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The EnterPage 2-01

The ToolBook Developer's Newsletter
February 22, 1999

Issue 2-01


The EnterPage 1-04

The ToolBook Developer's Newsletter from Platte Canyon Multimedia Software
June 3, 1998

In This Issue

Jeff Rhodes to Keynote OnLine Learning '98 European Conference
Update: Learning and Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6
Notes from the Underground: Effective Teaching in a Feedback Vacuum
Platte Canyon Products for Instructor™ (and now Assistant™ Too!)
Platte Canyon To Create the "TBK Tracker™"
Hands-On Opportunities at OnLine Learning '98: Learning Labs
Drop By our Booth and Attend Jeff's Technical Session at OnLine Learning '98
Customer Profile: Optibiz Solutions
ToolBook Tips From Jeff Rhodes
Conference Schedule: Come meet us!
Coming in Next Issue
EnterPage Submissions
Subscription Information


Welcome to issue 1-04 of The EnterPage, the newsletter from Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation (http://www.plattecanyon.com). The purpose of this newsletter is to keep you informed of new products and developments in the world of Asymetrix and Platte Canyon as well as to offer some pointers on Asymetrix ToolBook Instructor™ and Assistant™ development.

Jeff Rhodes to Keynote OnLine Learning '98 European Conference

Platte Canyon is honored that Jeff Rhodes has been asked to be the final day keynote speaker for the OnLine Learning '98 European Conference to be held July 21 - 23. Jeff will speak on ""Past, Present, and Future: A Trip down ToolBook's Memory Lane"

Those of us who are ToolBook developers have seen many changes over the last 5+ years: new product features, Windows 95/NT, HTML & Java, ActiveX, and much more. Let's take a look together at the evolution of both ToolBook and the CBT market in general since the early 1990's. We'll address such innovations as viewers, rich text, shared scripts, VBX & ActiveX controls, Catalog objects, HTML/Java Export, Assistant™, Synergy, and much more. Then we'll take a few moments to examine where ToolBook and CBT development are likely to go as we proceed to the next millennium. And finally, what does that mean to us, the ToolBook developers?

Related to this topic, Jeff is going to discuss some of the key past and current contributions of European ToolBook developers. He would appreciate any input on additional developers to add to his growing list.

In addition to his keynote engagement, Jeff will present a session entitled "Using Instructor™ To Create Software Training: A Case Study." He may also be conducting a pre-conference session on ToolBook Synergy. Finally, Jeff will demonstrate Platte Canyon's growing stable of products at the conference. He looks forward to seeing some of you there!

Platte Canyon will also sponsor the OnLine Learning '98 European Conference for the first time. In particular, we are helping to underwrite the conference dinner, to be held at the Home of National Hunt Racing, Cheltenham Race Course...We hope that this is the first of many years of collaboration between Asymetrix (UK), the European developer community, and Platte Canyon.

Update: Learning and Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6

The upcoming CD-ROM on how to use ToolBook Instructor™ is progressing at a rapid pace. Rich with content, "Show Me" demonstrations, "Let Me Try" practice simulations, and expert tips, this training package will help the novice or experienced ToolBook developer. The project is just completing a major Alpha Test phase, where feedback has been very positive (though very substantial). Thanks to all of you who have provided us such insightful comments.

Watch for the official announcement before OnLine Learning '98 (the U.S. ToolBook Developer's Conference) September 23 - 25.

Notes from the Underground: Effective Teaching in a Feedback Vacuum

by Jeffrey Zink, Ph.D.

In my last article, I mentioned that I worked in a basement office. So you may have painted this picture of me as some sort of recluse or hermit, a stereotypical computer nerd with no social skills. But you'd be wrong.

Not only is that an unfair view of computer folks, it's only half a picture of me. Yes, I do spend countless hours in front of my monitor without another human around. However, in my alter ego, I'm a motivational speaker and business consultant on ethics and leadership. In that role, I often find myself comfortably in front of large audiences who sit spellbound as I exhort them with the benefits of building a positive ethical climate in their organizations. (OK, at least I think they're spellbound-they might be unconscious.) In addition, I have spent nearly ten years as a classroom teacher, teaching Philosophy and Logic to thousands of students (many of whom were in fact asleep).

