1. Why should we use XML for our learning materials?

XML is an open standard that was born just after the Web was. Its goal was to improve how information can be encoded and exchanged by allowing intelligent formatting (mark-up) and independent distribution. Journal, news, automotive, aircraft and many other industries have learned is that the best way to publish and distribute content is to format your single-source masters using open standard XML for text, assessments, books, manuals and many other types of learning publications.

Here’s an example of some XML showing why it is different from Web pages:
HTML tagging designed primarily for web pages:

<h1>The headline caught our attention</h1>
<p>The journalists seemed to have developed the 
idea and presented the conclusions.</p>
<p>The aim was to allow readers to assess the differences.</p>
<p>What are the required changes?</p>

Semantic XML tagging allowing greater use for web, print and content rich, interactive learning environments:

  <title>The headline caught our attention</title>
  <outcome>The journalists seemed to have developed the 
    idea and presented the conclusions.</outcome>
  <p>The aim was to allow readers to assess the differences.</p>
  <question>What are the required changes?</question>

Working with CAPDM means adopting open standards and XML. We will create XML single-source masters of your learning materials or help you to do the same. The new assets are all yours and we will help you to develop and get best use from them permanently.

The cost for this investment in adopting XML is usually no more than the cost you are already incurring to produce both your current print and online courses separately. If it is done well, it is a once only investment that leads to a drastic reduction in ongoing maintenance and updating costs, typically 40-60%.

CAPDM can help you design, develop and deliver successful programmes of flexible and online distance learning, maximising the return on your investment while minimising the risks. With more than twenty three years’ experience in this demanding environment, we can provide education providers with all the resources, skills and quality of service they need for a decisive competitive advantage in any programme whether delivered on-campus or at a distance.

CAPDM has more experience at building successful flexible and online distance learning programmes than most universities and colleges have. This experience is now available to you, packaged into an affordable and complete service solution.

CAPDM has built up a first-class reputation in distance learning. We produced the world’s largest, truly international distance learning MBA programme for the Edinburgh Business School.

Distance learning programmes will become increasingly relevant over the next decade. If properly managed and professionally developed, they will become valuable sources of additional revenues for educational institutions. However good programmes are not cheap to develop, and require specific and extensive resources and talents to produce them in a user-friendly form, while retaining academic credibility. Our services and technologies are targeted at delivering a complete solution to these problems. When shared with our customers, they provide a complete programme fulfilment capability.

We specialise in the production of domains of distance learning materials and whole programmes. This requires a professional, scalable solution that is best optimised for this substantial business process.

We provide custom services and technologies, not systems. We are not a vendor of boxed eLearning systems or virtual learning environments. If you have one of these systems, we can help you to extract maximum value from it by creating more effective tutoring and learning environments.

We use our services and tools to construct a shared solution with you and your team. This solution includes all your existing resources and capabilities and preserves their value. We handle all aspects of programme or business development, freeing your people to concentrate on those areas where their skills lie.

Our tried and tested programme development service will help you to access new student markets more quickly, with highly credible products.

Our business development service will help you to leverage our expertise to develop the business needed to sustain your successful global programmes of distance learning.

Our materials management will protect your assets, future-proof your materials, and keep your programme ahead of the competition.

Our CourseworkerTM technologies can enrich your current VLE, create custom performance support environments for your authors and customers, bring you your own professional book and journal publishing capability and asset repository, and make language translation projects cost effective.

Our programme development service uses Internet-based tools for producing and managing all types of learning materials. It is based around the creation of cherished master source files which are held in an online repository and formatted with industry standard, extensible markup derived from modern information standards. It tracks production workflow, and generates high quality postscript, PDF and HTML products from single sources. We use it to produce and maintain over 120 module texts and companion websites, allowing ‘push button’ production to multiple delivery formats, packages and media (paper, web, Moodle, Blackboard, eBook…). This approach is better, quicker and at least equivalent in cost to older less flexible production approaches.

You need to look carefully at what your in-house unit can do and weigh up the costs. Will you get a professional, e-book-quality product? Will you have project management support and tools to help you get your materials completed in time? Will you have assistance in designing the look and feel of the materials, as well as in proofreading and editing them? Most importantly, will you do the job only once for all media, or will you have to add to your costs by recapturing/reconfiguring materials for delivery on the Web or in some other format?

If you’re lucky enough to have a production unit who can provide most of these services with an efficient information architecture for your materials, we can license our productive tools to your institution and train your staff to use them. This will let you deliver materials in a variety of formats quickly and easily.

