Authoring Environment

LAMS Authoring

Table of Contents

The Authoring Environment is where you create and modify the sequences that are used in Learner.
You can access the Author environment by clicking on the Blue Author tab at the top of the screen, once you have logged in to LAMS.

Author Permissions
Not all LAMS users have Author permissions - sometimes a user may just be allowed to participate in and monitor learning sequences. If you want to use Author and you don't have permissions, contact your supervisor or System Administrator.

The Authoring Environment provides teachers and instructors with a visual authoring environment for creating, storing and re-using of learning activities.  To create sequences, you drag-and-drop activities onto the learning space, and then create transitions to specify the path that learners take through the sequences.  This Graphic Workflow Model is what principally distinguishes LAMS from other, more content based, Learning Management Systems by providing teachers with a high level of interactivity and collaboration.

Double Clicking
Nearly everything that exists in the Authoring Space can be double-clicked in order to change its properties.

There are three main areas in the Authoring Environment:

  • Authoring Space - this is the whitespace with a grid of dots. It is where sequences are Created and Edited.
  • Activity tools - located down the left-hand side of the screen. The toolkit contains all of the activities available for use in the sequence.
  • Sequence Management Tools - located across the top of the screen. These allow File Operations (Saving, Opening) and Sequence Linking Operations (Branching and Gates) as well as allowing users to Preview their sequence.

    Click for larger view.
    To Delete an activity from the Authoring Space, click and drag the activity to the trashcan in the lower right corner of the Authoring Environment.

    Saving Sequences in Public Folders

    Sequences can be saved in one of three places.

  • By default, sequences are saved in your profile folder, which means that only you can access them.
  • You can also save sequences in the folder for each group you are a member of. For example, you could share your Mathematics sequences only with other Maths teachers, and English sequences only with other English teachers.
  • Finally, you can save sequences in the Public folder, which means that the sequence will be available to anyone who can log in to LAMS (and has authoring rights)

    Click for larger view.

Sequence Management Tools

This is the Sequence Management Toolbar: 
The Toolbar commands are:

  • File Operation Tools
    • New - Clears any existing sequence from the Authoring Space and provides a blank work area or creating a new sequence.  NB: The command will warn you that it will clear the Authoring Space and prompt you to save your sequence.
    • Open - Provides access to the "Open Sequence" window, which uses a similar folder tree structure as Windows.  You select the folder where the sequence is saved and select the sequence you wish to open.
    • Save - Saves the current file. If no filename has been specified, opens the "Save" window and prompts for filename and location.
  • Editing Tools
    • Copy - Copies the selected Activity on the Authoring space.
    • Paste - Pastes a copied Activity back to the Authoring space.
  • Sequence Tools
    • Transition - This tool changes the pointer into Transition mode (indicated by a Green pen) for drawing transition lines between two activities. Place the transition tool over the activity you wish to transition 'from,' click and hold the mouse, and draw a line to the activity you wish to transition 'to.'  You can also jump quickly to Transition mode by holding down the 'Ctrl' key.
    • Optional - This tool changes the pointer into Optional mode (indicated by a Purple pen). Click the Optional command, then click the Authoring space to place the Optional box. You then drag existing activities from the authoring space or new activities from the Toolkit into the box.
    • Flow - provides options for controlling the progress of Learners through the sequence.
      • Gates - temporarily halt Learner progress at specified point.
      • Branch (implemented in v2.1) - allows learners to either select a particular path through the sequence, or automatically chooses a path based on certain conditions.
    • Group - creates a grouping object, which arranges learners into groups for particular activities. (ie: instead of a whole class of learners participating in one chat, there can be several groups of five learners in independant chats.)
    • Preview - allows the sequence to be run from the Authoring Environment, allowing Authors to check their design before use.

The sequence management tools are replicated in Drop-Down Text menus above the Toolbar. Some additional tools are also found here.

