“Zebra just won out, based on what it could do… Everything is so connected.”
– Kairyl Ikbal, Nokia
Greg Daigle, ZebraZapp’s Director of Customer Success Services, asked members of the training team at Nokia USA about their experiences with ZebraZapps. In the interview are Carey Zarate, Development Manager at Nokia Siemens Networks, and Kairyl Ikbal, Training & eLearning Development at Nokia Siemens Networks. Mentioned in the interview is Instructional Designer Pennee Vongkiattip.
ZZ - What is it about ZZ that made you try it and continue to use it?
K - We saw a demo from Ethan Edwards, the Chief Instructional Strategist at Allen Interactions. First we took a Flash class from Ethan, that was years ago. We love him. We saw him again at the ATD TechKnowledge convention in Las Vegas where he had an early beta of Zebra. We really liked it, but my thinking was limited to if it could import Adobe Flash files. We used Swish, an interactive tool that exports mostly to the Flash format. I didn’t really realize at the time all that ZebraZapps could do.
K - In the past we used Mzinga Publisher. It was pretty fast for basic layouts, backgrounds and for navigating content in courses. But then when we wanted something interactive, Publisher just could not do it unless it was very basic like a drag-and-drop or click-to-show. If we wanted anything more than that we had to use Swish, which was a lot slower to develop in. Overall, Zebra’s much faster than Swish.
C - Initially we were considering it more as a replacement for Publisher but not necessarily for Swish. Once we got the demos later and we saw all of what it could do, then we were “Oh, okay, now it’s worthwhile!” When Ethan and others came for a consultation about 5 years ago they brought the ZebraZapps role play interaction and we could see it work. Kairyl and I have always been early adaptors. When Mzinga came out with Firefly Simulation Developer it was great, and we jumped on Publisher when it came out, but we have always been on the lookout for better tools.
K - When Firefly came out we really liked it. It was a really great, cutting edge simulation tool at the time, but they didn’t continue to improving it.
C - Firefly made you feel like you were in an application. If they had kept it up it would have been amazing. It lost support when Mzinga restructured and improvements in Author lagged. It’s still good, but it hasn’t kept up, doesn’t embed well, and the support wasn’t great.
K - We tried and tested a lot of other tools out there as well.
C - We started looking around for other tools and Zebra kept coming up.
K - Zebra just won out, based on what it could do. We like the feature set a lot.
ZZ - What is it about ZebraZapps that has helped you most to address your challenges?
K - I love how everything is an object, even the events and the project. Everything is so connected. The no coding aspect, which I really like, it’s so powerful – especially with the custom variables and properties, so I don’t see any need for coding. Each individual tool in the tool set is powerful, but we didn’t really realize how powerful it could be once you leveraged the power in each object together. And that’s really hard to see if you’re someone who really doesn’t know the tool. Although, if you go through the webinar examples up on the blog, then you start to see the power that is there.
ZZ - What else has helped you?
K - The excellent support we get. It’s really a great job you guys do. I can’t emphasize too much what a benefit that is. It makes a huge difference. We send a question and you guys really analyze it and take time to explain it. I send little videos so that you can see what the issue is, and we hope that makes a difference.
ZZ - It really does. Keep it up!
C - It used to be so difficult, because Pennee and I could come up with new ideas and rely that Kairyl could interpret our vision. But a lot of times as you build something you think of different ways to do it, making it better as you build it. We never had that opportunity before because it was only Kairyl doing the coding. Pennee is an excellent example of this because she always came up with good ideas, but now her interactions are really great because she can build it herself. She gets into the project and is able to come up with lots of cool stuff herself. As she builds it she comes up with new ideas making it better.
K - Creatively, Pennee is the lead on our team. She doesn’t have a programming background, either. She can come up with the idea, layout it out, and now build it herself.
ZZ - How has benefited your audience as well as your team?
K - It definitely means faster updates to content and courses for ourselves and our users. Its really easy to get SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) to review the content with Zebra’s ability to publish to a private URL.
ZZ - Your SMEs have benefited as well?
K - The way that we’ve done it in the past is that we send out a spreadsheet of content for the SMEs to fill out, then once we’ve built a draft project we publish it and use Zebra’s ability to publish privately to send out the URL to reviewers who then send us back comments. We use those comments to update course content. It’s nice because we don’t have to send documents back and forth, we just have one single instance. It’s kind of like a Google Docs advantage.
K - Let’s say we had full courses with multiple events, we would send out the URL to a SharePoint type table and ask for comments, which we then check off.
ZZ - And you keep using the same URL as the project gets republished and updated.
K - Yes.
ZZ - You had mentioned an example that you were able to build much faster in ZZ than in Flash. Would you tell us about that?
C - He was so excited that day! He called me, he was geeking out!
K - Ha, yeah I was. I’ll show you the before and after.
K- It’s a very simple interaction, but the point was more about how fast and easy it was to recreate in Zebra. This is the old one…
Project interface using Swish.
C - The first time Kairyl built it in Flash it was almost a week, then the second time it went faster in Flash, but still it took 3-4 solid days.
K - The new version is even better because it uses vector objects and is easier to update. The original has an introduction and the style was kind of old fashioned. Some things don’t match quite right because we updated it and it was hard to realign the elements after that. The bubbles expand each time you click on an element, because that was one of the tool options in Flash. You click on it and it shows you “Who is responsible” and “What happens next”, and the status of the tool. We use this in our reference manual. We have a table of all these statuses and a basic click-through to show how it works. It uses ActionScriot 2 in the background. It’s not very complex, pretty basic.
K - I told Carey that we need to update this to Nokia branding to include new color changes and some other branding changes. It was done in Swish and I thought I might as well clean up some of the objects, but then thought to myself, this is going to take a while. Then I thought, why not do this in Zebra? It might save a lot of time.
Project interface using ZebraZapps.
K - So I started plunking away with some things in Zebra to see how fast it would be and realized, yeah, this is going to be a lot faster. All of the arrows, objects, highlights, it’s all vector objects or text objects. There are no images in here. It looks a lot better, and it works. The use of a state table make it so much easier to update things than just updating the content. In the past you would have to go to each individual box drawn in the code, find the right box, find the details, make the change then go on to the next one. It was fairly tedious, whereas with tables it is all in one spot and it’s a lot easier to preview as well. Then of course no coding and being able to duplicate all that stuff is a lot easier.
C - The highlight settings and all in one place, that is nice.
K - As you can imagine, it is really, really simple to do this type of thing in Zebra. Swish does not directly output files hosted in the cloud, but Zebra does. The nice thing is that in Zebra I then use the embed publish option and put that URL linked to the file into the handbook . When you update it in Zebra and republish, the link stays the same but the content is automatically updated, so no changes to the handbook are needed.
K - I think I already mentioned that I was the only one who did Swish. But now the nice thing is that Pennee or Carey can go in at any time and change text, objects or whatever and republish. It’s really, really, really nice!
ZZ - A lot of people use our standalone packages, but they don’t understand the power of something hosted, so that even if you have a package on an LMS, when you update the project and republish, it gets updated in the LMS course at the same time.
K - We do that as well. We output to SCORM 1.2, actually that is most of our content. But we do have a few of these type projects that go into our handbook.