Webducate is delighted to announce that they have won funding from the Talis Incubator for Open Education to develop Drawtivity.  The Talis fund was set up in September last year to further the cause of Open Education through the use of technology. The small-scale nature of the funding proved most attractive to the learning technology community and met a need at grassroots practitioner level. The Talis Incubator attracted an impressive group of individuals who together formed the Talis Incubator Review Board. All six board members share a commitment to open practices within education, facilitated by technology, and see the Talis Incubator as an important way of helping get the best innovative ideas off the ground.

Following a lightweight open peer review of submissions, we’re proud to announce our Drawtivity project as one of the  winners of the first round of awards.  Here’s what Talis had to say about the project:

“To date it has been difficult if not impossible to make changes to educational images – for example to introduce explanatory animation or enable interactivity with students – due to the underlying complexity of digital images and lack of interoperability between different image authoring software tools. Webducate’s Drawtivity interface will make it easier to reuse educational images, and enable students to interact with those images, offering considerable potential for assessment activities. Andy Lane, one of the Review Board members, was particularly impressed with the potential for open assessment – remarking that tools in this area are badly needed”.

We are extremely excited about bringing this idea to life and also about getting to work more closely with the OpenEd community.


Talis Incubator Proposal

Below is the project proposal submitted to the Talis Incubator Fund in December 2009.

Drawtivity OER – Drawing Activity and Creation/Adaptation system

Submitted by Tony Lowe (tony@webducate.net)

Project aims:

  1. To develop a new type of e-learning activity and related web based authoring system based on the participant drawing a line or area on an image.
  2. To develop an example web based e-learning activity authoring system built specifically to facilitate open, easy to use activity authoring, sharing, re-use and adaptation.
  3. Through demonstrating a resource authoring system with functionality to support the philosophy of OER built in, it is hopped that this approach will be adopted in other education resource related authoring systems.

The adaptation issue

A problem with most published web based education resources is that they are difficult if not impossible to adapt for reuse due to the nature and complexity of their constituent files.  Generally it is necessary to have a copy of the same authoring software and also have access to the original source files in order for adaptation to be a viable option. This proposal sets out to create an easy to use web based authoring system for a new type of learning activity which also provides a pathway for the rapid and easy adaptation of these activities by educators wishing to re-use them in different contexts.  In doing this it is hoped to demonstrate a new model of content authoring and re-authoring that could be applied to other types of learning resource authoring systems.

Description of the learning activity

This new learning activity will consist of an image on to which the participant is asked to draw a line or area defined by a series of XY points (see below).

Example activity screen shot showing participant attempt

On submission the participant’s drawing is scored based on its similarity to a predefined answer (calculated using a mathematical algorithm measuring the distance between their points and the answer line/polygon). The activity feedback displays the correct line or area and can also offer pop-up text annotations describing key aspects of the answer (see below).

Example activity screenshot showing example activity feedback

The published activities will consist of an HTML file, an image file, a flash SWF file and an XML file.  Optionally these files will be published with additional files to provide a Scorm compatible learning object.

Example activity applications:

  1. drawing the shape of a particular mathematical function on a graph (e.g. sine wave)
  2. marking the route of a river on a map
  3. indicating specific geographic features on a photograph
  4. drawing the path of a nerve on a human body
  5. identifying an area on the body that is served by a particular nerve
  6. marking out the extent of a tumour on an MRI scan

Clicking on the activity OER button will reveal activity information and a link back to a publicly viewable related record on the activity authoring system (see below). This record will document the authoring history for this activity, any related notes offered by these authors and allow a visitor to download a copy of this learning object themselves, or copy a duplicate of this activity into their own authoring account of the web authoring system so that they can then adapt it and publish a new version.

Example activity screenshot displaying OER information and link to authoring system record

Description of the activity authoring system

The authoring system will be web based and built on open source technologies PHP and MySQL. Some aspects of the authoring system will utilise a flash based authoring interface.

Activity authors will be able to set up an authoring account on this system and will use this to quickly and easily create and publish activities.

Authoring process:

  1. Create new activity/duplicate existing activity – define/edit activity title, introductory text, provide metadata summary and tags.
  2. Define activity settings – line or area, colours used, line thickness, scoring parameters etc.
  3. Upload image – upload a jpg, gif or swf file to be used as the subject of the activity.
  4. Feedback – define the correct answer using a simple flash based interface to draw the correct line or area.
  5. Annotation – define rollover pop-up text to be displayed in activity feedback to draw attention and explain key features of the answer.
  6. Preview the activity
  7. Publish the activity – download a zip file of the activity (optionally as a Scorm compatible learning object)
  8. Suggestions of open repositories (e.g. Jorum etc) for sharing the published activity made to the activity author.

Public facing authoring system functionality

The site homepage will in addition to explaining the purpose and use of the system, provide a basic activity search facility, highlight the latest authored activities and the most popular activities by download and adaptation.  Each activity will have a site listing that will allow a visitor to:

  • view the related activity summary, attribution of activity authors, metadata and number of times downloaded and duplicated for adaptation.
  • preview the activity
  • download the activity files in a scorm or non-scorm format
  • duplicate a copy of this activity into their system authoring account so they can adapt and re-publish it for their own purposes
  • view related activities that have been created by adapting this original version

Project deliverables

A project blog will be maintained throughout the project.  This will describe progress and provide access to demonstration versions to allow feedback to be gathered from any interested parties.

The final product will be a functioning website incorporating the activity authoring system made openly available for use by educators. The hosting of this website will initially be funded for four years from the initial Talis grant. Webducate will pay for hosting in subsequent years.

All activities authored on the system will be published under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ (authors will agree to this condition when setting up an authoring account on the system)

The source code for the authoring system with installation instructions will be licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

The authoring system source code will be made available for download on the project blog and on EduForge.  This will be promoted on a variety of websites including www.webducate.net, the authoring site itself and via any bloggers that can be enlisted to the cause.

A number of demonstration activities authored with the system will be placed in open repositories such as Jorum.

It is intended that the outcomes of the project will be presented at the OpenEd and the ALT-C 2010 conferences at which attendees will be encouraged to use and promote the system to colleagues.

Project milestones and proposed payment schedule


Project started March 2010
Example working activity May 2010
Authoring system open to reviewers July 2010
Hosted system made available to any user September 2010
Demonstration at OER conference 2010 October 2010
Source available for download December 2010
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