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Deepali Potdar wondered: <<I am considering learning to use Flash and
wanted to take a quick generalized poll of tech writers. Do you use
Flash on the job? What do you use it for?>>
At a previous employer, our graphics guy used Flash to produce self-
running educational presentations on a range of topics. These seemed
to be well received by users of the products, but we performed no
formal testing to determine whether the learning outcomes were
favorable. In effect, we were producing the equivalent of PowerPoint
presentations, but for situations where our experts could not be
present in person to deliver the presentation and answer questions.
If you want to consider using these materials in your own work, you
need to perform an instructional design exercise: define what your
learning goals will be for the users of the Flash presentations,
determine how Flash can support or undermine attainment of these
learning goals, then redesign the presentation accordingly to
maximize support and minimize undermining. For example, it's tempting
to overuse animations in Flash. Animations work great to show
movement, but tend to be less effective for other purposes because
they can distract students from focusing on what is really important.
Similarly for cool soundtracks.
Because it's human nature to rate something interesting more highly
than something that appears fairly dull by comparison, you may get
good reports of the effectiveness from users of the product. That's
not necessarily relevant. People are certainly more likely to use
something they enjoy, but that something is only truly effective if
they also learn from it (i.e., achieve the learning goals). You may
thus have to balance attractiveness (so that a higher proportion will
actually use the product) with results (actually learning something)
to achieve optimal results.
And, of course, like anything else, you need to be visually skillful
to produce something other people will find attractive. Anyone who's
seen my wardrobe knows where I fall on the spectrum of visual
esthetics <g>, so I critique Flash designs, but don't create them
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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)