Here’s how Adobe Captivate 6 could have been a Game-Changer for mLearning


In writing my honest assessment of Adobe Captivate 6 post I knew going in I was putting myself out there and would invariably take some heat for sharing what I really thought about the new release. But I still went ahead and did it and even today after having further tested the new features, I stand by everything I wrote.

Having said that, it wasn’t my intention to offend anyone by what I wrote but I had such high expectations for Captivate 6 and was dissapointed, especially because of what Adobe as a company showed the world with their launch of the Creative Suite 6 and the Creative Cloud.

In case you didn’t read my thoughts on Adobe’s CS6 and Creative Cloud when it first came out, you can read it here. I called it a sign of the mobile times, because I believe they did so many things right around mobile throughout their 14 apps that make up the Suite.

I have also tweeted a lot about their Adobe’s new subscription plan, as well as the ease with which I can download, install, uninstall and reinstall apps as I need them via the Cloud. The idea that I can get all of this great technology from Adobe for $29.99 per month is a brilliant move and I applaud them for making it affordable.

So considering Captivate is an Adobe product, this is where my high expectations came from because I thought Captivate would follow suit and show the eLearning and mLearning community something awesome, something that would have made Captivate a game-changer, especially for developing great mobile learning experiences. I say mobile learning because this is my focus and this appears to be Adobe’s leading marketing message everywhere.

I was expecting something revolutionary in Captivate 6 and I feel all we got was something evolutionary, some might argue (including me) that what we got was something that should have been in Captivate 5 or at least in version 5.5.

Having said that, when I was watching the unveiling of Adobe’s CS6 and the Creative Cloud I was envisioning how Captivate could not only embrace but also extend the company’s mobile vision, especially as it pertained to developing Learning experiences for multiple screens.

In my years working for Adobe and Macromedia, one thing I learned was the importance of leveraging technologies from various products across the rest of the company. As an Evangelist I was always participating in presentations from other teams, always thinking how I might be able to leverage and repurpose innovations from other teams into my own smaller products. The idea is not to reinvent the wheel I always thought, but rather to work together as a team and push forward the overall company vision.

My point is that in order for Captivate 6 to have been a game-changer in mLearning, the team in India could have just looked at what other Adobe teams were doing and copy their ideas right into Captivate 6. That’s it.

True mLearning a la Dreamweaver CS6

Take for example how Dreamweaver CS6 is helping web designers develop adaptive layouts for multi-device publishing. If I had to pick just one feature in the entire CS6 product line, it would have to be the new Fluid Grid Layout functionality in Dreamweaver. It is simply awesome. It shows the team is on top of what’s important to the mobile world we live in today. With these features, Adobe shows thought leadership and stays highly relevant in the Industry by enabling users to embrace principals around Responsive Web Design.

In my personal opinion, I believe Responsive Design is the best way for us in eLearning and mLearning to develop learning experiences once and deploy them everywhere and on any device.

In case you are new to Dreamweaver CS6 or haven’t seen Fluid Grid Layouts in action as a way to create personalized web experiences for different screens, just take a look at this Adobe TV video. Obviously the video focusing on web design, but as you watch it, think about using these same principals in Captivate for mLearning.

I don’t know about you, but this is how I would have liked Adobe Captivate 6 to have addressed designing learning for multiple screens via a single project vs just a HTML5 check box in the Publish dialog box, which not only doesn’t work all that well, but it defeats the purpose of creating experiences that are consumed very differently from screen to screen.

Just imagine the ability to design Learning in Captivate in a similar way in which Dreamweaver implemented Fluid Layouts. One could start a Captivate project and then pick desktop, tablet and smartphone layouts for example and then use something similar to the Dreamweaver concept of the Fluid Layouts to create dynamic groups that would stay connected across layouts, for example the navigation bar and other similar components. This way, changes to that group in one place would automatically propagate across all linked areas. However you could position these layouts in different places for each screen layout, for example you could place the navbar group on the left for the desktop, on the top for the Tablet and at the bottom for the smartphone.

I hope you are still with me.

What about Previewing and Debugging across multiple devices?

This could get interesting. Of course one could just Preview in a Browser and then manually adjust the width of the browser to see the preview in desktop size, tablet size and smartphone size. But why stop there? Why not implement the amazing Adobe Shadow technology right into Captivate 6?

Adobe Shadow in my mind is one of the best pieces of technology to have come out from Adobe in recent memories. Shadow allows you to connect multiple devices to your desktop wirelessly and then as you browse pages on your computer, all of you devices display the same page accordingly. I use this all the time to test my Blog on my Mac, iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire and Droid 2. It’s awesome.

