How to Evaluate Lessons Learned

A while back, I did a series on using historical methodology during project initiation and planning.

The steps I use during analysis can be found in the posts below:

I Love Documents

The Benefits of Historical Methodology

Document Analysis

Synthesis – or Finding Trends

Individual Interviews

Observing Behavior

Using What You Learned in Your Project

During my final analysis, I focus on two areas:

  • People –  Who gets along with whom, the stakeholder RACI matrix (both what the stakeholder says they want AND their behavior when faced with a similar project), and any cultural norms that will impact how the project is run and the chances of project success.
  • Processes – Where does scope creep tend to occur (and from where)? How accurate were the time and cost estimates on similar projects?  Is there a pattern of schedule and cost over-runs at the organization across ALL projects?  Do you see any causation trends – Unrealistic expectations? The same 5 people being put on ALL projects? Lack of organizational focus? Add your favorite to this list.

Most project managers focus on process issues and lessons learned when they do their project planning preparation.

I would argue that cultural analysis, and getting a solid read on the culture around the project will have an even more powerful impact on the success or failure of your project.  I’ve seen too many projects fail because of people-issues, despite planning, careful controls, or even well-run Agile methodologies.

  • Misunderstandings
  • Lack of clarity around roles
  • Lack of clarity around why you are doing this project in the first place
  • Lack of trust
  • Unclear acceptance criteria
  • Political games – at all levels
  • Unclear priorities
  • Overworked individuals pulled in too many directions by management – usually your most competent people
  • Misaligned rewards
  • Disengaged (or actively hostile) leadership
  • Add your favorite people issue here…

Take some time to discern the historical and current state of the people and culture and how people-issues can potentially impact your project’s chances of success.

Despite assurances to the contrary, these issues will pop up during your project whether the individuals involved mean to or not. Old habits die hard.


Reflections on Adobe eLearning Conference 2017

This was the first time I participated in Adobe eLearning Conference held in Washington D.C. and am I glad that I did so. I understand this was the second time this conference was organized. If I’m not wrong, close to 600 people attended this one, in contrast to about 200 last year (I’m told).

I’m someone with one foot in online learning space and the other firmly planted in technical writing. I believe that, no matter how you slice it, creating technical “documentation” is, in essence, teaching and learning technical information. So in that sense I see a great overlap between the eLearning and TechDoc spaces. That’s why I attended this great conference as a Captivate and Presenter Express user.

First off, I was very happy to meet in person some of the people that I’ve been following for a while on the Internet; truly exceptional elearning professionals like Paul Wilson, Joe Ganci, Mark Lassoff, Anita Horsley, Phil Cowcill, Nancy Reyes, Damien Bruyndonckx, Dr. Pooja Jaisingh, Dr. Allen Partridge, and others. It was my good luck to end up at the same breakfast table with most of them. BTW, talking about the breakfast – the organizers should be applauded for the super breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages they’ve provided. Hosting (by Carahsoft) was first class and everything was free as well (including my lovely Adobe t-shirt). Thanks Adobe!

My only problem with this conference was this: there was just too much to learn and attend to since there were five tracks of presentations lasting the whole day. So unfortunately I ended up attending only 20% of what was going on around me. I enjoyed some wonderful presentations about mobile elearning, principles of sound elearning design, how to use videos properly in elarning, how to design a great learning system in this “attention economy,” etc.

The presentation delivered during the closing session by Tridib Roy Chowdhury (G.M. & Sr. Director of Products at Adobe) was very thought-provoking as well.

In his presentation Chowdhury forwarded provocative themes like “How to Out-Google Google.” It was evident that he touched on a current concern (i.e., not enough people are using LMS for their learning) shared by most within the eLearning community but I had and still have my reservations on that score.

The differences between my point of view and that of Chowdhury’s was evident from the very outset when he, in the beginning of his presentation, asked for a show-of-hands about the different venues and sources of learning that the conference participants had used recently. To me it was telling that books were not included in that list! I love things digital obviously and I’m on the Internet most of the day for all kinds of learning and information gathering. But the omission of a source as obvious as the good-old books made me wonder if we were relying on a somewhat lopsided paradigm, with too much emphasis on things digital.

I believe people use different platforms and sources for different kinds of learning. Yes, I do use Google to access quick info on specific inquiries. I do not go to my local library anymore for straight-forward fact finding. But guess what, when I’d like to learn the life of a great scientist, for example, I still search for a good book written by an established writer who did a lot of research on that topic. I do not expect to learn as much and at that depth from Google for that specific mission.

Another example: when I want to learn the best way to visit San Francisco or Paris, I’d check neither Google nor my local library. Instead, I’d call a friend or a relative who had been there. I’d try to learn from them all the things I should pay attention to once I’m there. They would be my first source of information for that specific case. After that I wouldn’t mind checking out Google as well.

