Using Question Banks in Articulate Storyline for Random Branching Scenarios

A client recently presented me with a challenge to create a course with a number of scenarios, but wanted the learner to view only one of these scenarios randomly.

In Articulate Storyline, Question Banks can be used for storing slides other than question slides.  This is how you can go about setting this up.

1. build your scenarios

In this example, I set up each scenario in a separate scene.

The first slide in each scenario is the slide that ends up being the one you import into your Question Bank.  In this example, I’ve already imported the first slides from three of the scenarios.  Scenario 4 has the first slide waiting to be imported into the Question Bank.

2. create your question bank

From the Home tab, click on Question Banks in the Scenes group, then select “Create Question Bank” from the list of options.

Give your Question Bank a meaningful name, click OK and your Question Bank will be created.

3. import slides into your question bank

You can access your Question Bank from the drop down list under Question Bank in the Scenes group.

Open your Question Bank and click on ‘Import Questions’ from the Insert group of the Home tab.

Locate the slide you want to import and click to select it.  Note the ‘Import’ options at the top of the Import Questions dialogue box – you have the option to ‘Copy’ or ‘Move’ your chosen slide.  The way I built my Scenes I intended to move the slide, so this is the option I chose.

4. create your “draw from new question bank” slide

I then built an initial Scene that contained an opening and closing slide, plus a ‘Draw from New Question Bank Slide’ – this is the key slide to get your random branching scenario draw set up.  To add this slide, choose ‘New Draw from Question Bank’ from the drop down Question Banks list in the Scenes group of the Home tab.

(Tip:  You need to be in ‘Story View’ to access this Scenes group)

5. modify the triggers

Once you have imported your slides into your Question Bank, you will need to modify the triggers.  The trigger for the Next button needs to be modified to jump to the next slide in the scenario, which will be the first slide in the scene you have set up after you imported the initial slide from the scene into your Question Bank (I labelled this slide ‘Scenario 1/2/3/4 – Continued’).  You should also delete the ‘Jump to previous slide’ trigger assigned to the Previous button.

6. view the final production

This is the final production in a video format.  You can see from the Menu that the course progresses from the ‘Opening Slide’, to a randomly selected Scenario drawn from the Question Bank, then ends with the ‘Closing Slide’.  I’ve played and recorded this twice so you can see the random selection of a different Scenario.

If you want the learner to view more than one of the scenarios, there is a slightly different process you need to follow – thank you to my good friend Matt Guyan for troubleshooting how to set this up for me.

You will need to set your scenario content slides up in layers, then add number variables and conditions on the Next button to show the layers.

source files

Here are the Storyline source files if you are interested in taking a look behind the scenes at how this all works.  Enjoy!

Random branching scenario – view one scenario
Random branching scenario – view more than one scenario

7 Ways to Create Engaging eLearning with Articulate Storyline

1.  Personalise the Learning Experience

A really simple but effective way to personalise the learning experience and engage learners is to capture a learner’s name, then reference their name as they progress through the course.  In Articulate Storyline this is achieved using text variables and is a simple 3-step process explained in this article by Nicole Legault: Add and Display a User’s Name in Storyline.  Here’s an example of how this works: Creating Effective Meetings

1. Personalise

Another way you can personalise your course design is by offering separate learning paths based on the learner’s job role.  Whilst not built in Articulate Storyline, this example by David Anderson explains how you could use this concept in your course design by building branching scenarios: Hands-On: Creating Branching Scenarios


2.  Make the Course Visually Appealing

Learners find it difficult to be engaged if the course doesn’t appeal to their visual senses and may actually judge the value of a course’s content by the visual design.  The key ingredients to good visual design include colour, contrast, repetition, alignment and balance.

Before you start building your course, it’s a good idea to define your key design elements.  Articulate Storyline comes with a range of built-in colour themes to choose from, or you can easily create and save your own.

