Choosing the Right Tool to Design Interactive Scenarios

Have you ever had an idea you knew was good but didn’t truly understand the work involved until you began laboring to make it a reality?

This happened to me when I started changing one of the assignments in my history class into a branching scenario. In my last post, Making your eLearning Assignments More Interactive, I talked about how I used LucidChart to storyboard this idea as well as my plan to transition it into a branching scenario using Adobe Captivate.

Well, I can officially report that this project has been an extremely taxing undertaking.


Adobe Captivate, while a powerful, robust tool with features that eLearning professionals want, is a pain to use.

I admit I’m still a neophyte when it comes to using the product, but it’s clear to me that it does not meet my top criterion for adopting a new tool for continued use (i.e., learnability, usability, reliability, accessibility/captioning, and sustainability). And I certainly don’t have the time needed to design with the tool efficiently.

Captivate: A Powerful Tool (with a Learning Curve)

Captivate lacks a modernized look. So, that dashed my hopes of designing cool, engaging scenarios. I had to build individual slides to create branching scenarios. On top of that, my objects and labels constantly shifted whenever I tried to make a minor change. Even with the use of the Lock and Position function, it shouldn’t be this tedious to make minor changes when building out a slide.

As I started forming the branching scenarios in Captivate, I had difficulty testing while developing. I discovered that I’d better click Save often. Whenever any type of change was made the program tended to crash, resulting in lost work and time (so frustrating!). I can’t tell whether this is a fault of the program or just simply the hardware I was running it on.

Working on slides was the most exasperating part of this overall project. Unfortunately, I discovered what I’d saved and published was not always what was shown.

Captive Preview Changes Display
Captivate preview changes sentence and word spacing.

So, I had to preview each individual slide to determine how it would look when rendered. I ended up spending additional time fixing slides that looked great after I’d saved. Additionally, while the program gives slide preview options, there are inconsistencies in how preview renders.

The testing option that I found to work consistently was Preview in SCORM. Still, I found this fickle in situations where I needed to test branching options that linked out to another location on the web.

Ultimately, it seemed as if I had to create what looked to be a PowerPoint.

Articulate Rise: A Quick and Clean Design Tool

After spending hours on this development and being about 80 percent done, we purchased an Articulate 360 license, which contains the rapid development tool Articulate Rise.

Oh why, oh why, didn’t I just wait for you Articulate Rise?!

A modern, clean, branching example created using Articulate Rise

I had hoped I would be finished by now, and if I’d used Rise, I would have the cool web page look that I originally wanted my students to experience when I started this process. In Rise, the branching scenarios and general user experience would seem like they were developed in 2018 (as opposed 2008).

Don’t get me wrong. If the audience had a technical focus and I had the development time, I’d use Captivate. With a software training simulation, learners can demonstrate skills learned. Captivate is a wonderful product for that. Captivate is also excellent for more graphically intensive projects. For simple branching scenarios however, Rise feels superior.

So, for my next great eLearning idea (and I am sure I will have one), I plan to do a better assessment of the instructional design tool that I choose to use before I start the project. For this project, Rise would have taken less time for me to deliver the eLearning branching scenarios in and offered the stylized format that I believe my learners would have better connected with.

What eLearning authoring tools do you use to develop branching scenarios? What’re the pros and cons of the tools that you use? Do you have any tips to make Captivate easier to manage? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

McCoy, Tara



Author: Tara McCoy, Lead Instructional Designer

Tara is a lifelong learner and recovering Type A personality. She loves to read and help others learn. A mighty Spartan and Tartar, she earned her BA from Michigan State University, and MA and EdS in Instructional Technology from Wayne State University. She’s an active member of Toastmasters International, having held various chapter-level leadership positions.

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