Similarly, for me eLearning has a special and very valuable place. When I want to go through a new topic in a step-by-step fashion, with all sub-topics organized from easy to difficult, while interacting with the material and testing myself along the way, I want nothing but a good eLearning module with links, pictures, videos, quizzes, badges, scores, and all that good stuff. eLearning does not need to “out-Google Google” since the two are designed to accomplish different tasks and serve different benefits. I’m still meditating on this issue but so far my conclusions have not changed. I’d like to thank Chowdhury all the same for his seminal presentation even though I do not agree with him totally on all of his points.

I don’t know where the 3rd conference will be held next year but I’ll try to be there. I guess it should not be that hard to find the date and location on the Google

P.S. If you’d like to read a great book on the life of Enrico Fermi, I heartily recommend “The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age” by Bettina Hoerlin and Gino Claudio Segre. When you finish it you will be automatically out-Googling the Google since you can’t read this stuff on Google.

I want to open a Captivate 8/9 responsive project in Captivate (2017 release). What should I expect?

If you open a responsive project that you had created using Captivate 8 or 9 in Captivate (2017 release), you can see the following:

  • Breakpoints from the previous version
  • File > Save as Responsive option is disabled
  • No option to add a Fluid Box

To convert to auto-responsive project in Captivate (2017 release), create a new responsive project, and copy-paste the objects into the new responsive project. Also, apply the same theme to the new project.

While copying and pasting slides, only the objects at a specific breakpoint get pasted. If there are objects in a specific breakpoint, copy and paste the objects separately.

To work with Fluid Boxes on the existing theme, you can save the theme when the project is initially opened in the breakpoint mode. Later, apply the theme in the auto-responsive project to which you will copy-paste the slides (and objects).

Then, to insert Fluid Boxes, click Suggest Fluid Box, or add them from the menuand rearrange the objects manually in a slide.

Adobe Captivate (2017 Release) : Smart, Fast & Incredibly Flexible

The latest update to Adobe Captivate, Adobe’s industry leading eLearning authoring tool is packed with solid enhancements that will make virtually any eLearning developer smile, and the team at Adobe brings home another marvel – incredible levels of intuition and automation when it comes to creating fully responsive content for mobile devices.

Adobe is revolutionizing eLearning authoring again with the introduction of Fluid Boxes, a technology that  makes creating eLearning for desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones easier than ever. So what exactly does that mean?

Screen sizes differ. Screen orientations differ. It can be pretty challenging to make the same content fit well and remain interactive and retain its value as training when that content must appear on landscape and portrait oriented pages, realigned and scaled for everything from desktops to smart phones. The 2017 release of Adobe Captivate takes two giant leaps forward in automating this process.

First, it introduces the automated conversion of previously authored courses by adding a ‘Save as responsive’ option, along with a smart sense about screen layout that will anticipate the layouts that are most likely to rearrange well across devices.

Second, it adds a new solution for automatic reconfiguration of screens called Fluid Boxes. To understand Fluid Boxes, you need to first imagine the various items on the screen are each contained in a virtual rectangle. As the screen size changes, the boxes will intelligently rearrange, remove, realign and resize themselves in order to accommodate the different screen sizes and orientations. The Captivate team has taken this even farther, by enabling some elements to maintain static relationships within any box, and other elements to dynamically stretch, scale and rearrange within any given box.

One of my favorite new features – is that you can now preview all of the changes caused by changes to the scale and orientation, live right in the authoring environment. That means that you can simply drag the scale slider at the top of the stage, and watch as the layout you have specified, changes and scales, rearranges and transforms for the varied screen sizes and orientations.

You can also now use the device specific preview menu to rapidly sample the appearance across a wide range of devices. You can even create your own additional device sizes and add them to the list for quick and easy reference to whatever kind of devices you are using.

As you change the scale, you’ll notice right away that text now scales very smoothly from larger to smaller sizes across the various screens. You have more control of this than ever with minimum size limits in the property inspector. You can also tie the size of text elements on the screen together, so that your fonts remain same-sized (or relative same sized) across the entire page, even while scaling. You’ll also find that some of the problems of text overflow have been solved for you by dynamically enabling ‘more’ text within smaller interfaces. The new Adobe Captivate actually lets you lock the size of a text block, and if the text overflows that limit, it will give the learner a ‘more’ button that they can use to see all of the text on an overlay.

Adobe TypeKit in Browser

An image of Adobe TypeKit running in a browser.


