Word Problem Widget

Introduction

LodeStar Web Journal entries emphasize the importance of practice and immediate feedback.  The Word Problem widget helps you put that general tenet into practice. With the Word Problem Widget, you can construct a word problem with both sentences and variables.  You define a variable, such as {principle} and fill in details about how large a number can be randomly assigned to this variable. The variable is used in an expression (formula) that calculates the correct answer and matches it against the student’s submitted answer.

All of this is difficult to understand in the abstract.  We’ll make this concrete.

For example, you enter the following word problem:

John Smith opens a savings account with a {rate}% interest rate, compounded annually. How much will his account be worth in {time} years after he makes this one-time deposit of  ${pv}.

The variables in the above word problem are {rate}, {time} and {pv}.

Note that variables are surround by curly braces {}.  Variables cannot begin with numbers; they are case sensitive; and they must be one word.

In the widget, you define the range that can be used for each of these variables.  {rate} might be a decimal number ranging from .01 to .05. {time} might an integer (a whole number) from 1 to 10 years.  {pv} might be 1000 to 10000.

The expression is:

pv * (1 + rate)**time

Where,

*  is the multiplication operator

( ) controls order of precedence

** is the exponent operator
One student might see:

John Smith opens a savings account with a 0.01% interest rate, compounded annually. How much will his account be worth in 8 years after he makes this one-time deposit of  $1545.

The next student might see:

John Smith opens a savings account with a 0.05% interest rate, compounded annually. How much will his account be worth in 5 years after he makes this one-time deposit of  $1000.

 

We’ll cover how to do this step by step.

Getting Started

STEP ONE

Start with a Text Page. Place your cursor somewhere on the Text page and then select the black sprocket 2018-04-25_2105   from the HTML Editor Tool Bar.

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STEP TWO

Select a widget type. For the purposes of this article, I’ll choose the Word Problem Widget.

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Widget Menu

STEP THREE

Type in the word problem.

John Smith opens a savings account with a {rate}% interest rate, compounded annually. How much will his account be worth in {time} years after he makes this one-time deposit of  ${pv}.

 

The words John Smith will never change.  They are constants. {rate} will be replaced with a value in the range that you specify.

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Word Problem Widget Dialog

Assign this word problem a number of points by filling in the Point Value at the top right.

STEP FOUR

Type in one of the variables that you used in the ‘Variable’ field.  Our first variable is ‘rate’. Give rate a min value of .01 and a max value of .05.  Rate is not an integer. Select ‘no’ for the Integer field. Rate needs a precision of two decimal places.

Click on the ‘+’ button to add more variables.

STEP FIVE

Type  the expression in the expression field.  There is only one expression per question.

Type in the following:

PV * (1 + rate)**time

 

That reads PV times 1 + rate raised to the power of time.

Here are the most common operators, which follow W3C standards for JavaScript operators:

 

( )     Expression grouping     (3 + 4)

!     Logical not     !(x==y)

**     Exponentiation     10 ** 2

 

*     Multiplication     10 * 5

/     Division     10 / 5

%     Modulo division     10 % 5

 

+     Addition     10 + 5

–      Subtraction     10 – 5

 

STEP SIX

Once you have added as many variables as you need, click on the ‘Ok’ button.

After you click on ‘Ok’, you will see a placeholder for the widget activity. The placeholder will always be some content surrounded by a round-cornered border.

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Author’s view of the Word Problem Widget

This is not what the student will see. You must click on the ‘Preview’ button at the top left to see the widget converted into a word problem.

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Student view of a Word Problem.

 

You can add as many widgets to a page as you wish.

Conclusion

This Widget allows you to present a word problem with values substituted for variable names.  Once the student submits the answer to the problem, the Widget evaluates the answer with the help of the expression that you designed.

Each time the student refreshes the browser page, s/he will be presented with a different problem.  Problems will also vary between students.

The Word Problem widget enables you to support student practice with math problems and provide immediate feedback.  Early activities can be simpler to solve. Later items can be more challenging.

