The EnterPage 1-05
The ToolBook Developer's Newsletter from Platte Canyon Multimedia
August 20, 1998
In This Issue
OnLine Learning Euro '98: An
OnLine Learning '98 Preview
Answer Key Allows Users to Get The Answers They Need
NEW VERSION: Plug-In
Pro 4.0 adds even more power
Update: Learning and
Mastering ToolBook Instructor 6
Tracker - A Powerful Instructional Environment
Notes from the Underground
- The Art of the Possible
An Authorware Developer Comes Home
Customer Profile: Taurus
Training Services Ltd.
ToolBook Tips From Jeff Rhodes
The Courseware Engineering
Process: A Case Study by Eugene Jars
MediaLog: Voice-Over Recording
Coming in Next Issue
by Chris Bell
This newsletter's goal has always been to share information and opportunities for
ToolBook developers of all levels. Information comes to this issue via several articles
written by Platte Canyon employees and even a guest author. Opportunities in this
newsletter come in the form of new products for ToolBook developers. Answer Key
offers the wonderful feature of being able to see the answer to a ToolBook question. TBK
Tracker will offer powerful features for student tracking. Of course, the biggest
news is the impending arrival of the new CD-ROM based training course on how to use
ToolBook. Enjoy all of this and more in this issue of The EnterPage.
Euro '98: An Eye-Witness Account
by Jeff Rhodes
I had an outstanding time travelling to the "Cotswolds" of England for the
OnLine Learning Euro '98 conference. It was a great opportunity to see what others are
doing and put a face to the names from the ToolBook Listserv and news groups. We started
off with a pre-conference workshop day. Mike Brooks provided an excellent overview of
Instructor and Paolo Tosolini (Asymetrix) showed the group the newest RealMedia and
other very cool ActiveX controls. I talked about ToolBook Synergy as well as how to do
multilingual applications with our Plug-In Pro and monitor student status with our
Progress Tracker. That night, the camaraderie that would be the hallmark of the
conference began to show. Kevin Walter (who did a great job organizing the conference),
Paolo, and a bunch of the rest of us all took over an Indian restaurant in Cheltenham.
The next day started with a good keynote by John Newton of NCR. My session on some of
the tools and approaches that we're using for our upcoming ToolBook CBT was very
well-attended, although a couple people shook their heads a bit and left in search of
another session after they got a look at the scripting! I should point out that the
conference facilities were excellent. The college had 3-beam projectors in each room with
state-of-the-art sound systems. I wish that there had been classrooms like this when I was
in graduate school at the London School of Economics. For the rest of the first day, I
went to top-notch sessions by Graham Shipman (very nice CBT on English language for the
British Council), Peter de Jong (statistics of test question effectiveness that I'd like
to incorporate into the Test Tracker), Hens Zimmerman (excellent coding with the
now-famous phrase, "it only takes one line of code"), and Simon Price (some nice
scripting on dynamic sizing of objects). A big highlight of this day was the opportunity
to finally meet Marco Boella and Robert Illius of Taurus Training in London (see Customer
Profile). We've done lots of work for Taurus (and they have even bought all our products),
but we'd never met either of them. That night, we all went to the Cheltenham Race Track
for a good dinner and lots of fun betting on video-taped races. The fact that the proceeds
went to cancer research and that many of the races were named after Platte Canyon (we
helped sponsor the dinner) made it extra fun. We had a raffle for some Platte Canyon
T-Shirts as well as various Asymetrix products.
The last day began with the whole group having to endure my keynote speech, which was
actually a lot of fun. I then went to good sessions by John Twigg (showing some very nice
IconAuthor applications), Simon Price (evaluating Librarian), and Mike Beilby (outstanding
use of OpenScript and smart design for teaching Russian language). Then it was off to a
1-week vacation in Eastern Europe. Thanks to all the attendees and organizers for making
me feel so welcome. We're looking forward to attending this conference again next year.
