Have you ever been kicked out of a good story by a small detail?
But sometimes I find myself in a book that fails to make the world of that story believable. It might be too many grammatical errors or something that is inconsistent. I might keep reading if the plot or characters are interesting enough, or I might give up on it if I think the quality of the writing gets in the way of the story. Either way, my experience as a reader does not match what I was looking for when I picked up that book.
When creating eLearning, you are building a world for learning. Teaching software or system skills via eLearning can be a great way to teach users how or what to do with that tool to get the outcome they need - solving the problem that led to using that tool in the first place. It’s a great way to provide practice for specific skills in a safe or guided way.
But as the eLearning designer and developer, you have to be meticulous in recreating that tool’s environment for the eLearning to have a hope in being effective. And to do that, you need to capture the right screen shots in the right way.
First, let me say that if you have access to Captivate and/or Storyline, you have options to make screen recording easy in preparation for developing eLearning. However, there are pros and cons to automatically generating these simulations, which we'll save for a discussion for another day.
What about when you need to capture images directly because you aren't using the simulation features of the authoring tools, or you have Subject Matter Experts helping you set up scenarios and capture the right screens directly?
I'd like to share a process for capturing screen images to ensure consistent results that help build your software eLearning world.
What size are your screens? What size will your eLearning project be? You need to answer these questions before you get started. Ideally, you would determine a consistent size for the images before you begin authoring your eLearning.
You want to make sure the size and zoom are the same in every screen in the same activity. The aspect ratio is an important part of this equation. For example, if the eLearning is using a 16:9 ratio (or standard HD widescreen to match most displays these days), you might want your images to be 1920 pixels x 1080 pixels or something smaller with the same ratio of height to width.
As a developer, I know this and I know how to set up my screens to make it work right, using tools I have available (i.e., usually either Camtasia or Captivate). But on a recent project working with SMEs who didn't have those tools, we learned that it can be quite challenging to standardize the size of the window when different SMEs are capturing screens for different scenarios.
When I capture my laptop monitor with screens maximized to fill the whole space, the images are a 16:9 ratio, which look great even when scaled down and fill the HD widescreen project without any adjustments. However, my external monitor is off from that slightly, so maximizing the window does not get the screen size results I want.
So you may have to do some creative problem solving to find the best size for your screens and eLearning project. What is most important, is that once you find the right size, to use the exact same settings when capturing screens within each task. If it's slightly different from one lesson to another - your learners will most likely not notice. It's that one click to the next change that needs to be precisely the same size, zoom and aspect ratio.
Think Like a Technical Writer
Before you start capturing screens, make sure you know what you need to capture. Think like a technical writer to try to identify every different iteration of the screen, working through all of the minutiae for the task you want the learners to practice. It may be best to capture all of the screens for one lesson or task in one capturing session to minimize the risk that something is off slightly from one screen to the next.
When capturing menus, the eLearning will need to show before the menu is selected, the drop down menu open, and the results of the selection. So you may need more screen shots than you think. Some of this can be corrected with editing in SnagIt, but it may be easier to capture more than you need and just not use the unnecessary ones.
Here's a checklist for your capture session process:
Then you can use the images in your eLearning project just like any other image file. I hope this process helps you build effective eLearning! Let me know in the comments if you have other suggestions I didn't cover.