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10 Tips for Using Flash in E-learning

by Sir on April 10, 2011

In our endure article, we looked at appliance cartoon in e-Learning. Now, we’ll appraise accession important apparatus for creating acknowledged advance interactions – Adobe Flash™. Flash is a vector-based activity and interactivity affairs that allows you to actualize aggregate from simple animations to circuitous alternate applications. With its congenital programming accent – ActionScript – Flash is absolutely scriptable and can acquaint with several backend database languages. Back the aboriginal Flash artefact appeared (from Macromedia), the e-Learning association has formed with Flash developers and engineers to accomplish Flash agreeable added and added attainable in e-Learning environments.

With its feature-rich account of capabilities, congenital components, and e-Learning achievement templates, Flash makes a lot of faculty for maximizing advance content. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the important appearance of Flash and how they can accomplish your courses shine.

1. Animations for Step-by-Step Procedures

In 10 Tips for Appliance Cartoon in e-Learning, we saw the accent of appliance cartoon in courses, to strengthen how able-bodied they accommodated acquirements objectives. We talked about altered supply methods for carrying accountable matter, and one of those methods was animation. Flash uses timeline-based animation, which makes it absolutely simple to body activated movies. Graphical elements may be created anon in Flash, but a majority of developers use added accoutrement that they are added adequate with – abnormally Adobe Creative Suite. With Flash CS3, you can now acceptation congenital Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop files. You can even catechumen “layered” files from these programs into Cine Clips and breathing the alone layers appliance keyframes in the timeline.

In e-Learning materials, step-by-step procedures can be decidedly tricky. Think of the endure area of appliance that you had to put together. How advantageous were its instructions? One of the things IKEA does able-bodied is its non-text instructions for accumulating its furniture. These instructions are authentic imagery. Yield that abstraction a footfall further, and you accept animation. An activated step-by-step apprenticeship is abundant added able than changeless imagery. During an animation, you can highlight specific areas, use activated arrows, and accurate a acquirements cold abundant added by itself and effectively.

When the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) asked SyberWorks to aftermath a alternation of courses for its Bridge-playing members, we acclimated Flash to actualize activated card-playing sequences, and to allegorize specific turns in games. The agenda images were able in Adobe Illustrator, alien into Flash, and adapted into Cine Clips. Appliance scripts provided by ACBL, we created animations for anniversary play, to allegorize the rules that it represents. Added graphical and argument elements were added in Flash to point out locations of the animation. These courses are now delivered to hundreds of Bridge players beyond the country.

2. Simple Audio Integration

Adding audio to an HTML-only advance presents difficulties for advance developers. First, assorted audio formats are accessible on the web today: WAV, AIF, MP3, M4a, etc. Even worse is the all-inclusive arrangement of audio-player applications and their file-type associations, both for Mac and Windows platforms. Accepting users download specific players is a aberration from the advance material, and a abeyant antecedent of added problems.

Flash, however, supports several audio formats and plays them all appliance the Flash Player, which has a 98% bazaar penetration. The Flash Amateur is accessible in all aloft browsers and platforms, and is even acceptable accessible in added Internet appliances. You can calmly acceptation about any audio file, add it to the Flash timeline, broadcast the Flash movie, bear the course, and be adequately assertive that users will be able to apprehend the audio after accepting to download an added player.

Another botheration with audio is that, if a complete book is not set up to “stream,” there is a adventitious that some of the complete may bead out. Flash has congenital alive capabilities, so you can be assured that your audio agreeable will be delivered to users after drop-outs and gaps.

At SyberWorks, we use Flash for in-course audio content. Audio is recorded in our audio lab and adored in a accepted format. The book is again alien into Flash. ActionScript is acclimated in affiliation with on-screen buttons, to acquiesce users to ascendancy audio playback. This alternate audio book can again be absorbed to any course, appliance the SyberWorks Web Author application.

3. Advance Navigation

How acute is your advance navigation? By “smart,” I beggarly can it acquaint with your LMS? Most in-course aeronautics is appealing arid and perfunctory. If you aroma up castigation with Flash, your courses will become added useable.

Since Flash can plan with SCORM and AICC courses, on-screen buttons can be scripted via ActionScript to forward calls to the LMS for assertive conditions. A button at the end of a assignment ability forward a accomplishment account to the LMS, blame assignment achievement and triggering added actions. Accession button ability automatically abide the after-effects of a quiz.

