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IJCSIS invites authors to submit their original and unpublished work that communicates current research on information assurance and security regarding both the theoretical and methodological aspects, as well as various applications in solving real world information security problems.
IJCSIS is a peer reviewed international journal with a key objective to provide the academic and industrial community a medium for presenting original research and applications related to Computer Science and Information Security. . The core vision of IJCSIS is to disseminate new knowledge and technology for the benefit of everyone ranging from the academic and professional research communities to industry practitioners in a range of topics in computer science & engineering in general and information & communication security, mobile & wireless networking, and wireless communication systems. It also provides a venue for high-calibre researchers, PhD students and professionals to submit on-going research and developments in these areas. . IJCSIS invites authors to submit their original and unpublished work that communicates current research on information assurance and security regarding both the theoretical and methodological aspects, as well as various applications in solving real world information security problems.
(IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2009 Tool Identification for Learning Object Creation Sonal Chawla Ist Author Dept. of Computer Science and Applications Panjab University Chandigarh INDIA E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org Dr.R.K.Singla Dept. of Computer Science and Applications Panjab University Chandigarh INDIA E-mail: email@example.com Abstract Learning objects are a collection of chunks organized into a whole that covers a topic or logical sequence of instruction. The creation of Learning Objects is an activity that involves many intricacies in regards of the effectiveness they must possess in order to serve as a usable tool to aid or accelerate the process of learning in students. Learning objects have numerous features of which Interoperability enables content from multiple sources to work well together with different systems. Reusablity enables content to be transferable to other contexts allowing for chunks of information to communicate with learning systems using a standardized method. Deciding upon the tool to use for creating interoperable, reusable Learning Objects ,thus, becomes a difficult task. This paper tries to identify the parameters based on which the tools can be compared and then goes ahead to compare the tools for Learning Object Creation.Thus, the purpose of this paper is threefolds. Firstly, to define the learning objects and their purpose . Secondly, to identify the tools available for effective creation of Learning Objects and finally compare and find which amongst them offers better facilities for content creation.. Keywords: Learning objects, authoring tools,comparison,XERTE,eXe,RELOAD,GLO Maker INTRODUCTION Learning Objects have multiple definitions . , defines a learning object as “an independent and self-standing unit of learning content that is predisposed to reuse in multiple instructional contexts.” It considers the size of a learning object to be important and provides debate about this. Other researchers have tried to approach the structure of the learning object by defining its contents or its constituent parts. Most definitions are influenced by instructional design theory. In order for a digital source to be considered as a learning object it “must include or link to: 1) a learning objective; 2) a practice activity, and 3) an assessment.” A similar definition has been provided by Mortimer (2002), who argues that a learning object should include metadata, a learning objective, and the actual content, as well as activities and assessments that support the specified objective. Finally, Macromedia MX suggests that the main components of a learning object should include the existence of content, metadata, and interoperability mechanisms that facilitate its exchangeability across authoring tools and virtual learning environments (VLEs)  They can also be defined as a collection of chunks organized into a whole that covers a topic or logical sequence of instruction. David Wiley (2000) outlines the basic idea behind learning objects: “Instructional designers can build small (relative to the size of an entire course) instructional components that can be reused a number of times in different learning contexts” (p.3). Wiley defines reusable learning objects as being “digital entities deliverable over the internet” (2000, p.3).Another definition of learning objects is “Learning objects are the core concept in an approach to learning content in which content is broken down into "bite size" chunks. These chunks can be reused, independently created and maintained, and pulled 160 http://sites.google.com/site/ijcsis/ ISSN 1947-5500 (IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2009 apart and stuck together legos.”