  • File
    • New - same as above.
    • Open - same as above.
    • Recover - in the case of a browser crash, recover can get the latest unsaved information from the Flash cookie back into the canvas (thanks Neal).
    • Save - Saves the current version of the sequence.
    • Save As...- Saves the current file under a different filename.
    • Insert - A new feature introduced in LAMS 2.1, the Insert command allows authors to paste entire sequences inside another. Click here for an animation.
    • Import - Imports a LMS or ZIP sequence file from a file on the computer.
    • Export - Exports the current sequence to a ZIP file on the computer.
    • Exit - Closes the Authoring window.
  • Edit
    • Undo - delete the last change to the sequence.
    • Redo - replaces a change removed by Undo.
    • Copy - makes a copy of an activity selected in the Authoring space.
    • Paste - places a copy of the activity on the Authoring space.
  • Tools
    • Draw Transition - Switches the pointer to Transition mode.
    • Draw Optional - Switches the pointer to Optional mode.
  • Help
    • Authoring Help - Links to this web page.
    • About LAMS - displays the LAMS license agreement.

Creating Activities

The main components of any sequence are the activity tools.  Each tool has a set of features specific to that tool, as well as some features that are found in all tools. This section describes the basic features found on all tools first.  There are also pages specific to the properties of each activity.
Each tool contains three tabs:

  • Basic - which controls the Content of the Activity.
  • Advanced - which controls the Behaviour of the Activity.
  • Instructions - which allows Authors to upload online and offline Support Files for other teachers and instructors.

The activities toolkit contains all of the activities that you can add to your sequence.
The toolkit contains communicative and collaborative tools as well as tools designed for delivering and sharing resources, and also tools for assessing and evaluating student contributions.
The Whitespace at the top of the toolkit will display a short description a tool when it is selected.

To create an activity, simply click the desired activity on the toolkit, keep the mouse button held down, and drag the activity onto the Authoring Space. To place the activity, release the mouse button.

Properties Page - General Features

Click to Magnify Thumbnail.

To change the Content or Behaviour of an activity, simply double click a particular activity to bring up it's Properties Page. 

To the Left is a screenshot of the Basic tab of a Chat activity.  It contains two elements, a Title and Instructions screen.

These elements are found on nearly every activity in LAMS.

All tools have a title that is presented at the top of the Learner Environment - this is where you can specify that title.

Presented under 'Title' is the 'Instructions' section.  This is where the main text to be displayed to the learners is created. (TIP: For other tools there is always a section for text instructions or content, although it may have a different name than 'Instructions, ie: Content, Questions, etc.)

These links have information specific to particular activities:

Properties Inspector

The Properties Inspector (shown below) provides quick access to some common tasks for Activities, and replaces many of the options that were found on the Property Pages in LAMS 1.0.

I Can't see the Properties Inspector!
If you can't see the properties inspector, it may be hidden at the bottom of your Authoring Screen.
Just Right-Click anywhere on the Authoring Space and select Properties Inspector.

Title - This is the name of the activity. It is shown on the activity box in the Authoring Space, as well as on various screens in the Monitoring Environment, and also in the Progress Bar in the Learner Environment. Ideally, you want to keep Activity Titles as short as possible - less than about 20 characters (including spaces) is recommended.  Note: The Title is NOT the same as the Name specified on the Properties Page. Instead, the Title specified in the Properties Inspector provides a quick way to distinguish the activity from others of the same type.

Grouping - All activities can be set to operate in Whole Class Mode or in Small Group Mode. To operate in Small Group Mode, a Grouping Object must be added to the sequence. Once this is done, any tool can be set to use those groups, creating multiple instantiations of each tool according to the number of groups created.  Note: It is possible to create several Grouping Objects and then choose different grouping structures for different tools.

Run Offline - New to LAMS 2.0 is the concept of running activities "Offline."  When Learners reach an Offline Activity, they are presented with a prompt:  "This activity is not being done on the computer. Please see your instructor for details." This allows teachers and instructors to incorporate offline classroom activities into a LAMS sequence.

Define Later - This is synonymous with the "Define in Monitor" option from LAMS 1.0. The feature allows a teacher to change the activity content whilst the sequence is running. This is performed through the Monitoring Environment, on the Lessons tab.


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