Playtime with Audio and Widgets

Intro

Holiday time means playtime, travelling to me. For personal reasons not travel for me this year. So thought it a good idea to offer you some information and fun about a small country that I visited several times being the home country of my husband. In this text I will not try to explain everything. If you want explanations about some of the techniques I have been using, please post a comment. Just know that I used of course Captivate but also enjoyed the roundtrip functionalities with Audition and Photoshop in the eLearning Suite 2.5 extensively. 

In several previous articles I have been using widgets that are included with Captivate. Those were all static widgets. But recently two great widgets were published by friends, and I had a lot of fun including them in this movie.

Since months I planned to offer some tips about audio, will try to keep them really simple (KISS) and as promised without long texts.

Playtime

Watch this movie and try to have a high score playing with the widgets described further. You'll need some patience, due to the many audio clips it is bigger than the files I normally add to these posts. You can also download it if you want.

Widgets

I used two widgets, one is an interactive widget and the other is a question widget. This means that both can be (and were) used to include scores in a quiz. Here is a short description of the widgets and of course a link to the sites where you can find them. Highly recommendable, both of them!

Drag and Drop Interactive Widget 
This interactive widget was released by InfoSemantics (by Rod and Tristan Ward) and can be found here: Drag and Drop Interactive Widget. Rod explains very well the functionalities of an interactive widget and offers also a comparison with their previously released Drag and Drop Lite Question Widget. Of course, I used Advanced actions to construct the Question slides created with this recent widget. Let me know if you want me to explain those actions in a more elaborate article. I love this widget for its great range of functionalities, especially in combination with advanced actions.

Jumbled Word Widget
This question widget was released by another Captivate-friend, Yves Riel (Flash-Factor) and can be found here: Jumbled Word Widget. Because it is a question widget, it takes over all functionalities of question slides. Just one example: here I used Captivate 5.5 and the new Review feature is automatically attached to the slide with the question widget. No need for advanced actions to add scores to the Quiz in this case. But of course you also get the limitations of question slides : no way to have a partial score (as I created with the other widget for dragging the names to the map). I love this widget for its great design and it confirmed what I suspected since a while: Yves is a perfectionist!

Audio

A lot of audio was used in this movie: background (drums music), slide audio (some of the Voice overs are attached as slide audio) but the most powerful way to add/control audio is using object audio. Some reasons with examples:
  • Object audio allows you to have more than one audio clip playing simultaneously without having to create a multi-track audio file. 
    Example: slide 8 with the rollover slidelets; each slidelet has two audio clips, the first is attached to the image, and the second (Voice over) is attached to the Text Caption that appears later. This allowed also to fade out the first music clip, without effect on the Voice over.

  • You can manipulate object audio by (advanced) actions: hiding the object results in the audio not playing, showing the object plays the audio. If you want an audio to play only the first time that a slide is visited, this is a solution: attach the audio to an object that is visible to Captivate but not to the user. To myself I call those audio clips "audio objects".
    Example: the question slides constructed with the widgets have a Voice over that plays when the user takes the quiz, but not when he is reviewing the quiz. Moreover some question slides have a music clip as well, that will only play during the Quiz time, but not when reviewing. This was realized by attaching each music clip (VO and music) to a rectangle with a stroke width of 0 and a Fill with Alpha=0, thus making it invisible to the user. With an advanced action I hide those rectangles when reviewing, resulting in not playing nor the VO nor the music.

  • Same technique can be used to play another music clip in different situations.
    Example: I did not imply it in the movie because it was already very heavy, but this can be used to replace the Text Captions (Review Messages) in the Question slides created with the Drag and Drop Interactive Widget by Voice overs, or to add a Voice Over to those text captions.

I do feel that you have more questions, but I promised a no-text-heavy post this time. If you want me to explain something more in depth, please post a comment.

Have fun! 

List with Effects in Captivate 5/5.5 - Thanks, Col!

  Col Day, AKA Colday213 (User Forums) asked if there was a list of Effects (in Captivate 5.0 and 5.5) available somewhere (http://forums.adobe.com/thread/858775?tstart=30). The answer was negative and promptly he proposed to add his 2 cents to the Captivate Community by the redaction of such a list. The list is ready, and he asked me to spread its access in our Community, which of course I accepted. The list is stored on workspaces.acrobat.com, either you watch it online, or you download a copy.  The format is Excel (xls). In the list you will find a short description of each effect, the standard duration of the effect and some additional (personal) notes (see screenshot).

 

For the motion effects, where you'll often find 'customizing the motion path' in the additional notes, if you are a newbie to Effects, check out this blog post: 

In case you are wondering: this is version 5, because.... Col asked me to give some feedback and  'fine tuned' it several times. Consider it as a dynamic list, Col is eagerly waiting for your comments: captivate@essex.pnn.police.uk. You can post comments on this blog as well. 

Here is the link:

Waiting for your comments!

What I (dis)like in Captivate 5.5

 
A lot has been published already about the 'big' new features of the release 5.5: publishing to YouTube, gradients, shadows, rotate, Quiz templates. In this post you'll find my list of less obvious new features that are however very useful. And I will also mention what I do not like of course!

