Final Project Notes

May 6, 2014
Final project for IST 526

Mac OS X 10.8.5
Memory: 16 GB
Additional tools: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Audition, Apple Keynote


My final project is an eLearning module that enables technical writers to quickly get up to speed with the product they are documenting without requiring extensive assistance from other writers, trainers, and engineers. The training is designed to be consistent, repeatable, and scalable.

Note: This project is intended to be used as an internal training resource for technical writers, and some links in the project require VPN access to the company network. The project is designed for large screen display (project size is 1024 x 768), and it has been tested on Firefox (Mac OS X). It is expected to work on other browsers or operating systems as well, but performance and functionality on those systems has not been verified. The project is not designed for use on mobile devices.

Questions from the assignment

  1. Any issues and solutions you came across:
    1. Creating software simulations for web-based applications is a challenge. Clickables are often mis-placed, and audio is sometimes choppy depending on the web connection. Also, adding closed captions for simulations is a manual time-consuming process.
    2. Software simulations can add a significant number of slides to a project. And since the recommendation was to limit the number of slides in a project, I divided my project into sections and used the Captivate Aggregator to combine them into a single .swf file.
    3. Assessments that use simulations do not adequately assess a user's knowledge. Users can proceed through a simulation by clicking the playbar controls (which I did not want to hide), or in the case of tasks required for my project, by following instructions in pop-ups. Also, I was not able to identify a way to score erroneous clicks (and not 100% sure how they should be scored). Assessments that use software simulation do not seem very authentic to the actual tasks.
    4. For my project, it was important to show the playbar to enable users to access and reference any content at any point. But as a result, it's possible for them to navigate to inappropriate elements, such as the completion certificate, which should be displayed only if the user completes the course with a passing grade.
    5. Captivate's default certificate widgets did not work the way I wanted them to -- they did not correctly pick up variables and content did not update correctly. So I created my own.
    6. Captivate's default print widget did not scale the printed page correctly. So I found a third-party widget that worked.
  2. Anything you would modify or add if you were to keep working:
    1. Simulations: I would re-do simulations to try to improve the way UI controls and audio come through.
    2. Practice and interactivity: I would like to have added interactive practice slides to each section, but that was out of scope.
    3. Existing content: Some of the content could be improved and clarified. For example, the discussion of PHP filenames should be more clear about the use of adminui and systemui. The existing content is very brief. Also, more detail about the Organization component would be useful, and it would be nice to have a better metaphor for labels in the Application Control and Software Metering animations (the "star," which appears on the laptop, might imply that the label is a physical sticker, when in fact it's an abstract concept).
    4. Additional content: This module barely scratches the surface of what a new writer needs to know to document the product. It would be good to add modules on additional product features and documentation conventions. However, it should be noted that this content will quickly become outdated, and resources for updating an eLearning module might not be available.
    5. Audio: I recorded audio on my Mac, and I noticed variations in the quality from session to session. This might have been due to the system's fan turning on, or other environmental sounds. I had to increase or decrease the audio on some slides to get it to be consistent, and I did some post-processing in an audio program to reduce noise. However, I'm not satisfied with the final result, and would like to improve it.
  3. Whether you were able to have somebody else test the project:
    1. Yes, I had colleagues test the project. I created an online survey to capture feedback. I received confirmation that users could access the project and complete the module. However, I did not receive any feedback on usability or content before the project deadline. I hope to receive additional feedback at some point.