General rationale for the LOCO product

As this project concerns the further development and trialling of a new software application, a brief overview of the software is in order. Further background information, including the MS Windows application installer may be obtained from the LOCO project support site at:
http://ecommunities.tafensw.edu.au/course/view.php?id=91

LOCO attempts to address several problems with rapid development and customisation of learning resources by teachers:

Ease of use

The tools and techniques required to create or modify html-based rich learning resources are too complicated, and teachers continue to use proprietary business software suites such as Microsoft Office instead. LOCO make it easier to create just-in-time learning resources incorporating formatted text, videos, images and documents.

Accessibility

We have found it difficult in practice to achieve adequate levels of accessibility using off-the-shelf learning resource development products, particularly the flash-based solutions such as Adobe Captivate and Presenter. LOCO quizzes are HTML and accessible from a screen reader or keyboard. LOCO learning resources can be published to HTML which is intrinsically more accessible than Flash.
There is an intimate relationship between document structure, semantics and accessibility. LOCO makes it easy to create documents which have an explicit semantic structure, which in turn makes it easier to map to accessible formats. For example the presence of a tree structure of pages, sections and various items types makes it easy to create accessible navigation including tables of contents, landmarks, or lists of content item types such as tables and figures.

Interoperability

Flexible delivery and universal design require that content be available in a variety of formats, yet resources developed with commercial products tend to lock the user in. For example, a quiz developed in Adobe Captivate or Presenter cannot be used as a native Moodle quiz, nor exported as a Microsoft Word equivalent. The number of output formats that may be desired continues to grow, and now includes HTML, MS Word, IMS/SCORM packages, IMS common cartridge, e-reader formats, mobile/touch enabled formats and so on.
LOCO outputs currently to HTML, MS Word, and Moodle XML (for questions). Its extensible design allows more output formats to be incorporated in subsequent versions.

Integration

Virtual learning environments nowadays are moving away from integrated systems toward a looser coupling of systems, sites, services and repositories. We find that currently, this situation adds to the complexity of development for the teacher. In some cases a desktop tool such as LOCO may help to ease this complexity by presenting a more integrated view. For example LOCO can publish content directly to a collection on the TAFE Equella repository via SOAP, without requiring the user to visit the Equella site.

Relationship to emerging technology priority areas

The LOCO trial relates to the following three emerging technology priority areas:

e-Assessment

The LOCO application makes it easy to create quiz question items including multiple choice, multiple selection, matching, sequencing and cloze questions; and export to HTML, Microsoft Word, and Moodle quiz XML for import into the Moodle LMS.

Evaluating new or emerging e-learning content development tools

LOCO is a new content development tool with a different approach to the more typical ‘what you see is what wou get’ (WYSIWYG) development tools. LOCO gives primacy to the semantic stucture of a document over its presentation; this is sometimes called the (“What you see is what you mean”) WYSIWYM paradigm.
LOCO documents are built from an outline or hierarchy of items of different types (quiz, question, video, image, section and so on). Having a regular structure and being content-aware enables LOCO to transform document content in meaningful ways, and provide multiple renderings to satisfy universal design requirements or meet a variety of student needs. LOCO can incorporate additional document types and item types to extend its functionality ¬- for example one could extend LOCO to use for learner ePortfolio documents.

Support of broadband technology and use of video

The most significant need for broadband technology has historically been for the use of video, and this will continue to be a predominant use of bandwidth in education for the immediate future. To capitalise on these new capabilities, teachers should be encouraged to use and re-use video assets. The LOCO application makes it easier for teachers to incorporate video and images in their resources. FLV video assets, and properly encoded MP4 assets, can be dragged into LOCO and will be published as HTML within an embedded flash player. YouTube videos can be easily added by pasting the YouTube address or identifier.