Author Archive

Let’s not forget Captivate!

December 5, 2011

captivate-buttonsCaptivate is a much used tool for the many useful tools it comes with.

However adding personalisation to Captivate buttons is not as easy as another packages are, so we want to help.

You can download our handy pack of Captivate buttons that will allow you to add a touch of green design to your eLearning package by clicking here.

To use the buttons, you just have to copy the png files into the following location in your hard drive:

Adobe Captivate 4\Gallery\Buttons

Hope you enjoy them and if you have any issues, please feel free to contact Rob Hiklin, the clever mind behind them, to resolve your every question.

And another Articulate skin to giveaway!

December 5, 2011

skin_desktop_thumb[1]And let’s the giveaway continue with another, very different but no less attractive skin for you Articulate users.

This time the skin doesn’t have the logo XML driven logo from the previous skin, so it is a lot simpler to use and just as good looking.

Although some people think that desk themed skins are a bit old-fashioned, Paco Garcia Jaen, eLearning developer and Graphic Artist who did the art direction for this skin (thought he can’t remember doing it, it might be someone else’s, but it doesn’t matter…) disagrees with the statement.

Paco says: “Real life desktops are a dynamic space that people customise until they feel comfortable and ‘at home’, so it’s only natural that people like desk themes as they can also feel comfortable. Using every day items, like a cup of coffee, clips or a pen, provides with a familiar environment for the learning to make it more attractive to the learner”.

So there!

Of course without the talent of Rob Hiklin this skin wouldn’t have seen the light of day. Unless another of the developers had created, but the point is that Rob did and he did a great job with the original art direction!

You can download the skin by clicking here.

Hope you enjoy it!

Let the season of giving start early!

December 5, 2011

They say that Christmas is the season of giving and loving. Why that doesn’t last all year round is beyond me, but we thought it would be very nice to actually live up to the season’s name and give away something. For free.

I know they say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but there is a such thing as a free Articulate Skin!

Paco Garcia Jaen, one of our developers and graphic artists (and talented writer of this post!) has art-directed this skin and Rob Hicklin has built it so you can use it as you see fit.

flare-skinThe skin shows a colourful but neutral theme

The logo is also XML driven, which means you can add your own logo to the skin if you wish.

In order to do that, just you have to change the provided image with another one, but leaving the name as it is at the moment.

The detailed instructions are as follow:

  1. First of all download the Skin Package and extract it onto your hard drive.
  2. Inside the folder, there is a file that contains the skin package. Double click on “kineo_skin_package_Flare.artpkg” to install it.
  3. Amend the logo sample and add your own logo. It is important the size remains unchanged, so don’t resize it. Also remember to keep the file name untouched. If you rename it as anything else, or change it into another format, it will not be seen by the skin.
  4. The XML file drives the image into the skin.Click here to download an image with the folder structure to save your files in So yu will need that file too.
  5. Create your Articulate e-Learning and publish it as normal, making sure you choose the skin as template.
  6. Once you’ve published it, drop the XML file and the logo file in the root folder where you published it.
  7. Enjoy your course with your new skin!

Free Articulate skin

July 4, 2011

Click here to download an image of the skinIt is with great pleasure that I present you, dear reader and Articulate user with this free skin for your enjoyment and pleasure.

This rather bucolic skin has been art directed by Paco Garcia Jaen, and developed by one of our developers, Robert Hicklin.

“The inspiration for the skin came because I wanted to create something different, informal but useable at the same time, and something with the potential to be fun to use too.” – Paco Garcia Jaen

The skin features an illustrated landscape using wooden posts as navigation, menu, transcript and help buttons.

Rob Hicklin – “We decided to add some fun effect with the flying birds on the roll-over states. It was a matter of creating something we haven’t done before and that tells the audience that the skin is interactive, that is not a passive element of the e-learning experience.”

To make it even more flexible, the development team created the skin so the logo is XML driven and customisable by simply changing the image supplied.