What I like

  • When you import Object Styles with the same name as existing styles in the active project, now you are the one who decides what should happen! In version 5.0 Captivate decided, with or without your consent, that the imported styles should get another name (and added a number to that name). And I do never like the situation where an application is deciding for me. Now you get a dialog box 'Overwrite existing style' with a warning and a choice (see screenshot): either you answer Yes to overwrite the existing style, which means that all objects with that style will immediately be updated, or you answer No and will get the same situation as in version 5.0. I like this changed feature, not only because I'm a control freak, but because it is a real time saver when you want quickly to change a number of styles for all objects in a project at once.

  • If you use Slide video, and have to synchronize the video with other objects on the slide, you'll probably use F3 (or the buttons on the Timeline) to play/pause the slide. In previous versions, when pausing the video jumped back to its first frame, now it stays on the frame where you pauses, which makes it much easier to sync of course.

  • New Project Info Panel: when Captivate 5.0 was release a lot of users did complain about missing the global project information, available in previous releases in the StoryBoard view: resolution, number of slides & frames, hidden slides, total project time.... The Adobe team added this information with the patch (released December 2010) to the Preferences dialog box, Project Information.  You will still find this project information in the Preferences, also directly available using the File, Project Info option. But the total project time was given in seconds. In CP5.5 there is a new Project Info panel (see first image in the Picture Gallery), providing the same information, but properly 'translated' to minutes (or hours if necessary)  and it has a Refresh button! This means that you do not have to preview the project before having access to all information (like in CP4), just click the Refresh button to update the information.
    I do regret that this new panel is not available in the default Classic Workspace, because I think some users are always using that workspace. But it is in the all the other workspaces, in the group docked to the right side of the stage. Moreover I believe more valuable information could be included such as the framerate (fps), filesize (CP-file), Audio and Video settings,etc. Perhaps you have more ideas about information for the panel, please take the time to fill in a feature request (Feature request).
     
  • New Effects Workspace: in CP5.0 I created a similar customized workspace like this one, but now it is available out of the box. At the bottom of the stage both the Effects and the Timeline panels are visible which makes it easier to create and synchronize Effects (see second image in the Gallery).

  • Alpha setting is now removed from the swatches dialog box and in the Fill&Stroke accordion of the Properties panel for objects. It drove me nuts that I always had to open twice the dialog box, once to choose the color, and once to change the alpha. Quite a lot of mouse clicks less now. Have a look at the third image in the Gallery.

  • Small ergonomic improvements to the interface: colors of the bars on the Timeline are now more apparent, in the Effects panel, the tiny 'fx' symbol has a Text indication 'Apply Effects'. Both are visible in the second image that shows the bottom dock of the Effects Workspace.

  • In the dialog box for Advanced actions, type conditional action, the operator "is equal to" is now top of the list, which is more logical since it is often used. But I hoped for more enhancements in this dialog box.

  • I do love the added Reporting possibilities by using another SCORM template: being able to report from a PDF (eLS 2.5 only I believe) is great, and the template SendTrackingDataAtEnd is really improving student's experiences if a lot of students are taking an assessment at the same moment because it will not 'overload' the LMS with data.

  • Great news: the system variables cpQuizInfoPointsscored and cpInfoPercentage are now updated after each score obtained by user, almost immediately (after Submit click, or click on the interactive object)! This means that now you can use those system variable at each moment to give feedback to the user. In versions 5.0 they were only populated on the Score slide. If you wanted the score obtained and the percentage, you had to calculate the total score in a user variable, using the system variable cpQuizInfoLastSlidePointScored that was (and still is) updated after each question slide. 

  • Same system variables will now be updated with scores of scored objects as well (click boxes, buttons, Text Entry Boxes), so that it has the same value as the Total Score and the Percentage, visible on the default Score slide. In 5.0 cpQuizInfoPointsscored/cpInfoPercentage had only the total score/percentage for the question slides, not for the other scored objects, whereas the score shown on the default Score slide did take into account all scored objects. This was rather confusing.

  • Reviewer is now functional on Windows-OS in another language than the available Captivate languages. This is very important for me, because most of my colleagues have a Dutch OS, and Captivate is not available in Dutch. Now I'm able to send them files to review,  great!

Changes I do not like:

  • The "button" widget, a static widget in Captivate 5 had unique properties:  although it was static, it had a pausing point (at 6,5secs) and it allowed to attach actions, mostly navigational. This was THE workaround to add navigation to Master slides and question slides, that do not accept interactive objects like normal buttons. I blogged about those possibilities: 'Using the button widget: some ideas'.
    This button widget has disappeared in Captivate 5.5, it has been replaced by a static and an interactive version. The interactive one has the only advantage over default buttons that it has a little bit more formatting, but cannot be used on master slides/question slides because it is interactive. The static version can still be used, but... it will not pause anymore which is frustrating when using on master slides/question slides. So if you still have version 5.0, please keep the original button widget, it will be functional in CP 5.5.
    Another reason for my dislike: I have to update my blog post....

