A Tale of Two Authoring Tools

Rise vs. Storyline

As a media developer with Innovative Learning Group, I’m often asked the difference between Articulate Rise and Storyline. So, let’s explore their differences to help you decide which authoring tool to use.

What’s Storyline 360?

Storyline 360 has long been the heavy hitter of the training industry (and Articulate 360’s flagship product). It’s a desktop application that offers a robust, feature-rich tool to build traditional e-learning courses. For instance, Storyline editor (Figure 1) offers a wide variety of elements that can be inserted into a course — video, audio, quizzes, interactive dials and sliders, images, web objects, tables, and much more. There are even controls for animations, motion paths, timelines, buttons, and user-input controls. Storyline allows you to build your content on a slide-by-slide basis with the option to chunk these into distinct scenes. In short, when you need full control and unlimited options, this is the tool to use.

Figure 1

What’s Rise?

Rise 360 is a web-based authoring tool also developed by Articulate 360. Rise is known for being a quick way to put together a web-delivered course. Its own website describes Rise360 in glowing terms: “Responsive course authoring done right, Build once for all devices, Richly compact and minimally perfect, and Creates courses in minutes.”

But how true is this, and what are its limitations?

How Does Rise Differ From Storyline?

Rise makes a trade-off, sacrificing flexibility for simplicity. Articulate has stripped away many of the options seen in Storyline in favor of a minimal set of tools that allow for a quicker build time. This is a key concept to understand — development time is quicker in part because of the limited set of interactions and customizations available.

Where Storyline is a full desktop application — meaning you actually have the application on your computer and can share your files– Rise is browser-based. Everything in Rise is in the cloud, so there’s no ‘file’ in your system. Instead, you develop your course directly in the browser.

By default, Rise is made for mobile devices and is responsive — the size of pages, text, and images will shrink or grow depending on the screen size of the learner. This can be both a blessing and a curse. While responsiveness is automatic, it also means you don’t have complete control over your entire page set up. For example, let’s say you want to show a row of four boxes. As the screen size narrows, these boxes will rearrange and may mess up the visual order. In short, there’s great fluidity with all of your components (See Figure 2 for an example).

Figure 2

However, this level of responsiveness is the correct approach to mobile and the various screen sizes available. In contrast, a course built in Storyline will simply reduce in size on a smaller screen, often resulting in unreadable text and miniscule graphics.

The Look of Rise

A Storyline course feels more like a presentation, where clicking the Next button takes you to the “next” slide. Rise, on the other hand, replaces this slide functionality with scrollable web pages.

Notice two things in Figure 3, which is a screenshot of a Rise course. First, in the upper-right corner is a selection of icons that represents desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, and allows you to instantly view the course as a learner would. Second, you can see the overall layout of the page with a lesson and image header at the top, followed by several paragraphs of text beneath. The user will need to scroll to continue viewing this content.

Figure 3

This scrolling web page can be a little disorienting for some learners, especially as they grow in length, compared to the ‘completeness’ of a single slide. Often in Rise, there’ll be a continue button on the bottom, so the learner can keep rolling right on through to the next lesson.

Speaking of lessons, take a look at the next image (Figure 4). As mentioned, Rise offers minimal customization. What you see here is the standard course lesson page – there’s no way to customize it. Lessons display top-down and have a small icon showing complete/incomplete status. That’s it. Simplicity over complexity.

Figure 4

There just aren’t as many customization options in Rise as there are in Storyline. You can choose a theme color (think company brand) that will propagate to all the buttons and elements throughout the course. In Figure 5, the ‘Lesson Header’ options are displayed, and while there’s a list to choose from, you can see they really don’t step outside the box when it comes to being very distinct from one another.

Figure 5

This is common with Rise — some customization, but only for certain things. Think about it like a new house. Rise doesn’t let you pick the floor plan or style. It only allows you to choose the windows and trim color. This “quick to build and deploy” comes at a cost, so you need to take into consideration when determining how to build your courses.

Building a Rise Course

As mentioned, Rise displays lessons as scrolling web pages, and these are created from top to bottom using blocks. Blocks can be inserted above or below existing content, and contain all the course content (e.g., images, videos, accordions, paragraphs, flip cards, buttons, etc.). Building a course in Rise is as simple as dragging these blocks from the library to the page, and then filling in the content with your own. And while Rise doesn’t have as many options as Storyline, there are still enough to build some decent training.

You can see in Figure 6, the arrow is pointing to a small circle with a plus sign, and by clicking this, you’ll open the block editor. The block editor allows you to simply drag whatever element you wish to add. Simple!

Figure 6

Once a new block is created, you always have the option to move it up or down in the stack. One thing to note is that there’s no simple copy and paste option if you want to copy a block to another lesson. For that, you’ll need to create a new block set, choose the ones you want, add them to the library, and then once you’re on your new page, open the library and select it. This process is  a bit cumbersome but definitely doable.

Figure 7 shows the block library and some of the ‘interactive’ options available, such as tabbed interactions, labeled graphics, and more.

Figure 7

Is Rise Right for You?

All in all, Rise may be just the right tool for you, especially if delivering on mobile is a top concern. Take a look at some existing courses (Online Training Examples Created with Rise) to see how these work and if they could be the right fit for your next learning project. I’ve included a simple chart (Figure 8) that summarizes some of the key differences between these applications.

Figure 8

One important point: You may choose to develop your e-learning in Rise because it’s “quick and cost effective” but be prepared for Rise’s limited options. And remember when I wrote that Rise is cloud-based? This means that unless you have Rise on your system, you won’t be able to receive source files. This very much differs from Storyline, where you can save a Storyline source file on your computer.

Overall, either tool may be just right for your project. The best thing you can do is evaluate your audience, the learning objectives, and expectations to determine which authoring tool best meets your needs.

If you’re stumped or want to talk through your options, the ILG team is always available to help.

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Additional Resources

Blog: Saving Time With Storyline

Blog: A Brief Introduction to Unity for Storyline Developers

Podcast Episode: Advanced Storyline Tips and Tricks

2 Responses

  1. Andrea Taweel

    Hi Carly. Thank you for the informative article about Rise Vs. Storyline. I hope to work on a project with you soon.

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