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Visual Web & eLearning Development: Convergence ahead?

Web trends

In the last week a few new items crossed my virtual desk. The folks @ Intellsoft have released ArtIsteer 4.2 with more features templates and support for additional platforms. While I am still working on 4.1+, it seems clear that ArtIsteer continues to evolve as a visual web development tool.

Looking at some reviews and comments several designers were critical of the “bloat” code and difficulty in maintaining the themes built with this tool. It seems to me that they have missed the point of visual web design.

While it is true that one can use DM CS6 to work on WP or other CMS code, my experience suggests that this strategy is at best a marginal one. To be effective at this level, web programmers would need to understand how the ArtIsteer classes and objects are built so that tweaks would not disrupt the layout or content structures.

Another useful post contained some good examples and analysis of web design trends. Of the three strategies mentioned two seem well suited to eLearning and mLearning development:

  1. Flat design what uses square tiles to emulate a 3D concept a la Windows 8 (Metro)
  2. Responsive design that uses CSS3 and Jquery allowing the design to “flow” across different device types and screen sizes ensuring a consistent experience.

Learning development trends

Adobe’s Captivate 7 now includes more mLearning development support along with:*

HTML5-based mLearning content compliant with Section 508 and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Import GIFT format questions, add drag-and-drop interactions, enable collaborative learning, and publish effortlessly to leading LMSs, like Moodle, Blackboard, SumTotal, and more.

*from Adobe CP7 features.

Since CP5 the Captivate IDE has been, a functional visual environment with some scripting functions “under the hood”.

Since I’m shopping for a new contract at present, I decided to DL the newest version of Lectora Publisher (link) since it was a desired skill on several recent job descriptions.  To my pleasant surprise Lectora Publisher 11 has become a fully functional visual learning IDE. With the addition of several other popular tools.LectoraPub

eLearning and mLearning developers have an IDE that publishes in a number of LMS friendly formats (SCORM & AAIC)

LectoraIDE

The pic above is the top left corner of Lectora 11 IDE. Note the familiar ribbon style with visual elements and objects.

Is coding passé?

For all but the most complex web development, coding if not passé, is being decremented as a development strategy. The most popular CMS systems such as Word Press and Joomla can be themed via tools like ArtIsteer. If necessary, slight theme tweaks can be made with DM CS6 but often these tweaks can be done at the higher visual level.

Earlier today I got a new job req. for a web developer. Here is the relevant part of the spec

Developer will hand-code UI for complex web applications and high-profile websites using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

While I have not researched this directly, my guess is that complex and high profile sites comprise perhaps 5-10% of the web overall. Unless one seeks work in that area, hand coding seems a last resort strategy. BTW, I could likely fumble through this contract for a few weeks until my coding hat was firmly back on, but true to my current thoughts on development I am not applying to hand code UIs.

On the Learning side, designers and developers still need a basic understanding of HTML5, CSS3, and Jquery in order to work efficiently. Being able to read and interpret code is a useful skill. At the same time, the continued refinement of tools like Lectora permits visual development for most of their work. The easy manipulation of visual objects in these environments frees users to be more creative and intuitive in their approaches instead of being stuck in the mud of code! Note that although the output of Lectora and HTML based, all but the smallest tweaks are better done in the visual IDE.

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