Advanced to Shared Action: Step-By-Step (micro-navigation showcase)

Intro 

After the introduction to Micro-Navigation I explained how to use it for forcing the first view of a slide, and for playing an audio file on first visit. When looking at the resulting advanced actions they are pretty similar in both posts. Moreover you probably will want to use the action on multiple slides in the course, and maybe also in future courses. That sounds like a perfect scenario for conversion of the action to a Shared action. I have been blogging already several times about Shared actions. In the present article I try to explain how to reflect on the use of parameters. Static objects need to be parameters as are states and groups, I label them as 'compulsory'. But Variables and Literals are 'candidate parameters', a well-founded choice for change them in parameters,  can save you lot of time later on. Consider it a good practice example.

Analysis

When comparing the two advanced actions created in the mentioned articles, there is a small difference: the first decision (which is a standard action) has one command extra in the second advanced action (for Audio). For the ForceAct, the number of seconds to be jumped over is directly entered in the Expression command, for the SkipSlideAudio, Assign is used to store the number of seconds in the user variable v_skip. Both versions work well, but personally for a shared action I prefer the one with the extra Assign command.

What are the parameters for the shared action?

For the first decision (labeled Always in both advanced actions):

  •  'Assign v_skip with 16.5': this first command has two candidate parameters, the variable v_skip and the literal 16.5. The variable can be reused on each slide where the action is needed. Both advanced actions used the same variable in the interactive movie. There is no need to promote that variable to a parameter in that case. However the literal '16.5'  is the number of seconds to be jumped, will have a unique value on each slide, it has to be promoted to a parameter. Parameter 1 = literal. You have to be careful with literals: double-check that the same numerical value is not used anywhere else in the action. In this example there is a second literal '1' in the second decision, Increment command. It has to be different from the first parameter, which is the case.

  • 'Expression v_skip = v_skip * cpInfoFPS': the user variable v_skip is no parameter (see above). The system variable cpInfoFPS has never to be replaced by another variable, will be no parameter neither.

  • 'Increment v_visit by 1': the user variable v_visit has to be unique for each slide, as you can see in the action SkipSlideAufio where another variable has been used. This means that we have to promote that variable to a parameter, parameter 2. The literal '1' however will always be the same, no need to turn it into a parameter. We already double-checked that the literal in the first decision was different from 1.

The second decision is conditional:

  • 'IF v_visit is greater than 1': has two candidate parameters as well. We already indicated that v_visit is a parameter. The literal in this case will always be 1, will never be changed and need not to be a parameter.

  • 'Expression cpCmndGotoFrameAnd Resume = cpInfoCurrentFrame + v_skip': has 3 candidate parameters. Above was already decided that v_skip can be reused on each slide, and the system variables will always be the same.

Shared action Skip_Frames

When you choose to save any of the advanced actions used to skip frames as a Shared Action you'll see that all possible parameters are marked as OK. The reason is that there is no compulsory parameter in this action:

As a result of the analysis above, we need to mark to items as parameters: the tracking variable and the number of seconds to be jumped on later visits. The result will look like this. It is important to give a good description not only for the shared action but also for the marked parameters:

You can assign the shared action to all the slides where you want to jump frames on a later visit. You only have to define a tracking variable and estimate the number of seconds to be jumped. Here is one example setup for the slide where audio had to be jumped on later visits:

You can check in the Library for the Usage of the Shared action, much easier than for advanced actions.

Using Skip_Frames in future projects

Want to reuse this action in other projects? The workflow is described in an older blog post. Short summary:

  1. Use File, Import, External Library and point to the project where you created the shared action.
  2. Library will be opened in a floating panel. Look for 'Skip_Frames' in the Shared Actions subfolder and drag it to the Library of the new project.
  3. Because v_skip is not a parameter in the shared action, it will be created automatically, including the description.
  4. You have to create a tracking variable for each slide to which you want to assign the shared action, and define the duration in seconds to be skipped. Ready!








Force First View (micro-navigation)

Intro

This question appears often: how can I force the user to view the slide completely before the Next button appears; but when revisiting the slide the Next button should appear immediately. From a pedagogical point of view, I don't think this will improve the efficiency of the learning, but that is off topic. 

Watch this movie: forcing view is used on the slide with the animated dices. The workflows for the audio slides will be explained in a future blog post.



I will explain my analysis and how to create the needed variables and advanced action.