2. Visually appealing

There are some other useful resources freely available that can assist you with choosing colour for your course design.  You can read more about this in this post “Choosing Colours for eLearning”.

One way to achieve contrast in your course design is to choose contrasting fonts.  You can select from a range of built in theme fonts in Articulate Storyline, or create your own custom theme.

Deciding on a style for graphics, images, icons and other design elements and using this style throughout the course slides will help to ensure consistency and repetition.  You can easily format these design elements and maintain consistency in line with your chosen colour theme by using the format options in the context sensitive ribbons.

2. Visually appealing 2

Alignment is a critical design principle.  All elements on a slide should line up with “something” – they shouldn’t be just randomly spaced.  There are a number of alignment options available in Articulate Storyline to help with this, including the ability to distribute elements horizontally or vertically with the same amount of space between them all, or you can choose to view the Gridlines and manually align your elements to these.

2. Visually appealing 3

If you need some help with balancing the design elements on a slide, you could start with one of the slide templates.  When you go to insert a new slide, choose the Templates tab, then select your template – the “Character Display Panels” template slides show here comes built-in with Articulate Storyline, are fully customisable and are a great starting point for designing well-balanced slides.  Once you start to build your own collection of slide designs, you can add these to this templates area and reuse them in future designs.

2. Visually appealing 4

3.  Give Learners a Choice

Creating a learning experience that allows learners to make choices throughout the course is a good way to actively involve them in their own learning and keep them engaged.  This can be as simple as allowing them to choose a character to guide them through the course, or choose what they would like to do next.


This New Hire Orientation Drag Navigation demo by David Anderson presents learners with a choice by prompting them to drag the course character through a door to immediately branch to a new scene.

3. Give learners a choice 3

By incorporating choices throughout a course you cater to different learning styles and the course navigation becomes less linear.  Giving the learner control over their learning will keep them more engaged and help with retention of information.

4.  Encourage Exploration and Discovery by Including Interactivity

Interactivity is about letting learners decide what they’ll see on the screen by inviting them to interact, rather than “pushing” the information to them.

Almost all interactivity is built on three elements – click, hover or drag and engages the learner by requiring them to make decisions, either by applying what they’ve learned or giving them control over the content they want to see.

This Flat Design Office Workspace example created in Storyline by Andrew Sellon is proposed as an alternative way to present a new manager training program.  The learner accesses the course content by clicking on the various elements on the virtual desktop.

4. Interactivity

In this example by Andrew Sellon, he uses Articulate Storyline to create an interactive photo of his desktop.  Using the markers in Storyline, he adds 16 points of interest.  The learner is prompted to hover over each of these points to explore the audio setup and a description displays, then by clicking on each marker a window opens with more details.  This is a really effective way to invite exploration and present the course content from the one screen.

4. Interactivity 2

This Customer Service drag and drop example by Tom Kuhlmann uses a character and dialogue to present the learner with a challenge, requires them to make a choice and interact with the course by dragging and dropping their response, then uses the character to provide the feedback on the consequence of that choice.  This type of interactivity is based on the 3C model (challenge, choice, consequence) and is a very powerful way to present course content for maximum retention of knowledge.

4. Interactivity 3

There are a lot of considerations when building interactive eLearning – this article by Tom Kuhlmann provides more information on this concept, including examples of each element and recommended resources: Here Are the 3 Building Blocks for Interactive eLearning

5.  Use Case Studies or Scenarios

The power of surprise is an important element in the learning process.  When learning is predictable and the element of surprise is eliminated, learners tend to be passive and take less active roles in their learning.  By incorporating scenarios into your design, learners will be compelled to take different views and by bringing the unexpected into the learning, it becomes more authentic.

In this branching scenario by Melissa Milloway, learners are presented with four cases and can choose the order in which they view these.  Each case portrays a character and depicts real life situations relevant to workplace violence.  The learner is asked to choose a course of action and consequences are fed back based on their choice.

