How to... create more engaging software simulations?

Mar 11, 2014

So I've been doing software simulations since I started out doing elearning ten years ago. I started out with captivate and now use Storyline to do so. At work most of my internal clients want something without audio since the modules are often multilingual and need to be maintainable. Oh, and it also needs to be short. So that naturally brings us to the step-by-step video recording in Storyline which does the screenshot/video thing with caption boxes.

Now I often use characters for intro's and outro's and the steps to be taken but the system action itself is what it is really and the request has arrived to make it more fun (aargh, the dreaded business requirement of Fun eLearning). I've even been told to use a funny character with red spikey hair, that's fun!

 My question is: what would you do to make software training more engaging?

11 Replies
Jackie Van Nice

Hi Jeff!

Here's a sample of what I did to make software training more fun, engaging - all that good stuff. I wanted to present the software in the context the learner would actually be using it, so it's a series of modules that follows the user throughout their day as they interact with the software in different situations. And though the practice and testing aren't nearly as lockstep as the Storyline step-by-step version, the learners (salespeople) and managers who use this course ADORE it. It really works, and after taking it, it's easy for them to dip back into any spot where they need a refresher, too.

You have quite a challenge to keep yours not just simple and maintainable, but also audio-less and apparently text-free if it's for a multilingual audience. Whew!

As always, I'd do whatever I could to bring context to what's going on. I'd try to set the scene beforehand to establish why they'd be starting a particular task in the software. And maybe showing the user/learner with a thought bubble filled with a picture or scene (to keep it multilingual) would help add more contextual information throughout the process you're presenting.

I don't know if that helps, but some ideas. And spikey red hair guy is kinda cute!


Jerson  Campos

Excellent example Jackie. I really liked it.


I created many computer simulations too. But unlike you, our client just wanted them to be step-by-step instructions (the users hated it). On several occasions I tried convincing my supervisors to do something different but the never bought into it. At least they want you to make it a little different.

David Anderson

In a workshop today and just showed Jackie's example to some users who recently moved to Storyline. They loved the simplicity of the two modes and how quickly it moved learners through the challenges. Great example, Jackie.

Tom recently posted an article on software training examples:

And another idea for creating interactive screenshots:

Jackie Van Nice

Thanks, David! I'm glad they liked it.

I actually did it in Studio '09, even though I still dream of how great it would have been to create in Storyline. Storyline was just being released when I started the project. I tried to sway the client to go with it, but they wouldn't. And now - of course! - they rely on Storyline all the time. 

I showed a full module of this course at SolutionFest in Orlando last year. I probably should have included the posts I wrote about it and given links to the full module. Here's the shorter one I wrote for SolutionFest, and the full one explaining the design in case it helps anyone else!

Jeff Kortenbosch

@Jerson... Fun at our company is a very subjective thing. As I mentioned, adding a 'funny' character is about as funny as it usually gets, plus there usually is an impossible deadline where you're just happy to finish the basics in time... LOL. When shown the various possibilities they always go for the step-by-step video...

I might prepare some polished examples with a scenario and an interactive screenshot for the next discussion 

Jackie Van Nice

Jeff, you asked if I'd use the hand image and movement for a non-handheld software course. I don't think so. I only did that to emphasize the learner's perspective.  

By the way, I made a small sample of what I was suggesting to you above about putting the software task into context a little bit. Even with the driest content, it helps.

Here's a live sample.  I stripped out the audio but left the text to give you the general idea.

Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro

Hi Jackie and Jeff,

Had bookmarked this page to take a look when I had a bit of time. Jackie, great sample...wanted to be sure to tell you.

Jeff, tx for sharing that challenge page. Recently haven't had much time to look at all of these, let alone participate, but really liked your Buffer example (Love Buffer also). BTW, "Explain the Interface" worked for me, but "Post a message" didn't. Probably it's not supposed to and I just didn't read carefully, but just in case thought I'd post it.

Point of information: I connected a year or so back with someone in the community who'd asked how to do something in Storyline. He'd indicated that he was deaf, and I told him I had a Screenr that would demonstrate, but that I wasn't sure how helpful it would be, since the description was via narration and Screenr doesn't have any CC. He told me that typically that's not a problem for him, since he can watch what's happening and absorb all he needs.Not sure if that "point of information" is helpful to you with your constraints, or not, but thought I'd throw it out here.

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