What’s new in LodeStar 7.2 Build 36

Introduction

Some of the features that we explore below are new to LodeStar. Others are features that appeared several builds ago, but instructors may still not be aware of them. There is no particular ordering to the new features.  Some of the features will be more significant to individual instructors than others.  The most powerful additions appear both at the beginning and at the end.

Activity Widgets

2016-09-12_1922

LodeStar HTML Editor with insert question widget button (?)

Click on the ? button in the HTML Editor on the Text Page and you’ll discover a new capability. Instructors can now inject an indefinite number of activity widgets into their text pages. To start, LodeStar offers the Multiple Choice and Short Answer widgets. In the future, the choices will multiply.

The ‘Multiple Choice widget’ offers unlimited number of distractors, custom feedback for each distractor, and partial credit — all integrated with LodeStar reporting.

activitywidgets

LodeStar Activity Widget Dialog

The Short Answer widget offers the instructor not only the ability to identify correct answers to short answer questions, but alternative correct answers and anticipated wrong responses. In illustration of the latter point, a question might ask, for example, what any number to the power zero equates to. The right answer is 1. The anticipated wrong answer is 0. The widget offers instructors the ability to provide precise feedback for the anticipated wrong answer.

Activity Maker Mobile

This fairly new template enables instructors to create content that is responsive – playable on a variety of devices including desktops, tablets and smartphones. Whereas ActivityMaker makes adjustments for the tablet, ActivityMaker Mobile adapts to any device – while maintaining ease of navigation and readability.

activitymakermobile

LodeStar’s ActivityMaker Mobile Template

See full article and example

PBLMaker

PBLMaker is a relatively new template, and continues to receive improvements. The template was initially developed at the University of Minnesota to help instructors around the world build learning objects that prepare health workers to prevent, detect, and respond to the threat of infectious diseases. The template is now widely available to any LodeStar author interested in a problem-based learning approach to online instruction.

pblmaker

Lodestar Learning’s Problem Based Learning Template

See full article and example

Student tools

studenttools

Instructors select Tools > Project Settings to turn on and off student tools. Pictured above are a variety of tools that instructors can choose to enable for students. From left to right, they include a table of contents. (Instructors select a style of table of contents, type in a page title for each page and check off the Table of Contents check box.)

toc

Adding a Table of Contents entry requires typing in a Page Id and checking Table of Contents

The next tool includes a student notepad that saves content to the student’s computer.

The print tool makes it easy for students to print off content, if the instructors permit.

The last tool pictured above launches a version of the content that is more easily read by screen readers. Faculty can override what content gets displayed by selecting the accessible/alternative text tool (see below – last icon on the right).

alternativecontent

If alternative text is not desired due to the nature of the content, instructors can simply turn this feature off.  Again, this  control is available under Tools > Project Settings as pictured below:

projectsettings

Tools > Project Settings gives control to  instructors in ActivityMaker

Preview

Most LodeStar projects can be previewed with the click of the ‘Preview’ button. There are times, however, when instructors might want to preview in the Firefox browser. Firefox enables instructors to test the responsiveness of an ActivityMaker Mobile project and to test out the commands authored in LodeStar JetScript (next section).

Once an instructor clicks the ‘Preview’ button, LodeStar saves the local address of the project on the clipboard. Instructors simply need to right click on the URL address bar in Firefox, and select ‘Paste and Go’.

Execute commands (advanced)

LodeStar has added a scripting language call LodeStar JetScript. In some specialized cases, instructors might find the branching drop down menus too limiting. The Execute Command branch option allows instructors to script the actions that LodeStar should take when students select an answer or when students meet or fail to meet a performance threshold set in a gate.

executecommands

Execute Command is a new branch option accessed from a question option, menu page, or gate.

Examples include, adding and removing resources, jumping to pages, resetting pages, suspending and retrieving data from the learning management system and more. Inside of LodeStar, the list of commands in the appendix below and can be accessed by clicking on the blue help button with the question mark.

Please Note: Use Firefox to preview projects that feature LodeStar JetScript (see previous section).

Conclusion

LodeStar Learning continually strives for functionality that helps instructors build higher order learning activities. In addition, LodeStar continually improves on the experience for mobile learners and for all students who benefit from accessible content. Many new developments are on the road map.  So stay tuned!

Appendix

Scripted Commands

concatenate(val1,val2);

message(value);

goToNextPage();

goToPreviousPage();

jumpToPage(‘Page ID’);

openUrl(‘insert url’);

addOverlay(‘Page ID’);

setValue(‘variable name’, value);

appendValue(‘variable name’, value);

getValue(‘variable name’);

resetPage();

removeFromFlow();

removeFromFlowById(‘Page ID’);

addToResources(‘Page ID’);

removeFromResources(‘Page ID’);

resetAllInteractivity();

updateProgressBar(value, max);

suspendData();

retrieveData();

clearData();

setCompletionStatus();

Math.random();

Math.round(value);

Math.floor(value);

Math.ceil(value);

Math.round(value);

convertToString(value);

Publishing to Curriki

Curriki supports LodeStar projects.

