||The Willamette Galley
A Bi-Monthly Newsletter
Volume 4, Issue 3, July 2001
Increase Interactivity with On-Demand
By Benjamin Moore
At a very basic level, good principles of training come down to three parts: Tell Me, Show Me, Let Me.
When delivering to a live audience, Let Me is probably the easiest part. Just sit people down and let
them work with the tool on their own. But when moving into an online format, Let Me becomes more difficult.
The user might not have installed the tool correctly or might not have installed it at all. There is also
a risk that the user might be using the tool in a production environment using the training exercises.
To alleviate these risks, my department chose to deliver online training with simulations. A simulation
connects the user to an environment that looks like the real thing, but it doesn't execute any actions.
The developer inputs the actions ahead of time and then prompts the user to perform tasks that would
normally produce those preplanned actions.
After a quick review of simulation tools, PTS On-Demand met our requirements:
- Output small files for Web deployment
- Force the user to perform actions
- Ease of use--On-Demand tracks what you do in the tool you are trying to capture, then builds the
simulation using your interactions
- Ease of maintenance--can update one screenshot in less than 10 minutes
While On-Demand isn't as robust as Authorware and doesn't offer sound options like Camtasia, it had these advantages:
- On-Demand simulations take about 10 minutes per action to create. Each field, drop down list, and
button counts as an action. For example, a form with four fields and a Submit button would take about
40 minutes to record, document, and output a complete simulation.
- On-Demand output files are of similar size to Web pages. Each action requires one graphic and some
every 30 seconds of recording.
- On-Demand requires the user to complete tasks before they can continue. Camtasia and Lotus screen
cam only produce movies that the user watches. On-Demand also has a movie option, if you desire, at
about 1/2 the cost of the file size.
- Cost--this is a tricky one. Authorware is about $2,500 per license. On-Demand is sold on a corporate
license basis only, so I have no idea how much my company's license is. Given the robustness of
Authorware vs. On-Demand, I would guess that On-Demand is a lot less expensive. But don't hold me to that.
Like any tool, I also have my complaints about On-Demand:
- Poor support--outside of my company, I have a hard time finding anyone who has even heard of On-Demand.
The PTSLS.com Web site has no support database or user groups to join.
- Design issues--On-Demand requires you to put data in every field, even if you aren't going to use
that field. For example, if you choose, you can give a button a name and then use a template statement
like Click on the Cancel button. I don't use the template statements, but it makes me complete the field anyway.
- Project sharing--Two users cannot work on the same project at the same time. And I'd advise against
working on the same project at different times as well. There are a lot of relative links in the source
and .ini files that have paths that need to be set each time a new developer wants to work on the project.
So editing a simulation from more than one computer is not a good idea, but it can be done.
- Slow updates--I've been using it for almost two years and there hasn't been an update posted to the
Web site. It still looks very "Windows95-ish."
If you'd like to try out a simulation to see how it works from an end-user perspective,
click on http://pws.ihpc.net/simba/stc/index.htm
and follow the instructions.
For more info about On-Demand, go to www.ptsls.com and click on Products & Services.
If you're interested in sharing tips and experiences about using simulations, send Benjamin Moore an email
||Mission Statement: Designing the future of technical communication.
Copyright © 2001 Willamette Valley Chapter. All rights reserved.
Revised: July 2001
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