Communication Styles Activity

Title slide for communication style Storyline.

We can’t not communicate. Even a lack of communication, communicates something. Despite our own need to communicate, to be heard and understood, and the communication needs of those around us, we still don’t get it right all the time. Being able to recognize common communication style can help. The goal of this activity isn’t to label anyone as one type of communicator. Rather the goal is to use the styles as a step towards clearer communication.

This activity is based on a Forbes article by Mark Murphy. You can read the article here or in the Resources tab in the Storyline.

Want a bigger version? Click here for full size version that opens in a new tab or window.

If you’ve viewed this on a mobile device you’ve no doubt realized that dials just don’t work that well on very small screens. Despite my love of dials and all things that spin the version below is a better choice for accessibility across all devices.

Launch Presentation




Create a Branching Scenario in 7 Steps

Branching scenario slide sample

My first exposure to branching scenarios was Connect with Haji Kamal designed by Kinection  and Cathy Moore.  I absolutely loved it, could see the potential in learning design, and was hooked right away. That was almost a decade ago and I’m still hooked. Branching scenarios are a great way to incorporate a safe play space for learners to make decisions, and to learn from both mistakes and good choices.

One of the keys to creating a great branching scenario is choosing the right topic. Some areas lend themselves to branching scenarios better than others. In general you need a situation that:

1. Tells a story your learners can relate to

2. Includes multiple, viable choices

3. Is not so complex that there is no way to realistically “win”. (Although there are some situations where a Kobayashi Maru will work.)

I recently developed an Employment Termination branching scenario for a client and have since edited it to make it a bit more generic.

Employment Termination Conversations Title Slide

Click here to launch in a new window or tab.

The goal of this scenario is to reinforce learning that had already taken place and to prepare learners for forthcoming training that would build on what they had learned. The original scenario developed for the client was joy to work on because they had clearly outlined the best steps, OK steps, and the worst step to take when terminating an employee. All I had to do was write narratives that matched their existing content and then create the branching. Here are the steps to creating this kind of branching scenario, from beginning to end.

Step 1: Determine the goal

Step 2: Write the endings, create the character(s), and background

Step 3: Decide on layout, colours, fonts, style, and button design

Step 4: Create the main scenes

Step 5: Write the scenarios

Step 6: Build the slides and layers

Step 7: Test, test, test and launch

Step 1 Determine the goal



This isn’t meant to be a graded activity. Rather, the goal is to reinforce learning that has already take place. The key learning to be reinforced,  in the order of importance, are:

1. People can react in a variety of way to being terminated

2. For each reaction there is an optimal response

3. If a less than optimal response is chosen there is usually a way to recover

Also touched on is the need to follow policy and company practices such as only terminating employees early in the week, and after termination escorting them from the building. These are not universal but are common practices in many organizations.

Step 2 Decide on endings, characters and background


With the goals and key messaging decided on the next step is to create the endings. Always begin with the end in mind! In this scenario I decided on four possible endings. One best ending, one OK ending and two bad endings. The best ending links to a congratulation slide while the OK and the bad endings prompt the learner to try again.

Creating the background and context is next. In order to write the background I needed to create a character to write about. This is the fun part. I decide on a twenty-something, white male and named him Mark. I know, young white males get picked on a lot but one thing you don’t want to do is appear to be biased against a group that is less than privileged. That’s just not cool!

The goal was to provide enough context to make the activity engaging while not providing so much information that the scenario couldn’t be generalized for lots of different learners. I did not provide any indicators about who the supervisor might be. In other words I made the person being terminated fairly realistic and planned on using photographic content to portray him. The person doing the terminating was only described as “a new supervisor” to make it easier for the learner to step into that role.

Step 3: Decide on layout, colours, fonts, style, and button design


I like to get this done early so I don’t have to go back and re-do style elements later on. The client had branding guidelines to follow but for this example I created the style based on a fictional company and a learner group primarily made up of junior supervisors aged 25 – 35.