Not at all. Now is an ideal time to start using CAPDM. It means we can help you create and manage the quality learning materials you want to put into your new learning management system, in parallel with producing your existing paper materials.

Using the CAPDM production approach gives you a single source production solution for all delivery environments (paper, Moodle, eBook, etc.). This means that the cost of developing your paper materials goes towards reducing the cost of developing your eLearning materials. It also gives you greater freedom and flexibility to change your delivery environments at will – a healthy independence from any one vendor, including CAPDM.

This is a multi-faceted problem, and CAPDM can provide assistance with various aspects of it.

The first area where we can help is in text support. For instance, our experience has shown that the need for academic support is much reduced if the materials include robust self-assessment capability, with detailed answers and cross-references back into the original learning materials. We can help you design and build interactive assessments to facilitate this process.

Much of the assistance that students need relates to administrative and communication issues, and these can be dealt with by a central information and contact point. We can reduce this burden on your resources by integrating frequently asked question lists with your materials. We can also provide tools which help you to store and track new questions for quick and efficient incorporation.

We can provide you with database capacity which will allow your students to find out the location of their closest examination centre, when assignments for particular modules are due, and so on.

Our tools also allow you to keep track of areas in the material that students or tutors have highlighted as needing updating or review. Once these revisions have been completed, the tools can provide you with an historical record of what modifications have been made to each release.

Finally, we can provide an online collaboration system, to help you to stay in contact with all your tutors and keep up to date on any issues they have highlighted.

All of these tools relieve the support burden on your academic tutors, releasing them to focus on the small percentage of student questions which require their subject expertise.

Lecture notes or class handouts are a good foundation but require a great deal of additional work before they can do the job of distance or eLearning materials. Lecture notes often take the form of ‘memory joggers’ for you and your students, but do not contain all the pedagogic components of your personal delivery methods used to deliver teaching points, to generate testing questions and consolidation exercises. Lecture notes are an incomplete framework for ensuring your students succeed at a distance.

Distance learning materials, on the other hand, can always be used in a classroom, tutor-assisted situation. Their preparation demands far more planning and attention to detail, so that distant students can work through them, understand them and assess how they are progressing.

Even though you might not want to study from this type of material, it does still have some uses – most notably, it can be easily searched in electronic form. However, CAPDM believes in playing to each medium’s particular educational strengths. So our design and production tools don’t just take your print materials and reproduce them exactly in electronic form. Our designers will work with you to develop a suitable format for your web pages, so that your text is broken up into manageable sections, and heading styles are easily readable. We will also build in other features straight away – hot links to cross reference terms with their entry in a glossary, for instance, and active links to other websites and resources. Once you have the basic information up and running, it is much easier to see where you want to build in additional functionality, such as interactive simulations or self-assessment questions with online feedback.

Semantic or descriptive mark-up, embeds additional information in a text file by applying labels to fragments of text. This information can be interpreted by software in all kinds of useful ways such as to generate an index or to create automatic hyperlinks to specific learning contexts. It allows great flexibility, allowing multiple document formats to be batch produced from a single marked up source text.

Semantic mark-up is the foundation for knowledge management in educational institutions. It enables knowledge capture, reuse and efficient retrieval. For researchers looking into the next generation of semantic learning environments and Web 2, it places whole domains of programme materials at their fingertips for experimenting and exploring new teaching and learning methods.

Extensible mark-up language (XML) is one of the most important semantic mark-up languages, and is used extensively for documents and publications. It provides a solid foundation for learning materials, giving them longevity and reusability. The electronic formats used by CAPDM are open standards and non-proprietary – so there is no vendor lock-in. Efficient production processes and capabilities substantially reduce updating and development costs. The resulting materials are of much higher quality – consistently fit for purpose for all delivery media and languages.

The U.S. Department of Statistics estimate that between 10 and 20 percent of the population has some type of disability. In the U.K. alone there are 2 million blind and partially sighted people. CAPDM is committed to making online leanring systems and materials accessible to as many people as possible. We produce content conforming to the W3C Web Content Accessibility guidelines to ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from your eLearning resources.

In recent years many countries have passed anti-disability discrimination legislation, which may place legal obligations on content providers to produce accessible materials. In the U.K. the legislation affecting accessibility includes the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2001/10.

We produce learning materials using a single set of XML masters and can deliver to multiple output formats, including accessible web pages and text-only versions. Our approach enables you to respond to legislative changes quickly and efficiently, and to offer specialised versions of your learning materials cost-effectively. We closely monitor developments in the area of accessibility and encourage our team to follow interest groups such as the W3C Web Accessibility Interest Group.