Standards-Compliant Courseware Development Tools

Open technical standards allow one application to talk to another. Thanks to these interoperability standards, instructors and instructional designers can combine software programs to build course content.
IMS Global Learning Consortium is a leader in developing open specifications for distributed learning. Its goal is to facilitate the delivery of Internet-based distributed learning to all users and environments worldwide. The global consortium—composed of more than 300 education, government, and commercial entities—has released standards for content packaging, question and test development, and enterprise metadata.
In development are standards for learning design, digital repositories, and accessibility. As the new IMS standards and others such as SCORM, ADL, and AICC are released, so are many products that support them. We've surveyed a few of these standards-compliant products below.

Authorware 6
Macromedia's Authorware product is now IMS compliant. This latest version of the established authoring product helps instructors build content using a simple interface and drag-and-drop icons. The framework and navigation icons guide users through the process of building complex pages and navigation structures. Authorware 6 allows content developers to link to other pages; via hypertext, users can easily link to text, graphics, sounds, digital movies, and animations. Authorware now provides direct support for Macromedia Flash 5 vector graphics and animations. In addition, users can perform a full text search and retrieval on any text within the application. Because Authorware supports JavaScript URLs enabling ADL SCORM communication and learning standards from IMS, ADL, and AICC, courses created with the software can communicate with a wide range of learning management systems. Contact: Macromedia, San Francisco, CA; (415) 252-2000; www.macromedia.com.

Click2Learn ToolBook Instructor
ToolBook Instructor, an interactive content development tool from Click2learn, includes hundreds of preprogrammed catalog objects in a robust, object-oriented development environment that supports visual programming and scripting to create interactive behaviors for custom or adapted content. Content produced with ToolBook is interoperable through the emerging standards created and supported in SCORM, AICC, IMS, ADL, and IEEE. ToolBook Instructor content can be launched, bookmarked, and tracked using SCORM or AICC. ToolBook Instructor supports a wide variety of media files, including sound, animation, digital video, streaming media, and still images. It supports Flash animation files, RealPlayer, Windows Media Player formats, GIF, and JPEG files. Content developed in ToolBook can be deployed on the Internet, an intranet, a local-area network (LAN), or CD-ROM. Users can integrate ToolBook Instructor content with Click2Learn's Aspen Learning Management System or any other standards-based learning management system for a complete solution. Contact: Click2Learn Inc., Bellevue, WA; (425) 462-0501; www.click2learn.com.

Learn eXact
The Learn eXact learning content management system (LCMS) from Giunti Labs of Italy is the first LCMS fully complaint with SCORM 1.2 and the yet-to-be released 1.3 specifications. The Learn eXact authoring environment provides a fully interactive and user-friendly interface enabling authors to tag raw assets, create learning objects, and create packaged courses. The WYSIWYG interface lets users produce materials adhering to international e-learning standards. The system comes with a native XML digital repository for the indexing, storage, retrieval, and reusage of learning materials. Also part of the package is a full-featured delivery environment that includes user enrollment, virtual classroom setup, and user tracking features. Learn eXact has implemented proprietary extensions of leading LCMS formats, including WebCT, so the two can be used together. Giunti Labs is currently setting up installations in Europe with leading publishers, content production and media centers, and training facilities. Leading U.S. clients are currently considering the platform for integration as the LCMS part of their architectures. Contact: Giunti Interactive Labs, Genoa, Italy; 01-85-42123; www.giuntilabs.com.

Lectora Publisher
Lectora Publisher content management system lets instructors build course content without any programming knowledge. Instructors can create review questions and complete tests using any combination of question types, including true/false, multiple choice, essay, and short answer formats. Testing options include automated grading, multiple or single page testing, per-question feedback, timed testing, show/hide results from student, and set passing and failing scores. Lectora’s actions palette allows users to build interactive learning objects using show/hide functionality, mouse rollovers, object visibility toggling, executables, and other techniques. Users can also create didactic and branched learning scenarios and incorporate external code for meta tags, counters, clocks, and other Java applets, Flash, and Shockwave animations, and ASP and JSP scripts. Collaborative development is also possible. Lectora is a "destination neutral" authoring product and the first certified in the AICC Authoring System category. It produces content that is SCORM v1.2 and LRN compliant. Contact: Trivantis, Cincinnati, OH; (877) 929-0188; www.lectora.com.

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