For some time Adobe insiders and followers have been talking about XFL, a package file format for Flash (here, here, here and more in search). XFL combines XML and some binary assets in a zip archive. Currently Adobe CS4 applications use XFL as an interchange format.
How does this impact rapid elearning? Office automation tools are also using package file formats, such as the somewhat controversial Microsoft Office Open XML format. This is the metaformat that subsumes the underlying markup languages for word processing, presentation and spreadsheet content.
Taken together I suspect we will see the rise of many custom workflow and “homebrew rapid elearning” applications. It will be easier than ever before to use common zip and XSL tools to take “SME content” in .docx and .pptx files and transform them into XFL. From XFL to published SWF is an easy step for CS4, and will allow for expert tuning/enhancement in Flash itself. That sort of tuning isn’t possible in current tools.
Corporate developers and elearning shops will likely create their own tools and workflows like Mohive and CourseAvenue Studio, but optimized for their market, clientele, content, style, work cycle and requirements.
Still others developers will bypass tools like Adobe Presenter, Articulate Presenter, and iSpring Pro, Rapid Intake ProForm, instead creating their own tools. These tools will likely work with specialized, optimized and more structured Word or PowerPoint files/templates, but also provide more optimized workflows and optimized content.
I think the opportunities for more flexible rapid elearning development will increase. The race is on for Articulate and Adobe to improve their offerings with richer tools and more instructional design savvy built-in. Wonderful as it is, Articulate Engage could be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Likewise, CourseAvenue Studio and Mohive will need to expand the value of their workflow, repository and shared template capabilities.
Elearning professionals can contribute design skills to these new custom processes. Those with Flash skills will appreciate content flowing more easily from Word and PowerPoint to Flash, allowing upstream production efficiencies while still resulting in “raw” Flash files that can be enhanced and enriched with animations, effects and AS3 code.
It will be interesting to observe as the likely home brew solutions, open source tools, tool kits and SDKs emerge– all making it easier for content to flow from office automation tools to Flash source code file formats. I suspect other package file formats will also emerge and contribute to interesting solutions.