Develop Your Own Flash Tutorials

Before getting into the advertised topic, a quick update on course development here at FSU. I concluded the bulk of my advertising chores last week by finishing the design of five print ads for the campus newspaper to promote new classes. You can check them out at http://lit.cs.fsu.edu/compads.html if you are interested. The ads will appear in the campus paper weekly over the next month during the Spring registration period. I redesigned my http://lit.cs.fsu.edu to also promote the new classes. I’ll be working with three instructors to design the latest courses over the next couple of months. I’ll share the curricula with you as they are developed. I’ll also let you know how the advertising campaign impacts enrollment.

Okay, onto business. How can you develop your own educational Flash tutorials with little or no knowledge of Flash? In a word, Captivate. Captivate is a product originally designed by Macromedia, which of course is now owned by Adobe (www.adobe.com/products/captivate). Have you noticed how all our favorite Macromedia products cost $100-$300 more than they used to since Adobe swallowed Macromedia ($399 for Dreamweaver!?). I wonder if they are all two to three times better than they used to be. Anyway, I digress.


Captivate provides tools that allow you to capture screen shots, and more importantly, screen motion. In other words, you can film the screen action as you use Excel to create a spreadsheet pivot table and, once recorded, distribute it to your students as a lesson. You can also add audio or text narration, and graphics to add to the educational value of the recording. There are even tools that allow you to add quiz questions along the way. When you are done creating the tutorial, clicking the Publish button creates an html file and associated flash file (.swf) that can be emailed or published to the Web. You can check out one of my Flash tutorials at http://lit.cs.fsu.edu/assignments/excel/v2/x_intro.htm.


You can use Captivate to publish professional grade online tutorials and quizzes or use it to quickly throw together a recording to email to a student in distress. It’s one of the most powerful teaching tools for computer teachers available. A new v2.0 was just released. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m hoping that they’ve worked out a few of the bugs in the first version. For $299 (upgrade), $599 (new) I would certainly hope so. You can download a free 30-day evaluation copy but think hard before you do; once you try it, you’ll want to buy it. I imagine that there are educational discounts available.

Tip of the week: Heard about Orb? A free download from www.orb.com allows you to play music, and videos (even TV), and view photos stored on your Internet-connected home PC from any other Internet connected device. I’m able to listen to music stored at home on my Windows Mobile cell phone! It makes a great lecture demo.

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