SCORM SCO Presentation Engine (S2PE)

Here is an interesting article by Kraig Mentor on using SCORM with Director, SCORM SCO Presentation Engine. I like how this technique can greatly reduce the HTML page clutter that can build-up in manifests that use simple OBJECT tags. I like how much of the content can be externalized. It seems like a very similar technique could be used with Flash. I do have some hesitations about what this means for bookmarking, obscuring the programming for experts, and securing the content (DRM or otherwise).

I recall a cross-product/platform strategy like this from Wicat that was referred to as "Nemesis". The idea was that a database (or in the S2PE case, XML) contains the guts of a the elearning presentation. Then an "engine" reads that data and renders the elearning.

In the Wicat case, this provided flexibility to deliver training in a customer’s preferred format– they could write an engine in Authorware, IconAuthor, ToolBook, or virtually anything that coul "play" the presentation database.

The challenge with a presentation engine approach is that you lose many of the benefits of the host system or language– Director Lingo or ActionScript idioms and optimizations are often lost in the database representation, and an individual developer’s proficiency becomes less valuable. Conversely, that de-valuing of AS or Lingo expertise, can make it much easier to do automation, mass production, or farm things out to non-experts. Ironically, it can also make things much harder for a host system expert who comes in to a project later; their hands are tied to the data structures in what seems like unexpected ways.

Right Answer: Treo, Ultra Portable, or Laptop

Based on my last post, Paul C thought I was carrying a lot of junk. It’s really quite small considering the SD card goes inside the Treo and I’ve added a charge/sync cable. Click the picture to see an actual size image.
Treo kit

For me, this is a compliment to a laptop, with the minimum capabilities I need in a very mobile form. I don’t want to regularly bring a laptop to lunch, use it in parking lots, or stores, but the Treo is perfect for all that and takes calls too.

With the 2GB card I have 1GB+ to spare after loading Gaim, Firefox, Thunderbird, N-vu, and other junk. Plenty of space for transporting the equivalent of a CD-R or two inside my phone if I need to transport data. When I need a laptop, I want the ability to drive one or preferably TWO 1600×1200 displays. That is called for when working on training for avionics displays that run natively at 1280×1024. I really want a desktop-peer, a "luggable", when I want a computer.

For Paul, he probably wants more capabilities than the Treo + PortableApps can offer- a better keyboard, bigger screen, "real" apps, no worries about the OS or configuration issues on "other" machines and so on. A 7 lbs. dreadnought Dell, tank-esque ThinkPad or overweight Alien craft would break his back more than bring "on-the-flyweight" mobile productivity like his Sony TR.

I actually considered all of the computers just listed, and think they all have their merits.

The right answer? D) All of the above. Needs vary too widely for anyone to prescribe universal solutions.

How I Mobilize- Treo, PC and Apps

Someone asked about what I use for mobile work since I wrote about SyncToy and I’ve written about PortableApps.com before. Here’s the details on hardware and my must have applications, that I use in conjunction with the SyncToy trick I wrote about yesterday.

Hardware– I use a Palm Treo 650 GSM that I paid to get unlocked to use in Europe too. I ended up just using my Cingular SIM in Denmark and Finland though– and the Palm worked great! I did disable email though, I think GPRS would have been a fortune that way. Next time I’ll look at getting a SIM there with data coverage. Sometimes there is a good deal on Palm Treo 650 at Amazon, I’m not sure I’d do a two year contract now though. I’ve had mine about a year and will stick with it until a faster Palm-version comes out or the Treo 700W Windows version gets stable and a service pack. Maybe late this Fall or early 2007.

I just bought a Ritek 150x 2GB SD Card for extra speed running Thunderbird and Firefox as PortableApps. I swap the 2GB card in & out of the Treo, and use a SanDisk MobileMate SD+ 5-in-1 Mobile Reader to work off of, or transfer data to a PC. Thunderbird in particular is a little slow to start running off of USB, but the Ritek card makes it more tolerable. The Ritek definitely helps with the SyncToy transfer speeds too.

Software– On the Treo, my must have applications are ChatterEmail, CityTime, DateBk5, eWallet, Resco Explorer, mo:Blog, SeaTraffic, TinySheet, TrackerDog, TravelTracker, Uninstall Manager. I’ve used most of these for years either on the Palm, PocketPC or both.

Lately the most indispensable Palm applications have been ChatterEmail and SeaTraffic. ChatterEmail provides GREAT, always-on, "push" email WITH NO EXTRA FEES. All you need is an IMAP email server. I can’t say enough good things about ChatterEmail and its author, Marc Blanc. SeaTraffic is awesome for this area. Traffic is so unpredictable and often bad. SeaTraffic lets you route around it, or even just brace for the worst before you turn the ignition.

