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MASLO Authoring Tool User Guide
The Mobile Access to Supplementary Learning Objects (MASLO) authoring tool has been designed to make it as easy as possible to author content packs to support learners using mobile devices. The authoring tool can be used to create packs with text, image, audio, video, and simple quiz content. This document provides a full explanation of how the MASLO authoring tool functions.
To install the MASLO authoring tool, the user needs to download the installer files for Mac OS or Windows from http://www.academiccolab.org/maslo/. These installers will guide through the installation and – if necessary – also guide through the installation of Adobe AIR.
On Mac OS Mountain Lion, the user needs to allow the application to be opened, even though Mountain Lion claims it to be from an unidentified developer. There are two ways to do this:
- (one-time permission): Instead of double-clicking the application icon, a right click will open a menu. This menu contains the entry “Open”. If the user selects “Open”, Mountain Lion will then ask whether the application should be opened (versus refusing to open entirely – the behavior on double-click). Selecting “Open” in the following dialog will start the installation process.
- (allowing all unidentified software):
- Open Mac “System Preferences”
- On the "Personal" settings area select "Security & Privacy"
- Select "Anywhere" on the Allow application downloaded from area.
- Install MASLO authoring tool
Upon application startup, the user is asked to provide login credentials or to login as a guest. If the user provides credentials, they are authenticated against the server configured for content pack uploading (see Publish). In case no server has been configured, the user is logged in as guest even if they provide credentials. In this instance, a message directs the user towards “Settings” to configure an upload destination (see Settings). If there is no server setup at all, the user is still able to author and save content locally, but will not be able to publish it.
In case of successful authentication with the upload server, the credentials are saved temporarily (until restarting the application). This means there is no need for the user to retype the credentials again in the current session when uploading to the previously specified destination.
The settings window contains two fields. Server URL The server URL field is where the user specifies the path to the server where the content should be published. This information is generally supplied by the user’s institution or network administrator as it depends on their MASLO store setup (see MASLO store software documentation). Institution Name/ID The Institution Name/ID field is where the user specifies the name of their institution or institution ID (this depends on their MASLO store setup environment).
The help screen serves as an in application reference guide for how the authoring tool works. My Content Packs The My Content Packs screen lists all the content packs created by the user. It displays information about the packs including title, size, status and most recent modification. Content pack status updates based on whether a content pack has been published previously, or if changes have been made to part of a pack since the last time it was published.
The packs can be sorted based on any of the four parameters by clicking the individual column headers. Each pack can also be renamed by hovering the pointer over it and clicking the ‘Rename’ button when it appears. When the authoring tool is started up for the first time, the My Content Packs screen is empty, as no content packs exist yet. A new content pack can be created by clicking the + Add New Project button and supplying it with a name.
When navigating within a content pack, a breadcrumb in the window header provides access to previous screens, including the My Content Packs screen. If the project already has content, the user can rearrange the pack elements by clicking on a line in the table when the mouse pointer appears as a hand, and dragging and dropping the item to the desired location. Adding new content to the pack can be done by clicking the “+ Add Content” button. This opens a popup window with various content type options:
The Upload button allows the user to add media content including image, audio, or video files. Upload a media file by browsing to the location of the file on the computer and opening it. Supported image formats are: .png, .jpg, .giff, and .tiff. Supported audio formats are .mp3, .wav, or .aiff. The only video format supported on both iOS and Android devices is .mp4 (a more detailed description on video formats is given in the Video Formats section). Media content pieces can also contain text. When editing images the user can replace the image by clicking the “Replace Image” button. The image associated with that element changes while the title and text remains the same.
If the user clicks on “Create Text”, a new text content piece is created. The text can be any length and is displayed on the mobile device with the same basic structure the user assigns to it in the editor. The user can either copy-paste text from another source or type it directly into the field. The WYSIWYG editor allows for limited control of formatting text content. The user can make text bold, italic, or underlined, can created bulleted or numbered lists, and can format the text for indentation. The editor can process content copied from Word and PDF documents, as well as copied html content. Things to consider: When pasting text into the editor, links are filtered out and not opened in the mobile application. Therefore one should refrain from referring to external content, as this information will be lost.
