Storyline vs. Captivate Part 4


Today is a continuation of this ongoing comparison. For a full comparison, check out this post.

This week is all about audio! I’ll take a look at audio importing & recording, along with some peripherally related features.

Feature Captivate 8 Storyline 2 Notes
Slide Notes & Captioning Closed captioning is one area where Captivate definitely wins over SL2, hands down. Captivate allows you to enter in slide notes as small portions which can transition into closed captions that you can time to the audio. Storyline does not offer Closed Captioning. You can use the notes as a kind of transcript for each slide, but the user will see all the notes for a slide at any given time. This can make it hard to caption animations or slides where you have several elements contingent on user input.
Importing Audio Captivate allows you to import audio to an object or slide. In addition, you can import a background audio (think, background music) that you can set to automatically reduce in volume when narration is added.One additional great feature of Captivate audio is the ability to split audio over several slides. This feature can really come in handy when doing screen captures and software demos. SL allows you to import audio to slides and layers. With the way triggers are set up, it is also easy to trigger audio to play at a certain point or when a certain action happens.
Recording Audio Both programs allow for recording audio straight into your project. For best quality sound, an external program should be used to record audio. One free program that offers lots of possibility is Audacity.
Editing Audio Both Storyline and Captivate allow for minimal audio editing (cut, copy, paste, insert silence, insert audio clip).For any other editing, an external program should be used.
Text-to-Speech This is a feature in Captivate that SL does not have. It can automatically convert your notes into a GPS/Siri-like speech. Some of the voices work better than others. This isn’t necessarily great for finished products as it can have issues with pronunciation but it is a GREAT tool for drafts so you don’t have to re-record audio several times.

Cartoons Compete: PowToon vs. GoAnimate


Sometimes in eLearning you need to create a quick animated short, either to insert into a longer course or to stand on its own. Storyline 2 actually makes this pretty simple, but there are some platforms that exist that make it even easier by providing built-in graphics; we all know that creating or finding images can take forever!

Two of the leaders in this area are PowToon and GoAnimate. As I mentioned last week, our team recently switched from PowToon to GoAnimate. In the process of switching, I was looking for a comparison of the two but not much was out there. So, if you are thinking about purchasing or switching to one of these platforms, you’re in luck!



PowToon is simple to use.  Creating and timing objects is easy. I like the way that PowToon uses a timeline even though you can only view and adjust one object a time on it. It has the basics and the free plan has some good features and options.


AUDIO. You can only import 1 audio file into the entire project so both creating the audio and timing it to your slides can be really tricky.

You also don’t have much control over the props and characters. They are set in stone. So, if the prop you need doesn’t really fit into your color scheme, too bad.


The free plan offers a decent selection of styles and can be a good way to get started with PowToon. It will only let you share your video through YouTube or with a direct link, so if you want to download videos this isn’t a workable option. However, you can pay per export. The thing that I really don’t like about the free version is that it has both a watermark and an annoying outro slide at the end that has a little “created using PowToon” jingle.

For $228 a year you can get a pretty good business plan that allows you to download videos, get rid of the watermark and outro, and has a lot more included styles though not all of the styles. The only downside to this plan is that you are only allowed to use the videos for your own business; they can not be sold.

If you want the whole shebang, it’ll cost you $684 a year, though they sometimes run specials that will allow you to get the best plan for the price of $228 a year.

Why we switched

GoAnimate offers superb control over both audio and visual elements. You can even create your own custom characters in several of the styles and sync their talking to your audio narration.  It’s impressive! In addition, you can make characters actually hold objects (and they move with the objects in hand) and there are several more options for exits and entrances in addition to motion paths.

Also, you can search for a particular prop among all styles which is super handy and something I was often wished for with PowToon.

GoAnimate also has lots of features I didn’t know I was missing like a Ken Burns effect, great built-in “scenes” that can be modified as needed, and cool infographic animations.

What’s missing

I think my only let down with GoAnimate is that timing objects is a definitely trickier. There is a timeline but it only shows the scenes and audio, not the individual elements in each scene. You have to time objects relative to each other which can be tricky and makes time the full scene difficult. I think the best workaround for this is to create several short scenes with a couple of things happening as opposed to one longer scene with several actions.

GoAnimate does make this a little smoother than PowToon, including the fact that handwritten text matches up exactly with non-handwritten text, an issue I battled in PowToon more than once. I also just realized the other day that you can fit the scene duration to the content so that helps as well.


