Is Adobe Captivate right for you?

New to eLearning? This series summarises the key “need-to-knows” of four eLearning course authoring tools: Articulate Rise, Evolve, Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline. In this post we look at Adobe Captivate.

Ready to invest time and effort? Captivate offers you a blank slate to build responsive courses with a higher level of interactivity than web-based solutions. It’s a fraction of the price of the nearest competition. Beware though, some course authors report instability when creating complex courses.

What I like about Captivate

  • Power: As it is software rather than web-based, Captivate packs a lot of punch. You have a PowerPoint style blank slate into which you can insert and arrange images, text, shapes, videos and more. Built-in logic in the form of “actions” and “advanced actions” and the ability to run JavaScript (the programming language that powers most interactions on the web) mean that with time and skill you can built extremely complex interactions such as scenarios or basic simulations.
  • It is possible to build responsive courses that display on any device: Captivate’s “fluid box” technology is unique among high-end authoring software in that it allows course authors to arrange elements on the slide and then tell Captivate how to rearrange those elements on smaller devices. Although most web-based authoring tools offer a responsive solution, they lack the power that Captivate offers. The very quick video below shows how fluid boxes rearrange content depending on the screen size.
  • Price: For £34 per month, it’s a fraction of the price of its nearest competitor Articulate Storyline (though, Storyline is bundled with numerous additional services so some might say the comparison is unfair).

Things to be aware of

  • Learning curve and complexity: From using Articulate Rise for the first time, a course author could easily create an attractive responsive course with, say a tabbed box, some video, flip cards and other basic elements within an hour. Using a solution like Captivate perhaps 50 -100 hours of learning and experimentation would need to take place before such a course could be built. This time could be reduced if the built-in “learning interactions” were used. These are essentially templates of various elements like tabbed boxes, though they are not especially attractive and are not configurable enough to suit every need.
  • A less active support community: Although Adobe’s Captivate forum is reasonably active, with certain individuals contributing a great deal, Articulate’s forums are far more lively. There are also fewer tutorial videos on YouTube.
  • Can produce unstable results:  My personal experience is that if you use the full power of Captivate to create complex interactions you risk courses crashing or not running as expected. This interaction below only fully worked after extensive debugging which involved  removing every element on the page one-by-one to see which element was causing the interaction to crash.