Thursday, August 4, 2011

So embarrassing..but good to know

What a day it was. I was at a customer's house this morning for a tuning. As so often happens, she inquired about becoming a piano technician. When I mentioned the course I'm developing to her, I directed her to the course website, where she could view a sample of the course.

First of all, and perhaps a sign of what was to come, the userid/password combination that I supplied didn't work. Somehow, that id had been deleted, so I signed into my administrator account and created a userid.

Then she signed in, and was able to bring up the sample course, but, yikes, none of the images displayed in the course topics! She was using Internet Explorer, and I'd only viewed the course in Firefox and Safari to this point.

Once I got home, I investigated it further. While I was able to sign in and view images on IE, it only worked when I signed in as an administrator. The images didn't display at all when a "student" signed in.

A quick search on the moodle site ( led me to the solution. I didn't understand what the setting meant, but it entailed disabling a setting in the http settings. Once I did that, it worked fine.

I'm going to need testers with different browsers, versions, and platforms to view not only the course material, but hear audio, and view videos that make up the program. This is unlikely to be the first such occurrence of some technical glitch.

I'm learning as I go.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So many platforms to worry about....

I have been making good progress on the development of the program, but because I am including so many different types of media, I have to be aware of all the different platforms that are out there. I don't know what everyone will be using, but the task of making sure they are available on most is a daunting one.

I had used the JW player before for other projects, but revisited it when I discovered it had been retooled to work in html 5 (which one needs for iphone, ipad, etc.). It really works very well because it automatically detects what video it should display and the result is a clean, cool looking editor with no annoying "Oops" text I'd been receiving when trying to embed a flv video and viewing it on my iphone. It also automatically defaults to "download this video", if it can't be viewed in a flash editor or html 5. Very cool

I think, and I say that with caution, I've finally figured it out, so now I know the best format to create it in, and what encoded values work best. Time will tell if my choice is the best for the greatest number of users.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beauty of Online Education

Well, development of the course is continuing, and what I like the best about this type of delivery method is that it isn't static.

Just the other day, I had the opportunity to tune a piano known as an "Aliquot" strung piano, something I had never heard of or done before. Luckily the name "Aliquot" was inside the piano, and even more luckily I had my smart phone with me and was able to google how to tune a piano strung like this.

It took me to good old Wikipedia, which had a photo that matched exactly what I was seeing, and I was able to proceed to the tuning.

Naturally this is something that I wanted to include in the course that I hadn't previously considered in the original design. What I needed was a short tutorial on tuning pianos like this. Even though this type of stringing is rare, and are proprietary to English piano manufacturer "Bluthner", I thought they should be discussed in my course.

I reflect on how hard this might have been to include if any other format of delivery had been used. Even though this type of discovery is the first time this has happened, I'm pretty sure it won't be the last. I always marvel, even though I've been doing this type of work for 15 years now, at how much I learn every day about servicing pianos, and how much I look forward to sharing my knowledge with future piano technology students.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hard to put into words...

Not that I'm unusually surprised by this, but in an online learning program, like the one I'm developing in piano technology, everything has to be put on paper. Unlike a traditional face to face program, where the discussion can go in a number of directions, and a class leader can start with a set list of topics to cover and let discussions flow if they wish, an online instructional designer must carefully consider what possible direction, or what possible questions a student might have.

So it involves thinking of the bigger picture and presenting it in a clear and concise matter. The finest detail must be considered and presented to the learner. It is definitely easier to think on the fly than it is to write ti all down.

So I predict a few extra grey hairs, but it will be worth it in the end.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

First Course Done

Well, the first course is done, and I'm almost completed desgining the outline for the remaining nine courses. I've approached this process much like I've done for many of my Master's Degree assignments - start with a "wireframe" and build on the rest. This will assure some sort of continuity amongst the courses. I can't wait to finish them, but patience will be required for the rest of the process.

The weather is pretty fine here, and I will more than likely be developing many of the course's resources poolside. Don't worry, I won't let the sun fry my brain, I'll be needing it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I finally figured out how to make the media content in the course (specifically videos and audio files) viewable by any browser. Moodle has a great plug in that frames the media very nicely, and its skinnable too, and I was able to view the content on my computer and on my iPhone. Flash didn't work, as us i(anything) owners know, so I created everything in MP4, and it worked.

Back to slide show problems, I couldn't let it go, so I went back to using a powerpoint presentation. The problem is that if I load these presentations to slideshare or google docs (both great services), the slide transitions are lost and each slide only displays for three seconds, and at the moment there is no way to modify that. That was why I originally opted out of using that method. Then I had a "genius" moment as I lay in bed thinking about it and got around the too fast problem by inserting duplicate slides into the presentation. So if I wanted to display a slide for 6 seconds, rather than 3, I just had the same slide twice in succession. There is no transition capability yet in either service, so that's a blessing really, because my site visitors aren't aware of the duplicate slide. To them it looks like one that plays for 6 seconds, when it is really 2 that play for 3 seconds each.

OK, enough patting myself on the back, its back to work.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Slideshow Troubles

Yikes, I'm about ready to pull my hair out!  It has taken me almost two days to figure out how to embed a slideshow in the program website.  Tried picasa by google, but there is a known issue that clicking on the play button takes my visitors away from the site instead of playing the slideshow.  Not what I want!! The slideshow plays perfectly once, but there's no autoloop feature, and the problems are apparent if the user wants to play it again.  I can't specify the interval between slides, though, and it's a little too fast. No word from google when that will be resolved, and it's a known issue that's been outstanding since March 2010!  Can't wait for them to fix it, and this has been an exercise in patience.

So I've resorted to creating an html slideshow and used iframe to embed it in the site.  It looks good, but the user must advance the frames manually.  Still better than the google option though, because at least the visitor has ample time to read each slide.

Back to the drawing board I go, and onward to developing the course material.  The push is on to promote the site and the course on social networking.  I've established some great connections on Twitter, Facebook continues to lag behind.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting started!

Well, development is quickly underway.  First was the website and trying to create a portal full of information about the programs that will be offered.  I've decided to create a link to a sample course, to give prospective students a small taste of what is to come.  I've almost finished the first course, and will be taking the summer off school to complete both programs.  Whew!  It will be a lot of work.  In the meantime I'm trying to establish a presence in the social networking sphere on facebook, twitter and linked in.  So far, I'm having more success with twitter.  Can't get anyone to "like" the facebook page. Suggestions?