January/February 2019

Product Watch

In-Office Training Made Easy in One Captivating Product

Daniel J. Siegel

Remember when you joined a new firm? In addition to trying to remember everyone’s names and trying to recall all sorts of information, you were thrown into your job without being shown how to do many basic computer tasks. Whether it was learning how to use the firm’s case or document management system, or simply figuring out where information and files were stored on the office’s network, you felt abandoned.

This lament is common. In fact, I hear it from virtually every office because it happens not only in law firms but also in every business where the staff uses computers and needs training—in other words, in every business. Regardless of the type of business, new employees are generally welcomed with a brief orientation to the computer network and an even briefer demonstration of how to use key software, and then they’re on their own.

While many firms have some type of office manual, these tend to be printed tomes that are not updated regularly. And many of them are text-heavy and don’t have the screenshots necessary for most users who want to see pictures showing them how to use the software.

Captivate Has Captivated the Fortune 500

There is a solution to this problem: Adobe Captivate, a software program that creates software simulations and training videos to demonstrate how a product works. Captivate can also test users’ knowledge with interactive or post-demonstration testing. Adobe describes Captivate 2019, the latest version, as “the future of smart eLearning design,” and they are correct.

You probably don’t realize it, but you and your staff have likely used Captivate-based projects because over 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies use Captivate. Plus Captivate’s projects work on Windows and Mac operating systems and are scalable to all types of desktop and mobile devices and screen sizes. Despite its popularity among larger companies, Captivate remains virtually unused among law firms. Software companies and businesses providing software training and support have used Captivate to create e-learning projects that they give or sell to clients, reducing the need for one-on-one training.

What Can Captivate Do For You?

What can your law office create with Captivate? Just about anything that is computer-based, because the program can do everything from recording and capturing keystrokes to creating skill tests for new staff. With Captivate projects you could create in-house tutorials that show how to do everything from logging on to your network to using your case management software to using whatever other software your firm has purchased. Each of those uses is ideal for a Captivate project, even if each takes only a few minutes.

Captivate not only captures your screen movements, but it also allows you to narrate what you are doing. You don’t need fancy equipment, just a microphone. I tested the software using both my laptop’s external mic and a basic Logitech headset. While both were satisfactory, the recording quality was far better using the headset.

You can also include interactive questions to test whether your staff has learned the material. Or you can require users to take certain actions, such as correctly clicking on a feature, before moving to the next slide in the presentation. Or you can require users to take a test at the end of the presentation to determine how well they have learned the materials or whether they need to review the presentation again before moving forward.

One e-learning website lists various projects it has created using Captivate, including answering the phone, responding to angry customers, giving an elevator pitch, asking customers questions to understand their needs, interviewing for a job, managing time, evaluating online sources for credibility, software training, using various features in Microsoft Word or Excel and many more.

As you can see, Captivate can help staff learn far more than the mundane, but essential, tasks every office needs its employees to learn. Using Captivate assures consistency in how your staff performs tasks, and it can reduce the costs of bringing in outside trainers to demonstrate software.

Ease of Use

Although Captivate is easy for staff members and other end users to use, the product has a reputation for being challenging to learn when used to create various projects for those users. Fortunately, for most law firms, which will only need to create relatively easy projects, the software is comparatively easy to use to create those items. In many cases it’s easy enough to use that your training staff or other Captivate-trained end users can set up projects while performing their day-to-day activities. That’s especially helpful because if your staff never learns how to perform common tasks, they are unlikely to become versed in lesser-used software in your office.

Having never tried any previous version of the product, I was skeptical about Adobe’s claims that Captivate is easy to use, so I tried it with the goal of frustrating myself. Perhaps because Captivate can do so much, at first blush it was a bit overwhelming, but that was also because I tried to create complex projects first, before learning how to create easier ones. It was like trying to swim in the deep end before learning to how tread water.

I overcame my frustration quickly by taking a step backward and using Adobe’s many tutorials. I discovered a world of helpful information that allowed me to learn the program’s basics. First, I used the tutorials available through the Community button on Captivate’s main toolbar. Examples such as Create Your First Captivate Project were invaluable in helping me gain confidence using the software.

After taking advantage of a few tutorials, many of which include sample files to help learn how to manipulate your projects, I began to explore the web for tutorials about more advanced projects. I discovered many YouTube videos that were extremely helpful, including numerous ones that focused on beginners. After spending a few hours learning the product, I felt far more confident about my skills. So, like almost anything you do, you won’t get the full benefit of Captivate unless you invest the time to learn how to use it.

Final Issues

Ideally, a firm should designate one or two staff members to learn to use Captivate and to create the projects for new and existing staff. These “super users” can then record their many daily activities, quickly creating a large bank of resources for the office.

Captivate is $29.99 per month by subscription or $1,299 for a perpetual license, per user. Users with Captivate 2017 can upgrade to the 2019 version for $499. For the majority of law firms without a training staff, or that don’t train staff as well as they should, Adobe Captivate is an excellent investment. While the software’s more advanced features take time to learn, the money is well spent in light of your ability to train your staff in your procedures rather than permitting them to make do, learning on the fly and often acquiring bad habits along the way.

Neither the ABA nor ABA entities endorse non-ABA products or services, and this review should not be so construed.

Daniel J. Siegel

Daniel J. Siegel is an attorney whose practice focuses on appellate law and providing ethical and professional guidance to other attorneys. He is also president of Integrated Technology Services, a consulting firm that assists law firms with improving their workflows. Email him.

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