Software limitations and frustrations

software

I would like to learn all the software and create all the pretty things, however real life doesn’t quite work that way. I have spent a lot of this weekend researching the various software applications available for creating e-learning content. I feel I need to make a decision now, as I am creating a digital resource for EL6072, and it makes sense to learning the software that I will ultimately create my summer project with. However, is that the right decision?

My original target was to use a combination of Dreamweaver CC and Animate CC to create my courses.
Pros? Both come with Adobe Creative Cloud, which costs a meager €20 a month. The cloud comes with many other applications I am excited to learn, including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. I have already committed to this license, and have all the apps ready-to-go on my laptop. I have been enjoying using Illustrator for my interface designs for EL6072.
Cons? They are unfortunately not the technologies of the future. I realised today, when I went to play a Flash game (to get an idea of the capabilities), that Google Chrome disables Flash by default. That is a worrying trend.
Thoughts? I read this blog post on Adobe.com about how much more flexible Animate CC is than its past incarnations. It seems that being compatible with a HtML5 Canvas is a must these days, and if I can optimise my course for that (as my preliminary research shows), it may be more accessible across different browsers. There seem to be plenty of tutorials online showing how to convert Action Script 3.0 to HTML5. It has also become apparent to me that nobody on the internet agrees. Across independent blogs and discussion forums, there seem to be many people against the idea of Animate CC, but just as many rooting for it.

The other obvious choices are Storyline Articulate and Adobe Captivate. Both are rapid authoring tools, and classmates have reported good experiences with Articulate. Unfortunately, both come with a hefty price tag that I can’t reach. I am now considering perhaps downloading the Articulate Trial to learn the ropes and perhaps create my EL6072 resource, but ultimately Animate/Dreamweaver appears to be the path I am on for my summer project. I think it’s important to factor in the fact that we are heading into Week 9, and I have many other assignments to complete alongside the EL6072 resource.

Data time

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Source: Pixabay

Decision Time

For my summer project, I am building on a project I proposed for EL6041 (Instructional Design) last semester. My preliminary needs assessment demonstrated a need for an e-learning resource in UL, covering topics related to academic reading and writing, including referencing and presentations.  Currently, there are resources available to students via the Regional Writing Centre, the library website and I’m told there is a new Academic Writing module for incoming Arts students in September ’17.

However, I felt there was a gaping hole in digital resources, specifically interactive content, and that the so-called ‘digital natives’ of UL would benefit from an online platform tailored specifically for UL students. I brought this topic forward for my summer project because I am really interested in learning where the exact need lies, and also the English Major in me refuses to die.

Audience Needs Assessment 

I decided an online survey was the easiest way to reach my target audience. I tested out Google Forms, however my test participants had trouble using it and appeared confused by the form’s feedback. So for best results, I decided to pay the €35 for the premium options on Survey Monkey. It’s been well worth it, the interface is so user friendly and all the data analysis is done in seconds. The app is also fantastic, meaning I could keep an eye on my results while I was away at the weekend. I started circulating the survey via student mail a week ago, and I have 67 responses (64 complete so far), which I’m very happy with. I think that’s more than enough, so won’t go bothering everyone again. As nice as the even 70 would be…

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Survey Monkey Android App

I haven’t looked deeply at my results yet, but so the data is very encouraging so far, with students showing a lot of interest in the resource.

Subject Matter Experts

As well as carrying out a needs assessment, I decided to speak to some SMEs to get a better overview of the needs from their side. Next week, I will interview one person from the library, and another from the Regional Writing Centre.  I’m hoping to speak to them about the issues students bring to them, and what they find works/doesn’t work, especially for first year students during their transition to higher education.

Proposal 

The point of all of this research is to write a strong proposal for RM6011 (Research Methods). Thankfully, having written a detailed proposal for EL6041, I have a lot of the ground work done. I will need to tweak a lot of it as I have changed my content focus, and I think I can do much better interface designs now!

All kinds of everything

 

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Source: own image

It’s Week 8 and we are so busy!

I found week 7 to be the most challenging of the MA so far. On Friday, I submitted both my XML assignment, and my proposal for the EL6072 assignment.  The next morning I escaped to Amsterdam for a couple of days, for a well needed break. Having spent the weekend wandering the beautiful streets and eating an absurd amount of pancakes, I’m happy to be back in Limerick feeling mentally refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the semester. I tried to write this post from the WordPress android app while I was away, but while it’s great for seeing an overview stats/comments/etc., I couldn’t get it to cooperate when I tried to format the post. Need to spend a little more time with it!

TW5212 Workplace Issues in Technical and Professional Communication 

The XML/CSS assignment felt like a huge achievement. I could have spent another two weeks messing around with it and learning more complicated CSS,  but I’m happy with the outcome. My biggest problem (as usual!) was coming up with a topic, and I drove myself demented by constantly changing my mind. In the end I went with something very relevant to my studies right now – attributing images on a blog!

I spent a lot of time looking through the Creative Commons website. I’m glad I chose this topic as I learned a lot about the different types of licenses, mainly the difference between Royalty Free (you purchase a license once and use according to those terms), Creative Commons (there are lots of CC licenses, and a great way for artists to have control over their work while still sharing it) and Public Domain (no restrictions or copyright, but still always a good idea to read the terms). I still have a lot of research to do to understand these licenses fully, but I find Techopedia great for straight-forward explanations. I feel this is invaluable knowledge, especially as I plan on using vector images for my summer project.

EL6072 Interactive Courseware Workshop 

I got off to a rocky start with the proposal for the digital learning resource, but felt much more confident after getting really helpful feedback from Ann on my draft.

I am honestly amazed at how much I have learned since September. When I created interface designs for EL6041 last semester, I spent hours upon hours clobbering something together between Microsoft Paint and Word. They looked OK, but the proportions were off, nothing seemed aligned, they became fuzzy when resized, and they were so stressful to make. This semester, I have learned some basic tools on Adobe Illustrator and the difference is amazing! I still spent quite a lot of time on them, but I was getting faster the whole time, and they looked a lot more polished and professional. And there was practically no stress!

The real challenge will come when I try to actually create any of this in Animate and Dreamweaver but let’s just cross one bridge at a time!

I have a lot on the agenda for the rest of Week 8. The French students are just about finished their translation for the virtual team assignment for EL6082, so we will be spending some time ensuring everything is consistent. I am also eager to get ready for my TW5212 interview, as my interviewee would like to see the questions ahead of time.