5. Scenarios

In this Storyline example by Richard Watson learners explore emergency response options.  The addition of a countdown timer makes this scenario more realistic and the comprehensive feedback slides reinforce the consequences of the learner’s decisions – even being indecisive has a cost in this training!


To build a great scenario, the content should relate back to the real-life situation your learners will face when they go to apply the information from your course. This article by Nicole Legault explains how you can Build 3-Step Scenarios Like a Pro With Storyline.

6.  Use Characters

In an online environment, learners can find courses impersonal, unnatural and boring if someone or something does not fill the role of an instructor or trainer.  Effective use of characters in an eLearning experience not only enhances the course design, but engages learners helps to increase knowledge retention.

Articulate Storyline comes with a range of illustrated and photographic characters each with a variety of poses and expressions that you can easily insert into your course design, or you can use your own characters.  Here’s a chart of the illustrated characters that come with Storyline: Quick Chart: Articulate Storyline Characters

6. Use characters

You could use characters as presenters to present the course information to the learner, or as avatars to guide the learner through the course and assess their knowledge through questioning.

6. Use characters 2

You could also embed the learning in conversational dialogue of two or more characters, or use storytelling or scenarios where the characters play a central role that the learner can learn a lesson from.  This post on 3 key Elements of eLearning Storytelling provides more information on the elements of a good story and how these can be applied to eLearning design.

In this Maths Skills example by Linda Lorenzitti, progressive dialogue between two characters leads to a maths lesson, then an interactive quiz to test the learner.  The comic book style design and the choice of characters add another dimension to what could otherwise be a difficult topic to present in an engaging way in an eLearning course.

6. Use characters 3

7. Use Audio and Video

Effective use of audio makes an online course appealing.  Good quality audio narration enhances the learner’s interest and concentration and helps reduce cognitive load.  You can insert audio into Storyline from a file, or record straight into your project using your microphone.  If you need some tips on working with audio, there’s more information in this post:  Tips for working with audio in Articulate Storyline

7. Use Audio

Videos are a great way to engage your learners emotionally and there’s no doubt that it’s often easier to learn by watching how to do something than by reading about it.  Storyline makes the addition of video to your course very easy – you can add video from a file or a website, or you can record directly into your project using a webcam.  If you need some tips on working with video, there’s more information in this post:  Tips for working with video in Articulate Storyline.

7. Use Video


This is a story about my journey to becoming a full-time freelance instructional designer.

I’ve known for a long time that I need to work somewhere where I’m empowered to “make a difference” and where my efforts are appreciated.

I’ve had lots of managers – some good, some who should probably not be managers.  I’m an enthusiastic worker who needs to know what is expected of me and just likes to get on with things.

I’ve followed a career strategy that includes setting clear goals to move ahead and this has taken me on an interesting journey.

I enrolled in the B Online Learning MEC (Master e-Learning Course) with an open mind about where this qualification may take me.  This was the start of my journey to freelance freedom!

I completed the MEC course in August 2013.  I became a member of the Articulate e-Learning Heroes community and actively contributed to their weekly challenges.


I spent a huge amount of time learning from others in this field and improving my skills in instructional design.  I networked like crazy and learnt everything I could about the e-Learning industry.

I still had an open mind about where I wanted to end up, but being a creative person, I knew I wanted to design online instruction in some way, shape or form.

The decision to move into full-time freelancing was in some ways easy, but in other ways not so easy – but nothing is achieved in life without taking a risk.

I am still and always will be an enthusiastic worker who likes to “make a difference”, but I now work for myself and have the best boss ever!  I use Articulate Storyline every day and there seems to be a huge demand for enthusiastic e-Learning instructional designers.

I get to work with some amazing clients who appreciate my efforts and respect my expertise.  I’m still learning new things every day and in this age of rapidly advancing technology I have no doubt this will continue to be the case.

If you are considering a freelancing career, I would highly recommend it.

