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The EnterPage 1-05

The ToolBook Developer's Newsletter from Platte Canyon Multimedia Software
August 20, 1998

In This Issue

Introduction
OnLine Learning Euro '98: An Eye-Witness Account
OnLine Learning '98 Preview
NEW WIDGET: Answer Key™ Allows Users to Get The Answers They Need
NEW VERSION: Plug-In Pro™ 4.0 adds even more power
Update: Learning and Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6
Update: TBK Tracker™ - A Powerful Instructional Environment
Notes from the Underground - The Art of the Possible
An Authorware Developer Comes Home
Customer Profile: Taurus Training Services Ltd.
ToolBook Tips From Jeff Rhodes
The Courseware Engineering Process: A Case Study by Eugene Jars
MediaLog: Voice-Over Recording Equipment
Coming in Next Issue
EnterPage Submissions
Subscription Information

Introduction
by Chris Bell

This newsletter's goal has always been to share information and opportunities for ToolBook developers of all levels. Information comes to this issue via several articles written by Platte Canyon employees and even a guest author. Opportunities in this newsletter come in the form of new products for ToolBook developers. Answer Key™ offers the wonderful feature of being able to see the answer to a ToolBook question. TBK Tracker™ will offer powerful features for student tracking. Of course, the biggest news is the impending arrival of the new CD-ROM based training course on how to use ToolBook. Enjoy all of this and more in this issue of The EnterPage.

OnLine Learning Euro '98: An Eye-Witness Account
by Jeff Rhodes

I had an outstanding time travelling to the "Cotswolds" of England for the OnLine Learning Euro '98 conference. It was a great opportunity to see what others are doing and put a face to the names from the ToolBook Listserv and news groups. We started off with a pre-conference workshop day. Mike Brooks provided an excellent overview of Instructor™ and Paolo Tosolini (Asymetrix) showed the group the newest RealMedia and other very cool ActiveX controls. I talked about ToolBook Synergy as well as how to do multilingual applications with our Plug-In Pro™ and monitor student status with our Progress Tracker™. That night, the camaraderie that would be the hallmark of the conference began to show. Kevin Walter (who did a great job organizing the conference), Paolo, and a bunch of the rest of us all took over an Indian restaurant in Cheltenham.

The next day started with a good keynote by John Newton of NCR. My session on some of the tools and approaches that we're using for our upcoming ToolBook CBT was very well-attended, although a couple people shook their heads a bit and left in search of another session after they got a look at the scripting! I should point out that the conference facilities were excellent. The college had 3-beam projectors in each room with state-of-the-art sound systems. I wish that there had been classrooms like this when I was in graduate school at the London School of Economics. For the rest of the first day, I went to top-notch sessions by Graham Shipman (very nice CBT on English language for the British Council), Peter de Jong (statistics of test question effectiveness that I'd like to incorporate into the Test Tracker™), Hens Zimmerman (excellent coding with the now-famous phrase, "it only takes one line of code"), and Simon Price (some nice scripting on dynamic sizing of objects). A big highlight of this day was the opportunity to finally meet Marco Boella and Robert Illius of Taurus Training in London (see Customer Profile). We've done lots of work for Taurus (and they have even bought all our products), but we'd never met either of them. That night, we all went to the Cheltenham Race Track for a good dinner and lots of fun betting on video-taped races. The fact that the proceeds went to cancer research and that many of the races were named after Platte Canyon (we helped sponsor the dinner) made it extra fun. We had a raffle for some Platte Canyon T-Shirts as well as various Asymetrix products.

The last day began with the whole group having to endure my keynote speech, which was actually a lot of fun. I then went to good sessions by John Twigg (showing some very nice IconAuthor applications), Simon Price (evaluating Librarian), and Mike Beilby (outstanding use of OpenScript and smart design for teaching Russian language). Then it was off to a 1-week vacation in Eastern Europe. Thanks to all the attendees and organizers for making me feel so welcome. We're looking forward to attending this conference again next year.

OnLine Learning '98 Preview

Make sure to attend this premiere event for ToolBook developers. Formerly the "ToolBook Developer's Conference," it promises to offer something for everyone, and because it is part of a larger online learning event, you'll have the added bonus of seeing the latest Internet training solutions.

