Product: Liquid Authoring

Liquid Authoring, a new rapid content authoring tool from Landmark ASP, tries to bring together easy to use functionality with advanced capabilities. The problem though lies in the execution.

Good

  • Easy to use home dashboard, cleverly laid out
  • Click on the button feature in the dashboard
  • Click and move buttons on the sidebar to the screen
  • Instant Preview mode while creating course
  • Instant Preview mode by chapter-slides when creating course
  • Flash card option, within the course
  • Media Library upload is fast, but I’m running at 20Mbps for upload, the only time it was somewhat slow was when uploading a PDF file
  • Can create root folders in the media library
  • Publish options were easy, simple and made sense
  • Robust advanced functionality, when used with the properties area – which is necessary in creating courses
  • User Interface when creating a course, and layout in general..BUT

Average

  • Placement of some selection options, seem strange
  • SCORM 2004, 1.2 compliant
  • Accepts image files (.jpg, .gif, .png), audio file (.mp3), video file (.wmv)
  • Question options include hotspot, fill in the blank, single and multiple choice
  • Import courses, prior to Publish

Poor

  • Requirement to use Properties when using individual objects, you don’t have to change any of the properties, but trust me, you will want to – due to some of the defaults, and functionality – The properties window has so many options, it can be daunting for some end users
  • In test version, product did not work in FireFox, had problems in Safari, but worked well in Internet Explorer
  • PDF capability to integrate into the course, loaded fine, but froze my screen – thus “task manager” had to come to the rescue
  • Unless you are a mind reader, you have no idea that you need to select one of the button options and then drag it onto the screen to start to work on the course. I’m sure this can be resolved with training, but if you are not around and someone else is doing it, their interest will last about 60 seconds, before they scream and walk away
  • Can only use .wmv media files, not mp4 or .avi
  • Limits audio files to .mp3
  • When looking for files on your computer, the window screen defaults to image files, so you can easily forget that you need to select another option, say “PDF” to see PDF files
  • When selecting a file within the library, you have to double click it to have it go into the course, even though you click once to choose it and it will identify what type – image, audio/video depending on the option button you select
  • Took an extensive period of time to create a course, frustration set in – see “huh”

Huh

The course is in beta stage, and as such it was hard to tell if X was supposed to work that way, or not. That said,

  • At times when you selected and moved the text button to the screen, and wanted to start entering text, you had to double click on the text box, which pulled up a WYSWYG, but you could not type in any text – zero. Occurred in FF and Safari, but interestingly enough, in Safari, the issue did not occur, when you wanted to add questions in the Quiz area; rather the text box worked fine
  • Something called Liquid Coach, located on the dashboard, when clicked opened up a browser within the system. You could search in the browser, but that was it
  • Email, and Live Chat Help did not work
  • Liquid Authoring has a “collaboration” feature, but I have no idea what is in it, because access was denied
  • Same issue with the “settings” option

Main Dashboard

After logging into Liquid Authoring you go immediately to your home screen. The layout is refreshing and buttons – i.e. options to select from are crisp and clear.

Home Options

  • Courses – Can view courses already created, can create a new course, edit or delete
  • Library – location of files, files are viewable by icons, along with the file name and type
  • Collaboration – No idea, it was not working or maybe it was, but I was denied access
  • Liquid Coach – When clicked it opened a browser window within the system, and I could search. I was hoping that I could capture screens or record them, but alas this was not to be.  I surmise it maybe a mentor option, but who knows
  • Admin – No idea what you can do, denied access to see anything
  • Publish – You can publish as a standalone, to SCORM 1.2, SCORM 2004; you can also export courses or import courses

Courses

Clicking the “Course” button, you go to the course screen. Here you can view courses already created, edit those course or delete them. You can also create a new course.