    Will keep you informed, because my intuition tells me that this 'dislike' will soon be solved by the Adobe team. They rock!

    For those who share my opinion about this new static widget, here is a surprise! The Adobe team did not like my 'dislike' and provided me with a new Static button widget, WITH A PAUSING POINT. The pausing is not set at 6,5secs like the previous widget in Captivate 5.0 but at the 1/2 of the slide duration, relative to it. And Suresh Jayaraman kindly accepted that I offer this improved widget to the readers of my blog. Here is the link:

    Static Button with Pausing

    Thanks, Suresh and Sudeshna Sarkar!


  • The former Size&Position accordion in the Properties panel for objects has changed to 'Transform' because it has not only the Size and Position (of the registration point), but also the new Rotate feature. Why my dislike: the option 'Apply to all' in this accordion will now apply not only size and position but also the rotation to all similar objects. I really would have preferred to have the possibility to apply only size changes. And even better: to have also the location separated from the size. Align, Resize to same size is great for objects on the same slide, but not for objects on different slides.

What about you?

I'm sure to discover other functionalities/features to like or to dislike, this is my list with 'first impressions'. Later on I will try to publish a similar list about the eLearning Suite 2.5. For the moment just want to tell that I'm 'captivated' by the roundtripping with Audition, a 'super' audio editing application.

What do you like, dislike in CP5.5? I would love to hear about your first  ideas. 

Widgets&Questions - source list

You will not find a tutorial in this small post, sorry. Because I have been writing multiple blog posts and articles about using Widgets, coming with Captivate or available for free, for question slides, I thought it to be useful to post a link to a list with those resources. Similar to the list about Advanced Actions, I published this one on acrobat.com and will keep it updated whenever I do publish something about this subject.

 

Please, check this link. I repeated the warning posted in one of those articles: NEVER DUPLICATE A WIDGET, if it has an associated variable that you want to use in an advanced action.

 

Widgets and Questions  - list

Customizing Review Messages in Captivate 5.5 or 5.0

Intro

This is the first post since the release of Captivate 5.5 and eLS 2.5. For this reason I worked out an example for both versions. I suppose the work flow used for 5.0 will also be functional for 4.0 but honestly I did not try it out. As you probably already know, the default Question slides did change with 5.5 but are the same for 4.0 and 5.0.

This post is (again) meant as an answer on yet another question on the user forum that pops up regularly: 'How can I have an individual Review message per slide?' Indeed, whereas it is perfectly possible to customize the Success and Failure captions for each question, this is not the case by for the Review Messages. The only control you have are the small sentences (see screenshot Review Messsages for CP5.0 in the Gallery), but with the exception of the mentioned given answer and correct answer for incorrect results the phrasing will be always the same on each question slide.

I will have to use advanced actions to achieve this goal, but they are very simple standard actions. You really do not need programming skills, be reassured.

Control of Question slides: what is (not) possible?

You are perhaps aware of the limited control concerning Question slides: if you watch its timeline quite a lot is contained in that single gray line! Let's try to enumerate:

  1. all the necessary text captions (you can format them after selecting on the stage but they do not appear separately on the timeline) for title, question, answers
  2. buttons you choose (Clear, Back, Skip, Submit)
  3. success/failure/hint captions
  4. functionality to show the proper captions when the user clicks on Submit and to pause the slide until
  5. user clicks again on the slide or enters Y
  6. this last action triggers the Success or Failure actions you'll find in the Quiz Properties (see screenshot 3 in the Gallery), default setting is to Continue

The playhead will only be released by the last user's activity (6), and execute the action set in the Quiz Properties based on Success or Failure. All other activities are before that pausing point, set by default at 1,5secs.

If you delete the Success/Failure captions, 3-5 will be skipped, and the click on the Submit button will immediately release the playhead and execute the proper action set in the Quiz Properties. In this thread on the user forums, I explained how you can use this possibility to show images instead of the Success/failure captions during the remaining time after the pausing point:

Using custom correct/incorrect images

For normal slides one has the possibility to execute an advanced action on Enter and on Exit of the slide. For Question slides this is only possible on Enter (used that in previous blog posts). But you can execute an advanced action both on Success and on Failure, that will be executed either:

  • on clicking the slide or pressing Y if the Success/Failure captions are present and will be shown
  • on clicking the Submit button is there are no Success/Failure captions.

This last functionality will be used in my work flow, both for CP5.0 and CP5.5.


Work flow - general

I did not use the Success/Failure captions to simplify the work flow but deleted them for both versions in the example Quizzes. But everything will functional as well if you keep those captions.