 

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Math Equations

Introduction

Creating math equations for use in eLearning is tricky.  In the past, instructors used editors that helped them construct equations only to export them as images.   In the past, there were no standards that browsers could follow to display math equations properly.  Browsers, however, could reliably display images.  Therefore equation editors produced images.

LaTeX

Some savvy mathematics and science instructors used a markup language called LaTeX (pronounced Latek).  LaTeX was based on the TeX typesetting language.  LaTeX supports the typesetting and display of mathematics.  LaTeX equations are constructed with a simple but specialized language.

Here is an example of the quadratic equation:

\frac{-b\pm\sqrt{b^2-4ac}}{2a}

Which produces the following, when supported by some helper code:

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Quadratic equation

LaTeX looks complicated, but it is not.  \frac{numerator}{denominator} produces a fraction with a fraction bar.

The numerator has the term -b followed by a plus and minus symbol denoted by \pm.

\sqrt{} produces a square root.  The ^ produces an exponent.  And so forth.

Unfortunately, LaTeX is not accessible.  Most screen readers can’t read a LaTeX equation.  Therefore visually impaired students won’t ‘perceive’ the equation.

LaTeX should not be discounted, however.  It can still play a very important role in support of the preferred markup language: MathML.

MathML

MathML is powerful and accessible.  Equations marked up in MathML can be displayed in most modern browsers.

LodeStar supports MathML.

The trick is in finding the right math editor to construct MathML.  There are several math editor options.    The one we like to configure in LodeStar is http://hostmath.com/  but there is one important caveat.  The editor is surrounded by ads.  One can easily inadvertently click on an ad while editing an equation.

Hostmath in LodeStar  loads quickly.  If you know LaTeX, you can quickly construct an equation or can use the math palette on the left.  Once an equation is constructed, pick the MathML version.

This produces

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Quadratic equation

 

MathML is xml markup.  That means that it is highly structured so that it can be parsed (interpreted) and presented.  You must include the <math> tag and the </math> end tag.  They are  book ends.  Instructors must copy and paste the book ends along with all of the code in between.

You paste  the MathML code into LodeStar with the help of the <> tool in the LodeStar  HTML editor.

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All embed code can be inserted with the help of the <> tool.

Important Note: MathMl will not render perfectly in the LodeStar HTML Editor.  You must preview the equation in the Firefox browser.  When you preview within LodeStar, a copy of the project address gets saved to the clipboard.  Paste this address into the FireFox browser address field.  You only need Firefox when you are authoring.  Your students won’t need Firefox.  Your students will see a perfectly rendered equation.

 

MyScript

For those who don’t know LaTeX or don’t have the patience to work the palette of symbols,  MyScript will be a godsend. MyScript will not load in LodeStar but can be used separately and it will produce MathML code that you can paste into LodeStar:

http://webdemo.myscript.com/views/math.html#

 

You simply hand write your equation and then click on MathML on the right to produce the code.  Paste the code in LodeStar using:

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The reason why MathMl is so important is that it works without a plug-in in all modern browsers.

 

Configuring LodeStar with a Math Editor

STEP ONE

Select Tools > Math Editor Option.  Paste in http://hostmath.com/ or your favorite editor.

STEP TWO

To quickly access the editor, select Help > Online Math Editor.  The editor will appear in a separate tab.  You can then construct your equation and display the MathML code.

STEP THREE

Copy the MathML code to the clipboard and then embed it on the Text Page by selecting the <> embed tool and pasting in all of the code.

STEP FOUR

Again, please understand that it will not render well on the LodeStar page.  It will render well to students.  To confirm this, click on Preview.   Preview will save the address of the project on the clipboard.  Paste this into a Firefox browser address field.  Again, your students won’t need Firefox.  This browser is only needed to preview projects locally before they are uploaded to a learning management system.

Conclusion:

Here is what the Quadratic formula looks like in MathML in LodeStar:

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The equation is mangled.  However, here is what it looks like in Firefox.  This is what the students will see in any modern browser, once the project has been exported to a learning management system:

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Drag and Drop Widget

Introduction

The Drag and Drop widget can be inserted nearly anywhere on the ActivityMaker Mobile Text Page.

