Friday, August 21, 2009

Tackling a New Captivate Project

When I'm not performing interpretive dance, this is what I do.

I could have sworn I have written this down before somewhere in this blog.

If I have, it's been awhile and I'm sure I've fine-tuned the process since then. the request of the Manager....How Wendy tackle's a new Captivate project!

I create software simulations about 95% of the time. This is how I tackle a software simulation project.

This process assumes:
- Yes, we need a Captivate tutorial on this and not something simpler like a PDF. I'm not gonna get into the Assessment process here. That's a whole 'nother post.

- I have at least a passing familiarity with the application being presented.

- I have already collected all of the support information I need (documents, people, multimedia, etc) and have it someplace where I can quickly access it.

- I have all of the access I need to perform any set-up before filming. Or have made friends with the administrators.


1) Create the outline(s) / Instructional Design
- General (what processes do I need to demonstrate) ----> Specific (the actual steps of each process)

2) Figure out how to divide up the task.
- I usually divide up the tutorials by the process I am demonstrating.
- During the actual development, keep a lookout for ways you can divide the process further. Better to have 2 short tutorials than 1 really long one.

3) List all of the tutorials you need to build for the project as a result of step 2
- I use this list to keep track of what needs to happen. As I develop, I add and cross off items from the list.

4) Set up the project organization structure.
- New folder in the appropriate location on your desktop.
- If you need to share files and communicate with others, new folders in your document management tool. Notify the team you are working with the location of this folder and make sure they have access.

Note: Editing Captivate while accessing the file from a network drive invites bad juju. Always fully download the project from your document management system or shared drive and use File>Save As... to ensure that you are working with the Captivate file directly from your PC.

5) Set up the Captivate project for the tutorial.
- I have a standard template with the graphics / common slides / style guide and film size I use for all of my tutorials. Keeps me from having to re-create the wheel each time I build one of these things. For those who don't have a standard template, but have access to a Captivate guru - borrow theirs. If you don't have either a Captivate guru or a template, create one! Kevin Siegel gives great advice on how to create a template in Captivate 4.

Note: If you are creating your own Captivate template and you need to put the resulting tutorial in an LMS, talk to the LMS administrator for guidelines on what needs to be in the template and any size restrictions on the resulting tutorial. They can also give you information on final publishing requirements.

- Create a naming convention if your project has multiple tutorials. For instance, if I am building a series of GroupWise Mail tutorials, I will generally name them GroupWise_Mail_Descriptor. The underscores prevent funny characters being added to the URL or Project Name when you try to publish or post.

6) Set up the application you are filming
- In an ideal world, you are working in a test/training system and NOT in production. If you have to work in Production - it is IMPERATIVE that you work very tightly with the system administrators and keep them notified of everything you are doing including:
+ Which records you plan to touch
+ What edits you plan to make
+ Any mistakes at the TIME YOU MAKE THEM. Accidents happen and it is easier to fix at the time you make it than when the mucky muck finds it. Trust me, the administrators will be much happier with you if you do.

- If you can - create dummy records so that you do not inadvertently expose sensitive information. Document the important information on those dummy records so you can go back to it.

- If you have no choice but to film real information - be prepared to spend quality time masking your work. Notify the client EARLY that this will need to happen.

Note: I use a combination of highlight boxes and the Transparent text caption. It's ugly. It takes time. You are better off getting help from the administrators and creating dummy records.

7) Do a dress-rehearsal of the process you plan to film.
- Make sure your steps are accurate
- Make any necessary changes to your outline
- Determine how you need to "chunk" your filming. You don't need to record everything all at once.
- Look for any screens that may take a long time to load or, for newer applications, any error messages that may happen.

8) Film it!
- Set up your recording defaults before pressing the record icon. Adobe provides excellent advice on the recording process.
- Press [PrintScreen] on your keyboard regularly to make sure that you have all of the screens you need. Better to have too many screens than too few. It is also much harder to re-create a screen after the fact than to take a screenshot during.
- Don't forget, you can always record more screens.

