When we first decided to review Raptivity, it was two separate products: Raptivity and Raptivity Presenter. Fast forward a few months and the two products have merged under one large Raptivity suite. This merge has not been made with the presenter in mind, but we still reviewed the software from the point of view of a presenter.
What does it do?
Raptivity allows users to create ‘interactivities’ to aid audience engagement in content. These interactivities range from bullet points with ‘rollover for extra information’ activities to jigsaw puzzles and ‘drag and drop’ exercises. They can then be published as a Flash or HTML5 file, and used in a variety of settings, including within PowerPoint slides. Its most popular use, however, is as an e-learning platform.
Raptivity has the following system requirements:
• Intel Pentium III Processor or higher
• 256 MB RAM
• 100 MB free hard disk space
• 256-color monitor or better
• Microsoft Windows Vista, XP, 2000 with latest service packs
• .NET Framework 1.1 or above
• Mouse or compatible pointing device
• CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive
Those who view the created interactivities must also have the following requirements:
• Intel Pentium II Processor or higher
• 64 MB RAM
• 256-color monitor or better
• Internet Explorer 5.5 or above, Netscape 7.1 and 7.2, Firefox 1.0.2 or Safari
• Flash Player 8 or above
Most machines will have these requirements (and the Flash requirements can be got around via the HTML5 publishing option) so installation shouldn’t be too difficult for most people. That said, my Firewall wasn’t particularly happy with the download file – so business users may find that they have issues getting through their company restrictions.
How easy is it to use?
Raptivity’s interface does not have the most user-friendly of setups. The design is clunky and editing the text is fiddly. Customization of the ‘interactivities’ is not intuitive and users must work through a series of menus to find the option they are looking for.
Training documents are limited, as Raptivity offers paid-for training courses for users. It can be difficult to figure out what you need to do, or, if you are having issues, how to fix them. That said, once you’ve got used to the software, there are no particular skills involved in creating and publishing interactivities – so anyone could do it once familiar with Raptivity.
The process of embedding an interactivity onto a PowerPoint slide is pretty lengthy, and involves inputting the swf file path manually – irritating, time-consuming, and leaving plenty of potential for things to go wrong (which it did!).
I encountered an error when I did manage to embed the Flash object, as the graphics didn’t display correctly. After contacting support, I discovered that this error had been caused by the background image I’d uploaded to the interactivity. By not adhering exactly to the ‘recommended’ image size (which I hadn’t actually noticed, as the recommendation was positioned unobtrusively to the side), I’d scuppered the dimensions. While Support were helpful and responded promptly, I can’t help feeling that if having the right size image is as integral to the function of the interactivity as it is, it should be mentioned in the upload window.
In short, the interface is not intuitive, and publishing Flash files and importing into PowerPoint is fiddly, particularly if you use your own background images.
What’s right about it?
All interactivities can be made SCORM/AICC trackable, including test scores and learner responses. This is a really useful tool for those delivering online training courses.
Some of the interactivities are very engaging, and games are fun and educational. These could be useful in e.g. a classroom setting. These activities are a bit of fun and encourage interactive learning, which can be led by a presenter.
While it is a bit clunky, with some basic training anyone can use Raptivity without having to design and programme their own interactivities. If you’re not particularly fussed about the design of your interactivities, you can create interactive slides in seconds.
The option to publish in HTML5 as well as Flash allows content to play on mobile devices, and the free 14-day trial is a great way to become accustomed to Raptivity and see if it could be a useful tool for you.
What’s wrong about it?
As most interactivities are designed for online learning audiences rather than live presentations, the majority of interactivities would not be useful for presenters. This is a shame, as there was a larger focus on presenters in the old arrangement.
Published interactivities don’t function well within PowerPoint. The published files do not sit well on top of slides, creating a myriad of design issues. Once you’ve started an interactivity, the PowerPoint file has to be closed and reopened before you can start it from the beginning again. It’s also difficult to advance to the following slide during the presentation, and the load time for each interactivity can have a bit of a lag, which does not result in a smooth experience.
There are serious design limitations on interactivities, meaning that Raptivity is not good for the business user. You can upload your own custom colours for things like font, but can’t upload e.g. your own icon design, or adjust the colour of an existing one.
If users wish to include narration in their interactivities, they must record their own audio into separate mp3 files for each section and then upload these individually, which is time-consuming and fiddly. The mechanical voice that auto-generates audio from text is awful, and should be avoided.
The whole interface is clunky, confusing and awkward, focusing too much on the text and without any design to make the experience pleasant. It’s a shame you can’t edit the actual format – some things require too many clicks to work through and are irritating. More flexibility to create custom interactivities would greatly improve this.
Should I buy it?
The trouble is that we have reviewed the Raptivity suite as a presentation tool, which it really isn’t any more. Most of the interactivities are designed for single remote users rather than live audiences, so can’t really be compared relevantly.
That said, there are things that Raptivity could do to improve for those who wish to use it in presentations. They could develop a ‘presenter’ pack that caters specifically to those with live audiences rather than remote students.
From a design perspective, it would be far better if the Raptivity software could operate as a PowerPoint plug-in. In fact, considering Raptivity was developed by the same people who made VisualBee, it is surprising how awkwardly it works with PowerPoint – and we can only hope that they quickly make the necessary improvements using the technology they’ve already harnessed for their other products.
Users developing online training courses for remote students will find many of the interactivities invaluable, but until Raptivity has stronger design capabilities and works more willingly with PowerPoint, I don’t think Raptivity is something we can recommend to presenters.
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