The Drag and Drop Widget allows you to create both categories and items to be categorized.  LodeStar converts each item into a drag-able tile and converts each unique category into a drop target area.  If two items share the same category, only one target area will be created.  All items are initially placed in the un-categorized area.   Students  drag items to their matching categories. They can drag items with their mouse or finger or they can use the keyboard.

Getting Started

STEP ONE

Start with a Text Page. Place your cursor somewhere on the Text page and then select the black sprocket   2018-04-25_2105  from the HTML Editor Tool Bar.

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STEP TWO

Select a widget type. For the purposes of this article, I’ll choose the Drag and Drop Widget.

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Screenshot of the LodeStar Widget Menu

STEP THREE

Type in an item.  Type in the category to which the item belongs.  For example the item ‘Mollusk’ may match the category ‘Animal’.  (Categories are case-sensitive.  Entries in the category field of ‘animal’ and ‘Animal’ will create two category target areas for the student.)

Type in feedback that provides information to the student about why the item belongs in the category.  All of this information will also be view-able from the transcript.

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Drag and Drop Widget Dialog

STEP FOUR

Click on the ‘+’ button to add more items and categories. Check the ‘Randomize’ checkbox to randomize the display order of the items.

STEP FIVE

 Add more items.  Be mindful, however, that too long of a list makes the activity clumsy for students with small screen dimensions.

STEP SIX

Once you have added as items and categories as you need, click on the ‘Ok’ button.

After you click on ‘Ok’, you will see a placeholder for the widget activity. The placeholder will always be some content surrounded by a round-cornered border.

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Author view of the Drag and Drop Widget

 

This is not what the student will see. You must click on the ‘Preview’ button at the top left to see the widget converted into drag and drop areas.

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Student view of the Drag and Drop Activity

You can add as many widgets to a page as you wish.

Conclusion

The Drag and Drop widget enables you to support student concept learning.  Early activities can be simpler to solve with black and white distinctions between items.  Later items can be more challenging with murky gray areas that make it difficult to categorize items.

 

Image Slider Widget

Introduction

The Image Slider widget can be inserted nearly anywhere on the ActivityMaker Mobile Text Page.

The  Image Slider allows you to insert a series of images on a page that are view-able through a carousel-like viewer. That means that your students can click on arrows to view the images or, on a mobile device, swipe to advance or turn back the images.  A simple option allows you to include thumbnail images and a slide transition.

Getting Started

STEP ONE

Start with a Text Page. Place your cursor somewhere on the Text page and then select the black sprocket  2018-04-25_2105   from the HTML Editor Tool Bar.

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HTML Editor featuring the Widget Tool.

STEP TWO

Select a widget type. For the purposes of this article, I’ll choose the Image Slider Widget.

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Widget Menu featuring Image Slider

STEP THREE

Click on the image field.  A file requester will appear.  Browse to the image of your choice and double-click on the image to add it to the image slider.  LodeStar will make a copy of the original and place it inside your project.

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Image Field

STEP FOUR

Add a caption below the image.  Click on the ‘+’ button to add more images.

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Add/Delete Images

STEP FIVE

 Add as many images as you wish, and then check the ‘Display List” box if you want thumbnails of the image to appear either alongside (if there is enough screen space) or below.  Check ‘Slide Transition’ if you want a transition effect (i.e. a slide) to accompany the display of images.

STEP SIX

Once you have added as many images with captions as you wish, click on the ‘Ok’ button. (Be mindful that too many images of large sizes may result in slow download times.)

After you click on ‘Ok’, you will see a placeholder for the widget activity. The placeholder will always be some content surrounded by a round-cornered border.

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Image Slider viewed by author

 

This is not what the student will see. You must click on the Preview button at the top left to see the widget converted into an image carousel.

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Image Slider viewed by student

You can add as many widgets to a page as you wish.

Conclusion

The Image Slider widget enables you to combine imagery with text and other widgets. The Image Slider gives students a convenient way to view images without scrolling endlessly.