Across my Desk and finding diigo

As part of My Year in Review and Goal Setting for 2015, I resolved to start a weekly summary of what my week has brought as far as learning goes.

Setting this up so that it was not too time-consuming or onerous took some investigation.  I eventually settled on using diigo, a social bookmarking tool.  As a social bookmarking tool diigo allows users to discover, categorise and share useful content and information.  Here is a really good overview of what diigo can do.


By using the “Auto post to blog” feature, diigo automatically creates a draft blog post in WordPress of things I bookmark.  It’s then a simple process to edit the draft post and publish.

Some of the functionality I’m investigating on top of the bookmarking are annotations, highlights and sticky notes and the social aspects which include Groups, Communities and Networks.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, diigo is an acronym for “Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff”.

My weekly blog posts can be found in my Across my Desk blog (click on the image below).


A Case Study in Personal Knowledge Management and Networking

This week I’ve started thinking more analytically about how I process information I come across on the Internet.  At the risk of making myself very vulnerable by exposing how I manage my personal knowledge and professional networking, here is an overview of an average 15 minute session.

Today this process started with coming across a Kineo video on YouTube that caught my attention.  This video was “Learning Insights 2013: Learning at the Speed of Need” – an interesting video, but now over a year old.  So I went to the City and Guilds Kineo YouTube channel to see if they had a more recent video on this topic.  Whilst I was there I “subscribed” to their channel and added this to a number of other YouTube channels I’ve previously subscribed to.  The video on “Learning Technology Trends for 2014 – 2015” caught my eye and whilst I liked the design of this video, it was short and directed viewers to the events section of the Kineo website.  I pinned this video to my Pinterest “Design” board for viewing at a later time, ticking the “Post to Twitter” option which tweets a link back to my Pinterest board.  I then moved on to the Kineo website.

When visiting a website, I invariably look for the “About” page and the “Resources” page.  I found out on their “About Us – Who we are” page that Kineo is a “global workplace learning company”.  I then went straight to the “Kineo Pacific” link (because I’m located in Australia!) and found out that their operations in the Pacific region began in 2011 and they claim to now have one of the biggest e-Learning teams in Australasia.  A quick scroll through the “Meet some of the team” section and I noted instantly that my eye was draw more to the team member overviews with photos.  One of the team members had a really interesting quote against his overview:

“I have a strong passion for the value of lifelong learning and its positive benefits for both individuals and company performance. I am especially excited about the role technology is increasingly playing in creating more engaging and effective learning. I love working closely with organizations to help them maximize the impact of workplace learning and development using innovative and world-leading approaches”.

There was only generic contact information for Kineo, so I did a search of LinkedIn and found this Kineo employee.  A quick scroll through his public profile and I found out we had seven connections in common.  I’ve now sent an invitation to connect to this person and hope he will accept my invitation and become part of my network!  I realised I’m already a member of the Kineo e-Learning Professionals group on LinkedIn and see some familiar faces in there, so have resolved to visit the discussions area of this group and start contributing – one of my goals for 2015!!  One of the discussions that caught my eye was the one which asked members to complete a survey on Hopes and Challenges for 2015 which I did!

On clicking on the Promotions tab of this LinkedIn group, I found a post about The Learning Assembly Australia 2015 which I noted had been posted only 2 months ago and referred to an event in Melbourne in February 2015.  The link in this article took me to The Learning Assembly Australia event page where I was able to view the Interactive Highlights of the event and was delighted to once again see some familiar names on this page – Ryan Tracey, who is heading the M-Learning table as an expert in this field, and Matt Guyan, a fellow Articulate e-Learning Heroes Community member who has been given credit for contributing to research and development for this event.  A link from the “Contact Us” page took me to The Ark Group Australia website, and from here I found the Ark Group Australia Showcase Page on LinkedIn where I clicked on Follow.  I’ve also sent an email off for more information on the agenda for this event – should be a great networking opportunity and the bonus is it’s in Melbourne where I live.

