Suspend Data character limits
Oct 25, 2016
I just wanted to share a quick story (of our success) on how we managed to hit a wall, then find a solution concerning Suspend Data character limits within our LMS.
Backstory: My team develops online courses for those looking to get a state license (Real Estate, Construction, Health Insurance, etc.) in Florida. These courses can be upwards of 72+ hours of required online "class time" so the files can sometimes be quite large. We've been using Storyline 2 for a while and for this scenario we were publishing SCORM 2004 3rd edition Update 11 for HTML 5.
The Problem: We noticed that one particularly large chapter (Storyline project) was occasionally having some issues updating between the user and our LMS. The Suspend Data was corrupting though we weren’t sure why. From the student’s perspective, they would lose their place as if they hadn't even started the chapter. We could copy/paste in good code but I really wanted to root out the problem. The character maximum was not yet hit, but there was a trend of support calls for the courses that had larger Suspend Data results. Unfortunately I couldn't find anything other than SCORM has a natural limitation of 64,000 characters. I couldn't find out what it was for TinCan, but our LMS doesn't support that yet so it didn't really matter.
Details: I had one large file (625MB) that had 172 slides with 133 variables and was generating 22,767 Suspend Data characters. We also had another file (279MB) with 196 slide, 168 variables, but was generating 60,694 Suspend Data characters. While they were both large, it seemed that the smaller file was getting dangerously close to hitting the Suspend Data limit of 64,000 characters. It was also the one that we were getting the most support calls on. After spending some time with tech support, there didn't seem to be any documentation on which parts within Storyline 2 would generate more Suspend Data than other parts. For example, would the slide count generate more code than the number of variables? How about the number of layers vs. variable use count (variables replicated across an entire project)? Value variables vs. numeric variables?
Solution: After quite a long time of incremental testing, we determined that the stock buttons and check boxes within Storyline 2 = Danger Will Robinson. Each button and check box that we used straight from the Storyline 2 toolbar generated 6 separate states, many of which were identical to each other and went largely unused. Our courses are designed so much of the content is non-linear as we want the student to have control over the order in which they view the content whenever possible. Thus we needed to have buttons on each slide to allow this (this is why we didn't use the Next/Previous buttons in the player). I also noticed that when comparing the two projects mentioned above, I didn’t use the check boxes and all of the buttons I custom created for the course with the lower Suspend Data. After removing the unnecessary/unused states, the Suspend Data dropped from 60,694 to 19,945. WOW! What a difference it made!
End Note: I had trouble finding anything in the e-Learning Heroes community that specifically addressed the challenge of dropping the Suspend Data limit. Our hope is that this will encourage someone out there, and hopefully save them time. We love Storyline 2 and are not looking to change anytime soon. I'm not sure if the "code-behind-the-curtain" for the buttons and check boxes is written as efficiently as possible, but I do know that this solution helped us significantly.