OnLine Learning '98 Preview
Make sure to attend this premiere event for ToolBook developers. Formerly the
"ToolBook Developer's Conference," it promises to offer something for everyone,
and because it is part of a larger online learning event, you'll have the added bonus of
seeing the latest Internet training solutions.
This conference offers the unique ability for people to sit down in special Learning
Labs and actually try their hand on Platte Canyon products.
Here is your suggested OLL '98 Conference Schedule designed for you to see everything
Platte Canyon has to offer for "Improving the Lives of Training Developers."
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23 1:00 pm Experience and Evaluate "Learning and Mastering
ToolBook Instructor 6" (Hand's On Lab) Get a firsthand look at features of this
first commercial CBT on the use of ToolBook. Experience the "Let Me Try"
practice simulations, "Show Me" demonstrations, expert tips, OpenScript hints
and much more.
2:30 p.m. Add Sophisticated Student Tracking to ToolBook Applications Use the Progress
Tracker to quickly create a LAN-based, Neuron, or standalone CBT module with login,
sophisticated user information, page indexes, bookmarks, question pools and more.
4:00 p.m. Increase Your ToolBook Development Productivity Experience the dramatic
increase of productivity that comes from using the dozens of editors, utilities, and
shortcuts that make up the highly-popular Plug-In Pro and Plug-In LE products
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24 All Day Visit us in Booth 300 to learn more about Platte Canyon
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25 8:00 am Developing a "How To Use ToolBook" Product Get
"under the hood" of our state-of-the-art CBT on ToolBook. Explore ActiveX
components, scripting screen interactions, creating software simulations, developing
"Show Me" demonstrations, and more.
WIDGET: Answer Key Allows Users to Get The Answers They Need
Platte Canyon recently released this exciting extended object. Answer Key is a
catalog that allows you to drag buttons into your application that will:
- Show the answer to ANY CBT question object. For example, if you have a
"matching" question, then the "Show Answer" button will automatically
draw the correct lines (even after the answers are randomized). For an "arrange
objects" question, it will put all the pieces back in the right spot. For a multiple
choice question, it will depress the correct buttons. You get the idea. Another nice
feature is that you can edit the button's extended properties to set up WHEN you want the
button to appear: all the time or after a defined number of "wrong" tries.
- Reset your question. This is a simple button that finds the CBT question on your page
and resets it. It is useful if you want to see the answer and then reset it to start over.
- Check Your work. This is the standard Instructor Feedback button with a major
enhancement: It hides or shows itself depending on the type of question and the question's
settings. For example, if you have a multiple choice question with delayed feedback, it
shows itself. If not, it is hidden. If you are using a "matching" question, it
will show itself.
WHAT VERSIONS OF TOOLBOOK ARE SUPPORTED?
ToolBook Instructor 6
ToolBook Assistant 6
ToolBook Instructor 5
Multimedia ToolBook 4 CBT Edition
CAN I SEE A DEMO?
You can download a free demo for TB 4, 5, or 6 at
$45 per ToolBook Developer
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFO?
Plug-In Pro 4.0 adds even more power
Building on its already impressive set of over 50 utilities and editors, Plug-In
Pro version 4.0 adds some impressive new features including:
- The ability to import and export an unlimited number of graphic resources automatically.
For example, you can save all your bitmap resources to a directory with the Plug-In naming
each file the same as the resource name. You can then create an optimized palette, assign
the palette to each individual file, and then automatically replace all the bitmap
resources in the book with the new files (all without losing your chromakey settings).
- Assistant 6.1 support. Almost all of the Plug-In features work in Assistant.
For developers who also have Instructor loaded on the computer, the Plug-Ins provide
access to scripts, the command window, property browser, Tool Palette, etc.
- Show any page of any book in a viewer-saves lots of time when copying objects or scripts
(plus avoids multiple ToolBook instances).
- A new "Button Graphic" editor. This editor gives you the ability to select any
button on the current page or background (hidden or not) and assign or edit its graphics
(normal, invert, disabled, and checked). More importantly, these graphic references can
now be saved as part of the optional external content file, giving your application the
ability to change graphic resources in response to language or other user selections.
