Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Capacity Focus, 46: Distance-oriented e-Learning, the Moodle CMS, and Xerte and Exe authoring systems

NB: A follow-up post on a Xerte Video Tutorial series is here

Digitally enabled, rich learning environments can make a big difference to the learning potential of our people. That is why, after the rather favourable response to a multimedia projected fairly simple slide show on Sunday, my mind has been going back to the question of developing rich learning and ways to present it cost-effectively.

It should be no secret that, several years back, I took a look at various technologies; but was a bit less than happy. 

The big disappointment was just how hard it was to use and make things that were effective and attractive, especially with content management systems and Wikis. I actually ended up resorting to using blogs to present learning in a fairly friendly way, for demonstration purposes. (Of course the headache there is that we have trolls, and since I have hate sites that target me that has been a problem. Hence the current no comments policies.)

Now, I have long been impressed with the attractiveness of multimedia slide shows, such as PowerPoint, and the slide by slide, scene by scene approach they are built around. This complements the more reference material oriented heavy reading expositions that lay out content and add in multimedia links and references, or even embed. 

Okay, but where do we go for something that is educationally structured, and would fit with education content management systems like Moodle?

Enter, Xerte:

(Pause and take a look here at a sampler that lays out the possibilities. Notice, how it even blends in readings, slide shows, quizzes in several formats, etc etc. Introductory manual, here. Free for download, here, and integrated with Moodle for use on a 2 GB memory stick, here.)

The key problem of course is that full bore Xerte is scripting oriented, i.e. to get best performance, it demands that you write some code in a "simple" scripting language. Unfortunately, that is a price for control. Tutorial (which starts with the two downloads, no 1 for developers, no 2 for setting up a server with capacities to facilitate teachers using toolkits that make the whole more user friendly [this will also work on a standalone PC, but to set up is not for the faint of heart, better register at the sandbox here! or, just go for the USB stick version]. . . ):

(A sandbox for experimenting is here, and another tutorial is here. Notice, the idea here that Xerte is Moodle's "saviour." If you are not ready for Xerte yet, I suggest use something like PPT, and then get it embedded into the learning system, perhaps using a PPT to Flash converter first.)

Obviously, there will be a learning curve involved, and eXe, a "simpler" approach, may also be useful. 

But this looks like a definite find. Free for download, and capable of integration with Moodle. END

F/N: Xtranormal is an interesting possibility, a 3-d computer animation subscription site/service that generates characters and will play out a story line, with selected camera angles, gestures etc. This looks like it would blend well with the approach, though of course more conventional vid clips, or stop-motion animation can be done, including of course, clay-figure motion.