Have you developed an eLearning course using a tool such as Captivate, Articulate, or Lectora? If you have then you know that you will hit a development roadblock. You want the tool to do something that you think is simple but there’s no simple way to do it. These tools are powerful and can create complex interactions very quickly. However, it won’t be long until you come across a scenario that doesn’t have an easy solution.

When there are restrictions, you have an opportunity to become creative. Think of it like a game. You’re on a quest and your software is going to help you—to a point. You will find that often you may have to take a creative approach to get around a limitation.

So, what do you do? There are several possible solutions to help you move forward. Below are six suggestions.

1. Expand your skill set

As a professional eLearning developer, you probably promote lifelong learning. This applies to developers as well. You should be striving to expand on your skills. This may mean learning new techniques such as making 3-D graphics in Photoshop. It could also mean learning new tools such as Adobe Animate to create stunning animations and tricky interactions that can be imported into your eLearning courses. By adding to your skill set, you now have a multifaceted way to attack any problem.

2. Look for tutorials

Captivate, Articulate, and Lectora are very popular. There are large online communities with experts sharing their knowledge. If you’ve run into a restriction, chances are someone else has as well. Search for tool-specific tutorials in a list of resources and communities. As you review tutorials, you’ll often see a “star” within that community. By following these stars on social media platforms, you can often find other resources. One of my favorite Captivate stars is Paul Wilson. He often will take questions from followers on how to do something and make a tutorial video to share with others.

3. Go deeper

If you are using a tool like Captivate, do you know how to use variables? What about advanced actions? Most likely you have. However, what about using JavaScript within your course? Have you ever imported and used a HTML5 animation? What about creating and importing a web widget? Some of these require a deeper dive into learning how to implement these in your work. However, using the techniques listed in this section will quickly help you remove many of the challenges you are facing.

4. Learn HTML coding

A vast majority of courses that are developed are web-based. Learners view the courses in a browser. That means that it doesn’t matter what tool you use to create a course; it’s going to end up as a text file being rendered in a browser. What does this mean for you? Say for example you want to use a slider as part of your interactions. Currently, Captivate does not have a slider as part of its functionality. If you know how to create a slider in HTML using a web form, you can then import that functioning slider into your course.

5. Learn JavaScript

I can’t emphasis this enough. Any content that is published as an HTML5 course can access and implement JavaScript. I was working on a Captivate project where the learner would click on navigation buttons. The buttons would change the state of an object. I originally started working in Advanced Actions. However, this became a little difficult and complex. It was going to take a while to create. So, I switched to JavaScript and completed the interaction in less than 15 minutes. Not only was it quicker, it is a lot easier to teach others and the code can be reused in a wide variety of scenarios. I only need to copy and paste the code and change the name of the multi state object in the new project.

6. Final suggestion

One of the best ways of learning is to go to a conference and meet with experts in the field. Attend sessions and take notes. Get contact information and follow up. If possible, attend one of the hands-on classes and learn in a class setting. You can also look at the conference schedule, as many conferences offer pre-conference workshops. These mind-melting, day-long workshops can really change your perspective in a very short time.


As an eLearning professional, I would encourage you to continue learning and striving to get better at your craft. I will be at several conferences in early 2020, including Learning Solutions. I hope to meet you there and we can exchange thoughts and solutions on development challenges.

Want more?

Phil Cowcill will present a pre-conference workshop, "BYOD: Take Captivate a Level Up with JavaScript and Variables" on Sunday, March 29 at Learning Solutions 2020 Conference & Expo in Orlando, Florida. In this workshop, you will learn:

  • How variables and JavaScript can help you extend the functionality of Captivate
  • How variables work in Captivate and how you can use them to create more complex activities and interactions
  • What simple JavaScript functions can help you get started, even if you don’t have coding experience
  • How to begin using simple JavaScript and variables to create engaging new interactions in Captivate

This day-long workshop is intended for designers and developers. Participants should have a working knowledge of Captivate. No coding experience is required. Participants must have a laptop with Captivate installed.