Learning Studio, by Ethan Waltrall
by: Sybex, go
to the web site
Requirements: Pentium 200 or higher, 65 MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM,
1024x768 resolution, 16 bit sound card, Windows 95 or above.
Mac Requirements: Power PC G3 233 MHz or higher, 64 MB RAM,
4x CD-ROM, 1024x768 resolution, Mac OS 9 or above
(U.S.) $191.95 (Canada) $89.99 (UK)
unlike living in the Matrix, we can not simply
download knowledge into our head in a few seconds
and suddenly become experts at just about anything.
For our slightly less advanced selves we must
learn the old fashioned way. However, that doesn’t
mean we have to necessarily go to a classroom
to learn. Flash MX Learning Studio is an example
of Computer Based Training (CBT). Like a book
or correspondence course, this is a form of self
study. Using Flash MX Learning Studio you will
be introduced to a wide variety of Flash MX basic
and advanced concepts. The CBT addresses the
'middle' crowd pretty well, providing some very
basic instruction while also covering many advanced
of you who have not used CBT or its cousin Web Based Training
(WBT) it is, simply put, programs designed
to provide you with all the learning you might normally obtain
by reading a book, attending a class or watching a video.
Like those other forms of learning, CBT can have certain
strengths. In a classroom a charismatic and patient instructor
can make for a wonderful experience, while the opposite type
will lead you to skipping the class and looking for a good
book to teach you the material. Like a classroom there are
key aspects of CBT that can make it great or not so great.
Some of these are the CBT’s interactivity level, graphical
presentation and basic functions such as bookmarking, searching,
usability and references.
MX Learning Studio is an interesting package in that, in
the CBT, it comes with Flash MX Saavy. Although
this review does not focus on the accompanying book, in briefly
reviewing it I was pleased with its coverage, use of some
photographic paper/images and assistance in helping people
move beyond Flash basics. Generally speaking it is a worthy
companion. The CBT’s coverage spans seven main areas:
Creating Visuals, Animating in Flash, Intro to ActionScript,
Actionscripting for Interactivity, Working with Audio, Using
Other Tools, and Publishing Flash. There are two additional
sections which are useful throughout the course: Reference
and Hands on Project. Overall the material coverage is fairly
comprehensive and will be satisfying even to those who consider
themselves an intermediate level Flash developer.
The CBT was missing some basic features, which I will speak
to later, but it did contain some that were very helpful.
The Search feature, which was available on just about every
screen, searched the course content well and made it easy
to quickly find a desired topic. The selection of the material
to cover was well thought out and although the pagination
of the content could be improved, topic areas worked well
together and the material built upon itself.
materials were also a helpful addition. The reference section
provides thorough coverage of many
extraneous topics as well as the expected information. The
Hands-On Projects walks you through several projects which
bring together aspects of what you learned in the course.
They utilize a show me/try me/test me method to walk you
through each of the different steps. Don’t be scared
by the test me step though, as it is more like a 'practice
me' because you get clues and hints as soon as you take a
Although I liked the approach, content coverage and colloquial
writing style, there are several things I felt were not addressed
well. Now before I get too picky, I have to warn you that
I run an instructional design department whose primary purpose
is to develop CBT and WBT courseware so I tend to have fairly
high standards. The first area where I felt there were a
lot of problems was in navigation. The Forward and Backward
buttons simply did not work in many cases. Links pointing
you to useful, separate pieces of content in the course would
bring you there and then you had no way to get back except
return to the table of contents and figure out where you
left off. In other cases you could click on the browser Back
button, but then Previous or Next buttons did not always
work. Tied to this problem, there is no bookmarking in the
course. Bookmarking generally help you track what has been
completed so that when you re-start the course you do not
have to waste time searching for the point at which you previously
stopped. Unfortunately Flash MX Learning Studio has no bookmarking
capabilities and I found this to be quite a handicap.
of the content seemed a bit premature or dated, such as
a comment about
SiteSpring being a “new tool” when
in fact it is no longer supported by Macromedia and has not
been for many months. The videos provided a nice introduction
to the author which is of questionable value to the course.
I had to wonder why they were there and even more, why put
them into pop up windows and formatted in Quicktime instead
of Flash? I would much rather have seen the money and time
spent here used for more useful features such as bookmarking.
The show me/try me feature that is touted in the marketing
material while not ineffectual, certainly was lacking. It
was more akin to a show me with built in pauses. You have
to click on relevant parts of the screen to move the movie
forward. From a simulation perspective it was fairly limited
and offered no chance to make mistakes other than clicking
on the wrong part of the screen.
The hands-on projects had more of the show me/try me/test
me feature and while the show me played fine, the try me
and test me were rather disappointing. The try me worked
as previously described while the test me basically provided
you with different places to click on the screen. Clicking
one of the incorrect locations gave you very little corrective
information. There was no computer intelligence behind the
hints that were provided and I can only conclude this approach
was used because of a limited budget (or it was simply easier
Scroll scroll scroll. I suppose one could argue about the
use of scrolling, but I feel the course would have been better
served by using a fixed window size and limiting the amount
of information on a page so that no scrolling was required.
A table of contents that did not require scrolling and which
marked off completed sections would also have been nice.
Overall, I was pleased with the content coverage of the
course and the style of the instructor/author. I was not
impressed by the CBT itself. The CBT failed to include some
important basic aspects such as progress meters and bookmarking
and the simulations were very elementary, allowing very little
in terms of creating the most useful 'try me' environment
for the user. As a compliment to the Flash MX Saavy book
the CBT does a decent job, but as a training course for using
Flash MX I would recommend you do some comparison shopping.
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