For this example scenario I was able to find all the graphics I needed in the built-in Articulate 360 content library, except for the clapping hands which I found on Pixabay.

Step 4: Create the main scenes



In Storyline I created a scene for the slides that would be branched plus a scene for the background information and a scene for the endings. You don’t have to do this. You can alternatively use just one scene. Or you can, if you like, have a scene for each scenario. I prefer using three scenes so I can review each scene separately. I also prefer creating the main scene first so it auto numbers 1.1, 1.2, etc. I find it less distracting to have slides that are labeled 1.1 S1 , 1.2 S2, etc., than having slides labeled something like 4.5 S1.

Step 5: Write the scenarios



I’ve used many different processes for writing scenarios and creating the branching order. Twine is a good choice and recently I’ve begun using  Plectica, a visual mind-mapping tool, and have found it to also be good choice.

The tools you use will depend on your comfort level, complexity of the scenario, and in many cases how and with who you are sharing it with.

I created a mind-map for this scenario using Plectica. It was a great way to begin organizing the branching,  its shareable, and you can invite folks to collaborate.

Mind map of branching scenario.

Before I get to these I usually create two charts, beginning with  a chart for just the scenarios. Sometimes charts are all you need. I use Google docs most of the time but have been known to break out the post its and decorate a wall or two.

In this branching scenario I created 8 scenarios. Each scenario – a consequence that describes what is happening – would eventually have 2-3 choices displayed in layers.

This is a good time to decide on the naming conventions and numbering. I used S1 – 8 for the main slides that hold scenarios while the layers are named  L (S#):#.

For example the 3rd layer in S4 would be L4:3. In simple scenarios this may not matter but once you get into more complex scenarios where more than one layer branches to the same slide… well it can get mind-bending.

Chart 1

Each of the 8 slides holds one scenario that describes the situation and what Mark is doing. Each layer contains a choice the learner can make based on the situation and Mark’s behaviour.

This outline chart goes with another chart that holds the text that will go on each slide and layer.

Sample of a chart use d to design a branching scenario.

Once this part is done add the layer names to the outline chart for easy checking and referencing.

A completed outline chart.

Step 6: Build the slides and layers


Now that the text for each slide and layer has been written and the branching determined its time to build the slides. Before adding content double check that you and your client love the style, colours, buttons, and fonts. Then create master slides and a template for the background, the scenarios and the endings. Then you can just duplicate slides and not have to recreate buttons, etc.

At this point you should, if you haven’t already,  make a final decision on the player settings. For example in this instance I removed the menu and the built-in Back and Next buttons opting to place those on the slides. I prefer that visually and find it gives me better control over the back and next functions. I left the Resources tab because this would be where learners would access reference documents.

Slides build out in Storyline

Best practice in my experience is to build each slide first then add the layers and then create the triggers using the chart.

Do not forget to set each of the scenario slides to “Reset to initial state” in properties. In the layer properties leave the setting at “Automatically decide” so they don’t reset when folks close a layer. Background and ending slides, that do not have layers, can also stay at the default setting of “Automatically decide”.

Step 7: Test, test, test and launch
Hands clapping.



If you can, get several people to test for you.

Buy them cookies if needed. The more eyes on these the better.

And that’s it. Seven steps to branching beauty and goodness!



P.S. Here’s a flowchart for the Kobayashi Maru

Spin the Dial Interaction

Screen capture of the dial interatcion.

I’ve been working on some really awesome interactive Storyline 360 content for a client and as so often happens when working with Storyline, or any technology,  I learned something new. The client wanted a dial that spun around multiple times which you would think would be easy. Nope, not easy at all, but definitely possible.

Dials have been an easy-to-use feature in Storyline for quite a while. Adding a standard dial is pretty much a one-click and few tweaks then Bobs’ your Uncle type of thing. Plus there are tonnes of tutorials and videos on how to edit and use standard dials. However, dials that spin freely are a tad harder but after much coffee and following a wonderful instructional post on How to Rotate an Interactive Dial More Than Once I managed to create an interaction that met the clients needs. With that taken care of I thought I’d post some notes a samples here.