Better acquirements adventures are possible, back the absolute interface is absolutely customizable, and buttons are actual simple to actualize in Flash. If you want, you can even use its congenital library of buttons to actualize your advance navigation.

At SyberWorks, we retro-fitted some absolute e-Learning courses (developed for restaurant employees) for our LMS, complete with all of the calls all-important for advance cachet and completion. These Flash-based courses had a adamant attending and feel that was abundant added acute than a plain-text HTML web experience.

4. Creating Simulations

Some software tools, such as Camtasia and Captivate, are advised alone for creating software simulations. They accept advantages and disadvantages, and SyberWorks does use them, forth with added simulation software packages. But what if the software you charge to actualize a simulation for isn’t accessible on your platform, or alone works abaft a client’s firewall?

When the Palm Pilot came out, I had the befalling to actualize a software simulation that showed new owners how to use the device. Back the Palm software alone resides on the Palm Pilot, I couldn’t use a PC-based software-simulation apparatus to abduction screens. So I acclimated my scanner and Photoshop, alien the screens and artwork into Flash, and created the simulation.

At SyberWorks, we are currently alive with an Internet aggregation whose proprietary software (for aegis reasons) alone works on computers abaft their firewall. Back we can’t install or use their software in-house, we had to go to the client’s area to yield awning shots. Those images were again alien into Flash, captions and highlights were added, and the advance actual came to life.

5. Video

Video is acceptable added accustomed on the web these days, with the acceleration of YouTube and added video-streaming services. Video can decidedly enhance advance materials, but (as with audio) it can be difficult to manage, due to assorted video formats and players. On the PC, AVI is the ascendant architecture and Windows Media Amateur is the accepted player. On the Mac, MOV is the architecture of best and the Quicktime Amateur from Apple is the ascendant player. However, there are added video formats and players, including Absolute media / Absolute Amateur and others.

When Flash MX 2004 was released, video was a aloft component. And with Flash CS3, video has become even easier to incorporate. You can arrange video on your own server or on a committed Flash Alive Video Server, for added bandwidth. Flash has its own video format, alleged Flash Video (FLV). Flash videos can be played by any Flash cine (SWF) file, so no added amateur is necessary. In fact, a majority of the movies begin on YouTube were done in the Flash video format.

A abbreviate affirmation video, not best than 1 minute, can be anchored in a Flash movie. Anything best than that can be affiliated to a Flash cine book and set to progressively download from your server. If you are assured a lot of cartage and accept best movies, you should use a Flash Video Alive server. There are abounding of these FMS casework out there, and SyberWorks uses UpStream Networks to host our beyond videos.

With Flash and ActionScript, it is aswell accessible to do added than just play videos. Cue Points can key off of specific video frames, to ascendancy added events. And the new captioning affection can add bankrupt captioning for video segments. At SyberWorks, we created a video of a apostle presenting a slideshow. Cue Points in the video triggered accordant argument to appear, and fabricated it assume that the eyewitness was in fact on-site, watching the aboriginal presentation.

But accumulate in apperception that video is processor-intensive. Consider your admirers and the minimum arrangement requirements all-important to appearance alive Flash videos. Alone frames and inconsistent playback can activity on slower machines.

6. Drag-and-Drop Interactions

A simple multiple-choice quiz can be able in testing situations, but drag-and-drop interactions can add abounding advantageous appearance of an alternate process. With drag-and-drop interactions, you can simulate adventures that actor the absolute world.

Using Flash and ActionScript, drag-and-drop interactions can be created from scratch, appliance hitTest backdrop and if conditionals to analysis whether an article has been alone on a specific target. If the article has landed on its actual target, the appliance shows a actual acknowledgment or visual/audio feedback. If the article is not alone on its actual target, an incorrect acknowledgment or visual/audio acknowledgment can occur.

In Flash, you can admission congenital drag-and-drop (and other) interactions, by traveling to the Window menu, again to Accepted Libraries, and again to Acquirements Interactions. The interactions are ActionScript 2.0 only, but accept all of the appearance all-important to actualize abounding adapted interactions. You can again use the Flash Basic Inspector to configure interactions, change their text, and adapt the altitude of their tests.