  1. On each question slide create two Text Captions (or Shapes with text), initially set to invisible in the Properties panel; those are the customized review messages on Success/Failure. I preserved the default Review Message for skipped or uncomplete answers. I used the labels OK1, NOK1 (for Question 1),OK2, NOK2, OK3,NOK3
  2. Setup the Quiz preferences: be sure to check the Review possibility
  3. Do not show the Back button (because in this simple work flow, the review messages are set to be visible on when exiting the question slide, going back by the user would show them before reviewing); that is also the reason why I did not use a playbar.
  4. Set up the Review messages - different tips for the 2 versions, look below in the specific work flows
  5. Create two Advanced actions for each question slide, I labeled them Correct1, Incorrect1 (for question 1), Correct2, Incorrect2, Correct3, Incorrect3
  6. In the Quiz Properties, Actions accordion (screenshot 3) replace Continue by those advanced actions

Work flow - Captivate 5.5

Please, play this movie to see the result. Be sure to click the Review button on the last slide to see the customized review messages.

I used a customized Radial gradient as background on the master slide, with 4 stop colors, Reflect as Pattern and I edited the Gradient handle. Shadows are applied to the Captivate title and all buttons in this movie.

Typical settings here, referring to the steps described in the General workflow

  • Step 1: I used a rounded rectangle with a radial, customized gradient fill (two color stops and Reflect as pattern) and inserted Text for step 1

  • Step 4: In Default Review settings, the correct/wrong answers are indicated by checkmarks, not by a Review message like in previous versions, with the exception of the Incomplete message. I kept the default settings here.

  • Step 5: Both advanced actions are visible in the Gallery: Correct1 and Incorrect1. The first statement shows the appropriate shape (OK# or NOK#). The second statement is 'Go to Next Slide'. If you do not include this statement, on executing this action, the playhead would continue through the rest of the slide timeline after the pausing point. The user would then see the Review message during that time, which is not what is wanted.

  • Step 6: This step is illustrated in screenshot 3 of the Gallery.


Work flow - Captivate 5.0

Play the movie to see the result, please. Be sure to click the Review button on the last slide to see the customized review messages.

I used one of the default Background Images 'DryPaint' but changed its Hue and Transparency. I replicated the shadow feature from the previous movie by applying the Dropshadow effect to the title Captivate on the intro-slide.

All steps are similar to those for 5.5 with these exceptions, be sure to check my discovery for step 4!

  • Step 1: Used the Ivory Text Captions here. 

  • Step 4: Contrary to version 5.5 review messages are now displayed in all circumstances. But I didn't want to display the default Correct message, since I already had a better Text Caption. And this is where I discovered something about 5.0 that I want to share!
    I deleted the Correct Message in the Review Messages (screenshot 4 in the Gallery) and what happened? When reviewing all questions and answers disappeared, only my proper Review Text Captions and the Skip button were visible! I thought the project became corrupt, and recreated it, with the same result. The solution is to enter at least one space in the Review message you do not want to show up. You are warned, do learn from my problem, please.

NEVER DELETE A REVIEW MESSAGE, USE SPACES


Conclusion 

Why didn't I use the On Enter event on the next slide to trigger an action to show the message on the previous slide? This is not possible, you can only show objects with an action on the slide where this object is really.

If you want to allow Backwards movement, the situation will be a little bit more complicated, because you will need conditional actions to show the messages. I wanted to keep this solution as simple as possible. And it allowed me to illustrate the difference in Review between versions 5.0 and 5.5

As always, I really would appreciate feedback. Is this post too basic, do you like it, do you want me to extend it with possibility to have Backwards navigation enabled, please let me know!


Be unique! (labeling actions)

Intro

 
OK, I already confessed about being a labeling freak. A while ago I have tried to list all the advantages of labeling slides, objects, variables, actions Some reasons for labeling. But I never imagined that this would cause me troubles one day, make me bumping my head because I couldn't figure out what was going wrong. I owe it to you, loyal reader and follower, to avoid the same pitfall and will try in this blog post explaining what I will hopefully never forget again.
 

Unique labels

As you can detect from the title, the issue I had was linked with a label not being unique. I will first list up the rules to keep in mind for this uniqueness, for the different categories of items. Do not forget as well that all labels are case sensitive: 'One' is considered different from 'one' and from 'ONE'.
  

Object labels

Each object needs a unique label, even though it has already a unique ID. That is not really a problem, because when trying to assign a label to an object that is already attributed, Captivate will show this message
is either a reserved keyword or is already assigned to another item. Provide a different name for the item.
This means that Captivate is checking object label uniqueness all the time, and I feel safe.
 

Slide labels

You can assign the same label to different slides, Captivate doesn't apply this rule to slides. You can even use a label that already has been used for an object, a variable or an action. No problem.
 

Variable labels

Trying to apply the same label to a second variable will also result in a checkup and message by Captivate:
This variable name is already in use. Enter a new name.
Fine, feeling safe again, isn't that what software is meant to do? And Yes, you can assign the same label to a variable that is already assigned to an object. A typical example is a Text Entry Box. If you keep the default labels assigned by Cp both the TEB itself as the associated variable have the same label: Text_Entry_Box_1
 

Action labels

If I assign an identical label to a second advanced action, at the moment I want to save or update the script, my guardian angel Captivate tells me politely :
The script name is already in use
It will stop the saving operation and leaves the script intact, I can change/edit the action name and save it successfully. This rule is applied to all actions, no difference between conditional or standard actions they all need a unique label. As for the variables, you can use a label that is already given to an object and/or a variable safely. That can help identifying them if you have a large bunch of actions. Examples:  if you need an advanced action for each slide on entering, you could assign the same label to the slide and the action; if the action has to be triggered by a button use the same label etc.
 

