To facilitate the development and revision of AACN E-Learning, I established a set of courseware templates that ensure the consistency and quality of all the curricula. With an XML publishing application programming interface (API), the templates allow new content to be published without having to repeatedly develop the same user interface (UI) or program SCORM-conformance. These are just some of the twenty different templates used in the courseware:
The elements which recur in every template are the:
- masthead, including the titles of the lesson, topic, and page, as well as the branding.
- Close button for sending SCORM data to the learning management system (LMS).
- slide-out Menu for navigating from topic to topic.
- control bar with button controls and page navigation.
The most basic template contains text and an illustration in the content area. Click the image to the right (or just above, depending on the width of your browser) to view a large example of how this template appears with content.
To extend the capacity of the templates, each one supports the addition of supplementary content. When the tabs with the book and pearl icons appear on the lower-left side of the courseware, they indicate that there is supplementary content. If the book icon is solid, the learner can click it to launch related content in portable document format (PDF) that they can save to their computer for later reference offline. If the pearl icon is solid (as in this screen capture), the learner can click it to launch a “Practice Pearl” that further enhances the content.
The guided hot-spots template has an image on the left containing a series of spots. When the learner clicks a spot, textual content regarding the respective section of the image appears in the pane to its right. The learner must begin with the spot numbered one and continue in numeric order. There is another hot-spots template identical to this one except that the hot-spots are not numbered and the learner can click them in any order. Click this image to view a large example of the appearance of this template with content.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a moving picture can be worth a million. This template allows publishing moving content, whether it is a real-life recording or a computer-generated animation. The pane on the left side of the content area contains copy about the video. When the learner is ready to view the video, they click the Play arrow in the pane on the right. There are a couple of other templates (not displayed on this page) that present video content in different ways, such as in series or without copy. Click the image to view a larger example of this template.
The decision-making template allows the structuring of content like a decision tree, where deciding on one course of action results in one set of scenarios and deciding on another leads to a different set of scenarios. This template first presents a case to the learner. When the learner proceeds, he or she makes their first choice, which then branches out to a new set of options for the learner to decide on. The template supports decisions up to four layers deep. A learner could potentially view a page made with this template numerous times, encountering different content each time.
Some content is best laid out in a continuum, whether it be a chronological timeline, order of importance, or any other continuum that makes sense for the content. This template allows the instructional designer to arrange the content in a continuum along the X-axis. The learner then studies the content by clicking different points along the axis. With each new point along the axis, the template displays different content related to the point chosen by the learner. It enhances the understanding of a progression along a continuum.
The essay template applies the Socratic method to elearning. The learner reads a setup, such as a case study or a problem, and an inquiry, then types their essay response into a text box. The learner can then print their response so they can get feedback on it from someone else, such as a mentor or even a fellow learner, to enhance their learning. Although this template is designed ideally for use in blended programs which include interaction with an educator, it’s not a requirement. The template includes a model response that the learner can view after writing their own essay.
This template tests the learner’s mastery of a learning objective. It presents a series of images in one column. In the other column, it presents a series of attributes associated with those images. However, the order of the images and attributes is scrambled. The learner identifies which attribute belongs with each image and then submits his or her response. The template shows the learner which identification was correct and provides feedback. The learner can also view the correct response. There is another matching template identical to this one except that it supports text in the place of the images.
There are many other interactive templates in the suite I used for developing AACN E-Learning, including one that supports any Flash element in the content area, which gives complete flexibility to innovate novel forms of elearning. Some present didactic content while others test the learner’s mastery of that content. The following features are common to all of the templates:
- Fully SCORM 1.2- or SCORM 2004-conformant
- Section 508-compliant for learners with disabilities
- Flexibility to organize courseware as units, modules, and lessons
- Sharable content objects (SCOs) at lesson level
- LMS can track which SCOs the learner accesses and their percent complete
- Supports independent audio
- Complete high-level and detailed instructional design documentation
- Editorial, multi-media, and UI style guides