Flash/Actionscript - worth learning to use alongside Articulate?

How beneficial do you think it is to use these as part of "customising" your end product within Articulate?

Have taken a look at Flash over the years but never really actually dabbled with it.  I'm guessing this is the "tool" that most people would use to build custom SWFs and interactions etc?  Or do you need a degree of AS expertise to really build on this and make the whole thing more "powerful"?

And what about the XML side of things?  I've heard of people saying they write engines in AS and then use XML to populate stuff really quickly. 

Just thinking about how handy it would be to build custom menus/objects/slides/interactions that allow for rapid development in Articulate.  Haven't done any coding since I was at school, but I reckon with time and practice (and the right incentives) I could get my head around it.

What do you guys make of it? 

6 Replies
Robert Kennedy

Simon,

See, the nice thing about Articulate is that a novice can come up with some really nice stuff out of the box.  But in the hands of someone who knows AS2 and other bits of Flash coding, even greater things are possible.  Rollover tabs and buttons, neat animations, more interactive functionality.  I say go for it.  But don't forget to share with us your knowledge

Simon Perkins

Robert Kennedy said:

  But don't forget to share with us your knowledge


If I do take it up, then you may  well be waiting a while before I produce anything that either looks good, adds functionality, or indeed even works!  It's been years since I did any coding (back in the days of 8502/10 if I recall), and as such AS looks totally alien right now.

However, I do feel the urge to jump in ...

Steve Flowers

Hey Simon,

You wouldn't need the SDK for that. There are some documented API calls (and other methods) that should enable making that work without delving deeply into the workings of the SDK.  Most of my custom Flash work is isolated to the slide and functions to lighten the development load or do things that aren't possible using PowerPoint / Articulate.

For example, I built a conversation engine that allows me to deploy interactive conversations like you see on http://www.jellyvisionlab.com/. This would be a real pain in the arse built through slide magic. The engine lets me put conversation nodes and choices into an XML file, and associate visuals and audio. These could stand on their own but fit nicely as activities within an Articulate shell.

Another example... I'm working on a course to help accelerate learning Morse Code and international maritime signal flags independantly. I could do this with slides but I'd really rather build a drilling system that leverages repetition, speed, and variability. So I'm building a little game I'm calling AVC Hero (similar in some ways to Guitar Hero) that scales challenge with level of mastery. This would be nie impossible using PPT / Articulate alone. But I'm able to do some pretty sophisticated stuff that should provide endless variability and some neat scoring mechanisms / media for engagement and propel the experience into compulsion to reach my goal of fluency at the level of reflexive automaticity.

Flash is great for sophisticated activities and things that would otherwise be really painful or impossible using standard tools. It isn't good for everything (in fact much of the Flash we see in eLearning isn't leveraging the real power of the tool). 

Simon Perkins

Hey Steve

I dig the conversation engine "thing" - so versatile and engaging when encouraging the learner to branch off and explore.  Does Flash enable you to capture certain responses, e.g. check box responses that can be acted upon later in the "movie"?  Just thinking about how an interaction like this could provide some resultant output to the learner based on an aggregate of their choices.  Then again, I'm probably getting ahead of myself.  

And the Morse Code stuff sounds cool too.  

Are you basically embedding your productions as SWFs (into specific slides) and using AP to build the remaining course around them?

Steve Flowers

The Articulate shell doesn't change state on screen change. Taking this into consideration you are able to leverage global variables to retain state / choices for application in other slides. You could also make clever use of Javascript for the same purpose. For example, capturing preferences or choices and applying these to another Flash movie on another slide. This is possible and not that complex to pull off. The only drawback here is these may not necessarily be available between sessions (retaining choices after closed) if you don't use some special magic (shared objects (SO) - or Flash Cookies).

That's a pretty accurate description of my approach. I base my designs around anchoring activities. I like those activities to stand on their own but when they can fit into a structured package (ala Articulate) it's a real bonus.