- All the Plug-In Pro editors (field, button, CBT question, etc.) now work for
background objects as well as page objects. This means that background content is now
easily changeable in multilingual applications.
Plug-In Pro: http://www.plattecanyon.com/pluginpro.aspx
Learning and Mastering ToolBook Instructor 6
Are you ready for feature-packed in-depth training on ToolBook Instructor? We are
nearing completion of this exciting CD-ROM based content rich application. Targeted at
both beginning Instructor users AND seasoned OpenScript veterans, this exciting
application contains training on all aspects of Instructor from creating objects to
embedding and accessing ActiveX components (and everything in between). The training is
packed with expert tips and openScript techniques, and it has fully animated
demonstrations as well as realistic "let me try" exercises.
More Info: http://www.plattecanyon.com/lmInstructor65.aspx
TBK Tracker - A Powerful Instructional Environment
Currently under development, TBK Tracker will provide a state of the art computer
managed instruction environment that is fully integrated with ToolBook Instructor. It
allows developers to very quickly link lessons into courses, provide bookmarking
capability, allow users to return to the last page they were on when they exited the
training, and much more. Its sophisticated administration capabilities include the ability
to manage students, courses, and lessons. One of its more innovative features is its
ability to assign users to one or more classes and base course assignments on class
Scheduled for release in late September, TBK Tracker promises to create quite a
stir in the ToolBook community.
the Underground: The Art of the Possible
by Jeffrey Zink, Ph.D.
Back in 1867, Otto Von Bismarck (first Chancellor of the German Empire) was quoted as
saying, "Politics is the art of the possible." Pretty smart guy, especially
since I think he wasn't really talking about politics-he was talking about developing CBT!
I have recently started a project, under a contract with some great folks at Creative
Training Concepts, to write telephone network maintenance software for one of their
clients. And I'm learning (or actually re-learning-sometimes I think this message never
sticks in my brain) that CBT developers walk a thin line between creativity and
practicality. Sitting with a client brainstorming about various approaches to teaching a
particular concept is a very exciting time. Ideas flow like liquid diamonds all over the
room as you collectively bring forth new and creative ways to get the information into the
head of your end-user. But often these moments are followed by the dreaded brainstorming
hangover, where you are left to figure out how in the world you can write code to make
ToolBook do what you (in a moment of excitement and weakness) said it could do. Oops.
Well, here are a few quick thoughts that might help ease that hangover:
--Be careful what you offer--they just might like it! I have found it very helpful to
hedge just a bit if I'm entering what for me are uncharted scripting waters (which, with
my level of experience) I see a lot!).
--Remember this: "You know more than you think you do . . .and less." This
means (I think) that you probably can do more than you realize, especially since ToolBook
is both powerful and pretty developer-friendly. The "less" part is actually a
good thing as well. What it means is that while you may not have solved some particular
coding puzzle, chances are somebody has. Use co-workers, colleagues, and especially the
news groups to research possible solutions. There really is no such thing as a stupid
question--believe me, if there were I would have already asked it!
--Consider "Rapid Prototyping." This is a Platte Canyon operating philosophy
that we have found over the years brings much more success (i.e., greater client
satisfaction with fewer "re-do's"). We get our clients to work with us as
genuine partners in the development process. Based on our initial brainstorming, create
one or two modules of the application, and then ship that to the client for initial
review. Even when this prototype isn't exactly what the client had envisioned, it serves
to create an on-going dialogue during development, leading to a well-defined product with
no surprises for the client.
Those are just a few quick thoughts-I'm sure you have developed your own guidelines and
techniques as you've walked that thin line toward the art of the profitable.
An Authorware Developer Comes
by Cindy Kessler
[Editor's Note: Platte Canyon is extremely pleased that Cindy Kessler has come on
board. Jeff and Chris worked with Cindy a couple of years ago at Titan Corporation. Since
then, Cindy has primarily used AuthorWare. We asked Cindy to write about her return to
Beyond the envy that the merely talented sometimes feel for those with genius, I'm
delighted to be working with this team. One thing about sabbaticals, however, they
certainly force new perspectives. I'll never be able to view ToolBook the same after
living, eating, and sleeping with the competition.
