Author Archives: eNerd Tracey

About eNerd Tracey

Tracey is the Manager of Information Engineering (Instructional Designers, Tech Writers, and Translation) as well as an Instructional Designer for Cincom Systems, Inc. in Cincinnati, Ohio. She specializes in eLearning design and development for online tutorials. She's been part of the training and development industry for over 30 years.

Still Designing Software Training Like It’s 1999?

Prince’s 1999 album was released back in 1982, 17 years before 1999. At that time, some people thought that the world might end at the turn of the millennium, with the U.S. stockpiling nuclear weapons and taking a firm stance against the Soviet Union. So, Prince’s song lyrics, “… party like it’s 1999,” meant party like it’s the last party of your life.

Well, we survived Y2K. Computers throughout the world didn’t crash, and there was neither Armageddon nor nuclear war. We moved on.

From Adobe Stock

There’s one thing for certain, Prince’s song was looking to the future, not the past. It was looking 17 years into the future. So, how does this relate to learning and development? Are you designing your training for the future or the past? Specifically, does your software training look like it was designed in 1999? Perhaps it’s time, or past time, to move it to the present and look to the future.

If you look at some of the software training from 1999 (and before that), you’ll see that a lot of software training was designed around software navigation and was menu-driven. There’s no better way to put learners to sleep than to place menu-driven software training in front of them. This is true for both instructor-led training and eLearning. Base software training on menus puts learners into a deep trance.

Why is menu-based learning a bad design for software training? Menus are created for navigation, not for training. As humans, we use software to get things done. We have certain tasks we need to complete, and that’s all we want to use our software for. We are not using the software to “enjoy the menus.” The menus are just tools that enable us to get to what we need in order to perform a particular task. Most business software is created to help users complete certain tasks. For example, inventory systems are created to help businesses manage and keep accurate records of their assets. Payroll software is created to help businesses pay their employees. These are all tasks that must be done. So, since our learners need to know how to do certain tasks, it makes sense that our software training should be task-based instead of menu-based.

Task-based learning involves asking which tasks users need to know and which tasks they use most often. Then, design the training around those tasks. Users will still learn how to use the menus, but just as a means to get to the tasks that they need to complete. Task-based learning involves immersing students in real-life situations so that the transfer of learning makes sense when they return to their jobs and apply what they have learned. Then, the learning makes sense.

Another issue with menu-driven software training is that it leads learners to think all menus are treated equal when some of the menus will only be used occasionally, if ever. If a menu isn’t going to be used very often, reference documents and Help are sensible alternatives. We shouldn’t try to teach every single nuance and feature in a course; it overwhelms the learner. However, by teaching the main tasks that will be used most often, learners will become familiar with the menus they will need most in order to get to the tasks they need to perform. If there are lesser-used, but important tasks that need to be taught, they can always be added to the course or to an advanced course after the most-used tasks are covered.

But what about the future of software training? Sure, course content should be task-based rather than menu-based, but with our ever-changing technology, we need to look to other options for the future of software training.

In a Utopian world, we would design our software to be so intuitive, that students don’t have to “learn” how to use it; they just use it. Software tools like Pendo, WalkThrough and UserIQ help guide users through tasks and enable them to see new features so they don’t have to go through software training. However, make sure that the methods in which you’re using these tools are still task-based, not menu-based. Whether it’s using one of these types of tools, having learners complete a class or eLearning, task-based learning is still a much better choice and a more effective way to learn software.

Take a close look at your software training. Does it look like it’s from 1999 or 2020? Is it more menu-based or task-based? Is it in need of a redesign? You can improve the learner experience and help make the transfer of learning easier by designing your software training as task-based learning.


The 1960’s called, they want their training back!

How are you designing your training these days? Does it look like training did in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s? Times have changed, keep up. Get your training up-to-date! It should not only look good, but it should be effective. Train for today’s world, not yesterday’s.

There is no excuse to be using old methodologies, old design and old technology for training. Those of us in the business of Learning and Development strive to help learners learn. But sometimes we might be the impediments to orchestrating learning. The more poorly-designed training and eLearning out there, the worse it looks for our whole industry. The more crap training we put out there, the more people avoid attending training or going through eLearning. Some have started resisting “pushed” learning like the plague. Don’t give training and eLearning a bad rap, redesign your old stuff.

