Rapid e-learning software fascinates me. Only recently did I begin to really look at such software as a possible solution to the training needs of my current employer, and I am more impressed than I ever thought I’d be. The applications I’ve been researching—Articulate and iSpring Presenter—rely on Microsoft PowerPoint as an authoring tool rather than a presentation tool, and I’m amazed by the possibilities.
Both Articulate and iSpring Presenter are PowerPoint plug-ins that convert a PowerPoint file to a .swf (Flash) file, all the while preserving nearly all the features the designer has placed into the file, including transitions, animations, hyperlinks, and more. The Flash file is published in a wrapper that offers player controls, a table of contents, captions/notes, and other features. Although PowerPoint is typically used in a linear presentation fashion, if you “think layers,” as Articulate’s Tom Kuhlmann says, you can create some quite sophisticated branching and e-learning opportunities.
Of course, visual appeal is significant in an e-learning course, and in reading blogs on the Articulate community site, I’ve picked up invaluable tips on using PowerPoint to create and modify images. Two of my favorites involve (1) breaking apart clip art from the Microsoft gallery to create the images you really want and need for a scene (thank you, Tom Kuhlmann) and (2) creating a transparent background in an image (thank you, David Anderson, also from Articulate). I had no idea either of these image-editing feats was possible using only PowerPoint 2007, so I was quite amazed.
I’m not sure which rapid e-learning authoring application I’ll use in the end, but I appreciate the features I’ve seen in the software I’ve used. I plan to practice several of the tutorials on the Articulate community site for creating effective templates and images, and I look forward to growing my portfolio of e-learning projects with rapid e-learning courses.