A Quick Overview of Adobe E-Learning Tools

Adobe now has arguably the world's best software solutions for creating and delivering e-learning.  Here are the main tools and where they may fit into your e-learning strategy:

Adobe Flash

Flash is Adobe's heavy-weight solution for e-learning development.  It has grown from a simple website animation program to become an entire software development platform capable of producing sophisticated desktop and web applications. Flash has a programming language called ActionScript or AS for short.  The current version, AS3 is a very powerful object-oriented language ideally suited to the kind of interactivity required for engaging e-learning.

A lot of e-learning is indeed created using Flash alone. But Flash's strength is also its weakness. To leverage its full power requires that you have, or gain, programming expertise.  This is something most people engaged in e-learning development simply do not have.  This is where Adobe's other tools such as Captivate and Presenter come into play.

More information here: http://www.adobe.com/products/flash.html

Adobe Presenter

Most modern-day knowledge workers are familiar with the Microsoft Office Suite and have at least basic skills with MS Word and PowerPoint.  Adobe Presenter is basically a plug-in for PowerPoint that enables anyone capable of creating a PPT presentation to turn it into an e-learning course.  Naturally, if your presentation stinks, so will any e-learning course based on it.  But it's a start.  Approaching e-learning authoring this way (leveraging PowerPoint as the editing platform) is a very common shortcut used by several other very popular e-learning software packages.  Lectora and Articulate are two of the best-known.

Presenter allows you to quickly turn an existing PPT into a linear collection of e-learning slides, add some basic quiz questions, and output to a SCORM-compatible web-based format for uploading to your LMS. However, this simplicity comes at a price.  Presenter just isn't capable of creating the same sophisticated interactive or branched e-learning that you can do with other tools.  Furthermore, the current version, Presenter 7, can only accept AS2 content.  This means it is not compatible with the AS3 e-learning content created with Adobe Captivate 5 or above.

More information here: http://www.adobe.com/au/products/presenter.html

Adobe Captivate

However if you want something without the steep learning curve of Flash, but much more power than Presenter, that's the sweetspot occupied by Adobe Captivate. This very sophisticated application is basically a simplified front-end for Flash capable of creating the same SWF output, but trading some of the power for a lot more simplicity to make it approachable by almost any user. It has the capability to import simple PPT presentation slides, like Presenter, but it also comes with its own authoring and drawing tools to create slides from scratch like Flash. 

Captivate has a simplified scripting interface for creating basic branching and logic using Variables and Advanced Actions. But if you happen to know how to program in AS3, you can also leverag all of its power by creating widgets to extend Captivate's native functionality.

Captivate has strong quizzing capability with a reasonabile array of quiz question types that can also be extended further via widgets. It can output course content in a number of file formats, many of which are compatible with Learning Management Systems using AICC and SCORM standard.

The latest version of Captivate is 5.5. More information here: http://www.adobe.com/products/captivate.html

Adobe Connect Pro

Creating e-learning using authoring tools like Flash, Presenter, or Captivate only creates half of a typical e-learning solution.  The other half is the software used to deliver the content and track user interaction with it.

Connect is Adobe's web-conferencing and learning management solution.  You can create content in a variety of authoring tools (including PPT, Presenter, Flash and Captivate), upload it to Connect, and then make it available to logged in users.  You can track interaction and course completion with Connect (using AICC standard) or you can also integrate Connect with a number of third-party Learning Management Systems.

More information here: http://www.adobe.com/products/adobeconnect/elearning.html

Which One Should You Choose?

Which tool you should use is totally dependent on the type of e-learning you need to create, how you intend to deliver it, and who you intend to deliver it to.

Basically it boils down to this:

  • If you need ultimate power to created any kind of e-learning you can imagine, and you can program in AS3, choose Adobe Flash.
  • If your e-learning requires advanced quizzing, branching, and interactivity output to an LMS, yet you don't want the services of a programmer just to deliver content, choose Adobe Captivate.
  • If you want to create your content in PowerPoint, add some simple quizzing, and then publish it for the web, you could choose either Adobe Presenter or Adobe Captivate. If you're undecided in this area, I'd recommend going with Captivate because once you start learning how to use it, the sky's the limit.
  • If you don't have a Learning Management System, but you need a content delivery solution that also enables web-conferencing as well, Adobe Connect is well-worth a look.

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