CyberCourse has a SWIM (show-what-I-mean) editor. Rather than formatting text yourself, you tell the editor what you mean, and let Cyco figure out how to show it. For example, for a heading you type:
To make a subheading:
Cyco will figure out what fonts, color, etc., to use to make the heading. Switch to a different theme (aka look-and-feel), and the fonts and colors might change, but it will still clearly be a heading.
Here’s a sample screen:
Here’s what students will see with the default theme, called Cerulean:
You can see the heading, the strong text, the bulleted list. If you change to the Journal theme:
The look is different, but your intention is still clear.
Not my personal fave, but some people must like it.
You can make lists and tables, insert links, images, and math formulas, etc. Cyco will figure out how to show them.
Cyco could have used a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, like Microsoft Word, with buttons for indenting, font size, and every other detail you can imagine. That’s what most people are used to. Why SWIM? Several reasons.
Editing is faster
To make a subheading with SWIM, you just type. With WYSIWYG, you stop typing, move you hand to the mouse, choose a style, back to the keyboard, type a bit more, back to the mouse, change to the standard style, back to the keyboard…
SWIM lets you focus on content. Let computers do the formatting. That’s what they’re for.
Content is more portable
SWIM uses a standard markup language called Textile, with some Cyco-specific additions for inserting exercises, pseudents, patterns… things that education authors want to do. Textile has been around for more than a decade, and has lots of implementations. If you wanted to copy content from a cycourse to another program that uses Textile, you just do it. SWIM documents are mainly plain text, the most portable content type there is.
On the Web, WYSIWYG isn’t
The promise of WYSIWYG is that what you see when you’re editing is the same as what users get when they look at the output. That made sense pre-Web, when output was on a printed letter-size or A4 page. It’s not true today. A Web page that looks fine on a laptop might be hard to read on a tablet or smartphone. Let alone the browsers embedded in t-shirts, that are coming next year (maybe).
You’re better off writing what you mean, and let the student’s device figure out how to show it. Cyco’s SWIM editor has a peek button, when you’d like to check what your content looks like:
You can see what it looks like on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. It’s not a perfect rendering, but works well enough.
By the way, all of Cyco’s built-in themes are responsive. That means that the same page looks good on lots of devices. Including the t-shirt browsers.
Images and formulas
Text editors don’t let you see images as you work on them. Here’s how you might show an image in a text editor:
!! says to insert an image.
~/public_html/images/forms/address-form-preview.png is the path to the image on the server.
(Form) is what a screen reader would say for the image.
Yuck! You have to imagine what the image looks like as you’re writing about it. That’s a problem for educational content, since photos and drawings are such valuable learning aids.
SWIM is a text editor, except when it comes to images and math formulas. It shows them as you’re editing, so you can see what you’re writing about. For example:
You don’t have to imagine the image when you’re editing content. You see it.
It’s the same with math formulas. With a standard text editor, you might type:
Ouch! TeX is the standard math markup language, but it’s easy to misinterpret.
SWIM shows formulas when you’re editing:
SWIM is a semi-GUI. It’s text, except when it needs to be graphical.
Er, it’s new. Is that good?
A SWIM semi-GUI is a new type of thing. Don’t panic, though. It’s a better thing, at least for authors of educational content.
If you were a magazine layout guru, maybe SWIM wouldn’t be so good. But you’re not. You’re a subject expert writing educational content. For you, SWIM is great.