Okay, so this particular topic has been on my mind for quite some time now. In a perfect e-learning world, especially since Adobe owns all of these great products and applications, one would think that incorporating pieces and components from one application would fit neatly into the workflow of other applications.
Close....but no cigar.
Take Captivate for example. You've gotta love the fact that you can easily create learning material that has all the stuff you could possibly want: interactivity, quizzes & questions, the ability to include audio...the whole nine yards.
So what's my problem you ask? Integration. Pure and simple.
Here's why: In the early days of Captivate, when you published your content, you had the ability to create a single, contained .swf file. Usually output to flash player version 6, that swf file could easily be integrated into Captivate's cousin environment: Adobe Presenter.
Most Instructional Designers revelled in this because in addition to creating content slides in PowerPoint, you also had the abilitiy to drop a Captivate movie into Presenter content without any difficulty at all. The best of both worlds: learning content created in one environment, simulations/demos created in another environment...all coming together in one nicely packaged course.
Ahhh, those were the days....
However, with the release of Captivate 3, despite the enhancements that would provide levels of functionality that would blow the lid off of previous capabilities, there are problems with integration.
There are 2 specific areas that you need to pay attention to with Captivate 3, and unless you do, you will experience integration issues.
First, you need to watch how you record during the capturing process and second, you need to take a look at your publishing settings.
Why? Because of "Full Motion Recordings" during recording and the "_skin.swf" file that gets created by default when publishing. Both will create chaos...but both can be dealt with which will result in better integration between Captivate and Presenter.
Before I go into the fix (actually it's a hack!), we need to understand how recordings are handled in Captivate first. Believe me, this is important because understanding what happens in Captivate will go a looooong way towards avoiding these issues the next time you need to record/capture something.
When capturing screens, Captivate "listens" to changes in the Windows environment; mouse clicks, keypresses...and unfortunately mouse movement! The second you begin to click and drag with your mouse, Captivate goes into "full motion recording" by default. This is critical because as a result, you end up with a bunch of extra "_Fullmotion#.swf" files once you publish your session. When you play a Captivate movie after publishing, it'll run the "base" swf file and then dynamically load the FMR's at the point in which you started clicking and dragging. So again, the base swf plays and then it'll load the FMR's when needed.
Let's think about this for a moment...Captivate can run one file, but then load & run additional files dynamically. But Adobe Presenter on the other hand, only allows you to insert one flash file at a time on a single slide. Anybody see the problem here????
Bottom line, when you add a Captivate swf using Presenter's Insert--Flash function, the inserted movie (assuming that you inserted the "base" swf file) can no longer "communicate" with the other swfs that were created during Captivate's publishing process. That usually results in "blank spots" during the playback of a Captivate movie where the FMRs should have appeared in your Presenter content.
So what's the fix?
Actually, there are 3 that come to mind immediately.
- From within a PPT presentation, provide a link to an external Captivate movie. Yeah, I know, it's a bit of a cop-out, but it works. Some of us, however, can't take that approach because our content has to be zipped as one file, especially when posting to the Adobe Connect server.
- Before publishing in Captivate, make sure you turn borders off which will eliminate the "_skin.swf" file. That'll be one less file to deal with.
- As soon as you publish your PowerPoint deck, go to the data directory and open up the resources folder. Within that folder, what you need to do is copy/paste all the "_Fullmotion#.swf" files from the published Captivate project. Why? Because of how publishing works in Adobe Presenter. Each swf file you add using the Insert--Flash method ultimately results in swfs that are stored in the resources directory. And since Captivate uses dynamic loading to launch the FMR's at run-time, having everything in the same location means that the "base" swf file will be able to accurately call, and load, the FMR's appropriately.
As an example, I set up a sample project here: http://www.robrode.com/Breeze_demos/FMR/
However, this assumes that you can publish your Presenter content locally. And even IF you had to publish to a Adobe Connect server, you could always publish locally first, add the FMRs into the resources directory, then zip the entire course and post on Connect or some other LMS.
In my next post, I'll go into the drawbacks of this approach AND I'll also offer some advice from Silke Fleischer, Product Manager for Captivate, on alternative approaches to integrating Captivate files in Adobe Presenter.