Decision labels

In a conditional action you can have different decisions, also called 'internal actions' in contrast with the complete advanced actions that are called 'external actions'. Default label here is Untitled, but I like to change that to a more meaningful one. And like for slide, apparently here it is possible to have identical labels, no checkup by Captivate. But why should one use identical labels?
 

External actions - internal actions

I'm smiling because now I see virtual question marks in your eyes: "What was the issue then?'. Let me try to explain, what I was told by the Adobe team as an answer.
 
The external actions are the total advanced actions, conditional actions as well as standard actions. Captivate will always check if a new label is unique and offer you the message I described above under 'Action labels'.
 
In a conditional action, each decision is considered an internal action. When you create a new decision in an conditional advanced action, and label it, Captivate will also check something:
 Captivate checks if the label attributed to a new internal action isn't already attributed to an external action !
This seems strange to me, because it doesn't even check the uniqueness for the different internal actions in one conditional action. It would have been OK however if I got a similar message as for the actions, that told me that 'the script name is already in use'.
 
BUT!!! Captivate doesn't tell you anything, from the second decision on it just deletes the internal action that you wanted to save without any warning. This is a bug, that is still there for the moment.
 
Two examples for you to try out and to understand the problem better :

Example 1 (if you are lazy, watch the recording of this scenario)

  1. Create a standard action, label it test
  1. Create a conditional action, label it TEST: no problem, due to the case sensitivity, Captivate will accept this label when saving.
    1. create a first decision, default label will be 'Untitled', save the action
    2. change the label of this decision to TEST,  same name as the total conditional action, try to save and you'll get a message (great!) "Script update is not successful", Captivate did his homework.
    3. since the label was rejected, change it again to test (which is already attributed to another external action); again message appears, change to another label and save.
    4. create a second decision with name test and fully script it, choose Update, you get the message 'Script update successful', you trust CP and clicks on OK: and your second decision disappears...Captivate when checking did detect that the name already existed for an external action, but gave you the wrong message and deleted without warning.
If you revert 1 and 2, create the conditional action before the standard action, everything will work fine: when creating the standard action test Captivate only checks the other external actions, not the internal action etest that already xists in the conditional action.
 

Example 2

  1. Create a standard action, and label it Untitled
  2. Create a conditional action, leave the default name for the decisions set to Untitled
    1. create the first decision (Untitled), save the action and you get the message 'The script name is already in use', change the decision name
    2. create a second decision (Untitled), try to update, you get the message 'Script update successful' and when clicking OK, second decision is deleted.

Conclusion - tips

  • Never create an advanced actions with the label Untitled
  • If you have to create a conditional action with multiple decisions - internal actions, be sure to have a list with the names of the already created actions ready. I tend to keep that list in the scratch area of Captivate.
  • If you can cope with it, do not have too much decisions, leave their labels to Untitled (do not like that as you know)
  • If you label decisions in a conditional action, starting with the second decisions PLEASE check your list with existing action labels before clicking on Update.

Update: new features in release 5.5 that I used

Since Captivate 5.5 has now been officially released, I can tell you that the splash screen of my video was created with the new Gradient feature of this release. This gradient tool is fully customizable and a great way to enhance objects. In the movie I also used the new Shadow and Rotate features that are now available for all kind of objects. Both of them were used on the end slide: the Text Animation 'Where is my internal action'? is rotated with the Transform Accordion and I applied a shadow to the characters. There is a screenshot below. BTW: in the SWF published in the post Extended widgets for custom MCQ and T/F Questions I used the shadow feature a lot of times, explore...
 
 
 

Customized Progress Indicator

Intro

Do you use the Progress Indicator for Quizzes? I'm very frustrated about that indicator: you have the choice between a Relative or an Absolute indicator, you can adjust the style using the Object Style Manager, but... no way to change the phrasing of that indicator. It is always 'Question X of Y'. If you are an unhappy Captivate-user that needs to localize a lot of courses, this is really annoying. My Dutch-speaking students want a Dutch indicator, my French students want a French indicator etc.
 
It is really not so hard to create your own Progress indicator for Question slides, using rather simple advanced actions and a dedicated Master slide. In this tip I will explain the work flow step by step
 

Example

Play this movie to check the result. In this Quiz I do have 6 question slides. The first 3 questions use a master slide with a progress indicator in English, the last 3 use a similar master slide but with an indicator in Dutch. Do not panic: all questions are in English.

