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Introduction

The Sakai's Authoring Summit, attended by many experts from around the world, is an opportunity for the OSYL Team to present and share our experiences with OpenSyllabus and contribute to the definition of a vision for tomorrow's Authoring Tools.

We share large parts of the vision of Michael Korcuska about semi-structured document and the requirements for content authoring tools.

The OSYL Team is focusing his efforts on semi-structured multimedia documents like Syllabus and we are planning future development on Portfolio through a new initiative called iFolium.

 
Model-based Authoring Tools

Structured and semi-structured multimedia documents are complex and the process of editing them is complex too.

So, we propose that authoring tools should give a structure (templates) to the user but this structure should be configurable.

 
1) Content structure based on semantic - Model Based Approach

Creation of flexible models of the documents and associated configurable templates are the guiding principles of all our efforts in the development of authoring tools for structured and semi-structured documents. So we propose to associate template definitions to the document model. The documents and the templates are both XML documents.

Model-based templates allows a natural « fill the blanks » authoring process where documents can be progressively created from existing templates up to a final version.

Another classical idea is to separate content fom presentation a bit like XHTML and CSS. So content structure and presentation are have to be seen as complementary. We must avoid to mix-up those two. This can contribute to reduce the complexity.

The structure should be flexible and configurable using XML configuration files or using more friendly tools to configure the structure. In fact, the configuration of the structure (or templates) should be the responsability of the institution.

 
1.1) Advantages

- avoid the free for all

- avoid the blank page syndrom

- support the authoring process

- support of open standard

- allow the automation of tasks (extraction, comparison, reasoning)

- allow the sharing of content

- allow the semantic tagging of the element of content

 
1.2) Inconvenients

Creation of a good model of structured and semi-structured multimedia documents is not an easy task. It's kind of never ending process.

But the beauty of the thing is that could be an iterative process from a simple draft to a detailed model. We just have to stop when we think we have a workable solution for the majority of uses. Nothing is perfect and models are always perfectible...

- need to create an operational model

- could be seen as a creativity stopper

 
2) Presentation based on more free artistic expression

 The idea is to let the user turn on his creativity as much as possible for the presentation of the content where it's possible.

For example, in a portfolio, we should have templates with tagged information and sections (coordinates, list of experiences, etc.) but the personal presentation should be as free as possible and should reflect the unique approach of the portfolio owner.

- allow multiple views and layout of the same content

- intensive use of CSS and multiple content layouts and templates

 
3) User Experience issues

Users are not willing or enthousiast to interact with lenghty HTML forms and infamous page loading.

They ask for fast "desktop-like" (or Web 2.0) applications that run in a browser.

In addition for the long term, Web 2.0 makes the transition from a document based Web architecture to an application-based Web.

This phenomenon has important implications for educational institutions as students increasingly expect such web interfaces.

 
4) Some Technical issues

We do not have to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch all the time. It can be done within existing technologies.

Open XML standards and model-based document should be at the root of specialized Authoring Tool.

We also need tools to build rich responsive and dynamic web interfaces.

By definition multimedia web documents must be authored by a variety of tools. So we need an integration platform.

A good candidate could be the Open Social Platform. The Open Social platform and gadgets (simple HTML, CSS and JavaScript applications) are an emerging open source industrial standard

- allows the inclusion of many different content formats (seen as resources) and small software application (gadgets)

- stability of APIs

- importance of import/export data format standards (IMS CP)

- integrates as much as possible existing resource editor like TinyMCE or FCKEditor

- support of open standards, documents are based on XML

- intensive use of web services, particularly REST web services (stateless)

- the Google Web Toolkit can simplify gadget development by automatically generating a Gadget Specification from Java code.

See Gadget Library for GWT


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