A Flashy Way to ‘Captivate’?

Online learning systems have come a long way since their early days of static Web pages and a dial-in.

But if older online training systems failed to captivate their students with engaging interactivity, quizzes, animations and video, then Adobe is pulling out all the stops with Captivate 2, the latest version of its eLearning software.

Rich media is the watch phrase in this release. Educators can add video, audio and animation.

They can add quizzes and simulated demonstrations that help trainers and students explain databases, answer sales questions and generally interact with the modules amid a flurry of multimedia.

The release is fully integrated with the company’s ubiquitous Flash technology for adding animation.

And educators and end users who design the learning modules do not need programming or development skills. (However, some familiarity with Adobe’s Photoshop, Breeze platform and working with Flash files will probably go a long way with educators designing training modules.)

The features include software demonstrations and simulations, with text descriptions, mouse movements that provide visual clues to the students, and scored interactions with learner feedback, Silke Fleischer, product marketing manager for Adobe Captivate, told internetnews.com.

Another new feature is the simulation wizard, which helps users develop soft-skills simulations, add content to placeholder slides, and set up the branching with simple point-and-click functionality, she explained.

Pull-down menus, along with multiple screens, enable a top-level view of educators’ media assets, as they layout the modules and make design decisions.

Mapping views, for example, provide users a drag and drop way to build out training modules specific to their users.

soft-skills library

Soft-skills library.

Source: Adobe

Adobe isn’t the only player ramping up its online learning software and services, as rich media spreads across the Web.

IBM, for example, is positioning its SOA resources for helping clients rollout online learning systems in a jiffy.

For example, Big Blue’s Learning Solutions group within its services division has helped clients such as Cingular build 26 training modules within two months for its far-flung employees after the feds approved its $41 billion merger with AT&T Wireless.

Because SOAs help different databases talk to one another, the framework becomes the foundation for rolling out Web services so that portals can access different databases for specific purposes.

Adobe’s ace in this case is that Captivate 2 automatically generates interactive content in the Flash format, which means it is accessible to some 600 million Web users that have the Flash plug-in loaded on their systems.

Plus, users and educators can reuse and manage media content in a project library, a key factor of Web services .

Adobe said the content can be integrated with other e-learning systems, including Macromedia’s Breeze and Authorware systems, Questionmark Perception, and SCORM/AICC-compliant Learning Management Systems (LMS).

Need to really grab the students’ attention? The design menus for modules let the educators focus attention with zoom and gray-out effects.

And by the way, quizzes built-in to the lessons help keep tabs on who paid attention, and who might have to, well, refresh.

The latest release is built on the assets of Macromedia’s RoboDemo, which it bought in 2003 for $65 million. Adobe now owns Macromedia.

The package is expected to ship later this year at an estimated street price of $599, or $299 for registered users to upgrade. As usual, volume discounts, government and education licensing are also available.

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