Course listings include

  • Name of course
  • One line description
  • Created with time and date stamp
  • Created by whom
  • Updated (if applicable), identifying whom, date and time stamp
  • View
  • Edit
  • Delete

Create a New Course

Click “Create New Course” and you will go to the course window page.

The page is quite extensive with a top bar, left side bar (which you scroll down to see more options), preview tab, the default course build window, and on the right side once you start to create the course and depending on the objects you selected, the properties option.

Left sidebar

This is the key to building your courses, since the objects identify what you can do. The problem though is that it isn’t as simple as clicking the object button and having it appear on your course window. Rather, you have to click it, hold it down and move your mouse onto the course screen and then the object changes to the actual object.

From here, you can expand the object, and change the properties.

Object Options

  • Image – insert your image – .jpg,.png., .gif
  • Button – create a button for your course, you can change the text, color and other options
  • Text – Your Text Editor, to type in text

In order to see the “text editor”, you have to double click on the text box, located on your main course build window

One strange output is that the default is a light grey and not white.

  • Flash Card, Hot Spot, Hidden Area, Click and Share
  • Media Player – creates a media player on the course build window, you have a robust set of options here

In order to select your media, you have to locate “source” on your properties window. Again, very robust for those advanced users, but can be difficult for someone who wants just the basics. Additionally, locating “source” isn’t easy to do.

  • Photo Slider, Flip Book
  • PDF Viewer – insert a PDF into your course. Can expand the box
  • Quiz – create your quiz
  • Fill in the blanks

On the top toolbar, you are provided a vast set of options, one of which is the course properties option.

Above that toolbar, is where you can see your chapters slides, follow by slides to enter into the course. Again, this is WBT, and it should be listed on the toolbar as pages, not “new slide”, for example.

On a side note, to return to your home dashboard screen, you need to click on the “Liquid authoring” button. Again, how would you know to do that?

I did like that the course title, chapters, author info and additional info was in plain site. And yes, you can move the slides around.

On the right side of the course build window is where you are going to see the properties. The properties only appear when you move an object onto the build window and click the object. I found that some objects only required a single click, others required a double click.

For example, if you select the “Quiz” object and move it onto the screen, then click it, you will pull up this window

Lots of options, but can you guess where you type and enter in the questions? If you said “Answers” collection you would be right.  But, honestly, how long did it take you to figure out that “collection” was meant to be clicked to do so?

Oh, if you are looking for “font” and changing of the colors, you have to scroll past “dimensions” to do so. My recommendation is to list it higher, before background color.

Answer type can be single or multiple. It would make sense to include true or false, or matching too, rather than just “single” or “multiple”. If you want other types of quiz types, for example, fill in the blanks or hot spot, then you do not use the “quiz” object, but rather the Hot Spot object or Fill in the Blanks object.

You can change numerous properties including the background colors. You can also pick a behavior if you so choose to, but the default does not activate it.

To create a quiz question within the quiz object, you click the Answers “collection property, which pulls up the following

You can add new questions or delete them. You type in the Answer and can identify the possible score, if you so choose.

Click “OK” and your quiz questions now appear. You can move them around anywhere on the course build screen, expand or decrease.

I will say this about Liquid Authoring, it does not auto group objects on the screen, which is wonderful. Too many authoring tools do this, and it is irritating. Trust me, not everyone wants to group their image with text.

Bottom Line

Liquid Authoring has a lot of promise, but it can’t seem to decide what it wants to be. On one hand, its home dashboard layout is easy with identifiable buttons, on the other side, the use of properties for each object can be overwhelming.

It is as though, the product itself wants to be two things to two groups of end users. Those who are e-learning developers and instructional designers, and those folks who are not.

Perhaps a simple adding of a tab in the Properties window, with the default being a simplified version, and a tab with “advanced” would make sense. Thus, each group can be satisfied.

There is nothing wrong with offering advanced options, and actually, it is a nice compliment, but execution and intangibles, are giving an appearance that this solution will be collecting dust in the rapid content authoring world.

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