Macromedia/Adobe Captivate is a wonderful tool for creating software simulations, also known as Computer Based Training (CBT). While recording your Captivate movies in automatic mode, you have a few recording options including:
Demonstration: Automatically includes captions, highlight boxes and mouse movements. Assessment Simulation: Automatically includes click boxes and failure captions, but does not capture your mouse movements.
Training Simulation: Automatically adds click boxes that include hint and failure captions. Mouse movements are not captured.
Demonstration mode is the most popular for new users because it is the easiest type of movie to create. As a CBT developer, you simply start Captivate, step-through the lesson and Captivate creates the movie for you. The movie comes complete with mouse-movements that show the mouse traveling across the screen and captions that explain what is happening. You do not have to create the mouse animation nor the captions. Captivate does it all for you. Unlike Assessment mode, there are no click boxes that enable user interactivity. When watching the demonstration, a user is not required to interact with the movie at all. The user simply needs to sit back and watch as the lessons plays-much like watching a television show or movie.
Assessment simulations are arguably the second most popular kind of movie to create in Captivate. As with demonstration movies, you start Captivate, step through the lesson and Captivate creates the movie. Unlike Demonstration mode, there are no captions containing instructions telling the user what to do. Learners must successfully perform the correct action to move to the next step. If the learner clicks in the wrong place, they come face-to-face with a failure caption, but that's the extent of the communication between the simulation and the learner.
Flaws in the Learning Experience
Between Demonstration and Assessment CBTs, which type of movie will result in the most effective learning experience for your users? Neither! Both are flawed and here's why:
Pure demonstration CBTs do not allow for user interaction. By forcing the learner to watch, but not touch, the level of learning is minimized. The captions that are automatically created for you by Captivate are great, but they are written in the active force. For instance, an automatically-generated caption is likely to say "Select the File Menu." Upon reading that caption, a user is likely to follow the caption's instructions and attempt to select the File menu. Unfortunately, at the same time that the user is trying to interact with the simulation, the mouse pointer that Captivate created is also moving across the screen. The result is, at best, confusion for the user. An opportunity to let the user learn by doing has been lost.
Pure assessment movies can be worse. Since this mode does not add any captions, there are instructions telling the user what to do or what to expect. The user will either perform the required steps or click wildly, hoping for the best.
So What Do You Do?
So here's what many Captivate developers do to get around the weaknesses inherent in both modes: create a demonstration movie and an assessment movie. That's all well and good until you remember that it could take several hours to "clean up" the movies so that the timing for the captions and other interactive elements are perfect. Since you now have one movie showing the demonstration, and one showing the assessment, you've made twice the work for yourself.
The Answer: Create a Hybrid Movie
Instead of creating two different movies and investing the resources making both movies perfect, create a hybrid movie that incorporates the best of both modes. Here's how:
1. In Captivate, choose Options > Recording Options.
2. On the Recording Options tab, ensure Enable auto recording is selected
3. Select Demonstration from the Recording mode pick list.
4. Click the Edit settings button
5. Select Text captions (to ensure Captivate automatically adds the captions for you)
6. Select Click boxes for mouse clicks and then Failure captions (so that learners who click in the wrong place see a message telling them what they should have done)
7. Remove the check mark from Show Mouse. (The simulation is supposed to feel like the user is using the software. Removing the simulated mouse will enhance the realism.)
8. Click OK.
When you record the movie, you will end up with a movie that bridges the gap between a demonstration and assessment movie. You will also notice that the captions created by Captivate (because you selected Text captions from the Custom Recording Options) are written in the active voice and encourage learner participation.