Flashform: Form-driven SWF-output Elearning for AICC and SCORM

Rapid Intake took on the task of updating CourseBuilder and Flash Learning interactions last year. Now they’ve released an updated forms-based elearning tool that is AICC and SCORM compatible- Flashform Rapid eLearning Studio 2.

Flashform looks a lot like the server-based tools you might see from Qmind, Mohive or CourseAvenue. However, it is client side and advanced developers can customize or extend it using Flashform source FLA and XML files. This is a sort of third category of Flash tool. It falls between the sometimes intimidating option of coding Flash content from the ground-up and the constraints of Powerpoint-based elearning converters (Articulate Presenter or Breeze) However, it doesn’t assume that one needs the content management and workflow capabilities of the flexible server-based template and form authoring solutions like Qmind. Check it out. Check them all out; there isn’t one tool that is a universal solution for all needs.

Flash + Google Maps = Flight Simulator

OK, it’s not quite a flight simulator, but Mark Caswell-Davis has built a fun "Flash 8 Google Maps" flight simulator called Goggles Flight Sim. It is really interesting to think about this as a simulation mash-up. Imagine instead of map data if a Flash movie used a business model or other data from a web site/service. One could quickly and simply make some pretty powerful training.

Before you head off and try Goggles, note that

  • It works best with Flash 8 or higher (and works great with Firefox)
  • It may take a few minutes to cache map data if the server is busy… just wait, or come back in a few minutes.
  • READ THIS– Use ‘A’ and ‘Z’ keys to change the speed. Using the arrow keys for direction and climb/dive were obvious to even a non-gamer like me.
  • You can start at any number of cities (or the Moon or Mars) and create custom locations like Boeing Longacres Customer Training Facility or the Adobe office in downtown San Francisco (Baker-Hamilton building). Tip- For custom locations just hit ‘Start’ immediately without picking a location.

I had a lot of fun with this today. If you want to create your own start locations, it is easy to follow the author’s instructions for linking to your own Goggles starting point using Google Maps and Firefox.

Without sounding too much like Elliott, I really think this could be a new model of creating training simulations; lightweight integration into existing services using a UI, some minimal instructional information and a scenario to launch learners into an experience they control and that has inherent consequential feedback from their actions and the response of the model. Note the lack of instructions needed for this example and the effective cost.

Return to client-side blogging

My preferred offline/client-side tool, w.bloggar, is back online after some time away. Something went weird with w.bloggar for me July-ish and I couldn’t post using it. I looked for a new copy, but the site was down since at least early August. Meantime, I had been using the Blogger site to do my entries and felt some frustration, so I tried another free blogging client, Qumana. I had tried it once before in a sort of w.bloggar versus Qumana shoot-out. Although Qumana 3 beta 5 is significantly nicer than what I tried before, but still not my cup of tea. If necessary (like w.bloggar doesn’t work for THIS post), I’ll go back to Qumana.

For now, w.bloggar works best for me and I’m now using w.bloggar v4.00.193 which you can download from the resurrected bare-bones site. Don’t let the placeholder-style site fool you. This is a great tool. Then again, if there’s something better… just let me know.

Finding the Reload Metadata Tool for SCORM

Reload is a metadata editor that supports SCORM 2004 and the SCORM Simple Sequencing and Navigation constructs. However, I couldn’t find it to download it. Looking at the main ADL site, there are quite a few good presentations about it over on the ADLNet siteReload Metadata Editor Presentations, but no sign of the tool itself with the SCORM extensions. Fortunately, I was able to contact someone who knew where to find it.

Currently, the Reload Editor is available as a download on the Joint ADL Co-Lab site- Reload Editor 2004 v.1.3.2 beta 2. It looks like it was last updated in late October of last year, but it should still do the trick for most of your SCORM metadata editing needs.

Getting to Know CORDRA

The ADL is hosting a CORDRA event this Fall in Memphis, CORDRA at Work. Folks building content for the US Dept. of Defense and government agencies will want to get to know CORDRA as it will likely be a big part of future online training content.