This conference offers the unique ability for people to sit down in special Learning Labs and actually try their hand on Platte Canyon products.

Here is your suggested OLL '98 Conference Schedule designed for you to see everything Platte Canyon has to offer for "Improving the Lives of Training Developers."

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 1:00 pm Experience and Evaluate "Learning and Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6" (Hand's On Lab) Get a firsthand look at features of this first commercial CBT on the use of ToolBook. Experience the "Let Me Try" practice simulations, "Show Me" demonstrations, expert tips, OpenScript hints and much more.

2:30 p.m. Add Sophisticated Student Tracking to ToolBook Applications Use the Progress Tracker™ to quickly create a LAN-based, Neuron, or standalone CBT module with login, sophisticated user information, page indexes, bookmarks, question pools and more.

4:00 p.m. Increase Your ToolBook Development Productivity Experience the dramatic increase of productivity that comes from using the dozens of editors, utilities, and shortcuts that make up the highly-popular Plug-In Pro™ and Plug-In LE™ products for ToolBook.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24 All Day Visit us in Booth 300 to learn more about Platte Canyon products

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25 8:00 am Developing a "How To Use ToolBook" Product Get "under the hood" of our state-of-the-art CBT on ToolBook. Explore ActiveX components, scripting screen interactions, creating software simulations, developing "Show Me" demonstrations, and more.

NEW WIDGET: Answer Key™ Allows Users to Get The Answers They Need

Platte Canyon recently released this exciting extended object. Answer Key™ is a catalog that allows you to drag buttons into your application that will:

  1. Show the answer to ANY CBT question object. For example, if you have a "matching" question, then the "Show Answer" button will automatically draw the correct lines (even after the answers are randomized). For an "arrange objects" question, it will put all the pieces back in the right spot. For a multiple choice question, it will depress the correct buttons. You get the idea. Another nice feature is that you can edit the button's extended properties to set up WHEN you want the button to appear: all the time or after a defined number of "wrong" tries.
  2. Reset your question. This is a simple button that finds the CBT question on your page and resets it. It is useful if you want to see the answer and then reset it to start over.
  3. Check Your work. This is the standard Instructor™ Feedback button with a major enhancement: It hides or shows itself depending on the type of question and the question's settings. For example, if you have a multiple choice question with delayed feedback, it shows itself. If not, it is hidden. If you are using a "matching" question, it will show itself.

WHAT VERSIONS OF TOOLBOOK ARE SUPPORTED?
ToolBook Instructor™ 6
ToolBook Assistant™ 6
ToolBook Instructor™ 5
Multimedia ToolBook 4 CBT Edition

CAN I SEE A DEMO?
You can download a free demo for TB 4, 5, or 6 at
http://www.plattecanyon.com/answerkey.aspx

HOW MUCH?
$45 per ToolBook Developer

WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFO?
http://www.plattecanyon.com/answerkey.aspx

NEW VERSION: Plug-In Pro™ 4.0 adds even more power

Building on its already impressive set of over 50 utilities and editors, Plug-In Pro™ version 4.0 adds some impressive new features including:

  1. The ability to import and export an unlimited number of graphic resources automatically. For example, you can save all your bitmap resources to a directory with the Plug-In naming each file the same as the resource name. You can then create an optimized palette, assign the palette to each individual file, and then automatically replace all the bitmap resources in the book with the new files (all without losing your chromakey settings).
  2. Assistant™ 6.1 support. Almost all of the Plug-In features work in Assistant™. For developers who also have Instructor™ loaded on the computer, the Plug-Ins provide access to scripts, the command window, property browser, Tool Palette, etc.
  3. Show any page of any book in a viewer-saves lots of time when copying objects or scripts (plus avoids multiple ToolBook instances).
  4. A new "Button Graphic" editor. This editor gives you the ability to select any button on the current page or background (hidden or not) and assign or edit its graphics (normal, invert, disabled, and checked). More importantly, these graphic references can now be saved as part of the optional external content file, giving your application the ability to change graphic resources in response to language or other user selections.
  5. All the Plug-In Pro™ editors (field, button, CBT question, etc.) now work for background objects as well as page objects. This means that background content is now easily changeable in multilingual applications.

