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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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).
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:
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.
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).
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!
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