(Eduworks, 2006) like so many Research Questions The Research Questions that this study tries to answer are What are Learning Objects? Why they need to be created? Which Tools are available for the Learning Object Creation? and What are the advantages disadvantages of them ? Amongst them which one scores over the other in terms of features and ease of use? The creation of Learning Objects is an activity that involves many intricacies in regards of the effectiveness they must possess in order to serve as a usable tool to aid or accelerate the process of learning in students. Learning objects have numerous features of which Interoperability enables content from multiple sources to work well together with different systems. Reusablity enables content to be transferable to other contexts allowing for chunks of information to communicate with learning systems using a standardized method. HTML, the most common medium for content, is not suitable for course material such as LOs. Although it is useful, particularly in working with Microsoft´s FrontPage or Macromedia´s Dreamweaver, tools that enable the creation of quite sophisticated pages, it is not adaptable and portable for LOs. A web page designed for one course at one university will contain course and university specific information: the name of the course, the name of the university, and even a colour scheme. To be used or adapted by another course, the pages need to be redesigned.” Downes confirms that an LO must be “portable” hence, “first, structured, and second, separated from presentation information.” XML is most suitable for authoring LOs in that it “uses tags to structure information and refer presentation information to a separate document entirely.” XSL is a family of recommendations for defining XML document transformation and presentation. An XML file and an XSL file merge to create an HTML file. Downes has provided an interesting illustration: Methodology The Study identifies a framework to compare the qualities of each software tool against the requirements set . It takes into account factors such as who the system is intended for , what its intended purpose is and what theoretical base are the designers of the software working from.On the basis of these parameters each of the software tool is evaluated and a comparative chart is drawn .This way the features of these tools are classified and summarized. Tools for creating Learning objects Learning objects by themselves are effective but, in order to obtain the best results, learning objects must be used in conjunction with alternate technologies that allow for the use of multiple learning objects, to reuse them, to observe user behavior in order to select the most suitable objects for every student, to establish a way to store, arrange, classify and extract learning objects and to display them in a proper manner so the user can manipulate them. This is achieved by the use of repositories and Learning Management Systems.As has been identified, the maximum level of adaptation to a user’s behavior and learning needs is achieved by the interaction between learning objects, a learning management system and a repository combined with tracking a student’s behavior in order to select the objects that are more suitable for his/her level of advancement in the learning process. There are many open source softwares used in Elearning .These range from HTML editors to learning management systems. Below given list gives an indication of the range of OSS dedicated to e-learning 1. Downes’ illustration of an HTML file In order to have sytems that are distributed and interoperable they must be able to communicate, not only about the same things but also in a common language such as XML. It is this language that has been adopted by database programmers, librarians and designers around the world and developed by the World Wide Web Consortium. Courseware, a book or a song can all be represented in XML  “XML is to structured information what HTML is to structured documents” which permits learning material to be integrated into a course, as long as the sematics are the same  161 http://sites.google.com/site/ijcsis/ ISSN 1947-5500 (IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2009 Category LMS LCMS CMS Tools OSS Example Moodle,ILIAS,ATutor,Claroline,Docebo,OLAT,SAKAI Fedora(not the Linux version from RedHat),DOOR(Digital Open Object Repository) Plone,Joomla Xerte(XML Editor and Run-Time Editor) eXe(eLearning XHTML Editor) RELOAD(Reusable E-learning Object Authoring and Delivery) FLE3(Future Learning Environment) Learning Environment Assessment APIS(Assessment Provision through Interoperable Segments) Table 1 : Open Source softwares Comparative Review authoring tools of Selected The number of software tools available for authoring web based content in education is overwhelming.But many of these tools have a quite different purposes and target varied user groups. So it becomes essential to identify the characteristics on the basis of which the softwares need to be judged and shortlisted. Based on the set of contextual drivers which shaped the design of these authoring tools the below given criteria have been identified by the reseracher. Requirements: Easy to use for non-technical educational practitioners. Freely available to all Facilitates variety of pedagogical models and techniques Supports pedagogical innovations Efficient to use ,not dependent on high width connection server Exports interoperable content Separation of presentation and content for reusing in multiple contexts The major