Grava as an authoring tool for SLK

Nov 11, 2007 at 1:54 PM
SLK Team,

I have few questions regarding Grava expected release to be an authoring tool for SLK:

1. What is the release type of Grava expected? Alpha, Beta or RC? Is there any exact date for release confirmed yet?
2. What question types supported in content packages?
3. Would the package support reporting each question score or total assignment score?
4. Can Grava take an office document (PPT,Word,Excel) as an input for authoring LR?
5. Is there any documentation or sample content available now for use with SLK?
6. Finally, will Grava be free or for charge?

Your response is highly appreciated.

kelhossainy
Coordinator
Nov 16, 2007 at 6:51 PM
1. The release will be a CTP (Customer Technology Preview) which is just the latest term for Alpha. The target release date is February 8th {insert standard disclaimer from the release manager}.

2. We’re only going to support multiple choice. However, we’ll be publishing source code to demonstrate how easy it is to extend Grava with custom WPF controls. The hope is that Grava users will expand the number of question types by taking the multiple choice control and using it as a base to build other question types. We will be delivering the CMI infrastructure to allow these other question types to submit results back to the LMS easily.

3. We're only submitting CMI nodes for status (Begin/Completed) and total score because this is what SLK can show today. The underlying CMI infrastructure will support submitting any CMI name/value pair, but anything other than these basic values will not be visible on default SLK webparts.

4. Absolutely. Our core scenario is that the teacher assembles Word, PowerPoint, Web Pages, and Multiple Choice assessment into a Grava lesson. Due to time/resource constraints, the Word & PPT importing may be “less than optimal” in the first release, but we’re hoping we may be able to get a better story here done either in the initial release or a few (2-3) months later.

5. We’ll be releasing an SDK for Grava with documentation and sample content as well. There's nothing available now. You could look at learning Windows Presentation Foundation, custom controls, and XAML Browser Applications to get a head start. Based on my experiences working with SLK and Grava over the past few weeks though, it will be difficult to use 'plain old' WPF with SLK today due to lots of subtle issues between SharePoint and existing WPF web integration technologies.

6. Free as of today {insert standard disclaimer from the lawyers}.


kelhossainy wrote:
SLK Team,

I have few questions regarding Grava expected release to be an authoring tool for SLK:

1. What is the release type of Grava expected? Alpha, Beta or RC? Is there any exact date for release confirmed yet?
2. What question types supported in content packages?
3. Would the package support reporting each question score or total assignment score?
4. Can Grava take an office document (PPT,Word,Excel) as an input for authoring LR?
5. Is there any documentation or sample content available now for use with SLK?
6. Finally, will Grava be free or for charge?

Your response is highly appreciated.

kelhossainy


Nov 18, 2007 at 9:30 PM
Edited Nov 18, 2007 at 10:05 PM
I'd have to say that I'm very disappointed to read this. It appears that Grava has been built for developers and publishers, not educators, and certainly with scant regard for any form of genuine pedagogy. At the 2005 Learning Objects Summit in Redmond, I was hugely impressed when a Microsoft manager stated that they 'wanted to make software that fitted education'. We appear to be heading further and further away from that reality. When software disempowers the learning managers/teachers then an educational online solution will not gain traction - teachers are still the most important agent in the learning process and they will not use any tool that requires working with source code - why not simply expand the tool to be learning function rich?

There is real risk here of Microsoft being the focus of the scorn of the educational community. Multiple choice as the 'out of the box' supported testing module is going back decades and, as all of this is IMHO, undermines Microsoft's credibility as a genuine learning software provider.

Is Grava another triumph of style over substance? Promising whistles and bells but neglecting the most basic building blocks of learning?

I may be reading this incorrectly, but surely, at the VERY minimum, we should be able to have, by default, the testing options that were available in Class Server and are standard in any other respectable learning authoring tool. Writing of a range of results back to the reporting module should be a given but not just a number. I posted before on the sort of information that teachers would find really useful and a lot of that needed to be part of the authoring tool.
Coordinator
Nov 19, 2007 at 4:01 PM
Edited Nov 19, 2007 at 4:02 PM
My apologies if I've been misleading, Graham. The types of questions we support in the SLK release (our February CTP) is limited to multiple choice. This is because we've put minimum resource into our quiz elements for this release. We're not intending to ship with only multiple choice for our v1. When I said that we're publishing the source with the hope that Grava users will build additional question types, that's for two reasons -- we're going to have a short term lack and because when we've talked with educators there's a huge variety of question types that I don't think we can expect any company, even one with Microsoft's resources, to match.

Grava is targeted at three audiences -- teachers, ISVs and independent developers, and publishers. Our model is that teachers can easily drop in (via a folder in My Documents) new controls (like question controls, simulations, etc.) that developers make. We want teachers to be able to easily take advantage of a large ecosystem of educational components without programming. We're putting a lot of thought and effort into how we can enable non-programmers to assemble and connect (via graphical scripting-like rules) a variety of content.

In the mean time, I'll send back your feedback to the larger team that when we ship Grava v1 we should at least reach parity with Class Server's quiz capabilities. I think the importance of having a full quiz engine is very well understood by the larger team, but it never hurts to re-enforce this in our planning.

- jcb
Nov 19, 2007 at 10:23 PM
Edited Nov 19, 2007 at 10:24 PM
G'day Jay,

apart from concurring with Graham's comments re Teachers being the drivers and also real creators of content in this environment. We also need to make sure tthat Grava can handle mathematical and scientific equations properly (as this was one of the few deficiencies of the original LRE aka CS 4 Teacher Client)

your comeents "We want teachers to be able to easily take advantage of a large ecosystem of educational components without programming. We're putting a lot of thought and effort into how we can enable non-programmers to assemble and connect (via graphical scripting-like rules) a variety of content."

Should I assume that Grava will work seamlessly with/include Silverlight and Popfly functionality??

Also it is important that we gain back the Assessment and Markbook options that we had with the previous WSS 2.0 ClassServer 4.0 combination, and that this functionality be transparently easy to use by Teachers.

Once again Many TIAs, and yes we do appreciate the effort that you folks are putting in <G>

ooroo

Les
Coordinator
Nov 20, 2007 at 12:57 PM
FYI, I spoke with the program manager responsible for assessment in Grava and she said the current {insert lawyer-speak for plans may change} plan for Grava v1 is to support the same QTI question type subset as Common Cartridge, e.g.:

6 most commonly used QTI question types:

  • Multiple choice (single response)
  • Multiple choice (multiple response)
  • True/false
  • Essay
  • Simple fill in the blank
  • Pattern match
Coordinator
Nov 20, 2007 at 1:09 PM
Edited Nov 20, 2007 at 1:09 PM

We also need to make sure tthat Grava can handle mathematical and scientific equations properly (as this was one of the few deficiencies of the original LRE aka CS 4 Teacher Client)


FYI, another group in the Education Product Group has just shipped our "Microsoft Math" add-in for Word that helps address this very issue. There are discussions on whether there will be a more direct integration with Grava in the future, though nothing definative yet.


Should I assume that Grava will work seamlessly with/include Silverlight and Popfly functionality??


I wouldn't assume :-) We're actively looking at Silverlight, though it's difficult to form concrete plans given how early it is in Silverlight's development right now. We need the more robust functionality that Silverlight 1.1 provides to try and build even basic Grava-like scenarios and Silverlight 1.1 is still in Alpha.

We've spoken with the Popfly team about where we can work together. Given where Silverlight is right now (and Popfly's Silverlight dependency), it's difficult to do anything concrete here other than "point to a Popfly webpage" from within Grava. Both teams want to do more than this in the future.


Also it is important that we gain back the Assessment and Markbook options that we had with the previous WSS 2.0 ClassServer 4.0 combination, and that this functionality be transparently easy to use by Teachers.


Give me more information about what you mean here. Unfortunately, I've never used Class Server in a school so I sometimes have trouble translating requests without the context.
Nov 20, 2007 at 10:31 PM
Jay

Thanks for the comments. They go a long way to alleviating many of the concerns that we have about what/what isn't going to to be coming our way in terms of authoring tools and Sharepoint integration and functionality. I also appreciate that not everything can be done at once but I'd like to think that teachers can feel empowered to take control of learning management in their classes.

To what degree will Grava tap into the power of SQL reporting? eg individual question responses. Will teachers be able to specify the reported 'grade' in a range of ways? eg raw mark, percentiles in relation to a group's performance, standard, criteria (Excellence, merit, achieved, not yet achieved). It's problematic isn't it? - the more one digs into the value of a tool the wider the range of functionality becomes and you have to make a decision one way or another about where to draw the line.

Keep up the good work
Coordinator
Nov 21, 2007 at 11:14 AM
We're creating a simple CMI tracking service which will be installed side by side with SLK. This tracking service will store incoming data in two places.

First it will write all CMI data pairs (e.g. things like InteractionItem.5.Score) into a very simple Table that will be co-located in the SharePointLearningKit database. This table will be, in database terms, "denormalized" which in layman's terms means "it will be very easy to write reports using SQL Server Reporting Services or other database querying/reporting tools."

Second, we'll be writing entries into SLK's database tables which are a bit more complex (or robust, if you like). The advantage of writing the data here is that it will show up in the Assignment List web part, be queryable by SLK's existing query xml language (did you know SLK has the ability to write simple custom queries? It's there, but pretty well hidden), etc. The disadvantage is that only a small set of "well known" CMI entries are auto-exposed (status, score) and writing custom reports against the more complex tables are a little harder.

We're not planning on investing in reporting on the Grava side right now since we're really "about content creation". Our goal is to make sure that Grava can provide the right data from the content side into a system that reporting can be built upon. Based on what I've heard here and elsewhere, we've defined "provide the right data" as the ability to submit any arbitrary CMI data pair from the content & submitting CMI status and score results automatically from easy to use 'elements' AKA drag & drop controls.

I've been watching the various discussions on reporting going on and I can see that there's a general consensus that more reporting is needed, but I don't have a feel for the specifics. I suspect that much of it comes down to what could loosely be called "Gradebook" reporting and I know that other people are talking in detail about what it's going to take to provide better gradebook functionality to teachers. In the mean time, we're doing what we can to lower the cost of creating custom reports using existing tools like SQL Server Reporting Services & Access & custom web parts.


GrahamW wrote:
Jay

Thanks for the comments. They go a long way to alleviating many of the concerns that we have about what/what isn't going to to be coming our way in terms of authoring tools and Sharepoint integration and functionality. I also appreciate that not everything can be done at once but I'd like to think that teachers can feel empowered to take control of learning management in their classes.

To what degree will Grava tap into the power of SQL reporting? eg individual question responses. Will teachers be able to specify the reported 'grade' in a range of ways? eg raw mark, percentiles in relation to a group's performance, standard, criteria (Excellence, merit, achieved, not yet achieved). It's problematic isn't it? - the more one digs into the value of a tool the wider the range of functionality becomes and you have to make a decision one way or another about where to draw the line.

Keep up the good work