Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Embedding eXe Resources

eXe allows you to include several different types of file or web-based resources in your content. These include images, media (video and audio clips), mathematical graphics (using LaTeX), and attachments of any file type, and are available to any iDevice's TinyMCE-based rich-text fields.  In most all cases, you have the choice of either embedding the actual file into your e-learning package, or providing an external link to web-hosted resources.

This eXe manual page will start off by describing how you can include images within your eXe content. All other media types essentially build upon the same patterns used with images, and your knowledge will evolve from there.

Including images

The TinyMCE image button allows you to include images just about anywhere within your content, in any rich-text field.

The process of including images is very simply to edit any iDevice's rich-text field, and click on TinyMCE's image button to open the image dialog box. This is illustrated below using the Activity iDevice as an example:


Within the image dialog box, you may choose to either:
  •     specify the URL to an externally hosted Web-based image
  •     or, click on the image file-browser button to choose and embed a local image file


Then
  • click "Insert" in TinyMCE's image dialog,
  • click eXe's green "Done" check mark,
  • and there you have it, an image!



Including Web based images

Images which are hosted anywhere on the web may be included in your content. Such images will be linked into your content and will appear the same as local File-based images, but the image data itself will not be saved with your content. This means that your eXe project and its exported content will be smaller and more "lightweight", but will therefore require network access to the various web locations in order to view the images. Only include Web-based images into your content when you are not concerned about network access issues, or when your content is itself to be published onto the web.

To include a Web-based image within your content, simply specify the URL for the Web-based image into the image dialog's Image URL field and hit [RETURN] to load it into the image dialog box's Preview pane. The following example shows one of eXe's Flickr-hosted images:

You will usually find that the image is larger than fits within the Preview pane, but you may use the Preview pane's horizontal and vertical scrollbars to effectively pan around and see more of the image.

Now is a good time to notice the current size of the image ("Dimensions" shows 500 x 375 pixels in the above example), and to change it as necessary for your content.  Note that the original image will be retained, so you can always come back and change its size again later without any problem. Please see Modifying the Image Size below, in the Modifying Image Attributes section of this page for further discussion of the size attribute.


Notice that the image dialog has had its "General" tab active so far.  More image attributes may be adjusted in the image dialog's "Appearance" tab, as discussed in the Modifying Image Attributes section of this page.  For now, though, go ahead and click on the image dialog's "Insert" button:


Once you have clicked the "Insert" button, the TinyMCE image dialog box closes and the image itself is shown within the current iDevice's active TinyMCE rich-text field where you are returned to editing, appearing something like this:




At this point, the image is shown within the content of the iDevice that you are currently editing. You may continue editing that iDevice, possibly even adding more images if you wish. Once you are finished editing that iDevice, click on the iDevice's green "Done" check mark to "record" the content into the iDevice and switch eXe's authoring pane from edit mode back to preview mode. The inserted image should appear something like this:



 Your Web-based image has now been successfully included within your project's content!

Including Local file based images

Local image files (of type .jpg, .jpeg, .png, or .gif) may also be included in your content. To a typical user, the difference in viewing a File-based image as compared to a Web-based image would be rather unnoticeable, assuming that network connectivity exists to the Web-based image's external web host.  And it is the issues around network connectivity that really bring File-based images into play.

Unlike Web-based images, which are dynamically loaded from their external web hosts each time they are viewed, any file-based images will be embedded into, and included with, your project. While this does make for a larger eXe project file and exported content, it also ensures portability. This is especially important if your content is to be viewed (or even re-authored) in a network-restricted or offline setting. If you intend on publishing your exported content onto CD or other transportable medium for offline viewing, then you really should embed all of your images (and any other media) from local files.

The process of including a file-based image is very similar to the above steps for including a Web-based image, with the primary differences being: 

  •  use the TinyMCE image dialog's file-browser button to choose and preview your image
  • the iDevice's green check mark not only finishes editing the iDevice, but also does the actual image-file embedding.
To include a local File-based image within your content, start by clicking on the image dialog's file-browser button, to the right of the Image URL field:


A file browser for your operating system will then appear, with which you may navigate to, and select, the local image file of interest.

Once you select your local image file, the image will be loaded into the image dialog's Preview pane, and a temporary "preview path" will be shown in the image dialog's Image URL:



The "preview path" is only a temporary location for the image file, as TinyMCE provides to eXe a copy of the file that is to be embedded. Later, once you have finished editing the iDevice and click on the green "Done" check mark, eXe further processes the image file into an embedded eXe resource.

