Coming Soon: ZebraZapps
Today we’re excited to share impressions on another new authoring tool: Allen Interactions’ ZebraZapps, which launches at ASTD ICE in about a week.
I’ve been experimenting with Zebra since it was opened up for public testing, and with each iteration, I’ve become more and more impressed with the depth of its capabilities. In an a recent article I wrote for Learning Solutions Magazine, I reflected on how the software you use can compromise your designs by guiding you into a certain paradigm based on what the tool supports, rather than the designs that will best support the goals of the course. I find myself doing far less of that compromise with Zebra than with any other authoring software I’ve used. In fact, in terms of power, its capabilities are more in a league with Flash than with the majority of most rapid development tools.
The big advantage that Zebra has over Flash, though, is in its ease of use. There’s no programming language. Creating interactions between two objects is as easy as “wiring” their properties together — a simple drag-and-drop. Because it’s so easy to tweak interactions (in response to inspiration, user testing, or client feedback), Zebra bridges the gap between a development tool and a design tool.
It’s hard to overstate what a good balance Zebra strikes between power and ease of use. So far, I love using Zebra to create games, branching scenarios, and non-linear interactions… basically, anything that’s driven by the student or has a high degree of interactivity.
Unfortunately, it does have a few downsides. As of this writing, Zebra only outputs to SWF. For some companies working on accessible or mobile content, that’s an insurmountable obstacle. I’m a big proponent of HTML5’s suitability for elearning, and one of Artisan’s special areas of focus is on creating usable 508-compliant courses, so we are definitely hoping for an update that addresses the SWF-only output soon.
Also uncertain at this point is how well Zebra will exchange data, for example with an LMS or an external data source (such as an XML file). For some projects, this may limit Zebra’s functionality to creating elements within a larger course. For other projects, it may be a dealbreaker altogether. So I’m on the edge of my seat to see this functionality extended.
I see this as a tool that you will like if you want to create higher-level interactivity, beyond the capabilities of what most rapid development tools can do, but don’t have the budget, time, or skill for Flash development. In short, if you’re looking to create advanced interactivity, Zebra is one of the easiest ways to do it… You’ll just have to be comfortable with the restrictions in output.
In coming weeks, we’ll share some instructional examples and talk more about the features that enable this interactivity, so be sure to subscribe to the E-Learning Uncovered blog if you haven’t already!
Have you used Zebra yet — or seen it? What are your impressions?