People like Julie Dirksen, Michael Allen, Clark Quinn, and Will Thalheimer started preaching this stuff when they wrote their Serious eLearning Manifesto back in 2014. They worked hard to get people on-board in order to produce more effective training. Kudos to them for bringing this to light. Part of effectiveness of learning is producing training for today and not yesterday.

Just when I see so much good and progress in our industry of learning and development, then I see so many examples of careless design and training thrown together and they call it training. Poor design and totally ineffective. Stop wasting people’s precious time. Come on, let’s all get on-board and turn this around.

What We Heard: The Three Big Buzzwords and Phrases of 2015

The year 2016 is almost upon us. Now is the time to take a few moments to reflect back on 2015.

This past year we once again saw strides being made in eLearning. Certain buzzwords we started hearing over and over again this past year. Some of these terms should sound familiar:

  • Millearnnials
  • Microlearning
  • The Myth of Learning Styles

Millearnnials, yes, Millearnials, not to be confused with Millennials! Millearnials are corporate tech-savvy workers of all ages who look down upon traditional learning environments and old-fashioned eLearning. This cross-generational learners want to use their smartphones and tablets to enable them to do their learning. They want media-rich and extremely relevant content in their learning experiences.

Lesson learned: It’s not just the Millennials who want to learn by mobile and through microlearning (see below), it can cut across generations.

Microlearning is a way of teaching and/or delivering content to learners in small, short specific chunks. To me, this is not a new, method of teaching and content delivery, we, as many of you probably agree, but, the term seems to be new. I seemed to have learned a precursor to this type of teaching back in my college days when one of my professors used to say, “The mind can only absorb what the butt can endure!” In that case, for classroom training, he was saying that you can only learn in class for the amount of time you can sit. When you’re uncomfortable, the class time should be over. Apparently this saying must have had some impact on me because I still remember it! Anyway, in the YouTube age, many of us want content in short, small edible bites so that we can learn short topics in short periods of time and we want it on demand. Instead of reading directions, we want to watch a video on how to do things and we don’t want a whole bunch of irrelevant content to get in the way. Here’s a great example, my daughter’s camera’s LCD screen broke when she dropped it. I could have sent the camera in to a camera repair shop and paid $150 USD just to get it looked at. But I found a YouTube video that someone from Germany had created on how to fix that very LCD screen with a part I could order from Amazon for less than $30. There was no speaking on the video, you just watched the close-up of how the entire process was done to fix the screen and put it all back together again. I did this, fixed my daughter’s camera AND saved a lot of money. When we create eLearning for our companies, we need to break down large topics into small, edible chunks in the same way. If we need to teach an enterprise software system, we can break it down into smaller tasks and create short, 2 to 3 minute videos or interactive learning bits to teach it in smaller chunks. This is what today’s learners and Millearnnials (see above) want.

Lesson learned: Present content in small, edible chunks!

The Myth of Learning Styles. Since I was a kid in school I remember teachers and even parents talk about a person’s “learning style”. And in college, working on my education degree, we learned that different people have different learning styles. That’s what we were all taught. Now we are told that was a myth, or more likely a miscommunication. This past year brought out a topic of discussion from the 2013 book, Visible Learning and the Science of How We Learn, by John Hattie and Gregory Yates. In their book they write about how the thinking of some people learn through words and others from images was never true. They wrote, “We are all visual learners, and we all are auditory learners, not just some of us. Laboratory studies reveal that we all learn when the inputs we experience are multi-modal or conveyed through different media.” I also find it interesting that if you google “learning styles myth”, you can find articles on that that go back to at least 2005 yet, we saw numerous articles that were published about it in learning magazines, newsletters, and blogs in 2015.

Lesson learned: Teach/present information and learning in a variety of ways.

Yes, 2015 was an exciting year for eLearning, and I expect that 2016 will come up with some new, different buzzwords and phrases to help move us along to get better trained for even more exciting challenges for the new year.

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The Time Has Come – eLearning!

A case for changing from e-Learning to eLearning.