Note that you should not modify this preview path. Any changes to this path can render its image unembedded and unviewable in the content.

Just as with Web-based images, you will usually find that the image is larger than fits within the Preview pane, but you may use the Preview pane's horizontal and vertical scrollbars to effectively pan around and see more of the image.  Likewise, now is a good time to notice the current size of the image ("Dimensions" shows 500 x 375 pixels in the above example), and to change it as necessary for your content.  Note that the original image will be retained, so you can always come back and change its size again later without any problem. Please see Modifying the Image Size below, in the Modifying Image Attributes section of this page for further discussion of the size attribute.

The following shows how this example image might be modified to instead show as 400 pixels wide, and a corresponding height, by keeping the "Constrain Proportions" option checked:





Notice that the image dialog has had its "General" tab active so far. Just as with Web-based images, more image attributes may be adjusted in the image dialog's "Appearance" tab.  For now, though, go ahead and click on the image dialog's "Insert" button:



Once you have clicked the "Insert" button, the TinyMCE image dialog box closes and the image itself is shown within the current iDevice's active TinyMCE rich-text field where you are returned to editing, appearing something like this:


At this point, the image is shown within the content of the iDevice that you are currently editing. You may continue editing that iDevice, possibly even adding more images if you wish. Once you are finished editing that iDevice, click on the iDevice's green "Done" check mark to "record" the content into the iDevice and switch eXe's authoring pane from edit mode back to preview mode.

Furthermore, as relates to local File-based images (or other such resources), eXe's green "Done" check mark will also perform the actual embedding process, thereby including it as an internal eXe "resource" within your project.

The inserted image should appear something like this:


Your local File-based image has now been successfully embedded into your project and included within its content! 




Saturday, 28 January 2012

eXe iDevices: Editor and Tools


The iDevice Editor allows you to design your own iDevices.'


Edit Drop-down Menu

The Edit drop-down allows you to edit an existing iDevice or create a new iDevice.  Note that not all iDevices can be edited, but only those with simple functionality are editable.

Text Line

Add a single text line field

Text Box

Add text box field. This will allow multiple lines of text

Feedback

Add a feedback box that is activated with a show hide button

iDevice Editor Actions Pane

The Actions pane provides a range of editing functionality.

Preview Button

The preview button allows you to preview the layout of the iDevice. Selecting preview displays the field items chosen with any tips, hints and labels assigned. In preview mode the preview button changes to Edit. Clicking on Edit returns you to the edit mode where you can continue to edit the iDevice.

Cancel Button

The cancel button is used with existing iDevices and cancels any change made in the current editing instance. All the original fields remain only fields added in this new editing instance will be cancelled.

Delete Button

The delete button removes the selected iDevice from the iDevice list.

Save Button

The save button saves changes to existing iDevices.

Import iDevice Button

The import button allows you to import an iDevice someone has exported for you.

Export iDevice Button

The export button allows you to export the newly created iDevice in a format that can be shared with other resource developers.

Quit

The quit button exits the iDevice editor.



Creating an iDevice


To create an iDevice


1. Select Tools from the toolbar menu and select iDevice Editor. The iDevice editor window will open.

2. Enter the device name, author name, and the purpose for the iDevice.

3. Enter any pedagogical help you might give to other users on how you see the device being used.

4. Select the type of emphasis you want to place on the content entered with this iDevice. ‘No emphasis’ means that the content will display as plain text, ‘Some emphasis’ differentiates the text slight and ‘Strong emphasis’ highlights the text. By selecting emphasis you will be presented with an icon menu. Click on an icon to attach it to your iDevice. This icon will appear alongside the iDevice title.

5. The next step is to build your iDevice by selecting the elements you want to appear in your iDevice. The Add Text Field button provides you with a single line input field. The Add Text Area button gives you a multiple line input field. You can also add a Feedback field (similar to the Case Study iDevice).

6. Give each element a label and provide instructions on using each one.

7. Click Save. The new iDevice will appear in the iDevices Pane. This iDevice now behaves in the same manner as the other iDevices.

Working with eXe


Acknowledging that quality learning design is about striking a balance between what to teach (content) and how to teach it (form), eXe has developed around form elements we call instructional devices or iDevices. iDevices include a range of pedagogical forms e.g. objectives, advance organizers, and learning activities which constitute the equivalent of the 'teacher talk' in content resources designed for online learning. In other words iDevices are structural elements that describe learning content and distinguish teaching content from other forms of content like text books or journal articles.