The free plan for GoAnimate doesn’t allow exporting either, however you can copy embed code for the video or share a link. Also, the branding is a little less intrusive than that of PowToons in that there is only a small logo and not a jarring outro. However, you can only create videos that are less than 30 seconds long.

The mid level plan is $299 a year, about the same a PowToon and with basically the same additional features.You do get access to ALL the styles with this plan which is nice but you still have a watermark and can only use the videos internally.

The high level plan is $599 a year, considerably less than PowToon and, in my opinion, with a great deal more to offer.

In addition, GoAnimate offers a team subscription. It’s pricey, starting at $2000 a year for 3 subscribers, but allows separate accounts to collaborate on videos which is pretty handy.

So which one is better for me?

Glad you asked! Overall, I think GoAnimate is a better tool with more bang for your buck.  If they would add slide elements to the timeline, I would even call it close to perfect! However, if you are looking for a great tool to create some (longer than 30 second) free videos, PowToon definitely has the upper hand. Either way, these tools are easy to use and can really up your animation game!

Do you use either of these? Or another tool that you like?  Please share your experience in the comments!

A Challenging Challenge

If you stopped by my home page today you might have noticed something new – a video!  I created it as part of this week’s eLearning Heroes Challenge. I have to say, I was really nervous about this one. I like creating eLearning precisely because I am not front and center!  Plus I don’t have a great webcam or a nice looking space in which to record.

But I told David I would participate in this challenge so I couldn’t very well back out. Plus, I think this challenge was really about embracing low-end solutions to create a quality product. And you know what?  I think I did just that.

Just in case you also want to incorporate some webcam video into your website or trainings, here’s a quick recap of my tools and process. Be sure to click over to the home page or read till the end to check out the finished product.


The webcam I have on my desktop computer is a Logitech HD webcam. I have previously only used it for Skype but found that it had a pretty good video and audio quality for this project.

Recording studio

My super professional set up was, well, not so super professional.

photo 1     photo 4

I think part of what made this challenge interesting was the point that webcam video can be of decent quality and is a lot easier to incorporate than using more professional video tools. So, I moved a few things from the back of my office (I keep my bike there and didn’t want that in the shot) and amped up the lighting by adjusting my monitor brightness and turning on a lamp I don’t normally use.  I also had to close my window blinds as the glare from the window was extremely bright. And voila!  Instant recording studio.


I decided to give Articulate Replay a shot for this challenge.  It came free with my Storyline license but I had yet to open it up and try it out. While the editing capabilities are pretty limited, it was an easy way to add lower thirds and switch between different variations of webcam, screen share, and picture in picture formats.


First, I wrote a script.  Ok, actually first I tried a shot without a script. Then I realized that was a horrible mistake and immediately wrote a script.  So if you’re trying this out – write a script first. While I was writing the script, I also created a short PowerPoint presentation that I could use as some B roll footage.

I did a couple of short takes of the first few sentences, adjusting my lighting and webcam settings in between, until I found a set up that worked.

Then I did two or three takes with everything in place, just of me talking straight to the camera. (Along with my surprise guest!)

Then I recorded a screen share of my PowerPoint.  I decided to record these separately because I had a hard time remembering what I wanted to say while also operating the PowerPoint. I must be getting old. Luckily Replay makes this easy and it didn’t really matter when it came time for editing!2014-09-12_10-20-34


This was the easiest part!  Replay was a cinch. I just chose where I wanted to start and end each take, where to start my screen share, and where to put my transitions.  In addition I added a lower thirds caption to the beginning and the end which took about 30 seconds. The reason editing is so easy is that I just listed all of the editing possibilities in Replay.  It can’t do a lot but it makes simple video editing so easy my Grandma could do it.

And that’s it!

Celebrating Independence from Cognitive Overload

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans!  I am looking forward to a long weekend of food and fireworks (and trying to soothe frightened dogs).

In an early celebration, I participated in David Anderson’s eLearning Heroes Challenge this week with a quiz on avoiding cognitive overload in multimedia learning. (and, now that I am writing this I am wishing I had given it a fireworks theme… hindsight…)

Anyway, I had fun making it and think it is kind of a cool quiz.


The setup

The quiz asks the person taking it to create a Storyline slide with minimal cognitive load.  Yes, the learner is “creating” a Storyline slide within a Storyline project.

It focuses on the use of Mayer’s 10 Principles of Multimedia Learning. You can use the “hint” link on the player to access more information about those principles.

I initially wanted to do this with drag and drop, but in the interest of time decided it would be best to just use some buttons.


