Monday, April 30, 2012

Branching Scenarios in PowerPoint/iSpring Free

Branching scenarios or "choose your own adventure" types of tutorials can be an effective way to learn by trying, with feedback and do-overs. In my previous job, I used a combination of PowerPoint and Articulate to do this. Unfortunately, Articulate is really expensive. Fortunately, iSpring Free does the same thing for free!

To get started, create the PowerPoint with all of the options of answers as individual slides. I use PowerPoint as my storyboard because it is so editable, but some people like to make an outline in Word or even on paper or using sticky notes. Do whatever works for you to visualize the process and all the options the student may choose.

So, let's say you ask a question and then give 3 options. Have each of the options in a rectangle or whatever you want. Below is a very boring mock up of this. Hopefully yours looks nothing like this!

The student clicks on their option of choice and it takes them to the slide explaining whether it is right or wrong. So if they chose option 2, they'd skip the option 1 slide and go to option 2. Then on each of wrong the options, you'll need to have a BACK button hyperlinked to the question, so they could go back and try again. On the correct option, you would say "good job" and have a NEXT button for them to go to the next scenario/question. 

The key is to hyperlink the rectangles. Right click on the rectangle and choose Hyperlink. One of the options on the left is "Place in This Document." Then choose the slide you want the rectangle to go to. It helps if you have descriptive slide titles. 

You can record audio with the slides as you would normally in an iSpring/PPT tutorial. Then publish the presentation via the iSpring Free tab in PowerPoint. The resulting files can be put on the Slideboom website or right in D2L (they are small files). They are not streamable via YouTube or the university server. 

It is a good idea to explain to the students that they actually have to click on the images in the slide when they are making a choice, or they may just click forward and look at all the slides in order which would defeat the purpose! However, you may want to give the students the same information in another format, like pdf, so they can study easily after completing the tutorial. 

Note: this only works on Windows. Mac users could design the PowerPoint on Mac but then would need to use Windows to record audio, create the hyperlinks for the shapes/images, and convert it using iSpring. I tried recording audio on Mac and the moving to Windows, but it would only play the audio on click and it kept the speaker image in the presentation (not good). Also, I can't guarantee that the PPT will look exactly the same on both platforms (i.e., you may have to do some formatting tweaking when you get it to Windows). Let me know if you need access to a Windows machine with iSpring (if you work for UWEC :)

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