How to use the skin

  1. First of all download the Skin Package and double click on it to install it.
  2. Download the logo sample and add your own logo. It is important the size remains unchanged, so don’t resize it. Also remember to keep the file name untouched. If you rename it as anything else, or change it into another format, it will not be seen by the skin.
  3. Download the XML file that drives the image into the skin.Click here to download an image with the folder structure to save your files in
  4. Create your Articulate e-Learning and publish it as normal, making sure you choose the skin as template.
  5. Once you’ve published it, drop the XML file and the logo file in the root folder where you published it.
  6. Enjoy your course with your new skin!

Complex pictorial HotSpots in Powerpoint

November 26, 2010

complex-hotspotBy Rob Hicklin and Paco G. Jaen

Expanding on a subject subject by subject can be tedious if the learner has to go from one slide to the next in a linear fashion.

With this incredibly easy method, you can turn any presentation into a fully navigable hotspot interaction.

You can download the full package here.

The ppt contains 9 slides with a central image and 8 images placed conveniently around it. Each one of those images is a separate graphic whilst the woman of the arrows and the woman have been placed in the Slide Master to make it easier for the slide to be duplicated and remain consistent.

Once you have your Slidemaster ready, this is a step by step guide to creating these hotspots.

  1. In the first slide place the images around the central photograph and set up the layout that will be repeated on the next few slides.
  2. Create as many slides as hotspots you need to have. In this case, 8. this will mean you’ll have one more slide than the number of hotposts. One slide for the initial layout and one for each one of the hotspots.
  3. Select one of the images and right click on it. In the menu that will appear on your screen, select “Hyperlink”
  4. Select “Place in this Document” on the left pane. You will get a list of the slides you have. In this list, select the slide you want this particular image to link to.
  5. Repeat the process with every image you want to convert into a hotspot, being careful to link to the right slide.
  6. When you have assigned the right slide to all the images, select them all and copy them into the clipboard (Crtl – C in PC, Cmd – C if you use Apple computers)
  7. Go to each slide and paste the images (Ctrl – V in PC, Cmd –V if you use Apple computers). They should all appear in exactly the same place of the originals, so if you flick from slide to slide, you won’t see anything moving.
  8. Each slide should have the description for a particular image. Select all the hotspots, but leave the one the slide corresponds to untouched, and then apply a B&W or a colorize effect by right clicking and going into “Format Picture” at the bottom of the menu. Then repeat that step for each slide.

When you have finished you will have a fully interactive hotspot. Now is just a matter of adding the relevant information and text about the topic in each slide, publish, and wait for the compliments to come!

Agency in scenario driven eLearning

October 21, 2010

me 04 high res2 By Paco Garcia Jaen

First of all I will make this very clear; I am a game player -a big, big games fan. I have been playing videogames, board games and role playing games since I was a child and they have had a massive impact in developing my imagination, my visualisation skills, my social skills and even my empathy skills. This is important for me to make clear since the start of this article because I want everyone to know that I am biased. Yes, I believe in games as a medium to develop healthy personality traits and interaction skills.

Having said that, and before you dismiss me as yet another geek, I will also let you know that I am a psychotherapist specialised in relationships and run a gaming club where more than 100 people interact online and about 50% of those meet regularly around a table to play games and interact socially. If you disagree with my musings and my reasoning, please do tell. After all interactions like that help form relationships!

If you are a video-game hater… well… I’ll deal with you in another article! 🙂

Agency has been defined in video games as the feeling the player gets as a result of the consequences of the actions taken during gameplay. This is my own rephrasing of the definition, I am sure you can find something more accurate, but I’ll leave that up to you.

This is a very important concept to keep in mind because it implies that the player needs to be able to make decisions that will have an impact he or she will care about. Many recent videogames’ biggest strengths have relied on achieving a big sense of agency. Dragon Age: Origins, Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2, Heavy Rain, Alan Wake, to name but a few, have been applauded for giving the player a credible sense that their decisions would have an impact in the development of the game.

Recent games have also been able to provide with environments that, either fantastic-looking in the extreme (Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect 2, Bioshock 2), or as realistic-looking as possible (Alan Wake, Heavy Rain), allow the player to suspend disbelief and accept the the environments presented as believable. The very same environments have also managed to emotionally connect with the player to the extent that a desire to preserve it and the virtual people who populate it becomes an integral part of the gaming experience.

