“Captivate” Your Audience: Tech Tips for Adobe Captivate

About Timothy Hackman

Librarian for English & Linguistics, University of Maryland Libraries. Member of LES since 2006.

[This is the first post in a series we’re tentatively calling “Tech Tips”–brief introductions or how-to’s on useful technologies for librarians. Thanks to Aline Soules for submitting this Tech Tip!]

When I wanted to experiment with module-making, I decided to use Adobe Captivate. When I started, I basically knew of three options:

I was fortunate to be a co-PI (Primary Investigator) on a small grant that we used to purchase Captivate and Camtasia to test our options.  Voice Thread we used for free, although our library has now purchased a Higher Education license.

So why did I end up using Captivate?  While it takes some learning, I ultimately found it easier to understand and use.   Not everyone would agree; a number of our librarians prefer VoiceThread.  I could also re-record the audio (not possible on Camtasia, at least at that time–I haven’t check it since).  This was important as I make mistakes.  Above all, Captivate is fully compliant with our accessibility needs.

The one caveat is that you need arrangements with your IT person to store your modules on an accessible server.  S/he can give you a URL that you can put on a web page or in a Course Management System so people can access it.

I am not the most tech savvy person you ever met, so it took me a good deal of time to make my first module (about 100 hours–now, my process is much faster).  Some of that was my learning curve, but my modules also tend to be long.  The longer the module, the more you have to manage and the longer it takes to prepare and implement, so I’d advise starting with a small module to begin.  In other words, try to do what I say, not what I did!

Step One:  Decide what you want to achieve.
Be specific.  For example, three of my modules cover citation, but each has a different goal.  Citation Puzzle focuses on where to find the information pieces you need to put a citation together.  MLA Citation Puzzle then takes those pieces and puts them together.  Both are demonstration modules.  Decoding citation is a module that looks at citations and tells viewers how to interpret them.  As part of this module, I have learned to include interactivity, so viewers must click on the answer of their choice.  So I started by learning the basics and now I add new features one at a time after I’m comfortable with what I can already do.

Step Two: Write a script and create your Images.
Captivate allows you to import images or use a template, but I have only imported PowerPoints, so I prepare my PowerPoints and then my script.  I know people who work in the other direction and I know others who move back and forth between the two pieces, but by the end, you need both.  The script should be structured “by slide” for PowerPoints and the PowerPoints should match the slides.

Step Three:  Find images.
You want images that enhance the idea of each slide and the more images you can use, the better.  I’ve had trouble with this for my citation modules because, of course, citation examples are text by default, but I’ve still managed to find images for as much of it as possible.  I did better with my Decoding Citation module and I find I improve with each new project.  There are free images on Flickr and elsewhere, and I always give attribution when I use anyone’s image, whether they ask for credit or not.

Step Four:  Import your PowerPoints.
Open Captivate and click “Record or create a new project.”  Click “Import from Microsoft PowerPoint.” You will be prompted to choose your file.  As I’m using Adobe Captivate 3, I must use version 97-2003 of my PowerPoints.  I assume (although I don’t know) that Captivate 4 will let you import version 2007.  Click OK and your PowerPoints will load.  Before you click to import them, be sure to choose “background image” (not animation) and “advance slide ‘automatically’” (not “on mouse click”).

Step Five:  Record Your Audio and Prepare Your Accessible components
I do these steps together.  This is the part that will take you a while.  It’s not intellectually that difficult, but it is “fiddly” and you’ll find that things don’t work, then you have to re-record or redo some piece of it.  I advise patience, if you have it (another of my personal challenges!)

When the PowerPoints are loaded, they will show up as thumbnails on the “Storyboard” tab.  This is similar to your PowerPoint Slide Sorter.  Click the “Edit” tab and they’ll move to the side with the first slide on the main part of the screen.