The other page I invariably look for on a website is the “Careers” page.  Kineo has an extensive Careers page, including an introduction that says they are “always looking for more people who share our passion for learning and delivering great customer service”.  The Kineo Pacific page had limited current opportunities, but an impressive overview of why you should work for them.  A quick look at other pages such as Clients, Case Studies and Services – e-Learning and I decided to add this website to the “Inspiring websites and blogs” section of the My Toolkit page of my e-Portfolio.

Whilst I was scrolling through the Resources – Top Tips section of the Kineo website I came across an article on “How To Design For Multiple Personas in Your LMS”.  Having previously touched on persona creation in relation to end user training, I was interested in this article which also pointed to other references, including a webinar recording on YouTube which I marked to “Watch Later”.  I then added the link to this article to my Diigo and while I was there did a search for all items tagged “Personas”.  I came across this article on “Replacing Personas with Characters” which I found totally engrossing.  This led me to discover this awesome Random Users Generator  which I added to My Toolkit, as well as a “Character Template” for downloading from Google Docs.  The article also referenced cognitive biases and linked to Wikipedia, and to a page on with a video “Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman on Making Smarter Decisions” which is on cognitive bias and errors that can affect decision-making.  It also took me to the Medium site “where readers and writers connect” (which I’ve also now added to My Toolkit) and to Down the Rabbit Hole – Writings by Alan Clement  (the author of the article on personas), as well as to the Medium profile of Alan Clement which led me to his Twitter profile – and I’m now following him.  During this process I also signed up to Medium and – both free accounts and added to My Toolkit.


A little self-analysis here tells me that in a very short time I’ve visited YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Diigo, Google Docs, Twitter and several websites I had never visited before, completed a survey, found a YouTube webinar I want to watch and a professional development and networking event I would like to attend, sent an invitation to connect through LinkedIn, followed a couple of people on Twitter and an organisation on LinkedIn, signed up to a couple of online resources, added some resource links to the My Toolkit section of my e-Portfolio and found some articles to read on a range of topics, from personas to cognitive bias.  What I’m not sure about is whether I have done this effectively – but this is something I will be looking at more closely this year.

Feel free to share your personal knowledge management tips and tricks by adding a comment to this page.

My year in review and goal setting for 2015

There is no denying 2014 was a busy year for me.  I’ve challenged myself in a number of areas, including contributing to the e-Learning Heroes community and actively using social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, ScoopIt, Delicious and Diigo.  I’ve developed and released an e-Portfolio and started my own YouTube channel.  I’ve taken myself out of my comfort zone and tried new things and in doing this have surprised myself with the possibilities.

The year ended with me attending a careers workshop run by Paragon Recruitment.  The agenda for this workshop was:

  • Where are the jobs for over 50’s
  • Why you can’t get a job, what are you doing wrong?
  • The resume/cover letter
  • Dealing with recruiters/agencies
  • Options – Should I  buy a franchise/business? Should I open a coffee shop?
  • What are the contracting options?
  • Tips and tricks for finding the elusive job

During this workshop one of the most interesting things I learnt was that only around 20% of jobs are advertised now – the rest are filled through word-of-mouth, referrals or by other means such as professional networking.  I have personally experienced this over the last few months with an increasing number of direct approaches by recruiters based on my social media career profiles.  The message this sends to job seekers is that they will no longer be able to rely solely on the system of applying for advertised positions but will need to adopt a more pro-active strategy to secure employment, including serious professional networking.

Even though it seems I’m on the right track as far as building my professional network, in this regard I’ve set myself some further specific goals for 2015.  One of my goals is to contribute more to online discussions in the fields of e-Learning, instructional design and knowledge management.  The other is to start a weekly summary of what my week has brought as far as learning goes.   Being organised enough to collate learnings on a weekly basis seems like an enormous challenge at this point, but not insurmountable.

If you don’t know exactly what you want, how will you find it, how will you inform others and how will you target your perfect job?