Language is such a fluid thing. It’s constantly changing. It never stands still. In France, they have the Académie française that has the official authority on usages, vocabulary and grammar of the French language and to publish official dictionaries. These are basically a group of people who sit down and determine the use of words and how words change over time. We don’t have anything like that here in the United States. But the fact is, we have words that change over time—especially the ones that are used more and more frequently. For example, take email. Originally, it started out as e mail. Then it morphed into e-mail and now it’s changed into a “closed compound” word by eliminating the hyphen and becoming email.

Per The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, there is a “trend toward closed compounds.” They go on to say, “With frequent use, open or hyphenated compounds tend to become closed. …” Another example of this is “on-line” which has become, over time, “online.”

Apple takes this concept to a whole different level with their iAnything! They have their iPad, iPhone, iWatch and maybe tomorrow’s iLunchBox. They don’t hyphenate it. They imply high-tech with the use of a small case “i” in front of their products. We have already taken learning into high-tech and have been doing this for years and years. I’m not implying we should have iLearning; that will be held for Apple to fight for that one, I’m certain. But let’s update this overly-hyphenated word, eLearning, and update it for this millennium.

eLearning has been around long enough. Many have already switched to eLearning, like and eLearning Magazine. Meanwhile, there are those who use both and those who are stuck with the omni-present hyphen. I say it’s high time we move forward to eLearning. Enough time has passed; it’s time to put the hyphen to rest.

The train has left the station, so get on board. Besides, there’s also mLearning to contend with. But that will have to be for another day.

Test Your Responsive Content with Little or No Budget

Businessman with tablet

Source: iStock/Thinkstock

So, you have all of these great tools for creating responsive content like maybe Adobe Captiv
ate, Adobe RoboHelp, GoMo Learning or Elucidat, to name a few. But, let’s say you don’t have web space to run a good test with mobile devices. Yes, there are some mobile device simulators, but they may not be as accurate at testing mobile as you would like. Or, you could pay for website space just to test your content but, maybe that’s not in your budget. Well, here’s another solution: create your own FREE webserver for testing.

Yes, this is the eNerd part of me coming out! But, if you follow these instructions, you can have your free testing web server up and running in less than 35 minutes. This involves downloading and installing an open-source web server and using your laptop or PC as your web server. There are other tools you can use, but I used Apache Tomcat for my open-source server.

Here’s how to do it step by step.

  1. Download and install Java JDK if you don’t already have it on your machine. A quick Google search will find this. (Make sure you get the version for the type of machine you’re using. For example, I used a Windows 64-bit version.)
  2. Download Apache Tomcat. You can get this from I used Tomcat 8.0.
  3. Install Tomcat in its own directory (folder). Example of Tomcat directory
  4. Configure environment variables. Sounds hard, but it isn’t.
    For Windows, open your Control Panel and select System. (I’m using Windows 8, but other Windows versions would be similar.)
    Select Advanced system settings.System Properties box
  5. Click the Environment Variables button.
    Here you add two environment variables. Click the New button under System variables. Create the JAVA_HOME variable similar to the following . (You can copy and paste your JDK path here for the value.)
    JAVA_HOME variableNext, create the JRE_HOME variable in the same way. (Again, you can copy and paste your JRE path for the value.)
    JRE_HOME variableClick OK for both of the above variables, and click OK to close your Environment Variables box and once more for the System Properties box.
  6. If you have responsive content already created and ready to test, copy your responsive content folder and paste it under the webapps folder within your tomcat folder.In the above example, my eLearning content folder is called “DET_test”. I copied the entire folder under the webapps folder.
  7. Start your Tomcat server.
    Go to your apache-tomcat-version folder, then to the bin folder. Double-click the startup.bat file. This will open a DOS (command) box. Leave this open while you’re running Tomcat, but you can minimize it to get it out of your way.
  8. Find your machine’s IP address.
    Open a command prompt (Run – cmd). Type ipconfig and press Enter. Your IP address will display in the command box. Jot down your IP address; you’ll need this for your web content URL. Then you can close that command prompt.
  9. Test 1 – See if you can access your content from your own laptop/PC.
    Open a browser window and type the following for the URL:
  10. Test 2 – Test your responsive content from your mobile device.
    Note that you must be on the same network as your laptop. For example, when I do this at work, I need to use a VPN app (like Cisco AnyConnect for example) from my iPhone to connect to my work’s network.Open your browser app from your smartphone or tablet and type in the same URL as you did above.If this does not work from your phone, you might need to temporarily turn off your firewall on your tomcat server machine. Just make sure you turn it back on later.
  11. When finished, you can stop Tomcat by double-clicking the shutdown.bat file in your bin folder or just close the open Tomcat Java window.

