They use the best tool available for the job.
Bob Ross wouldn’t be as smooth without his Van Dyke Brown… Bobby Flay’s dishes not as delicious without his cast iron skillet.
You will never find the perfect eLearning tool, ever. No matter how many you test. Every tool will have one feature or two over another forever… in perpetuity. What you can find, is a tool that is usable, useful, teachable, learnable, and that gives you the most back for what you can put into it.
In this humble Multimedia Manager’s opinion, Articulate 360 is your new best option. Articulate provides the best tools for rapid authoring in the industry, and upgrading to the 360 subscription model ensures your team will always have the latest and greatest authoring tools at their fingertips.
Let’s dive into some of the key tools.
Articulate Storyline 360:
The flagship, the bread and butter, the big kahuna. While there are some nice new features, Storyline is not what excites me most.
Responsive Player: Did you get excited when I said “responsive”? Yeah, everybody does.
While a responsive player is heavily touted addition to Storyline 360, in reality, the player leaves developers a little wanting. In a nutshell, the responsive player provides a minimalist UI around your course with a hamburger menu on small devices. You can zoom in to stuff that’s too small, and… well, that’s all, folks.
Sometimes the responsive player ends up being a bit of a miss. For example, I had a hard time interacting buttons that appeared low on my iPhone 5s in multiple courses I tested.
In the Storyline 360 authoring tool, you can’t hide/show content, branch, or change interactions based on screen size like you can in Lectora or Captivate. But you might be surprised to learn that I think this is a good thing. Lectora and Captivate can both be cumbersome and a little difficult for most new developers to learn. Small device content should be thought of mobile-first… Not a “Let’s just hide stuff that doesn’t work on the phone” solution.
You can force portrait or landscape orientation (to an okay degree) and you can preview what content will look like in Storyline, but it’s better to upload and test on a device.
Better HTML5 output: One of the best, most unspoken new features is an optimized HTML5 engine. Got a team taking training on older iPads? With the better HTML5 engine, republishing courses using a new version of Storyline may improve crash issues on mobile devices lacking in RAM.
Flash vs. HTML5: You can publish to Flash, HTML5, or both (and prioritize either over the other). Does your company want to decrease Flash use and focus on future browsers with HTML5? You can publish with a priority to HTML5, and only the folks with dinosaur computers/browsers will see the Flash.
It was the opposite in previous versions.
The Dial Tool: You like sliders? We’ll then I’ve got a dial for you. Did you know that a dial is basically a round slider? With a skilled developer and imagination, dials can do cool things, but this is not what you should pay the price of admission for.
Other Stuff: Improved accessibility options, improved options for rendering video (no additional compression), ability to add subtitle files for audio/video, improved motion path options, collision triggers, and more are all included.
Killer Feature: The integration with the other Articulate 360 tools is what sets the new Storyline apart. Quickly iterate by publishing directly to Articulate 360 Review (you can even publish a single scene or slide for review) or jumpstart your project by importing a theme, images, and characters from the included Content Library.
Honorable Mention: The Insert > Input button looks like a drunk robot… and I love that.
Upgrade Grade: B-
The improved HTML5 publish plus integration with the Content Library are great to have, but probably don’t sell the tool alone. The responsive player is a stop-gap for now so your Storyline courses are at least usable (in some regard) on a phone. I’m guessing Articulate will have something better in the next year or so.
When it comes to bang-for your buck, Review 360 is the clear winner here. Iteration on eLearning has long been a pain-point in the industry, and Review 360 looks to fix that.
Simply put, Review 360 is a step forward in eLearning review and iteration.
Need feedback on a course? Easy, publish from Storyline.
Need feedback on one slide/scene? Also just as easy (publish just a slide/scene).
Need feedback from multiple, different reviewers? Easy, publish with different titles and invite the right people.
Need to find an issue as a developer? Easy, you get a screenshot of what the user is seeing with the edit.
Want to iterate in the tool, online. Straightforward.
Prefer to iterate offline in excel. Easy, export a CSV.
Killer Feature: Screenshots with each edit. Give a developer an edit with only words and a page title and watch them cringe. Give them the same info with a screenshot and watch them kick butt. The ability to review a single slide/scene is up there, too.
Honorable Mention: Want to know when you get feedback? You can receive notification of feedback immediately, every hour, day, week, or never, if you’d like.
