Building E-Learning Interactions with Your SMEs

Written by David Anderson — Posted in Articulate Storyline

Introduction and overview

When you’re sorting out the visual direction of your e-learning project, but don’t want to slow down development, there’s a great way to make progress on both fronts: tap your subject matter experts (SMEs). You see, SMEs can help with production as well as with content review, thanks to Articulate Storyline’s Import PowerPoint and Convert to Freeform features.

Using these, you can give SMEs PowerPoint-based interaction templates, so they can work where they’re comfortable, and then effortlessly import the completed templates back into your Storyline project. Let’s take a look at how it works.

Creating a reusable template in PowerPoint

Beginning in PowerPoint, define your slide size to align with your Storyline course. If you’re working with the default size in Storyline (720×540), then you can work from PowerPoint’s default size. In this case, we’re working with a slightly larger document, so we need to modify our PowerPoint document.

Next, let’s define the editable items on our slide. This will tell SMEs where they can place text, feedback, graphics, and videos.

  • Text placeholders for instructions and feedback
  • Image placeholders for both the drop targets and drag items
  • Color to indicate correct and incorrect items

Feedback placeholders on your template

The feedback placeholders are located outside the slide area. In most cases, the feedback will be placed in Storyline’s slide layers. Keeping the feedback placeholders outside the main slide area will help SMEs visualize exactly what learners will see when they begin the activity.

Adding notes and directions for your SMEs

Feedback placeholders on your template

PowerPoint’s slide masters are a great way to include notes and other directions for SMEs while minimizing the number of on-slide objects.

When you import the PowerPoint template into Storyline, the slide master will import with it, but you can assign a new slide layout in Storyline to remove the PowerPoint notes.

Using the PowerPoint template

Now that the template is set up, let’s play the role of SME and fill it out. Add the text questions, feedback, and objects to your PowerPoint slide.

Production tip: By making your image placeholders pictures rather than shapes, you can use PowerPoint’s Change Picture feature to quickly swap images for placeholders.

Importing the PowerPoint template into Articulate Storyline

When you finish adding content to the PowerPoint template, it’s time to bring the file into your Articulate Storyline project.

If you’ve never seen Storyline’s PowerPoint Import feature in action, you’re in for a real treat. Go to Insert > New Slide and select the import tab. Click PowerPoint and grab the PowerPoint file that your subject matter expert worked on.

Converting the static slide to a drag-drop interaction

On the imported PowerPoint template, you can see how well Storyline retains the objects and text—everything’s editable. If you want to fine-tune your slide, simply move the objects or change the fonts. But overall, the layout is exactly the same as it was in PowerPoint.

What you should know about importing PowerPoint

Importing PowerPoint templates into Storyline is generally quite easy, but be aware that sometimes imported text may not look exactly like it does in PowerPoint. To fix that, you may need to adjust the text spacing, alignment, or colors.

To help you get the most out of your imported templates, check out these resources:

Going forward with your own projects

What types of projects are you creating? Have you tried inviting your SMEs into the production process? Share your experiences below, or hop over to E-Learning Heroes and post a thread about your latest creation!

Get the free storyboard template from our downloads gallery.

4 responses to “Building E-Learning Interactions with Your SMEs”


Great way to link the world of “PowerPoint” and the world of “Storyline”.
Seems a shame though, as SL is designed to allow us to get away from the shackles of PowerPoint that we have to use this way of doing things. I guess we all have to be pragmatic, and this is certainly a pragmatic, and SME-friendly way to do things.

Bruce Graham // Posted at 5:51 am on August 9th, 2013

Thanks for sharing David!

Daniel // Posted at 11:55 am on August 10th, 2013

Great tip. Bruce I don’t agree with you. I don’t see it as Storyline being shackled to PowerPoint. I see it as a point of convenience.

My SMEs need to get content to me and this template is an excellent way for them to use a tool they know to collect the assets and ideas I need to build an interactive solution for them.

If it wasn’t PowerPoint, they’d have to write it up in Word or some other document. If anything is shows that Storyline is much more advanced than PowerPoint.

Samantha Jennings // Posted at 12:07 pm on August 10th, 2013

I guess my point is that if we get SMEs to use .ppt, they (usually – IMHO) start to get all involved in producing PowerPoint and not what I need!

Bruce Graham // Posted at 12:53 pm on August 11th, 2013

Comments are closed on this post. Need more help? Post your question in the E-Learning Heroes Discussions.

Recent Comments