Responsive Course Design: the Challenges

responsive-design

Responsive course design is a new feature for Adobe Captivate 8 and 9 that promises courses that play beautifully on all devices of chosen sizes. This sounds a great idea and worlds ahead of the old Flash courses with fixed dimension. However, as I discovered in my experimenting, this great tool is not a simple magic wand that finishes your courses in a wave/click. I found it poses some additional challenges in the developing process, including:

  1. You have to design three (or more) screens. You could probably center and position the contents so that the tablet and phone screens need minimal adjustments from the desktop version, but I doubt it’d make good designs, if it works at all, given the dramatic difference in screen sizes. It’s quite tricky to incorporate the same contents on a desktop screen and a mobile phone screen.
  2. Making changes on one screen may or may not bring the changes to the other screens. If you insert/delete an image or a text caption on the desktop screen, they will appear/disappear on the tablet and phone screens too. If you don’t want them on the other screens, you need to drag them off those screen (you won’t see them, but they have to be there). If you resize the image or change the font of a caption or reposition them, the changes will not carry to the other screens, so you’d need to do it multiple times if you want the same changes.
  3. Objects sizing and positioning is bit trickier.  In non-responsive courses, you can do adjustments by assigning the object dimension (H, W) and position (X,Y) values. In a responsive course, however, you need to select the object height as px from the dropdown list (The default is Auto), make the adjustment, and change it back to Auto. In the case you adjusted the image on one slide and would like to do the same on another slide, simple copying and pasting is not an option as this would create a new (duplicate) image on all other screens that you’d need to move off screen.
  4. If you want to use master slides, you will need to make three separate screens too.
  5. Previewing your design is not as easy. You can preview the whole project in the browser, with a drag slider to show screens of different sizes. However, because of the different resolutions, you don’t see the actual size by the dimension numbers. For example, an ipad mini portrait is 768*1024, and it looks much bigger on your desktop than the physical dimension of an ipad. Same for phones. You can probably zoom the browser to view it, but it’s not accurate. You can also upload the work to a server to view on the devices, which is a lot additional steps too.

I haven’t got to keeping object positions in sync, i.e., making sure captions, click boxes stay at the right places on screen resizing. In my testing it has worked fine, but it’s a potential for issues. Given all the factors above, responsive course design is quite a bit of challenge and it seems a better work flow is more important as work and problems easily triple. However, it’s also rewarding when you get a beautiful product that works across devices.

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