Responses to Request for CBT Tools

Subject: Responses to Request for CBT Tools
From: Jon Leer <jleer -at- LTC -dot- MV -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 09:35:34 -0400

I recently requested:

<What are the tools of choice today for developers of CBT? Can these
<incorporate video and other media?

Here are a few sound bites (anonynmous as requested) that were received:

One of the better programs for on line training is Top Class by WBT
Systems, inc.

I highly recommend Quest Net+ developed by Allen Communication. It's an
easy to use authoring system with full multimedia functionality developed
by instructional designers.

With some assistance from their helpful technical support I was able to
develop a superb tutorial which simulates the software developed by the
company I work for. Even though you don't need any programming skills, some
knowledge of C will allow you to complete just about any task.

A full demo version is available free of charge so that you can test it to
see if it meets your needs. You can download it or request their CD-ROM.
They will also send you their tutorial booklet if you ask for it. It's
available as a Word document as well.

Check out their Software and White Paper pages at
http://www.allencomm.com/.

>There is almost nothing that can't be done using:
>-HTML
>-JavaScript
>-CGI

(THIS GOT CREATED SOME CONTROVERSY.)

Doesn't the purpose of the document and the customer drive the document's
production? Yes HTML, CGI and Javascript can do a lot, but that doesn't
mean
they are the appropriate tools for the job.


>I have yet to see a CBT type program written in something like MacroMedia
Director that is pedogogically sound for teaching SKILLS.


hmmm, the basic skills I learned that relate to writing and that directly
affect my writing (researching, design and layout, editing, writing,
proofreading) are not computer related in the least. I consider the
programs
I use as tools to help me achieve the end result. Part of my job as a
technical writer is to know what tools are best to complete the job at
hand.
Sometimes I have no control over what tools I have to use.


You can't do ALMOST EVERYTHING with html, java and
cgi. They are not rich enough to do a lot of work at a professional level.
They may never be. Nor should they necessarily strive to be.

I recently created an interactive kiosk for a client who required us to use
html, et. al. In the end, I think he was disappointed in it. It was too
static and boring. I was not able to control placement of text and graphics
to the degree required for such a project. On the other hand, the same
client loved a kiosk I created for him a few years ago using an old version
of Multimedia ToolBook. It was dynamic, highly interactive, and attracted a
lot of attention (even from the Mac crowd!). Also, a CBT I developed for
another client could not have been as sophisticated using only html, et.
al.


There are several major programs:
1. Macromedia Director
2. Macromedia Authorware
3. Asymetrix Toolbook (toolbox, something like that)
4. Aimtech Icon Author
5. Aimtech CBT Express

Listed from best to worst (IMHO) they are:
1. Aimtech CBT Express
This is the best program for the beginner. It writes all the code, no
programming whatsoever involved. You can learn it without going to classes
and it already has tests set up for you. It also comes with a ton of
backgrounds. If you want to get rolling in 3 months, this is the program
for
you. It is very simple and easy to use. There are things with this that you
cannot do, some limits, but you won't need these things for a few years.
2. Macromedia Authorware
This is perhaps the best CBT program on the market, however, it is not easy
to learn. It requires some schooling, some algorithm planning, and you must
make everything. CBT Express comes with a ton of pre-done buttons,
graphics,
etc. This does not. It does however, have a ton of flexibility that is
unmatchable. However, if you expect to be up and running in 3 months,
forget
it. It will take someone at least 6 to 8 months, or more to get it going.
It's the type of program you graduate to.
3. Aimtech IconAuthor
This is the exact program at Authorware, just a different company.
Basically, it's the same product, but different enough not to get sued.
Authorware is mostly used in the West, IconAuthor in the East of the
Mississippi. Again, you have to create everything.
4. Macromedia Director
This is a great program, however, it is not a program that you can easily
create quizzes or tests on. It's made for presentations and the movie
industry. They use this a lot on Star Trek. You do, however, have to know
how to program to do this. A ton of coding and programming required for
this. If you expect to be up and running, it will be in about 9 months.
Much
schooling required.
5. Toolbook
I've heard some real horror stories about this program. A ton of
programming
knowledge required for this. Playback has a lot of snags. I've heard a lot
of complaints with this. I won't touch it if you paid me.

Those are the biggest sellers on the market. Go with CBT Express for
starters. It's cheap, it's easy, it's proven, and it works.


In no particular order:
- Macromedia Authorware(?)
- Asymetrix (formerly Aimtech) IconAuthor
- Asymetrix Toolbook

As far as I know, ToolBook and IconAuthor can incorporate many multimedia
types. I don't know about Authorware.

When a company can afford to spring for Macromedia Director, it's the #1
choice. It can include video (they call them MIAWs, Movies in a Window). It
can produce Shockwave, the most commonly owned multimedia
Navigator/Explorer plug-in.

For more information on this product, see http://www.macromedia.com.


CBT Express *is* a very easy program and a great way to learn CBT, but
its limits were much more "limiting" to us. Our biggest problem was with
graphics -- we got some nasty palette shifts when using our own graphics
(scanned photos, etc.) with the CBT Express graphics (backgrounds,
buttons, etc.) and Aimtech's "solution" (upgrade to the newer version of
CBT Express) didn't work. While it may have been caused by our own
ignorance, it still took a lot of tinkering to make the graphics work.
Since the original poster was interested in incorporating other media, I
think this is important.

I am not a CBT developer, nor do I play one on TV. Hoewever, my company
is currently evaluating Macromedia Authorware for a possible upcoming
CBT project. I have a demo CD that allows you to create very limited
presentations and comes with a tutorial. Granted that I have no basis
for comparison, but so far I have been impressed. It seems pretty easy
to use, and does allow you to incorporate sound and video and the like.

We obtained the demo CD from a local dealer. Here is the contact info
for Macromedia listed on the CD...

To upgrade or order (in the US) 1-800-457-1774; (Canada) (801) 224-7400.
For more information, including a free Showcase CD with demos and trial
versions of other Macromedia products, call (888) 945-3430, ext M10 or
visit http://www.macromedia.com/software/authorware/.


Anyway, thanks for the responses.

Jon Leer
Leer Technical Communications
603-644-8627, 644-8628 (fax)
jleer -at- ltc -dot- mv -dot- com

Better Communication Means Better Business




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