The New Adobe Captivate 7 Marches Backwards into the Future [Review]
A year ago I wrote a post entitled An Honest Assessment of Adobe Captivate 6 [First Impressions], which garnered 81 ReTweets and 62 comments, and to this day is the most read post here on my blog.
Here’s how I concluded my review of Adobe Captivate 6 back then:
Sadly I’m very disappointed with what I’ve seen out of the new Captivate version, and I say sadly because for years this product was my baby, from my early days working at eHelp, later Macromedia and more recently Adobe as a Senior Product Evangelist for Captivate and the eLearning Suite.
It’s not even this particular version that disappoints me; it’s the overall lack of vision that Adobe has clearly shown in this release. There’s nothing in there that addresses real solutions for today’s trending topics, such as Cloud computing, Mobile Learning, Responsive Design, Adaptive publishing, Mobile Apps, etc.
Having said that, I cannot recommend this version of Captivate nor would I recommend relying on Adobe as the future vendor that can deliver innovating and breakthrough eLearning and mLearning experiences for the 21st Century.
Shortly after publishing the above review, I followed it up with another post entitled Here’s how Adobe Captivate 6 could have been a Game-Changer for mLearning, where I shared some ways in which Captivate could help take instructional designers to the next level.
Fast Forward One Year Later
Here we are 12 months later and Adobe India releases a new version of Captivate just in time for the mLearnCon conference. I give the team credit for what is obviously a faster upgrade cycle, as compared to the old 18-month upgrade cycle. I think this makes a lot of sense, especially with the pace with which change happens in Technology these days.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice new feature in version 7, however I cannot find that game-changing feature that I think every software upgrade needs to have, the ‘killer app’ if you will.
In fact I think that most of the new features being promoted by Adobe have been there for a while in competing products like Articulate software, namely the ability to include YouTube videos in a course, as well as embedding a browser session on a slide. Same goes for the drag-and-drop widgets, which is something Articulate customers have been enjoying for a while now, so nothing terribly exciting there either.
The team did add Tin-Can-API support, which I think is a must these days as learning moves more and more to mobile devices, so that’s definitely a nice addition. I’m not sure I understand the benefits of having an Equation Editor or how the Learning Notes feature works, but these are probably a good thing for certain verticals.
Captivate needs to let go of the past and embrace the new Post-eLearning era
My biggest problem is that Captivate (and the team for that matter) is holding on to the past and is risking becoming obsolete. There’s a mobile revolution out there and is passing this once-great product by, in the way Kodak was left behind in the new digital age. There’s nothing that I have seen in this product that tells me I should be hopeful as a Learning professional, that Adobe will help me get to the next level, by helping me develop learning that can be accessed anytime, anywhere and most importantly on every device.
Hence the title of this post.
In fact I think the team is adding more and more of the things we absolutely don’t need in this new Post-eLearning era.
Take for example the expanded list of Smart Learning Interactions, there are now 15 more, and this is bad news in opinion. In the Post-eLearning era, we don’t need more feature, which more often than not lead to heavier courses, we need less, we need simpler learning experience that adapt well to multiple screens and not make us wait for heavy courses to download to our mobile devices, only to have to pinch, zoom and swipe left, right, top and bottom to see the entire course, as illustrated here:
Another example is the HTML5 support for PowerPoint, which Adobe is promoting heavily. I ran a quick ‘HTML5 Tracker‘ test with an old project and I’m still getting pretty much the same amount of unsupported features I did with Captivate 6, so not much in the way of improvements there.
However even if Adobe managed to fix the long list of HTML5 conversion issue they have, this would still not be true mLearning. It would just be trying to retrofit an old format into a new medium, in other words it would be shrinking something big that fits on the desktop into something smaller in order to fit it on a mobile device. In my opinion, this is precisely what we should be trying to avoid.
If your Learning Design calls for Absolute Dimensions, you have already Failed
Here’s a slide that I show whenever I teach my workshop on Mobile Learning Design:
The point I try to make with this slide is that today we don’t get to decide which device learners use to access our Learning and thus we need to think about design beyond the 1024 x 768 box.
I recommend to my students that in choosing the right tool for mLearning, they need to look for tools that are designed more along the lines of Dreamweaver (i.e. based on relative screen percentages) and stay away from tools that force you to pick absolute dimensions, which will only yield great results on a single screen. In my mind this is a big problem for a lot of tools today, well beyond Adobe Captivate.
In all honesty, when Captivate 7 was announced I had no intention of writing about it, but I did because I saw an opportunity to share some of my thoughts on the changing Learning landscape and the new mindset we need to embrace, if we are going to seize the learning opportunities mobile presents to our Industry.
I apologies if my brutally honest style of writing about Captivate offends anyone, this is not my intention. I could have easily write about the new features like most reviewer do, but then again that wouldn’t be the real RJ Jacquez.
I leave you with this quote I once included in one of my posts, which I believe encompasses quite nicely how mobile design is different from the old desktop design paradigm we need to abandon, and why I believe embracing simplicity is a key ingredient to mobile learning: