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DECP 05: Developing e-Content

e-Learning in broader way


C. Authoring tools to create and manage content

Currently most authors write eLML lessons using a standard XML editor. Having to deal with XML files as an author is a clear drawback of eLML. Following approaches have tried to eliminate this deficit:

  1. Firedocs, a WYSIWYG eLML editor developed as a Firefox plugin and released in late 2008.
  2. Open Office plug-in to allow writing of lessons in a Word-like environment.
  3. An eLML extension for the Apache Lenya-based Content Management System (CMS) called “UniCMS” ( to import, export, manage and edit (using Firedocs) eLML lessons.

D. Comparing eLML to other markup languages

There are a great number of HTML-based content creation tools available that allow authors to create IMS or SCORM compatible content packages. These tools are not comparable to the XML-based approach of eLML since they do not offer the separation of content and layout and thus also do not offer the possibility to export content in various formats. But during the last years other markup languages for eLearning content have appeared. Most of them were the result of a master’s thesis or PhD thesis and thus do not have a community and/or institution behind them that supports them. Therefore we state that eLML is today to most well-known and widely used open source XML markup language available for creating e-learning content. The Learning Material Markup Language (LMML), had a very strict approach for using semantic objects like motivation, definition, remark, example etc. for assuring a very strict separation between content and layout. Theoretically it was an excellent approach. eLML also tried to follow this strategy but soon had to find out that authors would not use a markup language if there are not at least the most basic structural objects like column, table, box or list available. Furthermore eLML introduced the “class” attribute allowing authors to attach CSS-classes to objects and thus allowing them to format elements according to their needs.

ML3 is far more developed and it offers an authoring tool based on FrameMaker. In ML3 a lesson can be described in three axes: Intensity (basic, advanced, expert), target (teacher or learner) and device (online, print or slide). An author can define if a paragraph or illustration is used in the basic and/or advanced version, only on slides, visible for teachers only etc. eLML offers the same possibility with the attribute role (author and student version of a lesson) and visible (online, print, latex, odf etc.).

The most popular tool falling into the category of XML content creations tools is Giunti Labs very popular eXact Packer [16]. Its main features are the support for both SCORM 1.2 and 2004, templates, wizards and a WYSIWYG authoring tool for rapid content development. A very nice feature is the neat integration into commercial content repositories like Hive and Lobster (both owned by Giunti Labs). In comparison to eLML with its fix ECLASS-based schema, the eXact Packager allows loading different kinds of models depending on the use case. The drawback of this approach is that there is no output format available for these different models except for the basic default models. Authors have to program the transformation files themselves if they want to use some of the more sophisticated models. Higher education users (was ist das?) complained that there is no model available that fits their needs (e.g. including powerful bibliography, glossary or list of tables etc. as in eLML) since most models tend to support rapid content creation. Moreover, as the tool is not open source users have to pay high license fee and they are restricted to create their own models within the limits that Giunti Labs sets up. Authors cannot use XML tools of their choice like the very powerful open source XSLT parsers “Saxon” but are bound to the Microsoft XML engine. To summarize, eLML is one of the only open source markup languages for creating e-learning lessons that survived and evolved through the last decade with only commercial tools as alternatives (apart from using HTML-based tools)

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