Authoring tool review: Lectora 16
Shaping the future of learning
Lectora - a powerful off-the-shelf authoring tool that can create everything we dream up and design, both visually and functionally. The recently released version, Lectora 16, publishes out responsive content - one of the first of the off-the-shelf authoring tools to go down this very welcome road. Lectora now works on pretty much all devices and browsers, from the latest releases down to older browsers like IE6 (by using different versions of Lectora).
The WYSIWYG authoring tool
Our clients often use Lectora themselves to build their own courses and also to maintain and update courses we create for them, and with an ever-growing client base, Kineo has been using Lectora more and more. Lectora was always a great choice of tool for those who wanted a course with HTML output, to work across multiple platforms and devices. Lectora 16 has the ability to produce a responsive course without a small army of tech wizards and Front End Developers. This means meeting the expectation of viewing courses whenever, wherever and on any device has been made easier.
There are two versions of Lectora: Desktop and Online (cloud-based), with files easily used and interchanged between versions. Lectora is a WYSIWYG authoring tool that uses 'actions' and variables to build standard or bespoke courses easily. It publishes out to HTML5, SCORM (1.2 and 2004), TINCAN/xAPI, AICC, CD-ROM and standalone executable.
Build it once with new responsive design functionality
Lectora 16’s Responsive Course Design (RCD) allows a course to be designed and built once in the desktop layout and, to quote its creator Trivantis, ‘Content in the desktop view is automatically responsively positioned and sized for landscape and portrait views on tablets and phones’.
This works up to a certain point, and is very much the case when using out-of-box templates and layouts. However, with bespoke courses, certain hierarchical rules have to be overridden so that courses look and function in tablet and mobile layouts, as you can see here.
Courses built in previous versions of Lectora can be imported into Lectora 16 and made responsive – obviously a fair amount of work will be needed to perfect them, as described above, but it could be a good investment.
A new feature in Lectora 16 detects which view the learner is in: desktop, mobile portrait, tablet landscape etc. This can allow us, for example, to alert the user to view a page in a particular viewport, or even determine whether the user needs to perform an action in a particular view but not another to complete the page. Pretty cool.
We have created a prototype build to test and understand its capabilities and limitations, what it can and cannot do. The testing has gone really well and with just a couple of issues to iron out, we will be taking and using the prototype templates into new projects. Here’s a little sampler of how it looks:
A question screen
A tabbed screen
Any content that runs past the set height of the screen means the page can be scrolled down to view it. This, of course, gives us the option to create responsive long scrolling pages of content, as well as responsive page-turning content, should we need to.
Visuals and effects give Lectora 16 a boost
Along with a wide range of templates, games, scenarios and characters from the eLearning Brothers library, one of my favourite recent additions is the ability to edit images and style them within the tool itself. Borders, reflections, shadows, cropping, rotate the image, all very welcomed new features. Built-in custom animations bring extra jazziness to builds, with nice entrance and exit effects that work well on all devices.
What else is new?
A new addition to Lectora is a free plugin called BranchTrack. I have seen the tool demonstrated and it looks great and very quick to use. It creates branching, conversational based, scenarios really easily, that are then dropped onto one page of Lectora. They look great and I will certainly be trying this, as soon as possible.
All video now uses a HTML player, rather than the old flash player - as such, all video can play on all devices. Now it’s HTML5, I can layer objects on top of video and create bespoke responsive branching video pages, to work across all devices. Adding closed captions to videos is very easy, as well as timed triggers to show and hide objects in the page, outside of the video. We can create custom skins for video too now, so branding these to clients Art Direction is a big plus.
Customisable test results are new and improved. The results can be automatically shown, responsively of course, with very little developer input apart from a bit of styling. An automatic question review feature allows for the results page to show how the user answered all questions, and the user can be linked back to any question.
Using ‘status indicators’ on menus has always been the job of the Developer to ensure the course tracks correctly. This is a half-day job to implement, to test, and make sure it’s bang on. A new feature adds these in automatically - little work needed on this now. Excellent.
Some room for improvement
Simulation training – Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline are ahead of the game for this. Captivate more so. Although possible, using screenshots and manually adding in the simulations the user will take to complete a page, it can be quite time consuming . Using Camtasia you can record on-screen interactions to demonstrate actions, but maybe this is an area Lectora can step up in, to try and rival Captivate's excellent standard in simulation training.
A regular complaint for Lectora projects is the transition between pages. With pros and cons, Storyline publishes out to one file (potentially resulting in large file sizes and slight delays navigating) so transition between pages is a much smoother experience and look than Lectora. As Lectora publishes out to single HTML pages, a white flash sometimes occurs when navigating from page to page. This is simply the browser loading each new page. Hopefully they find an out of the box way to improve this.
From the RCD prototype build our testing team raised the issue that the navigation buttons were sometimes not in view on screen and had to be scrolled to see them. Although this isn’t a major issue, and in a way should be expected to view a course on mobile or tablet, I’d love to be able to click a button to fix images and buttons at the top of the course, so it’s always in view – like our Adapt builds and even most websites, now.
Summary & what’s next…
Whats around the corner for Lectora?
cmi5 is the new xAPI standard. This is coming soon, I believe. Lectora is working alongside ADL to create these standards and ensure Lectora works straight away to it, with custom verb creation. This will give Lectora, as an authoring tool, an advantage in staying ahead of the other authoring tools out there.
Shapes and graphics are soon going to publish out as vector based graphics. As these courses can now be viewed on high resolution devices, this is important so no blurry images creep into our builds. A nice feature to come.
A new feature to come is something they are calling a ‘single page publish’ – this, I believe, is going to get round an issue hindering many courses. Video and audio cannot start or be played automatically on iPhone or iPads due to the security feature – it needs a button to be clicked or touched, for example. Trivantis say audio and video can be played automatically on page showing, should you need it, with this feature.
Developing RCD in Lectora is going to be different to Adapt. It will just be the developer doing the work – no FED or Tech needed. Unlike Adapt, where changes can be made once to fix stuff globally, in Lectora any changes to positioning or functionality to any screen types, after work has started on it, means the changes would need to be replicated on ALL instances of them. Potentially very time consuming.
I can’t stress it enough that the emphasis on time and effort should be put into the prototype for any new project. Get it signed off and perfect, which will in turn save you time, effort and tears later on in the project cycle.
Now that Lectora 16 has made it possible to create a responsive course with HTML output, without much technical experience, I’m sure it won’t be long before we’re delivering great, bespoke and responsive courses to clients that they can maintain themselves and use to build their own work. Looking forward to getting my hands on a proper project using this tool now, so potential clients… come on, hurry up!