For some time, we have been seeing the Flash format dying as HTML5 becomes the publishing format of choice. Many authoring tools have been built in Flash ActionScript, and most authoring tools have offered Flash as a publishing option. Several of these have managed to switch to HTML5 output, but other tools are being discontinued while their vendors are building new tools from scratch. The latest eLearning tool vendor to announce that it’s discontinuing a product is Trivantis, regarding its product Snap! (after October 31). Every software product reaches a point when it is no longer advisable to continue updating it because the underlying code can become a patchwork of potentially conflicting code snippets. At other times, of course, an application doesn’t sell well, and it becomes a sales decision to discontinue a product. Adobe, one of the biggest software companies catering to the learning market, has discontinued quite a few products over its history for various reasons.
As I write this, I am in Russia to speak at two conferences in Moscow, having been invited by the fine folks at iSpring and Quorum. In speaking with the attendees here, I’m discovering that there are really no differences between the problems Russian eLearning professionals face and the problems I encounter in the US. That doesn’t surprise me, but what I found curious was the number of attendees who approached me in private, mostly after one of my sessions, almost as if they were embarrassed, to ask which one tool is the best. Once again, I was forced to say that it really depends on so many questions, many of which I illustrated in one session I gave. It’s frustrating to hear that, I know, but just like any major purchase, it’s smart to do your homework first.
As I’m wont to say, what good is all the hard work you do in creating a wonderful eLearning lesson if, in the end, it’s full of bugs? Just like a small stain on a white wedding dress, a bug will detract from the great work you put into creating your eLearning.
Some authoring tools build in review options so that you can invite quality assurance team members to perform thorough checks on your lesson and report back any problems they find, often in a way that you can see directly in the authoring tool. However, this is not always the case. Hence, a lot of organizations that create eLearning have invented their own review tools and systems in house. Having worked with many of these types of systems, I can vouch for the fact that they can be much more useful than getting an Excel spreadsheet listing of bugs.
As is true of many tools that are built for in-house use, there comes a time when those who created the tool see that it can potentially be useful to others, so they start to offer it on the open market. Such is the case with Course Inspector. The company in this case was founded to perform eLearning translation and localization (and still provides this service), and it had a need for a good review tool. Not finding one, the company built its own.
Supported authoring tools
As a review tool, Inspector works with any SCORM 1.2- and SCORM 2004-published output from the following popular authoring tools:
- Articulate Presenter ’13
- Storyline 1, 2
- Captivate 7, 8, 9
- Lectora 12
- Gomo 1.8
The xAPI format is not supported at this time. SCORM 1.2 is generally the most widely used protocol still, though my friends in Russia have told me that SCORM 2004 is the most widely adopted there.
You might be wondering why, if Inspector works with SCORM-published files, it doesn’t work with every tool that publishes to SCORM. That is because Inspector goes beyond looking at SCORM output. It digs deep into the published files to ensure that it is able to report as much as possible to assist in the review process. That means that Inspector has to accommodate each tool’s output differently, and hence it has custom ways to deal with each. I’m told that Storyline is the most complicated, for instance, in how it communicates the location in the course. Other tools, for example, output slide numbers in a simpler format.
What happens when a supported authoring tool comes out with a new version? Typically, the protocols it uses don’t change much, if at all, but the company does a thorough check and will update its tool if needed.
Reviewers can also review videos and add their comments. By pausing the video, Inspector will bookmark the video time stamp and add the comment. This can be very useful when you use videos in your eLearning if you can provide the videos as separate files to review.
Performing a review
The review dashboard will give you an overview of open issues (Figure 1). Note that it shows that six out of eight items have been resolved in the first line, five out of 10 in the second, etc.
Figure 1: The Inspector dashboard
You can see open issues, as in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Open issues
The course normally plays in a window with the review panel on the right. The bookmark updates automatically as you move through the course. For Storyline, for instance, 2.1 means Scene 2, slide 1. In Figure 3, you can see the bookmark is 1.1.
Figure 3: Reviewer layout
Some browsers don’t allow for pop-ups, which the above layout uses, so there is a second layout option that shows the review panel below the screen shot.
You can choose the Issue Type for each issue. You can also customize this list. Reviewers check the Global checkbox when an issue affects the whole or a large part of a lesson, such as a recommendation to change the font.
Figure 4: Issue type
You also choose the Severity level for each issue. This list cannot be modified. Flagged is the most critical level.
Figure 5: Severity level
Next, you can assign an issue to a specific person to resolve and type a description if you believe further explanation is warranted.
Note that screen shots are not created automatically. Reviewers have to create the screen shot and attach the image file if it is needed.
As a dedicated review tool, Inspector has features that you won’t find in most internal review tools. For example, you can set roles for reviewers at different levels:
- Reviewers (your internal QA)
As the reviewer role is considered internal QA, it has more complete access to not just the current version of a lesson, but also draft versions and other files.
The client role can be limited to specific versions, as they don’t need to be given access to drafts or other files they don’t need to see.
The administrator role has, as expected, a lot of power. Administrators can:
- Add users, delete users, etc.
- Assign owners, reviewer assignees, and due dates
- Create and edit the Issue Type list
- Manage notifications
- Set priorities and instructions
- See more information than reviewers when seeing the list of active issues
- Filter the information in many ways
- Add administrator comments
- Click History to know why something was closed, etc.
- See issues that have been closed
- Have access to prior versions and add versions
- Add courses
You can see reports of reviews in several different ways. Figure 6 shows one such way.
Figure 6: Report view
Access to Course Inspector and pricing
Everyone who reviews must have a login. This allows the system to track each reviewer’s comments.
You must upload the courses to be reviewed to the Course Inspector server. If you run out of room and have to remove a course from the Inspector server, no worries. Any and all reviewer comments are preserved so that if you upload the course later, you won’t lose its review history.
The pricing plans are as follows:
- Lite plan: $360 per year
- Admin/developer: 1 user
- Reviewers/clients: 5 users
- Storage: 1 GB
- Basic plan: $900 per year
- Admins/developers: 5 users
- Reviewers/clients: 20 users
- Storage: 2 GB
- Pro plan: $2,400 per year
- Admins/developers: 15 users
- Reviewers/clients: 50 users
- Storage: 5 GB
For customers with higher requirements, the company will provide custom quotes.
Have you used Course Inspector?
Feel free to comment with your thoughts below.
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- Session 412 (Thursday, November 17, 10:45a –
11:45a): New Technologies That Will Change Your Learning Strategies
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- Session 815 (Friday, November 18, 10:00a –
11:00a): BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop®): Create the Best eLearning Using Adobe Captivate
In this hands-on session, you will build a short lesson one step at a time and see how easy it is to turn a “blah” lesson into a really interesting experience for the learner, ensuring better learning results. The published lesson will work on desktop and mobile devices. You can then take the lesson back to your office and reuse as you wish.
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