Innovative Web-Authoring Tools for E-Learning
Widescale adoption of e-Learning has been hampered by a complex set of factors. Setting aside pedagogical considerations, the costs and effort required to produce pedagogical materials have been one of the principal obstacles to e-learning. Even today, the costs associated with producing on-line courses are significantly higher than similar training through correspondence courses. Fortunately, recent technological developments will likely put an end to this disparity.
- Web 2.0 allows users to play both the role of content designer and that of the reader simultaneously. Users are provided with tools that facilitate the creation of original content without special skills in programming or multimedia.
- Recently available open source software has facilitated the production and dissemination of materials that formerly required input from programmers. These new applications have given distance-learning producers powerful tools to easily create professional quality resources.
With these recent developments in mind and a desire to improve course design and production, Cégep@distance has begun experimenting with open source web-authoring software. The ability to design and write online pedagogical content without being dependent on the contributions of expert Web programmers was irresistible!
Choosing Web-authoring Software
From among the growing number of simple and economical choices that allow relatively inexperienced users to create quality on-line course content, Cégep@distance chose the web-authoring software eXe eLearning for the following reasons:
- Economy (Free and Open source) to facilitate use by all members of the design team;
- Simple operation to facilitate use by less technically savvy members of the design team;
- Cross-platform functionality in Windows, Macintosh and Linux;
- Compatibility with the various computer systems used by Cégep@distance.
Without delving into the technical details, this program is modular and allows educators to create content compatible with most on-line learning management systems. There are a series of templates for pedagogical activities which enable the rapid and simple creation of content without multimedia professionals. Furthermore, there are ample features to permit adaptation and personalization. As an example, experienced users can create their own pedagogical and graphic templates.
An Actual Course - The Ultimate Test
Using eXe eLearning for the course Digital Photography given in English seemed like the ideal way to evaluate its suitability. Using detailed pedagogical and media specifications, contributors, designers and editors were able to create and modify on-line content directly without unduly complex procedures. The time and effort saved in on-line course creation should open the door to exciting new options at Cégep@distance.
A Force for Change
With the experimental phase still in progress, the new tool is popular with the members of the production team. However, using a Web authoring software will bring certain changes to our standard operating procedures. Once the course is finalized, an analysis of the impact of this software on our production processes will be conducted.
In the same way that open source software has enhanced operations at Cégep@distance; sharing your experiences in on-line course design with other readers by using the Reader Response Feature ultimately benefits us all!