Over the years and role changes I’ve used a variety of different VLEs. From Blackboard to FutureLearn, and from custom in-house developed VLE to customised large-scale MOOC platform. So, how important is familiarity when working, designing and developing on these platforms?

Firstly, are we talking about the familiarity I need to navigate the multitude of features and processes to get the course built and delivered? Or do we mean the familiarity the learner needs in order to have a smooth and tangible learning experience, whether they sit down and structure their learning or dip in as and when they can? Let’s try and deal with both.

Explain everything

  • For me: If you’re new to the platform it’s good to write notes to yourself as you do something new, work out how a feature works, etc. This is also a great resource for you or the rest of the team to open discussion around the how and why of particular approach to presenting a learning resource. Keep ideas, plans, design/colour schemes, times, asset library, etc. all in one place for easy reference. 
  • For the learner: Accept that the learner may not have read your carefully scripted course page or expensive course promo video and repeat it at the beginning of the course. The odds are that you put a lot of effort into that content so make sure it’s of use at the start of the course. It will need to be modified, you don’t need the marketing/promotional terminology here, so make sure it reads like the rest of the course (the ‘voice’ of the learning). Carry this approach to the whole course, not just the start: explain why you’ve included a video to watch and what the learner should think about while they watch it. Explain the structure of the course and what it means for their journey, and how the journey ends. And what happens after that. 

Structure and navigation

  • For me: A new platform will mean a lot of different, well, everything! Who hosts, manages or supports the platform? Who are they, where are they, when are they available? Make them your new BFF and ask for help as well as providing a fresh pair of eyes and offer feedback from your own experience on other platforms to see if you can provide efficiencies or development to improve. Always ask questions and always explain why, as well as showing them your results. 
  • For the learner: A consistent structure and navigation to the course will help the learner feel more comfortable and relaxed, therefore are more likely to retain the knowledge you’re presenting them with. As with the previous item, explain how the structure works, explain how to use the navigation, and above all keep the consistency of design that you’ve worked hard to develop. If you use colour of font size as a code of activity or resource identification, use it every time (you’ d be surprised how often I’ve seen inconsistencies, usually across courses rather than within the same course).

Example: FutureLearn navigation, Warwick’s ‘Leadership for healthcare improvement and innovation’.


  • For me: Personally I hate templates or a forced way of working, but the method and structure they offer are hard to ignore. There’s a reason why templates work and that, as I mentioned previously, provides a consistency across courses, programmes, and team members. if you’re working in isolation, then the template probably doesn’t make sense to you as you already know what you’re doing. If you working a part of a larger team then the template provides the working structure you all need to adhere to to get that consistency I talked about.
  • For the learner: The template should not be something the learner ever really notices. The template is there to provide a consistent learning experience for the learner. If it works they wont notice it. If it fails they’ll complain of not understanding what they should be doing, or when, or how, or why. The template will provide familiarity and structure.

Text and images

  • For me: Nothing bores me more than a course full of pages and pages of text, no visual cue at all as to what’s happening. If nothing else a well placed image showing the general theme or topic helps bring the page to life. While some subjects are clearly more visual than others, there’s no excuse for not using some Creative Commons or licensed images, a YouTube video also explaining the subject, concept, interview with an expert, educator, practitioner, etc. While we try and accommodate as many styles of presenting learning materials, and those materials often reach us from the educator in text form, we would not be doing our job if we didn’t try and find a visual solution to break the text blocks up, even if it’s only a different way of presenting the text.
  • For the learner: if the learner wanted to read a textbook to gain the knowledge and qualification from the course, they’d that. Often what one learner likes is not what another likes. While one person can read book after book and retain the knowledge easily many cant, me being one of them. The inclusion of different sorts of activities helps, but so do different approaches to presenting the learning materials: image, charts, photos, infographics, video interviews, to-camera teaching presentations, video case studies, high-profile documentaries (check the ownership and originality if you’re using these from YouTube), etc. There’s always a way to bring something visual to the course.

Example: Documentary – DHL International Supply Chain, loaded to YouTube by DHL.

… now make an activity out of it, introduce some questions that the video can help with but requires the learner to go further afield to find answers and more resources for. Make the image or video part of the learning, not the learning itself.