Note that if you test on another day, your IP address could change, especially for a laptop that uses a dynamic IP address. You might have to use ipconfig again to find out your IP address on any given day. Also, you cannot use a machine name in place of an IP address with mobile devices. It will work on a laptop or desktop, but not with your mobile device.

I use this solution for testing our eLearning tutorials and our responsive help systems. You will probably see some differences between what you see on an iPad, for instance, versus an iPhone. These types of anomalies don’t typically show up in mobile device simulators. That’s why I use this method instead.

Try this solution if you need to test responsive content on mobile devices with little to no budget!

Ditch the Objectives!

What? Heresy! Oh my, you want me to do what?

In today’s world, we talk about making the learning process engaging for learners; in other words, making it “pop” for students. But, by constantly sharing objectives with learners, aren’t we making the learning process even less appealing? Let’s do more to make them snore!

No sign over ObjectivesIf you Google “learning objectives,” you’ll get page after page of entries on what they are, how to write them and how they relate to Blooms Taxonomy, etc., etc., etc. Objectives are important, but they are important to the instructional designer and how he or she designs and develops courses. Objectives do not need to be presented to learners. Why waste their precious time by burdening them with reading, or more likely, glossing over learning objectives? They will learn what they will learn. Telling them what they are supposed to learn is a total waste of time.

I am not saying that learning objectives are not important. Goals and objectives are the foundations of how eLearning and training should be designed, and they are a must for course design. But that is for the design and development; they do not need to be presented to learners.

How many times have you sat through training and were presented with a PowerPoint slide of objectives? Many start thinking, “OK, get on with the training already!”

Course Objectives Slide

Example of a snore-inducing objectives slide

Then, of course, at the end of the course or lesson, we also tell students what we think they’ve learned.

Course Summary slide

Example of repeating the objectives at the end of a course. Again, sleep-inducing!

I am not free from being guilty of this practice in the past. I think I had to go into therapy to rid myself of this bad habit. And as I recall, I think the 10-step program even included bullet point objectives!

It’s that old, outdated “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you’ve told them.” Stop it! I’ve even seen this carried over to eLearning. Stop this madness! There is no need to spell the objectives out for learners; get to the meat of your content!

Objectives should be used for design and development only; they are very valuable for creating courses and tutorials. They are also imperative if you are measuring the impact of the learning with a quiz, test, or a higher Kirkpatrick level of evaluation. However, don’t keep shoving them down the throats of learners—it’s a sure-fire way to put them to sleep.

(Updated 4/12/2016)

Your discussion on this topic is welcomed!

Captivate 8: Responsive or Scalable Software Simulation?

The process for creating software simulations has greatly changed over the past few years. Today most companies need to be creating software simulations that can be viewed on a variety of devices, including mobile. You might as well forget Flash output anymore.

Two exciting outputs for software simulation in Adobe Captivate 8 are Responsive and Scalable simulations for mobile-device learning. These both create an output of HTML5 so you don’t have to worry about them working on mobile devices. This means you can finally forget Flash output!

However, it might be a little confusing at first as to which you should create—a Responsive simulation or a Scalable one.

What’s the difference?

Both Responsive and Scalable simulations can be used on different devices for your mobile training, but the two are different when it comes to what your end-learner sees and in how you start creating them in Captivate 8.

Scalable Simulation

A Scalable simulation shows your entire captured screen on all three types of devices: computer screen (PC or Mac), tablets and smartphones. The screen is kept intact but just gets smaller for tablets and smartphones. A Scalable simulation is a good choice if you always want your entire screen recording to be seen no matter which device is being used to view your tutorial.

For example, below is the same portion of the simulation as it appears in estimated PC/Mac, tablet size and smartphone.

