Product Promotion Network

Articulate Storyline 2

Editors' Choice

The best eLearning authoring[1] tools typically fall into one of three camps: tools that offer excellent video creation and editing, tools with highly templated courses and quizzing, and tools that offer free-form, outside-the-box coding and design functionality. One of the best eLearning authoring tools on the market (and one that excels in all three categories) is our Editors’ Choice tool Articulate Storyline 2 (which begins at £1,398 for one license). Articulate Storyline 2 shares the Editors’ Choice designation with Trivantis Lectora Inspire[2] in this roundup.

Articulate Storyline 2, which is based heavily on the design and text-based principles of Microsoft PowerPoint[3], is as easy to use for authoring beginners as it is for HTML5 web design experts.

Pricing and Plans

The basic £1,398 version of Articulate Storyline 2 is a local file downloaded onto your desktop. Course files created in Articulate Storyline 2 can be stored locally or uploaded to your online training software[4] for cloud-based use. If you prefer to work directly in the cloud, then you can also download Articulate Online[5], which is the web-only version of the Articulate family.

For an additional £559, you’ll get access to the next version of the software when it becomes available, as well as priority email support, unlimited live web chat support, and unlimited live screen-sharing with Articulate support personnel. For an additional £979, you’ll get access to the next two versions of Articulate Storyline, or for an additional £1,328, you’ll get access to the next three versions. Both upper-level tiers offer all of the previously mentioned support options.

This is among the higher-end of what you’ll pay for content authoring software. For example: TechSmith Camtasia Studio 8[6] starts at only £299, but you’ll only get access to video editing software with no free-form quizzes, no embeddable webpages, and no customizable activities, all of which come standard with Articulate Storyline 2. Competitor Elucidat[7] charges £7,500 for three author licenses, which is the highest price we’ve seen in the market so far, but you won’t be able to use your webcam or screen recording functionality to create impromptu video or software demonstration courses.

This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker–you can use third-party tools to create videos or screenshares–but it’s definitely something worth factoring into your cost analysis. Unlike Articulate Storyline 2, Shift eLearning[8] offers customer-friendly pricing based on your own specific eLearning needs. The company offers a free trial, which can be used by one person to create one course of up to 120 HTML5 screens.

The first tier is £1,200 per year for one user for up to three courses of 120 screens each, or you can become a “Power User” and gain access to an unlimited number of courses of unlimited length with 30 reviewers who can comment on and make suggestions to your training content. Shift’s Enterprise plan is the biggest and boldest plan we’ve reviewed. With it you geth access to three users, 30 reviewers, an unlimited number of courses, and nearly endless scalability, but pricing is customized.

Unfortunately, Shift doesn’t let you load content you’ve created in other tools (for example, Microsoft PowerPoint), you don’t get access to survey tools or webcam recording functionality, and you can’t include embeddable webpages in your course content. The pricing options are a plus, but the limited functionality is something to consider. H5P[9] is a free, open-source[10] tool, which is great for one-off content creation, but it lacks the rich multimedia functionality you’ll experience with most other content authoring tools.

It’s great in its own right, but it plays in an entirely different class than Articulate Storyline 2.

Features and Functionality

More than anything, Articulate Storyline 2 is designed with Microsoft PowerPoint users in mind. Its course creation layout is a near-replica to what you’ll find when you open Microsoft’s presentation tool. This is useful for many reasons, the most important of which is that so much existing human resources and compliance-based course content is already saved on someone’s hard drive as a Microsoft PowerPoint file.

With Articulate Storyline 2, you can simply upload your old decks, pop in a few simple quizzes, and boom, your course content has been modernized for online and interactive use. You can also use the tool to create long-form quizzes based off of content that already exists in Microsoft Excel[11] files.

Articulate PowerPoint

Additionally, the homage to Microsoft PowerPoint makes Articulate Storyline 2 easy to pick up and use. Anyone who has ever created a slide deck can leverage their knowledge to author basic courses and quizzes without having to master a new program.

If you’ve never used Microsoft PowerPoint, well, then there will be a learning curve, but you’ll essentially kill two birds with one stone, as your Articulate Storyline 2 experience can double as Microsoft PowerPoint practice.
When you first log into the tool you’ll see six tutorials to get you started. Articulate has more than 350,000 eLearning members within its free online community.

So, if you’ve never used Microsoft PowerPoint or Excel and you’re worried about getting started, then the community offers additional tutorials, e-books, and videos for improving your Articulate Storyline 2 and eLearning skills. On top of the rich design functionality that already exists within your typical Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, Articulate Storyline 2 offers a mind-boggling number of interactive elements that learners and quiz-takers will love. For example: The tool’s slider feature lets users choose a distribution of resources or numbers by sliding a bar from side-to-side.

So, if your question was, “How many bagels equal a dozen,” then you could start the slider at zero, end it at 20, and the learner would have to drag the slider to exactly 12 in order to receive a correct answer. The tool’s easy-to-add buttons let users click on course content to make selections or move content forward. Buttons can create layers that drop information above slides.

They can trigger what Articulate calls Markers, which let you put text, image, and video within slides that appear as pop-outs above the original slide. You can force learners to click on all buttons and Markers before they can click the next button to move forward, or you can pre-select correct and incorrect buttons to make learners click on the right answer before proceeding. Buttons can appear anywhere on the slide, they can take any shape, and they can be any size.

Articulate Storyline 2 Hotspot Quiz

Drag and drop slides let learners relocate images from one section to another.