Clicking “Create Quiz” creates a new, empty quiz. After opening the quiz, clicking the “+ Add Question” button, creates a question labeled “Unwritten Question”. Selecting the question title opens the edit content window for quiz items. In the edit window the user can add answers, feedback, and media, as well as edit the question title and text. The question title is used in the list of quiz items if no question text is provided. In case a question needs more explanation, the question text serves this purpose. The software allows for multiple right answers allowing users to create either multiple choice or multiple select quiz items. It is up to the user to develop the quiz appropriately for the needs of their learners.
The types of media files that can be attached to a quiz item and the procedure for adding them is the same as the process for uploading media files described above (see Upload).
At the bottom of the “Edit Content” window of the quiz editor is a place to add answers. The user can add as many answers as they choose, as well as feedback to the individual answers. The feedback text is presented in the mobile client after each question if feedback is turned on. If no feedback is provided and feedback is enabled in the mobile client, the learner will receive a correct or incorrect notification as feedback after each question. Score statistics are always presented at the end of an entire quiz.
In the project home page there is a button called “Preview”. It allows for an approximate representation of how the content pack will render on a mobile device. The table of contents on the left of the window contains all the sections of the selected content pack. Clicking an item in the table displays it as it would appear on the device. Navigating forward and backward through a pack by clicking on the blue arrows below the device image allows for a quick overview of the content. Below the table of contents are two icons that rotate the device allowing the user to see how content pieces would look in both landscape and portrait mode.
When previewing video, after clicking “Preview Video”, VLC opens up (packaged with the binary) and plays the video. Pictures and texts are scaled to fit the dimensions of the screen, resembling rendering on an actual mobile device.
Previewing a quiz lists the total number of questions, and then the question itself with a list of possible answers. After checking an answer, the next page presents a default message of either ‘Correct!’ or ‘Incorrect!’ or the feedback message if one has been specified for the selected answer. Unlike on the mobile client, no final statistics are created in preview mode. Publish The user can publish a content pack to the server by opening the pack and clicking the “Publish” button on the lower right. After hitting publish, follow the dialog and if the server URL was configured appropriately (see Settings), the message “Upload Completed Successfully” is shown after the content was pushed to the server. Error messages may be displayed if content upload failed or user credentials were entered incorrectly.
In practice, the content pack can be as large as the user wants to make it as long as there is sufficient space on the server. However, best practices for mobile download sizes should be followed to the greatest extent possible. Keeping the content pack size as small as possible is important as the end users may have data limits in downloading to their mobile devices.
If a content pack size exceeds 20MB, some users may be unable to download it over 3G networks. However, if the mobile device is connected to a Wi-Fi – network, the only limiting factors are space on the device and ISP download limits.
After a content pack is successfully published, the status of the package is changed accordingly. If changes are made to the content pack after being pushed, its status changes to ‘Modified’. To update the version of a content pack stored in the download server to the most recent version, the pack needs to be uploaded again (see Upload).
Appendix: Technical Details
To install a binary of the authoring tool, we recommend the following:
- Windows PC with Windows 7 or newer or
- Mac with Mac OS X 10.6 or newer
- Adobe AIR installation (version 2.0 or newer)
- 62 MB of free disk space (Mac OS)
- 175MB of free disk space (Windows)
Upload and Security When uploading content packs, user credentials are transmitted to the MASLO store server. If the server is configured without https, data is transmitted in plain text. This means that an attacker can potentially steal and exploit login information. We therefore highly recommend using a secure https connection between the authoring tool and the MASLO store server.
In order to somewhat protect passwords even in case of a plain http connection, the authoring tool never transmits the user’s password directly. The password is concatenated with a randomly generated string the MASLO store server sends to the authoring tool and then a hash value (using md5 and sha256 hashing algorithms) is generated. This hash value is sent instead of the plain text password. However, the user’s user name is still sent in plain text and the password encryption scheme is by no means to be considered secure. It does not replace a secure https connection.
Video Formats Videos used in content packs need to be supported by both Android and iOS. The challenge is to find a format both platforms can play, where iOS seems more restrictive that Android. Apple’s specification for supported video formats:
“The video technologies in iOS support the playback of movie files with the .mov, .mp4, .m4v, and .3gp filename extensions and using the following compression standards:
- H.264 video, up to 1.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Low-Complexity version of the H.264 Baseline Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48 kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
- H.264 video, up to 768 Kbps, 320 by 240 pixels, 30 frames per second, Baseline Profile up to Level 1.3 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48 kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats
- MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48 kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats”
(See: Apple Developer Library).
If mp4 files following the Apple standard are used it is very likely that they will work on Android as well.