Captivate has always been an option for recording your screen and automatically generating different types of eLearning based on those recordings. But did you know that it also records video demos?
As a freelancer, I often have some flexibility and discretion on which tool I use to do a project. I have used Camtasia for screen recording videos since 2011. I've also created videos with Captivate for some projects, when certain aspects of a project suggest that it would be a more efficient tool for the job. But I hadn't ever tried the video demo functionality until recently.
Let's take a look at the different demonstration and simulation options before detailing the video demo option.
Before you record a demonstration or simulation, you can set Global Preferences to customize your recording and resulting slides.
In addition to these global preferences, you can set the style of objects to use for text, success shapes and captions, failure shapes and captions, hint shapes and captions, highlight boxes, text entry boxes, rollover areas, and smart shapes. These work in conjunction with your Object Style Manager to set the type, font style, size, color and other aspects of the items that will be generated in addition to individual screen shots. Use these options to save lots of time in getting the project to look how you want it to look.
Captivate makes it simple enough to start recording with just a few clicks, so even beginners can get a successful recording right away. However, as a robust tool, there are many nuances and steps to finessing a recording process that we're not going to cover in this blog post.
The Video Demo option in Captivate records a smooth motion video rather than individual slides like it does for demonstrations and simulations.
Unlike some aspects of Captivate, there's not much need for addressing complicated settings before you start recording. You choose the working folder location and whether or not to record mouse movements. In the recording window, you select the size and whether to snap to the application window, region or a custom size. You also choose whether to include panning, audio, and the webcam. (So you don't have to be talented enough to record yourself and the screen at one time after all.)
But Captivate doesn't exactly record what you do in real time, which provides some interesting options for modification.
For the separate recording from the webcam, you can resize and re-position it, but you can't crop it. If set up before you start recording, you can pick a different background, though I found it didn't do a great job of cutting me out from my office surroundings. Maybe if I had a backdrop with greater contrast or a green screen, that would look better.
When you end your recording, it plays automatically, with a tiny button labeled Edit to access the editing features. You can also process and upload the video to YouTube directly from here if you don't need to edit it.
However, in addition to the editing options listed above, you can add text, shapes, highlight boxes, images, animation and characters to the video. You'll publish it to your computer with options for controlling the video quality (like frames per second). You'll end up with an MP4 file that you can use just like any other MP4 file. Or you can import the CPVC (Captivate Video Composition) project directly to a slide, working it into a bigger eLearning project.
The Interactive Video options to use overlays and return to a position in the video from elsewhere via bookmarks (such as for quiz remediation) introduce some great possibilities for learning. These are new as of Captivate 2019, but that's a topic for another day.
But with the coming “knowledge tsunami,” the time has come for single-sourcing to be applied to content creation everywhere. Marc Rosenberg reports in his October 17, 2017 article in the Learning Solutions Magazine on an IBM prediction that “by 2020, knowledge will likely be doubling every 11 to 12 hours.” He says: “Establishing processes and priorities for curating and managing knowledge within and outside your organization will help you become more efficient and your knowledge products...become more effective and valued.”
Single-sourcing is one of the most powerful processes available to prepare you for riding this wave.
“Establishing processes and priorities for curating and managing knowledge within and outside your organization will help you become more efficient and your knowledge products...become more effective and valued.”
The existing definitions of single-source publishing are often dry, nerdy and use complicated words. You can get explanations from Wikipedia, MadCap Flare (one of the providers of technology supporting single-sourcing), or this one by the CEO of another technology provider, Paligo. These definitions will probably make your eyes glaze over if you're not a nerdy technical writer type.
I used this utility to make sure I could explain single-source publishing as simply as possible.
To boil it down to the essence, single source publishing is a way of writing once for many uses. It takes a bit of work up front to write in a way to use it again, and another bit of work to store the content in a way to make the pieces easy to find later.
But the payoff for the added set up is an exponential increase in efficiency and productivity. You can maintain the content pieces in an agile way to keep up with your product changes, and assemble deliverables ranging from white papers to knowledge base articles to training materials in minutes.