To record your audio, you will need a headset with audio and mike.  Click on “Audio” and choose “Record this slide” from the drop down menu.  The first time you record, you will have to check your levels, but you only have to do it once and it’s good until you close the program.  Use your script to read into the mike.  Don’t worry if you stumble.  You can re-record as many times as you like.  My other advice is to take your time as you read and leave appropriate pauses when you breathe so that you can find them when you do the closed captioning.

After you’ve recorded each PowerPoint, click on “Slide” and choose “Properties.”  The default sub-tab is “Slide.”  Click “Accessibility” and copy and paste the entire text for that slide into the box.  Click “OK.”  This is for the screen reader.  Next click the sub-tab “Audio,” and then “closed captioning.”  This can be the tricky part until you get used to it.  Click on the green plus sign and a row will be added.  Insert your text under “Caption.”  If you have too much text to show on a closed caption (more than 3-4 lines), you will have to open another row, then cut and paste the back half of your text into it.  Keep repeating this if you need more rows.

Now, on the wave forms, you will have to move the slider along and stop where your voice moves from the text in the first row to the text in the second row.  That’s when you’ll be glad you left some space, so the “flat line” or the “space” in the wave forms can give you a clue where that point might be.   There’s a magnifying glass if you need it.  There’s also a green line with an arrow to the right.  When you think you’re set, listen to your recording and watch to see if the sound and text are in sync.

More tips about this:
– if you have a long text that needs 3, 4, or more rows, work backwards.  It took me two modules to figure out that it was easier to do it that way.
– Once you have split your text into rows, listen to your audio before you start moving your sliders and watch the hour/minute/seconds.  Write down roughly the time that your voice moves from one text row to another.  This will give you another clue to help you find the right point on the wave form.
– Each time you place a slider, check that portion of the sound before moving to a new slider.  You can do that by sliding the bar underneat the save forms along to an appropriate point.  Listen until it crosses over the slider, watching to see if your voice and your row are in sync.
– Save your project after every slide you complete, just in case something goes wrong.  You don’t want to have to re-record  too many slides (again, spoken from experience!).

Step Six:  Save and Publish.
Save as you go along, but once you’re finished, save for the last time.  Go under the “File” tab and choose “Publish.”  You can choose where you want to save it on your hard drive or flash drive (if the flash drive is large enough–these modules take space).  Just click “Publish” (I never change the settings).  When you’re done you should have a file folder with four files in it.

Step Seven:  Upload it to a server.
Give the file to your IT person to load on the server you arranged before you started or follow whatever directions you are given to upload the file.  You MUST upload all four files and put them into a single file folder to make this module work.  Your resulting URL will be your “connection” point.

Step Eight:  Sit back and enjoy your module.
Modules go out of date (I need to revise my citation modules to reflect the new MLA citation format between now and the start of our quarter at the end of September).  I also have a shorter Topic Development module which I need to re-record because when I recorded it, my speaking voice was still recovering from surgery and a colleague told me that I sounded like Bette Davis.  But you are welcome to view what’s there.  Go to my English subject pages athttp://library.csueastbay.edu/guides/English and scroll down to the “How To” section on the right hand side.  Just click on your module of choice and make sure your sound is on.  They should load and play for you. You can always contact me if you want more information:

Aline Soules, aline(dot)soules(at)csueastbay(dot)edu. Have fun!

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3 Responses to ““Captivate” Your Audience: Tech Tips for Adobe Captivate”

  1. Linda Stein says:

    Enjoyed reading the Tech Tips article, Aline! Thanks. Very useful.

  2. […] September 21, 2009 at 9:15 am (Captivate, instructional_design) I haven’t used Captivate in a while, though I’d love to get back to tutorial creation sometime in the future.  In the meantime, the Literatures in English Section of ACRL has posted a great new Tech Tip to its blog, titled “Captivate Your Audience:  Tech Tips for Adobe Captivate.” […]

  3. Karen Munro says:

    Thanks for this great tech tip, guys! I’ve linked from my own blog, and will return for more!

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