Authoring Window

The authoring window (to the right of the screen) displays the editable areas in the iDevice templates selected. Various editing tools are available to assist in the development of text. 


Adding an iDevice

You can choose to add an iDevice by click on Activity and then define your activity in the editor.


Formatting content using Rich Text Editor

Using the iDevice rich text editor you enter your content as you would if you were using standard word processing type applications. Formatting of your content at this stage is relatively simple and the editing toolbar located above each editable frame provides some basic formatting, searching and linking functionality. 


iDevice Control Buttons


Each iDevice comes with a standard set of iDevice control buttons. These controls are described below.

·         Green check mark

Each time you enter content into a field you must click on the check mark. This records the content in the iDevice and switches the view to preview mode. Note that this does not save your work!!!

·         Blue undo arrow

By clicking on the blue undo arrow, you will undo any changes that might have made to the iDevice since opening it for edit. Please note that some iDevice editing functions (for example, Add or Remove a Question or Option in any of the quizzing iDevices) do not support an undo, and will result in the arrow appearing as:  


·         Red X

By clicking on the red X you will delete the iDevice and any content entered.

·         Up and down arrows

The up and down arrows allow you to change the order of the iDevices displayed on your screen.

·         Move To menu

You can move iDevices containing content between and within nodes. This is done by opening the drop down menu and selecting the node you wish to move it to.

·         Edit iDevice

The page and pencil icon that appears in preview mode beneath each iDevice enables you to edit that particular iDevice. This is done by clicking on the icon which opens the iDevice in edit mode.

 The Properties Tab


The properties tab allows capturing relevant project related data. Within this tab you will find three sub-tabs created to collect the data.

The Package tab allows you to record basic project information like project title, author details and taxonomy. Authors can now also add a header graphic to a package which will display in the title area of the screen page.

The Metadata tab allows you to enter details which may prove useful for searching at a later stage. eXe currently supports Unqualified Dublin Core for IMS Content Packages. That same metadata is wrapped in a subset of the IMSLRM (which itself is a subset of the IEEE-LOM) for SCORM 1.2 exports.

If the metadata entries are not filled in, eXe uses the package title, author, and description as fallback values. If you don't set the package title either, eXe will default to using the package filename.

The Export tab allows you to select additional SCORM export features.  SCORM features will be listed in this tab as they are developed and can be selected by activating the relevant checkboxes.

In eXe 1.0, the only feature available is for the addition of next and previous links to be made for SCORM exports. This feature adds next and previous page navigation buttons to each page when viewed through an LMS browser. At present this feature has been tested with the Moodle and Interact LMS. It relies on special functionality in the LMS and so should not be expected to work in all cases.


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eXe Menus and Toolbars

Loading files

Native eXe files are held as .elp files.  When authoring existing files in eXe, a file must be loaded to the eXe before they can be edited. eXe files are saved as .elp extensions.

Loading .elp files to eXe Select in the toolbar. The window opens allowing authors to enter a file name for the project. A dialogue message is displayed confirming the location of the saved file.

Exporting content

Content created in eXe can be exported as a web package ready for publishing to a web server, as a SCORM 1.2 package for delivery to a SCORM compliant LMS, an IMS Content Package, a Single Web Page suitable for printing, a plain text file for display on mobile devices, or iPod Notes files.

To export a package

·         For the Web

Select from the menu in the toolbar. Select and then choose either or .  If you select select the folder you want to export to by selecting a folder from the window, or create a new folder and click.

A new folder can be created to store files by clicking on the button in the window. Label the newly made folder and click .
You can also export your web site as a zip file. This will help if you need to email your site to a webmaster, or if you have an LMS that can unzip files itself (like Moodle).

·         For SCORM / IMS Content Package

Select from the menu in the toolbar.  Select the SCORM 1.2 or IMS Content Package. The window will be displayed and you will be prompted for the package title.  Enter the package title and click . A similar process occurs for the IMS Content Package export. Packages exported this way are saves as .zip files.  You do not need to unzip these files in order to import into an LMS.


7

Preferences

The Preferences dialog found under currently enables you to change the language in which the eXe interface is rendered. Select a language from the dropdown list and hit OK to change to another language. Your selection will be remembered when you restart eXe.

