by using a custom content creation and management system
Automating the creation of high-quality, multi-channel educational materials that meet end users’ changing needs and expectations
Enabling SMEs to easily contribute content to training courses
Eliminating the need to maintain multiple versions of source content
Simplifying compliance with technology accessibility requirements
20% faster course development by using a custom content creation and management system
Lets course creators generate multiple output types from a single content source
Accelerates content creation by enabling subject matter experts to contribute content using their preferred tools
Automatically updates content metadata at the module and course levels regardless of source material file type
Already renowned for the quality and technical sophistication of its products and services, IBM pursues equally high standards for external and internal training and education. IBM training teams from across global business units collaborate to create and update several hundred courses each year on a full range of skills including artificial intelligence (AI), Watson, cloud, blockchain, mobile, analytics, finance, security, and professional skills.
Course developers often use source material from subject matter experts (SMEs), who prefer to create content with familiar applications such as Microsoft PowerPoint and Word. The challenge for course developers is to rapidly convert source material into effective training for delivery in multiple output formats. To streamline and simplify the process, IBM Learning Development built the custom IBM Class Author solution, which provides a suite of tools to automate document conversions and various time-consuming and repetitive user tasks, and provides templates to enforce good learning design.
“IBM Class Author lets course developers create professional, scalable learning content for live or virtual classroom delivery worldwide, or materials for simple web-based training, regardless of audience, subject, or language,” says Paul Jagger, Business Area Manager for IBM Learning Development in Europe. “Even when multiple authors work on a project, IBM Class Author helps ensure a consistent design across all materials that enables ease of deployment, delivery, and subsequent maintenance of the learning content.”
“The IBM Class Author solution, used in conjunction with Adobe FrameMaker and Microsoft PowerPoint, produces course material of the highest visual quality,” says Tom Reed, Education Development Manager, IBM Cloud. “In addition, using this product combination increases the productivity of the course developers. We have found this solution to be invaluable to our course development department.”
Courseware Tools Specialist and Technical Editor for IBM Learning Development
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 aging mainframe technologies. As its business needs evolved, IBM created Class Author to integrate with FrameMaker because it efficiently handles long documents, organizes 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 standardized 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.”
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 synchronize 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 program to help more than 430 current employees of a major United Kingdom public sector organization 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.”
Each IBM training course includes many items of metadata, both at the overall course level and at the individual module level. However, synchronizing 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.”
Courseware Tools Specialist and Technical Editor for IBM Learning Development
Besides accelerating document development and review cycles, the what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) editor in FrameMaker extends the value of existing content. IBM has refreshed significant volumes of courses for up to a decade by using IBM Class Author to automatically update content to the latest FrameMaker course template version.
Adobe Technical Communication Suite and IBM Class Author also support IBM’s compliance with Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act and similar international legislation enacted to improve information technology access for people with disabilities. For example, learning materials for the visually impaired must provide text-to-audio alternatives for document images.
IBM Class Author automatically assigns image descriptions to presentation slides instead of requiring an author to write alternative text. Alternative text content is then automatically propagated to FrameMaker and is used to produce fully accessible PDF output documents.
“The IBM Class Author solution, supported by Adobe FrameMaker and Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, enables us to develop classroom and virtual classroom-based learning content that meets accessibility requirements in an efficient, cost-effective manner,” says Cable.