features of the tools are Burrokeet www.burrokeet.org  Burrokeet is a FLOSS initiative to produce a software tool that allows both easy authoring of content and structuring of IMS content packages in a single environment. Lectora www.trivantis.org Lectora is a leading e-learning authoring tool that is both powerful and easy to use with offline editing capability Lersus www.lersus.com Lersus is another powerful desktop authoring environment that both exports interoperable content and has pedagogical structuring tools as well as being relatively easy to use. Lessonbuilder www.softchalk.com Lessonbuilder is a very easy to use desktop tool with some learning activity devices and a clean and intuitive user interface.It also exports interoperable content. eXe http://exelearning.org/ eXe is a tool for authoring and structuring educational content around pedagogical objects.It is intended for use by teachers who don’t necessarily have a great deal of technical knowledge but wish to build a web portfolio of learning experiences . XERTE http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xerte/ XERTE is an xml editor and run time engine that makes it easy to create and deploy interactive learning objects that are highly accessible and SCORM compliant. It helps to focus on interactive design by providing tools that are fit for purpose and easy to use. Although many other tools like Toolbook Assisstant ,Accelerator ,Coursegenie exist yet this research has been selective and leaves out these tools which partially fulill the criteria RELOAD http://www.reload.ac.uk/ RELOAD is a project funded under the JISC Exchange for Learning Programme (X4L). The Following the above set of requirements a search was conducted for e-learning authoring tools that could satisfy at least half of the requirements based on subjective assessments of researchers.The search methods used involved a combination of trawling the web and targeted enquiries of e-learning expert groups. Using these methods the tools selected for comparison were Burrokeet Lectora Lersus Lessonbuilder eXe XERTE. RELOAD GLO MAKER 162 http://sites.google.com/site/ijcsis/ ISSN 1947-5500 (IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2009 based on emerging learning technology interoperability specifications and includes; RELOAD Content Package and Metadata Editor, and SCORM Player as well as the Learning Design Editor and Player. The primary aims of this project are to: facilitate the creation, sharing and reuse of learning objects and services enhance the range of pedagogical approaches realisable through the use of lesson plans . GLO Maker http://www.glomaker.org/ The purpose of the GLO Maker authoring tool is to empower teachers, and other users, to develop highly adaptable multimedia learning objects. The authoring process is design driven. The tool has two major parts: a Planner where the basic ‘storyline’ of the learning design is constructed, and a Designer where the screens are created based on flexible templates. The built-in design patterns can be used to structure the learning object All the designs are ‘executable’ & they enable direct creation of multimedia learning objects that will run on the Web or in a Managed Learning Environment, such as Moodle or Blackboard. Technical aspects of the software To see if the software is offline or online the technical requirements to run the software To see if the software is proprietry or Open Source On the basis of the responses drawn from the above questions the comparison chart was drawn. This framework was applied to each of the selected authoring tools Below given table is organised according to the original criteria set with only the addition of one extra criterion which is the range and power of the editing tools incorporated into the software It can be seen from the above Table that overall the weakest tool evaluated was Burrokeet. For each tool, taking the first two rows together provides a picture of the ease of use against the power and range of editing tools provided. As has been said above that more powerful software is generally more difficult to use. In this study we found that XERTE, eXe and LessonBuilder were easiest to use, whereas LessonBuilder and Lectora had the best variety of editing tools. This provides a clear indication that no tool is perfect and even the near best could be improved by expanding the range of editing tools from text only to include support for tables, formatting, drawing, images and so on. In contrast, when we compared tools on the support provided for pedagogical structuring and innovation eXe and XERTE outperformed all the other tools. Lersus and LessonBuilder both provide some . An evaluation framework for analysis and comparison of selected software. A framework has been designed as part of this research to compare the qualities of each software tool against the requirements set and take into account factors such as who the system is intended for , what its intended purpose is and what theoretical base are the designers of the software working from. So three major categories have been identified for testing the authoring tools shortlisted above Intended purpose of the software Design characteristics and functionality of the software Technical aspects of the software and These authoring of the solutions they provided