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.

Timer widget... to stress your learners

Intro

Perhaps a coincidence, but I answered this week twice a question about having a timer for a learner while taking a Quiz. It is possible to have a time limit and appropriate action set up in a LMS, but with the Timer widget that you get out of the box you can also provide this (stressful) information. Once I wrote about using the system variable cpInfoElapsedTimeMS (Quiz showing elapsed time) to display info about time spent on a slide. In this post I will try to explain the possible uses of the Timer widget. It is a small but useful widget that is associated with a user variable which allows to create advanced actions.
  

Use cases for Timer widget 

As is the case for most of the widgets coming with Captivate, the Timer is a static widget. As I explained in the post about the Button widget (Using the button widget) this is great news, because you can use the widget on master slides and on question slides. In the example movie you will that I used the widget twice:

  1. In its digital appearance (left at the bottom) it is counting down from the maximum allowed time for the total time on the question slides
  2. In its analog appearance (right at the bottom) it is counting up to the maximum time allowed per question slide
I will explain the workflow for both timers. Watch the movie first, I provided 10 sec for each question slide, but without any consequence if this limit is passed. For the total time the limit is 30sec and once you pass that limit you will not be able to continue with the next question but will be navigated immediately to the score slide. I re-used the questions described in the blog post (link).

Timer for total time - workflow

  • Create a user variable, I labeled it v_time;  it is not possible to create this from the dialog box with the widget properties.

  • Insert the widget on the first question slide and configure it as in the first picture of the Gallery: digital version, count down, with a message when count gets to zero and I formatted the characters;I labeled this widget 'TimerWidget'

  • Set the timing of this widget to diplay for the rest of the project (Properties panel, Timing accordion)

Because I do not want this Timer widget to stay visible on the last slide, the score slide, I created an advanced action EnterScore (screenshot in Gallery) that is executed on entering this slide with 3 statements.
Hide TimerWidget        (digital countdown timer for total Quiz time)
Hide TextTime             (text caption before the digital timer)
Assign v_time with 0    (to reset the variable and allow the user to review the quiz)
Limitation: it is impossible to restart the timer widget  Since I did hide this TimerWidget (total quiz time) the widget will be invisible during review.
  

Timer for individual Question time - workflow

Since  I did not want to have an action based on this second timer in this example, it is not necessary to create a user variable, nor to point to such a variable in the Properties dialog box.

  • Insert a second instance of the widget on the master slide that is used for the question slides
  • I configured this widget to be analog, to count up (to the maximum of 10sec) and changed the colors (see third screenshot)
I did not hide this timer during review. You cannot hide an object that is on the applied master slide. If you want to hide it, you will have to insert this widget on each question slide and use a condtional action to test and hide the widget on second visit. Remember: you can execute an advanced action on entering a default question slide, but not on exiting that slide. Moreover you cannot trigger advanced actions by the buttons on the default question slides. If you create custom question slides you do not have those limitations, but in this post I only want to demonstrate the use of the Timer widget.
  

Advanced action TimeCheck

Each advanced action has to be triggered by an event. Here I chose to have this action triggered on entering each question slide. This is not really necessary for the first question slide, because the timer sits on that slide and the user variable will always be set to 0 (False). This is a real simple conditional action: if the user variable contains the value 0, the user will be navigated immediately to the scored slide (see fourth screenshot in the gallery), if not (Else action - no screenshot) the statement Continue is executed.
  
This means that the learner gets a little bonus: his time is not exactly limited to 30secs, if he has entered a question slide before the counter got to 0, he will be able to answer that question, but the message will pop up. 
  
Mystery of the user variable: Want to warn you that the associated user variable doesn't store the time left, but only boolean values 0 or 1. And it took me a while to discover this. If you show the value of the user variable in a text caption (my way of debugging) it will show 'false' as long as the timer did not reach its limit and the value 'true' when time is up. So I tried out the condition 'If v_time is equal to true' but this did not work. You have to use the numerical values 1 (true) or 0 (false). This explains the decision:
if v_time is equal to 1
  


Captivate 6 users - warning

If you use the described work flow in version 6, there are possibly some problems:

  • when trying to associate a variable to the widget, not all characters will be accepted (like underscore) and some characters will be turned automatically into capitals; be sure to check that the defined variable has exactly the same name as the one you enter in the widget properties: Vtime will be accepted, but v_time not;
  • the values to check for the user variable Vtime are not 0 and 1 but true and false
  • having an action that on exceeding time will jump to another slide will not be functional if you use the new feature 'Submit all'

And for 6.1 users:  try using the new Countdown widget, it allows you to have an action immediately after the countdown reaches 0, contrary to the Timer widget that needs an extra event (like On Enter slide) to trigger an action. Will blog soon about the new widgets in 6.1.