Here’s the sample. I’ve add entrance and exit animations. If you spin the dial fast enough, after 27 spins (the maximum number of spins) the graphic ends with all four graphics showing. The graphics including the background are all from Articulate.

The instruction and sample file were really helpful until I had to do the math to create a dial that restricted the variables so there were only four stops – the sample file and instruction were for 5 stops – and had the dial set to begin between stops.

The Articulate support post shows these settings for 5 stops.

Screen capture of setting for a dial with five stops.

These are the settings I used to create 4 stops and have the spinner begin between stops.

Screen capture of dial settings for four stops.

I’m going to be honest. I have no idea why this works the way it does or how I figured out that I had reduce the steps from 135 ( -64 + 71 = 135 steps) to 108 (-44 + 64 = 108 steps). I work by feel and aim for flow. Once in flow I don’t make notes. My bad!

Once the math was out of the way I set the triggers as follows. The main change was setting the value at 4 rather than the 5 that was in the sample file.

Dial triggers settings 1

The final triggers were set up to show the right layer at each of the 4 points on the dial.


That all I have on this for right now. Now that I have both the 5 stop and the new 4 stop in my collection I can iterate and play with different designs.

Here’s the  .STORY zip file in case you want to play too 🙂



Sounds, Triggers, and Tools in Storyline

“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” ― Abraham H. Maslow,

In yesterday’s post I shared a Storyline theme that could be used as a course starter for construction related learning (Elearning Challenge #183). I wasn’t completely happy with it for a couple of reasons. The mobile experience wasn’t awesome and the nails didn’t display as “hammered”. So, today, while on hold with Microsoft support (long story with a happy ending), and inspired by Maslow’s quote, I decided to revisit the theme and see if I could hammer, saw, or sand this slide into shape

The slide needing extra love is the menu slide.

Screen capture of the menu slide.
Menu slide in Storyline

Here’s what I wanted the user to experience, on all devices:

1. User clicks the hammer to access a content slide.

2. On click of the hammer it changes state to Down and hit a nail. When the nail is hit the sound of a hammer hitting a nail plays, and the nail changes state from up to down.

3. Then hammer then returns to up position and slide jumps to the correct slide.

This all has to happen in about half a second.

Here is the new version and the trigger notes are below.

Launch Presentation

Trigger Set-up

1. Added hammer in normal state and down state (x4). This actually took a lot of time because there is no way to pivot a graphic. Not hard, just fiddly.

2. Added nails in normal and down state (x4). Again, not hard, just fiddly. Made fiddlier because the hammers had to intersect with the nails.

3. Added audio (media) – I ended up adding four identical instances of the audio but with different labels to keep them straight. I did this because some of the triggers linked to the audio weren’t working correctly. Using 4 separate audio objects seemed to work better.

4.  Set to “when revisiting reset to initial state” in slide properties.

5. Labeled everything so I didn’t mix up the four content sections.

6. Set up the triggers for each of the four content sections.

a. Change state of Hammer X to state down when user clicks Hammer X

b. Play media,  Media X when Object intersects – Object Hammer X with Nail X

Screen shot of trigger set-up
Trigger Wizard in Storyline

c. Change state of Nail X to Down when Object intersects – Object Hammer X with Nail X

d. Change state of Hammer X to Normal when Media X completes – This is so the hammer returns to the up position while on the slide. The nail stays down until the slide is revisited.

e. Jump to slide X when Media X completes

7. Test, test, test and then test on another device or two.

Well that was fun – seriously – it was fun and clicking the hammers and pounding the nails is just plain cathartic. Of course there is always more that could be done but that will have to wait for another day.


I suspect there are a few other ways of making this kind of layered interaction work. I’d love to hear about alternatives.