A few years ago, I wrote a series of blogs comparing Adobe Captivate 5.5 and Articulate Studio 09. Since then, new authoring tools and new tool versions have been released. The most popular new tool is Articulate Storyline. After extended beta testing and then the official release, Storyline caused significant buzz among eLearning folks. It also extended the Articulate vs. Captivate discussion. As another tool in the mix, it definitely offers more possibilities, but it also adds more layers of confusion when people try to select the “best tool” for eLearning development.

There are already several good online resources that compare Storyline and Captivate. Some of them focus on detailed functionality and others provide insights on user experiences. The conclusion of them all though is that there is no “perfect authoring tool.” One tool is stronger on certain specific features but has limitations with others. It is very difficult to determine which is the best tool to use, without considering the actual learning context.

So, to provide some context, we’re offering a new series of blogs where we compare Storyline to Captivate 7 in four eLearning development situations:

  • Branched scenario
  • Software training
  • Mobile learning
  • eLearning accessibility

Comparison 1: Branched Scenario

Branched scenario is one of the most efficient methods used to deliver soft skills training as eLearning. Yet it is still one the most expensive training courses to develop. About 5 years ago, you could only develop branched scenario eLearning by using Flash or JavaScript. Now, with the emerging tools in Storyline and Captivate 7, you can build a branched scenario without as much programming work as Flash requires. However, you do need to understand how to utilize the advanced features in both tools, including variables, event triggers, and custom actions. So, which tool is the “best” to create a branched scenario, Storyline or Captivate 7?

There is no simple or straight answer to this question. Storyline provides everything you need to create a branched scenario. The layer and state concepts simplify the interaction building process. For example, you can display different information based on the learner’s choices by using these functions. This is done simply by showing or hiding a layer, or changing the state of an object. And the best part is – you can build all of these by using the pre-built actions in the Trigger Wizard, using dropdown menus and checkboxes. The authoring experience is very similar to PowerPoint, and you don’t need to worry much about the coding logic. And, you can reuse the interaction you built throughout the course.

Comparing to Storyline, Captivate 7 offers maximum flexibility and customization when developing a course with branched scenario. However, the learning curve is steeper. To create a similar interaction to Storyline, you first need think of all the possible situations, and then program each instance. For example, you’ll need to know answers to questions like do I need to change the button color after it is clicked? What about if the learner clicks the button before the audio ends? You can also build customized navigation features using system variables, which is not an easily transparent process in Storyline.

In Captivate 7, you are not able to reuse actions easily within the course because all object names have to be unique (even though using shared actions can help a little bit). However, Captivate offers some unique event triggers, such as “on slide loading” and “on exit” among many others. For developers with an ActionScript background, this may feel like a more comfortable approach for building robust interactions.

Finally, you can take advantages of having other Adobe applications integrated with Captivate. For example, not only that you can execute advanced graphic editing using Photoshop, launched from the Captivate library, but you can also start developing your course in Photoshop and bring the different layers inside Captivate — a technique often used by web developers.

The following table may help you compare Storyline to Captivate 7 as you consider building scenario-based interactions:

Function Articulate Storyline Adobe Captivate 7
Show/Hide Layers Easy, using Trigger Wizard Easy, using prebuilt actions
Change Object State Easy, using Trigger Wizard More difficult, have to use coding logic
Learning Curve Moderate Steep
Action Reuse? Yes No
Variables User defined User defined and System
Integrated use with other tools, like Photoshop No Yes, directly from library

In summary, there is no clear “winner” in this round. It is just like your choice of driving vehicles. Some people trust computerized auto shift, while others enjoy the true control provided by manual shift. If you are dealing with a tight timeline and a limited budget, Storyline is a good choice to build engaging scenario-based eLearning courses. If you are an experienced eLearning developer with ActionScript background, and you have a relatively generous budget for your project, Captivate 7 offers you more options to build robust scenario interactions.

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