Scalable PC view

Once published, you are able to view the entire screen recording in whatever size device window. Above is an example of viewing it on a PC.

Scalable tablet view

Above is an example of how the same simulation would look on a tablet. Notice that the entire screen is still showing.

Scalable smartphone view

Above is an example of how the same simulation would look on a smartphone. This is when a learner would start squinting.

Note that when creating a Scalable simulation, you cannot scale it in Preview mode. You will need to Publish it first and then drag your window to different sizes to view how it will look in various mobile devices.

Responsive Simulation

A Responsive simulation allows you to show your entire screen recording for PCs/Macs, a smaller portion of the screen for tablets and an even smaller portion of the screen for smartphones. This is a good choice if a scalable simulation choice is too small to see on a smartphone.

In the screen shots below, you’ll see how different portions of the same screen recording are shown in Preview mode in Captivate 8.

Responsive view 1024

Above you see the entire screen in Preview mode for PCs/Macs.

Responsive tablet view

Above you see the portion of the screen in Preview mode for tablets. Notice that a smaller portion of the screen is shown for tablets.

Responsive mobile view

Above you see the small portion of the screen in Preview mode for smartphones. To smartphone users, this almost looks like a zoomed-in shot. But the good thing is, they can see a very clear portion of the screen (no squinting)!

Starting a Responsive or Scalable Simulation Project

As I mentioned above, you must start your Captivate 8 project differently based on if you want it to be a Responsive simulation or a Scalable one. This is something quite different than what we’ve seen in earlier versions of Captivate.

To start a Scalable simulation project, you can either select “Software Simulation” or “Blank Project” from the New tab. To start a Responsive simulation project, you must first select “Responsive Project” from the New tab.

New Project selection box

In either case, after clicking the Create button, you can add your screen recording anywhere in the project by clicking Slides on the menu. It then shows a sub-menu.

Slides menu

Note that “PowerPoint Slide” is unavailable in Responsive projects.

For either Responsive or Scalable simulations, you select “Software Simulation.” Then you would record your simulation just like you have in previous versions of Captivate. After you have recorded your simulation, the workspace is different between Responsive and Scalable projects. Responsive projects display the Primary, Tablet and Smartphone view tabs at the top of the workspace. Scalable simulations do not have this feature. This is why it is important to know which type of simulation you want to use before you start your project.

Responsive workspace

Above is the workspace for a Responsive project. Notice the Primary, Tablet, and Smartphone views.

Scalable workspace
Above is the workspace for a Scalable or regular simulation project.

Generating Scalable Software Simulations

To generate scalable HTML5 for your software simulation, when you click Publish, you need to select the “Scalable HTML content” checkbox.

Scalable Publish options

Working with Responsive Simulations

If you have created a Responsive simulation, Captivate 8 allows you to change which portion of the screen you show by dragging the smartphone or tablet window to the area that you want to show.

Responsive customizable window

Above I’ve moved the Mobile view (Smartphone) window to exactly where I want it.

Having the three views also allows you to change other things on the screen (like objects and text) so that it can be totally different between PCs and smartphones for example.

Summary and Hints

If you understand the output of both Responsive and Scalable simulations, it is easier to start a new project in the right way. This is a change for Adobe Captivate users who have used previous versions. Before, you didn’t have to think about output very much before starting your projects; now you do.

If you want to show the entire portion of your screen recording, no matter which type of device the learner is using, use a Scalable project (Software Simulation or Blank Project).

If you want to show different portions of the screen based on device, use a Responsive project.

From a Responsive project, you can go from a Responsive output to a Scalable output. However, you cannot do the reverse of going from a Software Simulation project to a Responsive project output. If you are in a Responsive project, there is a checkbox in Properties called “Use portion of background Image” that is selected by default for Tablet and Smartphone views. If you deselect that on either the Tablet or Smartphone view, the full screen recording is shown, which makes it like a scalable project.

Use portion checkbox

Above you see the “Use portion of background Image” checkbox is checked by default for the Mobile (Smartphone) view.

I love these outputs that you can find in Adobe Captivate 8. We can now easily create software simulations for mobile devices. The future is now.


Adobe Captivate 8 is a product of Adobe Systems, Inc. For more information, see their website at