How best to create e-learning for a software application

Mar 07, 2011

Hello all

I have many years’ experience as a trainer and course material writer, but am new to e-learning.

I need to produce 5 – 20 seat hours of e-learning that explains how to use the complex software applications my company produces. I presently have Powerpoint slide decks and learner guides for instructor-led versions of the training. Based on how I deliver the course in the classroom, I’d expect that, for each section of the course, I’d need a Powerpoint slide or two to introduce the topic, then a short demonstration of using the application to achieve the required result, then maybe have the learners practice the skill in a lab using the software itself (plus some quizzes and interactive pages).

I have been evaluating software for the task. I really like Articulate Presenter (and the rest of the suite) – it’s fast and intuitive, works with Powerpoint and has a great user community. However, it doesn’t seem capable of recording screen action from a software package.

I have previously made short videos to demonstrate some software features using Camtasia, which worked well. It seems that I can embed Camtasia videos as .flv’s in an Articulate presentation, although I am still experimenting with screen resolution to get a usable result.

I have also looked at Captivate, which seems to offer the screen recording and annotation functionality I need, but looks more difficult to learn and slower to work with than Articulate.

I have also found a couple of web pages suggesting it’s possible to integrate Captivate demos into an Articulate presentation. I am prepared to go down this route if it’s the best way to work. Or maybe there are other options...

What I’d like to know is if anyone else has created e-learning similar to what I need to produce and how they did it. Any comments or advice would be much appreciated.


23 Replies
Jeanette Brooks

Hi Lindsay, and welcome! You could certainly use a screen-recording tool to record your demo videos and insert them into Articulate Presenter. In fact, we offer a free web-based screen recorder called Screenr, and it allows you to create as many videos you want, up to five minutes each. You can download the unbranded MP4 and insert it right into your presentation. This tutorial shows how to insert a video into Articulate Presenter. We love Screenr, and we use it every day for our own tutorials and demos.

If you use a different tool to create your video demos, that's fine too; Presenter supports FLV, MP4, or SWF. If you opt for an interactive SWF though, it needs to be ActionScript 2 or earlier. ActionScript 3.0 movies can be used but you need to insert them as a web object instead of adding them to your slide as a movie.

As far as the screen resolution, you'll have the best quality if you create your videos or screen captures at 720x540 or smaller, since that's the default size of the PowerPoint slide stage. There is a way to include movies up to 980x560, if you opt for the no-sidebar view of your course player. Here's a blog post that shows how to do that, and here's an example of a presentation where that technique was used (the first slide is in standard view, but after that the remaining slides are videos with the wider orientation).

Kristen Hull

This might not be the best place to post this, but I've worked on both Articulate and Captivate for software training.  Articulate is definitely easy to use and works perfectly with PowerPoint.  Having said that, I had a lot of trouble creating interactive courses.  Again, this is about learning a software application; I would definitely turn to Articulate for soft skills training.  Interactivity is possible with some creativity, but it wasn't the same as having the learner actually work with the application (as if they were in class).  This is really the strength of Captivate-software simulation.  The learner can click or type as you describe the actions (and they can watch a demo first, if you want). Then they can practice again without an audio track.  if they click in the wrong spot, you can display a hint.  I learned the basics of Captivate in about a day using a workbook that my work provided.  It definitely is more tedious to create an end product than Articulate, but it gives me exactly what I want for learning an application.

I still love you, Articulate! 

James Brown

Lindsay I happen to be doing the same thing and what you will need to is create videos to explain the tasks or use Power Point with animations to explain how to accomplish something. Break the program up into job sets. Does one person need to use the entire program or do different portions of the program require use by different individuals. I think video may actually be the more logical choice for demonstration purposes. Then you need to create scenarios for learners to practice their skills. When I began, I first did an analysis to find out what things does a learner need to demonstrate in order to have learned what it was that I had presented. I think Captivate would or Articulate could accomplish this task. However there is one screen capture tool I evaluated a long time ago called Qarbon.  To be quite honest, I thought Qarbon blew the doors off Camtasia. One very nice features about Qarbon are the pause buttons. I.e. you can play a video and then at a certain point an object appears. Until the user clicks on the box, they demonstration does not proceed and in my opinion, it gives the end user complete control over the pace of the training.Anyway if you haven't tried Qarbon, give it a shot. It may be what you are looking for.

Chris Fletcher

I use Captivate embeded in Articulate for a lot of my system training. I'd have to say though that I dont think it's ideal. Nothing beats having a training version of a system where users can go in and learn and make their own mistakes.

You can build up quite a good alternative fairly easily using Captivate and Articulate together though. What I tend to do is use Articulate for the soft skills side of the training, and back that up with a 3 tiered approach using Captivate embedded into Articulate:

The Demonstration - To show them how to do it

The Simulation - To allow them to try it themselves

The Assessment - So they can try it without any guidance.

In my training, the learner doesn't have to do all of these, but they can if they want to. That way you're catering for different learning types.