At SyberWorks, we created drag-and-drop interactions to accommodated the abounding custom-content needs of our clients. Doing a custom appliance gives us complete ascendancy over both the attending and feel of advance environments and the ambit of their interactions. Audio aswell helps to accord user acknowledgment for every action, and a final awning tells users how finer they completed the exercises.

7. Components

Flash comes with banal user-interface apparatus that you can add to courses and configure through the Basic Inspector and the Ambit panel. These apparatus include: Radio Buttons, Checkboxes, Argument Fields, clickable Selection Buttons, Account Boxes, and Combo Boxes. Apparatus in Flash CS3 are easier than anytime to customize; artlessly double-click on a basic and adapt its “skin.”

ActionScript can alarm on a specific article and analysis whether its action matches a Boolean value, as in a Radio Button or Checkbox. You can even use ActionScript to analysis for specific altitude and acknowledgment assertive values, to actualize your own quizzes and analysis interactions.

You can aswell dynamically amend the argument for apparatus from an alien argument file. So appliance development is abundant easier now, appliance Flash Apparatus and ActionScript.

8. Activating Text

As mentioned above, Flash lets you cull argument into Activating Argument fields. You can acceptation variables from a simple argument file, or amount argument from an HTML or XML file. Flash CS3 has broadcast its capabilities to handle XML files, with E4X.

You can aswell use a loader article to accompany alien argument into argument fields. This loader article has specific altitude that if met, will affectation argument if the loading is completed (or affectation an absurdity bulletin if a botheration occurred). Activating argument can be formatted through an alien CSS file, or appliance simple HTML tags. But any argument acreage that will be accepting activating argument should accept all chantry characters anchored or set to a arrangement font.

The aloft advantage of appliance activating argument is flexibility. If the agreeable of your appliance changes, it’s abundant easier to change an alien argument book than to change argument anchored in a Flash file. Argument that is alien dynamically is buried by the Flash Player, so be abiding to bright your accumulation if you amend the agreeable of your app.

9. Built-In Quiz Templates

In accession to its congenital acquirements interactions, Flash aswell offers Quiz templates. Artlessly go to File, again to New, and in the Templates section, baddest the Quiz category.

There are three Quiz styles to accept from. At the larboard of the stage, a Ascendancy basic provides instructions and is absolute by the Basic Inspector. You can accomplish adjustments to the absolute Quiz and accept aftereffect options. Anniversary anatomy in the Quiz arrangement has its own set of acquirements interactions for you to accept from. So if you charge a multiple-choice question, you can archetype and adhesive the anatomy for multiple-choice questions and adapt it as needed.

It’s actual simple to set up a Quiz from this template. And by default, the Broadcast settings are set to SCORM 1.2, for sending the template’s Quiz after-effects to an LMS. We’ll allocution added about that in the next section.

10. Built In SCORM/AICC Support

Flash supports the SCORM 1.2 and 2004 standards, as able-bodied as AICC. Any appliance that you advance in Flash (that needs to acquaint with the SyberWorks LMS) have to be “published” appliance these templates. Go to the Book menu, and again to Broadcast Settings. Click the HTML tab and accept the adapted arrangement for the blazon of tracking you want.

In an HTML book that has been appear by Flash, you will acquisition a ample JavaScript file, absolute all of the functions and variables all-important to abide the Appliance Programming Interface for the LMS. There are aswell functions for abutting Sharable Agreeable Objects with the LMS.

But accumulate in apperception that Flash does not accomplish a apparent book for its appear content. So you may charge to use an alien apparent appliance to aggregate all of the apparatus in your application, for upload to an LMS. (A apparent book is a library of all of the assets appropriate for a course, including SCO’s, HTML, SWF, and added files.) The SyberWorks LMS supports all SCORM 1.2- and AICC- adjustable courses, and our customer-service assembly can advice you configure your apparent files, for hosting on our LMS.

Summary

If you wish to accord your courses a lot added zing, Flash is a absolute apparatus for architecture richer acquirements experiences. Custom Flash development may yield best than acceptable advance development, but the added time it takes is added than account by improved, added interesting, acquirements adventures for students.

And with Flash, you never charge to anguish about acceptance getting able to appearance your advance materials, including audio and video. Congenital components, acquirements interactions, and quizzes, additional abutment for SCORM and AICC standards, accomplish Flash an adorable best for creating acute e-Learning courseware.