Analysis

Look at the timeline of the animated dices slide from the movie.

This particular slide is just an example. You see that the Next button (a shape button) appears after the last animation has finished, the learner is forced to watch everything that happens on this slide before the Next button becomes available and learner can proceed. We don't want to put him/her throught the same ordeal when revisiting the slide. Here are three possible workflows:

  1. Create two Next buttons: the one at the end (visible at first visit) and another hidden button, with a timeline that starts from the start of the slide. That second button has to be made visible on second and later visits, whereas the first button will be hidden. Advantage: learner can watch the animations if he wants to, but also skip them by clicking the Next button.
    Problem: this will not be possible in responsive projects with Fluid boxes if you want the two buttons in exactly the same location. Even though they are not timed to appear at the same time, a normal fluid box doesn't allow this.

  2. One Next button, timed from the start of the slide, to be shown/hidden. Use the On Enter event to check tf it is a first visit. If that is the case, hide the Next button, use the command 'Delay Next Actions by....' and enter the time that you want to keep the Next button invisible, then Show the Next button. This looks a good workflow but you have to avoid to offer the possibility to the learner to pause the slide. The Delay command takes not into account any pausing. If  you cannot figure out how to script this solution, send me a note.

  3. Use what you learned about Micro-navigation:  except for the first slide visit, jump directly to the start frame of the Next button's timeline. That means that everything will be in place, animations are finished in this case. Check to have all objects timed for the rest of the slide (CTRL-E).  Since there is no stacking in this workflow, this workflow is also functional for responsive projects developed with Fluid Boxes. Focus of this article  is on this last workflow. Check the Timeline screenshot: the jump should be equivalent with 10secs , start of the Next Button timeline.

All workflows need to track if the learner visits the slide for the first time or not. That can be done by a user variable. We could use a Boolean, or a variable that is incremented with each visit. It is the increment approach that will be used here.

Advanced Action + Variables

The variable that will track the visits got the name v_visit, and a default value of 0. It will be incremented by 1 on each visit. Eventually you can show the number of visits by inserting that variable in a text container:

We have to jump 10secs ahead, which has to be converted to frames.You can use the system variable cpInfoFPS. We'll use another variable v_skip to store the number of frames (that variable could be reused on several slides):

v_skip = cpInfoFPS * 10

The advanced action will have two decisions, as you can see in this Preview:

In the first decision 'Always' which is not conditional, the number of frames is calculated and the tracking variable v_visit is incremented. The second decision 'JumpFrames' is conditional: if it is not the first visit, the playhead will jump as many frames ahead as calculated in v_skip. Since this action is triggered On Enter of the slide, the system variable cpInfoCurrentFrame corresponds with the first frame of the slide.

Afterthoughts

How will you manage if you have a lot of slides that need to get this 'Forced view' action?  What can be reused? Will you duplicate and edit the actions? What has to be edited? Try to find an answer to those questions. Look out for my reflections in two future posts: next one will show that a similar advanced action can be used for another use case, and in a third post I'll explain why this perfect to be converted to a Shared action, how to convert the present advanced to a Shared action to make it as flexible as possible.




Timeline - Advanced Workflows

Intro

At the Adobe Learning Summit (Las Vegas - 24 October 2017) I was invited to present a session about the Timeline for advanced workflows. It is one of my favorite subjects (bit below my most preferred topic 'Advanced/Shared actions') because I see so many questions on the forum that are due to not or misunderstanding the Timeline functionality.

Tutorial

For those users who were not able to attend ALS2017, I converted my Captivate presentation into a self-paced learning tutorial.

It has been published as Scalable HTML5 project. Autoplay is turned off (not allowed in some OS), just click the triangle button to start the movie (with narration). You can watch it directly on any device from this link

Or you can watch it below:

The tutorial has at its end links to different published movies, examples using the described features of the Timeline. Several features are used in the movie itself: skipping audio on the dashboard (second slide) on later visits, Delay commands for automatically building lists on different slides. Be sure to use the circular button at the bottom to show the value of the system variable cpInfoCurrentFrame, to discover (some of) my secrets.

Feedback

I would appreciate feedback and welcome questions. Are you interested in learning more about the examples? Are the mysteries not totally clear to you? Please let me know... If you want a copy of the handouts created for this presentation, send a mail to info@lilybiri.com.