More Info:
Plug-In Pro™: http://www.plattecanyon.com/pluginpro.aspx

Update: Learning and Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6

Are you ready for feature-packed in-depth training on ToolBook Instructor? We are nearing completion of this exciting CD-ROM based content rich application. Targeted at both beginning Instructor™ users AND seasoned OpenScript veterans, this exciting application contains training on all aspects of Instructor™ from creating objects to embedding and accessing ActiveX components (and everything in between). The training is packed with expert tips and openScript techniques, and it has fully animated demonstrations as well as realistic "let me try" exercises.

More Info: http://www.plattecanyon.com/lmInstructor65.aspx

Update: TBK Tracker™ - A Powerful Instructional Environment

Currently under development, TBK Tracker™ will provide a state of the art computer managed instruction environment that is fully integrated with ToolBook Instructor. It allows developers to very quickly link lessons into courses, provide bookmarking capability, allow users to return to the last page they were on when they exited the training, and much more. Its sophisticated administration capabilities include the ability to manage students, courses, and lessons. One of its more innovative features is its ability to assign users to one or more classes and base course assignments on class membership.

Scheduled for release in late September, TBK Tracker™ promises to create quite a stir in the ToolBook community.

Notes from the Underground: The Art of the Possible
by Jeffrey Zink, Ph.D.

Back in 1867, Otto Von Bismarck (first Chancellor of the German Empire) was quoted as saying, "Politics is the art of the possible." Pretty smart guy, especially since I think he wasn't really talking about politics-he was talking about developing CBT! I have recently started a project, under a contract with some great folks at Creative Training Concepts, to write telephone network maintenance software for one of their clients. And I'm learning (or actually re-learning-sometimes I think this message never sticks in my brain) that CBT developers walk a thin line between creativity and practicality. Sitting with a client brainstorming about various approaches to teaching a particular concept is a very exciting time. Ideas flow like liquid diamonds all over the room as you collectively bring forth new and creative ways to get the information into the head of your end-user. But often these moments are followed by the dreaded brainstorming hangover, where you are left to figure out how in the world you can write code to make ToolBook do what you (in a moment of excitement and weakness) said it could do. Oops. Well, here are a few quick thoughts that might help ease that hangover:

--Be careful what you offer--they just might like it! I have found it very helpful to hedge just a bit if I'm entering what for me are uncharted scripting waters (which, with my level of experience) I see a lot!).

--Remember this: "You know more than you think you do . . .and less." This means (I think) that you probably can do more than you realize, especially since ToolBook is both powerful and pretty developer-friendly. The "less" part is actually a good thing as well. What it means is that while you may not have solved some particular coding puzzle, chances are somebody has. Use co-workers, colleagues, and especially the news groups to research possible solutions. There really is no such thing as a stupid question--believe me, if there were I would have already asked it!

--Consider "Rapid Prototyping." This is a Platte Canyon operating philosophy that we have found over the years brings much more success (i.e., greater client satisfaction with fewer "re-do's"). We get our clients to work with us as genuine partners in the development process. Based on our initial brainstorming, create one or two modules of the application, and then ship that to the client for initial review. Even when this prototype isn't exactly what the client had envisioned, it serves to create an on-going dialogue during development, leading to a well-defined product with no surprises for the client.

Those are just a few quick thoughts-I'm sure you have developed your own guidelines and techniques as you've walked that thin line toward the art of the profitable.

An Authorware Developer Comes Home
by Cindy Kessler

[Editor's Note: Platte Canyon is extremely pleased that Cindy Kessler has come on board. Jeff and Chris worked with Cindy a couple of years ago at Titan Corporation. Since then, Cindy has primarily used AuthorWare. We asked Cindy to write about her return to ToolBook.]

Beyond the envy that the merely talented sometimes feel for those with genius, I'm delighted to be working with this team. One thing about sabbaticals, however, they certainly force new perspectives. I'll never be able to view ToolBook the same after living, eating, and sleeping with the competition.