Curriki is a terrific resource.  If you don’t have access to a learning management system and you are willing to share your resource with the educational community as well as your students, choose Curriki.

Curriki is an open education resource library. Curriki enables educators around the world to access and contribute free open educational resources.

At the conclusion of this post, you will find a short video that describes how to import a LodeStar project into Curriki.  But before you can import LodeStar, you must contact Curriki at http://www.curriki.org/about-curriki/contact-us/ and request to be a trusted user.

Once you are a trusted user, follow these steps.  The video is a little difficult to view, but these steps will help you.  Print them out.

In LodeStar

  1. Open a LodeStar project.
  2. Select Export.
  3. In the Export dialog, select the ‘Simple Zip’ option.
  4. Fill in the fields and click on the “Create Export’ button.
  5. Pay attention to where LodeStar saves your exported file!!

In Curriki

  1. Register as a Curriki user (free) and contact Curriki to become a trusted user (free).
  2. Log in to Curriki.
  3. Go to ‘My Dashboard’ if you are not already there.
  4. Click on ‘Contribute a Resource’.
  5. Fill in the ‘Title’ and ‘Abstract’ fields.
  6. In the Content area, click on the HTML Editor and select ‘Insert’ from the HTML editor toolbar.
  7. Select ‘Insert LodeStar Zip’.  This is the simple zip that you created earlier.  It is in your LodeStar/Exports folder.
  8. Follow the rest of the Curriki information collection process.
  9. Once you have completed all of the steps, you will be able to ‘Start’ the LodeStar activity.
  10. To find your project (resource), go to ‘My Dashboard’ and to ‘My library’.
  11. Click on the resource.  Click on the ‘Start’ button to launch.
  12. Share the resource website address with your students.  Test the address.

 

Screenshot of the Curriki HTML Editor with Insert LodeStar Zip.

2016-08-30_2019

 

Screenshot of the activity web page.  Notice the Website address near the top of the screen.  Notice the start button near the bottom of the screen.

2016-08-30_2100

Last Note:

Curriki supports Google Classroom.  If your school cannot afford a learning management system like Moodle, consider Google Classroom.  LodeStar objects added to the Curriki library can be easily shared with Google Classroom.

 

 

 

 

Linking to a PDF

There are two ways to link a PDF (or any other web friendly file) to a LodeStar ActivityMaker page.  The first way involves copying the PDF to the root directory of the project so that PDF always remains with the project.  The second way involves linking to a PDF located anywhere on the public internet.

Linking to a local PDF file

Open or start an ActivityMaker project.  Every project has its own directory under LodeStar > Projects.  Copy the PDF to the root of that directory.  In my example I have a project named Demo_PDF.  In the screenshot, you will see that I have copied the pdf to the Demo_PDF directory. My pdf file is called GuitarTab.pdf.  It is not obvious, but note that the pdf file sits inside my Demo_PDF project directory.

 

2016-06-15_2139

Next, I click on the link icon in the HTML Editor toolbar on the ‘Text’ page.

2016-06-15_2153

In the URL field, type in the name of the PDF file.  In my case, I typed GuitarTab.pdf.  Type in a text to display to your students, as pictured below:

2016-06-15_2142

Click Ok.  To preview your work, click on Preview.  This will copy the address of the project to the clipboard.  Preview will not show the popup with your PDF.  To see this in action, launch Firefox, and paste in the project URL from the clipboard.  (If you previewed, the project URL is on the clipboard.)  Once your project loads, you can click on your link and see it work.

Linking to a PDF on the Public Internet

Follow all of the steps above, but instead of a filename as a URL paste in the complete address of the PDF on the internet.

See below for how either scenario should appear:

 

2016-06-15_2143

 

Inserting a YouTube Video

  1. Launch LodeStar and choose a project based on the ActivityMaker template.
  2. Add a new page to your project.
  3. Select the page type ‘Video’  (not Video Scenario).
  4. Copy the URL (the address) from YouTube.  Notice the screen shot below.  Copy the address that is highlighted with blue.
  5. Paste the address into the first field (box) on the LodeStar Video Page.  Ignore everything else.
  6. Click Preview.  Your video wont show in the preview.  Now jump out to the Firefox browser.  Because you clicked on the LodeStar Preview button, the address of your project was saved to the clipboard.  Now paste it in the Firefox address field.  You should now see your project and be able to view your video, provided that YouTube hasn’t blocked it.

Please note:  You will need to manually pause your video, but once you publish your project to a learning management system, LodeStar will automatically pause the video when the student turns the page.