And I'm learning something as I get more comfortable in my role as Director of CBT Development, and especially as lead developer on the biggest and most important project we have ever undertaken, "Learning and Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6." While the two lives I lead seem to be completely opposite, I am finding that one cardinal rule will help to guarantee success in either environment:

There is no such thing as too much empathy.

Empathy is that wonderful human ability to see the world from someone else's perspective. It's my belief that if we could increase empathy everywhere by even a small amount, this world would be an even more wonderful place to live. Think about how you would treat friends, associates, or complete strangers if you could be more empathetic--if you could feel their pain, their joy.

So what does this have to do with writing CBT? Everything! When I first started writing CBT for an audience I knew I would never see, I felt blind, deaf, and mostly dumb. I had spent years in classrooms and auditoriums learning how to adjust my message on the fly, reading body language and listening to questions--using that feedback to tweak what I had to say to make sure it was getting through. But you can't do that sitting in front of a computer, writing for an audience that doesn't yet exist.

Here's where empathy comes in. I'm sure you have been in an audience or in a classroom, on the receiving end of teaching or training. And I'm sure you have been on the receiving end of CBT. Think about it--the goal is the same in both cases. So what works in one arena will likely work in the other as well. You just have to substitute real feedback (classroom) for imagined feedback (CBT) as you ask yourself, "If I'm on the other end of this monitor, is the message getting through?" Ask yourself some more specific questions:

"Are we having FUN yet?"
Let's be real here. People want to have fun. They want to be entertained. I don't care how serious or weighty the subject matter is, lighten it up! I remember well as a B-52 bombardier (another past life!) sitting through training classes on war-time bombing mission tactics thinking how incredibly boring the material was (even though I knew it was literally a life-and-death matter). The problem is (remember empathy here) when you're bored as a student, you're not going to learn very well. If your end-user is bored, you (as a developer) are wasting your time. Alleviate the boredom by injecting humor, or unrelated insights to help refocus your audience.

"Think about it like this."
One of the best tools in your teaching kit is the ability to restate an idea in a different way, using different analogies, etc. Don't leave that tool in the classroom. There are ways to provide alternatives in CBT as well. Use "more information" buttons or other optional devices that are available for the struggling student but don't get in the way of someone who has "got it" already.

"Are you still with me?"
Empathy tells us that we need to be especially sensitive to anything that will mentally shut down a student. Unexplained acronyms, insider information, techno-speak, and stereotypes (especially race, ethnic, gender, etc.) all can contribute to placing barriers between you (i.e., your application) and your student. And barriers are bad, because they get in the way of what you're trying to do. Empathy forces us to ask: How do you react as a student when you begin to feel isolated? Look objectively at your CBT to see where you might be erecting barriers to knowledge.

Interestingly, we are beginning to address all of these issues in a more systematic way as a subcontractor to LinCom Corporation. The goal is to integrate LinCom's Intelligent Computer-Aided Training (ICAT) program into commercial CBT authoring tools such as ToolBook Instructor™ 6. ICAT has been used for years by NASA to improve astronaut training. As a CBT enhancement, ICAT will understand a student's weaknesses and strengths, and modify feedback, navigation, and even lesson content "on the fly," customizing the presentation for optimum learning. Used in combination with sophisticated tracking software (such as our Progress Tracker™), it would be the equivalent of having a tutor (you!) on site to make the kind of individualized teaching adjustments that make for a great class. I guess you could say that Platte Canyon and LinCom are working on a virtually unbeatable teaching combination!

These are only a few thoughts on the practical use of empathy. I'm sure you can come up with many more. But the point is that developing a strong sense of empathy can do wonders to close the reality gap between classroom and virtual teaching.

Platte Canyon Products for Instructor™ (and now Assistant™ Too!)

Plug-In Pro™

The powerful Platte Canyon Plug-In Pro™duct line has now expanded to support ToolBook Assistant™ developers too! Now developers in either the Assistant™ or the Instructor™ environment can experience features such as:

The most exciting features for users of BOTH Instructor™ and Assistant™ is that the Plug-Ins give you the ability to perform "Instructor-like" tasks from within Assistant™. For example, you can view scripts, access the property editor, show the Tool Palette, open the Command Window, and much more. All without having to reopen your book inside of Instructor. "Assistant™-only" users will not have these features, but will be able to take advantage of virtually all the rest of the Plug-In capabilities.

