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ELearning is an umbrella term that encompasses a broad range of approaches to learning using technology. While strictly speaking eLearning includes only networked learning (that which takes place over the Internet or over a corporate intranet), the term is often used to include other forms of learning, including multimedia CD-ROM-based learning.

ELearning is gaining momentum in both corporate and academic settings as a cost-effective way to provide high-quality learning and/or to supplement traditional, classroom-based teaching. It is appealing for many reasons: It is a flexible mode of instruction, which can include multimedia interactivity, simulations, games, forums, chat areas, and more to engage individual learners with content, as well as engage classmates with each other, building learning communities. ELearning can also be offered synchronously, meaning that instructors and students interact at the same time, as in a classroom; or it can be offered asynchronously, meaning that learning assets can be created and released, with learners accessing them at any time, at their convenience. Indeed, most high-quality learning environments offer a mixture of both.

Because of its flexibility, eLearning is used in a wide variety of settings for equally diverse learning objectives. In the corporate world, eLearning is used to replace or supplement training. Certification and re-certification are increasingly handled online in fields that include IT training, medical and health services, education, business, and other sectors where professionals need to stay on top of trends and get re-certified every few years.

In the academic world, many classrooms now contain computers that come with educational programs, such as early reading software. Many university classes include an online component that enables students to interact with content in ways impossible just a few years ago. For example, physical therapy students can now interact with sophisticated diagrams of muscle groups or control animations of cellular activity just by opening their browsers and pointing to a URL.

For eLearning developers, many of whom are not professional IT developers, creating quality learning interactions and assets is a challenge. Not many development tools have the necessary combination of being visual and user-friendly, while also being powerful enough to create worthwhile learning assets. One set of tools that has emerged as leaders in the field of eLearning is Macromedia's Web authoring tools (Macromedia Dreamweaver, Macromedia Flash, Macromedia Fireworks, and Macromedia ColdFusion) and its industry-leading multimedia tools Macromedia Director and Macromedia Authorware. All of these tools are easy to use and powerful, and each enables developers to create different kinds of content.

This book focuses on building content with three applications from Macromedia Studio MX: Dreamweaver, Flash, and ColdFusion. Dreamweaver is the industry-leading Web development environment. With its twin code editors and visual environments, casual and hard-core developers can share a single environment to create and maintain cutting-edge Web sites. Macromedia Flash is a multimedia and animation tool, whose file-efficient graphics and powerful scripting language (ActionScript) enable rich user experiences to be created and delivered over the Web with minimal download. ColdFusion is a markup language and server package that empowers developers to create dynamic, database-driven Web sites easily and quickly, with minimal programming.

This book provides extensive coverage of working with Dreamweaver and Flash, in conjunction with ColdFusion, to build learning applications that empower learners to take charge of their learning and interact with content on their own. Assuming you have a small amount of experience with HTML, Dreamweaver, and Flash, and no experience programming or working with database-driven Web sites, this book focuses on core concepts and best practices. Throughout the book you will work on four projects, each increasing in its power and complexity, even as you master foundational programming and architectural concepts. The curriculum includes the following lessons:

Lesson 1: Preparing an eLearning Project

Lesson 2: Authoring Web Pages

Lesson 3: Dynamic Learning Interactions

Lesson 4: Interactive DHTML Quizzes

Lesson 5: Building a Flash Video Simulation

Lesson 6: Interactive Simulations

Lesson 7: Checking Input and Displaying Errors

Lesson 8: Flash Site Architecture

Lesson 9: Setting Text Dynamically

Lesson 10: Drag-and-Drop Interactions

Lesson 11: Assembling the Complete Project

Lesson 12: Dynamic, Data-Driven Sites

Lesson 13: Connecting to Data Sources

Lesson 14: Restricting Access

Lesson 15: Building a Web Survey

Lesson 16: Building a Quiz with Components

Lesson 17: Flash, ColdFusion, and the Database

Each lesson begins with an overview of the lesson's content and learning objectives, and is divided into tasks that teach you how to use tools, scripts, and objects that relate to the theme of the lesson.

All of the files you will need to complete the course are included on the CD-ROM. Each lesson has its own folder, with two additional folders inside: Start and Complete. The Start files are those you use as you progress through each lesson. The Complete files show how the files should appear at the end of the lesson. If you run into trouble or have any questions, compare your own files with the Complete files. Or, if you get inspired and start experimenting (which is highly encouraged), you can rely on the files in the Complete folder to help you get back on track.

To use the files in most cases, simply copy them to any location on your hard drive. In the final project (Lessons 12 to 17), there are some special requirements, which are covered there.

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