While online learning has quickly advanced as a capacity building solution in the international development space, connectivity challenges continue to plague program implementation. For impact areas struggling with low- or no-bandwidth learning environments, the solution still requires physical travel of trainers to reach the desired intended audience. However, as we’ve reported repeatedly over the last seven years, including with offline-first delivery of Malaria training in Uganda and Nigeria, offline doesn’t have to mean old-school.

For example, TechChange recently partnered with Jhpiego to deliver a landmark course on Maternal and Child Survival Program in Liberia, which provided a blended and offline approach to training over a five-month period. In this post, we’ll share more about how this was accomplished from a technical perspective when it comes to building in Articulate 360. For those unfamiliar with Articulate, it serves as the primary rapid-authoring tool for building courses that can work on any major online learning platform….or even no platform at all! There are five key steps to success:

Step One: Replace Absolute Links with Relative Paths

Publishing Articulates for offline use often means creating a lot of relative paths, which involves a lot of files looking for other files within folders. So, what if you have a large project with many folders (and other Articulate files) linked up by relative paths, but want to deliver a single course file to the client that runs correctly and still “understands” where to find what it needs along its relative paths?

Here’s where Windows shortcuts come in handy. What you’ll need to do is 1) Place all linked Articulate files and documents in a single folder, which you then hide in the delivery folder, and 2) create a shortcut for the course launch file.

Because Windows shortcuts in their default form use absolute paths, you’ll need to make an adjustment to the shortcut in order to have it run on a relative path. The reason why is that absolute paths look for a file starting with the C:// drive of the computer that created the file — so, if you were to deliver an absolute shortcut to a client, the pathway would look for a file on your C:// drive, instead of looking for a file relative to its position in a folder. The beauty of relative paths is that they operate as they should on any desktop; absolute paths won’t work outside of your own desktop.

Step Two: Place All Files and Documents in a Single Folder

Let’s place all linked Articulate files and documents in a single folder, which you then hide in the delivery folder. We’ll take the example of Jhpiego’s MCSP Faculty Development Program, the most recent usage case. Organizationally, this course had a parent Articulate file, the Faculty Development Program, hereafter referred to as FDP. Any user that opened the FDP Articulate could access any of the module Articulates, which were in three series — the TL, AE, and CP series — thanks to relative paths.

When you open the delivery folder, you see this:



Step Three: Hide Your Work!

Notice that the folder “Modules” is a hidden folder, and wouldn’t normally show. To hide a file, right click on the file, click Properties, check the “Hidden” box, then click OK, applying the change to all folders and subfolders. If you’d like for files you’ve hidden to show again, open up the containing folder, click “View” at the top, and then check the box reading “Hidden items” in the Show/Hide category. The file “CLICK HERE TO LAUNCH COURSE” is our shortcut file with a modified relative path and opens the parent course, FDP. Let’s open up that “Modules” folder.



Here we have each of the module folders that open up separate Articulates within the parent Articulate course, FDP. Those folders (the TL, AE, CP folders) contain all the documents that each module needs as well as that module’s Articulate output. The “Output” folder you see is the Articulate output for the parent course, which our shortcut taps into. Now, how do we make that shortcut? Let’s open that “Output” folder.



Step Four: Take a Shortcut

We’ll need the shortcut to hit “Launch_Story.exe,” so we’ll right-click on that and choose “Create shortcut.” Windows will make the shortcut for you, which you can take anywhere and rename as you like. For now, let’s take that shortcut one folder up, out of the hidden folder and into the delivery folder.



So we’re back here. We’ve renamed our shortcut “CLICK HERE TO LAUNCH COURSE.” Now we need to modify that absolute path into a relative path, so the shortcut knows that no matter what computer it’s on, it needs to go from this folder, into the hidden folder Modules, and into Output to find its “Launch_Story.exe.”

Right-click your new shortcut and choose Properties to modify that path — at the outset, you’ll see this on your screen:


Step Five: It’s All Relative (Paths)

Now, let’s take that absolute path and make it relative. In the “Start in:” field, just delete everything. Then, in the “Target:” field, type in the following, with modifications based on the folder names in your relative path:

%windir%explorer.exe “.Your\Relative\Path\Launch_Story.exe”

The beginning of this should not be in quotes, the only part in quotes is your relative file path. In the case of the FDP course, this would read as follows, since we’re asking the shortcut to look in the same folder at the start for the hidden Modules folder, then telling it to go inside Output to find the Launch_Story.exe for FDP.

%windir%explorer.exe “.Modules\Output\Launch_Story.exe”

Once you click OK, the icon on the shortcut will change to a folder with a small blue square overlaid on it. If you click Properties again to check out that slick relative path, it should look like this:



You’re done! Now any user will just have to double-click on your newly modified shortcut to launch the course!

If you have any questions or comments (or suggestions for things we may not have thought of!), please feel free to contact me and the TechChange team at: info@techchange.org.

After a study-abroad semester in Spain and a summer at TechChange in Washington D.C., Emily Fruchterman is heading back to William & Mary to finish the final year of her undergraduate career. Before heading to Williamsburg to finish her Biology degree, she looks back on her summer internship at TechChange as an educational technologist.

1. How did you hear about TechChange?

At the start of 2014, summer internships were the last thing on my mind. I was off to spend the semester in Seville, Spain, and any thought relating to life-after-study-abroad was a painful reminder that my time in paradise wouldn’t last forever.