2016-03-25_1201.png

Exporting a Project to D2L BrightSpace 10.5 +

Inside of LodeStar 7.x, do the following:

  1. Open your project, if not already opened. You will find your most recently used project under ‘File’.
  2. Select the Export button. Pay attention to where your zip file will be saved.
  3. Keep the default ‘SCORM 1.3 (Recommended)’ selected .
  4. Fill in the Module, Topic and Author Fields.
  5. Click on ‘Create Export’ button.

 

Inside of D2L BrightSpace 10.5 or later, do the following:

  1. Go to your course.
  2. Select ‘Edit Course’
  3. Select ‘Import/Export/Copy Components’ (on the left hand side of the screen)
  4. In the ‘What would like to do? screen’, select the ‘Import Components’ radio button. Select the ‘from a course package’ radio button.
  5. In the ‘Import Course Package’’ screen, click on the ‘Import All Components’ button and browse to the lodestar zip file in the exports folder.
  6. Click on the ‘Start’ button.
  7. Once the process is completed, click on the ‘View Content’ button to navigate to the Content Tool.   D2L will always append your new module and topic to the end of your list of modules.

Controlling the Look and Feel of a Project

Introduction

The LodeStar eLearning authoring tool strikes a balance between author control over projects and ease of use. Many authoring tools provide pixel perfect control over every element. That’s fine for instructional designers, but faculty authors may need pre-configured templates, themes, project layouts and page layouts that will reduce their time commitment.

This article covers each of these configuration features starting with the most recent addition to LodeStar: layouts.

Layouts

The most popular LodeStar template, ActivityMaker, has a header, viewer and a navigator as well as a table of contents and resources divisions. The navigator, for example, holds the page forward and page back buttons. The viewer displays the content.

The layout of these divisions (div) can be changed. After the project is opened, the instructor can select Tools > Layouts. The dialog displays several layout presets. Some layouts are partially editable; others are not. A LodeStar project can look very different as a result of these layouts.

Default Layout:

ss1

Gamer Layout

ss2

Shadowbox Layout

ss3

Advanced tip: Instructors who have access to programmers or designers can customize a layout to their taste and can save the layout so that it is available to future projects.

The designer should follow these instructions:

Make a copy of the project’s layout folder. Zip up the folder and replace the .zip extension with .starlayout  Place the zipped up folder in /lodestar/app/Layouts. Give it a name that best represents the new layout. Restart LodeStar. The layout will now appear in the Layouts dialog.

Templates

Instructors will notice a number of templates displayed in the template viewer under the ‘Templates’ tab. Templates produce very different types of projects. EbookMaker. For example, assists instructors with creating eBooks that follow a common, open standard. But the most popular template is ActivityMaker, which gives instructors the most variety in activities that they can include in their online courses. ActivityMaker also gives instructors the greatest latitude in controlling themes and layouts.

Advanced tip: Instructors can use a project as the starting point for the next project. For example, an instructor who is producing a series of Webquests can create a project with a table of contents that includes the major parts of a WebQuest (i.e. Task, Process, Resources, Evaluation). Once these parts are set up, the instructor can zip up the project as a template and make this the new starting point. That is, a project with the major parts of a WebQuest already set up.

Instructors should:

Make a copy of the project folder. Optionally, change the description.htm and even the thumbnail.png to better represent the project as a template. Zip up the folder and replace the .zip extension with .star Place the zipped up folder in the /lodestar/app/Templates. Give it a name that represents the project. Restart LodeStar. The template will now appear in the template viewer.

Page Layouts

In ActivityMaker, each page layout supports a different type of activity. The ‘Text’ layout, for example, provides authors with a simple HTML editor. The ‘Text’ layout therefore supports the presentation of text and images. ActivityMaker also includes 19 other page layouts ranging from multiple choice questions, to long answers, crosswords, and other challenges.

Advanced tip: Instructors who have access to programmers – computer science students, perhaps – can have custom pages built with HTML, Javascript and CSS. LodeStar Learning offers a guide to the application programming interface (API) of ActivityMaker. Contact supportteam@LodeStarLearning.com for the JET API documentation.

Themes

Themes enable authors to control HTML background color, content page color, menu (outer) color and the colors of both the header and navigator. An advanced button enables authors to create their own gradations for both the header and navigator.

Advanced tip: Instructors who customize a theme to their taste can save the theme so that it is available to future projects.

Instructors should:

Make a copy of the project’s theme folder. Zip up the folder and replace the .zip extension with .startheme Place the zipped up folder in /lodestar/app/Themes. Give it a name that best represents the new theme. Restart LodeStar. The theme will now appear in the Theme dialog.

Conclusion

Oftentimes, instructors will want to focus on the content and not trouble themselves with customizing templates, themes, layouts and pages. Occasionally, a project will demand some level of customization. The LodeStar Authoring Tool offers presets for those occasions as well as an open architecture that enables someone with programming and/or design skills to construct his or her own themes, layouts and more.