When I first left ToolBook and picked up Authorware over two years ago, my initiation
project was a Return On Investment (ROI) tool that should never have left the spreadsheet
environment. As I sketched initial design and programming notes, I blithely integrated
multidimensional arrays and user-defined functions. Then I launched Authorware and began
development. Within an hour I was combing the documentation in a state of panic and
frustration. "Yes, but how do you define arrays? And how do you re-use the same chunk
of code (you know, functions, handlers, procedures)?" Alas, in a state of serious
embarrassment I broke down and asked the exiting Authorware guru. Her answer was simple:
"What do you mean, you don't? You don't WHAT?"
"You don't define arrays and functions. You can't."
Imagine, if you dare, trying to develop a serious financial tool for the analysis of
massive quantities of user entered data with a single, one-dimensional array at your
disposal and no way to define functions. It was a rude introduction to Authorware. No
better project could have been chosen to set Authorware's weakness into high relief.
Authorware was not designed for high-end scripting. (Although Macromedia has since added
user-defined multi-dimensional arrays to its capabilities.)
Before you start getting too smug about ToolBook, however
enter stage right the
next project - an action-packed multimedia training with a wicked schedule. We're talking
razzle-dazzle A/V and animations, due "yesterday if you can't get it to us any
Let me tell you, Authorware can SHINE folks. Slap down the design flow and you have
your program. Import media into libraries and drag into place and you're cooking with gas.
Throw in a few effects and take a few seconds to drag some graphics around and you've
created slick animations in about four minutes. And it LOOKS GOOD. And it's FUN. And it's
FAST. AS LONG AS YOU STAY WITHIN ITS SCOPE!
But I really don't want this to become a debate; anyone interested in "Compare and
Contrast" issues can simply search the AWARE or TOOLB_L list archives and get a queue
full (choose your archive based on the answer you want). I really have only two things to
A. It's delightful to have the power of ToolBook's OpenScript back at my fingertips.
B. It's frustrating to be missing some of the utilities and features I've become used
to in Authorware.
But guess what. I'm working with Platte Canyon now, which means I can use A to start
Profile: Taurus Training Services Ltd.
Taurus Training produces a suite of software programs designed specifically to meet the
needs of interactive training in, and analysis of, property, casualty, marine and the
financial aspects of reinsurance. Their customer list reads like a "who's who"
of the reinsurance industry, including leading Lloyd's syndicates. Taurus uses the Platte
Canyon Progress Tracker and Tracker Administrator products as part of all of
its CBT modules. In addition, they are using the Plug-In Pro to deploy their newest
versions in Spanish, French, German, English, and American (and who said Americans speak
English!). Marco Boella, the Chairman of Taurus Training, also provided the ideas and
requirements for the Tracker Navigator product as well as the new Plug-In capability
to export bitmaps resources, apply a common palette, and then re-import them. Taurus's
training modules are state-of-the-art! You should especially see their ability to show the
path of any hurricane this century - it is very slick.
Taurus Training Services Ltd
67 Brynmaer Rd
London SW11 4EN
Tel: + 44 (0) 171 720 2012
Fax: + 44 (0) 171 498 9693
by Jeff Rhodes
TIP 1 OF 2
For the OnLine Learning Euro '98 keynote address, I put together a book that randomly
shows one of the Agent ActiveX characters, changes it every five seconds, and has the
character fly around the screen. While you can download the book from
http://www.plattecanyon.com/articles/tbmemorylane.htm, I thought I'd point out a few
Q. How do you make the Agent characters continue to change and fly
around the screen BUT be able to stop and leave the page at any time?
