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Understanding ‘Infinite Attempts’ in Adobe Captivate

In Adobe Captivate, all interactive objects, quiz questions, and even the entire quiz itself  have the option of being allowed ‘Infinite Attempts’.  But this term is often misunderstood by Captivate developers resulting in many questions posted on the Adobe Captivate Forum.  You can often see e-learning authors there asking why Captivate interactions won’t allow them to click indefinitely on the same object or quiz question multiple times in a row. They often proudly proclaim they have set the number of attempts to Infinite, but still only get a single success action.  They’re baffled by this seemingly inconsistent behaviour.

For example, the screenshot below shows a typical quiz question slide with Attempts set to Infinite

What most Captivate authors expect to happen is that this setting should mean  their user can keep attempting the quiz question again and again as many times as they like.  Unfortunately, that’s NOT what happens. As soon as the user selects the correct answer, they’ve used up all attempts and get taken to the next slide.

So when does Infinite not really mean Infinite?  Well, it’s really not that complicated…

It actually means ‘Infinite UNSUCCESSFUL Attempts’

Captivate usually only ever gives you one SUCCESSFUL attempt at an activity, even if you’ve set the interactivity to allow infinite attempts. So, Infinite Attempts in Captivate should more accurately be renamed as Infinite UNSUCCESSFUL Attempts, because that’s what it really means.

Let’s illustrate this concept by looking at the example below using a click box object. As you can see from the screenshot, this click box is set to allow Infinite attempts and the On Success action is to Go to the next slide. The Last Attempt action is disabled because you will never reach a last attempt if the allowed attempts is set to Infinite.

If I interact with this slide at run-time and click inside the click box hit area once, it will execute the assigned On Success action and jump to the next slide. Conversely, if I click outside the hit area, no success or failure event is registered. I get no success event because I didn’t click inside the hit area. And I get no failure event registered because I still haven’t reached the last of my infinite attempts.

So, I can click UNSUCCESSFULLY on the slide as many times as I want, as long as I don’t click within the hit area and register a SUCCESS condition.  In short, I’m allowed infinite UNSUCCESSFUL attempts, but only one SUCCESSFUL attempt.

Setting up to allow failures

So what would you need to do in order to have the opportunity to trigger some action as a result of a user failure?  You would need to deselect Infinite attempts and set it to a lower limit that the user is more likely to reach.

For example, if I wanted to execute one action when the user clicked inside the hit area (a success action) and a different action as soon as the user click anywhere else, then I would need to set the number of attempts to 1. This will then enable the user’s first attempt to also be their Last Attempt, thereby triggering whatever action I configure for the Last Attempt event.

In the modified example shown below, I’ve created an advanced action (cleverly called MyAdvancedAction) and configured this to be executed after my last allowed unsuccessful attempt.

Potential issues when using Infinite Attempts with Quizzing

There are a few things you need to be aware of if you intend using Infinite Attempts on Captivate quizzes, especially when in combination with certain other Quiz > Settings > Required options.You need to clearly understand the potential issues because under certain circumstances you could find your users caught with what appears to be a non-responsive e-learning lesson and no apparent way to progress any further through the quiz slides, or to progress beyond the Quiz Results screen to complete the lesson. 

There are two levels you need to be concerned about:

  • Quiz question slides 
  • The overall Quiz itself

Infinite Attempts on Quiz Slides – Beware using the Answer All option!

First some background information about a rather innocent looking drop-down field called Required that is located in the Quiz > Settings dialog. Don’t underestimate this little drop-down.  It has the power to make your life a misery because most of these settings can potentially disable or restrict the learner’s ability to freely navigate to other slides within the module.  

The Required dropdown has four options to choose from:

  • Optional – The user can skip this quiz. It means the user is not required to do the quiz if they don’t want to and will be allowed to progress beyond the Quiz Results slide. However, this will also mean they get awarded no points for the quiz and will therefore likely fail the lesson.  This is the LEAST restrictive of the four options and I recommend you use it in all cases UNLESS you have some very compelling reason to do otherwise.
  • Required – The user must take the quiz to continue. This option requires the user to attempt quiz questions (or interactions that report to the quiz). The words “to continue” found at the end of the description for this option (and others below it) indicate that this setting will affect the user’s ability to progress beyond the Quiz Results slide or the final quiz question.  They don’t need to pass the quiz, but must at least attempt it, in order to complete the module.   
  • Pass Required – The user must pass this quiz to continue. No surprises here.  The user must both attempt and pass the quiz in order to progress beyond the Quiz Results slide.
  • Answer All – The user must answer every question to continue. The name and description text is actually misleading because it leaves out the vital clue that the user is in fact required to SUCCESSFULLY answer every quiz question in order to continue beyond that quiz question. So choosing this option will force the user to get every quiz question correct, otherwise they will not be allowed to progress beyond any question they cannot successfully answer.

