How We Used Demonstration Authoring Software to Create Tutorials: Why Give the Same Lessons over and over Again When There Is a Fairly Simple Way to Create Online Tutorials That People Can Access on Their Own?

Article excerpt

Have you ever visited a Web site that wanted you to CLICK HERE for a demonstration of a particular product? Online retailers of all types encourage you to see their products in action before you buy them. And why not?

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After seeing a variety of these promotions, we started to think that libraries should be building training tools using the same software products that vendors use for marketing. Yes, people have lots of different learning styles, but generally we believe that most folks learn best when they can see how something works.

We work in the systems department of a large library at the University of Colorado. As the technology support unit for a library with six locations on campus and more than 250 employees, we are regularly called upon to create smart training tools. We decided to look into demonstration authoring software to see how it could help us to build a set of training modules.

Applications such as Camtasia, Captivate, or ViewletBuilder Pro can help you build or enhance library training programs quickly, easily, and cost-effectively. No matter what type of library you're in, the training audience is often large and varied. You might want to build online training tools for lessons taught on a regular basis by several different people in different locations. We did this for the circulation department that wanted a tutorial on creating new public patron records in our online system. Conversely, we also decided to build some training tools for tasks done only irregularly but by many people. We viewed these as refresher courses.

What Is Demonstration Authoring Software?

Demonstration authoring software is a tool for creating Flash-based multimedia movies. You do not need to know how to program or even how to create a Web page. The software does all the work.

Each demonstration authoring software package works a little differently, but the basic principles are the same. First you record the tutorial, then edit and enhance it, and finally publish it for viewing. We'll describe how we created tutorials in Qarbon ViewletBuilder to show you how easy the process is.

Step 1: Record the Tutorial. After we open a new project in ViewletBuilder, a software wizard guides us through a series of options, such as choosing the window dimensions of the tutorial. Then we select a "recording key" (any key on the keyboard) which signals the software to record the tutorial. We use the "`" key. Every time we press the "`" key during the recording process, the software takes a screen shot.

Once we have set these options, the window containing the ViewletBuilder software is minimized and an icon appears in the lower right corner of the screen. We can then begin the demonstration portion of the tutorial. If the title of our lesson is Changing a Windows Password, we would actually go through the steps of changing a password while pressing the recording key at regular intervals to capture the demonstration. When we are done, we click on the icon in the lower right corner of the screen to end the recording.

Step 2: Edit and Enhance. Now, the window running the ViewletBuilder software is maximized again and the tutorial appears as a series of screen shots displayed in a thumbnail format. (See Figure 1.) We preview the tutorial to decide what to edit. We can easily delete sections or even change a cursor path using ViewletBuilder's simple editing tools. We can also re-record segments of the tutorial and insert them into the project.

Next, we annotate the movie with text, images, and even audio narration. We can add interactive elements like hypertext links, text boxes, clickable regions, and multiple choice questions. These enhancements will let trainees interact with the tutorial for a more engaging learning experience.

Step 3: Publish the Tutorial. When the tutorial is complete, we save the file and choose "compile" on the file menu. …