Fonts play a big part in Adobe Captivate (2017 Release) as Adobe TypeKit integration is introduced to Adobe Captivate. This means that now course authors can use all of those gorgeous fonts without fear that they will be lost in the void of the Internet. If you’ve authored courses for HTML5, one of your frustrations is no doubt that you have essentially been limited to 5 basic web safe fonts. No fancy curls or beautiful serifs. All that changes with the introduction of Adobe Captivate 2017 integration with Adobe TypeKit.

Course authors only have to point to the fonts in their TypeKit library to share the joy of hundreds of amazing fonts with their learners, delivering a consistent learning experience.

Configure CC in Captivate

Captivate has always been about customization – it is the sort of thing that becomes really important when your boss or a client wants something changed and your tool doesn’t allow you to do it. That’s why the enhancements to closed captions in Adobe Captivate (2017 Release) have clearly reset the standards for the industry. Now you can fully format those captions, place them anywhere on the screen, customize the colors, fonts, backgrounds, alignment and more. All fully responsive, the new closed caption editing controls are nothing short of fantastic.

Asset Libraries are the toy in my cereal box, and Adobe Captivate now comes stocked with more than 75,000 assets that you can use to go nuts with including games, images, characters, templates, themes and more. These are premium assets from the eLearning Brothers collection of more than a million incredible resources, and they will give any project a jump start. If that isn’t enough, you can easily jump over to the eLearning Brothers site and grab the other million assets to make your library complete.

If you are an advanced user, there is something fantastic in the 2017 Release of Adobe Captivate for you too. Combine Conditional and Standard Advanced actions, and LOOP! Yes, really. Now you can create a ‘while’ loop in your conditional advanced actions. Combined with object states you could create perpetual motion cycling through a set of different states, or you could use it to check for a change in a variable, even monitor a network status.

While you’re tinkering with animation, check out the new group animation ability. Now you can animate groups, in addition to animating individual objects. I was easily able to concoct a propeller from smart shapes and get it grouped and spinning around a center hub. Group based animation should ease the process of creating more complex animated elements in your learning projects.

There are a number of additional fixes, enhancements and benefits packed into the 2017 update to Adobe Captivate. There is a cool enhancement to application capture that lets mobile users swipe and pinch the screen for a better view on mobile responsive projects, and editable states on master slides.

Get your own copy of Adobe Captivate 2017 right now, simply by downloading the trial right here. If you are a Captivate subscriber, the trial will automatically activate with your Adobe ID. Best of all, you can leave your copy of Captivate 9 on your machine in case you need to use both for a while. If you are not yet a subscriber, consider subscribing to the service – at @$29.99/mo US, its a great way to get the updates – even a full version update like this one at no additional expense. Of course you can still purchase a perpetual license if you prefer.

Each Of Us Doing Our Part

When I started using Captivate there were a handful of Captivate experts whose knowledge helped me get up to speed. Even back then I relied on other experts to figure out how to do various things in Captivate. Unfortunately, the resources and documentation have ranged from either non-existent to poor and incomplete. Making my YouTube video tutorials at has been my way of paying it forward. Lately, there have been some users complaining about this shortcoming once again and I wanted to draw everyone’s attention to a feature on the help pages that might help us force Adobe to fix some of these areas.

2017-03-01 4-31-11 PM

I had the need to bone up on my knowledge of the software simulation feature in Adobe Captivate. It’s been a few years since I’ve used this feature and I wanted to check if anything new has come out. I pressed F1 to launch Help and of course, it brought me to the usual Adobe Captivate Learn & Support page. I typed in Software Simulation in the Search Adobe Support Search bar and pressed enter. The resulting list of web pages includes items from the Adobe Forums and the actual Help Documentation as well. I choose this page: which not only had some great detail but included some links to other resourced. One such link that interested me was a demonstration of the recording process found at this link here: At the time that I’m writing this article that link takes you to…

2017-03-01 4-39-02 PM

I was disappointed because I love watching video tutorials as anyone who knows me can attest to. Anyway, instead of just shrugging my shoulders and going to make a sandwich I paid particular attention to what might be on the original page that I could report this problem too. On the bottom right-hand side of the page was this item…

2017-03-01 4-42-10 PM

I thought well that’s interesting so I decided to select the No option and see what happens. This is what appeared next…

2017-03-01 4-43-34 PM

So I decided to start typing an explanation as to what was wrong with the page that I was on and then click on Submit. 

My hope is that someone gets these notifications and takes action. In this case, it was a dead link and perhaps someone from Adobe will remove the link, or perhaps they will find the correct page that the link should be pointing to and fix it. 

I see this feature as the great democratizer of the Help pages. Today it’s a dead link, tomorrow it’s an incomplete or out of date tutorial or explanation of an important feature. In either case sitting around and being grumpy about having to put up with this shortcoming, we each should do our part to let Adobe know when something isn’t right.

…Oh and keep writing our blog posts, posting our videos, writing out testimonials and so on.

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