When I first left ToolBook and picked up Authorware over two years ago, my initiation project was a Return On Investment (ROI) tool that should never have left the spreadsheet environment. As I sketched initial design and programming notes, I blithely integrated multidimensional arrays and user-defined functions. Then I launched Authorware and began development. Within an hour I was combing the documentation in a state of panic and frustration. "Yes, but how do you define arrays? And how do you re-use the same chunk of code (you know, functions, handlers, procedures)?" Alas, in a state of serious embarrassment I broke down and asked the exiting Authorware guru. Her answer was simple: "You don't."

"What do you mean, you don't? You don't WHAT?"

"You don't define arrays and functions. You can't."

Uh oh.

Imagine, if you dare, trying to develop a serious financial tool for the analysis of massive quantities of user entered data with a single, one-dimensional array at your disposal and no way to define functions. It was a rude introduction to Authorware. No better project could have been chosen to set Authorware's weakness into high relief. Authorware was not designed for high-end scripting. (Although Macromedia has since added user-defined multi-dimensional arrays to its capabilities.)

Before you start getting too smug about ToolBook, however…enter stage right the next project - an action-packed multimedia training with a wicked schedule. We're talking razzle-dazzle A/V and animations, due "yesterday if you can't get it to us any sooner."

Let me tell you, Authorware can SHINE folks. Slap down the design flow and you have your program. Import media into libraries and drag into place and you're cooking with gas. Throw in a few effects and take a few seconds to drag some graphics around and you've created slick animations in about four minutes. And it LOOKS GOOD. And it's FUN. And it's FAST. AS LONG AS YOU STAY WITHIN ITS SCOPE!

But I really don't want this to become a debate; anyone interested in "Compare and Contrast" issues can simply search the AWARE or TOOLB_L list archives and get a queue full (choose your archive based on the answer you want). I really have only two things to say:

A. It's delightful to have the power of ToolBook's OpenScript back at my fingertips.

B. It's frustrating to be missing some of the utilities and features I've become used to in Authorware.

But guess what. I'm working with Platte Canyon now, which means I can use A to start changing B.

Customer Profile: Taurus Training Services Ltd.

Taurus Training produces a suite of software programs designed specifically to meet the needs of interactive training in, and analysis of, property, casualty, marine and the financial aspects of reinsurance. Their customer list reads like a "who's who" of the reinsurance industry, including leading Lloyd's syndicates. Taurus uses the Platte Canyon Progress Tracker™ and Tracker Administrator™ products as part of all of its CBT modules. In addition, they are using the Plug-In Pro™ to deploy their newest versions in Spanish, French, German, English, and American (and who said Americans speak English!). Marco Boella, the Chairman of Taurus Training, also provided the ideas and requirements for the Tracker Navigator™ product as well as the new Plug-In capability to export bitmaps resources, apply a common palette, and then re-import them. Taurus's training modules are state-of-the-art! You should especially see their ability to show the path of any hurricane this century - it is very slick.

Contact Information:

Taurus Training Services Ltd
67 Brynmaer Rd
London SW11 4EN
United Kingdom

Tel: + 44 (0) 171 720 2012
Fax: + 44 (0) 171 498 9693

mboella@reinsurance.co.uk

ToolBook Tips
by Jeff Rhodes

TIP 1 OF 2
For the OnLine Learning Euro '98 keynote address, I put together a book that randomly shows one of the Agent ActiveX characters, changes it every five seconds, and has the character fly around the screen. While you can download the book from http://www.plattecanyon.com/articles/tbmemorylane.htm, I thought I'd point out a few scripting tricks.

Q. How do you make the Agent characters continue to change and fly around the screen BUT be able to stop and leave the page at any time?

A. The page script is shown below. I start a single timer on the enterPage in order to make the character show up immediately. I then (in the timerNotify handler) start a periodic timer that is sent every eight seconds. I stop this timer and hide the character on the leavePage.

to handle enterPage
	forward
	posList of this page = "1,55,49,7"
	oneTimeTimerID of this page = timerStart("single",500,100, self)
end enterPage

to handle leavePage
	if timerID of this page <> null
		get timerStop(timerID of this page)
		timerID of this page = null
	end if
	oneTimeTimerID of this page = null
	send KYHideNarrator
	currentPos of this page = null
	forward
end leavePage

to handle timerNotify timerID
	if timerID = oneTimeTimerID of this page
		forward
		timerID of this page = timerStart("periodic",8000,1000,this book)
	else
		forward
	end if
end timerNotify
     

