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.

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