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Mass Production Guide

CTAT provides the capability for 'mass production' of problems for both Flash and Java Example-Tracing tutors. Using mass production, you can save time by authoring a large set of problems in a spreadsheet. The behavior recorder then generates a behavior graph for each problem defined in the spreadsheet.

Mass production generally follows the process outlined below:

mass production image

Mass production workflow

  1. Enter variables to create a BRD (behavior graph) template in the Behavior Recorder
  2. Create a problems table in the Behavior Recorder
  3. Input problems into the problems table via Excel or a plain text editor
  4. Merge the problems table and BRD template into mass-produced BRDs
  5. Test and Revise

NOTE: If you are using a prefabricated spreadsheet (problems table) for authoring, skip to step 3 - Input problems into the problems table.

1. Enter variables to create a BRD (behavior graph) template in the Behavior Recorder

In this phase of mass production, you will demonstrate behavior for your Example-Tracing tutor using a completed interface. Instead of authoring the content of hint and error messages, skills, and correct and incorrect student input, you will enter variables for these values. For the following steps, focus on making a behavior graph that can apply to multiple similar problems.

  1. With the behavior recorder open and in Demonstrate Mode, open the student interface for which you'd like to create multiple problems.
  2. For each value in your interface that varies by problem, enter a descriptive variable name. A variable is defined as a string beginning with %( (percent sign, left parenthesis) and ending in )% (right parenthesis, percent sign). Descriptive variable names will be useful in the next phase when you enter your problem data into a spreadsheet.
  3. When your start state is complete, select Graph > Create Start State.
  4. Demonstrate correct student actions for the problem, entering variables instead of correct text. For actions that don't allow the entering of a variable into the interface--selecting a combo box item, for example--select any item to create a state in the behavior recorder; then right-click that state and select Edit Student Input Matching (see figure 1). In the input field, enter the variable(s) that will be filled in later in the problems table.
  5. Continue adding to the behavior graph, demonstrating correct, incorrect, and alternative paths.
  6. Embellish the graph with hint, error, and success messages, and skills, using variable names where appropriate.

2. Create a problems table in the Behavior Recorder

You are now ready to create a problems table.

  1. Save the current behavior graph using the command File > Save Graph.
  2. Create a problems table from the current graph with the command Tools > Mass Production > Create Problems Table.
  3. In the Create Problems Table dialog, the current graph name is populated in the field. If you'd like to select a different BRD template, browse for and select the BRD template.
  4. Click Create.
  5. Select a location to save the problems table file and name the file without an extension (the TXT extension will be added automatically). Your problems table should now exist in the directory you specified above. If you receive an error, you may need to examine your behavior graph for typos (e.g., a variable name that starts with %( but does not end in )% ) and re-create the problems table.

3. Input problems into the problems table

In the last step you created a problems table—a tab-delimited text file editable with Excel—to store problem information. In this phase you will author your problems by inputting data into the file. While the file is tab-delimited, and can therefore be edited with a text editor, we recommend that you use a spreadsheet program to enter problem data.

In a spreadsheet editor, your table should look similar to the one depicted in this figure. In the spreadsheet, the first column lists the variables from your BRD Template, while each column after the first represents a problem. It is important to name your problems in the first row of the problem table, as each BRD that is generated will use the first cell of the column for its name.

When you are done inputing problem data, save your problems table.

NOTE: When saving from Excel, you may get a dialog stating that your file "may contain features that are not compatible with Text (tab delimited). Do you want to keep the workbook in this format?" Choose Yes to preserve the plain text format.

4. Merge the problems table and BRD template into mass-produced BRDs

In this phase, you will generate BRD files from the BRD template and problems table. In Microsoft Office, a similar step is called "mail merge". Like mail merge, this step takes the problem data you inputted and substitutes it for variables throughout the BRD template.

To merge the problems table and BRD template:

  1. Launch the behavior recorder and select Tools > Mass Production > Merge Problems.
  2. In the first field, browse for and select the BRD template file.
  3. In the second field, browse for and select the problems table.
  4. Click Merge. You will be prompted browse for and select a folder to store the mass-produced BRDs.
  5. Select a folder to store your mass-produced BRDs.

5. Test and Revise

With the student interface and behavior recorder in Test Tutor mode, test the mass-produced BRDs by opening them and attempting to solve the particular problem. Revise the problems table if necessary. If you need to change the variables or structure of the behavior graph, edit the BRD template in the behavior recorder as described in "Create a BRD Template". If you make changes to the graph, both steps two and three above will need to be repeated. Remember to add any new variables to the problems table—do not overwrite this file from the behavior recorder—and fill out the blank cells in the table accordingly. For unnecessary cells, use the text NA.