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