Create animated timelines as OERs

This is a fairly specialized procedure for users of Keynote and TimeLine 3D, both proprietary Mac programs. The important thing is that it results in something that could be a high quality OER. I had a couple requests for a how-to on building a timeline like the one shown below.

Bee Doc’s Timeline 3D is a Mac application that creates stunning timelines ($65 discounted to $39 for an academic version). They can be presented as dramatic three dimensional animations within the program. Better yet, it also exports these timelines into QuickTime movies and as animated Keynote slides. I have used it extensively in my social studies presentations. When a colleague was creating OER media sets for historic periods, I was inspired to try to create stand alone timelines.

(This is a large file. Give it a minute to fully load, otherwise, it will behave strangely)

Full sized version of timeline (Give it time to load)

Zipped version for download

As mentioned before, the application can export the timelines to QuickTime which would function as a stand alone resource. Unfortunately, these animations proceeded through the timeline automatically at a fixed time interval between events. They would function better if a user controlled the progress by clicking to advance (Mayer’s research shows that user controlled pacing results in better learning outcomes). With trial and error, I was able to create such a resource. (As you can see, these timelines can be displayed on the web, but they work better on computers because of their size.)

To begin the process one needs to create a timeline in Timeline 3D. When creating a new event, an event date entry form:

Enter an event name, a date or a range of dates. Images can be copy and pasted into the image box or they may be dragged and dropped. One can also enter notes about the event. Don’t bother with the link in this case because it does not carry over to exported videos (unless you also want to export a PDF–see below). Data can also be entered using  as tab delineated files. For full instructions visit the developer’s site.

Once the Timeline is completed, it needs to be exported into Keynote: Select File–> Export 3D–> Keynote Slideshow. Select the size and toggle Media Type to Quicktime Movies. Motion blur should be set to None to reduce processing time and to reduce file size.

Upon completion, Keynote will be launched with your animated slideshow. Put a prompt to Click to Advance on the first slide then select File –> Export.

Select QuickTime and toggle Playback uses to Manual Advance. Select the desired Format (You can select Custom and reduce the frame rate to about 15 fps to make the file smaller). You don’t need Audio or Transparency, so leave them unchecked.

PDF Timelines with active links

As mentioned earlier, the links in Timeline 3D do not work in the animations. They do however work when exported as static PDF files. Link to a web resource or a file on the local computer (absolute path only–relative path would make this even better). Click on an event and a file or website will launch.

The animated timeline with working links would be even better. One could pair it with a PDF. Experiments with adding the links in Keynote indicate is possible, but difficult to format. One might be able to further change the video to a less proprietary format, but I found that an additional conversion resulted in significant loss of quality. Perhaps someone better versed in video could let me know what might work.

The last step is licensing your creation with a Creative Commons license  to make it an open educational resource.

There will be another post soon critiquing this timeline using Mayer’s multimedia research.

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  1. Nathan Garrett’s avatar

    Very cool.

    1. Steve’s avatar

      Very cool–no doubt, but is it instructionally sound? That’s the subject of my next post.

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