 

Short Answer Widget

Introduction

The Short Answer widget can be inserted nearly anywhere on the ActivityMaker Mobile Text Page.

The main advantage of the Short Answer Widget is that it allows you to anticipate incorrect answers and provide feedback.  For example, ‘Toronto’ is a common wrong answer to the question of ‘What is the capital city of Canada?”.

For the anticipated wrong answer, you provide specific feedback.  For the above example, corrective feedback might be “Incorrect.  Toronto is the capital city of Ontario.  It hosts provincial parliament buildings in Queens Park.”

Getting Started

STEP ONE

Start with a Text Page. Place your cursor somewhere on the Text page and then select the black sprocket  2018-04-25_2105   from the HTML Editor Tool Bar.

STEP TWO

Select a widget type. For the purposes of this article, I’ll choose the Short Answer Widget.

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Widget Dialog Box.

STEP THREE

In the top right field, type in how many points your question is worth. For example, 5.
In the HTML editor, type in the question or question stem.

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A screenshot of LodeStar’s Short Answer Widget Dialog Box

STEP FOUR

Fill in the answer field with the correct answer. Select ‘yes’ to mark this answer as correct. Select ‘no’ if it is not. Fill in feedback that matches this distractor/option.

STEP FIVE

Click on the “+” button to add more answers.  Click on the “-“ button to delete answers.  Add either correct answers or anticipated wrong answers.  For example, if the answer is one but students commonly answer zero, then add zero as an incorrect option.  Provide corrective feedback.

STEP SIX

Once you have added as many answers with feedback as you wish, click on the ‘Ok’ button.

After you click on ‘Ok’, you will see a placeholder for the widget activity. The placeholder will always be some content surrounded by a round-cornered border.

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Placeholder for a short answer question from the instructor’s point of view.

 

This is not what the student will see. You must click on the Preview button at the top left to see the widget converted into an activity.

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Preview of Short Answer.

You can add as many widgets to a page as you wish.

Conclusion

The Short Answer Widget gives you  flexibility of design. You can combine this widget with other widgets and with surrounding text and images. You can add as many answer options as you wish..

 

Multiple Choice Widget

Introduction

LodeStar’s template named ‘ActivityMaker Mobile’ provides you with page types to author different types of activities. The Text Page and the Video Page are two examples.
For the Text Page, LodeStar also provides activity widgets that can be inserted anywhere on the page. At the time of this writing, widgets include:

⦁ Multiple Choice
⦁ Short Answer
⦁ Audio Sync (tricky and experimental — don’t use)
⦁ Drag and Drop
⦁ Image Slider
⦁ Timeline
⦁ Word Problem

The advantage of a widget over a page type is that widgets support endless answer options. The multiple choice widget, for example, can support 5, 10, 20 or more distractors (options). The second key advantage is that widgets can be combined with normal text and imagery. In other words, widgets are inline.

Getting Started

Step One

Start with a Text Page. Place your cursor somewhere on the text page and then select the black sprocket  2018-04-25_2105   from the HTML Editor Tool Bar.

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HTML Editor featuring the Widget Tool.

Step Two

Select a widget type. For the purposes of this article, I’ll choose the Multiple Choice Question Widget.

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Widget Dialog

Step Three

In the top right field, type in how many points your question is worth. For example, 10.
In the HTML editor, type in the question or question stem.

Step Four

Fill in the distractor field. This is the first question option. Select ‘yes’ if this option is correct. Select ‘no’ if it is not.
Fill in feedback that matches this distractor/option.

Step Five

Check off the ‘Randomize’ check box if you wish the order of distractors to be randomized.

Step Six

Once you have added as many distractors as you wish, click on the ‘Ok’ button.

After you click on ‘Ok’, you will see a placeholder for the widget activity. The placeholder will always be some content surrounded by a round-cornered border.

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Screenshot of what the author sees once a widget is inserted.

This is not what the student will see. You must click on the Preview button at the top left to see the widget converted into an activity.

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Screen shot of what the student sees when a widget is converted into an activity.

You can add as many widgets to a page as you wish.