Single source publishing is a way of writing once for many uses. Writing and storing the content takes a little extra work at the beginning, but pays off in increased productivity, with more efficient updates across multiple outputs and audiences.
Though write once for many uses takes some up-front work, the techniques are not complicated.
A good overview starts with a summary of Anders Svensson's 5 principles*:
It is possible to over-complicate the design for reusing content. I once had a client who wanted user guides for multiple modules of multiple products with multiple licensees. As I implemented his requests one-by-one over time, the documents I'd inherited ended up getting so complicated that maintaining what amounted to hundreds of pages of content needed to be a full-time job rather than a once-every-update outsourced project.
However, in the new subscription service landscape, these principles of single-sourcing are vital not only to documentation, but to every aspect of an organization’s content creation, from customer education and success to sales and marketing.
The most successful companies will master these methods of reusing and sharing content across their organizations.
* Rosenberg, M. (2017, October 17). Marc My Words: The Coming Knowledge Tsunami. Retrieved from Learning Solutions Magazine: https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/2468/marc-my-words-the-coming-knowledge-tsunami
* Svensson, A. (2016, January 13). The 5 Principles of Single Sourcing in Technical Documentation. Retrieved from LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-principles-single-sourcing-technical-documentation-anders-svensson/
In a previous article, I mentioned Learndot, ServiceRocket, and Donna Weber of Springboard Solutions as providing some helpful resources as you start thinking about creating your customer education strategy. They've teamed up together and recently launched the first run of Customer Education University (CEU).
They plan to run this Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) several times a year, and today I'd like to present it from two different perspectives.
It is a great resource for customer success professionals who want to focus on customer education and need to learn the vast amount of details to consider in training customers online. I learned quite a bit in the course, some of which I will share throughout the article.
However, what I find even more valuable is how we can learn from it as an example. There is value in providing self-serve education on product features - and the return for an investment in that kind of content can easily be measured in reduced support costs, easier customer onboarding, and more renewals and upsells. But the value of also educating potential users within the industry on how to do their jobs better goes well beyond reduced support costs and into a realm of marketing and scaling in an exponential way.
Many of the CEU lessons spend time discussing why it is worthwhile to invest time and resources into customer education. But the course also has a nice mix of 101-style high-level conceptual overview along with specific tactics you can implement as you move through the process of educating your customers in a scalable way.
The course runs for six weeks and consists of a live one-to-many webinar each week, plus additional assignments of reading and watching related recorded webinars. I'll give a high level overview of what the course covers.
Getting Started - Week One
The Getting Started week presented learning and best practices that ServiceRocket has gained through their partnership with Gainsight, their integration with SalesForce, and their work with their customers as they measure the value around customer education. Their experience consistently shows that better educated customers make better, more informed buying decisions and have higher conversions. When customers are more successful at achieving their business outcomes from increased product utilization, they have an increased Net Promoter Score® (NPS) and ultimately provide greater revenue for the company. Donna Weber's addition to what ServiceRocket has learned comes from her years of building and managing successful customer education programs for companies. (Donna ran the webinars starting in week two for this first cohort of the course.)
Defining Your Strategy - Week Two
Week two was all about defining your strategy. Where is your company on the maturity model? What types of courses would best link what your customers most need with what will best support the company goals and is actually something you can do, given current skills and resources? I had seen before many times the Enterprise Software Training Maturity Model, with its phases of reacting, performing, scaling and optimizing, but during this week, I had one of those "aha" moments that goes hand in hand with an agile methodology of course development. Get something your customers can use out there, even if it's rough around the edges, and iterate and improve from there. It's good to have a strategy for where you'd like to be, but don't let that ideal version keep you from starting wherever you are with what you can provide right now.
Building Your Offering - Week Three
The third week of CEU focused on defining and building your offering based on what your customers need and balancing that with the reality checks on build ratios. Instructor-led training (classroom, even if it's online) can take between 20 and 60 hours to develop and deliver the content for 1 hour of learning. The ratio for eLearning is even larger, depending on the quality of the visual media and complexity of the interactions. This week's webinar included lots of practical tips including recommendations to talk to your customers, create a minimally viable product, using a phased approach, communicating with stakeholders, repurposing content in different formats, curating content and scheduling update cycles.
