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TABLE OF CONTENTS 

1. INTRODUCTION  
1.1 Creating Courseware 
1.2 Authoring 
1.3 Approaches to Authoring 
1.4 A New Approach 

2. THE FREE FORM APPROACH  
2.1 What is it? 
2.2 What are the advantages? 
2.3 What are the disadvantages? 
2.4 Which applications are best coded using this approach? 
2.5 Summary 

3. THE TEMPLATE APPROACH  
3.1 What is it? 
3.2 What are the advantages? 
3.3 What are the disadvantages? 
3.4 Which applications are best coded using this approach? 
3.5 Summary 

4. THE DATABASE APPROACH  
4.1 What is it? 
4.2 What are the advantages? 
4.3 What are the disadvantages? 
4.4 Which applications are best coded using this approach? 
4.5 Summary 

5. THE HYBRID TEMPLATE / DATABASE APPROACH  
5.1 What is it? 
5.2 What are the advantages? 
5.3 What are the disadvantages? 
5.4 Which applications are best coded using this approach? 
5.5 Summary 
 
 

1. INTRODUCTION 

1.1 Creating Courseware 

The creation of interactive courseware has traditionally been accomplished through a team effort comprising several disciplines. These disciplines include analysis, instructional design, graphic art, coding, quality assurance, and at times audio or video talent. All work together and in a sequence that ensures a successful outcome. 

1.2 Authoring 

The coding step, also called authoring, involves the assembly of all the gathered media elements, the creation of a backbone navigation, the programming of interactions, and any other features required by the design. The smooth and bug-free operation of the application is dependent on the coder. s skill set and dedication. 

Each time a new version of an authoring tool, such as Macromedia. s Authorware, becomes available, several new features are added. This forces an author to remain current with the tool set both in order to remain competitive in the marketplace as well as to ensure that end users of the authored applications receive as rich a learning experience as possible. 

1.3 Approaches to Authoring 

Typically, the way a course has been assembled in the past has been to give a paper or electronic storyboard to an author. The author would in turn either create the application "from scratch" or use an authoring template created by someone more experienced.  

1.4 A New Approach 

Recently, a new authoring paradigm has started to take form, that of using a database to deliver content to an authoring "engine" which reads information from the database, then outputs the content to the end user. This has been facilitated by the introduction of Authorware 4.0, which allows content to be read from external sources much more easily than in past versions. 

This paper will discuss each of these approaches as well as a fourth approach that combines the idea of a template and a database. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. None of these if perfectly right or wrong. Each has its place depending on the circumstances surrounding an interactive multimedia project. 

2. THE FREE FORM APPROACH 
 
2.1 What is it? 

The free form approach to coding depends on having an expert author on staff who is able to receive a storyboard and create in Authorware the designed application. The author may choose to review code written in similarly designed lessons in the past, but does most of the coding from scratch, starting with a blank flow line. 
2.2 What are the advantages? 

The advantages to this approach include the following. 

  • The designer is able to use any and all features in Authorware, without fear that it may not fit in a previously coded template. 
  • An expert coder can make the code very efficient, allowing for little overhead that may slow down the execution of the application.
2.3 What are the disadvantages? 

The disadvantages to this approach are as follows: 

  • A coder may easily introduce bugs into the code. 
  • Coding normally takes the longest using this approach. 
  • Since code is written anew each time, code maintainability and reusability are low. 
  • Few coding costs are amortized over the life of the project, since each file is created from scratch.
2.4 Which applications are best coded using this approach? 

The free form approach is best used with these types of applications: 

  • A specialized kiosk whose design is not intended to be reused. 
  • A proof-of-concept prototype that will not be used as the basis of the courseware to be eventually coded. 
  • A short lesson to be delivered to a limited audience.
2.5 Summary 

Using the free form approach gives a designer and a coder the most latitude in designing and developing an application. It also holds the most risk in introducing bugs and in not being able to reuse the code easily in future applications. Short applications, such as kiosks, prototype, and short lessons are the best candidates for this approach. 

3. THE TEMPLATE APPROACH 
 
3.1 What is it? 

The template approach to coding depends on having an expert author create the backbone of the application. This backbone may include the navigation, any tools such as a glossary or debugger, scoring mechanisms, and any other parts of the application that is not strictly content. After the template is written, intermediate and novice level Authorware coders can fill in content. 
3.2 What are the advantages? 

The advantages to this approach include the following. 

  • If the expert creates a robust template, many fewer bugs should be introduced into the application. 
  • When the application consists of many similar files, such as a course containing many lessons, the template acts as a consistent guide to the interface. 
  • Coding is faster since parts found in the template need not be coded for each file. 
  • Some latitude remains in coding, since the content author can make changes when necessary. 
  • The user is presented with consistency in the interface, the navigation, the scoring mechanisms, and other application features. 
  • The template costs are amortized over the length of the project and may substantially lower the cost of the project. 
  • Code becomes more maintainable since the way the code is written is not unique.
3.3 What are the disadvantages? 

