Note: This is part 3 of a 4 part series. For additional eLearning reviews, read our Adobe Captivate review as well as our Articulate Presenter review. Subscribe to the blog below to be notified when part 4 is published.
Articulate Storyline is a standalone software (no longer married to Powerpoint) that is designed to rapidly develop eLearning courses. It allows you to create just about any type of quiz, interactive content, or software simulation.
Functionality - 4.5 out of 5
Story view is nice. Dividing modules into scenes helps you in the editing and previewing process. Most importantly it keeps your crazy branch-tastic course from becoming a seriously confusing clustercuss. It is a little clumsy trying to drag and rearrange scenes. I wish it were just as easy to move scenes around as it is to move individual slides. But overall it’s a simple but helpful feature.
Triggers make anything possible. Any object/image/text can be simply made into a trigger to do any a variety of actions (show a layer, jump to a slide, play media, etc). I love the flexibility here.
The Timeline is slick. Below is a timeline used to arrange objects and content so they appear in the right place at the right time. Very intuitive and quite easy to work with.
Working with Layers is awesome. Very similar to photoshop. Working with layers seems to be a much more intuitive way to work with content. If you are used to photoshop layers then you’ll be immediately impressed. If you’ve never worked with layers in any other software program it might take a bit to get used to.
Quiz Slides are flexible and easy to work with. It’s very easy to fully customize a wide variety of quiz question types.
Copy/Pasting text is out of whack. If I’m copying a paragraph of blue Calibri text and pasting on another slide I expect the styles to come over. Nope. Articulate Font – Black. I find I spend a LOT of time changing font and font color.
Custom Colors are a bit buried. The least you could do is put Custom Color swatches somewhere easier than three clicks away. I feel like I’m missing something here but my workflow for changing the color of my fonts is slow. It may sound nitpicky, but when you combine this issue with my first complaint about losing the color styles when copy/pasting, I find I’m wasting a lot of time.
There’s an unnecessary lack of options for customizing the player. The player is surprisingly not all that customizable. You can add a logo, change the color of the skin, and remove a few navigation items. I would like to see the ability to add a background image behind the player.
Illustrated/Photo Characters are a little cheesy. At first I was very excited about this handy built-in feature. By having character sets with a wide variety of poses and facial expressions it allows the user to have a persona throughout the course without any custom illustration or photography. With many courses moving toward scenario-based and immersive learning, the need for characters is growing rapidly. It is a common struggle for designers out there to try and tell a coherent story using stock photography.
Unfortunately, when it came to actually designing for a specific course I ran into a problem. The scenarios for my course involved nurses and geriatric patients dealing with depression and dementia and other geriatric issues. This is the closest character I could find to match the content:
These fit 50-somethings were a little too healthy and happy for my scenarios. If the characters of your courses need to something specific (age, ethnicity, wearing a uniform, etc) in your course, then you won’t get a lot out of this feature.
Animation is lacking. No motion paths. C’mon Storyline. I’ve come to expect more. Powerpoint has motion paths. Much like Powerpoint, 90% of the animation options are ridiculous. “Spin-and-Grow”? Please pour Diet Coke on my keyboard if I ever use Spin-and-Grow.
Does not Work on my Mac. This is lame. Even Microsoft Word and Apple worked out their differences.
Ease of Use - 4.9 out of 5
Overall I kept finding myself being delightfully surprised with how easy it was to become comfortable in Storyline. As I was learning the program I often found myself saying, “I wish I could….” and then would find out two minutes later that they did allow for the functionality that I was hoping for.
Screen Layout is nice if you like powerpoint. Ribbon style similar to Powerpoint. You don’t need a tutorial to get started.
Screen/Audio Recording is smooth. It is very easy to record (and sync) audio or a screencast without having to leave the program. The Screen recording comes with options as well. You can insert your recording as a single video slide, or as step-by-step slides.
Preview Mode. You can either preview one slide or a scene, but not a selection of slides. It does load much quicker than Articulate Presenter.
Glitchy Screen Recording. After publishing a module that had several video screen captures I noticed a few giant black-bar glitches. I could only get it to work glitch-free by republishing several times.
Publishing - 4.5 out of 5
You can publish for flash, HTML5, HTML, Word (storyboard). There is also the ability to publish for iPad (for more info about publishing for mobile check out: http://rapidelearningtemplates.com/review-articulate-mobile-player/)
When viewing published courses on my Android device, the course player has been a bit glitchy. I have a hard time telling a client with confidence and enthusiasm that their course “works” on mobile devices.
Support – 5 out of 5
Huge network of users.
Summary of Articulate Storyline:
There are two glaring strikes against Storyline. 1) Price. $1,398. 2) It does not work on a Mac. If these two realities are acceptable to you, then I highly recommend Storyline for pretty much any eLearning problem your trying to solve. Though not flawless, Storyline is the clear winner for me when choosing a rapid eLearning development tool.
I would have to agree with their claim: Storyline is “simple enough for beginners, powerful enough for experts.”