8

Style

eXe currently offers seven page styles. Each style combines a different colour theme and icons appropriate to a theme.  Styles are selected from the menu on the toolbar.



eXe The eLearning XHTML editor


The eLearning XHTML editor (eXe) is an authoring environment to assist teachers and academics in the design, development and publishing of web-based learning and teaching materials without the need to become proficient in HTML or complicated web-publishing applications. 

The Web is a revolutionary educational tool because it presents teachers and learners with a technology that simultaneously provides something to talk about (content) and the means to hold the conversation (interaction).  Unfortunately, the power of this hypertext medium is constrained in educational settings because the vast majority of teachers and academics do not have the technical skills to build their own web pages, and must therefore rely on the availability of web developers to generate professional looking online content.  eXe has been developed to overcome a number of identified limitations:

  • Much web-authoring software entails a fairly steep learning curve, is not intuitive or designed for publishing learning content.  Consequently teachers and academics have not adopted these technologies for publishing online learning content.  eXe aims to provide an intuitive, easy-to-use tool that will enable teachers to publish professional looking webpages for learning; 

  • Currently, learning management systems do not offer sophisticated authoring tools for web content (when compared to the capabilities of web-authoring software or the skills of an experienced web developer). eXe is a tool that provides professional web-publishing capabilities that can be easily referenced or imported by learning management systems;
     
  • Most content management and learning management systems utilize a centralized web server model thus requiring connectivity for authoring.  This is limiting for authors with low bandwidth connectivity or no connectivity at all.  eXe has been developed as an offline
    authoring tool without the requirement for connectivity.

  • Many content management and learning management systems do not provide an intuitive WYSIWYG environment where authors can see what their content will look like in a browser when published, especially when working offline.  eXe's WYSIWYG functionality enables users to see what the content will look like when published online.

Installing eXe on a machine


Assuming that eXe will be installed on a machine having Windows (XP or Vista) as operating system.  The exe-install-xxx.exe file is an executable installer that installs exe files directly onto your PC hard drive in the standard way.  Note that because eXe stores some path names in its configuration file, it is recommend that you should always use the same installation directory for eXe (like `C:\Program Files\eXe\`) as you upgrade from one version to the next.  
  1. First, go to http://sourceforge.net/projects/exe/files/eXe-1.04/eXe-install-1.04.exe/download to download the eXe program on your machine.  Now, follow the steps below to carry on with the installation of eXe:
  2.  Save the executable file on your desktop
  3.   Double click the eXe installer file and this will launch the eXe Setup Wizard
  4.   Follow the instructions given in the wizard by clicking Next

The installer will install eXe into a folder called C:\Program Files\eXe\ and you will need to click Next to accept this default location

·         The installer will proceed by installing eXe completely

Once eXe has been installed on your machine, it is now ready to get started with it.



eXe Authoring : Part II


3
Starting eXe

To start the eXe, double click the eXe icon that should have appeared on your desktop after installation.  If you do not have the eXe icon on your desktop, you will need to find the application’s icon in your Windows start menu under Programs.  You should probably maximise the eXe window to utilise all the space you have available to work in.

eXe's authoring workspace is made up of two work areas. The left sidebar contains the tools that content authors can use to enter and organise content. While the authoring space behaves as a drafting board where content authors can edit and view content. Currently, a properties tab is also accessible in this work space. The properties tab is designed to enable content authors to define basic metadata and taxonomy for the project as well as add header graphics and a title.
  

4
eXe Sidebar

Located at the far left of the screen, is the eXe sidebar, which contains the Outline and iDevice panes respectively.  The basic tree type structure allows users to add content pages (branches, children or nodes) to the trunk (Home page). Multiple levels can be added under this structure however guidelines for good content design suggest a fairly flat structure to be ideal for most learning content.



                                                                                                               
The sidebar contains the Outline and the iDevices panes as shown below:





Outline pane

The Outline tool set allows you to define the structure your project will take. This is particularly useful for large or complex projects that contain many parts or topics. The Outline pane uses a tree structure to organise related pages. This first page or node is the Home page. This is the top level page and will always display as your project's home page when published. 

·         Homepages
The Home page is the first page displayed when the project is exported to the web or an LMS. This is a parent page and additional child level pages can be added under this page.

·         Adding pages
To add additional pages select the parent node by highlighting the parent level and click the <Add Page> button.

·         Delete pages
To delete a page, select the page you want to delete and click the delete button. A dialogue message displays to check this action. Click OK to continue.

·         Renaming pages
Select the page you want to rename and click the rename button or double click on the node.  A dialogue message prompts you to enter the new name. Enter the name and click OK.

