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Issue 14 October 2008   Tuesday, November 4, 2008

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Software review: Articulate Rapid E-Learning Studio Second Edition
by Maria Toro-Troconis

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Studio is a comprehensive e-learning authoring tool that integrates customisable Flash-based quizzes, interactions, assessments and surveys into e-learning courses. Using Articulate, non-technical users can create rich-media presentations and e-learning courses which integrate narration and interactivity. The E-learning Studio is made up of three tools: Presenter, Engage and Quizmaker.

Articulate Presenter transforms PowerPoint into a Flash-authoring tool using a familiar and user-friendly interface. This e-learning authoring tool can be extremely useful to educational institutions that need to produce a large amount of e-learning materials that require frequent updates.

Articulate Engage offers a series of templates that help produce engaging and rich-media interactivity. The range of interaction types includes:

  • Process: the process interaction allows users to discover the steps of a linear process. It can be used to illustrate the steps of a process, walk users through a series of related items or explain a workflow or procedure.
  • Timeline: the timeline interaction allows users to discover the events of a timeline. It can be used to step through a series of periods and events, guide users though a continuum and highlight key milestones in a schedule.
  • Pyramid diagram: the pyramid interaction allows users to explore a hierarchical relationship of related concepts. It can be used to show relationships within a hierarchy, compare levels of importance of related concepts and detail steps in a process or methodology.
  • Labelled graphic: the labelled graphic interaction allows users to identify the key elements of an image. It can be used to highlight details of a photo, call out relevant parts of a graphic or explain features of a software screenshot.
  • Interactive FAQ: the FAQ interaction allows users to uncover the answers to frequently asked questions. It can be used to answer commonly asked questions, let users search for solutions to problems and review subject matter in a "Q&A" format.

Articulate Quizmaker enables users to create quizzes using a variety of question types.

The Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London is using Articulate Rapid E-Learning Studio Second Edition as one of the main authoring tools for the delivery of e-modules across the undergraduate medicine curriculum.

Articulate provides an easy way of introducing instructional design principles using Engage interactive templates. It also provides flexibility for embedding more-complex Flash interactions if required.

Pros and cons
We have received very positive feedback from our technical developers and Instructional Designers using Articulate. They find it an intuitive and user-friendly e-learning authoring tool. Our students have also responded very positively about the materials authored using Articulate. These are some quotes from some of the Year 3 2007-2008 students:

“I found that the e-lectures were extremely helpful and by being online, I was able to access them when I had time, and pause them, returning to them at a later date if I had other commitments. It is often difficult to get all the information given to you in a normal lecture, so having more control over e-lectures and being able to rewind and replay parts that you may not understand the first time is really helpful.”

“The e-lectures are an invaluable learning tool; I have been able to reinforce new knowledge gained on the wards by reading up on the topic when I got home, using the material available on the e-lectures. The e-lectures themselves are clear and concise, with useful summary questionnaires in each one.”

“It was very helpful to be able to watch lectures in my own time, and go back over bits which I didn’t understand, and watch it at my own pace so that I could look things up and make good notes.”

In our experience, the main advantages of using Articulate are:

  • It has an intuitive and user-friendly interface.
  • Articulate Engage templates are easily adaptable to different learning situations.
  • Articulate Presenter provides an easy-to-use audio editing tool accessible within PowerPoint.
  • Different Instructional Design principles can be easily implemented using the various templates. If the templates don’t fit the approach required it is always easy to develop a Flash asset and embed it into Articulate.
  • E-learning courses produced using Articulate can be easily repurposed and reused under different learning environments.
  • The e-learning courses can be exported as HTML or SCORM.
  • The level of engagement produced using these tools will depend on the expertise of the technical developer or instructional designer. However, in general terms, the templates and the different tools offered are good enough to guide and help a non-technical person in the production of engaging e-learning materials.

The main disadvantages we have found in using Articulate are:

Articulate Presenter

  • It does not provide an option that generates a printable file. Screenshots have to be generated manually and put together to produce a print option which can be then included as a separate attachment. Students normally like to download a handout for further reference and to make notes as they go through the e-modules.
  • When exporting a course as SCORM, only one of the options (track progression or score) can be selected.
Articulate Engage
  • We found some limitations when using the formatting tools in Engage, in particular with aligning bullet points.
  • Only one media asset can be added per template.

Articulate Quizmaker

  • Question feedback cannot exceed 500 characters.

Although these disadvantages slowed down the initial development process, the developers quickly found others ways of overcoming these problems and some of these issues were raised with Articulate.

