XML-Based Authoring: from Concepts via Compromises to Applications

Abstract

Within the last couple of years, the competence centre for e-learning and multimedia at the Freie Universität Berlin (CeDiS) established a manufacture like production process for e-learning content, which is primarily targeted to large projects, i.e. projects with several authors and an arbitrary volume of content to produce. The most important cornerstones of the production process are an XML document format and an authoring tool for this document format. Unfortunately both were designed only to meet the requirements of two nationwide projects, which were lead-managed by CeDiS. The work described in this paper is dedicated to the generalization of that manufacture like production process, especially the development of an adaptable XML document format for e-learning contents and the corresponding editor. The document format SCDL (Sharable Content Description Language) we specified as XML Schema, is a general document format for modular e-learning content. Besides common features like multimedia integration, it provides a mechanism for deriving project specific document formats from the general format by restriction and not by extension. This mechanism shall prevent that software solutions have to be adapted for any derived document format. Furthermore it fosters the possibilities of re-using and exchanging content. Based on Microsoft InfoPath we are developing an authoring tool for the SCDL document format. The currently available prototype already provides a comfortable user interface for the authors, which shows a structural, 'semi-WYSIWYG' view of the document. The features implemented so far are sufficient for simple applications, but important components like mathematical formulas and special media elements are still to add.

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