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Digital education

Xerte Conference 2016 by Karl (Post3/3)

29 April 2016
xerte logo graphic

by Karl Luke

image of a xerte object

In my previous Learning Technologist role within MEDIC I was responsible for the rapid development of interactive, online modules for a number of eLearning courses and standalone modules. Like many Learning Technologists I consulted a swiss army knife of tools and applications in developing rich, multimedia content, based on a number of requirements, timescales and learning objectives. During my time these tools included Articulate, iSpring, Adobe Captivate, Camtasia, Dreamweaver, MyUdutu and Wimba. Xerte initially wasn’t one of my chosen tools. This was primarily due to the reliance of Flash Player, however in mid-2013 I began to re-explore Xerte after the release of the image attribution service Xpert and Xerte Online Toolkits v2.0.

The release of Xerte 2.0 now gave users the ability to deliver content using HTML5 rather than the Flash Player and also provided modern looking skins. Since this time I have developed numerous online units using Xerte. As part of improvement cycles, I also begun a project to redevelop units, previously created in other tools, within Xerte. Xerte has gone from strength to strength with the release of 3.0 and it provides opportunities for collaborative authoring and peer reviewing which are great features.

The Xerte conference was a great opportunity to hear about the very latest developments and future plans from the Xerte project team and to learn more about how Xerte has been used in teaching and learning scenarios, across the globe.

We’ve written a bit about what we learned from the conference, as a series of blog posts. Take a look at the conference resources, and also a recent post by Catherine Emmett, who shares her new tutorial resource to help you get started:


Raising the profile of Xerte within your institution – by Alison Christie

In this interactive workshop Alison Christie from Abertay University facilitated discussions around practical ways to raise awareness and adoption of Xerte within institutions. In small groups we considered potential challenges/barriers and solutions to raising the profile of Xerte. Are there any barriers which immediately come to come to mind for you? What can be done to address these challenges?

Some of the barriers and potential solutions we discussed are summarised in the table below:

Challenges (barriers) Solutions
Training – staff time and resources Build into workload modelling
Updating content Get other academics to showcase their Learning Objects
Too many other tools to choose from Cary training format (e.g. webinars, bring your own content, screencasts)
Getting staff to use it Provide examples of best practice and case studies
Management buy-in Get students involved in creating content
Daunting for staff to start with blank canvas Provide staff with demo templates
Technical competence of academics & digital literacy skills Local expertise – a dedicated resource for when things go wrong or training is required.
Resistance to open Source product Myth-busting
Future proof/sustainability
Finding the right channels of communication to research staff

It was an interesting workshop and obviously the barriers in raising awareness and adoption of Xerte (and other learning technology tools) are not unique to Cardiff University. The solutions discussed are certainly worth considering and addressing as the University begins to promote Xerte. If you are interested in Alison’s learning object from this session, it can be found here.


Creating inclusive content and experiences – by Alistair McNaught

What do you think of when you hear the terms accessibility and inclusion? Do these terms merit two different definitions? For example, what does it take to have an inclusive curriculum? Or what does accessibility mean in the context of designing learning objects (LOs)?

In his workshop “Creating inclusive content and experiences” Alistair McNaught expertly guided the audience through a number considerations, designed to help us reflect on how we can “maximise opportunities for as many people as possible – whilst minimising barriers for as many people as possible”. In the context of designing LOs, when thinking of inclusion and accessibility you may think of technical features and settings that have been designed to remove barriers that may prevent interaction with, or access, for learners with specific disabilities.

However, accessibility and inclusion consideration should extend further than disability; it includes how easily a tutor can create content and how easily a learner can work with it. This involves diverse considerations such as access, availability, collaboration, reusability, integration, interactivity, networking, platforms, skills and reliability. Alistair’s main presentation addresses these considerations, and many more, in good detail. Alistair also highlights Xerte’s rich accessibility options ranging from inbuilt features, browser based plugins, RSS options and open content. Alistar’s alternative textbook object, built using the bootstrap template, further investigates strategies for supporting print disabled learners, using Xerte. Both these objects are certainly worth a look and it may support our efforts at Cardiff in increasing inclusion and accessibility support.


  1. Simon Wood

    Great post Karl – thanks. Interesting to see how the developments in Xerte have come a long way since we got it going here in Cardiff five years or so ago. It’s come a long way! Even more interesting how those changes have lured a skilled multimedia developer like yourself thought the shift to HTML5 with the focus on mobile delivery.

    • Nan Zhang

      Hi Karl, similar situation here, used various tools and Xerte wasn’t my favorite until they’ve upgraded to HTML5. Really glad some of you managed to attend the conference and brought back these useful information. Great job!!

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