Comparing Lersus with eXe

Lersus is an e-learning authoring tool that has implemented a number of features, similar to what we are doing with eXe. They support "didactic models" (predesigned pedagogical templates in eXe terms) as well as easyFreag (to create materials with a free tree structure). Not unlike eXe, they are targeting teachers who don't have much experience with e-learning. They support a variety of formats including exports for HTML, XML, pdf, SCORM & IMS QTI.

1. Overall impressions

In short, Lersus is a worthy "competitor" for eXe (pitty it's not OSS <smile>). I must compliment its developers. Lersus has impressive features that eXe must investigate carefully. I suspect that Lersus has a reasonable learning curve for non-technical users. I think that eXe's "competitive" advantage when compared to Lersus can be summurised as follows:

  • eXe is an OSS development;
  • eXe's usability for non technical users is better;
  • eXe's support for customisable user instructions and pedagogical tips is better;
  • eXe captures more information on the form of individual iDevices which gives us more flexibility for managing presentation after authoring;
  • the inclusion of an iDevice editor in eXe will provide far greater flexibility for the author;
  • working in a native web-environment eXe is able to provide immediate visual feedback of the online version which facilitates "tacit" professional development;

2. A request

The development team and open community should download a demo version and play with the technology (not sure if Linux is supported). Please help us by posting your views on this wiki.

  • Ability to work with pedagogical templates plus free tree authoting (generative templates)- eXe supports this
  • Professional look and feel of the HTML export - we need to do some work on providing a few professional looking stylesheets
  • Smart generation of a professional looking PDF document with TOCs, professional layout etc - We don't support pdf exports yet, although on our wishlist.
  • Providing a link in the HTML version to the print version (the PDF doc) - we don't do this, but wouldn't be difficult once we support pdf exports.
  • Intelligent mapping to "iDevices" or elements when working with particular elements, eg when creating a test you only have access to question types - eXe will support this functionality.
  • The ability to add a heading within a page - we don't support this yet, but won't be difficult to add an iDevice called "heading" which defaults to the H-level immediately below the H-level of the respective page node.
  • The ability to add a reference module (Node) (distinguishing between compulsory and suggested readings) plus a glossary module (also a Node in the tree). From a pedagogical perspective these are value-add features that we should incorporate into eXe.
  • Lersus has a rather nice hyperlink feature whereby the author in addition to a weblink can link to a file, object, existing Node in the content tree, a reference and glossary module. However - I think usability for non technical users could be improved - we should consider an appropriate way of deploying these features in eXe. In eXe, weblinks are enabled by the FCK editor - therefore we need to think about an appropriate "idevice" for links, and whether a separate "idevice" is required for each type of link or whether a generic link "idevice" is better.
  • Version control feature - on the eXe wishlist but not yet implemented.
  • Sort feature for references in the reference module.
  • The template for references and subclassifications among compulsory, recommended and web references. eXe will need to think about an appropriate template for capturing this information and dealing with distinct referencing differences between, for example, a journal article and book.
  • The drag & drop functionality when moving things around in the content tree, but also the replication of this functionality in the collapsed view of the authoring pane.
  • When collapsing the outline & or metadata panes, Lersus has a rather nice feature using a mouse-over to expose these taskbars.
  • Lersus includes an "event viewer"
  • I'm not sure whether this is a like or dislike. Lersus has an "event viewer" which is essentially an automated debugger which allerts the author to missing "iDevice" fields or things which won't work properly when exported. Its a valuable feature - but the issue is whether this should be identified at source (i.e. when the iDevice template is completed or whether this should be done at the point of export/publishing. It seems to me that there may be two classifications of "bugs" those which one can leave till later, or those which should be attended to when authoring an iDevice.
  • Lersus has the ability to split, clone or join elements or components. The issue for eXe is to identify which "Idevices" can accomodate this kind of functionality. For example, in eXe, you should be able to join two free text "iDevices" that follow each other. However, it does not make sense for an internal split of a multi-choice question.
4. Dislikes
  • Users don't get visual feedback on the HTML version until they action a preview. Preview takes a while to generate and I found myself going through repeated cycles of authoring and waiting for the preview to get an idea of how the technology works. - eXe has added-value of "immediate" visual feedback.
  • When authoring my first content I found myself getting lost, eg. How do a create a new node? What should I type here? etc. When using more more sophisticated assessment iDevices (drag&drop), I simply didn't know what to do. To be fair, I did not consult the Help file but as my learning curve increased, things got better. Issue is - would the typical user in our target audience persevere to this point. I was motivated to see how the technology works given my interests in eXe. eXe's contextual just-in-time help is an excellent feature of our technology and with immediate visual feedback in preview mode, I think that we have adopted the right approach.
  • A complicated user interface when measured against our target audience - that said, it is a professional looking GUI for XP users. eXe is directed by the design philosophy of "less is more". It seems that users should only be provided with additional information, when and if required.
  • A confusing classification framework used for elements and components. At times it feels that an element should be a component and vica-versa. eXe should spend quality time thinking about an appropriate ontology or classification framework for iDevices.
  • Intially, I wanted to add this to the "Likes" list above, but subsequently found it cumbersome. Within the outline tree, Lersus displays the "idevices" elements that are children of the respective node. It seems that this would work better if there were two pane views: 1) Content outline alone 2) Expanded node view showing the "idevices" used under the specific node concerned.

5. Considerations for eXe

  1. Develop at least 2 or 3 professional looking stylesheets that demonstrate publishing alternatives.
  2. When the pdf export is sorted, specify the requirement to have a link to a print version of the online content, customised for the presentation medium. For example, in the print version how do you deal with the feedback on a multi-choice alternative?
  3. Generate a "heading" idevice after researching the implications for CSS in eXe. This links with decisions on an appropriate classification system for different types of iDevices.
  4. Investigate and incorporate the options for the following Nodes: References and Glossary.
  5. Explore solutions for internal hyperlinks to a file, object, existing Node in the content tree, a reference and glossary module.
  6. Investigating and implementing solutions for sorting (eg references and glossary).
  7. Taking decisions about cloning, joining and splitting iDevices.
  8. Investigating and implementing solutions for automated debugging of missing data/fields that are required for effective functioning of eXe in the variety of export formats supported.
  9. Investigate and implement UI related solutions for content toolbar, drag & drop for moving subelements around, and general functionality regarding views and where functions are executed or triggered.

Last modified 10 years ago Last modified on 2009-05-22T06:10:54+09:00