  • For me: If the whole team uses the term ‘page’ or ‘step’ to indicate a different element of a learning package, then be sure you all use that term. By using a variety of different terms to mean the same thing you will forever be translating instructions from one source to another for different things. Something will always get lost in the translation, mistakes will be made no matter how hard you try, and there will be more work down the line when you have to unravel the mess. Be sure the terms you use within the team are consistent (that word again) and appropriate. If you work with a new educator who’s used to different terms and ways of working then open the dialogue and work out what’s best – do they change to accommodate you and your team, or do you change your processes to accommodate them? Decide early on and stick to it! 
  • For the learner: No one wants to read a course that is heavy in jargon, acronyms, complicated academic terminology or badly presented materials. No one. Even if you’re writing for advanced Masters level students you should still use appropriate language, explain an acronym, and avoid jargon. You obviously don’t want to dumb the language down so it sounds like you’re being condescending to them, but there is a level that is acceptable. Find it, stick to it, and test it!

Familiarity in learning has always been about consistency – consistency in the approach to design and present the materials, consistency in language appropriate to the level of the course and the intended audience, consistency in quality of photos or images or videos, consistency in length of pages or steps. By being consistent in what you do and how you do it your course will also offer a consistency the learner will become accustomed to, which will bread familiarity and comfort with. From here it will be easier to follow the learning and complete the course.

Image source: Pete Birkinshaw (CC BY 2.0)

Adobe Captivate 2017 for Beginners – Webinar Recording


Adobe Captivate for Beginners is the first of a series of hands-on webinars we’ll be running regularly this year to help everyone learn the basics of designing and developing eLearning using Adobe Captivate, with each webinar led by John Stericker, our Adobe-certified Captivate Expert and Instructor.

With an understanding of your skills and interests, we’ll take a practical approach to learning, spending time on the parts that are most important to attendees and sharing tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years. Post-webinar we’ll also share a free Adobe Captivate shortcuts reference guide with all attendees.

Please subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up to date with all our Adobe Captivate videos.

Below are links to our other resources you might find helpful.

Or get in touch with any questions you might have – adobe@learningplan.com.au

How to Create Interactive Videos with 3D Models in Storyline

interactive video

This is part two of the series on working with 3D models and interactive video. In the previous post, we looked at how to create a video using 3D models in PowerPoint. Today, we’ll discover how to use them to create interactive videos in Storyline. And then of course, once you have an interaction you can also insert it into a Rise course, which is what I did in this Rise lesson.

Create the Interactive Videos in PowerPoint using 3D Models

If you want to create a different kind of interactive video, you can apply what you learn here. The process is similar. For this demo, make sure you understand how the video is created and how it plays all the way through because we’re going to add a trigger to pause it before it completes.

For this demo, I created a video where the object rotates in and then rotates back out. It was built using a three-slide PowerPoint file and exported as a video.

Tutorial: how to create a three-slide video using 3D models in PowerPoint.

A Teardown of the 3D Model Interactive Videos

There are a few nuanced steps in this process. Let’s review what happens and then we can look at how to create it in Storyline:

Interactive video in Storyline using 3D models in PowerPoint

  • User clicks on the side tab which shows a layer.
  • The layer plays the video we created in PowerPoint.
  • Since the 3D object in the video rotates in and out, we set the video to pause when the object is rotated in.
  • Then we add a trigger to resume the timeline (with a hotspot or button) which continues to play the video and shows the object rotate out as the video completes.
  • The completion of the media (the video) triggers the layer to hide which takes us back to the base slide with the side tabs.

Create the Interactive Videos in Storyline

The video I create in PowerPoint is the exact same aspect ratio as the Storyline file. For the most part, 16×9 is fine. But if you change the aspect ratio of your .story file make sure you do the same on the PowerPoint slide.

  • Go to slide 1 in PowerPoint and save it as a .PNG image. This image will be what the user sees on the base slide in Storyline and perfectly aligns with the videos that will be on the layers.
  • In the Storyline slide, insert the slide image from PowerPoint.
  • Create the appropriate number of layers based on how many interactive elements you have.
  • On each layer add the appropriate video. Each video should play automatically. I also recommend putting a hotspot over the video so the user can’t click on the video to start/stop it.
  • On the video layer, add a trigger to pause the video when it reaches either a certain time or cue point. I like to add cue points so I can nudge them without modifying the trigger. The video should pause at the apex of the object rotation.
  • Add a trigger to unpause the video. It could be a simple button or perhaps a hotspot.
  • Add a trigger to hide the layer when the media completes. This should take you back to the base slide.

Click here to view the tutorial on creating an interactive video.

That’s basically it. Of course, there’s a lot more you can do to decorate the layer or add additional content. It just depends on your needs. Practice the technique first and once you have it set, see what you can do.

If you do create something, please share it with us so we can see it.

Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

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Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

Adobe Captivate – Card Flip Effect

In this video tutorial, I show you how you can use effects in Adobe Captivate to create the effect of a baseball card flip. For example, on one side of the card you have the image of the baseball player and on the back side, you have the player’s statistics. This could also be used to simulate what recipe cards might look like or used in credit card training that teaches employees to check for the signature of a client, and so on.

