mlearn project

Charles Sturt University's Mobile Learning Project

Learning Resources

CSU has a long history of developing its own learning resources and content. The emergence of mobile technology brings with it a unique challenge for our traditional publishing points – print and online. Print files are developed specifically for the page. They have particular break points for paragraphs and chapters, and are styled with fonts of various types and sizes around the known constraints of the A4 page. Online also has the privilege of some degree of standardisation – browser types, capabilities and screen sizes. However, there is no such thing as a typical mobile. In terms of screens they tend to be significantly smaller than a desktop PC but come in a variety of sizes, and often at much higher resolution than a desktop. Mobile devices come with a range of operating systems and versions of operating system, that provide unique software challenges. These are fundamentally different circumstances to our typical publishing techniques and introduce a new array of challenges.

The Project undertook an extensive exploration of the available learning resources and available techniques, file types, development processes and software available to deliver content to mobile.

Process

The plan was to develop a number of resources for the following areas based on existing resources:

  • Academic Support
  • Faculty of Business
  • School of Policing

Each area would produce at least one of each of the following formats to provide a proof of concept to shape future development and explore the issues surrounding production.

  • Create a Lo-fi ePub file – (APA Referencing Guide) which consisted of text and images only that was designed for eReaders with a black and white display, but can be accessed on tablets and Smartphones
  • Create a Hi-Fi ePub file – (Policing subjects in Pages) including text, images, video & audio designed for tablets and Smartphones.
  • Create an Apple iBook – (Policing subjects) which included text, images, video, audio and interactive components specifically designed for iPad

Investigation

Throughout this time we investigated various learning resource conversions taken from existing learning modules including:

  • IMS, SCORM to ePub
  • PDF, Word, RTF to ePub
  • Pages (Apple Software) to ePub
  • Pages (Apple Software) to iBook

The learning resources we acquired provided various media, including text, images, video, audio and links, so would present unique challenges in delivering content. The team tested out these transformations using two methods – an automated conversion process and manual authoring. The main automated process was done through Calibre, which is an open source software used to modify, manage and configure eBooks. Due to the inconsistencies in authoring and the differences in media types, there was no way to fully automate the process. Each conversion requires a manual process to update document styles, format and ensure correct rendering of images and video.

The manual process involved taking existing text content and re-creating it in software called Pages, essentially Apple’s version of Word. Text would be stripped of all styling and then copied into a new document and restyled and formatted. This would then export to an ePub file, requiring manual editing of style documents to ensure a match between what was presented on screen and what was represented on the iPad.

The next step was to take existing content, text and rich media to create an enhanced eBook, showcasing the ability to embed and contain both text and rich media to demonstrate clear possibilities. This was tested originally with InDesign and a plugin called Mag+. However the decision was made to use Pages, as the margin of error was too large and time-consuming re-developing resources from InDesign.

The final stage was to take mainly existing content and augment it with new assets – rich media and interactivity. This eBook will showcase the possibilities of developing enhanced texts and show how interactivity and media can be imbedded in a purely digital resource. This involved the creation of an Apple iBook with text, images, video, audio and interactive components specifically designed for the iPad.

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