A. The page script is shown below. I start a single timer on the
enterPage in order to make the character show up immediately. I then (in the timerNotify
handler) start a periodic timer that is sent every eight seconds. I stop this timer and
hide the character on the leavePage.
to handle enterPage
posList of this page = "1,55,49,7"
oneTimeTimerID of this page = timerStart("single",500,100, self)
to handle leavePage
if timerID of this page <> null
get timerStop(timerID of this page)
timerID of this page = null
oneTimeTimerID of this page = null
currentPos of this page = null
to handle timerNotify timerID
if timerID = oneTimeTimerID of this page
timerID of this page = timerStart("periodic",8000,1000,this book)
Q. What is the forward doing in the timerNotify handler above?
A. I wanted to use the same code at the book level to show the
character based on the one-time timer and the periodic timer. So when the one-time timer
fires off, I forward the message to the book script and then launch the periodic timer.
Here's the book level timerNotify handler:
to handle timerNotify timerID
when timerID = timerID of this page
when timerID = oneTimeTimerID of this page
newNar = ASYM_RandomList(1,narrationList of this book)
if newNar = narratorCharacter of this book
narParam = null
narParam = newNar
newGest = ASYM_RandomList(1,animationList of this page)
tempPosList = posList of this page
posNum = ASYM_ItemOffset((currentPos of this page),tempPosList)
when posNum = 0
when posNum = itemCount(tempPosList)
newPos = item 1 of tempPosList
newPos = item (posNum + 1) of tempPosList
currentPos of this page = newPos
send KYShowNarrator newGest, newPos, "useAnimation", narParam
TIP 2 OF 2
Here's a quick command level script that I used yesterday for the situation where a
customer had put a button on their interface to show the current chapter. We then decided
to use this button for displaying whether a given chapter was required. Unfortunately, the
buttons weren't initially named. So they would be hard to work with at the "book
script" level. Rather than manually going to hundreds of pages to rename the buttons,
I found the position of the button and used this script from the command window:
step num from 1 to pageCount of this book
objList = getObjectList (page num, "button", false)
while objList <> null
if position of it = "375,315" AND normalGraphic of it <> null
name of it = "chapterButton"
push num onto pagesChanged
Engineering Process: A Case Study
by Eugene Jars
[Editor's Note: This is something new for this newsletter: an article written by
someone outside of Platte Canyon. While Platte Canyon uses a different courseware
development approach based on Rapid Prototyping, we thought Mr. Jars' approach might be of
interest. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Converting a paper-based storyboard to a Computer-Based Training (CBT) application
requires a systematic approach. This article will discuss the courseware engineering
process that I use to develop Computer-Based Training for the US Air Force. My job as a
packager is to take various elements of a CBT project and package these components
together into an interactive, multimedia product. This model is only a part of the
Instructional Design Process. Other processes and decisions have been made prior to
receiving the storyboard.
In the pre-production phase, the packager's primary role is that of an advisor. The
packager advises the CBT author on what can be accomplished under the constraints of the
work environment. Typically, this advice will include time estimates on how long it would
take to produce any complex interactions.
Once the packager receives the storyboard and the associated computer files (BMP, WAV,
MPEG etc.), the production phase begins. There are three steps to the production phase:
Problem Analysis, Solution Design and Coding and Testing.
Problem Analysis The first step in the production phase is Problem Analysis. The
packager reviews the storyboard page by page and communicates with the CBT author to
clarify any points that are unclear. The packager proceeds to convert the author's verbal
and written instructions into a precise, highly descriptive plain-English statement that
becomes part of the Design Document. Because ToolBook uses a book metaphor as its
organizing principle, we write our storyboards in a book format, with chapters and pages.
This one-to-one correspondence between our storyboards and ToolBook enables the packager
to quickly translate the individual pages of the storyboard into a CBT.
Solution Design The next step in the Production Phase is the Solution Design. In this
step, the packager refines the plain-English statements into the standard ToolBook
conventions. The packager reuses as much code as possible from previous projects and
writes any new code that is needed. We use OpenScript (ToolBook's scripting language),
which is powerful enough that we currently do not need any other programming language. Any
new code is added to the OpenScript code library for use in other projects.