I recently trialled Camtasia, and as a screen capture tool, it is fantastic, But what Captivate does better than anything else I've tried is allows you to simulate a system, putting the user in control of their actions. Bed this into Articulate using Web Objects or Flash, and you get the best of both worlds. You just have to be careful not to make the Flash file too small so that users struggle to read it.

In summary, in my opinion, Articulate and Captivate - not exactly a marriage made in heaven, but a pretty good couple!!

Robert Kennedy

Hey Lindsay & Kristen,

Money & expenses aside, there are definitely strengths in different bits of software.  In the past, I have simply embedded a Captivate screen capture inside of my Articulate slide to get those features that Kristen mentioned.  Of course due to AS3, this doesn't work as neatly with Captivate 5 now.  But for quick demonstrations, since you would have to bring in a movie anyway, whether, Screenr, Camtasia or Captivate, I would really just go with the easiest option for me and what works for my learners the best.


Hello all,

this is my first post in this forum, i have been thinking to study elearning development. But I think we need to think a way forward, since we already have something in hands to use. 

As far as the awards are concerned, Aritucalte is the quick development of tutorial, Captivate is best product for simulation. If you are developing a tutorial for tenth class, you will need a articulate, but if you are developing a tuturial on how to use photoshop, then you will need captivate.

Both are best, but in different category .. I have learned little bit by reading the whole thread.

Gabriele Dovis (italgo)

Lindsay Ball said:

Hi all

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm overwhelmed by the number and helpfulness of your replies.   I'll work through what you've all said, try the various links, and post something more when I've progressed.


Hello Lyndsay,

you'll learn about the enormous power of the Articulate!

Ben Boozer

When we needed a simulation to display in Articulate player I did the following with Camtasia 5

  • Set the display to 1024x768 or 1280x1024 depending on your setup
  • Set Camtasia to record full screen
  • Make sure that zoom feature is not turned on, nor anything that marked the target click areas
  • Make sure that the cursor is not recorded
  • Record the software steps from start to finish, ignore any mistakes made during the recording
  • Edit the recording
  • Set the new project height and width to the size you need for articulate (720X540?)
  • Under resizing options make sure the top option is selected
  • Make sure you video preview window is set to 100% Scale
  • Add a manual zoom-n-pan at the start of the video
  • Under Advanced, set the Width and Height to the dimensions of your Articulate project (720x540)
  • Play the video in the larger window until the area of interest has moved
  • In the little preview window, drag the zoom-n-pan window to include the area of the screen you are interacting with

Now what you have is a perfectly scaled crop of the full screen with the area you need the user to interact with.

  • Under the File menu, select Save Frame As..
  • Leave the filename as is (timeframe of the video)

Simply repeat the steps above, moving the zoom-n-pan window and then saving the frame. Now, you have a bunch of images where you can add hotspots AND they all look crisp and clean. File size is much larger because you are throwing away massive amounts of unnecessary video so the user experience is better. Heck, put the images in a PowerPoint with hotspots and publish as html if you want.


Lawrence Williams

Vincent D said:

Hello all,

Has anyone ever used Snagit for screen capture and then embedded it  in Articulate?  If so, how did it work out?



I just started doing this with Quizmaker and it's worked out great for the most part.  A few of my images were difficult to read initially, but I found a video on YouTube that gave a great workaround (edit the player template so that it resizes the browser to fill screen & scales the player to fill browser window).

Here's a link to the video:

As to the initial post- I use Camtasia to record brief demos (5-10 minutes max) and then integrate them into Powerpoint to provide any additional info needed.  There was a post in the old Articulate forum that gave recording settings that have worked well for me:

Andy Bowyer

If I can devolve this for a second, and go back to Camtasia -vs- Screenr, in my humble (and arguably unqualified) opinion, Screenr wins HANDS down.  I did the 30 day trial of Camtasia several months ago, and while it generally performed "as advertised," it ultimately crashed my new (and reasonably powerful) laptop after about two hours solid use.

..."Crashed" may be understating things just a bit, by the way.  "Rendered useless and turned the processors into gelatinous waste" may be more accurate.

Screenr is a dream to use--even for someone more aurally inclined such as myself--and has given me *zero* problems.

Oh, and welcome to the forums, Lindsay.  There are some FABULOUS people here.


James Brown

I've been using Camtasia for approx. 4 years. What can I say, it's a memory hog. Should say it's a real glutton. They came out with a thing called Jing but SCREEN-R is definately superior and it's a nice, easy to use tool.  I typically use Camtasia to snag news clips for firearm safety courses but to give a video a quality look, I'll actually use Premiere Elements.

Sheila Bulthuis

One word of caution about screenr:  For at least a few moments, whatever you record is publically available.  It’s a very short window as long as you publish, download, then immediately delete – and unless someone knows you’re recording and is actively looking for your recording, it seems to me the chances of anyone seeing it are really slim.  But if your company/client is very sensitive about security, this may be an issue.  I love screenr, but I have one client who absolutely forbids its use because of this.   It wouldn’t have occurred to me that it was even an issue until they said so.

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