Work Flow

  • User variables: create 2 user variables, I labeled them
    • v_begin  to store the slide number of the last slide immediately before the first question slide 
    • v_current  to store the number of the question; since there is no accessible system variable for this information I will have to detect it from the current slide number

  • Advanced actions: create 2 advanced (standard) actions, I labeled them:
    • IndBegin: to be triggered on entering the last normal slide before the first question. It has only one real statement: to store the current slide number (system variable rdinfoCurrentSlide) in the user variable v_begin. First image in the Gallery shows this action.
    • IndCurrent; to be triggered on entering each question slide, it calculates the question number and stores it in the variable v_current. I do use the system variable rdinfoCurrentSlide again combined with the fixed  number stored in v_begin. Second image in the Gallery shows this action.

  • Attach the actions IndBegin to On Enter for the last slide before the questions and IndCurrent to all Question slides as the same On Enter action (can be done in one operation, select all the Question slides and use the Properties panel, Action accordion)

  • Master slide: create the master slide to be applied to all the Question slides. In this example I created 2 Master slides for the English and the Dutch questions, both based on the General master slide (for the background). Insert the text caption that shows the sentence to be used for the Progress indicator. The used variables in my Progress Indicator (see third image in the Gallery) were:
    • v_current the current question slide number, calculated with IndCurrent action
    • cpQuizInfoTotalQuestionsPerProject is a Quizzing system variable that shows the total number of questions in the project, you can of course also introduce this manually but I do not like to count myself
    • cpQuizInfoPointsPerQuestionSlice this is a bonus, not necessary but extra information for the learner, a Quizzing system variable as well. 

Conclusion

Hope you liked this small tip, and will be inspired to use variables on master slides.
 
 
 

 

Extended widgets for Custom MCQ and T/F questions

Intro

A while ago first part of my soap about using Widgets to create customized Question slides, types Multiple True/False and Multiple Choice: Widgets and Custom Question - part 1 was published. The used widgets (included in Captivate 5) were the Radiobuttons and the Checkboxes widgets. Second part was about using the TextArea widget: Widgets and Custom Questions - part 2 for Short Answer and Fill-in-the-Blank questions. Those default widgets cannot be 'reset', which means that you can change their associated variables using advanced actions, but the change will not be reflected on the stage for the user. If you want to offer the user multiple attempts that can be annoying. One of "our" great widget developers, Jim Leichliter offered an extended version of the TextArea widget as an answer to my complaint. This proves (again) how friendly and dynamic our Captivate Community is. In my last post I blogged about the improved functionality of this extended widget. And I got a positive answer on my request if he would be willing to extend the Radiobuttons and Checkboxes widgets as well. Again, he offers those extended widgets for free on his blog site:

RadioButtons Enhanced
CheckBoxes Enhanced

Both enhancements were created using the 'awesome cpGears widget framework' (citation of Jim), by another Captivate friend, Yves Riels. Find him on his blog, I love his InteractiveLabel and NotePad widgets a lot, but he has a lot more widgets to offer: Flash-factor

As promised to Jim, in this blog I'll try to explain the added functionality of those enhanced Radiobuttons and Checkboxes widgets. And watch out for an important warning later on. For those contaminated with AAAD (Advanced Actions Addiction Disease) detailed explanation of the actions are explained in this companion article:

Extended Radiobuttons and Checkboxes Widgets for Custom Questions


Example

Play this SWF to get an idea of the enhanced Retry options. I did use the same quiz as in the original blog post (part 1 - see link in the Intro). But in the original version there was only a Review option, this time I added a Retry option with 3 possibilities: either change the entered answers, or start from scratch (default work flow when choosing Retake in a regular Captivate Quiz), or preserve the correct answers and only retake the incorrect ones. Explore, and would love to hear what you think about it.


Widgets and variables

Three images in the Gallery do show the configuration of the widgets I used:

  • MCQ1: is a RadioButtons Widget used for a Multiple Choice Question with only one correct answer (second question in the movie); the associated variable is labeled MCQ1Answer (case sensitive) and the possible values are different app names. The configuration is the same as for the widget coming with Captivate. Difference is that when you change the value of the variable MCQ1Answer, it will be visible on the slide. If you choose the option Retry Totally, where you can start from scratch, an advanced actions will assign the value 0 (zero) to MCQ1Answer and the result will be that none of the radio buttons is checked on stage.

  • MCQM: is a CheckBoxes Widget used for a Multiple Choice Question with multiple correct answers (third question in the movie); the associated variables (one per option) are labeled CP,SB,PS,RH,Ac (case sensitive) and have to appear in the same sequence as the values Captivate 5,Soundbooth CS5,Photoshop,RoboHelp 9,Acrobat X. By resetting the variables to the value 0 (zero) all check boxes will be unchecked on the stage as is the case for the Retry option 'Totally.

  • Radio1: is one of the 4 RadioButtons Widgets used for the slide with multiple True/False questions (first question in the movie) - the others are labeled Radio2, Radio3 and Radio4; each had an associated variable, labeled TF1 (TF2, TF3, TF4); assigning the value 0 (zero) to a variable will deselect the radio buttons on stage.


Tips

  • Do not stack an interactive object on top of the widget(s) or they will not be functional. An example: if you put a click box over a widget that covers it all up, the widget will not work.