In case you are new to Adobe Shadow here’s a great video that shows how it works. Again think previewing mLearning created in this imaginary version of Captivate:

I think properly implemented into Captivate, Adobe Shadow could be an integral part of the mobile future of the product, especially as more and more mobile devices are introduced every day in the market.

What about Native Apps from Adobe Captivate?

Thus far I’ve only mentioned mLearning via the desktop and mobile web, but what about building native apps? Easy, Adobe acquired PhoneGap, which I would argue is one of the most solid HTML5 app platforms that allows you to author native applications with web technologies and even gain access to APIs and app stores. In fact Dreamweaver already has this implementation in CS6 so it shouldn’t be that difficult for Captivate to do the same.

Here’s a page with a video of how PhoneGap has been implemented into Dreamweaver CS6:

So if you are Captivate, now you have all the bases covered, the desktop and mobile web and native apps too.

I don’t know about you but that would have been a real game-changer for mLearning. At least I think so.

What do you think?


  • We had a recent project where our client wanted a desktop eLearning solution to work on the iPad. I didn’t personally design the course, but upon testing I commented that it didn’t make sense to have to tap the tiny “next” button in the corner of my iPad the way I would click it with a mouse on my PC. Technology such as fluid grid layouts could have enabled our developer to create the course much better for the iPad without breaking the client’s budget and having us bring one of our multimedia developers in the project. Great points here….hope we see some uptake.

    • rjacquez

      Hi Steve, right on. Thanks for your comment. There are many things that make sense on desktop but absolutely no sense on mobile, that’s one reason why we cannot just convert our eLearning desktop to HTML5 and call it mLearning. The navbar is the most obvious example. One size does not fit all in learning IMO. Thanks for sharing that awesome use case, my friend!

  • mark

    I agree with you in essence, RJ, but with a different angle. I think Adobe should just scrap Captivate altogether and just add some workflow functionality to either Dreamweaver (preferable) or Flash to facilitate developing elearning content. Flash has most everything there already except for the assets.

    Know why we don’t have ideal elearning development tools yet? Because my colleagues in the Instructional Design community are technophobes who, years ago and to this day, refused to learn how to write some relatively simple actionscript (or just copy/paste it from the web), or write some html/javascript. Instead they avoided the technology like the plague and forced vendors to make idiot-proof “rapid’ apps that mostly relied on PowerPoint with a plugin for publishing. Articulate had the simple sense to take that model and build a real community around it via a professional blogger (Tom K) showing examples and providing free assets (graphics, fonts, sounds) along the way. And their tool actually mostly works without major flaws. Example: it wasn’t until version 5 of Captivate where you could add simple text (via the Transparent Text caption) that wasn’t fuzzy! But the reality is that these tools are still too limiting, IMO. And no one has come up with a tool that works really well but is not so limiting. And before someone responds with the “PowerPoint isn’t limiting!” speech that Tom Kuhlmann kept saying for years on his blog – then why the need for Storyline? I thought we didn’t need ‘states’, etc?
    Right now and for the foreseeable future, Storyline is the primary option for us. ZebraZapps was so promising but they got into bed with the Flash Player and we know how that turned out. And that whole ‘ZappStore’ thing they’re pushing is wierd. Lectora’s flagship product’s approach tries to do it right but it’s buggy as hell. Captivate 6 is exactly as you hint at: just a collection of patched-together features in order to try to catch up with Storyline.
    In the end, years ago some wise folks told me to stick with html and javascript for developing elearning. They had just gotten burned by Adobe via AuthorWare (which, when you think about it, is STILL better than what we have available today…). I jumped into the Flash camp. Mistake.

    On a side tangent:How hard could it possibly be to make an app that takes a simple static screen capture and then allow you to overlay an animated mouse in a layer over top? In essence, that is the core functionality that Captivate has provided all these years. The rest is suspect at best – ugly captions? A horrible bastardized ‘Advanced Actions’ scripting system? It’s version 6 and they’re finally getting on board with a real templating system (aka ‘Themes’). LOL
    I’m just amazed no one else created a real competitor, as everything else is pure video-based and thus not really editable/maintainable long-term. But people are realizing that that maintainability is just not all that valuable a benefit versus simply using a tool that records video, real-time. It’s like the myth of ‘re-use’ that was all the rage years ago. Until we found that no one was getting much re-use….

    – disgruntled elearning guy : )

    • rjacquez

      This is awesome, Mark. Thank you so much for your comment!