More ideas?

Try this out with customized question slides, gives you a lot more control.
You can also create a more complex condition: if a user exceeds the time allowed for one question slide, jump immediately to the score slide or skip one or more question slides.

 

Widgets and Custom Questions - part 1

Intro

No, I did not start creating widgets, we have great Widget Kings/Wizards/Princes in the Captivate community. Since a while I planned to create some examples with the widgets, created by the Adobe team and provided (free) with Captivate 5. I also promised users on the forum to give a step-by-step explanation how to create custom question slides. And then I remember a user who wanted to have multiple True/False questions on one question slide.
And this is the first posting: how to use the widgets 'radiobuttons' and 'checkboxes' to create MultiChoice questions or to have multiple True/False questions on one slide. In this post I will describe the use of the widgets and their associated variables. Detailed explanation of the advanced actions has been published in this article.
 

Quiz - example

Play with this quiz to see three question slides: a slide with 4 True/False questions, a Multiple Choice Question with one correct answer and a Multiple Choice Question with multiple correct answers. The scoring is explained by rollover Text Captions. After clicking the Submit button, a Feedback caption and the score will pop up, and the Continue button appears. The quiz ends with a Results slide, on which you can choose to Review or to Retry the Quiz.
 

Widgets and variables - tips

Both widgets, "Radiobuttons" as well as "Checkboxes" need user variables. For Radio buttons one variable is needed, for Checkboxes as many as you have checkboxes. Those variables will not be automatically created when you type the in the Widget Properties! You will have to create them using Project, Variables, which is not the case for all Captivate widgets : for the Certificate widget the needed user variable is created automatically.
 
You probably know already about the 3 widget types: Static, Interactive and Question. At first I was confused by the difference between Static and Interactive Widgets, but found a clear explanation in the blog post of Tristan Ward, the Widget King (Static/Interactive Widgets). The two widgets used in this post are Static Widgets. That means that they are not scoreable, but doesn't mean that an interaction is impossible: the user is able to choose a radiobutton or tick a checkbox, and the result will be stored in variables. There is a restriction: you cannot reset a widget, as is possible with a Question slide (using the Retake button), once a radiobutton is clicked or a checkbox is ticked it will remain that way until the user changes it.
 
For both widgets you will have to list options and variables in a list separated by commas: be sure not to put a space after a comma. You can have spaces in item names however. Some examples:
Question1 - comma separated values  True,False   is OK       but True, False   is not OK (has a space before False)
Question2 - comma separated values  Soundbooth,Photoshop,Dreamweaver,Flash
Question3 - comma separated values    Captivate 5,Soundbooth CS5,Photoshop CS5,RoboHelp 9,Acrobat X
                 - variables                           CP,SB,PS,RH,Ac  
 
Do not forget that variables are case sensitive!
 

Question slides - description

1. Multiple T/F questions

This slide is created with the widget 'Radiobuttons'. It is used in a horizontal way, with only 2 values True/False, but I used the widget 4 times, labeled them Radio1, Radio2, Radio3 and Radio4. Each widget instance has a user variable associated: TF1, TF2, TF3 and TF4. When the user has chosen an answer, this answer will be stored in the variable, in this case 'True' or 'False'. You can watch the settings fror the first widget Radio1 in the first picture of the Gallery. The elements on this question slide:
  • Title with a Rollover Text Caption explaining the scoring and providing tip for correct answers

  • 4 Text Captions with questions

  • 4 'Radiobuttons' Widgets, labeled Radio1, Radio2, Radio3, Radio4 (first picture in Gallery shows settings for Radio1)

  • 1 Text Caption with Feedback that is initially hidden (it is possible to have multiple captions, but wanted to keep it simple), labeled TFFeedback

