Adobe Captivate 5 — Simulations on Tap

Greetings, global citizens of the Litmos eLearning community!

Last time—we talked about authoring tools, and we answered a few common questions about Adobe Captivate 5 and Articulate Studio ’09. As we dive more deeply, we’ll look at the strengths of each platform. This week, we’ll begin our analysis of Adobe Captivate 5.


To clear up a question, you can acquire Captivate 5 in two ways. First, it’s available as a stand-alone program, for $799.00 USD (or $299.00 USD for a qualified upgrade).



Second, Adobe Captivate 5 is available as part of Adobe’s eLearning Suite 2 ($1799.00 USD, or starting at $599.00 USD for a qualified upgrade). The eLearning Suite combines some of Adobe’s best offerings for eLearning (e.g.. Captivate 5) with elements of its powerful Creative Suite.


If you have the budget, consider Adobe eLearning Suite 2. It’s a beast—the package contains Captivate 5, Flash Professional, Dreamweaver® CS5, Photoshop CS5 Extended, Acrobat® 9 Pro, Presenter 7, Soundbooth CS5, Bridge CS5, and Device Central CS5. You’ll probably get your money’s worth from Captivate, Soundbooth, and Photoshop alone. If you already have some of these programs, it probably makes more sense just to add applications a la carte.

As the weeks go by, we’ll look at different feature sets. As we’ve said before Captivate 5 is a loaded eLearning solution that works beautifully as a blank canvas. You can perform layout magic and manipulate fonts, graphics, and animations. You can go quick ‘n’ dirty (but cool) with Captivate’s stock functions, or get crazy and be elaborate.

For now, though, let’s look at Captivate’s magic bullet: screen recording. Imagine you’re in charge of creating eLearning to take your people through a new system (a pretty common situation). If you have to design and develop eLearning for systems, there’s no rapid development tool quite like Captivate.


The image above is from a sample on Adobe’s site. With Captivate’s autorecording modes, you can go in one, two, or three different ways:

  • Demonstration mode (“show me”): Records what’s going on on-screen, but with no user interaction in the Flash movie output. Useful to get your learners oriented to a process or user interface (or just to show them how cool your new system is). Captivate automatically adds text captions that label what’s happening.
  • Training simulation mode (“try it”): Captivate automatically adds click boxes, text entry boxes, and feedback (failure/hint captions). Your learner can interact and perform within the simulation.
  • Assessment simulation mode (“test me”): The click boxes and text entry boxes are there, but the feedback isn’t. You can actually assess your learner’s ability to use the system.

Here’s the kicker: you can rig Captivate to capture in all three modes at the same time. You don’t have to capture three different times; separate output is available for all three modes.



There is also a custom mode available that allows you to create hybrid “demo-sims.” You can use your imagination as you get more comfortable.


Think about it. If you’re short on time, you can take your learner through a rapidly-built “show me-try it-test me” process that actually requires them to perform in a closely simulated environment before they have to go live.


Is it perfect? No way. You’ll need to polish your captures before you publish. Don’t worry: it’s fairly easy to edit the text captions, straighten/speed up the mouse pointer, and make sure the timing is correct. Still, it’s remarkable how quickly you get get something effective to your learners.


The output is also SCORM-compliant, and can be tracked easily by an LMS (such as Litmos). We’ll soon look at ways to use Captivate with your LMS, but here’s a teaser: Captivate’s Advanced Interaction screen allows you to set or disable tracking/scoring/reporting for every action your learner takes.


If you have mission-critical systems training (like financial or electronic medical records), you may want to know how your learners perform on a click-by-click basis. If you don’t want to look under the microscope, you can just track whether or not they’ve looked at parts of the course. It’s your call. Talk to your Litmos team about how to use Captivate output with the Litmos system.


Tip: There’s lots of great conversation about Captivate on Twitter. According to soon-to-be Adobe eLearning Evangelist RJ Jacquez (@rjacquez), a good bet is to search for and use the #AdobeCaptivate hashtag. If you’re new to Twitter and hashtags, here’s a Captivate demo from RJ on how to add a column on TweetDeck for the #AdobeCaptivate hashtag (how meta!).


We’ll look more deeply at Captivate 5 and look at its feature set (this version, for instance, allows you to set up master slides much as PowerPoint does). We’re also going to look at Articulate Studio ’09 and its own magic bullet(s). Stay tuned!