Content presentation and interactions
The presentation of content to be produced by Articulate will be determined by its nature. As a first step in the design process, content is categorized under various headings, such as: Facts, Concepts, Procedures, Processes, Principles, Knowledge checks, Self-assessment and Key points. Different Instructional Design approaches and therefore different templates and Flash assets are developed to meet these requirements.

We have found both Articulate and the templates provided in Articulate Engage extremely useful and flexible. They have allowed our team to put together engaging e-learning materials.

Examples of different e-modules developed using Articulate Presenter, Engage and Quizmaker for Undergraduate Medicine are explained below.

Medical ethics and law
A series of e-modules has been developed and delivered to Year 5 undergraduate medical students in the area of Medical Ethics and Law as a revision tool by Dr Wing May Kong. The presentation of content for Ethics and Law was mainly categorised as facts, concepts and principles. Therefore, the use of Engage templates to break the content down supported by audio was very efficient. According to Dr May Kong:

“A key challenge for the module development was how to get students to stop and think about the ethical issues rather than to try and just absorb them as facts or principles. Much of the teaching involves giving students different perspectives and encouraging them to reflect on these. Thus one important feature of the e-modules from a teaching perspective is the use of flash countdown timers. We want to engage the students and encourage them to reflect on the ethical issues being discussed as they work through the module. The countdown timers provide a way of slowing the students down and encouraging them to actually stop and think.”

Figure 1 shows an example of the Medical Ethics and Law – Mental Incapacity, Justice and the Mental Capacity Act. This e-module can be accessed at:

http://www.elearningimperial.com/e-lectures/Mental_Incapacity/player.html

Figure 1: Screenshot of Medical Ethics and Law – Mental Incapacity, Justice
and the Mental Capacity Act e-module

Figure 1: Medical Ethics and Law – Mental Incapacity, Justice and the Mental Capacity Act e-module

Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics – pharmacokinetics
This e-module on Pharmacokenetics is part of the Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics e-lecture programme delivered to Year 6 medical students and developed by Dr Michael Schachter. The presentation of content for Pharmacokenetics was categorised as facts, concepts and procedures.

Figure 2 shows an example of a procedure showing four basic processes for Routes of Systemic Administration. This process was developed as a Flash asset and embedded in Articulate. The e-module can be accessed at:

http://www.elearningimperial.com/e-lectures/Pharmaco/player.html

Figure 2: Screenshot of Pharmacokenetics e-module

Figure 2: Pharmacokenetics e-module

Statistics – hypothesis testing
Two Statistics e-modules were developed for Year 4 students and focused on descriptive statistics and hypothesis testing. The presentation of content for these e-modules was mainly categorised as facts, concepts, principles and procedures. Having received access to the National Learning Network Learning Objects we were able to deploy different Flash assets and repurpose them within these modules.

Figure 3 shows an example of the Hypothesis Testing e-module Developed by Dr Maria De Iorio.

Figure 3: Screenshot of Hypothesis Testing e-module

Figure 3: Hypothesis Testing e-module

Respiratory medicine
This e-module of Respiratory Emergencies was developed by Professor Martyn Partridge as part of the Year 3 e-lecture programme. The presentation of content in this e-module is very varied and categorised as facts, concepts, procedures and principles. Different Engage templates were used, such as the timeline showed in Figure 4. Different Flash assets were also developed for different procedures as shown in this example.

Figure 4: Screenshot of Respiratory Emergencies e-module

Figure 4: Respiratory Emergencies e-module

Clinical skills
A very comprehensive Clinical Skills module was put together by Professor Karim Meeran using Articulate. Articulate was very effective handling video compression and presentation. Figure 5 shows an example of the Clinical Skills e-module.

Figure 5:Screenshot of Clinical Skills e-module

Figure 5: Clinical Skills e-module

Overall
The quality and user friendliness of Articulate Rapid E-Learning Studio is not in doubt. It represents good value for money when a large amount of e-learning material has to be authored and kept up to date. This leaves more time to concentrate on more complex animations that could be developed in Flash and easily embedded into the tool.

More information
For more information about Articulate Rapid E-Learning Studio please visit:
http://www.articulate.com/products/studio.php
 
If you would like more information about this product from the Imperial College Undergraduate Medicine Office e-learning team please contact us at: webmaster.umo@imperial.ac.uk or visit our e-learning website at: http://www.elearningimperial.com/

Maria Toro-Troconis
Senior Learning Technologist
Imperial College London
m.toro@imperial.ac.uk


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