  • User Properties Editor. View and edit user properties at the book, background, page, and object level.
  • "Resource Finder" tool for locating the objects using a particular shared script, menubar, bitmap, icon, or cursor resource.
  • Magnification Tool. Zoom in and out in author or reader mode. Select a particular object to zoom in on.
  • Name all objects of a particular type (fields, buttons, lines, etc.) automatically.
  • Create fields, buttons, or combo boxes with a particular font, color, name, and many other characteristics. Save these settings as styles to be used at any time.
  • "Compact" feature saves your book with an optional second name and then re-saves it as the original name with the click of one button.
  • Export all bitmap resources and then launch Palette Optimizer.
  • Import all bitmaps or icons from a particular directory as resources of a book.
  • Create a Spell Checking File that contains all text in your book for spell checking in your favorite word processor.
  • Show and hide objects -- either all together or by particular object type.

Plug-In Pro™ adds the power of content editors. These editors are great for editing the content of all fields on a page in on central window. In addition, Plug-In Pro™ has the ability to store all content externally. This means that you can have a multilingual application that switches languages on the fly.

For more information on the Platte Canyon Plug-Ins, go to: http://www.plattecanyon.com/pluginpro.aspx

Progress Tracker™

Platte Progress Tracker™ tracks students and much more! Here's the typical experience of someone using YOUR training enhanced by the Platte Canyon's Progress Tracker™:

  • The users start the training that you created.
  • They see a log-in screen with their name either in the main name window or in the drop-down box where it can be easily clicked. If it's a first-time user, the name can be entered manually.
  • They are then given the option to return to the last page viewed or go to the main start page.
  • As they go through YOUR training, they see a page that they want to mark. They bring up the book-mark feature where they can mark the page to return to later. All of the other bookmarks that they entered are displayed here too.
  • If they want to find a page on a particular subject, they can call up the index of all pages in your application and go to whichever one they want.
  • Now, they navigate to your table of contents page. They immediately see which sections they have completed by looking at the navigation buttons.
  • They take a minute to bring up the screen that reports on their progress throughout the course. In addition to showing sections completed, they also see scores on section quizzes and the amount of time they spent in each section.
  • Now, it's time for them to take a certification test on your training material. They click the "Take a Test" button. As the developer, you have specified how many questions will be presented on the test. You have also created the "test pool." This test pool contains as many questions as you want. Each time a student presses the "Take a Test" button, a new test is created by pulling questions from the test pool.
  • After the test, they see their results. They can navigate to the pages that address the topics covered on any test question.
  • If you had the Tracker Administrator™, the manager could look at reports on all students who have taken the course via your Local Area Network. If you had multiple courses that used Progress Tracker™, you could see information on all students on all courses.
  • If you had the Test Tracker™, you could see detailed information on student performance for each question. You could see the amount of time they took to answer each question and much more.
  • If you had the Tracker Navigator™, each type of student (beginner, experienced, manager) could have a customized path through your training where they would see only the pages that applied to them.

Progress Tracker™ FAMILY

Harness the power of the Platte Canyon Progress Tracker™ Family of products and offer truly exceptional computer based training. For more information go to: http://www.plattecanyon.com/tracker


Platte Canyon Controller™ - Navigate to pages in different ToolBook applications in a presentation.

Learning and Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6 - Available September, 1998.

Platte Canyon To Create the "TBK Tracker™"

We're pleased to announce that we will develop a new student tracking product which we are tentatively calling the "TBK Tracker™." The product will address ToolBook CBT configurations that are not well suited for our Progress Tracker™ family of products. Specifically, the TBK Tracker™ will have the ability to assign and track courses consisting of a set of "lessons" which are each separate ToolBook files. Users will have a central login to the course as a whole. Data will be stored in binary format for added security. Stay tuned for more details.

Hands-On Opportunities at OnLine Learning '98: Learning Labs

Many of you have undoubtedly received your OnLine Learning '98 schedule. We hope that you will join us for one or all of our hands-on learning labs on the first day of the conference (Wed., September 23rd). You will have the opportunity to sit at high-powered computers and try out all the products yourself. Here is the schedule (all on Wednesday):

1:00 - 2:00, "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6 CBT" by Dr. Jeffrey Zink

2:30 - 3:30, "Add Sophisticated Student Tracking to ToolBook Applications" by Jeff Rhodes

4:00 - 5:00, "Increase Your ToolBook Development Productivity" [featuring the Plug-In Pro™] by Chris Bell

Drop By our Booth and Attend Jeff's Technical Session at OnLine Learning '98

We hope that all of you attending the OnLine Learning '98 show will also come visit our booth. It is number 300, just off to your left when you enter the exhibition hall. We'll be demonstrating "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6", the Tracker family of products, the Plug-In Pro™, the Controller™, and more.

