Sunday, April 26, 2009

Experiences with Elearning on the Mac

Its a bit of a pity that there are "no good rapid-elearning tools" (take this with a pinch of salt for now) for the Mac. When it comes to Windows of course, there's quite a wide array of tools in Articulate, Raptivity, Mohive, Captivate and what have you. Yes you have Powerpoint on the Mac, but given the fact that you can't convert .wmf files into drawing objects, its greatly limited in its graphics editing and authoring capabilities.

I must say however, given that you can still run Windows through a virtual machine and run your favourite rapid e-learning tool on top of it, being on a Mac is a bit of a blessing in disguise. I use Articulate to create elearning, and it packs a huge punch into your extremely familiar Powerpoint interface. I run this off my virtual machine and it usually doesn't take much time to create templates like this, or an elearning course structure as you see below. (More about this in a future post, perhaps.)

I like to build out my scenarios in Presenter 09 and I reserve my Quizmaker usage only for situations where I need tracking. There are a couple of reasons for this:
  • Presenter 09 gives you a lot of flexibility with branching, the ability to reference the same screen multiple times and of course, editing and creating graphic scenes is much easier.
  • Second of course, Quizmaker 09 is woefully slow on my virtual machine, so I have good reason to avoid it unless I really need it.
So that's how I author my elearning on my Mac. If you look at the image above, you'll notice that a scenario spans a number of slides/ screens and it can become a little confusing to manage locks and branches. So here's why I say having a Mac is a blessing. Keynote 08 (not 09) has the ability to generate a single SWF file for a series of slides. What this does for you:
  • you dont have to manage 20 slides in Presenter 09 to build your scenarios - just create an SWF in Keynote and drop it into Presenter 09;
  • test out your scenarios separately from your actual module, so you know exactly how things work for you.
Here's a really fast paced scenario that I put together in Keynote. You can easily drag and drop this into Articulate and it works just fine! Its useful to remember though that Keynote 09 doesn't have this feature anymore, so you should perhaps retain your Keynote 08 installation. With that said, Keynote 09 has some great cinematic features that you can use to create pretty decent Quick Time movies which you can then convert into flash using a tool like video2swf.

There's no denying though, that elearning on the Mac is a bit of this and that and needs some maturity and again support from companies like Articulate. In the mean time, here are some tools I highly recommend for your elearning journey on the Mac:
  • Keynote 08 - Creating Flash output;
  • Keynote 09 - Creating high quality Quick Time Movies;
  • Screenflow - Doing screencasts and screen recordings;
  • Little Snapper - managing and annotating your screen captures
  • Skitch - To quickly do some basic editing with your images
  • Photoshop/ GIMP - to cut out characters and do some other advanced image editing and post production
  • Beedocs Timeline 3D - to create amazing 3D timelines
  • WireTap Studio/ Garage Band - to record and edit narration and audio
  • Pulp Motion Advanced - to create highly visual photo tours
  • IMovie 09 - A really powerful, desktop movie creator
  • and of course Parallels: To run the Windows applications that have no equivalent on the Mac (yet.)
There's also a bunch of stuff I haven't used yet, but hear highly of: If anyone reading this blog has tried these, please let me know.

I could keep raving about the number of applications on the Mac that make life so much easier. The only drawback is the lack of an integrated suite like Articulate Studio 09 where you can do so much from within one application suite. I've put in my request for Articulate on the Mac here. I guess if there's enough noise, then they may just come up with a Mac version. Lastly, I recommend that any elearning developer takes a look through the slideshare document below, to see the amazing number of high quality tools that are available across platforms, to make elearning content generation so easy.


Matthew Bibby said...

Hi, great post!

I just thought I would let you know that Adobe is developing a Mac version of Captivate (details here: and TechSmith are making Camtasia for Mac!

Now if only Articulate would make a Mac version!



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