  • You can have multiple widgets on a slide, and they can cover up partially; this is the case for the slide with the multiple True/False questions as you can see in the image in the Gallery.

  • Do not bother to resize the widgets if they seem not to display everything, on review or after publishing everything will be OK! Look at the fourth image in the Gallery: the word False seems to be cut off, but shows up all right in the movie.

  • Formatting can be tedious: have a look at the Radio1 widget: I changed the font, font size, color (Dark blue #270067) and the 'highlight' color to the same color as the blueish grey of my background (#E3E3E3) to have it blend in. Why do I tell you the color code? If you are not using one of the sample colors in the color palette, the only way to have consistent colors is to type in the code. An example: to search for the code of the background I had to sample that color using the Pick Color tool that is available in the color palette for the Fill color in the Toolbox (vertical toolbar normally at the left of the stage). Because that color will not be automatically added to the samples in the color palette in the Widget dialog box, and since there is no Pick Color available in that box, the 'simplest' way to have the correct color is typing it in. You imagine some of my feature requests ;-)

  • NEVER DUPLICATE A WIDGET. Yes I'm shouting, because trying to reduce the formatting labour for the 4 RadioButtons widgets on the True/False slide, I did duplicate a widget. Every formatting was kept, and thought I only had to change the associated variable, because all other settings are the same. This will not work! The variable in the duplicate will never get a value. Do not follow my example this time, always insert the widget again and again and again. Change the formatting settings again and again and again. After a while you'll know all the color codes by heart.... 

And now...

waiting for the third episode: using dropdown and combobox widgets to create custom questions...


 

Extended TextArea Widget: more functionality

Intro

 
A couple of days ago, I "talked" about the TextArea widget coming for free with Captivate 5 for creating custom Fill-in-the-Blank and Short Answer Question slides. At that moment I told you that I did regret that it was not possible to change the associated user variable by an advanced action and have this visible in the TextArea Widget. Just when I was wondering if I would dare to ask some of the Widget princes of the Captivate Community to extend the functionality of this widget, Jim Leichliter simply offered such an extended version on his website: TextArea Widget with variables. It is a wonderful example of our dynamic community, and I'm so grateful to be part of it.
 
In this blog post I will show the added possibilities for the same Quiz as in the previous post. The changes to the advanced actions and the new to be created variables are be explained in this article published with the Adobe Community Publishing app. Please check my conclusion:


 

Example movie

Play this movie with the same 4 Question slides, described in the previous movie. It has an extra slide after the score slide with new functionalities:  3 possibilities to Retry the quiz, please try them out. This was not possible with the original CP-widget. And I remember questions on the user forum: is it possible to have users only retaking the incorrect questions? That is possibility 3 in this movie.
 

Extension of the widget

This extension allowed me to manipulate the content of the TextArea visible on the slides. With the standard Widget, the text entered in the TextArea is stored in the associated user variable, but if you change that user variable this will not be reflected on the slide. If you watched the movie in the previous blog post, and tested the Retry work flow, you'll have noticed that the answers introduced before remained on the slides. You were able to change them manually, but I couldn't clear the text or replace it.
 
With the extension this is possible. Here is my work flow for each of the 3 possibilities for Retrying:
 

Possibility 1:

The answer given the first time remain on the slides, the user can edit them - this was the only workflow possible with the default TextArea Widget, the user variable has not been changed.
 

Possibility 2:

All answers are cleared. I created extra user variables:
  • v_pos: will store the value 1, 2, 3 corresponding with the Retry possibility chosen, will be used in a conditional action
  • Start: has the text 'My answer: ' as content; in an advanced action the variables associated with the Short Answer TextArea widgets on the first 3 question slides will get this content, replacing the text input by the user, thus clearing the previous answer
  • Null:  is a user variable that is empty: in an advanced action the variables associated with the 3 widgets in the FIB Question will get this content, thus creating empty fields again.

Possibility 3:

Only incorrect answers are cleared, using the same user variables and technique as in possibility 2; correct answers with the given score will remain, using similar statements as for the Review work flow.
 

What next - Ideas?

One comment was about possibility to report to a LMS with custom questions: this is partly possible, will try to post my experiences shortly. But there are more widgets in the treasure box coming with Captivate to explore too. Please do not hesitate to comment or let me know your ideas.

Widgets and Custom Questions - part 2

Intro

As promised, here is the second but not last part of my soap about using (free) widgets to create customized questions. One of the most versatile widgets for this goal is the TextArea widget, it will be the only 'star' today. Not only is it a very fine alternative for Text Entry Boxes because it allows for better formatting, text wrapping and if necessary the appearance of a vertical scroll bar, but it can be associated with a variable, which makes it accessible ...for advanced actions!

I will illustrate the use of the TextArea widget for Short Answer questions with a lot more scoring options than the default Short Answer question and for Fill-in-the-Blank questions.