And as if you won't have seen us enough, we hope that you can attend Jeff's technical session:

1:30 - 2:30 (Thursday): "Developing a "How to Use ToolBook' product: A Case Study."

This session will look at the most interesting aspects of the new 'Instructor™ 6' CBT - advanced software simulation, a brand new technique/tool for creating 'screen cam' type demonstrations from within ToolBook, the use of the Microsoft Agent ActiveX control, creating cool interactions with OpenScript, lessons learned, and much more.

Due to scheduling error, please note that this session is being moved to Thursday, September 23rd from the Wednesday time slot shown in the brochure.

Customer Profile: Optibiz Solutions

OptiBiz Solutions is a premiere developer of online training and computer-based training (CBT) solutions. Based in San Jose, California, OptiBiz offers custom training applications that are characterized by strong interface and sophisticated instructional design.

OptiBiz uses Platte Canyon's products to round-out its feature-rich training applications. Joe NguyenLe, President of OptiBiz, used other authoring tools like Apple Media Tools, Macromedia Director and Authorware before switching to ToolBook in 1996. Platte Canyon benefited from Joe's user interface mastery earlier this year when he redesigned the Progress Tracker™ dialog boxes (such as the log-in box).

In this virtual world of software development, we at Platte Canyon have never had the opportunity to shake Joe's hand in person. All communication has been done via telephone and the Internet. We look forward to finally meeting him a conference later this year. You can contact Joe at: jnguyenle@optibiz.com.

ToolBook Tips From Jeff Rhodes

Once again, most of the tips for this issue are related to the "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6" project.

We had a very complicated "arrange objects" CBT question and thought, "wouldn't it be nice to have a 'Show Answers' button to put all the objects into their right places?" It was a little hairy, but once that script worked, we decided to expand it to "Order Text" questions as well. Here's the script (implemented as a shared script of a 'Show Answers' button):

to handle buttonClick
	local object questionID
	local stack objectList, answerList
	local tempAnswerArray[][]
	local word numAnswers
	local int numDifferentAnswers
	local point answerPosition
	local long num, num2, num3
	local answerIndex[][]
	local string objectName,questionType

	questionID = getQuestionID(this page)
	tempAnswerArray = asym_wid_ansArray of questionID
	questionType = ASYM_WID_QType of questionID
		when questionType = "ORDEROBJ"
			numAnswers = item 1 of dimensions(tempAnswerArray)
			numDifferentAnswers = 0
			step num from 1 to numAnswers
				objectName = tempAnswerArray[num][1]
				if ASYM_ItemOffset(objectName,answerList) = 0
					push objectName onto answerList
				end if
				push num onto ASYM_WID_ResponseIDs of questionID -- so answer will be scored correct
			end step
			while answerList <> null
				pop answerList into objectName
				objectList = ASYM_GetObjectListByName(this page,"",FALSE,objectName)
				while objectList <> null
					pop objectList
					if ASYM_WID_ResetPosition of it <> null
						position of it = ASYM_WID_ResetPosition of it
					end if
				end while
			end while
		when questionType = "ORDERTEXT"
			text of field "dragText" of questionID = tempAnswerArray[1][1]
	end conditions
	if isObject (field "feedback" of this page)
		text of field "feedback" of this page = null
	end if
end buttonClick

Notice that this script uses our getQuestionID() function. Here it is:

to get getQuestionID page pageID, string allQuestions
	local stack widgetList, questionList
	local string questionID,qName

	if "tb60r.sbk" is not in sysBooks
		push "tb60r.sbk" onto sysBooks
	end if
	widgetList = ASYM_CollectWidgets(pageID)
	while widgetList <> null
		pop widgetList
		qName = tbk_wid_name of it
		if (qName contains "ASYM_Q" OR qName = "Fill-In Hotword")
			questionID = it
			if allQuestions = null
				return questionID
				push questionID onto questionList
			end if
		end if
	end while
	return questionList
end getQuestionID

The rest of the examples for this issue are "clean-up" scripts used to help ensure that our alpha release didn't have obvious errors.