Conclusion

The Multiple Choice Question Widget gives you  flexibility of design. You can combine this widget with other widgets and with surrounding text and images. You can add as many distractors to the question as is practicable.

 

LodeStar 7.3 New Features and Improvements

Update

The article below describes all of the features of LodeStar’s 7.3 major release.  Since the 7.3 release, there have been 4 minor updates.  The latest update is 7.3 build 5.  The following description details some of the features of build 5.  If you are new to LodeStar or haven’t used LodeStar in a while, please skip to the introduction.  If you are relatively up-to-date, then please continue reading.

ActivityStarter
Instructors and trainers who are new to eLearning instructional design may be a little daunted and not know where to begin.  The ActivityStarter template provides guidelines on how to get started.  It prompts instructors to inform students of the lesson’s objectives in a meaningful way, recall prior knowledge, present content, check for understanding, and more.

New Activity Widgets
LodeStar now features a variety of activity widgets.  Activity widgets are inserted anywhere on a Text Page.  Instructors click on the  black sprocket on the HTML editor toolbar and choose from a menu of activity types.  At the time of this writing, LodeStar supports:

  • Multiple Choice Question
  • Short Answer Question
  • Image Slider
  • Drag and Drop
  • Timeline
  • Word Problem

An FAQ article is presently being written about each of the activity widgets.

New Page Types

ActivityMaker Mobile now features the FlashCard and Interview Page Types.  Both of these page types existed in the now deprecated ActivityMaker template but were excluded from ActivityMaker Mobile because they were not responsive (adaptable to different screen sizes).  They are now responsive.

More detailed FAQ articles will soon be written on each of these new features.  If you are new to LodeStar 7.3, please continue reading.

Introduction

LodeStar 7.3 organizes many new features that were introduced to the eLearning authoring tool both in the past year and more recently.

The biggest changes and improvements come in the form of widgets, which are activities that you can insert anywhere on a text page. They also include new page types, a simple Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) editor for flow charts and diagrams, and the ability to publish directly to the cloud.

Most of the work has focused on the ActivityMaker Mobile template, included in the release. Instructors are encouraged to use ActivityMaker Mobile, which has the following advantages over older templates:

  1. Responsive – ActivityMaker Mobile will work on all modern browsers on desktops, tablets, and smart phone devices.
  2. Accessible – ActivityMaker Mobile offers disabled students a variety of options. The template provides accessible navigation, images with alt tags, and screen-readable text. Question Pages and Question Widgets feature accessible pop up dialogs that instruct the screen reader to read the text immediately. All navigation items and dialogs use WAI-ARIA roles and attributes. WAI-ARIA roles and attributes provide information to screen readers through the browser’s accessibility interface (APIs).  In short, WAI-ARIA provides more information to the screen reader than HTML alone.
  3. Powerful – ActivityMaker Mobile supports widgets. Widgets enable you to insert activities into a text page almost anywhere you wish. Widgets can be inserted with the help of the black sprocket that is located on the HTML Editor toolbar on a Text Page.
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Black sprocket provides access to LodeStar’s Widget Dialog

In short, LodeStar 7.3 offers templates (ActivityMaker Mobile being the most important) which include a variety of page types and activity widgets. Let’s start with the feature with the biggest impact.

Widgets

Widgets enable you to design simple interactions quickly. Widgets capture your content and then display it plainly in the HTML editor. When previewed, the content is transformed into a rich interaction. Here is a catalog of the widgets currently supported:

 

MultipleChoiceWidgetMultiple Choice

The Multiple Choice Widget supports a multiple choice question that can include a very large number of distractors (answer options). Whereas the Multiple Choice Question page type can support between 1 and 7 answer options, the Multiple Choice Widget can include seventy answer options or more. In the screen shot below, you will see where to type in a question stem. This field is supported by a rich text editor that allows different fonts, font sizes, colors and alignment.

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Multiple Choice Widget Dialog

About midway you will find a component that includes a  + and – button. These buttons enable you to add and delete distractors (answer options). You can add as many as you please. For each distractor, type in the text that students will read, select whether or not the option is correct, and type in feedback to display to students once their answers have been ‘submitted’.

