Authoring Tools: The Russnet ActivityMaker
Along with developing educational materials, the Russnet team created a set of online authoring tools, called the ActivityMaker. The creation of the ActivityMaker allowed for the Business Russian Case Studies to be posted to the Internet in an efficient, uniform, and easy-to-read manner.
What is the ActivityMaker?
The Russnet ActivityMaker is an online interface where materials developers can create interactive online activities. The only technical requirements are a computer connected to the Internet, a registered Russnet login and password, and the Russnet fonts. Registration for Russnet is free, and the web site provides clear instructions for downloading the font. From that point, the developer can create projects as complex as an entire course online, or as simple as supplemental activities to a textbook.
The Business Russian Case Studies were created with the Russnet ActivityMaker.
How is the ActivityMaker used?
In order to create a body of activities with the Russnet ActivityMaker, the developer must first create a project. In the case of The Business Russian Case Studies, each case study was a separate project. Within each project the developer creates a certain number of units, and within each unit, any number of activities. For each project, the developer can select certain pictures and icons to represent the project, or use default images.
The developer may create new activities or edit old activities. Activity types include a non-scoring activity (simple directions are given, and no scoring is necessary), a writing activity (a student will type out text on the computer which may be reviewed by a teacher at a later date), a multiple choice activity (the student will receive immediate feedback for right or wrong answers), fill-in-the-blank activities ( the student will type in the answers and receive immediate feedback), and drag-and-drop activities (matching and category activities, in which a student will receive immediate feedback for right and wrong answers).
How do the authoring tools work?
The technology team at Russnet employs its own in-house Linux Red Hat server running Apache to successfully host the Russnet web site and the Russnet ActivityMaker. The database application, MySQL operates on the server. Russnet programmers have programmed each page of the ActivityMaker in the programming language PHP, which allows for easy server-side database communications.
Here is how it works:
1) A Russnet teacher logs in and begins a session. This allows the server to recognize who is creating the activities, and pulls information from the database about the teacher, which the teacher has previously submitted by the teacher.
2) From here, the teacher creates activities for a class. Once within the ActivityMaker, the teacher selects the type of activity to be created, and fills in all the necessary information:
3) Once the teacher submits the information, it is stored in the database. Information stored includes the teacher who created the activity, the class in which it was created for, the title, directions, questions, and answers.
4) Now, when a student registered for that teachers class logs in, the database will query all the information about that student and the activities created by the teacher for that students class. When a student clicks to do a particular activity created by a teacher, the activity is queried from the database and the activity is presented.
The future of the ActivityMaker
The ActivityMaker was created by the Russnet technology staff, and were used by developers to create the On-line Case Studies. The Russnet team has made the ActivityMaker available to all educators. The ActivityMaker is incredibly easy to use, and requires minimal computer literacy. No knowledge of HTML is required, though those who do know it can add their knowledge to create even more sophisticated activities. By making the ActivityMaker widely available to the professional Russian teaching community, American Councils hopes to spread not only materials for teaching Business Russian, but to expand capabilities for all Russian teachers.
This project is sponsored in part by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), U.S. Department of Education.