Upgrade Grade: A-
It doesn’t have all the features we could dream up, but you’ll get the latest features with your subscription to Articulate 360. If implemented correctly, and used well, I honestly feel like this tool could reduce reviewing bloat (clarification of edits, ease of review, etc.) almost in half.
That’s a huge deal.
Articulate Rise 360:
Rise 360 is where Articulate really gets responsive (sorry to Storyline’s responsive player). What you can expect is that Rise 360 produces trendy responsive courses that look pretty dang good on any device. Yes, you can screw it up, but the tool holds your hand and makes you look good.
In my opinion, the responsive features in Lectora and Captivate are too cumbersome and not really mobile-first. Rise 360 makes a lot of sense, and is easy to pick up and run with.
“But won’t everything start to look the same?” Says a wary industry expert.
“So, you’ve used that same course UI for how many years for what reason?” Says Nick.
“But you’ll only be able to use the tools Articulate provides you.” Says Liddy McDeveloper.
“Sometimes less features are better.” Says All Great Modern Software.
Rise 360 is a responsive authoring tool that any learning designer/developer can figure out and get good at with a little practice. It doesn’t take advanced programming logic to make responsive materials with this tool. I’m not over-blowing the complexity of others, but I am highlighting the simplicity of Rise 360.
Honorable Mention: New features – Customizable course buttons and text + xAPI support… Yes, please!
Upgrade Grade: B+
If your team can author in Storyline, they can author in Rise 360. All that content you want in people’s pockets… yeah, it’s possible. While Rise isn’t the right solution for all mobile materials, it’s a huge step forward for just-in-time resources and reference materials. If you build it, they will come.
Articulate Content Library:
Weighing in at a svelte 1.5 million images (including characters’ bundles, illustrations, icons, and more), the content Library is another handy addition to the Articulate 360 Suite of tools. Not a designer? Grab a template and implement your brand standards… Or, just use it to improve your team’s designs.
Killer Feature: Storyline Integration. Quickly implement included assets in your courses without needing to leave Storyline at all.
Upgrade Grade: B
This is a great supplement to your current stock photography and character sites. While it’s probably not a replacement, it could save time and money through quick integration while developing (less task switching) and could help reduce subscription needs on other stock sites.
Articulate Replay allows you to quickly record your screen, voice, and face simultaneously. Quickly edit to toggle between Screen and Presenter view and captions and lower-thirds with ease. Want to make Lynda.com style tutorials or training videos? This tool makes that easy. This is my favorite tool that I don’t consider in the core above.
Articulate Studio 360:
With the trio of Presenter 360, Engage 360, and Quizmaker 360… Articulate Studio 360 is a PowerPoint plug-in packing potent powerful publishing potential. Yes, I did that on purpose.
Articulate Studio 360 is a close relative of Storyline who you call when you don’t need the heavy lifting of the big kahuna. Have a page-turning slide deck? Call Studio. Want a splash of interactivity? Create templated interactions and quizzes for Presenter with Engage and Quizmaker.
Studio 360 was a separate purchase from Storyline in previous versions. With Articulate 360, it’s included.
Peek is a quick and easy tool to record your screen for interacting on ideas with your team. Videos upload directly to Articulate Review so you can share a link and get feedback from anyone. Remember Screenr? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.
Bonus: Upload your Peek video to 360 Review, and Export to LMS. You can even tell the package to “Mark the user complete when the user watches 75% of the video.” Now any SME with Peek can make scorable video content for your LMS.
Weekly webinars to help the community learn. These are handy resources if your team is just getting started, and occasionally, there’s a treat for a grizzled vet.
This iPad app is a handy way to annotate images, add narration, and quickly make informal training videos on your tablet. Upload to Review 360 and export a scorable version quickly for LMS.
Total Upgrade Grade: B+
The Articulate 360 Suite of software doesn’t answer all your dying questions and doesn’t solve all your eLearning riddles. But guess what? Nothing else will either.
What it does do is continue to provide the best community, the best support, and the best tools that are accessible to all. Tools that people can pick up and run with.
Someday we’ll all easily be able to create advanced apps, VR, and games with crazy simple software, and hell… Articulate might be right there making that software.
Seeing my teammates get excited as they dig into the new tools and new possibilities is a reminder that this is a crazy-creative industry. So, at the end of the day, my recommendation is to put the best tools in the hands of your creative people. And right now, I think Articulate’s tools are leading the pack.
A standalone version of Storyline 3 (strongly rumored to be true) might have you holding off on taking the leap to Articulate 360, but dip your toe in… the water is fine.