A Chromebook and Claro: One Man’s E-Learning Day Out
I’ve been intrigued lately by the idea of living my digital life entirely “in the cloud”. Could I function effectively as an e-learning developer without being tethered to a local hard drive or locally installed software? Two recent innovations seem to make that possible – the Google Chromebook and dominKnow’s Claro e-learning authoring tool. So I decided to spend a day out on the town living and working entirely in the cloud.
Starbucks: 8:38 a.m.
I’ve borrowed my friend Vickie’s Chromebook for the day, and I’m sitting comfortably at a table outside. Then it hits me – I don’t drink coffee! So I order a smoothie and hope not to anger any of the baristas. The Google Chromebook is not really a computer at all – it’s an Internet appliance optimized for accessing applications and content that lives on the web. This particular model is made by Samsung and retails for $249. It runs the Chrome operating system; but to call it an operating system is being really generous. It’s essentially a web browser on steroids. The Google App store purports to offer apps you can run online, but most are just glorified websites. However, it’s hard to find a basic computing task that can’t be completed online these days.
It boots up incredibly fast and quickly connects to the wi-fi network. In no time I’ve loaded my Google email and get right to work. The keyboard is surprisingly comfortable for a machine with an 11.6” screen.
Dry Cleaner: 10:15 a.m.
What, no wi-fi? What kind of dry cleaner is this? Without Internet access the Chromebook becomes a very elegant paperweight. Google apps and some others do have offline capabilities which seem to get better all the time. But without wi-fi my productivity slows to a crawl. Fortunately I don’t hang out at the dry cleaner regularly.
Panera Bread: 11:17 a.m.
Time for a working lunch. The Chromebook boots up almost instantly from sleep mode so I can quickly log in to Claro and build some e-learning. However, it is not a fan of hot soup! Where are those napkins? Cleaning the machine with a bread bowl is not effective.
I’ve been intrigued by Claro for a while. It’s a rapid authoring tool that lives entirely on the web. The user interface is clean and intuitive and all the typical features for building e-learning are readily available. Claro’s primary claim to fame right now is its emphasis on collaboration and the “everything in one place” approach. No need to email files back and forth, track feedback separate from the course, and manage media separate from your course file. Everything lives in one place and is edited and managed in one place. This is enormously appealing for those projects where multiple people are working together – and it seems to work pretty well. You can easily invite others to access and work in a project and control their access with permissions. Individuals can “check out” pages to edit giving them exclusive access to make changes. Others can easily see that and still preview the current page in real time. The Page Notes feature allows others to leave comments and feedback right in the authoring tool itself. You can have unlimited Reviewers regardless of your license.
The Beach: 1:45 p.m.
Shhhhhh….don’t tell Diane and Desiree I’m napping on the beach soaking up some rays. No wi-fi provided by the surf. Back to work later.
Local Restaurant: 5:00 p.m.
Time for happy hour + dinner – I think food and drink and e-learning development go well together! Another of Claro’s claims to fame is its “mobile friendly” feature set. All content is HTML5 conformant, although I have not completely tested that yet. It has a built-in “smartphone” dimension for building a course. While you’re on the road like me you can take pictures or videos with your phone, email them to Claro, and they’re added to your Media Library and available for use in your course.
Home Sweet Home: 8:30 p.m.
I’m back on my couch at the end of a long and eventful day. What have I learned? I think the Chromebook + Claro solution is still ahead of its time. The Chromebook is a nifty device for living your life in the cloud, but I could do virtually everything I did on the Chromebook on my laptop and also have access to a much wider range of applications. Perhaps one day computers as we know them will disappear and we’ll all use Internet appliances like the Chromebook. But not yet – or at least not until persistent high speed Internet access is available everywhere (including my dry cleaner!)
Like the Chromebook, perhaps Claro is ahead of its time – but it feels a lot closer. E-learning development is an increasingly collaborative effort and Claro makes it easy to work with others in a coherent and simple fashion. And why should we be tied to one particular computer hard drive for developing our e-learning? Online authoring tools, such as Claro, are the future – and it can’t get here soon enough for me.