·         Extracting and Merging pages
Merging pages allows you to take an elp file and merge the content of that file into another elp file, or to take a page from an elp file and extract it to create a new elp.

To insert a file select the node you wish to insert the content into then select Merge, Insert Package from the File menu. Alternately, you can right-click on a node and select Insert Package. The Browser dialogue is displayed. Browse to the elp file you want to insert and click Open. The new file content will now appear in your open elp file.

To extract a node, select the node from your open elp file, select File, Merging, Extract Package (or right-click). A save dialog is displayed. Enter a file name for the node you are extracting and click Save. A confirmation message will be displayed.

·         Promote/Demote arrows
The promote/demote arrows are located beneath the outline pane. Selecting a node and clicking on one of the arrows will change the position of that node with the outline structure.

iDevice pane

The iDevice (instructional device) pane is a collection of structural elements that describe learning content. Examples of these include, objectives, pre-knowledge, case studies, free text. Learning content is created by selecting iDevices from the iDevice menu and entering your learning content. 

·         Activity
An activity can be defined as a task or set of tasks a learner must complete. Provide a clear statement of the task and consider any conditions that may help or hinder the learner in the performance of the task.

·         Case Study
A case study is a story that conveys an educational message. A case study can be used to present a realistic situation that enables learners to apply their own knowledge and experience to. When designing a case study you might want to consider the following:

v  What educational points are conveyed in the story
v  What preparation will the learners need to do prior to working on the case study
v  Where the case study fits into the rest of the course
v  How the learners will interact with the materials and each other e.g. if run in a classroom situation can teams be setup to work on different aspects of the case and if so how are ideas feed back to the class.
·         Cloze Activity
Cloze activities prompt learners with a piece of text with significant phrases or words missing. Learners demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the concepts presented in the text by filling in the missing phrases or words.  It is a useful device for testing reading comprehension and language skills.

·         External Website
The external website iDevice allows you to attach an external website url to your content.  This feature allows learners to browse the external website without the need to open a new browser window.

·         Free Text Area
The majority of a learning resource will be establishing context, delivering instructions and providing general information. This provides the framework within which the learning activities are built and delivered.

·         Image Gallery
                The gallery iDevice allows you to upload and label multiple images.

·         Image Magnifier
                The image magnifier allows the learner to view parts of an image in a magnified state.

·         Java Applet
                This is iDevice that allows users to load simple java applets into the eXe content.

·         Multiple Choice Question
Although more often used in formal testing situations MCQ’s can be used as a formative testing tool to stimulate thought and discussion on topics students may feel a little reticent in responding to.

When designing a MCQ test consider the following:

v  What learning outcomes are the questions testing
v  What intellectual skills are being tested
v  What are the language skills of the audience
v  Gender and cultural issues

Avoid grammar, language and question structures that might provide clues.

·         Multi Select Question
                This iDevice provides the ability to choose more than one correct response to a question.
·         Objectives
Objectives describe the expected outcomes of the learning and should define what the learners will be able to do when they have completed the learning tasks.
·         Pre-knowledge
Prerequisite knowledge refers to the knowledge learners should already have in order to be able to effectively complete the learning. Examples of pre-knowledge can be:


v  Learners must have level 4 English
v  Learners must be able to assemble standard power tools

·         RSS
The RSS iDevice allows users to import a snapshot of RSS content into your authoring environment where it can then be edited. This iDevice requires that the author be connected to the internet.

·         Reading Activity
Provide learners with structure to their reading activity. This helps put the activity in context for the learner. It is also important to correctly reference any reading materials you refer to as this models best practice to the learners. Not always essential if covered in the course content but providing feedback to the learner on some of the main points covered in the reading may also add value to the activity.

·         Reflection
The Reflection iDevice allows you to pose a question for the learner to consider of set an activity for learners to complete before receiving some guidance by clicking on the Feedback button.

·         SCORM Quiz
The SCORM Quiz iDevice bundles questions to form a quiz assessment. This assessment is then managed by the Learning Management System (LMS) to enable scoring.

·         True/False Question
True-false questions present a statement that requires the learner to determine whether or not the statement is true or not.

·         Wiki article
The wiki article iDevice takes a snap shot of an article and embeds it into your eXe content.  This iDevice requires that the author be connected to the internet. Changes made to the article will not automatically be updated to Wiki so changes made on your local machine to the wiki content in your content should be submitted back to the wiki where appropriate.