A few months ago I began working with a very talented team of developers from eLearning Brothers. Together we conceived and created a very cool soft skills training module using Adobe Captivate called ‘Quarantine.’
Quarantine is a scenario based / soft skills training module designed to teach new officers at a prisoner of war camp how to engage with prisoners and respond to prisoner requests. The catch? It’s a POW camp for Aliens.
The basic story is that Aliens known as the Lacertae have invaded earth and that there are now Aliens being held in various Prisoner of War Camps around the planet and in orbit. You are a part of the human security detail that has been assigned to one such camp in Arizona.
Here’s the training module so that you can play it through and see how it all works.
Here’s the direct link if you’ve blocked popups.
One of our goals with this training module was to provide a kind of template for others to follow in order to create soft-skills training modules. You’ll find that the project uses a very typical soft-skills / scenario based design and all of the code, the original captivate movie, the source materials and loads of information about our development process is being shared with the eLearning community in the hopes that it may prove a useful research for study and discussion.
This is the first of several articles intended to provide a convenient record of that process and the source materials. In addition to these articles, Next week Wednesday, April 10, 2013 I’m thrilled to host a free eSeminar; Creating Quarantine – the story of the creation of a soft skills scenario meant to provide a simple example for eLearning authors to use as a learning aid.
I encourage all interested parties to view the recording of this for this free eSeminar here: http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/event/index.cfm?event=register_no_session&id=2209096&loc=en_us
Once I’d proposed the project to Adobe Management and been approved for a modest budget I set about searching for a company to do the execution. While there isn’t anything in the project that I couldn’t do myself technically, I don’t build courses like this every day and I wanted to ensure that we were demonstrating industry best practices. This also meant that we could produce the work in a matter of weeks rather than years. It also ensured that the standards for graphics and art would be much higher than I’d be able to produce independently. While all of these things are wonderful benefits, the most important factor was working with experienced professionals in order to ensure the product we would eventually share would represent best practices for the eLearning industry.
I have to say that I was thrilled with the work eLearning Brothers did on the project. Andrew Scivally assembled an amazing team to produce and create the work. Their most important quality? Listening. They took a great deal of time from the first moments to carefully listen to my goals for the project and to propose directions that provided me with useful options. They were imaginative and responsive to the project requirements. They also brought a significant understanding of the module’s target demographic (military and defense organizations) which helped in the selection of material and the representation of content.
While we had the luxury of deciding ‘what to teach’ our process was very similar to most eLearning projects that I’ve worked on, once that decision was made and the learning content was narrowed to a specific topic. We identified the course objectives – based primarily on the desirable outcomes for the individuals to be trained. Like most soft skills training efforts, we hoped to produce some deeper thought among our trainees – encouraging them to consider carefully the potential ramifications of their actions.
Were this project based on a specific genuine training topic we would no doubt have investigated thoroughly the need for the training and sought to understand better the potential of such a module. To me you can simplify this element down to: what would success look like? How would things improve if the training were effective. I love the way Cathy Moore describes this success vision – concrete and measurable objectives.
For this project that would look like, ‘Reduce the number and severity of inmate security violations and reduce the risk to supervisory personnel by 25% this year.’
The 25% number here is arbitrary, but in a practical situation it’s somewhat easier to look at actual data and make decisions about how much improvement to expect and what kind of indicators can be used to measure positive changes.
Considerations when creating a non-linear navigation path
For the uninitiated, scenario based training modules generally are created using branches in the slides in order to create a sense that the learner has the ability to choose their own path through the module. These always remind me of the old game ‘Myst.’
Myst was the most popular PC game through most of the 1990s following its release in 1993. It wouldn’t be replaced until the Sims hit the scene in the early 2000s. The basic form of the game was of a branched narrative. You can visualize this like a choose your own adventure. You come to a decision point in a given moment (think of it as a screen) and depending on which direction / item / or other element that you choose, you will ‘travel’ to a different location – effectively following a distinct individual path through the game that is totally dependent on the choices you make.
This branched structure is one way to give an illusion of control to people exploring a narrative – or for that matter an educational simulation. The advantage is that it appears to the learner that each choice that they make has an apparent outcome – effectively giving realistic feedback whenever a decision is made.
There are however some disadvantages to designing interactivity this way. The most significant of these is that each decision point creates an exponential potential increase in the number of possible outcomes. Simply illustrated think of it like a tree with one trunk and many branches. If the first decision point is the first place the branches split off the trunk – the result is that now instead of one trunk, you have three or more branches. Now on each branch their are subsequently many further split points, and on each of those sub branches many more and so on. Now imagine that you are an ant climbing the tree – trace the path you follow in your mind, and never backtrack. It won’t be long before you reach the end of a given chain of branches, but you’ll have only encountered a tiny number of decision points, and missed most of the tree.
In parallel, this means that if every decision point in a branched scenario is split to unique content, most learners will never encounter most of the potential decision points in your training – and as a result, they will potentially learn only a fraction of the material you have designed and presented.
So one of the first challenges of designing a branched project is figuring out how it will branch, if and when materials at the decision points will loop back into the original – or be duplicates of other content elements and if you will include any potential elements for the learner to double back and repeat the scenario in order to learn from other potential choices.
Next time I’ll begin with our first pass at combining learning objectives with a vision of the potential narrative pathways. Don’t forget to sign up for the free eSeminar and join us live next Wednesday for more about this exciting project.
Oh, and if you’re a source file junky like I am, here’s the original cptx file of the project to get you started on your tinkering. (By clicking this download link you acknowledge that you are only given the rights to explore and experiment with the file, you are not in any way given ownership over the file or any of the graphic and audio files with the file.) Please keep in mind that while you are free to modify the file and make use of its scenario-based training wisdom, you may not resell or otherwise abuse the various graphics etc. within the file, they all remain the property of Adobe. So feel free to swap out graphics and make use of the logic, but please don’t use the visual and audio elements within the file in for your own commercial projects, advertising or other commercial purposes.
As always, please share with us your comments and questions in the discussion area below. We would love to see the projects you’re building with Adobe Captivate and encourage you to share your wisdom with the community.