Evolving with business requirements
IBM built Class Author to operate with Adobe Technical Communication Suite. It combines many of the standard features in products such as Adobe FrameMaker and Adobe Acrobat Pro DC with add-in tools IBM created by using the Adobe FrameMaker Developer Kit.
IBM implemented FrameMaker nearly 20 years ago when it needed a distributed desktop authoring solution to replace ageing mainframe technologies. As its business needs evolved, IBM created Class Author to integrate with FrameMaker because it efficiently handles long documents, organises content at the book level, seamlessly processes multiple outputs from a single source by using conditional text and imports graphics by reference instead of embedding them into documents.
IBM Class Author automatically imports Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, with slides and speaker notes and Microsoft Word documents into FrameMaker based on predefined templates. IBM Class Author can also round-trip content back to the original Microsoft presentations or documents so contributors can update content by using their preferred applications.
“By automating repetitive, time-consuming tasks with Adobe FrameMaker, IBM cut course content development time by up to 20%,” says Julian Cable, Courseware Tools Specialist and Technical Editor for IBM Learning Development. “If we hadn’t standardised with the combination of IBM Class Author and Adobe FrameMaker, course development times would be much longer and the quality of deliverables would be lower. Adobe FrameMaker frees course developers to spend more time on content quality and less time on routine formatting.”
Scalable, reusable and accessible
IBM’s flexible, modular approach lets course developers generate multiple FrameMaker output books from the same original source material. With conditional text in FrameMaker, course developers can mark each piece of content for specific purposes, such as audience or output type, thus eliminating the need for multiple content copies. IBM Class Author can then synchronise conditional text settings across an entire FrameMaker book for generating various production output formats, such as PDF student guides versus instructor guides or files that can be printed for classroom training or delivered digitally for the growing number of online courses offered by IBM.
For example, IBM designed, developed and delivered a training programme to help more than 430 current employees of a major United Kingdom public sector organisation to transition to updated IBM technology. The training team also developed slightly different courses to introduce new employees to the technology.
“By using Adobe FrameMaker conditional processing and IBM Class Author capabilities, IBM significantly streamlined the course development phase of the project by enabling materials for both employee audiences to be developed in a single place, instead of having to develop modules on given subjects separately for different audiences,” says Cable. “This enabled the training course development and delivery to be completed on a tight deadline.”
Simplified metadata management
Each IBM training course includes many items of metadata, both at the overall course level and at the individual module level. However, synchronising metadata across multiple files was a challenge. Each learning module includes metadata about a specific lecture or lab exercise. Course metadata includes information such as the course description, learning objectives, agenda and lists of lecture or lab titles.
A course or module typically uses metadata multiple times for outputs such as abstracts, prefaces and tables of content. However, manually updating and cross-checking metadata could take up to two days for larger courses. IBM Learning Development eliminated the tedious manual tasks by building a “Course Information” function for IBM Class Author by using the FrameMaker Developer Kit.
“Metadata is now stored in a single master XML file that can be updated once and then propagated automatically to all Adobe FrameMaker books and Microsoft Word and PowerPoint files associated with a course,” says Cable. “IBM Class Author even has a batch function that uses structured authoring in Adobe FrameMaker to apply all metadata changes to an entire course with a single mouse click.”