Today we launched the newest version of the Wisc-Online site and are excited about its many new features. While Wisc-Online sees new learning object content on a regular basis, the site itself has not been updated since 2010. Much has changed in the way people learn online and use the web in general. In 2010, there were no iPads, and smart phones were relatively new. A lot happens in four years!
Mobile or Else
One of the primary drivers behind the latest update was to make the experience better for visitors using mobile devices. The repository offers more than 2,600 learning objects, which were developed over the last 13 years using Adobe Flash and so do not work on many mobile devices. In the world of IT, we call this “technical debt.”
We have a plan to rebuild each and every learning object on the site, but it’s going to take us up to three years to work through the inventory that we spent more than a decade creating. We started last year converting many of our most popular learning objects to HTML 5. As convenient as it is to engage with a learning object on a smart phone or tablet, if the website itself is not mobile friendly, very few users will take the time to access the content.
The new Wisc-Online leverages a strategy called “responsive design” to automatically present the site in a format best suited for the specific device used to view the site.
In this post, I initially wanted to walk through all of the new features. But the list is so long, this post could easily be overwhelming. Instead, I’ll introduce and highlight the top three features and later write a series of posts to flush out the details.
Wisc-Online Goes OER
Wisc-Online is now licensed under Creative Commons. The vast majority of learning objects can be downloaded or requested at no cost for use offline or as embedded resources in learning management systems. It has always been our intention to offer Wisc-Online as a true OER (Open Educational Resource). In the past, part of our sustainability model relied on offering downloads of the learning objects for a modest fee. Wisc-Online is now, in part, ad-supported, and this allows us to make our content available at no cost.
Pieces and Parts
By popular request, we’ve created an asset library that allows anyone to freely download the images, animations, sounds, and videos we’ve used to build our learning objects.
One of the primary criticisms of learning objects is that in order to meet the academic definition of reusability, learning objects have to be almost completely free of context. From the beginning, Wisc-Online realized that context is critical to real learning, and learning objects had to be written in context to be usable. Long ago we chose to favor usability over reusability. In fact, we often use the term “usable granularity” when we meet with faculty authors and begin chunking content.
But we understand there is absolutely a need for learning content in the form of images, animations, and audio/video files that can be used to stitch together a learning activity in any context. To meet this need, we put together a library of assets we’ve used over the years to create our learning objects. We refer to the new Wisc-Online Asset Library as our “pieces and parts” section. The files in our library are available for free under a Creative Commons license. Look for more content in the next several weeks. We anticipate we’ll have thousands of assets available soon.
The Wisc-Online GameBuilder has received a major facelift, greatly simplifying the process and improving the look and feel, and did I mention, it’s completely free!
Game-based learning is an exciting strategy that works well for learners of all ages. Wisc-Online first offered the GameBuilder feature in 2008 and it needed an update. The latest version is compatible with mobile devices and modern web browsers.
We’ve eliminated the need to purchase a subscription in order to build games. Educators and students alike can now build and share games using our new templates. You decide how long the game should be by the number of questions you enter. Students receive immediate feedback and can play the game as often as they wish. Some games even have a leaderboard to track high scores within the Wisc-Online community.
We’ll eventually be able to support all of the templates we’ve offered over the years, but for now we’ve made our most popular games available. If you have an existing game that no longer works, please bear with us as we continue to make updates.
Use GameBuilder to:
- Reinforce learning by having students quiz themselves on their own time.
- Build excitement and increase engagement by having students cooperate or compete with each other as individuals or teams.
Look for future posts highlighting other new features.
- Visitors can earn badges (compatible with the Mozilla Open Badges) by using the site.
- Creating an account on the site just got a whole lot easier – you can quickly log in with your account from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and more.
- Wisc-Online users can follow others and see how they are using the site.
- We’ve taken the learning beyond the learning object by creating Ask an Expert discussion boards for every learning object on the site. Questions and feedback can be rated by the community, and those votes will impact the reputation scores of those participating.
- We finally built a blog – look for weekly posts around topics in instructional design and technology, perhaps even software engineering as we look under the hood at the architecture needed to offer a high traffic site featuring multimedia resources.
- We’ll be introducing two new sections of specialized content, GAMMA+ for advanced manufacturing and INTERFACE for information technology.
The team has been working on the update since February, and we’re excited launch day is finally here. Feel free to share your comments and let us know how you like the new updates.