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!








Webinar Shared Actions!

Update

Thanks to all who attended the webinar, mentioned below. As usual I created a presentation with Captivate (2017) for this webinar. This allowed me to convert it to an interactive movie, which I want to offer to all readers of my blog.  I hope you'll enjoy it and learn something about Shared Actions, which are so ignored by most Captivate users. 

As for a normal training I like to use the subject of the training in the presentation. As you can see in this screenshot of the Library many shared actions were used in the presentation:

Their usage can be found in the Advanced Interaction panel, with the exception of the shared action which was used on the Drag&Drop slide:

I plan to explain some of those shared actions in future blog posts. Another plan is to write a more elaborate workbook for Shared Actions, which can be used for exploring in-depth, but also as a 'cookbook' because it will have recipes. A typical use case for Shared actions are Custom question slides, which are not treated in this short presentation. If you think a workbook would be help you  please send me a note or post a comment.


Invitation

If you are interested in a live session about using Shared Actions, you can register for the webinar on March 15, at 4pm CET (8am PT).  You'll find the link to the registration form for  webinar 'Dare to Share: Power of Advanced Actions in Captivate'. at the end of this invitation.

The majority of my blog posts are dedicated to advanced and shared actions. Advanced actions is a feature of Captivate since version 4. It allows to extend Captivate's functionaltiy in many ways, without having to learn a programming language. With the point-and-click interface of the new enhanced Advanced Actions dialog box in CP2017, you can realize scripts that will be converted to JS on runtime for HTML output (if you still use SWF output, will be converted to AS3).

Shared actions were new in Captivate version 7. They are a more flexible alternative to Advanced actions, with focus on reuslability. Due to the presence of parameters, to be filled in on assigning a new instance of the shared action to an event, you can adapt the action to each new situation. In Captivate 8 variables and literals became possible parameters as well, thus increasing that usability. Shared actions have some other important advantages over Advanced actions: they will appear in the Library like any other asset. Using the External Libraries feature this makes exchanging shared actions between projects very easy. The Usage button is available for Shared actions.

Variables that are not defined as parameters will be automatically created in a new project when you import the shared action using it. That is a real timesaver.  Some parameters can have only one type (variables, literals, states, audio clips) but most of them can have different types:  they can be a group, an image, a video, whatever you need in that project.

Less known is the ability of using a shared action as a template for the creation of an advanced action. That can be a great time saver. Learn about this feature as well in the webinar


Poster

You're welcome to particapte in this webinar, Here is the registration link:

Dare to Share

Be sure: you’ll walk away with many creative ideas!  As a plus: you’ll be working in the brand new Advanced Actions dialog box of Captivate 2017.

Shared or Advanced actions?

Why?

Shared actions were a new feature in Captivate 7 and were improved in Captivate 8. Nevertheless I rarely see examples of shared actions, and there is also lot of misunderstanding.  Some users think they can only be reused in other projects. I did see experts claiming that they are totally useless, that it is much easier to duplicate advanced actions. I don't agree with that opinion, about 90% of all the project I have developed do include shared actions. They are especially useful for responsive projects as well. In a recent article you can find links to tutorials about shared actions.

 A problem that still remains is that you cannot edit an existing shared action, had hoped that would have been solved in 9 in a recent version but it didn't happen. The reason is probably that since they are not much used, this improvement doesn't get on the priority list. If you want to learn more about how to create shared actions and see some examples, have a look at this recent article in which I summarized several older posts. This post is a showcase, where I'll try to explain when to use a shared action, and when you cannot use them. The origin of this showcase is due to this question in the forums. The answer I gave there is working, but has a serious drawback, I will explain both this first simple answer, followed by a second version that will work in all situations. I hope you learn from that workflow: test out all possible situations, even though they seem to be improbable. As a trainer/coach never underestimate how trainees will explore courses.

Problem

User did look for a solution to apply to this use case:

  • Drag&Drop slide with two drag sources and two drop targets
  • Each drag target should accept only one drag source
  • Depending on the sequence of the dragged items, one out of two texts should appear.
  • Learner can switch the drag sources
  • Auto submit for the answer.
  • Slide needs a reset button

Example movie

Watch this embedded movie (rescalable HTML), where you'll see the two solutions after publishing. As an alternative you can also watch it directly using this link. You can test the problem with the first solution as well. Everything works fine if you switch only once, like first dragging the First text to the Top target, than drag the Second text to the Top target. However if you switch a third time, First text to the Top target, you'll see that the functionality is lost. This will not happen with the second solution.