Q. What is the forward doing in the timerNotify handler above?

A. I wanted to use the same code at the book level to show the character based on the one-time timer and the periodic timer. So when the one-time timer fires off, I forward the message to the book script and then launch the periodic timer. Here's the book level timerNotify handler:

to handle timerNotify timerID
	conditions
		when timerID = timerID of this page
		when timerID = oneTimeTimerID of this page
			newNar = ASYM_RandomList(1,narrationList of this book)
			if newNar = narratorCharacter of this book
				narParam = null
			else
				narParam = newNar
			end if
			newGest = ASYM_RandomList(1,animationList of this page)
			tempPosList = posList of this page
			posNum = ASYM_ItemOffset((currentPos of this page),tempPosList)
			conditions
				when posNum = 0
				when posNum = itemCount(tempPosList)
					newPos = item 1 of tempPosList
			else
				newPos = item (posNum + 1) of tempPosList
			end conditions
			currentPos of this page = newPos
			send KYShowNarrator newGest, newPos, "useAnimation", narParam
	else
		forward
	end conditions
end timerNotify
     

TIP 2 OF 2
Here's a quick command level script that I used yesterday for the situation where a customer had put a button on their interface to show the current chapter. We then decided to use this button for displaying whether a given chapter was required. Unfortunately, the buttons weren't initially named. So they would be hard to work with at the "book script" level. Rather than manually going to hundreds of pages to rename the buttons, I found the position of the button and used this script from the command window:

step num from 1 to pageCount of this book
	objList = getObjectList (page num, "button", false)
	while objList <> null
		pop objList
		if position of it = "375,315" AND normalGraphic of it <> null
			name of it = "chapterButton"
			push num onto pagesChanged
		end if
	end while
end step
request pagesChanged
     

The Courseware Engineering Process: A Case Study
by Eugene Jars

[Editor's Note: This is something new for this newsletter: an article written by someone outside of Platte Canyon. While Platte Canyon uses a different courseware development approach based on Rapid Prototyping, we thought Mr. Jars' approach might be of interest. He may be reached at: _ejars@yahoo.com]

Converting a paper-based storyboard to a Computer-Based Training (CBT) application requires a systematic approach. This article will discuss the courseware engineering process that I use to develop Computer-Based Training for the US Air Force. My job as a packager is to take various elements of a CBT project and package these components together into an interactive, multimedia product. This model is only a part of the Instructional Design Process. Other processes and decisions have been made prior to receiving the storyboard.

PRE PRODUCTION
In the pre-production phase, the packager's primary role is that of an advisor. The packager advises the CBT author on what can be accomplished under the constraints of the work environment. Typically, this advice will include time estimates on how long it would take to produce any complex interactions.

PRODUCTION
Once the packager receives the storyboard and the associated computer files (BMP, WAV, MPEG etc.), the production phase begins. There are three steps to the production phase: Problem Analysis, Solution Design and Coding and Testing.

Problem Analysis The first step in the production phase is Problem Analysis. The packager reviews the storyboard page by page and communicates with the CBT author to clarify any points that are unclear. The packager proceeds to convert the author's verbal and written instructions into a precise, highly descriptive plain-English statement that becomes part of the Design Document. Because ToolBook uses a book metaphor as its organizing principle, we write our storyboards in a book format, with chapters and pages. This one-to-one correspondence between our storyboards and ToolBook enables the packager to quickly translate the individual pages of the storyboard into a CBT.

Solution Design The next step in the Production Phase is the Solution Design. In this step, the packager refines the plain-English statements into the standard ToolBook conventions. The packager reuses as much code as possible from previous projects and writes any new code that is needed. We use OpenScript (ToolBook's scripting language), which is powerful enough that we currently do not need any other programming language. Any new code is added to the OpenScript code library for use in other projects.

Included in the Solution Design step is the testing strategy. We have general testing guidelines that are used with every CBT, but the packager devises any testing strategies that are specific to the individual CBT.

Coding and Testing The next step of the production phase is Coding and Testing. If the Problem Analysis and Solution Design steps were done correctly, the Coding step should be a mechanical process. All of the plain-English statements should now be in the standard ToolBook format.

