iSpring isn’t as common of an elearning development tool as Storyline or Captivate, especially in the US. However, the iSpring Suite 10 includes TalkMaster, a Dialog Simulation tool that works very smoothly for creating branching scenarios. The tool has some limitations, but it’s very efficient for creating branching scenarios with conversations.
Try the branching scenario
Try the dialog simulation yourself to see the finished result. (Email and RSS readers, if the scenario doesn’t appear below, you can view it here.)
One of the biggest benefits of using iSpring for dialog simulations is that it’s fast. I built this in about an hour. Note that several factors helped reduce this time:
- This is a fairly simple scenario, with 13 scenes.
- The branching is very limited; it’s really just the same three choices.
- I had already written all of the dialog in Twine, so that time was just development.
Even so, for a tool I had used only for a few minutes at a conference booth in 2019, that’s pretty efficient! The layout is all built into TalkMaster, so you don’t spend any time setting that up. You just pick the characters and background, enter the dialog and reply options, and the scenario is ready to review.
Making connections between scenes is easy. You can drag and drop from a reply option to create a new scene. You can also drag and drop to change the connections, making revisions easier.
Built-in characters and backgrounds
The characters and backgrounds are built in, so you can be up and running pretty quickly. I just used what’s in the library. iSpring is adding to their character library regularly, so you have a fair number of choices (although the options are limited in the free trial). Each character has 5 emotions, and it’s a single click to change from one to another.
However, you can upload your own backgrounds if you want something more customized. It’s also easy to switch backgrounds for different scenes. So, if you needed to switch locations and talk to a different character, or shift from viewing email to a phone call, that’s easy to do.
It’s easy to see the entire branching structure, which I really appreciate. I always find it more challenging to work in tools that don’t have a way to view the structure. You can color code each scene; I used colors for good, OK, and bad choices here.
Polished final product
The final product looks polished; you have a consistent layout, smooth animations, and characters changing expressions.
Room for improvement
I also see some room for improvement and some drawbacks to this tool.
Because the layout is all built-in, you don’t have flexibility to change it. Unlike most of iSpring’s PowerPoint-based elearning, where you can change the layout by moving objects on the slide, this layout is fixed.
You can customize the colors to match the brand, but the fonts and font size are not editable. Personally, I’d like to increase the font size to make it all a little more readable.
While it was easy to add scores for each choice and to create a final passing score, I’d also love to see an option for customized feedback based on the score. You can change the action at the end based on pass/fail, so you could send it to a different URL for feedback messages. I didn’t see any way to do multiple levels of personalized feedback based on a score though, the way I provided 3 levels of conditional feedback in Twine. You could do different messages with different endings, just not controlled with variables.
Even with those limitations, iSpring is a solid choice for building branching scenarios quickly, especially conversation simulations. There’s always a trade-off for efficiency and flexibility. This lands on the side of building simulations quickly, but that would be enough for many situations.
Other scenario tools
Check out my post on tools for building branching scenarios for a comparison of the pros and cons of other tools.
I have built this same basic writing feedback scenario in several different tools. The content isn’t exactly the same, but you can see how different a scenario can feel or function by building it in a different tool.
Thanks to iSpring for giving me a temporary free license to try out this tool.