In this blog post I will explain how to use this widget and its possibilities, In detail explanation of the advanced actions can be found in this article

Using TextArea widget for Custom Questions 

Example movie

Explore the TextArea widget by playing this movie. It has and intro-slide, 4 question slides and a score slide:
  1. Short answer question (roundtripping): score will be based on keywords, all keywords have to be in the answer to get the score.
  2. Short answer question (languages): partial scoring but also on keywords, each correct keyword adds to the score
  3. Short answer question (web apps): only one out of 2 keywords needed to get the score
  4. Fill-in-the-Blank question (twitter): with partial scoring, each correct word adds to the score

On the score slide you will be able either to Review the questions or to Retry all questions and increment your score.

TextArea widget

This widget can be associated with a user variable, but you will have to define that variable separately (Project, Variables), same way I described for the Radiobuttons and Checkboxes widgets in part 1 (Widgets and Custom Questions - part 1). The first image of the Gallery shows the properties of the widget used on the first question slide (about roundtripping), WidgetRound, . Those properties are easy to configure, and the user variable is v_roundtrip. When exploring this widget I was excited by the fact that this variable will store the complete text that is entered. This looked like a promise for multiple possibilities in Short Answer questions. I never used the default Short Answer question because the score can only be attributed if the Short Answer is totally correct! And this is rarely necessary as I heard as well from other users on the forum. Usually the short answer should get a score when it mentions some keywords, not when it is exactly the same as the "correct entry".

Tip: while exploring this widget I detected that it will only be functional if it has its place in the Z-order (stack order) on the timeline above all interactive objects. In the Gallery the second image shows the Timeline of the first question slide about roundtripping. On this slide ShortAn1 you'll see the stack order from bottom to top:
  • TitleSA1 = title of the slide (text caption)
  • Quest1 = question (text caption)
  • BtSubmitRT = button Submit (interactive)
  • BtContRT = button Continue (interactive)
  • WidgetRound = TextArea Widget
  • RTFeedback = text caption with Feedback (non interactive)
  • ScoreRT = text caption showing the score (non interactive)
  • RetryRT = text caption that will show up if the question is retaken (non interactive)

If you switch the place of the Widget with one of the buttons, it will not be functional! I had to put the three last captions on top of the widget because they are partially covering up the widget's text box when they appear. They do not interfere with the widget's functionality because they are not interactive.


Question slides - description 

1. Short answer - all keywords necessary

This question has a score of 5 points. This score will be attributed if the answer contains both the keywords Photoshop AND Soundbooth. Probably some users will also add Powerpoint, but this will not be taken into account for the score.  It is annoying that not only the names of user variables are case sensitive but also the values! I assumed that users could type both Soundbooth and soundbooth, Photoshop and photoshop to create the unique but complex condition for the Submit button. You can see the settings for the Widget and the objects on the timeline in the Gallery.
The Buttons Submit and Continue are timed, the Continue button will only appear after the Submit button has been clicked, same setup as described for the custom questions in Part 1.


2. Short answer- partial scoring

Up to 4 keywords can result in a score, each keyword adds 2 points, the max. score thus being 8 points.
Setup of the widget and the objects on the timeline are the same as for the first question. The big difference is of course the advanced conditional action attached to the Submit button. Here it is a combination of 4 different decisions, one for each keyword.


3. Short answer - one out of two keywords

Two possible correct keywords (Flash + Dreamweaver), but the user needs only to have one mentioned in his short answer. The situation is the same as for the first Short Answer, with one condition in the setting 'Any of the conditions true', but again taking into account the case sensitivity. Widget Properties and objects on the timeline are similar to the first question.


4. Fill-in-the-Blank - 3 fields with partial scoring

In the third image of the Gallery you will see the Timeline of this slide, that uses 3 instances of the TextArea Widget. Perhaps you wonder why I prefer TextArea to Text Entry boxes? The user input in a TEB has to be confirmed, either by  a Submit button or by a shortcut, which is not the case for TextArea. The user can change his input if he wants and the value of the associated user variable will be adapted in real time.
Possible issues: you'll have to try a little bit to have the right size and position for the widgets. I first typed the correct terms and positioned the widget on top of those, but had to adapt the position even with the same font/fontsize.
In this FIB you cannot give the user the possibility to choose from a dropdown list, only to type the answer.

Partial scoring is however possible, the advanced conditional action attached to the Submit button is rather similar to the one used for the second question (Short answer with partial scoring). Again you have to take into account the case sensitivity.


Results Slide

The results slide has the same setup as described in my first blog post about Widgets and custom questions. To allow the Review/Retry I used a user variable v_try that will have 3 possible values:
  • v_try = 0  is inital value, when the user takes the quiz for the first time
  • v_try = 1  when he retakes the quiz
  • v_try = 2  when he reviews the quiz

Those values will be used to re-initialize each question slide (see article).

One drawback of the used widget: it is not possible to reset the value of the variable to void/null/empty! You can reset the associated variable to a Null value, but this will not be reflected in the display of the TextArea on the slides. Once the user has entered something, it will stay there until he changes it himself. You can watch this with the Retry functionality in the sample SWF.