As for PC applications and portability, it is web apps or the PortableApps.com stuff I wrote about in the previous posts here and here. For use on my PC (or other PC’s) I keep these Portable apps on the SD card- Firefox, Thunderbird+Engimail, and Gaim.

Using Microsoft PowerToys for Portable Apps & Elearning

I have some cool tips on use of the free Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP , specifically SyncToy and Taskbar Magnifier.

Cool tip #1: Set-up your Portable applications per the instructions on PortableApps.com. Then go get the Microsoft SyncToy. Create a SyncToy folder pair and auto-magically synchronize your desk/lap-top and the portable drive. Then you can carry your offline folders and current address book with you on the USB (or SD) memory. I sync my address book and offline folders, from my Thunderbird default profile directory with the USB. See this Thunderbird link for more information on locating your profile folder.

Below I’ve used the standard Windows token %AppData%, which expands to the user data directory for applications. On my machine %AppData% is equivalent to C:\Documents and Settings\tomking\Application Data\. Here are the two folder pairs I use for quick Thunderbird synchronizations.

Folder Pair to Synchronize Address Book, Preferences, etc.
Left Folder (Hard Drive):
%AppData%\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default\

Right folder (portable memory):
drive:\PortableThunderbird\profile

Options for folder pair:
Files to include: *.dat, *.db, *.js, *.mab. *.sig

Folder Pair to Synchronize Offline folders and indexes (for IMAP)
Left Folder (Hard Drive):
%AppData%\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxxxxxx.default\ImapMail\

Right folder (portable memory)
drive:\PortableThunderbird\profile\ImapMail

Options for folder pair
Files to include: *.dat, *.html, *.msf

Depending on your work and travel plans you may want to use SyncToy to synchronize, echo (copy left-to-right, w/adds & deletes), subscribe (update left-to-right), contribute (copy right-to-left, w/out deletes), or combine (synchronize, w/out deletes).

I always use the SyncToy "Synchronize" setting, but I am very careful to make sure my primary Thunderbird is backed up before I use SyncToy. You can use a similar strategy with Portable GAIM using folder pairs with the hard drive folder %AppData%\.gaim\ and the USB drive folder drive:\PortableGaim\userprofile\Application Data\.gaim\.

Cool tip #2: Use Taskbar Magnifier to assist with precision alignment of hot spots and graphics when using development tools like Authorware, ToolBook, etc.

Taskbar Magnifier lets you to magnify part of the screen from the taskbar. This is very similar to Magnifier that can be found under Start > Accessories > Accessibility, except the PowerToy version remains in the taskbar.

Though the PowerToy has a smaller viewing area, it does not interfere with pull-down menus and most "full-screen" elearning applications. After installing Taskbar Magnifier, you access it by right-clicking on the taskbar, selecting toolbars, and then "Taskbar Magnifier." Use a similar process to turn it off.

AICC News now online

A few weeks ago I was elected as AICC Communication Chairperson. Since then, I’ve taken on the task of doing some updates to the AICC website, including adding the AICC News blog. I encourage you to check it out if you’re interested in seeing some pretty good presentations on elearning and staying current on elearning standards activities too.

For those of you who don’t know what the AICC is, here’s a little description that I culled from the AICC FAQ page.

The Aviation Industry CBT (Computer-Based Training) Committee (AICC) is an international association of technology-based training professionals. The AICC develops guidelines for aviation industry in the development, delivery, and evaluation of CBT and related training technologies.

I’ll antipate your next question, My company is not involved in aviation so why should I care about AICC? Again, citing their FAQs:

The AICC wants the aviation training community to get the best possible value for its technology-based training dollar. The only way that this is possible is to promote interoperability standards that software vendors can use across multiple industries. With such standards a vendor can sell their products to a broader market for a lower unit cost. AICC recommendations are fairly general to most types of computer based training and, for this reason, are widely used outside of the aviation training industry. If you are concerned about reuse and interoperability of online learning, the AICC is a good group to participate in. The AICC also actively coordinates its efforts with broader learning technology standards organizations like IMS, ADL, ISO SC/36, and IEEE LTSC.

I hope to see you there.

CourseBuilder Beta available for Dreamweaver 8

Adobe (as Macromedia) selected Rapid Intake to oversee the future of CourseBuilder and the Flash Learning Interactions. A beta version of CourseBuilder for Dreamweaver 8 is now available from the Rapid Intake website. Updates are summarized here, (text repeated below for convenience):

CourseBuilder for Dreamweaver 8 BETA release: We have completed internal development and QA testing for the Dreamweaver 8 update. We are fixing some known bugs in the current version of CourseBuilder as well as making sure it is compatible with Dreamweaver 8 for both the PC and MAC. We expect the final version to be released by March 1.

It will be nice to have CourseBuilder working well and stable with Dreamweaver 8. I’m also hoping for more features and tighter SCORM 1.2/2004 integration in subsequent releases.