October 2003 Bulletin

Macromedia's online educational design

Powerful tools for collaboration and editing

By Jay D. Mabrey, MD

Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.
—George Bernard Shaw

One of the most “unreasonable” companies in the field of online educational design is Macromedia, developers of a set of innovative Web design tools that are now being evaluated by the editors of the Academy’s Orthopaedic Knowledge Online. The editors are experimenting with some Macromedia products—both to produce and to update the growing collection of online educational materials.

Macromedia is out to revolutionize the way the world looks at online education with two recently updated programs: Dreamweaver MX 2004
and Macromedia Contribute 2

Dreamweaver’s features

Dreamweaver is a powerful, but easy-to-learn program that enables the user to design, build and maintain a Web site. One of its most robust features is the use of cascading style sheets (CSS) as a means of separating the presentation from the structural markup of the site. CSS streamlines Web page design and maintenance by allowing changes in the overall style of a site without having to go through page by page and change each document.

To get a feel for how CSS is used in Web design, go to http://www.stronghealth.com designed for the Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y. You’ll notice that there is a consistent look and feel to the entire site as you click through various pages. That look and feel is tough to manage when the content and structure of the site are lumped together instead of being separate as they are with CSS.

Dreamweaver can also be used to produce online electronic newsletters. The AAOS currently uses Dreamweaver to produce Patient Safety News and the Residents Newsletter.

If the above doesn’t impress you, log on to http://www.nikegolf.com
for a sample of just how slick and enjoyable Dreamweaver can make a site.

CourseBuilder

Macromedia also provides, free of charge, an extension to the Dreamweaver program called CourseBuilder that allows authors to easily create interactive tutorials and quizzes. The program will collect the answers from a multiple choice or true/false test and summarize the results. Other functions allow for typing in text answers to further test the user’s depth of knowledge.

Contribute 2, designed for novice

The real revolution, however, lies in Contribute 2 with its intuitive Web browser-like interface that enables editing of off-site Web pages over the Internet. Best of all, Contribute 2 is specifically designed with the novice in mind: it assumes no programming skills on the part of the user. You can quickly add content to a Web site from your desktop and cut and paste from other familiar programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel. Of course, you’ll need a special code number from the Web site administrator. But once you establish a connection with the site, you’re in business. Just browse to a specific site and start typing.

FlashPaper’s features

If you want to display any pre-existing documents on the site, FlashPaper, a component of Contribute 2, allows for publishing any printable document on the Web without anymore formatting. These documents can include Word files as well as PowerPoint presentations.

Reduced turnaround time

You might ask yourself, “Why would I want to edit Web page in my spare time?” This is a good question because this is where the world’s view of the Web changes. When you stop thinking of Web pages as static electronic placards and begin to consider them as living documents, you have an incredibly powerful tool for collaboration and editing.

Imagine the collaborative power of dozens of authors working together on a textbook online. Once the editor establishes the basic site for the book, contributors can upload images, blocks of text and references from their desktops without using one FedEx overnight mailer. The turnaround time is greatly reduced and each author is immediately aware of what the others are doing. The editors always have the latest version of the work in front of them and can suggest changes via e-mail.

Cost-effective

If this project is successful in producing cost-effective online educational products, the concept of Web-based collaboration may be extended to other projects such as Academy monographs and Instructional Course Lectures. Who knows, if enough unreasonable people get involved, they could end up working together to develop a nationwide orthopaedic curriculum or an online fracture text.

Jay D. Mabrey, MD, is a professor of orthopaedics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and chair, Electronic Media Education Committee. He is also the technology editor of Orthopaedic Knowledge Online. He can be reached at (210) 567-6297 or at mabrey@uthscsa.edu.


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