On 9 November 2016, something very big happened, not Trump, something much bigger! Articulate 360 was released!
It’s been nearly 2 years since Storyline 2 was released and although I still consider it the best all-rounder, more and more authoring tools were starting to leave it behind. The main area where Storyline 2 was lacking was responsive design, however the new Articulate 360 suite has a few tricks up its sleeve to address this.
Articulate 360 consists of no more than nine apps, each playing a role in creating a complete toolkit for eLearning Developers and Instructional Designers.
In this blog I am going to cover Storyline 360 and how it compares to Storyline 2.
Just like the first version of Storyline, Storyline 360 is fully backwards compatible with previous versions. This means that all existing courses can be upgraded to take advantage of all the new features.
One of the first things I did after installing 360 was to check the publishing options. Storyline 2 is only able to publish to Flash and HTML5. This can cause problems with various LMS environments that are reluctant to add Flash content due to possible security risks and performance related issues.
Recognising the fact that Flash is slowly being unsupported by the latest browsers and unflavoured with the next gen LMSs, Articulate has added an HTML5 only output. This now means that providing a user is running an HTML5 compatible browser, the browser by default will run the course in HTML5. Great move!
Another great new feature is the ability to publish only single slides and scenes. If you have a large project it can be quite time consuming for the user to navigate to a particular slide that needs reviewing. This feature will cut a great deal of time for reviewers and testers.
Not only does 360 fully support HTML5, the published output also looks much nicer! With Storyline 2 I always found the HTML5 output to look slightly soft compared to the Flash output. The output in 360 has been much improved for both Flash and HTML5, the text looks sharper, shapes are more defined and the colours seem to have more depth. On top of this it appears the FPS has been notched up, the movement and animations are now much more fluid and no longer stutter. The difference is not that noticeable at first but running the same project alongside each other highlights the difference.
This is a bug that has existed right back to the days of Storyline 1. Kerning is essentially the spacing between characters in a proportional font. For reasons unknown Storyline has really struggled with getting the kerning consistent between characters on certain fonts. I can now report that after many years this issue now appears to be fixed!
Motion paths were a great addition to Storyline 2, bringing much more freedom with animation. There have been a couple of shortfalls that 360 has now addressed. If you have ever worked with multiple motion paths on one slide you will know how difficult it is to keep track of the motion path numbers, quite often having to rely on either your memory or selecting them to figure out what motion path belonged to which object. This has been addressed in Storyline 360 by simply giving the option to name them, a very simple but effective solution!
Another improvement made in 360 is the option to orient the shape to the path. With this option when a shape is following a path the shape will also turn in the direction of the path. Imagine a top down view of a racing car going round a circuit, if the car didn’t turn as it turned a corner it would look a bit odd!
Articulate has really been generous with the sheer amount of templates and characters now available. The templates are modern, slick and well-designed whilst the newly illustrated characters are versatile and wide ranging. For someone looking to quickly create an eye catching course these are essential.
Guess what… you can now create square buttons!! This is no joke, I have lost count of the number of times I have needed make a square button and instead have had to resort to creating a square and manually adding button states instead. This might seem really trivial but when you have to make a number of these, having square buttons will save lots of time!
A brand new feature for 360 is dials, anyone familiar with Storyline 2 sliders will feel instantly at home using them. They are fully customisable and function well with variables. I am not overly convinced by them but I’m sure I will find a use.
Touchscreen gestures are now supported in 360. By default you can swipe left and right to move between slides, pinch or double tap to zoom in and out and drag to pan and scroll. You are also able to disable them if you want to restrict navigation to buttons.
When building courses, the first thing I do is hide the Storyline player. Sure it has its uses but I find it ugly, intrusive and a bit cumbersome to use. Articulate have radically overhauled the player so that is now fully responsive to size and orientation of any mobile device, hiding sidebar menus, eliminating browser chrome and delivering mobile friendly controls. The content in the player however is not responsive; it will retain the same proportions but will scale to the size of the player. If you are looking for purely responsive eLearning you should check out Articulate Rise which does offer such capabilities also included within the Articulate 360 suite.
Storyline 360 now offers previewing in multiple different devices and orientations, this saves lots of time when it comes to testing. You are also able to lock the orientation per device which is useful when you need to force the user to play the course in a certain orientation.
Some might be disappointed to find that Storyline 360 is not fully responsive. Articulate’s argument against this is that it would impair the overall design and customisable elements of a course, which seems understandable. They have launched a separate product called Rise to cater for users looking for a fully responsive solution, first impressions look good and I will be reviewing this in my next blog. Back to 360, is this a worthy update to Storyline 2? In a nutshell yes, the changes are perhaps not as dramatic as Storyline 1 to 2, although the refinements and additional features are all worth upgrading to, for anyone new to eLearning development the upgrades have made it an even more user friendly tool.
Please contact me if I have missed anything else new, I will be interested to hear from other developers.
Phil Eagles, Senior eLearning Developer, Bray Leino Learning
In my series of blogs I’ll talk about the components of eLearning design and development.
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