I hear you’ve been hanging out at a super-hip Articulate Storyline party and you’ve met some really great people. You chatted up Andy Animation, exchanged numbers with Missy Motion Path, and you couldn’t believe the tricks that Tony Triggers was able to pull off. But as amazing as the party’s been so far, there’s one group over there in the corner that you haven’t met yet. They call themselves “variables.” You’ve heard they’re really cool, and even though they seem a little intimidating, you have an inkling that this party’s gonna go from good to great if you meet them.

No worries; they’re friends of mine. Let me take you over there and introduce you.

Vinny the True-False Variable

E-Learning Developer, I’d like you to meet Vinny the True-False Variable. I know, he seems like he just skulks in the corner and gives out one-word responses, but Vinny actually has an amazing attribute: He always, always remembers what people do. All you have to do is ask Vinny to pay attention to something, and later on you can ask him if the learner did it.

“Vinny, true or false, did the learner click the button on slide 7?”

“Vinny, true or false, did the learner complete that task on slide 5?”

Let’s look at an example so you can see it in action. Suppose you have a menu that controls the learner’s progress through the course. Initially, only the first button is visible, but after the learner completes each section, you want the button for the next section to appear. The first thing you do is create a true-false variable (“Vinny”) to track whether the learner completed section one. (Its initial setting is to “false” since the learner has not completed section one.) Then, you create a trigger to switch the variable to “true” once your learner completes that section.

Finally, back on the main menu, set up a trigger that changes the button state to “normal” when the slide timeline starts if the variable ("Vinny") is equal to “true.” In essence, it asks, “Vinny, true or false, did the learner complete section one?” If Vinny says “true,” then the button will change to normal. If Vinny says “false,” then the button will remain hidden. Pretty neat party trick!

Valerie the Text Variable

Next up is Valerie the Text Variable. Valerie is really great with names and the crazy things people say. If you say, “Hey Valerie, when the learner types something into this box, I want you to remember it so we can use it later,” Valerie is going to remember that info verbatim until you want to use it later.

An example of this is if you want to personalize your course for the learner. You create a text input box and ask the learner to type in their name. You may not realize it, but as soon as you create that text input box, Storyline creates a text variable like Valerie to keep track of what the learner types. Then, when you want to use the learner’s name later on, you insert what is called a reference to the variable. In other words, you ask Valerie, “Hey, what did the learner say their name was?” and Valerie answers with the exact text!

Now, while Valerie is great with text, she’s not so smooth with numbers. No worries, we have one more friend left to meet.

Violet the Number Variable

Let me introduce you to Violet the Number Variable. As you can probably guess, Violet is a numbers wiz! Unlike Vinny, who simply pays attention to what somebody did, Violet can tell you how many times they did it. Violet can also help perform basic math functions such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and assign numbers to items in order to keep track of things.

Violet is also a tremendous team player. She often works with other number variables to perform tasks such as calculating running averages. On the flip side, Violet doesn’t have the largest short-term memory capacity. In fact, she can only hold one number at a time in her head. But still, she’s probably the most flexible variable in the group. In fact, she’s the star of the new slider control in Storyline 2. Here’s what I mean:

When you add a slider to your project, Storyline automatically creates a number variable like Violet to keep track of where the thumbnail position is on the slider. So for a slider with a range from 1-10 (it has 10 positions), when the thumbnail is in position 1, Violet switches to “1.” When the thumbnail is moved to position “2,” Violet switches to “2” … and so on. The great thing is that you can use Violet’s knowledge to cause something to happen. For example, you can create triggers to show a particular layer when Violet is equal to 5 and a different layer when Violet is equal to 7. She truly is an amazing, powerful friend once you get to know her.

Now that I’ve introduced you all, take some time to schmooze with this trio. I realize that they may seem a little idiosyncratic, but trust me, they can really help you take your e-learning projects to the next level. And don’t worry, I’m not leaving the party yet. Over the next few articles, I’ll help you get to know each of these variables in more detail.

Have you worked with variables before? Which one’s your favorite? Share your experience in a comment below!

Want to try something you learned here, but don’t have Articulate software? Download a free trial, and come back to E-Learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.


John Wagner
Carrie Jones