CORDRA (Content Object Repository Discovery and Registration Architecture) is an architecture and specification for registering content in a repository, and being able to do searches across repositories. CORDRA leverages The Handle System to resolve unique, persistent resource identifiers, to handle authentication and more. The simplest explanation I’ve heard of Handle is that it is "A better DNS system than DNS." The Handle System is being handled by CNRI and is funded by DARPA, the good folks that brought you things like the internet

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LMS Updates- Blackboard Lawsuit, LMS CEOs, PENS & SCORM News

It seems like there is so much going on right now. Rather than doing 3 posts I’ll do one quick post and hit 3-4 topics.

Blackboard Lawsuit– Disappointing to read about Blackboard filing patent-based lawsuits against other LMS companies. Others have followed this more closely and written about it more clearly than I can, like Stephen Downes has on his blog- see posts like: Blackboard Patent.

LMS CEOs-The Masie Center has podcast (MP3) interviews and PDF transcripts of brief interviews with most of the major LMS/LCM companies CEO or CTO. Free downloads are available off of the Learning 2006 site. There are 15+ short MP3 files (~5MB) to choose from here LMS Panelist Podcasts. Masie Consortium members can also visit that site for a focused podcast with the Blackboard legal counsel on the pending litigation.

PENS– I was busy updating the PENS validation suite PHP for the AICC. The PENS validation code is available on the AICC site, and I am hosting it myself for online testing at the PENS LMS Testing site. The changes to the sample code and server-side validation are described on the AICC blog; PENS Validation Suite Updates. If anyone is interested in collaboration on further updates to the test suite and a certification process, please contact me. I’ve also been working on a PENS Plugfest to be held in Vancouver September 19-20, see the press release here AICC PENS Plugfest.

SCORM 2004 3rd Edition Public Draft posted Monday If you didn’t catch it, the ADL posted a "Final Draft" on Monday, with beta versions of the test suite and sample run-time environment. It seems like a lot of clarifications and some decent clean-up/clarification of Simple Sequencing & Navigation without a major overhaul that would break a lot of things. See the ADL web site (now a .gov domain) for info and downloads ADL site downloads for SCORM 3rd Edition ADL Releases SCORM 2004 3rd Edition Public Draft. The next 30 days is your chance to get feedback to them before it becomes an official, non-draft document.

Transitions and a return to blogging

I’m returning to blogging after taking some time away to handle personal priorities. As I mentioned earlier this year, my mother had a stroke in January and was also diagnosed with cancer. Our family rallied to support her, with my brothers and sisters in Wisconsin seeing her daily. She had a few smaller strokes and was subsequently transferred from a hospital to a nursing home. My mother celebrated her 66th birthday in early July and I returned to be there with her and my brothers and sisters. A few days later her condition further deteriorated and she was transferred to a very nice hospice with wonderful staff. I returned in mid-July and was there when she passed on July 20th. Thanks to everyone who has shown their sympathy and support.

LMS Upgrades- Lessons Learned from ERP

In the March edition of Communications of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), Robert C. Beatty and Craig D. Williams write:

One of the most important IT-enabled business innovations during the decade has been the emergence of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Lured by guarantees of improved business productivity, streamlined business operations and, and increased cost savings, organizations worldwide have launched initiatives to integrate ERP systems into their existing business environments.

I was struck by the similarity between the ERP systems and LMS (learning management system). A quick substitution of LMS for ERP and "learning" for a few instances of "business" and it could be the beginning of an LMS white paper. The goal of their article was to give ERP teams proven and practical recommendations for successful ERP upgrades. I think it just may apply to LMS upgrades too. Here are their 8 top-level findings:

  1. Build your business case on new functionality.
  2. Treat the upgrade like a new project.
  3. Keep the (original implementation team) team together.
  4. This is a business project, not an IT project. [emphasis added]
  5. Watch for hidden infrastructure costs.
  6. Un-customize customizations.
  7. Test like your organization’s future sucess depends on it.
  8. Don’t skimp on the training.

Of course we’ve got to like #8. But what about #6? It is so tempting to request customizations, ostensibly to improve the learning experience, but how detrimental are delays or additional costs to the learning experience? Beatty and Williams note that for ERP projects “Dealing with customizations requires approximately 80% of a software developer’s and 60% of a business analyst’s time and effort.“. They recommend that customizations be evaluated and considered for elimination during the upgrade process.

This article is definitely worth reading for any training manager or IT staff involved in an enterprise LMS upgrade.