Posts Tagged authoring

MASLO: An Open Source Mobile Learning Platform

Official MASLO logoThe unofficial MASLO post – we are getting a new site up over at the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Lab so this post will help people to learn more about MASLO until the site is ready.

The Academic ADL Co-lab (at University of Wisconsin-Extension) is continuing to build a new open source mobile learning platform called MASLO. MASLO stands for Mobile Access to Supplementary Learning Objects, which was not meant to be a permanent name  but these things have a way of sticking around.  If you want to follow MASLO development and be notified when code updates are available, head over to the Co-Lab MASLO page to get on the mailing list.

MASLO is an authoring tool (built with Adobe AIR), two mobile player applications (Android and iOS), and a separate storage mechanism (we are using Amazon S3 but any web host will work).

The basics use of MASLO is simple enough: plop content into the authoring tool, preview it, and then upload it to the Amazon host. The content (images, text files, audio, simple quizes, and video) is stored in raw form on the web host.  The device players download the packets and format the content to fit the phone.

Note: MASLO is not a specific mobile application but it is an open source system for creating mobile learning applications.

Some key features:

  • The authoring tool allows a preview of what the content will look like on a mobile device.
  • Authoring tool runs on Mac, PC, Linux
  • The system supports free content packages and in-app purchasing for content you might want to sell.
  • Content packages are fully donwloadable to  the device.  No internet connection is required after the content is on the device. This is very helpful in situations where constant wireless connectivity might be a problem.
  • The code is open and you can modify it to meet the needs of your organization.

 Authoring Content

The goal of MASLO is not to be the most sophisticated mobile authoring tool, it is to be extremely simple. We have sacrificed more sophisticated authoring options to keep the barrier for entry to creating mobile content as low as possible.

See this very quick and dirty 3 minute 45 second authoring tool walkthrough video:

The authoring tool is available for download now at the official MASLO page but here are direct links to Mac and PC versions. Note: This will not publish anywhere because you need to have apps and storage setup but you can create mobile learning content and preview it in the tool. If you are especially adventurous, you can get the authoring tool code on the MASLO Github page.

Storage

We chose Amazon’s EC2 because it is inexpensive, scalable, and flexible. If you decide to download and use the MASLO authoring system, it is storage agnostic but we are building some admin tools to support EC2.  EC2 has some other advantages when it comes to having paid in-app content packages but, if you only plan to distribute free content, then any web storage solution will work fine.

Documentation on how to set up the Amazon EC2 will be available at some point in the next 6 weeks.

iOS and Android Mobile Applications

We have built two mobile application players: 1 for iOS and one for Android.  Other operating systems can be added later.  The first application to be published using the MASLO system will be called the ADL MASLO Setup Guide.  As soon as it is available through Apple, I will link to it from this post.  In essence, we are dogfooding by creating an application to teach about how to set up apps with the system. This set up guide will launch with the most stripped down version of the interface (see screenshots below).  Modifications to colors and logo are easy for anyone with iOS and Android experience.

In the application, there a list of packs on the device, a link to a store to download or purchase new packs, and context-aware search (e.g. when on the store tab, it searches all packs in the store, when on the device tab it searches just packs on the device, when inside a content pack it searches text within that pack).    There are few user settings at this time but we have a tab for that as well.

Home Screen (shows packs on the device):

MASLO iOS Home Screen

Screen capture of the MASLO iOS Home Screen with two sample content packs.

Store Screen (shows packs available for download):

MASLO iOS Store Tab

Screen capture showing all available content packages from the store.

Example of a quiz question screen:

iOS MASLO Quiz Question Screen

iOS MASLO Quiz Question screen example

These are just a couple of quick screen shots of a minimalist version of the iOS MASLO app.  Customizations are easy and a much more sophisticated look and feel is certainly possible.

We are at the beginning of creating this platform.  More than 80 people have signed up to the MASLO mailing list and several folks have already voiced interest in contributing to the code.  If you would like to follow our progress or contribute, please join us!

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