    • Tammy Moore

      I do anticipate that the people that are career e-learning developers are using Flash and Dreamweaver, but I do think there is a serious market niche that Captivate reaches. I have tried to find the time to learn Flash for the last two years while also working with Captivate in the e-learning suite. I am an online educator. There isn’t much out there already for e-learning that isn’t custom made and our non-profit budget prevents custom solutions and our volunteer instructor design makes the coding learning curve too high. Other tools that I have looked at that are not too high in learning curve just cannot compare in what they can do. With the subscription pricing model, it lets us get the Captivate software for all while volunteers are developing their courses and then stop their subscriptions when they are done and then turn that money to the next volunteer that is developing their courses. Boxed copies for volunteers that develop for maybe a year just didn’t make sense. For those few of us with illustration backgrounds, we go with the e-Learning suite so those can develop the artwork for others that don’t have that talent. The e-Learning suite too can be subscription offering the same advantage as the Captivate. Like the porridge in Goldilocks, Captivate isn’t too hot nor too cold for us as non-full-time e-learning creatives.

      I haven’t yet tried Storyline. I have downloaded it, but then I looked at the price and decided that we couldn’t go there anyway so I never installed it. Storyline would have to be more affordable for it to be an option for us as non-full time e-learning creators. Perhaps if they started offering subscriptions as well it would be worth taking a look. If we do get a full-time e-learning development team going (a goal we have), as Mark said, if you are going to go full-time, you might as well be learning to code.

      • Tammy, it’s true, Storyline isn’t cheap. You wrote about a non-profit budget, so if you are an educator or work for a non-profit organization there is a 50% discount.

        • Tammy Moore

          Thanks for letting me know that there is a 50% discount. Adobe offers the discount as well, but I didn’t realize Storyline had it. I think that is incentive enough to install that downloaded Storyline installer and try it out. Though, if one of our volunteer instructors develops her course using a Captivate subscription for 12 months, it costs our non-profit a mere $240 for her course and then we can swing the subscription money to the next volunteer. If the same original volunteer does the same development with Storyline, even at the 50% discount, because it is a boxed copy the development would cost $700. We could pay for almost 3 volunteers taking the same amount of time to make their courses for that much going the subscription model. For the handful that will be using the e-Learning Suite because of the use of the art creation tools, the cost is more comparative. An Adobe eLearning suite course that takes 9 months to develop would cost us $540 vs the Storyline’s $700. Where the costs average out to be the same is boxed copy of the e-Learning suite to boxed copy of Articulate Storyline or if a subscription runs to 23 months for the Adobe E-Learning Suite it is a pretty level playing field. A 23 month access to a subscription is not impossible for our eLEarning Suite volunteers because they are doing more than developing their own courses. They are creating the art for the other volunteers as well. It is easy to say that at the 12th month with the full Adobe Suite (with the 50% discount) you would have been better to buy the boxed copy and that is exactly where I was in my thinking a few months ago. Then I realized that the subscription can just go to the next version which would be out in that time frame anyway now that Adobe is moving to yearly upgrade releases. With HTML5 landscape changing so fast and software having to keep up with the new standards, subscription makes sense for our volunteers using the E-Learning Suite and especially the majority of our volunteers that are just needing the Captivate to build their courses. The reality is that we will have to move forward at every upgrade to keep up with the HTML5 new developments until HTML5 development stabilizes near maturity. When HTML5 development slows down, we can once again start looking at boxed copies as being competitive with monthly subscriptions. Does Articulate have any subscription model plans on the drawing board? That could even up the competition between the two tools for our short-term course builder reality.

          • At the moment I think Articulate has no subscription plans.

      • Hong NK

        For online education, would you check out SlideGo as alternative. It has necessary tools for interactive content (currently achieved about 80% of Powerpoint features, plus custom functions for e-learning). Though it is still in infancy, it gets improved daily (disclosure: I’m the developer). One of the thing I just learnt from RJ blog that fluid layout is a must for mlearning authoring, I will try to implement. The URL is Thanks and looking forward to your feedbacks.

  • Now if Adobe had actually listened to you RJ… Captivate 6 would have turned out entirely different. It would have been a game changer if they had the above, but alas, it’s time for another vendor to step up to the plate. Enter Articulate Storyline…

    • rjacquez

      Hi Jim, I appreciate your time and support. I love Captivate and really hope it eventually turns into a great product, so I will keep sharing my thoughts from time to time. I hope you are doing well.

  • I’m really impressed from all this great thoughts and commands on your blog, RJ. It’s worth to stop here every day.

    • rjacquez

      I appreciate that very much! I’m having a lot of fun doing what I’m doing and comments like yours encourage me to keep at it. Thanks.

  • You miss the boat. With Captivate I can get my results into a database without an LMS. With Storyline you cannot do that without an LMS system and it’s useless if you do not have control over your reporting. Storyline is full of nice not to have features but Captivate is the real hard core e learning system. You can’t even do a simple certificate in storyline without a third party solution. ? How many companies are using iPads for training, well count your fingers and you will have the answer.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes