The Xerte Project AGM

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Over the past couple of days I have attended The Xerte Project Annual General Meeting at Nottingham University. It was an occasion for me to not only meet the community of people who continually develop the tool but also see some of the exciting new features and learn more about the code.

The day begun with welcomes, introductions and overviews and it was clear to see that the choice to go open source for this project was the correct one. The community has been establish and is growing.

New features

Some of the new features of Xerte (Standalone) and XOT include:

  • Online and offline authoring and playback
  • Supports HTML5 (Xenith) – coming soon
  • Internationalisation – language support
  • WordPress plug-in
  • Moodle Filter
  • A new install defaults to ‘Guest’
  • Changes to management.php pages
  • You can now change owenership of objects to other users
  • Improved export options
  • New media file – this could be a how to or help video file – likewise the media file can be audi only or audio and an image
  • Page title size can be changed – allowing longer titles
  • Change the speed of bullets points entering the page
  • JMOL Viewer to show Java Applets containing 3D models
  • Customise looks and feel more easily
  • Embed google forms to capture reflections
  • Screenr/Issuu – anything that provides embed code will embed within Xerte or XOT
  • Embed pages allow you to embed things like tables or advanced HTML formatting

Internationalisation

A lot of work has taken place to make Xerte and XOT appeal to the international market by supporting different languages. There is a new website where translators can translate the words and phrases that Xerte uses, this can be seen here. It is still work in progress, but there are currently about 4 languages. In short the new words and phrases are placed in a new language XML page and the appropriate language XML page is called depending on which language the Xerte learning object creator selects.

Xenith

Xenith is probably the most anticipated update as it renders Xerte learning objects produced in Xerte Online Toolkits as HTML5. Meaning the project is moving in a direction where Xerte is not dependant on 3rd party software and works effectively on mobile devices as well as desktop browsers. Although flash is still needed in some instances, the hope is that HTML5 will replicate 90% of what is currently possible with flash and eventually removing it altogether. Tablets have been the main focus for the Xenith project and work will continue to see the tool works effectively on smartphones also.

The user interface has been updated as the previous flash version is roughly 8 years old now. The design tweaks have not been too radical, therefore current users will be able to adapt to the changes with ease.

Xerte is highly regarded for its accessibility features and with the arrival of HTML5, many of the obvious accessibility features seemed to have disappeared. However now HTML5 is being utilised the accessibility feature of the browsers can now be used, so HTML5 Xerte is just as accessible –  if not more accessible than Flash Xerte. The new features have been tested with users of screen readers including Jaws, NVDA and soon SuperNova.

HTML5 in a Xerte Online Toolkits release will hopefully be seen by easter 2013, but for now see examples of the HTML5 templates in Xerte Online Toolkits here.

Community website

There will be a new Xerte community website developed over the next 12 months and can be seen at www.xerte.org.uk.

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