In this example, I used the baseball card for Bo Obama, President Barack Obama’s pet dog. Don’t ask me why they made a baseball card for the family pet, but like all government photography, it’s in the public domain so I’m free to use it for this example.

My Patreon subscribers can download the project file for this video.

How to Create a Video with 3D Models in PowerPoint

3D models in PowerPoint

I shared a cool 3D interaction in a recent workshop demo and have had lots of people ask how I built it. You can check out the interaction in this Rise demo.

Creating the interaction is a two-step process:

  • The first step is creating a video of the 3D model as it rotates in and out.
  • The second step is to insert the video and add interactive elements in Storyline.
  • In the case of the Mars Rover module, there’s a third step because inserted the interactive Storyline module into Rise. This is pretty cool because it allows for really simple and fast authoring in Rise, and then when I need custom interactions, I just build them in Storyline. It’s a win-win.

Here’s a previous post where I detailed more of the construction of the Rise demo. For today’s post, I’ll show you how to create the 3D video you’ll use for a Storyline interaction. The tutorial below shows how to create the video using 3D models in PowerPoint.

Click here to view the tutorial on YouTube.

Insert 3D Models in PowerPoint

PowerPoint comes with a number of 3D models. It also supports inserting models shared by the community. You can also build your own 3D models and insert them using standard 3D formats

3D models in PowerPoint

Most likely you’ll want to insert your own 3D object. So it’s nice that PowerPoint supports the common 3D file formats. Here are the supported 3D formats for PowerPoint:

  • .FBX
  • .OBJ
  • .3MF
  • .PLY
  • .STL
  • .GLB

How to insert the 3D model in PowerPoint:

  • Create a slide and then select a 3D object.
  • Insert it just like you would a shape or picture.
  • Position the object on the screen.
  • Duplicate the slide (we’ll need this for the video).

Create the 3D Animation in PowerPoint

The first slide is the starting point from which the 3D object rotates. The second slide is the rotation point. You’ll need to rotate the object so that the position changes from slide 1 to slide 2. You can also move and scale it.

3D models in PowerPoint


  • Reposition the object by either scaling, rotating, or moving it on the slide.
  • Go to slide transitions and select a morph transition for slide 2.
  • Preview the slideshow.

3D models PowerPoint

On preview, you’ll see how the 3D object uses the morph transition to change positions. Pretty slick, huh?

Fine-tune Slide Transitions for 3D models in PowerPoint

That’s the essence of the 3D animation. Now it’s a matter of fine-tuning the animation by playing with the slide timings.

When all is done, the PowerPoint slides will be saved as a video file. That means the animations and transitions need to be automated.

3D models in PowerPoint 3D PowerPoint morph transition timing

  • In the Transitions tab, go to Advance Slide and select to advance after X time. That means the slide will automatically advance at a certain time and doesn’t require you to do anything to trigger the slide movement.
  • Slide 1 is just the starting point so it needs to advance as quickly as possible. I usually set it to advance after .25 seconds.
  • Slide 2 will trigger the morph animation. On slide 2 you can change the speed of the 3D animation by changing the slide duration.
  • Slide 3 (optional) is great if you want to create the sense that the object rotated in and out like the Mars Rover demo.

Save the PowerPoint file as a Video

When all is done, save the PowerPoint file as a video. You have two options: .MP4 and .WMV.

The MP4 format works well but I did find that when I use it with Storyline, the last part of the .MP4 always seems jumpy. It probably has to do with how the .MP4 is encoded by PowerPoint. So if I am using the video to build an interactive file, I save it as a .WMV. Then I let Storyline do the conversion. That resolves any issues you may experience.

That’s basically it for the 3D model video in PowerPoint. You create the two or three slides and save as video. Once you have the video, you can insert it into Storyline or anywhere else you use video. To make it an interactive video like I did with the 3D rover, you’ll need to tune in next week where I show how to create an interactive video in Storyline.

Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

Upcoming E-Learning Events


Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

10+ Hacks with Captivate & the Creative Cloud Intro

Happy New Year everyone!

I posted a discussion in December about a new Blog I will be creating called “10+ Hacks with Captivate and the Adobe Creative Cloud” based on a talk I gave at the Adobe Learning Summit where I was invited to speak in Las Vegas, 2017.

I plan on making 10++ short videos using the Captivate with the Creative Cloud to enhance your eLearning projects, speed up workflow, increase productivity. I am getting ready to start production, and This here… is the Intro and Outro animations I created using Photoshop & After Effects that will be the beginning and end of every video! I really love After Effects!

What do you think?