The disadvantages to this approach are as follows: 

  • There is a larger start up cost to create the template. 
  • If the design of the template is very restrictive, lesson files or other application components may lack diversity, leading to a less engaging approach (sometimes called the "templated" look). 
  • Unless the template is debugged very well, bugs in the template are replicated across the entire application. 
  • If the content author can make changes to the template code, it in part defeats the purpose of the template.
3.4 Which applications are best coded using this approach? 

The template approach is best used with these types of applications: 

  • Larger courses which use several lesson files. 
  • Small courses, when there are several courses similarly designed. 
  • Any application where the coding staff is largely nonexpert and can benefit from an expert. s template.
3.5 Summary 

The template approach is best used for courses that need a little flexibility but can benefit from a strong foundation that takes care of those parts of coding not directly related to content. 

4. THE DATABASE APPROACH 
 
4.1 What is it? 

The database approach to coding changes the approach of the design and the coding. Designers use an application that allows them to select from preprogrammed screen layouts. Each screen layout chosen brings up a form that allows the designer to fill in the content needed. The screen layout and the content are saved externally in a database and possibly files on a server. Each screen layout also has a 
corresponding Authorware engine that reads the information from the database, then presents it on the screen to the end user. Only one Authorware engine file is ever used - it does not change with each application or lesson. All navigation, scoring mechanisms and other features come from prebuilt database forms. All content comes from a separate database file created for each application or lesson. 

4.2 What are the advantages? 

The advantages to this approach include the following. 

  • Very few programming bugs are introduced in the applications. 
  • Since the design and coding are for the most part combined into one job function, costs are greatly lowered. 
  • Applications are written more quickly, with fewer functional revision cycles needed. 
  • There is no miscommunication between the designer and the coder since the coder is not directly involved. 
  • The user is presented with strong consistency in the interface, the navigation, the scoring mechanisms, and other application features. 
  • The database forms and Authorware engine costs are amortized over all the projects that use this approach. 
  • Maintainability of the course is strong since there is no real authoring performed.
4.3 What are the disadvantages? 

The disadvantages to this approach are as follows: 

  • There is a large start up cost relative to the project as a whole to create the database forms and Authorware engines. 
  • The database approach leads to a highly templated look, which may prove not diverse enough for some applications. 
  • Once a screen layout and Authorware engine have been used for an application, it is problematic to make changes to the layout and engine since it could cause problems to applications already written. 
  • Different designer approaches can lead to an overwhelming number of screen layouts and interaction approaches requested, which in turn leads to "too many" choices for some designers.

4.4 Which applications are best coded using this approach? 

The database approach is best used when the following conditions exist. 

  • Costs must be kept low on larger projects that use very similar design approaches. 
  • Expert resources are low. 
  • Applications are frequently changed or supplanted by more current versions.
4.5 Summary 

The database approach leads to much less latitude in design of a course, since it is limited to designs that have been created and it does not lend itself to changes in those designs over time. However, it is a good approach when a lot of courseware must be written quickly, especially when the courseware will be replaced often due to issues of content timeliness.  

5. THE HYBRID TEMPLATE / DATABASE APPROACH 
 
5.1 What is it? 

The hybrid approach uses a combination of the database approach and the template approach. An expert creates a strong template that includes a means of calling the database for most of its content, while still leaving room for customized screens that do not fit into the domain of the database approach. A separate Authorware file is thus created for each application or lesson, as is with the template approach. 
Navigation, scoring mechanisms, and other features are typically kept in the template file, while most of the content comes from a database. 

5.2 What are the advantages? 

The advantages to this approach include the following. 

  • Most of the advantages found in both the template and in the database approaches apply here. 
  • There are fewer bugs introduced in this approach than in the template approach, but there may be more than in the database approach. 
  • Content that can be placed in the database can be entered by the designer, while customized screens can be created in Authorware by an intermediate or higher level coder.
5.3 What are the disadvantages? 

The disadvantages to this approach are as follows: 

  • Most of the disadvantages found in both the template and in the database approaches apply here. 
  • Since two methods are combined, designers may be confused and may disagree as to which approach to use on specific screens. 
  • The code may be harder to maintain because of the different approaches used. 
  • Maintainability of the code may be less than either the template or the database approach because of the mixing of the two.
5.4 Which applications are best coded using this approach? 

The hybrid approach is best used with those applications that for the most part can be entered into a database but need to have an occasional screen written directly in Authorware. 

5.5 Summary 

The hybrid approach can be highly effective when most of the lessons or of the application can benefit from the database approach, but when you need to keep the option open for a customized screen. Since each application or lesson means a separate Authorware file, the possibility of replicated bugs remains strong. However, if both the template and the database approaches are created free of bugs, the resulting applications will be written quickly with few bugs and with more latitude than the database approach alone can provide.