Using the Authorware Learning Object Content Packager—A Walkthrough

Content Packaging addresses the description, structure and location of online learning materials and allows content creators to develop and distribute learning material in a way that it can be used and reused with any standards-compliant Learning Management System (LMS) or Learning Content Management System (LCMS).

Authorware 7.0 includes a new command, the "Authorware Learning Object Content Packager". This command provides facilities to describe and package learning objects into interoperable, distributable packages.

This article explains how to use the Learning Object Content Packager (LOCP) and lists the steps required to set up learning objects (or SCOs /Sharable Content Objects as they are known in the SCORM), that you have created with Authorware as a SCORM1.2-compliant content package.

The SCORM Content Package

The SCORM references the IMS content packaging definition and defines a content package as the delivery format of reusable learning objects.

A SCORM 1.2 content package includes:

  • all the physical resources of the learning object(s) including map files, segment files, HTML files, media resources etc.
  • optional meta-data describing the learning material
  • a manifest file which describes the content of the package and its structure

Bundling the items mentioned above results in a package interchange file (PIF). The PIF provides a concise web delivery format that can be used to transport content packages between systems, typically in a ZIP file or similar archive format.

Types of SCORM Content Packages

There are two types of content package:

  • Resource package - A resource package is a collection of learning resources packaged together with no defined hierarchy. It is simply a collection of learning resources that can be transported between LMSs and LCMSs.
  • Content aggregation package – A content aggregation package is a collection of learning resources packaged together with information about its structural hierarchy and behaviors.Typically, a content aggregation package is an entire course.

Both of these packages must include a manifest file that comprises a descriptive packing list of the physical resources included in the package. However, only the content aggregation package manifest includes at least one organization, which describes the structural hierarchy of the resources, and for SCOs, specific information about their behavior such as the minimum passing score and maximum time that the learner may spend in the SCO.

More details can be obtained at the following websites:

Main Functions of the LO Content Packager Command

The LO Content Packager has two main functions:

  • Create a manifest file based on the structure of your content and some additional input.
  • Package the content resources, the metadata file(s) and the manifest into a package interchange file (ZIP file) ready for subsequent import into an LMS or LCMS.

Preparing the Content for Packaging

In order to be able to package your content, the following items have to be completed before running the command:

  • The Authorware web-published content. This is typically produced using One-Button-Publishing (OBP), so that all the files needed for delivery are in one single package folder.
  • An optional package meta-data file that contains meta-data about the content package itself.
  • Optional learning object meta-data file(s) containing meta-data that describes each learning object.
    Note that the last two items can be prepared using the “Authorware Learning Object Metadata Editor” command. They must be stored in the same package folder as the other resources.

Packaging a Sample Application

Let’s assume you have created a course comprising three learning objects created with Authorware that explain the functions of the LO Content Packager command: an overview, a simulation, and a test. These learning objects comprise the content that has to be packaged into a content aggregation package:

  1. Launch the command.
  2. Select the package folder that contains your prepared content.
  3. As shown in figure 1 below, edit the three mandatory fields in the upper pane of the command window:
    • Package Title: the title of the package, typically identical with the course or lesson name.
    • Identifier: the identifier for the package, which will also be set as the default name of the package Zip file. Therefore, it is recommended to set up the identifier in a way it can be used as a valid filename. In addition, the identifier can then also be used as the filename for the package meta-data file (if any).
    • Version: the version of the manifest. This value defaults to 1.0. You may change it according to your needs.

      application screen shot

      Figure 1: Upper pane of the command window, edited for the sample course.

  4. Select the name of the package meta-data file you have prepared (if any). All correctly set up meta-data files stored in the package folder will be listed in the drop-down menu.
  5. Check the Linked check box. This is optional, but if you do not check this box the meta-data will be embedded in the manifest file. We recommend linking the package meta-data to the manifest file so that it can be updated independently, thus avoiding the need to re-generate the whole manifest file.
  6. Check the Save organization elements check box. Although this is optional, it is recommended that you use the organization elements because they hold most of the meta-data about the learning object. (You would not check this box if you were building a resource content package.)
  7. Browse the file list of all the content resources to be packaged that is displayed in a tree-view on the left hand side of the lower pane of the command window. (See Figure 2.)

    application screen shot

    Figure 2: The lower pane of the LO Content Packager command window with two open nodes in the tree-view.

    • Webpages: This node contains all HTML files used by your learning object and also the related resources like JavaScript files. Typically, one or more of the HTML files will be the launch file(s) generated by OBP.
    • XML: This node contains all the meta-data files as well as some necessary associated files. Note that the manifest file is not shown in the tree-view display.
    • Maps, Segments, Binaries, Xtras and Others: These nodes contain all the physical content resources used by your learning object.
  8. Define an entry point for each learning object so the LMS will know how to launch it. In most cases, the entry point will be the launch HTML page for your Authorware piece that is generated by OBP. (You must use a launch HTML page if your learning objects exchange data with the LMS or LCMS via the JavaScript API specified in the SCORM.)
    1. Open the branch named Webpages in the content tree and select the appropriate file.
    2. Click on the round button in front of Set as entry point. The selected file will then be marked with the same green symbol and an identifier automatically will be filled in the respective field (See figure 3).
  9. Edit the Title field to define the name of the learning object to be displayed in the LMS.
  10. Select the name of the learning object metadata file you have prepared (if any) from the Metadata drop-down menu.
  11. Check the Linked check box. This is optional, but if you do not check this box, the learning object meta-data will be embedded in the manifest file. We recommend linking the learning object meta-data to the manifest file so that it can be updated independently, thus avoiding the need to re-generate the whole manifest file.
  12. Fill in any additional meta-data values for the learning object such as the Mastery score, the Time limit and other parameters. Additional data may depend on the type of the learning object and the desired setup in an LMS or LCMS. Check the LO Content Packager Help for details about each of these fields.
  13. Repeat steps 8 through 12 for each learning object included in your package folder (See Figure 3.)

    application screen shot

    Figure 3: The lower pane of the LO Content Packager command window, showing three learning objects with individual entry points and the details of the third one.

  14. Create content groups by clicking the Add Group button (if desired). This feature enables you to group and structure your learning objects in a hierarchy and allows for the organization of complex course structures. Each group contains one or more learning objects or other group(s) and maps onto a SCORM 1.2 content aggregation (see the article “Creating E-Learning Content in Authorware 7 for SCORM1.2-Compliant LMSs and LCMSs” for a description of SCORM 1.2 content hierarchy). A group is considered to be the parent of the course elements it contains. This relationship is defined by entering the parent group’s identifier in the Parent field of the entry points of the learning objects and groups it contains. Note that you cannot define an entry point for a group. By default, a group’s entry point is the first child entry point within its hierarchy.

    Note: The complexity of groups with hierarchical structures cannot be meaningfully represented with the three learning object course used as a sample in this article. Please see the SCORM 1.2 Content Aggregation Model specification for more details.

  15. After setting up the entry points and editing the relevant fields, you can either save only the manifest file, only or create a package interchange file in ZIP archive format.

    • The manifest must be named imsmanifest.xml and saved in the same package folder as your prepared content.
    • The completed package interchange file must be saved to a different folder. By default, this file will get the name specified in the LOCP Identifier field. Alternatively, you can change the file name before saving the package.

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