9) Edit it!
- Again - Adobe has excellent advice on how to edit your Captivate tutorial
- Make sure your visual and audio cuing + terminology is consistent.
- In Captivate 4, I also write my narration in the Notes area during this process. Makes it much easier for me to add closed captioning, create printouts for SME review that include visuals + script and view the script as I record.
- I do sound recording after most of my edits are complete (except timing). I'm not good enough to talk and film at the same time.

10) Perform a technical check!
- Publish your Captivate tutorial (don't worry about the SCORM stuff etc).
- View your Output.
- Note where you need to make any changes.
+ Do all of your buttons work?
+ Do your text captions / images / buttons appear at the appropriate times?
+ Does any branching work as expected?
- Edit more. Republish.
- Continue this process until it works!

11) Get the first working draft in your client's hands as fast as possible.
- We upload to a departmental web area and give the client the link.
- I have found that even with script approval - often the client doesn't realize that there are errors until they HEAR it.
- Harass the client for feedback.

12) Repeat steps 9 - 11 until the client is happy.

13) Final publish and post
- If you need to put it in an LMS - make good friends with the LMS administrator. Ideally - you already ARE good friends with the LMS administrator. (You did make friends with the LMS Administrator during Step 5, right?) Work closely with the LMS administrator to make sure the tutorial scores as expected.
- Publish, post and test with the LMS administrator until everything works.
- Notify the client and have THEM test the scoring.
- Publish post and test until the client is happy.

14) Have a beer/glass of wine/gin martini/non-alcoholic beverage of your choice. Check "Complete" on the tutorial and start the next tutorial. If it is for the same project - you can start at Step 5.

I created a "How To" for Captivate 4.

Thank you to George Washington University for the server space and permission to share.

Wendy's "How to" for Captivate


Robert Kennedy III said...

Thanks for your tips here Wendy. Here's another tip as well. You don't necessarily need to do screen shots as you are filming. Captivate already does this for you. All you need to do is find the slide with the shot that you need. Captivate saves this as a background image in its library. Find the library by going to View-Show Library. You can then simply export this shot to whatever format you need, jpg, png, bmp, etc. Captivate takes 'screenshots' of all the movements you are making. Saves a bit of time in that you only need one application process instead of two. Hope that is helpful to someone. I know I have used this a lot on my current project.

Wendy said...

Very true. However, I do find that on some of the applications I film - important screenshots are missed if I just trust Captivate.

Learned this the hard way.

I don't do the "screenshot" thing for each step. I left out the step where I do a "test film" with a new application to see where a shot may be missed. I then focus my "Print Screen" efforts on those screens. Again, I would rather have duplicate screens than miss a screen.

That said, I do think Captivate 4 does a better job of capturing everything you need - even with delays.

arvinder said...

Very Descriptive and sequential.

Thank you.

How would you ensure your customers provide concrete feedback. Do you follow a tried and good known method for it. What if they are passive and chances are that they may blurt out the mistakes during Go live stage.

Wendy said...

The approach that seems to work best is a "sit down demo" of the tutorial with all of the stakeholders. If I rely on them to look at the tutorial themselves, I find I don't get feedback until after "go live".

Rapid prototyping and scheduling your time for multiple drafts helps as well. I try to get a script (usually created out of Captivate) ASAP and do a sit down meeting to go over the script and content.

Second draft is with sound, since often people won't find a mistake until they hear it and see it in action.

When I can, I schedule a sit down demo / discussion in person in this phase as well. For whatever reason, this works better than relying on them to review on their own time since everyone is focused. It also works better than trying to do this remotely because I find the teleconferencing technology gets in the way of the SME evaluating the product.

Of course, I don't always have time in the schedule for these meetings. Then, I just suck it up and expect to do a rapid re-draft after "go live". If I've communicated regularly during the drafting phase, this will be minor and the end-user won't catch the problem.