More is in a... hyperlink - Dropdown Menu

Intro 

In my last blog post I demonstrated how a hyperlink can overcome the limitation of states in Captivate, not allowing to add interactive objects to states.
In older versions of Captivate the widget 'Go to Slide' was available: a dropdown menu with slide names, useful to jump to those slides. That widget has disappeared, is not replaced by a Learning interaction (compatible with HTML5). 
Although this widget can be reproduced, using the Dropdown interaction, that solution has several drawbacks. The formatting of the interaction is limited (maximum font size is 14pt), and you would need a variable and a conditional advanced action with as many decisions as you have slides in the dropdown list.
A much easier solution can be found in this article, using hyperlink events. For a consistent behavior of the dropdown effect,  I also used Micronavigation

Hyperlink commands

The list with commands, opening the dropdown list in the Hyperlink dialog box is much shorter than the list with simple actions under the Actions tab. 
Of course the Web page is the first command, since that is what you expect to happen with a hyperlink. 
These commands are not available for a hyperlink event:
  • Continue: since the hyperlink event has no way to prevent 'Continue Playing Project' as is the case for simple actions, this is not that important
  • Return to Quiz: is meant for remediation, normally to be triggered by a Next button
  • Play Audio/Stop Triggered Audio: can always be done using an advanced action
  • Execute Shared Action: which is really a pity :(
  • Pause: can always be done using an advanced action
  • Exit: can always be done using an advanced action
  • Toggle: can always be done using an advanced action
  • Show/Hide TOC: can always be done using an advanced action
  • Show/Hide Playbar: can always be done using an advanced action
  • Lock/Unlock TOC: can always be done using an advanced action
  • State commands: Go to Next State/Go to Previous State cannot be done by advanced action, Go to State is possible.

For hyperlink events some commands have been put together in one dialog box, which is the case for the Slide command:


Example

Watch the movie: after the title slide the dropdown menu 'Go To' appears. When you click on that shape button, another shape wlll drop down. It has 6 hyperlinks, I left them underlined to emphasize their type.

When clicking on a hyperlink you'll be navigated to another slide which has a Back button to return to the Menu slide. The content slides are about the same subject as the previous blog post about popups and Close button. Of course it would be possible to have multiple slides in each 'chapter', and have only selected slides in the dropdown list.


Setup, variables and actions

Objects on Dropdown menu slide

The objects on the slide with the Dropdown menu are visible in this screenshot of its Timeline:

User variable v_start

The shape button SB_Menu (Caption 'Go To') is on top of the originally hidden Smart Shape SS_DropDown, and pauses at 2,6 secs, after all effects have been accomplishedTo mimick the behavior of a dropdown the Effect 'Stretch From Top' is applied to that shape. The effect starts at time 0 and has a duration of 1 sec. The arrow shape ArrowGoTo has some explanation and the effect EaseInFromLeft is applied. The second arrow ArrowDropDown has a similar effect, starting bit later, but that shape is not visible until the button SB_Menu is clicked.

One user variable was created: v_start. It will be used to store the frame number of the first frame of the slide with the dropdown menu. I learned from experience that effects are much more consistent when you use micronavigation instead of applying the effect by an advanced action. The content of the variable will be used to send the playhead back to the first frame of the slide, to have the time-based effect being played.

Events and Actions

1. On Enter (Dropdown menu slide): standard advanced action EnterDropDown

The back button on the content slides send the user to this DropDown slide, and the On Enter event of the slide is used to reset everything as it appeared first time: hiding the shape SS_DropDown, the arrow shape ArrowDropdown, and showing ArrowGoTo. Moreover the number of the first frame of this slide is stored in the variable v_start. This is the script:

2. Success event of the shape button SB_Menu: standard advanced action DropAct

This action will hide the arrow shape ArrowGoTo, show the shape SS_DropDown and its arrow ArrowDropdown and return the playhead to the first frame of the slide with the system variable cpGotoFrameAndResume which has 'Continue' built in. That way the effects for the dropdown menu and the arrow with explanation will appear as they are timed from the start of the slide.


3. Hyperlink events

Contrary to the situation explained in the previous blog post where the hyperlink event was used as Close button, in this case it doesn't matter that the playhead is always released when executing a command by a hyperlink because of the navigation to another slide. The command Slide was used, which opens the dialog box slide. Here the LInk is set to point to the correct content slide. In this screenshot you see the hyperlink setting for the navigation with the item 'Decor':