  This blog entry was originally published on Design Gyan on 12/27/11.