Incremental testing is done during the Coding step. Once an object, page or chapter is completed, it is then tested. By incrementally testing each object, chapter and page as it is completed, mistakes are promptly found and corrected. This prevents any errors from snowballing.

POST PRODUCTION
After the packager is satisfied the CBT conforms to the storyboard, the CBT is then reviewed by the subject matter expert (SME). Any changes made are noted, and depending on the complexity of the change the packager goes through the courseware engineering process again. The final version and all associate files are saved to a CD-ROM for permanent storage.

Maintenance is also part of the courseware engineering process. Our CBTs are designed with the knowledge that they will be updated or changed at a later date. When a CBT is ready for revision or maintenance, the courseware engineering process starts again.

SUMMARY
A disciplined approach to developing courseware is essential to delivering a superior product. This article describes one process, however other processes are known to be equally successful. The important point is that trying to produce a CBT with no plan at all will delay the project and cause many hours of frustration.

MediaLog: Voice-Over Recording Equipment
by Chris Bell

Before updating Platte Canyon's in-house recording capabilities, I took some time to look into how companies are recording their voice-overs these days. My research consisted of soliciting opinions on audio recording gear from various news groups including the ToolBook users newsgroup. The results were surprisingly disparate, with some virtual arguments arising out of the various opinions. We haven't made any firm decisions on the path that we are going to take, but it may be helpful to share the information we have gathered to this point.

The most critical debate involves how the recording is originally captured. Is it better to record to a tape (either DAT or high-fi analog)? Or is it better to record straight to the hard disk? While we have always recorded straight to the hard disk, we are considering recording to tape from now on so we can always have a pristine high-resolution original set of recordings. We have not yet completely decided however.

Now, here is a quick run down of the equipment we have identified as important, regardless of the recording technique.

Software
For PC use, SoundForge wins. We have been using this software for years and it just keeps getting better. The newest version even comes with the batch editing capabilities that used to be a separate product.

Sound Card
It is important to have a good sound card that is designed to capture recorded audio. Most consumer level cards are made to play music (MIDI) primarily, and treat recording as a secondary concern. There are a lot of opinions about the Turtle Beach Multisound Pinnacle sound card (and its predecessor the Tahiti). Some people love it. Others say it has poor technical support and isn't worth its fairly high price. However, it's audio capture ratings are high, and it even has an optional Digital I/O component which would be great for capturing audio from DAT. We still need to conduct more research in this area.

Microphone
The general consensus is that a good microphone makes a big difference. Microphones for studio recording are typically more sensitive than their rock and roll stage-based cousins. We have been advised to go for a large diaphragm, condenser mic. Two names that have come up are Audio Technica AT3525 and the Shure Beta 87A. We are still testing, but both of these microphones sound great.

Mic Pre-Amp / Processor
Most studio quality microphones like the ones mentioned above need a power supply which is usually generated by a battery in the microphone or a "phantom power supply," supplied by a mic pre-amp. We have been advised that if we're going to get a pre-amp, we might as well get a processor for about the same cost. We have are looking at the dbx Project 1 286 which has some important sound compressors and other potentially useful features for voice-over recording.

We still have some more research to do, but in identifying the key parts of the set up, we feel confident that our next in-house voice-overs will be the best yet.

Coming in the Next Issue of the EnterPage

  • OnLine Learning '98 Conference Report
  • Full Preview:  Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6
  • More Notes from the Underground by Jeffrey Zink
  • More OpenScript tips from Jeff Rhodes
  • TBK Tracker™ Update
  • Focus on a Platte Canyon Customer
  • More

EnterPage Submissions

Suggestions for articles or proposals for article submissions are welcome. Send information to EP@plattecanyon.com. Back issues of the EnterPage are available at http://www.plattecanyon.com/enterpage.aspx.

Subscription Information

The EnterPage is distributed 4 times a year, with occasional special issues. Individuals who have expressed interest in Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation or its products receive The EnterPage. If you do not wish to receive future issues, send an email message to EP@plattecanyon.com with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject line. New subscriptions are available by sending an email message to EP@plattecanyon.com with the word "subscribe" in the subject line and the person's name and company in the text of the message.

 

.. .. Copyright 1999 Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation