A Look at Articulate 360

by Jay Frischkorn

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With its new Articulate 360 release, Articulate is joining the “subscription” software wave in a big way by matching some of what Microsoft did with Office 360, and what Adobe has been doing with its changes to Captivate and the Creative Suite.

So, let’s take a quick look at some key features and functionality that may help you decide if ‘360 is a fit for you and your clients.  Keep in mind, there is a lot going on here with not a lot of space to talk about it, so this blog will just scratch the surface. Also, be aware that my opinions about “hot” and “not” are purely subjective.

What’s it all about? 

The ‘360 is a suite of both desktop and web apps that you can access through a single menu.  Applications included in the subscription are described in the table below. The suite includes enhanced Responsive course development tools, collaborative online course and content review, an expanded and enhanced Content Library, new video tools, and a new application for iPad users.

Before we dive in, let’s get some misconceptions out of the way.

  • Contrary to what you may have heard, the suite is not exclusively “cloud based”. Core applications, including Storyline and Studio, are installed on your local hard drive and used with or without internet connections.
  • This is not a new release of Storyline – some reviewers have called it “Storyline 2.2”.
  • As things stand now, there will still be standalone releases/upgrades of Storyline and Studio in the future – Storyline 3 is slated for later this year.
  • While there is a new online app for iPad, MacBook, etc., compatibility is unchanged.
Storyline 360eLearning Development application
Studio 360PowerPoint-based eLearning development application
Replay 360Video Tools
PeekApp that lets you build your own video-based presentations with pic-in-pic and screen capture
RiseNew Responsive Authoring tool
Articulate ReviewCollaborative discussion tool for capturing and managing course feedback
Content LibraryExpanded library of "characters," graphics, media and course templates
Articulate LiveAccess to live webinars featuring experts covering 360 apps
PresoScreen Capture and annotation tool for iPad with eLearning features

What’s Hot?

New Responsive Content Authoring tools and support.  While the new preview and control tools in Storyline and Studio are helpful, the strategy is still basically “shrink to fit”.  With Rise, you now have an authentic Responsive Authoring tool.  This fills a gap that Adobe had filled with Captivate Responsive course types.  Keep in mind that if you are developing a new course in Rise, it does not convert existing content.

Online collaborative review capabilities.  You can capture SME and stakeholder feedback in a “discussion board”-like environment and manage responses and resolutions.  This online tool captures a real-time screen shot of the course as it appeared when the comment was entered, which helps you visualize the user’s experience.

Enhanced 508 and Screen reader support.  Expanded accessibility and ability to meet user needs and legal requirements.  Unfortunately, there is still no built-in closed captions or

Expanded Content Library.  Articulate claims that this enhanced online repository significantly reduces the need for 3rd party media resources and makes it easier to find professional looking media.

What’s Not?

The Subscription.  Complaints about the subscription model seem to fall into three buckets: the model, the cost and the content.

Model:  The subscription model turns a fixed cost (perpetual license) into an ongoing expense that needs to be budgeted for, and carries the risk of future cost increases.  This is a budgeting issue.  There are also IT infrastructure issues – many organizations must test and approve new applications, so adoption may be a concern.

Cost:  The subscription is expensive – up to $1,000/seat for individual users.  This compares with roughly $1,300 for perpetual licenses for Storyline 2 or Studio 13.  The payment is due up front, and there are no monthly or quarterly payment options.

Content:  Are you are paying for a lot of stuff you will never use?  There is no option for “focusing” the suite to just those applications you need.  I have a PC – so why do I need a subscription for an iPad app?

Backwards Compatibility.  Microsoft made a brilliant decision decades ago by making its new releases backwards compatible.  This means that if you open a document in Word or an Excel spreadsheet, you don’t automatically make it “read only” for every user in the organization that doesn’t have the latest release.

The eLearning world never adopted this philosophy, though, and ‘360 is no exception.  Before you convert, you better make sure your clients are subscribing to and can support ‘360.  It is also not clear what the compatibility between Storyline 360 and future perpetual versions of Storyline or Studio will be.

LMS Compatibility.  There may be some issues here.  The advice from reviewers is to make sure your LMS supports the content developed in ‘360 before converting.  This could be a real issue for consultants and contractors because you can’t predict what your clients’ LMS’s will do.

Internet Access Requirements.  There are two issues related to internet access that could impact your usability and client adoption.

  • The cool applications (Rise, Articulate Review, and the new Content Library) are online apps and will only work if you are connected. Not much of a problem for the individual user, but if a client company is “locked down” and limits internet access, the access to the tools become problematic.
  • To use Rise and Articulate Review you need to upload your content to an Articulate site. That means it will be on a 3rd party server.  Again, this may violate security and confidentiality and put you (as the developer) at risk.

So there you go.  Hope this was helpful. What do you think of the new updates? Please share your comments below!