Setup Drag&Drop slide

The setup is the same for both solutions. Drag sources are shapes and labeled SS_DragOne and SS_DragTwo. The shapes acting as drop targets are labeled SS_DropTop and SS_DropBottom. The feedback will appear in another shape SS_Feedback, which has 3 states: Normal, OneTop (first scenario with SS_DragOne in SS_DropTop) and TwoTop (second scenario (SS_DragTwo in SS_DropTop). 

Since Auto Submit is turned on in the Actions tab of the Drag&Drop panel, I dragged the Submit button out of the way to the scratch area. 

That means that both possible answers have to be defined as Correct answers. This can be done with the button 'Correct Answers' on the Options tab of the Drag&Drop panel.

Each drop target should accept only one drag source, but the learner can switch them if wanted, as long as no correct answer has been defined. For that reason editing the dialog box 'Accepted Resources' is necessary, because the default setup is that each Drop target accepts all drag sources. This dialog box can be opened from the Format tab of the Drag&Drop panel, when a drop target is selected. It has to be repeated for both targets. Rest of the setup like snapping behavior is not important for the rest of the workflow, do what you like.

First solution

This solution is using two variables: v_first and v_second. They are related to the first scenario (SS_DragOne in SS_DropTop and SS_DragTwo in SS_DropBottom) and the second reverse scenario. Default value of the variables is 0. 

I used the same shared action for all object actions, for both targets. It is pretty simple, conditional with one decision. It has three parameters:

  1. First parameter is the variable associated with the scenario, v_first or v_second. 
  2. The multistate feedback object is the second parameter
  3. The state to be shown, which fits the scenario is the third parameter.

This was the original idea:

  • When the first drag action occurs, it fits into either scenario 1 or scenario 2; the appropriate variable is set to 1.
  • If the drag source is replaced on that same target nothing happens.
  • When the second drop target is filled with the other drag source, it has to be in the same scenario. Checking if that associated variable has a value=1, means that both targets are filled, and the feedback is shown, depending on the scenario variable.

What is the problem with this action? It works fine until the user changes the object twice on the first target: in that case the feedback will be shown to early. That was the reason for the second solution which does avoid this problem.

Second solution

Besides the two scenario variables, a third variable to track the number of drag actions was created: v_counter. It started also with a default value of 0. The shared action now has 3 decisions as you can see in this Preview:

The first decision 'Always' is a mimicked standard action. The increment command for both v_counter and the associated scenario variable (v_first or v_second, depending on the object action) will always be done.

The second decision 'Complete' checks if both targets are filled, which is the case when both v_counter and the associated scenario variable have the value = 2. In that case the correct feedback is shown (similar to first solution).

The third decision 'Incomplete' is the one that solves the problem with solution 2. If there has been 2 drag actions (v_counter is equal to 2) but the associated variable for the active object action is still set to 1, that means that the user has switched the drag sources on one target two times. In that case the variable for the other scenario (which probably has already a variable different from 0) is reset to 0. 

It is not necessary to define v_counter as parameter, since it will be used as counter whatever the scenario. This action needs 4 parameters, because both v_first and v_second are used in the action; whereas in solution 1 only one of them was used..

Reset 

This is not the default Reset from Drag&Drop, because it will not reset the variables nor the state of the feedback container. I used the usual workaround (micronavigation as explained in 'Replay Slide' is not possible yet due to a HTML5 bug in CPwhere the On Enter action is not executed) to reset the variables and that feedback container. Two dummy slides with a duration of 0,1sec are inserted: one before each D&D slide. The reset button triggers the command 'Go to Previous Slide', thus forcing the playhead to re-enter the D&D slide.

The On Enter action 'EnterDD' is also a shared action and looks like this:

I used that action for both D&D slides, even though v_counter is not used in the the first solution. 

I hear you! Why a shared action, you only need it twice, and the only edit to make to a duplicate advanced action is the label of the feedback container. If you were one of my college students, you would know that 'Weymeis never acts without a reason....'. I will try to explain why I preferred a shared action with two parameters, instead of two advanced actions.

When you import this shared action in a new project by dragging it to the Library from this project opened as External Library (see Libraries) the variables v_counter, v_first and v_second are created automatically in that new project, with their definition and default value. That is a time saver, something to take into consideration when creating shared actions. This happens only for variables that are not defined as parameters.

Offer

Do you want to try out those actions? Send me a mail (info@lilybiri.com) and tell me if you use shared actions, or will use them in the future?  As a 2018 offerI will send you a project that you can use as external library with the two shared actions (EnterDD and DragSequence) described in this blog post, and instructions how to use them.


Force first view - Captivate 8

Intro

As a former college professor I don't like to push students/trainees to watch everything in an eLearning course. After all, you can watch without really seeing as well, that doesn't prove anything about the real 'learning' process. Apparently not everyone agrees with my personal opinion and again a question popped up on the Captivate forums in this thread: Force navigation upon FIRST view....

