A few days ago e-learning heavy hitter Articulate released their newest installment in their line of rapid authoring tools, Articulate Studio ’13. Naturally, this is exciting news for those of us who have been using Studio ’09, and for e-learning geeks in general, but is the excitement worth it?
Luckily for you we’ve had a chance to play around with the new version as well as receive a formal walk-through of the software from Articulate via webinar. Overall, there are some big new features, some small quality-of-life updates, and a few things that were left out that we would have really liked to have seen included. Here’s a breakdown of what we’ve seen so far:
One big improvement that we see with the introduction of Studio ’13 is the update to the player shell. For this upgrade, Articulate has basically just copied over the player from their other authoring offering (try saying that ten times fast), Storyline, along with all the same settings and features (you’ll notice this copying-from-Storyline technique is a recurring theme in the new Studio ’13).
Despite the similarities to the Storyline player, an important differentiation is that Presenter, Engage, and Quizmaker (3 of the 4 programs bundled with Studio ’13) are all housed in one tidy player now. This makes the transition from presentation, to interaction, to quiz, a flawless one, completely transparent to learners. When compared to the previous Studio ’09 player, this is a huge upgrade and adds a much-needed level of polish to the overall presentation. No more Franken-courses!
Another one of the main new features is the slew of options you have when exporting. Again, these settings are duplicated from those available in Storyline, and include the option to publish for mobile via HTML5 (as well as the Articulate iPad app), publish to LMS via SCORM or TinCan, and several other export options that we’ve come accustomed to in modern authoring tools. Obviously the biggest addition here is the availability to publish for mobile, which was previously only offered by Articulate through Storyline. With m-learning making such a big push lately, this was a must-add in Studio ’13.
Studio ’13 also comes with the inclusion of tons of preset characters, both real and animated, each with their own extensive set of expressions and positions. Once again, if you’ve used Storyline you’ll be familiar with this feature (I told you it’s a recurring theme!), but it’s handy nonetheless and allows you to add some personality to your courses in a matter of seconds.
New Engage Interactions
Engage has always been a great way to quickly add some interactivity to courses, and that’s no different in the new version. With the new release we see the welcome addition of ten new interaction types, including ‘Conversation’ and ‘Tabs’, and we see the return of some old favorites such as ‘Pyramid’ and ‘Circle Diagram’.
As a nice bonus, even the returning interactions have been spruced up from both the visual side of things as well as the customization side. For a full breakdown of all twenty interactions included in Engage as well as interactive demos, check out the Engage product page.
Articulate Studio ’13 has taken a big step forward in the area of video over its predecessor. No longer do you have to deal solely with .flv files when importing videos (although you still have that option if you so desire). Now Studio supports a wide variety of common video types such as .mp4s, .mpegs, and .avis, which all load progressively, meaning learners are able to watch videos as they buffer rather than waiting for the whole thing to load at once. Not only that, but videos can now be embedded from online sources such as YouTube or recorded directly from a webcam.
For those of you looking to do some light video editing, Presenter also offers a basic video editor for quick crops and edits. For those of you looking for a video editor that’s a bit more in-depth, but not quite as robust as something like Final Cut (well, not even close), Articulate has added a fourth program to the Studio package called Replay which allows for some really fast and slick video editing.
As previously mentioned, Replay is a new piece of software that allows for simple video editing, leading to quickly produced videos that course creators can then integrate into the other Suite ’13 offerings. Replay doesn’t do a lot, but what it does, it does well. It allows users to add transitions, sleekly animated lower thirds, and picture-in-picture edits in a matter of seconds. This is a genius addition to the Studio ’13 package as it really enforces the ‘rapid’ aspect of the authoring tool, although users looking for more advanced features may find that the program is lacking and will be more comfortable sticking with an industry-standard editor such as Final Cut or Premiere.
No Macs Allowed
One unfortunate oversight in the new Articulate Suite is the lack of Mac compatibility. This means Mac users will still have to install and use the Suite on a Windows partition using software like Parallels. While this isn’t a deal-breaker, it’s rather annoying for Mac users, and is a surprising move given the increasingly widespread usage of Macs across the industry.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, the new Articulate Studio ’13 is a big upgrade from it’s predecessor in many areas. The attention to detail when it comes to aesthetic consistency as well as feature availability is promising, and will allow instructional designers to create powerful courses that look good very quickly.
Unfortunately, it seems that many of the upgrades that have been added to the new version are simply features directly ripped from Articulate’s stand-alone offering, Storyline. Given that Storyline was released last year, it would have been nice to see Articulate build upon these features rather than just directly port them.
So, Is It Worth It?
The answer to this question really comes down to what authoring software package you’re currently using. If you’re currently using Articulate Storyline, I’m not sure the new Studio ’13 offers enough differentiation from it’s stand-alone counterpart to justify the price tag. At that point you’re really playing for the Replay video editor and the built-in Engage interactions, which may or may not be worth it depending on if you want to take the time to develop custom interactions in Storyline or not.
On the other hand, if you don’t use Storyline and are still using Studio ’09 (or if you simply have a large bias towards developing directly in PowerPoint), then Articulate Studio ’13 is a must-buy. The difference in available features and polish from the ’09 to the ’13 version is pretty remarkable, and upgrading will surely take your course creation to the next level.