Going with the flow: dominKnow Platform review

We take pride at Brightwave in being authoring tool agnostic and having the in-house expertise required to design and build digital learning solutions using any tool out there. We like to understand what our clients really need and select the right tool for overcoming their specific learning challenges.
Having said that, we recently found ourselves taking on a project that needed to be built in a tool that we had not previously used: The dominKnow Platform, aka dominKnow Flow.
We gave the tool to our in-house Authoring Tool expert Nick Eastham to put through its paces…

Getting up to speed

dominKnow Flow is a cloud based tool that’s accessed via your web browser. At first glance the tool looks a little old fashioned and unfriendly, and consequently none of us had expected a great deal from it.

That expectation turned out to be wrong:

dominKnow Flow is in fact a very capable tool.

As with any new tool, most of the initial time was spent learning where everything was within the interface. There are so many features in dominKnow Flow that the number of tabs, ribbons, panels, buttons and menus can be a lot to take in one go.

The naming and positioning of some of these buttons and menus could be improved. For instance, there are three different ‘Copy’ buttons on the interface; each has a slightly different use. There is also a button named ‘Actions’ and tab named ‘Actions’, a fact that had me scratching my head for quite a while as the Help files didn’t distinguish between the two.

These Help files were sometimes useful but also sometimes misleading or incomplete. There were numerous times when I searched in vain for information on a particular feature, to find no mention of it at all. The community portal also seems to be more geared towards dominKnow’s other tool Claro rather than Flow.

So it took trial and error and a lot of hunting around the panels, menus and ribbons of the tool to discover its true feature set and power.

Learning Design flexibility

While there are some unusual concepts, such as pages needing to be added to Learning Objective groupings, and all of these groupings appearing to need a set of test questions, the reality is that you can structure your content in the typical chapters and pages style and can add navigation where ever needed to create the path through the learning that you require.

The real selling point of this tool is its long list of Actions that you can employ to enable you to design and build all sorts of page types and features. This is really the first authoring tool that can match Articulate Storyline’s ability in this area, and the only tool that can do this and produce fully responsive content.

You can add Actions to pretty much any page element. They can be triggered by clicks, mouse-overs, scrolls, page loads or even by other elements showing or hiding. You can show, hide, swap, toggle, play, pause, replay, or set variables or execute JavaScript. You can even send xAPI statements. And since all variables set during a session are tracked back to the LMS, they can be used on relaunch to update pages back to their previous status. We used this capability to allow the learner to create their own personal Action Plan, one they could then return to at a later time.

Art direction flexibility

On the whole we were able to style up the courses we created in the way that we wanted to. Flow allows you to select a theme from a list, then create a Variant of it, then apply a style to it.

The theme defines which functional elements appear on the page. The Variant allows you to set theme colours and apply them to text, buttons, ticks, crosses, backgrounds and tabs. You can also set background colours, button shapes and fonts. The Style editor allows you amend a set list of text styles.

I found the theme choice fairly restricting. There wasn’t quite the right combination of user interface elements available as a set theme and I couldn’t see any way to change that. In the end this didn’t matter as we opted for a fairly minimal UI.

The theme only allows you to set five colours. These are then applied to buttons, tabs, popup panels and text. It would have been nice to have the freedom to pick colours from the theme or to pick a custom colour. Five colours just weren’t enough.

Building pages

Flow allows you to insert a page, then add a layout from a pre-set list, or build your own layout, then add components into the layout areas.

The components cover such things as Click Reveals, Tab Reveals, Accordions, Carousels and Flip Cards. You can also add a Multiple Choice Question.

As well as creating your own page in this way, you can also add pre-built question pages. The options here are MCQ, Fill in the blanks, Multiple drop-downs and Drag and Drops. You can see here that there are question types available as pages that aren’t available as components. This caused us some issues. It would be great if the components also included these.

Responsive behaviour

The tool is quite flexible in how it allows you to layout your page elements. You can add rows where ever you want them and decide how many columns to partition these into. You can add empty spacers to pad out your elements and even adjust inside and outside margins on them too to fine tune positioning.

I liked the way that the page elements would collapse into the space left by any element that was hidden with an action. This allowed for the creation of pages displaying different content depending on some previous input or decision, they still looked great, with no ugly gaps present.

In use on different devices, the pages worked well. The content flowed as expected and the layout had a very controlled feel about it. There were no unwelcome surprises.

Collaboration features

The tool allows for multiple authors to be working on the same course at the same time. It does this by using locks that can be applied to pages or learning objects. The author checks out the item, makes the changes they want to make then checks it back in again to lock it. It’s very easy to use and was a huge help in enabling several authors to work simultaneously on different aspects of the same course. Our clients could also make changes if they needed to.

Publishing options

Courses can be published to the usual SCORM and AICC options. They can be set to complete on both visiting the learning and passing any tests, or just on passing the tests. You can’t however specify particular screens that the learner should visit.

But then, not many authoring tools can.

Overall,

dominKnow Flow is a very powerful authoring tool, perhaps the most feature packed and flexible of any responsive authoring tool currently available. I look forward to being able to use it again on future projects, especially now I know how to use it!

To speak to Nick about the right authoring tool for your next project, just get in touch.



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