When my final exams forced me to face reality, I wasn’t quite sure where to start my search (the ocean between me and potential employers seemed pretty daunting). A friend referred me to internships.com, where I found out about TechChange.

2. Why did you choose TechChange to spend the summer between your junior and senior years?

TechChange piqued my interest with its goal of using the power of technology to advance social change. The broad range of courses that demonstrate the utility of technology to a very international audience showed me that this was more than a cursory commitment. Contributing to an organization with such goals seemed like a worthwhile way to spend the summer.

On a personal level, TechChange seemed like a great complement to many of my previous experiences at nonprofits and NGOs doing research while giving me new exposure to a startup culture. TechChange’s upcoming projects also aligned well with my interest in public health, plus the networking opportunities afforded by spending a summer in DC seemed too good to pass up.

3. What are your interests?

While I’m generally interested in the field of development, my passions really lie with public health. I’d really like to work for organizations (like TechChange) that have projects relating to the various aspects of health and healthcare – although my dream is to work for an organization that coordinates healthcare responses and works to improve health outcomes on an international basis. I’m also an avid coffee drinker, science fiction fan, and aspiring flamenco dancer (my time in Spain might have influenced this last one).

Emily with TechGirls

Emily goes over how to create an online course with the TechGirls on TechGirls Job Shadow Day 

4. How did you use your TechChange internship to explore your interests?

Fortunately for me, TechChange had several different public health related courses this summer. I was able to engage with a course on Malaria, for use in Nigeria and Uganda, as well as take on a large part of a facilitated course on HIV for clinical and non-clinical care providers. Both of these have been extremely valuable experiences, as I’ve not only learned a great deal about both illnesses, but also looked at how to structure health-related interventions and training programs.

5. What did you do at TechChange this summer? What was your role at TechChange?

The instructional design team was finishing up a self-paced course on Malaria when I arrived in June. I was not only able to help with edits and testing, but built a few interactive elements. I got more experience building out lessons, writing storyboards, and coming up with engaging lessons while working on other instructional design projects.

I got my first taste of the facilitated platform as a teaching assistant (TA) for a course on Social Media for Social Change, during which I familiarized myself with WordPress and the structure/pacing of a four-week course. This came in super handy, as a couple weeks later I started to manage content development and build out the four modules for the course on HIV treatment. I also helped write several blog posts relating to projects, participated in meetings with clients, and taught the TechGirls from Tunisia and the Palestinian Territories how to create online courses.

6. What did you learn during your time at TechChange?

The first big thing I learned was how to use Articulate Storyline. This eLearning program might look like a fancier version of PowerPoint, but it has it’s tricks and idiosyncrasies. It was very cool to learn how to create interactions, design variables, and troubleshoot glitches to develop quality modules. This was super useful, as it helped me think about learning in a much more user-centered way.

I also learned to be much more comfortable in front of the camera – while I still had my fair share of outtakes, it became a lot easier to speak to a blinking red light instead of an audience. I learned how to manage time during interviews, ask the right kinds of questions, and (most importantly) what to do with my face when I wasn’t the one talking.

My tech skills also improved – my co workers tried to show me some coding basics (parts of which I picked up on better than others), I increased my audio editing abilities, became super familiar with WordPress, created several graphics, and set-up and took down AV equipment.

I also improved my communication skills by working closely with various members of the team on different projects and writing emails/participating in phone calls with clients.


Emily in the recording studio at TechChange before recording a live session for a course

7. Did your TechChange experience end up going as you expected?

In some ways – based on my impressions of TechChange from their website and my interview, I’d expected to find a group of young and tech savvy individuals interested in promoting social change.

I hadn’t expected how much support they’d give me for pursuing my own ideas from the get-go. I think it was my second or third day here that I suggested an interaction be added to a part of a self-paced course to a member of the instructional design team. The response I received – “great, want to build it?” – really surprised me. I’d barely started learning the program, was still figuring out where I fit in, and yet was already being offered the chance to work on the product. This “great, want to build it?” philosophy was present throughout my internship here – I had a lot of flexibility and opportunity to build off of assigned tasks.

8. Would you come back to work at TechChange one day? Why?

Yes, and without a second thought. TechChange has to be one of the best work environments I’ve ever encountered; it’s fun and collaborative, the work is engaging, and the company is small enough that everyone can play a variety of roles. You might be hired as an educational technologist, but you’ll have the chance to do a little bit of graphics editing, write blog posts, sit in on business development meetings, teach a course, and have your voice featured in animations.

More importantly, this work has real value. The courses developed by TechChange are used by different organizations around the world to train staff members and health providers, as resources to newly-formed NGOs, and to put the spotlight on the role technology can play in the developing world. TechChange collaborates with organizations that work for real, sustainable change, and TechChange alumni go on to do incredible work. Being a part of this team has been a wonderful experience.

9. What advice would you give to future TechChange interns?

Take initiative! This is an awesome opportunity to grow your skill set – make use of that. If something needs to be done, volunteer to do it. Even if it’s not something you’ve done before, the team will support you and make sure you learn how to do it well. The TechChange team is also super supportive – if there’s something you want to learn about (even if it’s not directly related to your job), they’re more than happy to help.