You fill in points and optionally select randomize and a background color if you so choose.

The result is that the question is neatly inserted into the text flow. You can check for understanding in strategic locations related to the content. LodeStar tracks the student’s overall performance as well as student answers and the matching feedback. Once the student submits an answer, the question is locked and can only be unlocked through a setting on a Gate – which is a page type. Students can review their performance by clicking on the Transcript button. 

The transcript collects information on the question, the student answer, the correct answer and the feedback.  The transcript button is made visible through Tools > Project Settings.

The following is a progression of what a widget activity looks like from the Multiple Choice Widget Dialog to the HTML editor author view to the student view.

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Author View: Activity Widget Dialog

4

Author View: Inserted into a Text Page

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Student View: Interactive Question

ShortAnswerWidgetShort Answer

The Short Answer Activity Widget requires students to type in a short answer to a question. It also enables you to handle the anticipated wrong answer. For example, when asked to calculate 234 to the power of 0, students commonly and incorrectly answer 0. You can provide some helpful feedback for this and other common cases.

ImageSliderWidgetImage Slider

With Image Slider you select a series of images that you wish displayed in a slide viewer. Each image can be labeled. The Image Slider is an excellent choice for displaying a progression such as the life cycle of a butterfly or the urbanization of an area over time.

DragAndDropWidgetDrag and Drop

The Drag and Drop offers a fully accessible drag and drop experience for students. Students can categorize words and phrases by dragging with their mouse or finger or interacting with the keyboard.

With Drag and Drop, you input a word and the category the word belongs to. For example, Roosevelt is input as the item. ‘Democrat’ is input as the category.  Here is what the student sees:

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Accessible Drag and Drop activity

 

AudioSyncWidgetAudio Sync

The Audio Sync widget is experimental, not user-friendly yet, and is only included here for completeness. It syncs elements on a page to an imported MP3 file.

The widget collects a list of all of the HTML elements on a page. For example, if a page included ten images, the widget would list them in the order that they appeared on the page. You can use the widget to sync each image’s visibility with a time on the audio track (MP3 file). For example, at one second into the selected audio track, image 1 would fade in and, at five seconds, it would disappear. Image 2 appears at the six second mark and disappears at the ten second mark. And so on. Essentially, you can create a narrated slide show from the elements on your page. This includes simple drawings made with LodeStar’s Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) editor.

Page Types

In this section, I’ll list the page types that have been most affected by the latest build. I’ll highlight some of the changes.

CrosswordCrossword

You can generate a crossword with your course content. LodeStar compiles the crossword and also creates an accessible page that lists the hints and the length of word that matches the hint. The latest version of the crossword simplifies the interface and allows much longer hints than previous versions. When students click on a numbered square, the hint appears below the crossword.

Crossword

Crossword generated with the LodeStar eLearning Authoring Tool

GateGate

Gates enable you to control the flow of the course and what the student sees. You can set a threshold based on points or percentage of points. If a student meets or exceeds the threshold, s/he follows the ‘Pass’ branch. If a student doesn’t meet the threshold score, s/he follows the ‘Fail’ branch. Branches feature a dozen options, including a scripting option for more sophisticated control.

In the screen shot below (top half of the gate page), you’ll see that you can also reset the score or simply reset the questions so that they become interactive again after being answered and locked. One can also create custom variables and branch according to their value.

gate

Partial screenshot of a Gate Page that supports branching, resetting a score, and resetting an activity

Interactive ImageInteractive Image

Interactive Image enables you to create a drag and drop or click/touch exercise from an image. The Interactive Image component prompts you to identify rectangular areas on an image and then map events to the areas. The events include Click (Touch), Drag and Drop and Hover. The actions triggered by the events include Evaluate Drag and Drop, Show Feedback and Jump to Page. For example, you could present students with an image of the United States and ask students to drag labels to the matching states. Similarly, you can present the heart, the brain, a plant…and ask students to label the parts.

