[LON-CAPA-users] New Content/Problem Editor - Input needed NOW

Brad Moffat moffatb at selwyn.ca
Fri Oct 10 16:35:43 EDT 2014


I have been programming a long time, mostly with XML edit, but I use the
color editor when I want snippets of code for problem types or inserts
whose exact format I've forgotten.

The XML editor may be sparse, but the color editor is way too big (long?)
for a screen. It's easy to lose your place long question with many options.

I want two really new products :  an editor and a converter.

For the editor:

I really like the idea of a wysiwyg. 
I like having code snippets as selectable inserts. 
I like the XML editor.

Here's an idea: How about a split screen similar to a lot of the
programming IDE's out there. Each pane can be turned on or off to avoid
clutter. Each pane can be moved outside the current window, into it's own
window for easy reference. 

I visualize one pane as the XML editor, one pane as a sidebar of code
snippet selections and one pane as a sandbox that runs the problem as it
is so far - a "What does the student see so far" window. That would be the
all improtant "wyg" part of wysiwyg. Like the "tryit" editor - an example
can be found here: 
[ http://www.w3schools.com/jsref/tryit.asp?filename=tryjsref_style_display
]http://www.w3schools.com/jsref/tryit.asp?filename=tryjsref_style_display .

The code snippet sidebar can be organized into button menus. Maybe:
problem types, perl or javascript stuff, media inserts, graph stuff,
everything that is available on the color editor drop down menus. (Maybe
even some snippets that do specific things, like pick randomly from a list
of images.) Each menu might have a description, and a visual of what it
does in the problem (an example.) When selected, an example problem might
open in a window with the pertinent code snippet highlighted for easy
copy/paste into the XML editor, or maybe just the code with an
explanation. When dropped into the XML editor, it's effect will be
reflected in the "wyg" pane of the problem so far.

It would be a little bit similar to the large array of problem types
available when starting a problem. I would imagine having not just the
name of the problem type, but a picture of a sample problem output pop

( While we're discussing this, maybe we can fix that page too. Make the
selection of problem type not driven by names, but pictures of a sample
output. It's annoying to have to click on each name and look over the
samples until you hit the one you really wanted.)

For the converter: 

I would also like to see a little conversion program available that takes
a problem that was in some document/text format and convert it to a
Loncapa problem format. To make it simpler, maybe the author could
highlight the variable names, and choose the problem type format before
submitting the question text to the program. 

I think that would go a really long way making new teachers comfortable.
They can take the tons of this stuff they already have and get their
favorites into loncapa. They can also feel comfortable creating new stuff
in any word processor and convert it to loncapa.

Such a converter may seem to have limited capability, but I would estimate
that a good 80-90% of the stuff I've seen could be handled by even a
simple converter. Certainly it could handle multiple choice and fill in
the blanks, and simple numerical questions, and questions with
combinations of these as parts. (I've made one for fill in the blanks and
simple numerical problems. I dislike typing.)

It wouldn't even have to be a perfect conversion, just get a base
framework in the XML editor from which to work. If it's multiple choice,
stick a multiple choice snippet into the XML using the text that's they've
input. Let the author flesh it out further. If there's an image in the
doc, stick an image snippet in the XML. If there's a graph in the doc,
stick a graph snippet in the XML. Now the author has a really good place
to start tweaking if necessary. (If it detects some kind of insert, it
could ask - do you want this to become a dynamic graph or an image?) 

So, I'd like : a document converter, and an editor with sidebar helper
screens and a wyg (what you got). Now it becomes a collaboration between
author and machine.


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