on the underlying heads Design characteristics and functionality of the software involved the main structural concepts or entities built into the software? the workflow model built into the software run-time dependencies associated with the content the UI characteristics of the software Adaptability of the content after creation 163 http://sites.google.com/site/ijcsis/ ISSN 1947-5500 (IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2009 eXe Ease of Use Burrokeet No Quite complex UI No None at present but planned Yes FLOSS No No support provided No Lectora Yes Lersus Yes RELOAD YES XERTE YES Templates GLO Maker Lesson Builder Yes Yes Templates, Range and power of editing features Yes Text only Yes Wide range of features No Yes Good range of features No YES Good range of features YES Yes Very wide range of features YES Freely available and extendable / customisable Supports a variety of pedagogical models and techniques Supports pedagogical innovation Yes FLOSS Yes I-Devices support a variety of techniques Yes I-Device editor planned for future release Offline editing with instant preview SCORM Yes Good range of features YES Yes Very useful features No Yes Supports content + test model No Yes Templates YES YES YES Yes Games, Efficient to use, Not bandwidth dependent Exports interoperable content Offline editing with preview button IMS-CP Offline editing with preview button SCORM Yes Can construct templates or free structures Offline editing with preview button SCORM YES YES Through templates and tree structures Offline editing with preview button SCORM YES Offline editing with preview button SCORM Offline editing with preview button SCORM No No facility for user defined activities Offline editing with preview button SCORM Table 2: Comparative analysis of the OSS tools for Learning Object Creation support here and LessonBuilder’s tools are especially easy to use but because both are proprietary software and lack a facility like the IDevice editor for user-generated templates / activities, this is an area where eXe is in front of the field. One other notable advantage of eXe over the other tools is that owing to the choice of architecture where the user works directly in a browser environment on the desktop, eXe provides a WYSIWYG view of the HTML presentation of content it generates whereas the other tools rely on a button to switch between design and preview modes which inherently more time consuming. But eXe lacks finer control over content packaging process and metadata addition. It does not provide easy support for Multimedia objects an area where XERTE scores over since it is a FLASH based learning object editor. Also it being XML editor and runtime engine ,makes creating and deploying SCORM compliant interactive learning objects easier. Below given table summarises the comparative advantages and disadvantages of these software tools 164 http://sites.google.com/site/ijcsis/ ISSN 1947-5500 (IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2009 Software Tool Burrokeet Disdavantages • Difficult to use • no pedagogical support • Editing environment not yet available • No support for pedagogical structuring beyond creation of tests • Not at as easy to use • Proprietary software • A more complicated user interface when measured against the target audience • A confusing classification framework used for elements and components. • The activity set is not extensible • the software is proprietary Does not Support HTML Editing and Exam editing that provided by eXe . Difficult to use and requires a professional person to deal with. This software is more of a SCORM Editor than an Authoring Tool No fine control over content packaging process and metadata addition Not very easy support for multiple media objects object oriented inheritance for navigation elements and action control units is needed. Needs hyperlink to a file, object, existing Node in the content tree, a reference and glossary module. Supports SCORM 1.2 standard , and does not support SCORM 2005 3rd edition . Does not support sequencing , it only supports simple sequencing provided by arranging the activities in the activity tree Lectora Lersus LessonBuilder RELOAD eXE GLO Maker XERTE Its a standalone application that unfortunately only runs on Windows platforms. Also only the Beta version has been released till the writing of this research paper. not as flexible as online tool based on only one pattern Early teething problems, due to the rigidity of the templates More complex animations require developer unusual or bespoke presentations or interactivity require specialist help. Currently some incompatibility with Flash versions Inflexible in some areas eg italics, bulleted lists, have to be generated by adding html commands. Table 3: Tabular depiction of the disadvantages of the Tools 165 http://sites.google.com/site/ijcsis/ ISSN 1947-5500 (IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2009 Conclusions and Recommendations This study concludes that all the above projects are significant . Their major contributions are ease of use for less technically confident educational practitioners combined with a focus on extending the range of pedagogical techniques that are used in online environments. Very few designers of authoring environments have recognised the value of educational technology