(In point of fact, the first three Required options all relate to the overall quiz.  But the Answer All option is actually related to quiz questions more than the quiz itself. I personally believe that it doesn’t belong on this drop down but should be separated out as another option. But that’s a usability issue only Adobe can fix.)  

It’s this last Required > Answer All option that causes a lot of issues for quiz questions, especially when used in combination with Infinite Attempts.  If you configure a quiz question to have Infinite Attempts (remembering that this means Infinite UNSUCCESSFUL Attempts), you can only show feedback Failure captions to the user for the first three unsuccessful attempts at most, because Captivate only allows up to three Failure Levels on a quiz question.

After you’ve used up your allowed quota of Failure Levels, no more Failure captions will appear.  The only other caption your user will ever see for this quiz question is a Success caption when they get the question correct.

But what if you have Infinite Attempts selected for this quiz question?  Then Captivate is expecting your learner to continue changing their answer and resubmitting it again and again until they get it right, even though they receive no further feedback captions UNTIL they answer correctly.

Now add one more wrinkle and select the Answer All option under Quiz > Settings > Required.  What happens now is that not only is the user flying blind without feedback captions or directions telling them to keep submitting answers, but they also cannot get past that quiz question unless they answer it correctly.  As a result, they’re stuck.

In many cases, this lack of guiding feedback and a seemingly unresponsive quiz question slide causes learners to conclude their quiz session must have gone belly up and they have no option but to close down the browser. Consider yourself lucky if they do not also lodge a complaint with someone from your department.

So what’s the answer?

Avoid using the Answer All option for starters.  It’s usually more trouble than it’s worth in my opinion.  And especially don’t use it in combination with any number of allowed attempts in excess of the number of Failure Levels you’ve set for that particular quiz slide.  

In most cases there is little to be gained by using Infinite Attempts on a quiz question anyway.  If learners cannot successfully get a question correct after even three separate attempts, perhaps some form of Remediation would be more appropriate at that point.  Adult learners are not known for having infinite patience.

Configuring Infinite Attempts on a Quiz

Now let’s go up one more level to look at the overall Captivate Quiz, because there are some extra issues to allow for at that level.  

If a quiz is set to Infinite Attempts then you need to go to Quiz > Pass or Fail and enable the Show Retake Button option otherwise your poor learner will arrive at the Quiz Results slide and find they have no way to perform another attempt on the quiz even if they wanted to.

For some reason, Captivate doesn’t automatically select the Show Retake Button option when you enable multiple or infinite attempts on the quiz.  You (the quiz designer/developer) are expected to remember to do this yourself.

However, even with Infinite Attempts and the Retake Quiz button enabled, the learner still has the option to forgo reattempting the quiz and thereby fail it if they so choose.  All they’d need to do is click the Continue button on the Quiz Results slide and terminate their session on that course module.  

So how can you control whether or not the user is forced to make a successful attempt on the quiz before being able to continue on to another lesson?  You can do this setting via the Quiz > Settings > Required option to Pass Required – The user must pass this quiz to continue.

This will then mean that clicking the Continue button on the Quiz Results slide will only progress the slide as far as the final frame but no further unless the user has passed the quiz.  (Unfortunately Captivate gives no visual indication to help the user understand that the reason they are stuck on the Quiz Results slide has something nto do with the fact that they failed the quiz, which is actually quite a serious usability flaw.  But that’s another usability issue Adobe will need to fix.)

Disabling other navigation options to force further attempts

But, I can hear you thinking: “If the playbar is enabled then what’s to stop the user from just clicking the Next button and jumping to the slide after the Quiz Results slide anyway?”  Well, maybe yes but maybe no. In later versions of Captivate even clicking the playbar Next button will over-ride the Pass Required option and get you beyond the Quiz Results slide.  

But if you happen to have a version of Captivate that does allow this behaviour, and you are REALLY committed to this idea of forcing users to pass the quiz no matter how many attempts it takes, then you would also need to hide the playbar as well.  In Cp6 and Cp7 you have the option in the Skin Editor to Hide Playbar in Quiz as shown below.

If you are on an earlier Captivate version then you can use the On Slide Enter event of the Quiz Results slide to Assign the System Variable cpCmndShowPlaybar to 0, which will effectively turn off the playbar when entering the slide.