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

Mills, Douglas G dmills at illinois.edu
Fri Oct 10 17:29:08 EDT 2014

I like the code snippet sidebar idea in particular. What would be a nice addition to that — another expandable menu in addition to the other categories there perhaps — would be the author's own library of code they can add to so when I'm doing a series of problems in a particular way I can keep a code snippet in my library to enhance efficiency and consistency.


Douglas Mills
Director of Instructional Technologies
Department of Chemistry
University of Illinois
dmills at illinois.edu<mailto:dmills at illinois.edu>
(217) 244-5739

From: Brad Moffat <moffatb at selwyn.ca<mailto:moffatb at selwyn.ca>>
Reply-To: Discussion list for LON-CAPA users <lon-capa-users at mail.lon-capa.org<mailto:lon-capa-users at mail.lon-capa.org>>
Date: Friday, October 10, 2014 at 3:35 PM
To: "lon-capa-users at mail.lon-capa.org<mailto:lon-capa-users at mail.lon-capa.org>" <lon-capa-users at mail.lon-capa.org<mailto:lon-capa-users at mail.lon-capa.org>>
Subject: Re: [LON-CAPA-users] New Content/Problem Editor - Input needed NOW


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 .

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 up..

( 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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