in supporting teachers in constructing effective learning designs. Amongst the above authoring tools tested eXe ,XERTE and GLO Maker have targeted this area of space. GLO Maker ,however, is still in the testing stage and therefore needs careful observation. This study has tried to provide indications of areas these tools need improvement and currently lag behind .FLOSS software (like eXe and XERTE ) are strategically important because they provide reliable and costeffective solutions for educational institutions that cannot afford expensive license fees. More importantly in some ways there is a responsive development and user support culture associated with popular FLOSS applications (e.g. Moodle www.moodle.org ) unparalleled in the commercial software world. With the narrowing down of FOSS authoring tools to eXe and XERTE we find that XERTE when compared is easy to use, allowing authors with no programming skills to build elearning activities through a simple browser interface. Authors use a wizard to enter text, media and interactions into a range of template pages. There are nine types of interaction available including multiple choice, gap fill, open answer, hotspot and diagram labeling, Images, movies and multimedia elements can be added to XERTE. Authors can also integrate content from external sources such as Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, Google Maps and Delicious.As a server-based system, XERTE enables team members at multiple locations to collaboratively develop content. Xerte was designed from the outset with accessibility in mind. The interface is consistent with navigation buttons on the top strip. The user can resize text and select a contrasting colour scheme. All interactions and navigation can be controlled by the keyboard as well as the mouse. Text to speech is enabled to allow all content to be heard as well as read. Completed Xerte projects can be exported as zip files for web publication or as SCORM 1.2 compliant learning objects for importing into a VLE such as Blackboard or Moodle. Like Flashform, Xerte projects are written in XML and interpreted by a Flash player at runtime. Programming skills are necessary to create new templates or additional functionality.In comparison with eXe, XERTE is also easy-to-use and suitable for use by academics or other authors without programming skills. XERTE has several significant advantages over eXe: • Additional interactions such as drag and drop and open answer questions • Entire project can be exported as a SCORM compliant object • Allows collaborative online development On the downside, XOLT (XERTE Online Learning toolkit) • Lacks a visual interface for text formatting which has to be done manually using HTML tags • Is difficult to install (or at least would benefit from better installation documentation) Having said that, the development team provided excellent support. XERTE is undergoing considerable development at the moment and Version 2.6 of Xerte and version 1.5 of Xerte Online Toolkits have been released . The developers are quick to answer questions and it has an active online community. However , depending on the type of content to be uploaded as Learning Object XERTE or eXe or RELAOD editors could be used. Xerte doesn't really compare with Reload, even though it is believed it does: they do different things. Reload does not create content, it creates IMS and SCORM packages of content. eXe and Xerte are like Dreamweaver and Flash - different content creation tools, with a different emphasis on various aspects of creating content. The optimal condition for reaching a common consensus on the ideal tool for creation of a learning object should involve collaboration among learning content providers, researchers, and elearning practitioners. Thus, future research should be directed towards investigating the opinions, beliefs, and perceptions of e-learning practitioners and researchers with the concept of a learning object, its components, and its relationship with the concept of a lesson. The editor and runtime can be enhanced to enable the richer content structure Future developments at this level can be enhanced to allow grouped and collaborative learning roles that interact at specified points and with specified environments and services. Further enhancements involving the development of middleware applications composed of intelligent agents would enable interaction with the learning objects metadata for searching and collecting appropriate objects, as well as delivering learning objects to the learner based on content requests and specifications. 166 http://sites.google.com/site/ijcsis/ ISSN 1947-5500 (IJCSIS) International Journal of Computer Science and Information Security, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2009 References  Polsani, P. R. (2003). Use and abuse of reusable learning objects. Journal of Digital Information, 3(4). Retrieved Sept 03, 2009, from http://jodi.tamu.edu/Articles/v03/i04/Polsa ni/.  Metros, S. E. (2005, July/August). Learning objects: A rose by any other name. [EDUCAUSE review] Retrieved Sept 03, 2009, from http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ER M05410.pdf.  Mortimer, L. (2002). (Learning) objects of desire: Promise and practicality. Learning Circuits. 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