The importance of the ability of the environment to help disbelief, and to provide with characters to connect with, are two of the elements that help to form an emotional connection and enhance agency. Of course the congruence of the choices will also impact on whether the player cares about the consequences or not. If one has to make a decision that will affect what cup of coffee has to be bought, that is likely to matter less than to make a decision where the fate of a kingdom is at stake.

For me, it is quite interesting to extrapolate those situations to board-games. I don’t mean Cluedo, or Monopoly (please don’t get me started on those!!!!). I refer to more modern and recent design board-games and role playing games, where players are presented with mechanics that allow for much more creative approaches to gaming and strategy. Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Agricola, Battlestar Galactica… most of the modern games I am talking about have a very large scope for decision making. Despite the fact that some games are competitive and others are cooperative, they all have one thing in common: They provide a strong feeling or emotion as a result of the decision one takes throughout the game. Not just because our decisions (and a good share of luck!) will determine if we win the game or not, but because we can see the consequence of each decision, as well as the consequences of all the decisions we take.

That has left me feeling many times that scenario driven e-Learning attempts and mostly fails to create agency.

Most scenarios present a situation in which the learner’s input is simply to choose from a very limited number of reactions. There is no chance for the learner to improvise an alternative solution that the designer didn’t think about. Also there is little chance for the designer or the client to learn about those alternatives in order to implement them later on.

The consequences of the few options we’re given are of little or no importance to the user either. Let’s take a look at this storyboard example:

  • The first image shows how Roger, a customer service representative is on the phone to a client. The client is complaining because some paperwork has gone astray and now they have to pay a fine.
  • The second image shows Roger explaining that he needs to get some details from the customer in order to proceed further
  • The third image shows Roger looking at the phone perplexed because the client has insulted him and put the phone down.

The following screen is a quiz asking Roger what he should do next. The options are:

  • Log the call and jump onto helping the next customer
  • Report the client in the database so he’s flagged as problematic
  • Talk to the manager about the call

Although the learners will be familiar with the situation (let’s assume this course is delivered to a customer support team) and will have probably been there themselves, why should they care about Roger? What if they think of another solution? And if they’ve been in that situation before and resolved it in a different way?

Although the environment is perfectly credible and the situation is familiar, the agency in that scenario is very close to null. The learner will feel very little out of answering the questions.

Why?, because the learner didn’t have an input. They didn’t have a choice. The designer did, and then gave them the choices. For that matter, they were given very few choices that they might not agree with.

In videogames the impact and moral dilemma compensates for the limited number of choices. In board-games the number of choices is high enough, and are influenced by the other players, so there is an element of unpredictability to them, and thus to the outcome. Most important there is an element of the player’s personality. They can be more cautious or aggressive, cooperative or dictatorial, straight forward or devious, forward or lateral thinking…

In Elearning?… not so much!

Lastly in scenarios as currently presented in the vast majority of Elearning courses, there is very little (if any) of the learner’s imagination to be exercised. It is the designer’s imagination that gets exercised, based on that he or she thinks the learner needs or will understand, and unarguably, limits the scope of the learning experience. Then whatever the designer imagined as a good scenario is presented to the learner… thus the learner has no input. In this day and age where technology is more powerful, easier to reach, and where we understand how humans react to machines and machine scenarios better than ever before, there is little excuse for Elearning not to catch up with Agency and start giving the learner a more engaging and satisfying experience.

Unfortunately, the sort of Artificial Intelligence that drive video-games, and the very nature of human interaction that is so essential to board-games, are not something we’ll be able to recreate easily anytime soon. So what is the solution? How could eLearning actually learn from the videogames industry and the recent generation of board-games and improve the user experience?

Personally I think the learner should have a much greater and active role than just reading screen, watching videos or animations, listening to (often tedious!) narration or dialogue and clicking answers and provide inflexible and terribly predictable feedback. A more customisable application where the learner can input text that will receive coherent and congruous feedback rather than a set reply. The chance of participating as the character in the scenarios, rather than looking at the photo of someone they don’t care about. To witness the consequences or their mistakes rather than just being told their decision wasn’t the right one. Cooperative eLearning, where two different individuals can drive the same scenario independently and see how their reactions affect both the other person and the global outcome.

Easier said than done?… Maybe. But then, are you really going to tell me you’re not up to the challenge?