Go To Market Plan - Week Four
The Go to Market Plan module of the course stressed strategies for pricing, marketing and selling your customer education offering. Even if you plan to make your training available to customers for free, you can position your efforts within the company so that the value of those offerings are identified. Otherwise, you won't get the resources needed to be effective or the program is vulnerable to being cut altogether. The business model of your customer education team generally aligns with the company maturity model. Wherever you are, it's important to track the costs of development and delivery and if possible, the money coming in not just as sales for the training itself, but the savings and sales indirectly associated with the training.
Metrics and Technology - Week Five
Week five - metrics and technology - discussed technology categories, like the learning management system (LMS), course development and authoring tools and other needs for training your customers. That week's webinar also addressed measuring the impact of learning as well as the impact of business. While Excel can be a good tool for tracking in the beginning, you'll quickly want something a little more sophisticated. Don't build your own system - there are plenty of tools out there (including Learndot, and I was impressed that this week didn't turn into a sales pitch).
Moving to the Next Level - Week Six
I'm proud to share my certificate from the first cohort of students, and will refer to the lessons when I come across different scenarios with different clients.
And that's what I mean by a good example. It wasn't a course about how to use Learndot. But it didn't have to be. I'm sure they will iterate and make the course better each time they run it. And for companies who are a good fit, Learndot can use this course to generate some well-qualified potential customers.
Adam Avramescu has provided another great guest post. This one is a bit longer, but worth the read!
Adam is head of the Customer Education program at Optimizely, the world's leading experimentation platform. The Optimizely Customer Education program is called Optiverse, where customers learn about more than how to use the Optimizely product features, and includes a knowledge base, academy, academy live, community, and certification. I met Adam at the Learning DevCamp 2016, happy to meet someone in a conference full of training professionals who also focused on training customers vs. employees.
By the end of 2013, Optimizely had filled the major gaps in its Knowledge Base and produced several high-quality videos that helped customers self serve more easily. But support tickets were still on the rise, and we were hearing a common theme from many segments of our customer base: “It’s great that you have knowledge articles, but we want to learn Optimizely from beginner to advanced. Show us the path to value.”
My background is in instructional design, so this theme really spoke to me. It was time to get to work on our first Optimizely Academy.
In many ways, this felt like the situation that Geoffrey Moore describes in Crossing the Chasm, where technology companies and products move from a user base of self-motivated early adopters to a more risk-averse majority. Users in the majority group are less willing to assume the risk of adoption technology sight unseen, are less tolerant of bugs, and prefer both social proof and more detailed training or instructions.
As Optimizely crossed the chasm with its customers, so did our learning materials. But you don’t just create a full learning center overnight, so here’s how we got to the first version of what we now call Optiverse Academy.
The Big Dig: Training Content Excavation
Before we even put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, anyway) on a concept document for our academy, we wanted to get a sense of the core path to value for new Optimizely users. We knew there were different roles at Optimizely delivering different training sessions, but there were a few problems:
We decided to do a trial run of the content by hosting three different training webinars, pointed at the core skills that we taught customers as they onboarded with Optimizely. We gave them value-oriented titles and had subject matter experts on our Customer Success team deliver the content. We called this series “Optimizely Launchpad,” and the three courses offered bi-weekly were:
Note that, at the very least, we tried to make our content more about workflows and best practices -- not just product training, but some focus on how you can more effectively use our product to do your job.
We didn’t market these sessions to our entire customer base, so attendance was low, but we also used the webinars as an opportunity to refine the content so we could record it and post it online. Now, our Customer Success team at least had something to point customers to as a learning resource.
Minimum Viable Academy
Sometimes when I speak to Customer Education leaders who are tasked with building a program from scratch, they say, “I really want to build an academy for my users, but I can’t get the budget for an LMS approved.” Good news -- you don’t need to, as long as you understand the tradeoffs.
We designed and built the first iteration of our Academy on a second Zendesk Help Center instance over the course of four months. With those two restrictions (no new software, and four months to get to release), we made some deliberate decisions about what we would and wouldn’t include. Here’s what made the list (and, maybe more importantly, what didn’t).
