Saturday, June 09, 2007


Reusable Interactions
Starting in about 2000, while at General Motors, we started creating Interactions. Interactions are Flash files that encapsulate functionality that pull content from external files at runtime. With this approach, the Interactions only need to be developed once. They can be reused by simply editing a text file and indicating the content for that particular instance.

Flash is great at importing XML. So, the file that needed to be edited for each instance was an XML file. What we found was, that most of the Instructional Designers didn’t have the expertise to edit an XML file (no one willingly edits a raw XML file, whether Instructional Designers or not). So, our interactions had limited success. The success wasn’t limited in that the interactions weren’t used. We used them often. The success was limited in that we could have had more instructional designers using them in courses without going to the XML authors.

So, hanging out there has been this challenge to figure out a way to make it so instructional designers could author the XML in a way that would work for them. The preferred tool would be something they used all the time. The most obvious choice would be Word. The second most obvious choice would be Excel. These are the tools that people use all the time.

So, here are the key elements to an Interaction:
- The Interaction incorporates the functionality.
- The instance information comes from an external XML file.
- The instance can be developed without programming (i.e., no need to even have Flash installed on the machine where the instance is created).

We had 7 or so of them that we used regularly.

What I am providing here meets these requirements. Unzip into a folder. Open questions.xml (should open with MS Word – if it doesn’t, you’ll need to upgrade to Word 2003 or better) and edit the questions. When you’re done, save questions.xml. Open index.htm and see what you get.
This Interaction is a version of the concentration game. As questions are answered, an underlying image is uncovered. Other Interactions we’ve developed include:
- A version of Jeopardy.
- A procedure player: each frame has a title, procedure step, procedure description, image.
- An image player: presents a series of images, with a forward and back arrow.
A note about SCORM.
Ideally, these interactions should operate as SCOs. I’ve written this one so that it operates as a SCO. All it does now is sends the LMSInitialize and the LMSFinalize commands. When I get time, I’ll set it up so it keeps track of the number of correct / incorrect responses and writes that to the LMS. I’ve disabled the SCO functions. If you want to enable the SCO functions, open index.htm and take a look at the instructions.
If you know somewhere where other people are hosting these types of things, let me know and I’ll add a link. If you have one that you want to add, let me know.

The Interaction is located here: