NZ education software wins People's Choice award

The eLearning XHTML editor, called eXe, is lauded in Texas

A New Zealand-developed web editor may have missed out on the big awards at a major US education conference this month, but it ran away with the now-compulsory “People’s Choice” gong.

The eLearning XHTML editor (eXe), a tool for developing educational content for websites without the need to know web languages, was vying with other technologies at the Learning Impact conference in Austin, Texas.

The open source tool has been largely developed in New Zealand, with assistance of the Tertiary Education Commission, since the project started in 2004.

Derek Wenmoth, a director of CORE Education eLearning, the organisation that markets and supports the software, says eXe won a consolation “learning impact leadership award” at the conference but also ran away with the People’s Choice award.

The eXe software is an environment for authoring web-based e-learning content and is freely available for Windows XP, Mac OS X, and Linux. It has been downloaded thousands of times and is available in more than two dozen language translations, CORE says.

It has been adopted by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science’s “Open Source and Standards in Education” software distribution and was also named as one of the top 100 tools for learning in 2007 compiled by the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies in the UK.

In addition to its awards, the application also performed exceptionally well in a live test of how well software complied with the Common Cartridge specification, developed by standards consortium IMS Global. The Common Cartridge defines a commonly supported content format, able to run on any compliant Learning Management System (LMS) platform.

Writing on his blog, Wenmoth said the test was simple enough.

A content ‘cartridge’ created using the software had to be submitted to a testing application that analysed the code line-by-line and provided feedback in terms of how many errors were found. The second step was to import the cartridge into an LMS system and open it to see how it operates in that environment.

“None of the participants had been able to do either of these things with the particular applications being used prior to the test, so it was a real test in that sense!” Wenmoth writes.

“The outcomes were extremely positive for eXe — it came through with zero errors and opened without a glitch within the chosen LMS — Angel Learning.

“Next was a cartridge from a US publishing house, which returned about a dozen errors, most fairly minor and fixable.

“Third was a cartridge from a large distance education university — which came back with a large number of errors, some more serious.

“Finally was a cartridge from another commercial vendor — which had more errors than we could count and completely failed the test in every respect.

“So, another feather in the cap for eXe with many of those present taking a copy away with them to look at using in the context of what they are doing in the content development for eLearning space,” he writes.

The People’s Choice award was judged from a vote of all delegates at the conference, and was made the day before the cartridge testing exercise.

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