Captivate 2.

Author:Shank, Patti
 
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Captivate 2, CD-ROM, 2006, Adobe Systems Incorporated, $599.

Jan's department is responsible for training users who have purchased her company's applications. The application is updated regularly and all training, including quarterly updates, occurs at Jan's facility at company headquarters. Customers have been increasingly vocal about the training not being timely enough and the expense of sending people to the training center, even though they appreciate how responsive the company has been in making changes to the application based on user feedback.

Jan's boss asked her to research how her department could use the Internet to better meet customer training needs and reduce the need for travel. After learning about the company's needs, users, and constraints, my Learning Peaks team suggested a number of technology options. One thing we recommended for Jan's team was Captivate to populate a library of "Show me" task-based demos and "Let me practice" task-based simulations.

There was a time, not too long ago, when training folks were pretty clearly divided into two camps: the technology-based instruction as evil spawn of Godzilla camp and the technology is the answer to all of the planet's problems camp. I hung out in the middle and am gratified that this approach has weathered the test of time. The hyperbole surrounding technology seems to have subsided. It's no longer either/or, but when and how.

Rapid authoring allows anyone with time, inclination, software and hardware, and content to develop technology-based instructional materials fairly quickly. It is becoming popular and many of the tools are really quite good. (I could not have imagined myself making this statement a few years ago.)

We have used Captivate, formerly RoboDemo, for a long while. Our design team has built many applications demos, practice sessions, and tests with this tool. As much as we liked it, we were frustrated by its limitations. They weren't obvious until you wanted to build in higher levels of interactivity, like different text or audio feedback based on how many times the learner had attempted the interaction.

I was excited to review this new version. My review is from the perspective of an instructional designer (which is what I am) so my main consideration during the review was whether Tomas trainer, Constance content expert, Frances faculty member, or Inez instructional designer could build instructionally sound applications and scenario simulations without extreme frustration and in short order.

If you're the kind of person who says "Gimme the headlines," here's the headline: Captivate 2 is great. I liked it before and like it more now. I can recommend it as one of the tools (you almost always need more than one tool ... but that's a different article) to consider purchasing for your authoring toolbox if you need to build not-too-complex applications or scenario simulations.

What's It Good For?

The purpose of a learning simulation, online or otherwise, is to place the learner into a realistic model of a (people or technical) system in order to allow them to experience how the system operates, practice using the system (without worry about failure, safety, and embarrassment), receive realistic feedback, and attain mastery. Really well designed classroom and online learning almost always attempts to simulate the use of the content in the real world in this way.

Captivate has many uses but here are the main ones, in my opinion. Captivate can build

* applications training that allows learners to see how the application works (demo mode) or interact with it in a simplified, simulated manner (practice mode).

* a library of task-based application demos or practice simulations from which learners can select based upon their needs.

* branched and not-too-complex scenario-based simulations--sometimes called "soft-skills," but that term irks me.

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