Included in the Solution Design step is the testing strategy. We have general testing
guidelines that are used with every CBT, but the packager devises any testing strategies
that are specific to the individual CBT.
Coding and Testing The next step of the production phase is Coding and Testing. If the
Problem Analysis and Solution Design steps were done correctly, the Coding step should be
a mechanical process. All of the plain-English statements should now be in the standard
Incremental testing is done during the Coding step. Once an object, page or chapter is
completed, it is then tested. By incrementally testing each object, chapter and page as it
is completed, mistakes are promptly found and corrected. This prevents any errors from
After the packager is satisfied the CBT conforms to the storyboard, the CBT is then
reviewed by the subject matter expert (SME). Any changes made are noted, and depending on
the complexity of the change the packager goes through the courseware engineering process
again. The final version and all associate files are saved to a CD-ROM for permanent
Maintenance is also part of the courseware engineering process. Our CBTs are designed
with the knowledge that they will be updated or changed at a later date. When a CBT is
ready for revision or maintenance, the courseware engineering process starts again.
A disciplined approach to developing courseware is essential to delivering a superior
product. This article describes one process, however other processes are known to be
equally successful. The important point is that trying to produce a CBT with no plan at
all will delay the project and cause many hours of frustration.
by Chris Bell
Before updating Platte Canyon's in-house recording capabilities, I took some time to
look into how companies are recording their voice-overs these days. My research consisted
of soliciting opinions on audio recording gear from various news groups including the
ToolBook users newsgroup. The results were surprisingly disparate, with some virtual
arguments arising out of the various opinions. We haven't made any firm decisions on the
path that we are going to take, but it may be helpful to share the information we have
gathered to this point.
The most critical debate involves how the recording is originally captured. Is it
better to record to a tape (either DAT or high-fi analog)? Or is it better to record
straight to the hard disk? While we have always recorded straight to the hard disk, we are
considering recording to tape from now on so we can always have a pristine high-resolution
original set of recordings. We have not yet completely decided however.
Now, here is a quick run down of the equipment we have identified as important,
regardless of the recording technique.
For PC use, SoundForge wins. We have been using this software for years and it just keeps
getting better. The newest version even comes with the batch editing capabilities that
used to be a separate product.
It is important to have a good sound card that is designed to capture recorded audio. Most
consumer level cards are made to play music (MIDI) primarily, and treat recording as a
secondary concern. There are a lot of opinions about the Turtle Beach Multisound Pinnacle
sound card (and its predecessor the Tahiti). Some people love it. Others say it has poor
technical support and isn't worth its fairly high price. However, it's audio capture
ratings are high, and it even has an optional Digital I/O component which would be great
for capturing audio from DAT. We still need to conduct more research in this area.
The general consensus is that a good microphone makes a big difference. Microphones for
studio recording are typically more sensitive than their rock and roll stage-based
cousins. We have been advised to go for a large diaphragm, condenser mic. Two names that
have come up are Audio Technica AT3525 and the Shure Beta 87A. We are still testing, but
both of these microphones sound great.
Mic Pre-Amp / Processor
Most studio quality microphones like the ones mentioned above need a power supply which is
usually generated by a battery in the microphone or a "phantom power supply,"
supplied by a mic pre-amp. We have been advised that if we're going to get a pre-amp, we
might as well get a processor for about the same cost. We have are looking at the dbx
Project 1 286 which has some important sound compressors and other potentially useful
features for voice-over recording.
We still have some more research to do, but in identifying the key parts of the set up,
we feel confident that our next in-house voice-overs will be the best yet.
Coming in the Next
Issue of the EnterPage
- OnLine Learning '98 Conference Report
- Full Preview: Learning & Mastering ToolBook Instructor 6
- More Notes from the Underground by Jeffrey Zink
- More OpenScript tips from Jeff Rhodes
- TBK Tracker Update
- Focus on a Platte Canyon Customer
Suggestions for articles or proposals for article
submissions are welcome. Send information to
EP@plattecanyon.com. Back issues of the EnterPage are
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