  • 1 Text Caption with the score, initially hidden, labeled ScoreTF

  • 1 Submit button (BtSubmitTF), that will trigger an Advanced action to calculate the score, show TFFeedback and ScoreTF, this button is timed so that it will disappear when the Continue button appears

  • 1 Continue button (BtContTF), that is timed to appear when then the Submit button disappears, and has as action 'Go to Next Slide' 

2. Multiple Choice question with one correct answer

I used the widget 'Radiobuttons' again , but now in vertical way (see second picture in the Gallery) and with 4 values. Its associated variable is MCQ1Answer. This variable will store the chosen answer literally (Soundbooth, Photoshop, Dreamweaver or Flash).  The elements on this question slide:
  • Title with a Rollover Text Caption explaining the scoring and providing tip for correct answers

  • 1 'Radiobuttons' Widget, labeled MCQ1 (look at the settings in the second picture of the Gallery)

  • 1 Text Caption with Feedback that is initially hidden (it is possible to have multiple captions, but wanted to keep it simple), labeled MCQ1Feedback

  • 1 Text Caption with the score, initially hidden, labeled ScoreMCQ1

  • 1 Submit button (BtSubmitMCQ1), that will trigger an Advanced action to calculate the score, show MCQ1Feedback and ScoreMCQ1; this button is timed so that it will disappear when the Continue button appears

  • 1 Continue button (BtContMCQ1), that is timed to appear when then the Submit button disappears, and has as action 'Go to Next Slide' 

3. Multiple Choice question with multiple correct answers

The widget "Checkboxes" was used. It has 5 values and 5 associated variables. The settings are visible in the third picture of the Gallery. Each variable will be empty at the start, and will get as content the value if the user has checked that checkbox. Example: if user ticked the boxes "Soundbooth CS5" and "Acrobat X", the variable SB will have "Soundbooth CS5" as content, variable Ac will have "Acrobat X" as content, whereas the three other variables will remain empty. You could also assign a default value to the variables (such as 'NoCheck') but I left the value empty while defining the user variables. The elements on this question slide are:
  • Title with a Rollover Text Caption explaining the scoring and providing tip for correct answers

  • 1 'CheckBoxes' Widget, labeled MCQM  (look at the settings in the third picture of the Gallery)

  • 1 Text Caption with Feedback that is initially hidden (it is possible to have multiple captions, but wanted to keep it simple), labeled MCQMFeedback

  • 1 Text Caption with the score, initially hidden, labeled ScoreMCQM

  • 1 Submit button (BtSubmitMCQM), that will trigger an Advanced action to calculate the score, show MCQ1Feedback and ScoreMCQ1, hide the button Submit and show button Continue; this button is timed so that it will disappear when the Continue button appears

  • 1 Continue button (BtContMCQM), that is timed to appear when then the Submit button disappears, and has as action 'Go to Next Slide' 

4. Results Slide

When entering the results slide, the total score and percentage are calculated using an advanced action. The text captions are self-explanatory. On the slide you will find two buttons:
Review: will allow the user to re-visit the question slides and read the text captions again
Retry?: will allow the user to make corrections to the answers, all scores will be reset, but as I explained before the previously chosen radio buttons/check boxes cannot be reset.
  

Curious about Variables in Captivate?

Since Captivate 4 you have access to a whole bunch of system variables, and you can create your own variables. It is possible to change variables and thus taking more control over your Captivate-movie.

If you feel uncomfortable with or puzzled by this introductory paragraph, please read on. Probably you never used a scripting language, or you never liked... maths? But I think it is really worthwhile to get some hints about the power of those variables are and their possible use. For this reason I did create a starters tutorial, with practical examples and ... without writing any script (called Advanced actions in Captivate). If you want more later on, I do plan to write a second part, where simple advanced actions will be used to give you even more power with the variables. All examples can be used in Captivate 5 as well as in Captivate 4.

Not curious yet? Do you know how to hide the playbar temporarily for a couple of slides? Or to turn off the navigation in the Table of Contents? Or to show the score of a question slide without having to type a lot? Then have a look at the examples in this tutorial:

Use the power of variables in Captivate 5 and 4 - without advanced actions