We said YES to:
We said NO to:
After we released this first version of Academy, we saw engagement steadily grow as CSMs referred customers to it during onboarding, and from in-product promotion. Within the first few months of launch, our Academy was receiving roughly 500 unique visitors per month, representing roughly 10% of Optimizely’s customer base at the time. Considering that Academy was designed primarily for onboarding users -- not mature customers -- we considered that a healthy number for our first version. But more importantly, we learned from the feedback they gave us, as well as which lessons they tended to engage with most and least.
Today’s Academy is hosted on a real LMS called Docebo, and the interface and UX is much different from that first version. We’re also offering multiple avenues for training, including live sessions and custom, private trainings, but our Academy continues to be the most scalable platform for customers to learn at their own pace.
How were we able to justify continued investment? Well, in addition to the adoption metrics I mentioned above, our Academy was a piece of a bigger launch -- our combined customer portal, Optiverse. Optiverse made a meaningful impact to our business when it first launched, and has continued to mature since then. I’ll get more into those details in a future article.
To answer the question of why develop eLearning targeted for your customers, I'll ask another question:
How did one company get a 380% increase in upgrades?
Wishbone developed an on-demand training hub designed for customers and prospective customers to learn how to use the product. "The majority of SaaS companies have gotten customer success all wrong" reports on Thinkific's research into Saas companies like Wishbone that are using customer on-demand learning to reduce churn and grow revenue.
It's all about providing an online experience to "every single new customer - hundreds and even thousands of times over, without the need for 1 on 1 resources." (Miranda Lievers, Thinkific)
Customer-focused eLearning takes customer success activities like knowledge base, forums, and help desk activities that are reactively pulled by customers when they hit a wall or have a problem and goes a step further to proactively push learning to customers to help with their success. This kind of content can turn customers into loyal advocates for your program.
The investment in this type of eLearning may be less than you think. Compare that cost to the potential savings in time and money spent wooing and training customers, and the question isn't why eLearning for customers; it's why not?
While I've created many "show me" tutorial videos for software companies, providing eLearning designed for customers is a relatively new thing. I wanted to do a trial of Articulate Storyline's software simulation capabilities, while continuing my comparison of the two types of educational products.
Following on my example from last week, I'm showing the same task, but in this example, the user gets to try the skill instead of just watching it. This can be great for customers who need to learn how to use certain software features, but are afraid of "breaking" the data in their system.
I'll start with a caveat. I'm not happy with the quality of this output. The point of using Storyline's screen recording feature was to save time. But this isn't publish-quality in my book. The video clips that looked fine in preview mode have morphed into something in the hosted project that is too distracting. But rather than halt my planned investigation here on the blog, I thought I'd show it as is and go from there. I'll provide a better quality example soon. (You can view the project here.) This sample was meant as a rough and quick example anyway, but the quality problems mean I'll have to rethink my process for this type of educational product.
The big-picture process for creating this type of product is similar to the process for creating show me tutorial videos I explained last week.
1. Task analysis
2. Instructional design
4. Template and layout design
5. Development of activity and full context
6. Produce to platform for sharing
The obvious difference from the tutorial is that this example doesn't include narration. Instead of the script and recording steps, I spent more time on the instructional design to figure out how to best engage the learner for maximum knowledge retention and skill transfer. That's why I've included the Q/A at the beginning that helps the user understand why part of this task is important.
This example also doesn't include much in the way of template/layout design or development of the full context. It's really more of a prototype. But the point of a prototype is to get the idea behind the activity across to the project stakeholders before spending resources on development for something that isn't going to work.
I love the idea of software simulation. They are much more fun that watching a video. However, they do take a bigger investment of time and money to develop, so it's important to weigh the potential return on your investment.
You might consider the cost of your support staff - are they answering the same types of questions over and over that could be handled with an interactive learning experience instead? Would you like to get away from doing the same webinars over and over and spend your time on more valuable activities? What about certifications? Would your users pay to be trained in your software because of the gain in skills it provides them? These and other questions are a great starting place for determining whether software simulations deserve a place in your approach to training customers.
So what about you? Let me know in the comments whether you love em or leave em.