Why keys?

keysWell, when I was creating the buttons for the Image category, there were two key pictures – one with a single key and one with a bunch of keys.  To me they very simply illustrated the difference between the necessary information and extraneous context.  I decided that this would be a great simple image and topic to run with.

The choices

Again, in the interest of time, I decided to limit the number of elements the learner had control over.  3 elements were key (pun intended) – the audio, the image, and the text.

For audio, I started with just a simple On or Off choice.  However, since timing is an important element of Mayer’s 10 principles, I switched it up.  There ended up being 3 choices – Audio on with image/word syncing, audio on with no syncing, and audio off.

I used the image to touch on the idea of only including essential information.  This could have been done in other ways as well, but I figured this would be the simplest.  So, there were 3 images choices – basic (one key), with context (a whole keychain), and no image.  In a drag and drop scenario, you could have more control over placement, but for simplicity the image placement is set.

The text got a little more complicated. There are so many ways to include text on a slide! I broke it into 2 categories that covered most text options: amount of words (key words vs. longer descriptions) and word placement (with the picture or standing off on the side). You also have the option of including no image. This gives the learner 5 different text options.


The logic

There were lots of triggers with lots of conditions in this project. With 45 different possible set ups, I had to be mindful about how I set up the slide logic.

One way I minimized items on the screen was to make good use of states. The audio had 2 visual states (on and off), the image had 3 (bare bones, with context, and hidden), and the text had 7 (hidden, a paragraph, bullets, key words for both image states, and short descriptions for both image states).


I also needed to make sure that all the buttons changed the states of any elements they affected.  So, for instance, if you have set up a complex image with key words, then changed to the simple image, the placement of the key words needed to change.

The logic for allowing the learner to preview the slide they created and for giving feedback got a little tricky, but I won’t go into detail on that here. However, if you would like to see the project file, just drop me a line or comment below.

preview       feedback

Give it a try! 

Click the graphic below to test our your knowledge of Mayer’s 10 Principles of Multimedia Learning.


For Your Listening Pleasure

Picture1About 2 weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting down with Chris Mangione, an instructional designer who produces a podcast series called Eye on ISD.

Each week Chris discusses a few ISD topics and interviews a guest in the field. We had a great time chatting and I’m thrilled to share our conversation, along with a candid pic of our setup.

This week’s podcast includes sections on managing your online presence, ASTD’s change to ATD, learning and neuroscience, and SMART goals.  Our interview starts about 21 minutes in.


Back to the Basics

After skipping a few weeks of Aritculate learning challenges, I hopped back in the saddle this week. This challenge was nerdily fun. David asked us to create an interaction about an instructional design principle and frankly, I had a hard time choosing!

I went with 4 part Learning Objectives and had some fun with it.

Why Learning Objectives?

I didn’t want to make a click and reveal this week. I needed more fun in my life.

I was doing a little brainstorming and thought about a Mr.Potato Head type of activity with the parts of learning objectives – where you could play around and nothing would be wrong!  That sounded fun.  So, LOs it was.

Visual Design

Once I decided on my topic, I wanted some color inspiration.  I literally googled “color palettes” and found this amazing website called Design Seeds.  Check it out if you ever need color inspiration.  Seriously!GlobalBrights_1

I have also been learning more about typography and wanted to go with a good two font combo for this project. I googled “font combinations” and came across another neat site, I Font You. I found some inspiration and was able to mimic a style combo I liked with fonts I already had. Orator Std and Rockwell made a nice pairing.

Instructional Slide

Since the content was the A-B-C-D format for learning objectives, designing my single instructional slide was easy.  I used large letters and introduced each concept in order. When you click on the concepts, you get more information.

I used a combination of “word art” and voice over to quickly explain each part of the objectives. Each explanation first gives a frequently used, but not very good, option(s) and then gives examples of how those can be improved.



Quick Quiz

I made a quick quiz question to check understanding.  It’s a pretty simple drag and drop, where you are choosing the best version of each of the 4 parts (audience, behavior, condition and degree). If you get it right, you get to continue to the “Mr. Potato Head” slide. If you get it wrong, you have to go back to the instructional slide.



The Fun Slide

Ok, so it’s no Mr. Potato Head really but I think this is kind of a fun way to get a little more exposure to the subject 🙂

Note that I used the same colors for each part of the objectives throughout.
Audience is always green, behavior is yellow, condition is orange, and degree is blue.



The Intro Slide

This slide I created last as I wasn’t sure until the end if I wanted to let folks skip to the fun slide.  But then I thought, why not?  Life is short, folks.



There it is! Go ahead and have some learning objective fun!