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Rapid Development Toolkit for Flash Developers

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Rapid Intake, best known for its popular e-Learning Developer Series line of books, announced that it has released a new rapid development toolkit for e-learning developers using Macromedia Flash.

The toolkit, called Flash Companion, is designed to quickly create scalable maintainable courses that automatically communicate with SCORM conformant learning management systems (LMSs).

“The Flash Companion toolkit is going to be a big time and headache saver for anyone creating e-learning using Flash,” says Steven Hancock, Product Manager. “Any course development project requires a certain amount of attention and time spent on navigation, architecture, and communication with the LMS. The Flash Companion toolkit takes care of all of that for developers so they can focus on developing the learning content.”

The toolkit produces a course with an architecture based on XML (eXtensible Markup Language), a scalable universal format for structured information on the Internet. The use of XML separates content from the navigation and architecture.

“With XML organizing the content and Flash serving it up,” Hancock says, “it makes pulling a course together pretty simple. The developer creates individual SWF files that get dynamically loaded into the course at the time the learner wants it. Developers don’t even have to go into the main Flash file-they can create content using any tool that outputs to SWF and then just organize it with simple edits to the XML files.”

“As e-learning becomes a more mainstream solution to human performance problems, creating e-learning courseware has to become easier,” says Garin Hess, CEO. “Creating e-learning will one day be as commonplace in the training industry as using spreadsheets is in the Accounting world. To be able to update a course by editing simple text files is a big step in that direction. Using Flash Companion, a new e-learning developer can put a course together in days, or even hours in some cases, instead of weeks or months.”

Rapid Intake suggests the toolkit has as much or more relevance to advanced e-learning developers as well.

“Even if you know how to create an XML-based architecture in Flash,” says Hancock, “why would you want to re-create the wheel? Plus you get all of these other great features along with it, and it’s SCORM conformant. Besides, advanced developers can customize the toolkit to their hearts content because they get all of the source files.”

One of the toolkit’s features is that it conforms with the SCORM 1.2 e-learning design standard. Flash Companion’s conformity with SCORM 1.2 standards ensures that courses created with the toolkit will easily integrate with any SCORM conformant Learning Management System (LMS).

The Flash Companion toolkit features:

- An XML-based multi-level table of contents that allows for any number of TOC levels and entries.

- An XML-based context-sensitive glossary that allows for an unlimited number of terms

- Courses created using the toolkit are SCORM 1.2 conformant

- ActionScript functions that you can access to get and set SCORM data.

- Navigation controls that include multi-level Table of Contents, Next/Back, Glossary, and Read Transcript.

- Visual progress indicators in the table of contents that show learner what topics have been completed

- Full-featured flash media controllers

- A customizable user interface

- Content and Glossary text based on Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) standards

- External SWF content files make for quick download speeds

- External ActionScript files allow for additional customization

The benefits for developers include:

- Focus on the content creation–the navigation, architecture, and SCORM communication is already done for you!

- The TOC is built based on an external XML file, so adding and removing topics and entire lessons is a snap!

- Add Glossary terms and definitions simply by updating the XML text file.

- Easily add context-sensitive glossary links in your content movies.

- Learners easily see what they’ve completed and what they have left to complete with the visual progress indicators.

- Use the Flash files to customize the course any way you want. For example, you can: Add your own logo; change the colors, images, and format text to fully customize the interface to fit your organization’s brand; or add custom Actionscript functions

- Quickly plug into any SCORM conformant LMS.

- Content is driven by external XML files, making it easy to create and maintain.

- Because content is modularized, multiple developers can work on different pieces of the course at the same time.

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Rapid Development Toolkit for Flash Developers
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