By simply pre-defining a drag zone, you can determine where learners must put objects in order to mark their selection as correct. As with buttons, drag zones can take any shape, and they can be as large or as small as you like.
Articulate Storyline 2’s number variable tool lets you ask users to input multiple numbers that then get factored into a decision.

For example, if you wanted to determine how healthy the learner is based on how they answer a predefined set of questions (for example, how many hours of sleep do you get each night, how many drinks do you have, etc.), then you could pre-determine score ranges for healthy, unhealthy, sickly, and then add the responses up for an overall health score. Articulate allows you to build triggers into your slides that allow users to essentially choose their own adventure through course content. You can build a sequence of triggers and possible actions from a drop down menu that you’ve pre-built.

The learner’s selection of a button or a set of data will trigger the next action and so on and so forth. This simple templating allows for the creation of complex learning paths without any programming involved at all. Motion path learning takes users on a journey within a single slide.

For every right answer, the user goes up one step. For every wrong answer they go down two steps. This might sound like a simple enough feature, but because Articulate Storyline 2 is so heavily templated and pre-mapped, creating a motion path can be done in minutes, especially if all of your photos and videos have been pre-loaded into the system.

You can also embed webpages within the course. This ensures learners never leave the course to gain access to external information. So, if you wanted someone to research software on PCMag.com, our website would appear within the context of your Articulate Storyline 2 course within your learning management system, as opposed to a separate tab or window in the user’s web browser.

Articulate Storyline 2 offers 20 different quiz types, which offer multiple subsections each, all of which are plug-and-play. You can choose from free form quizzes to survey quizzes to hotspot quizzes, which makes people pick a zone on the slide as a correct answer. If you’re not happy with the 20 quiz types and their subsections, then you can design your own quizzes via HTML5[12], or by just using plain text, as you’d do on any Microsoft PowerPoint deck.

The tool features the most exhaustive library illustrations and photos, all of which feature multiple variations and gestures. For example, if you need a photo of a female executive, then Articulate Storyline 2 will have multiple types of female executives–each of whom will have accompanying images in which they’re frowning, smiling, raising their hands, or with their backs turned.

Articulate Storyline 2 - Image Library

For companies that rely heavily on screen demos, Articulate Storyline 2 saves screen recordings as video files that can be added to any quiz or course. After you finish recording your screen demo, you’ll be able to retroactively change the duration of the presentation, and even adjust cursor movements so that you can make straight paths.

Let me repeat that: If you don’t like how you moved your cursor around during your demo, then you can use Articulate Storyline 2 to erase, shorten, or even replace cursor movement from your pre-recorded video. To test your learners, the videos can be added in view mode (which is passive viewing only), try mode (the user simulates your demo and the video gives feedback), or test mode (where users are scored as they follow and try to replicate the screen recording). When you switch the video from try mode to test mode, the software automatically generates hotspots for correct answers and automatically removes the cursor from the video.

Incredible.

Articulate Screen Record

If you’re worried about how any of this will look when it gets to the learner, then stop worrying. You can preview your course at any point without exiting the tool. The Story View option also gives you an overview of your project.

You can collapse slides and sections into “scenes” so that you can work directly between slides with existing relationships. And, like Microsoft PowerPoint, you can drag and drop slides to change the course’s order. Unlike Microsoft PowerPoint, Articulate Storyline 2 lets you see the branching of the story, rather than just a linear breakdown.

This gives you a better multidimensional view of how your learning path will line up regardless of the route your learner’s take.

The Bottom Line

If you’re wondering why there are no paragraphs depicting frustrations or errors, it’s not because I didn’t try to find any, but rather, Articulate has streamlined the content creation process, and it’s anticipated almost every imaginable course creation use case. Articulate Storyline 2 is smooth, well-designed, and it makes life easier for course creators and learners alike. It packs more functionality into one system than any other software we reviewed in this category, and it does so deftly and without any overbearing technological or navigational complexity.

The one major caveat is that I’ve used Microsoft PowerPoint extensively throughout my career. This experience gives me a tremendous leg up on anyone who might try to use Articulate Storyline 2 cold. Would the tool be exponentially more complex if I’d never used Microsoft PowerPoint?

Yes. But that complexity would be on par with all of the other tools we reviewed in this category, most of which are difficult but not impossible to learn within a week or two of use. That ease of use combined with its comprehensive feature set makes Articulate Storyline 2 the obvious choice for one of our two Editors’ Choice tools for eLearning authoring software (the other being Trivantis Lectora Inspire).

Articulate Storyline 2 - Template Menu

Articulate Storyline 2

Editors' ChoiceArticulate Logo

Bottom Line: If you’re looking for the best eLearning authoring tool on the market, look no further.

Articulate Storyline 2 has it all.

References

  1. ^ eLearning authoring (www.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ Trivantis Lectora Inspire (www.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ Microsoft PowerPoint (www.pcmag.com)
  4. ^ online training software (www.pcmag.com)
  5. ^ Articulate Online (www.articulate.com)
  6. ^ TechSmith Camtasia Studio 8 (www.pcmag.com)
  7. ^ Elucidat (www.pcmag.com)
  8. ^ Shift eLearning (www.pcmag.com)
  9. ^ H5P (www.pcmag.com)
  10. ^ open-source (www.pcmag.com)
  11. ^ Microsoft Excel (www.pcmag.com)
  12. ^ HTML5 (en.wikipedia.org)

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