Long AnswerLong Answer

The Long Answer page collects the student response to a question and sends it both to the Learning Management System and to a journal that can be displayed using the Journal Page Type.

The Long Answer Page now includes a branch icon that gets triggered on submit. Now you can respond to a student’s submission with, for example, the expert’s response to the same question. The branch icon provides a variety of options that get triggered when the student submits.

TextText

The Text Page holds the widgets. The page supports a large number of widgets, each with a large number of options.

Also new to the Text Page is the branch icon. The branch icon, depicted in the screenshot below, appears on the far right.

Instructors have a range of options included processing branch options before the text page appears.

It allows the text page to pre-process a branch instruction before the page is displayed. For example if you wanted to hide and/or show resources based on the text page, the branch options provide you with an Execute Command Option. The Execute Command Option includes a scripting window in which you can include such commands as:

addToResources(‘Page ID’);

This is a trickier concept to explain in an article, but it means that any page can be dynamically turned into a resource. Resources display as buttons on the side of or below the viewer. Resources can be manually toggled on by checking the Resource check box on a text page – or they can be programmatically added with the help of the Execute Command script.

Simple things can also be done – like displaying a feedback message upon entering the page. Simply click on the branch icon, type in text and check the ‘Show Feedback’ checkbox.

Accessibility

Although LodeStar activities are general accessible, disabled students will get tripped up in places. Crossword pages are a good example. Technically, disabled students can use command keys to navigate the crossword input boxes. This is extremely difficult. There is a better solution.

LodeStar automatically generates an alternative page to the crossword. Students can select the “Accessible Version for Current Page” and launch a pop up window for that page only and hear the crossword hints and the word length. Students could also select the “Accessible Version”, which provides alternative pages for the entire project.  Other page types do not have an accessible version automatically generated at the page level — but you can click on the accessibility button in the authoring tool and input alternative content.

Student view, with access to Accessible Version of Content at the Page and Project Levels

For Project Level accessibility, you can elect to have LodeStar automatically generate the accessible version or you can control the accessible content by clicking on the icon with the tool tip that reads “Add accessible/alternative text for this page.”  By manually adding accessible content to the page, you are, in effect, controlling content both at the page level and at the project level.

Instructor view — with ability to add accessible content customized for each page.

SVG Editor

LodeStar’s SVG editor enables you to draw circles, ellipses, rectangles, squares, straight lines, free form lines, polygons and text. You can draw simple diagrams such as flow charts and Venn diagrams. The advantage to SVG is implied in its name: Scalable Vector Graphics. SVG graphics are scalable. They retain their sharpness at any size. Standard images are composed of pixels. Scaling a standard image or bitmap reveals the pixels whereas scaling the vector image preserves the image’s sharpness.

To create an SVG, click on where you wish the image to be located and then click on the SVG button on the HTML Editor tool bar. After you draw an image, select ‘Fit to Content’ and then ‘Save to Page’. LodeStar also supports the import of SVG images. To import an SVG image, click on the image button on the SVG toolbar. Select ‘Get Image’ and then change the Image Type to SVG at the bottom right of the dialog. (SVG images with embedded pictures (bitmaps) are not supported at this time.)

Publishing to the Cloud

The final major feature of LodeStar 7.3 is its ability to publish to the cloud. A full article will be dedicated to this new function. The following is just a quick summary:

Under Tools in the menu bar, LodeStar offers a PENS option. PENS means Package Exchange Notification System. LodeStar users can request a special license key from supportteam@LodeStarLearning.com in order to publish directly into Rustici Software’s Scorm Cloud, a popular system that can deliver interactive content to students in a variety of ways: email, Drupal sites, WordPress, and, with the help of the Learning Tools Interoperability specification, to a number of learning management systems.  Please note that the LodeStar License does not cover a Rustici Scorm Cloud License — however, the SCORM cloud does offer a free trial with limited storage and registrations.

Conclusion

LodeStar 7.3 is powerful. It enables instructors to create rich, interactive experiences for their students that supports the outcomes of the online course. The combination of templates, page types, widgets and new publishing options makes this authoring system a critical tool for the online instructor.