As part of the careers workshop I attended in December, I have been given some homework – the first of eight stages.  Stage 1 is about defining what it is I really want in a career.  I’ve been challenged to imagine I’m the director of my life and write a “reverse job description” – a short 1-2 page description of my ideal job/role/career as if I already have it and am working on it.  Being realistic about my skill set and honest with myself about what it is that I really want to do and what I’m passionate about are elements of the self-reflection I will need to do for this homework.  The idea behind actually writing this down is that this will put the wheels into motion and opportunities will present themselves.

I’m certain this year will bring many opportunities and challenges and I’m looking forward to the learning, sharing and hopefully success that comes with these.

What will the new year bring you as far as your career goes?

Open knowledge: changing the global course of learning

Stanford Online is a university-wide initiative coordinated by the Office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning (VPOL).  The mission of the VPOL is “to advance the understanding and use of new technologies and teaching methods in support of Stanford students and faculty, in service to higher education and to promote lifelong learning”.

A range of free online courses taught by Stanford faculty are offered to lifelong learners worldwide, with course topics covering business and management, education, engineering and computer science, entrepreneurship, humanities, law, mathematics, medicine and health, and natural and social sciences. Clifton B. Parker reported the following in the Stanford Report of 19 May 2014:

“Stanford’s online learning initiative is growing at a fast pace and the university is looking far beyond the MOOC at how to best educate students in the 21st century.  A new report highlights accomplishments in 2013 and eyes the future of research-driven innovation.”

I have taken the opportunity to enrol in one of the courses that is of particular interest to me – “Open knowledge: changing the global course of learning“.

This video gives a very brief overview of what the course is about.


The course starts tomorrow and the schedule covers the following:

Week 1: Introduction to Open Knowledge
Week 2: Technological Change, Digital Identity, and Connected Learning
Week 3: Participatory Culture, Citizen Journalism, Citizen Science
Week 4: Intellectual Property, Copyright, and the Economics of Open
Week 5: Historical Perspectives: Learned Publishing from Medieval to Modern Times
Week 6: Open Science, Data, Access, Source, Review
Week 7: Open Educational Resources: From Lesson Plans to Instructional Videos
Week 8: Archives, Databases, Encyclopedia: Evaluating Open Collections and Reference Sources
Week 9: Scholarly Publishing and Communications: Journals, Books, and Publication of Research
Week 10: Information Literacy: Overload, Filters, and Developing a Critical Lens
Week 11: Global Perspectives on Equity, Development, and Open Knowledge
Week 12: Student Publishing: Lessons in Publishing, Peer Review, and Knowledge Sharing
Week 13: The Future of Open Knowledge

I have enrolled in MOOCs before and I’m thinking 13 weeks is a long time to remain engaged in an online course, but this course claims it will:

“challenge you to take control of your own education, to determine your own personal learning objectives, to contribute to the development of the curriculum, to reflect on your progress, to learn new digital skills, and to take a leadership role in the virtual classroom. It will also provide you with the opportunity to connect with colleagues from different countries and professions, and to better understand areas where your interests overlap and where unexpected distincts exist”.

…so it should be interesting.  Check out some of the other Stanford Online courses here.

Smartphone video training for course designers

I recently participated in one of the e-Learning Heroes’ weekly challenges which challenged participants to create a training video using their smartphone.

Before I started this challenge I did a bit of research on using smartphones for video production and came across this YouTube video which I found extremely helpful, particularly the tip about how to focus on the main object you’re trying to capture in your video.


I produced a short video on the topic “How to make coffee” and learned many lessons along the way.  This challenge proved to me that there is value in considering this option for producing training content, but having the right set-up equipment would definitely help.

Here is my final production, with an overview of how I went about this and what I learnt   (click on the image).

How to Make Coffee

You can view other entries in this challenge on the e-Learning Heroes community blog here: E-Learning Challenge #42: Smartphone Video Training for Course Designers