Authorware has come to my attention twice this week. I felt a twinge of sadness when I read Richard Nantel’s blog “The retirement of Authorware”.
Authorware was one of the most popular authoring tools available. Over the last 20 years, thousands and thousands of hours of CBT and online courseware have been developed using the tool.
In fact Authorware has a special significance for me – in some ways you could argue that it is partly to blame for me being in e-learning at all. When I was a lecturer in Chemistry I visited a professor at Cork University (Brian Hathaway) who showed me how he had been using Authorware to create interactive tutorials. I was amazed at how easy it looked and for some bizarre reason the image of a dove flying across the computer screen in one of these tutorials stuck in my mind (I didn’t say anything about the pedagogy of some of the tutorials!!!). Now ordinarily that would have been the end of it, given that it cost ca. £1000 which was a heck of a lot in the early nineties, but as luck would have it when I mentioned this to my head of department he at once took note and to my surprise allowed me to purchase a copy. I am sure the fact that the department was imminently due for Quality Inspection had nothing to do with it! Anyway that was me off on e-learning developments, I soon got to know the people working in the then national Chemistry CTI centre, the web was just getting going, and the rest is history as they say!! Sadly I couldn’t find any trace of any of these original tutorials or the ones from Cork University, but this image gives a flavour of the look and feel of Authorware from Paul Hsu.
My second encounter this week with Authorware was at a seminar I gave at the LSRI at Nottingham University. I was talking about how we are using an adapted version of Compendium for learning design and also the different ways in which you can represent learning activities (textual narrative, diagram, etc) and the pros and cons of each approach. Mike Sharples said the way we were using Compendium – with ‘swim lines’ of tasks and associated assets reminded him of the look and feel of Authorware. Interestingly as an aside I seem to remember that there were two distinct camps in terms of creating computer-based material in those days – those (like me) who liked the ‘flow chart’ metaphor of Authorware and those who like the ‘narrative’/’book metaphor’ of toolbook. The former camp seemed to be primarily Scientists and Engineers and the later camp from the Humanities and Arts. So maybe I am influenced in my current work by my Chemistry background and subliminally by my use of Authorware. Certainly there are echoes in the current debates about ways of representing learning activities and the pros and cons of different learning design tools with the arguments back in the nineties about Authorware vs. Toolbook. What goes around comes around perhaps?