New SWF Activity Module under development

Relates to: Moodle, Flash, SWFObject, AMFPHP

The most widely used and accepted platform for e-learning today is Adobe Flash. It brings the full power of multimedia (images, audio, video, text and animation) and dynamic interactivity to your computer. The most widely used open source platform for hosting and deploying e-learning resources is Moodle. Respectively, both platforms offer all the functionality you would expect for e-learning but there’s one major obstacle: they’re not very easy to combine.

What’s the new project?

I’ve started development on a new SWF Activity Module, a plugin for Moodle, that I hope will provide a comprehensive solution for Flash developers who want to create e-learning applications for Moodle and teachers and course content developers who want to create e-learning interactions that make full use of the possibilities offered by Flash.

Why develop this plugin?

In my opinion, this is something that has been long overdue and there have been previous attempts, most notably Jamie Pratt’s Flash Activity Module. Unfortunately, it was developed for Flash MX 2004 or Version 6.0, while we’re currently at Version 10, and is not forwardly compatible. So while e-learning and Flash speed ahead with ever more useful and powerful functions, anyone using this module gets left behind. The other solution currently available is an e-learning standard format developed by the US military called SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model). While there is a lot of support available for this standard, it is very complicated and difficult to implement and it requires a high degree of specialist knowledge. Ask any IT support employee or e-learning developer about it!

How far has the project got?

So far, I have a working beta version that can deploy Flash e-learning applications of any version relatively simply and easily. A teacher or course content developer can now create e-learning interactions by combining Flash e-learning applications with media resource files. This is traditionally done with XML but the SWF Activity Module also supports a technology called Flash Remoting or AMF (Action Message Format) which is a very fast, efficient and versatile way for Flash e-learning applications to communicate with Moodle and other server-side applications. Learning applications will be able to retrieve all the data they need, i.e. images, audio, video, text and animations, to present sophisticated learning interactions and also pass back data about what learners do and how well they do it.

The SWF Activity Module learning interactions default database is organised so that one set of learning interaction data and media files, for example elementary vocabulary related to everyday objects, can be used by different Flash e-learning applications to dynamically create different learning interactions so that learners can practise and recycle the vocabulary in several different ways, i.e. matching images and recordings, dictations, questions and answers, word searches, etc. thereby consolidating their knowledge and skills.

What’s next?

There are two more main stages to the SWF Activity Module’s development. Firstly, to integrate the module with Moodle’s gradebook so that users’ grades can be recorded there along with other activities. I’ll most probably include a more comprehensive grading and results system specifically for Flash e-learning applications. And secondly, to provide a user-friendly interface for teachers and course content creators to create learning interactions by uploading the media files and entering data into Moodle’s database, or more simply put, putting images, audio, video, texts, questions and answers together so that Flash e-learning interactions can present lessons to learners.

Can I try it out?

You can see documentation for the SWF Activity Module here. There are some example learning interactions and video tutorial demonstrations available on a demo course my Moodle. Select “Login as a guest”. There is no need to create a user account. If you would like to see the editing controls in action and create a simple word search learning interaction for yourself, please contact me.