Since most fields should be activated in our CBT, we search the book and jump to any pages with unactivated fields to take a look. We then use the Plug-In Pro™ field editors to set all fields on the page to activated in one "swoop."

step num from (pageNumber of this page + 1) to pageCount of this book
	fieldList = getObjectList(page num, "field", false)
	while fieldList <> null
		pop fieldList
		if activated of it = false
			go to page num
			request (name of it)
			break step
		end if
	end while
end step

This script goes through the book and sets any button that has a borderStyle of none (typically this is a button with a graphic in it that looks like a button) to be excluded from the tab order. This avoids the dotted "focus" lines around graphical buttons.

step num from (pageNumber of this page + 1) to pageCount of this book
	buttonList = getObjectList(page num, "button", false)
	while buttonList <> null
		pop buttonList
		if (borderStyle of it = "none" AND excludeTab of it = false AND enabled of it = true)
			excludeTab of it = true
		end if
	end while
end step 

Until next time, Happy "OpenScripting." - Jeff

Conference Schedule: Come meet us!

Platte Canyon is at many of the training and development conferences that occur in the industry. Come see us at any of the following events:

Learning Technology Conference

(Formerly Interactive 98)
Session: "CBT Authoring Plug-Ins as Time (and Headache) Savers"
Session 511, Tuesday, June 16; 1:20 - 2:30 PM.
Atlanta, June 15 - 17
More info: http://www.learningtechnology.com/
Chris and Jeff will also be hosting a Director Special Interest Breakfast on Monday (June 15) and a ToolBook Breakfast on Tuesday (June 16)

OnLine Learning '98 European Conference

(Formerly Asymetrix European Developer's Conference)
Keynote Session: "Past, Present and Future: A Trip down ToolBook's Memory Lane"
Presentation: "Using Instructor™ To Create Software Training: A Case Study."
Exhibiting Platte Canyon Products.
Cheltenham & Gloucester College of H.E
United Kingdom, July 21 - 23

On Line Learning '98

(Formerly Asymetrix Developer's Conference)
Silver Sponsor
Learning Laboratory (Wed, Sep 23) featuring hands-on demonstrations of Platte Canyon products.

Wednesday, September 23

1:00 - 2:00, "Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor™ 6 CBT" by Dr. Jeffrey Zink
2:30 - 3:30, "Add Sophisticated Student Tracking to ToolBook Applications" by Jeff Rhodes
4:00 - 5:00, "Increase Your ToolBook Development Productivity" [featuring the Plug-In Pro™] by Chris Bell

Thursday, September 24

1:30 - 2:30: "Developing a "How to Use ToolBook' product: A Case Study" by Jeff Rhodes

Also Impromptu Sessions at the Platte Canyon Booth (#300) in the Exhibit Hall
September 23 - 25

Learning Technology Conference (Fall)

October 5 - 7, 1998
Anaheim, California
"Developing Computer-Based Training to Teach ToolBook: A Case Study in Effective Design" by Jeff Rhodes

Coming in the Next Issue of the EnterPage

  • OnLine Learning '98 Conference Preview
  • OnLine Learning '98 - European Conference Report
  • ActiveX and Instructor: What's the Buzz?
  • Notes from the Underground by Jeffrey Zink
  • OpenScript tips from Jeff Rhodes
  • TBK Tracker™ Update
  • Focus on a Platte Canyon Customer

EnterPage Submissions

Suggestions for articles or proposals for article submissions are welcome. Send information to EP@plattecanyon.com. Back issues of the EnterPage are available at http://www.plattecanyon.com/enterpage.aspx.

Subscription Information

The EnterPage is distributed 4 times a year, with occasional special issues. Individuals who have expressed interest in Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation or its products receive The EnterPage. If you do not wish to receive future issues, send an email message to EP@plattecanyon.com with the word "unsubscribe" in the subject line. New subscriptions are available by sending an email message to EP@plattecanyon.com with the word "subscribe" in the subject line and the person's name and company in the text of the message.


.. .. Copyright 1999 Platte Canyon Multimedia Software Corporation