But the truth is, the Articulate authoring tools go a lot deeper than the surface view. There are scores of wonderful options for enhancing the creativity of a course. At the same time, my experimentation occasionally resulted in lost audio files and system crashes. That’s why I like the idea of Patti Shank and Jennifer Bircher’s book, Essential Articulate Studio 09. If I’d had this by my side when I was starting out, it would have saved me hours of missteps and errors. Even intermediate users will benefit from what’s inside.
What It Covers
Background. Essential Articulate Studio 09 provides a comprehensive view of the topic, as evidenced by its size—over 1,000 pages. It takes readers from start to finish by exploring all things associated with the design and development of eLearning using Articulate products.
Shank and Bircher start by exploring some important instructional design concepts, such as when rapid development makes sense in light of your target audience and the availability of content. They then focus on slide production in PowerPoint, including design, adding graphics and other essentials. Throughout the book, they emphasize the value of planning for each step of the process.
The authors provide a sufficient foundation for those who are new at developing eLearning. Although novices will benefit from more Instructional Design know-how, the ID basics covered here will allow someone to get started.
Getting into Presenter. The bulk of the book delves deeply into the four Articulate products: Presenter, Quizmaker, Engage and Video Encoder. At the start, the Presenter tutorials cover workflow and planning; recording and editing audio; selecting slide properties and similar functions. This is followed by ways to pump up a project with animations, hyperlinks, attachments and video, with a full chapter discussing player templates. Toward the end, you’ll find a detailed chapter on how to publish and test your finished product.
Getting into Quizmaker, Engage and Video Encoder. The authors devote several chapters to Quizmaker, introducing all the options for both graded and survey questions. You might be surprised at some of the functionality that’s available for enhancing Quizmaker interactions, such as animations, hyperlinks and a timeline.
When it comes to Engage, they provide tutorials on every Engage interaction type. My initial reaction was that this was overkill, because Engage interactions are quite easy to implement. But Shank and Bircher really come through here too, providing lots of added value with creative ideas for the interactions as well how to plan for each one.
Articulate’s Video Encoder, which converts video to the .flv (Flash) format, is an often overlooked tool. It’s great that Shank and Bircher included a beefy chapter on this topic. They cover how to import and edit video, record from your web cam, convert video to Flash, run batch jobs and more.
One of the best features of this book is the added thought given to its information design. Every chapter starts with a Chapter Snapshot serving as an advance organizer and a Chapter Recap and practices at the end, to summarize and reinforce key points. The content is interspersed throughout with little bits of relevant information, presented as Tips. Finally, I like the way many of the Articulate screen shots in the book are annotated with the authors’ comments. This helps clarify the small details of the screen they are explaining.
If you’re about to dive in to eLearning with Articulate products, I would definitely recommend buying this book. It should save you hours of spinning your wheels. If you’re a mid-level user, you’re still bound to find topics of interest. For example, there are sections on enhancing audio and the effects of compression, how to implement branching and how to take advantage of the slide property features.
I’d say this book provides an excellent companion to the Articulate products. You can check out Essential Articulate Studio 09 on Amazon and see if this is the missing manual you’ve wished you had.
By the way, if you’d like to get better at all things PowerPoint, check out The Presentation Summit. Looks like a great conference and I’ll be presenting there too.
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