Problem

The course was totally linear, which is a requirement for the simple work flow I will propose here. To force the student the first time to have the slide played totally before being able to continue is simple: use a custom Next button, timed at the end of each slide, do not use a playbar but a TOC for navigation to previous slides. And set up the TOC settings to allow navigation only to already visited slides.
To improve the user experience, when he is coming back to an already visited slide, the Next button should appear from the start of the slide. That way he can skip part of the slide if wanted. The easiest way to solve that problem is by using an extra, replacement Next button. Because timing from start till end of a slide is the same for all slides, this can be a shape button put on the first slide that is timed for the rest of the project, always on top. It is not possible to use a shape button on the main master slide because such a button has no ID, which means it cannot be controlled, shown/hidden which is necessary for our use case.
The initial buttons can also be shape buttons and for a seamless user experience I'd recommend to use the same look for both the initial and the replacement Next button. However those initial buttons need to be individual buttons on each slides because not all slides will have the same duration, especially when they have VO attached as slide audio.

Example movie

Watch this movie to check the solution. To make the switch between the initial Next buttons and the replacement Next button clear I used a different style. Moreover I inserted a text container with two variables: the system variable cpInfoCurrentFrame and a user variable v_frames (see later) that are used to solve the problem. To navigate back to already visited slides, open the TOC with the red curved arrow top left. The TOC close button has a similar look. Refresh the browser to start the movie again. I didn't check AutoPlay, you'll have to click on the (ugly) arrow in the middle of the slide.


Events and Variables

I created one user variable: v_frames. The system variable cpInfoCurrentFrame will be used as well.
This variable will be used to store the current frame number when the user clicks on an initial Next button. Example: on the first slide the initialNext button Bt_One will appear at 5 secs and pause at 5.5 secs. When you click that button, you'll see that on the second slide the variable has the value '166' which is about the frame number of 5.5 secs at a speed of 30FPS. It is never totally exact (should be 5.5*30 which is 165, but index starts at 0, the exact number should be 164). But for the purpose it will be used, this is OK.

The used events are:
  1. Success event for the initial Next buttons: rBt_One, Bt_Two, Bt_Three, Bt_Four. I don't need a Next button on the last, fifth slide. Those button will trigger the same advanced action NextAction:
  2. On Enter event of slides 1-4 will trigger a shared action Show_Next:
  3. Success event for the replacement Next Shape button SB_Next executes a simple action: "Go to Next Slide"
  4. On Enter event of slide 5 (last slide) will trigger a simple action: "Hide SB_Next"

Advanced/Shared Actions

Advanced Action "NextAction"

This action, triggered by the initial next buttons on each slide except the last slide, has only two statements:
The frame number of the pausing point (which is where the action is executed by design) will be stored in the user variable v_frames. Then the Go to Next Slide command is done. 
Why did I prefer to use an advanced action over my favorite shared action? I don't need to change this action when applying to another button. You could create a shared action if you expect this action to be used in other projects because it is easier to transfer them using the library. In that case the shared action will not need any parameters. When you transfer it to another project, the user variable v_frames will be created automatically. That is certainly an advantage!

Shared Action "Show_Next"

This is the action that does the trick! It is a conditional action: 
When a user enters a slide for the first time, the frame number of the first slide frame will be greater than the frame number stored in the user variable v_frames. That user variable has in that case the frame number of the Next button pausing point that was on the previous slide. But if the user comes back to this slide, v_frames will store a frame number of a similar Next button pausing point on a later slide. In that case the condition in this shared action will be correct, v_frames will be greater than the cpInfoCurrentFrame. The appropriate button is shown or hidden. It is necessary, for an unknown reason (was not the case in CP6, when I blogged about toggle buttons), you also have to enable/disable as well. This is probably due to the buttons being in exactly the same location, but it was not necessary in a previous version. 
I defined only two parameters in this shared action:
It is not necessary to define the user variable v_frames as a parameter because it is always reused. It is a pity that objects have always to be a parameter, because in this particular case it would have saved some time to be able to deselect SB_Next (the replacement Next button, timed for the rest of the project) as a parameter. Maybe in a future version? Some will prefer advanced actions and duplicates to be edited for each button but remember: multiple instances of a shared action do not increase the file size, whereas multiple duplicates of an advanced action do increase file size. And I like the presence of the shared actions in the Library, and easy way to use them in other projects.

Conclusion

I love to solve this kind of problems, trying to find an easy solution that can be reused over and over again. If you ever are stuck with such a problem, please contact me. I am available as a freelance consultant, and having taught for many years in college, be sure to get some training on top.