Four approaches to authoring CALL materials

Abstract of paper presented at EUROCALL 98
University of Leuven, Belgium, September 1998
Graham Davies

Links checked 29 February 2012

For a more comprehensive article on authoring, see Module 2.5, Introduction to CALL authoring programs, by Paul Bangs at the ICT for Language Teachers website:

Authoring packages: past and present

This is a list of just some of the authoring packages with which I have been acquainted:

TES/T, Pilot, COMET, CAN, WatCAN, CALIS, WinCALIS, Dasher, Edutext, Microtext, Tutor, TenCore, Course of Action, Storyboard, CopyWrite, Quartext, WordPlay, TextPlay, Developing Tray, Question Mark, ClozeWrite, Clozemaster,UNIT, Gapfil, Speedread, Toolbook, Hypercard, HyperStudio, MediaLink, QuestNet, IconAuthor, CBT Express, Course Builder, Guide, HyperShell, Linkway, BonAccord, Partner Tools, Learning Space, Authorware, Director

This paper considers four different approaches to authoring:

1. KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid!

These two packages, written by myself, have been best-sellers in the UK secondary schools sector since the mid-1980s. The reason for their popularity is probably because they enable the busy teacher to generate the maximum amount of work for the student in the shortest possible time. Neither package can claim a high degree of sophistication or flexibility, but a teacher with a basic knowledge of Windows can learn how to use them in an hour or two. Fun with Texts requires the teacher only to find a suitable text that the computer automatically prepares for a variety of text-manipulation exercises, and GapKit is designed for the creation of gap-filling and multiple-choice exercises, with the possibility of enhancing them with pictures and sound.

2. The integrated approach: The Authoring Suite

Wida Software's Authoring Suite is a collection of programs designed specifically for the language teacher. The original separate authoring programs from which the Authoring Suite has been developed fell into the KISS category:

These have all been rewritten to provide a more user-friendly authoring integrated CALL authoring environment that offers the possibility of multimedia enhancement:

3. A multi-purpose package: Question Mark Designer

Question Mark Designer by Question Mark Computing is a sophisticated multi-purpose authoring package which lends itself well to the creation of CALL materials. A variety of exercise types can be produced with this package, all of which can be enhanced by multimedia. The main advantages of Question Mark Designer are the ease with which it can be integrated with other packages and the possibilities it offers in delivering and analysing tests:


Multiple Choice

Push Button

Hot Spot

Text Match

Multiple Response



4. Generic CALL: MALTED

The problem with most authoring programs is that they offer a one-off solution. The materials created with them can only be used in conjunction with the authoring package that is used to create them. A new EC-funded project, known as MALTED (Multimedia Authoring for Language Tutors and Educational Development), aims to provide an authoring environment specifically geared to the needs of language teachers by developing new sets of tools and templates for the creation of pedagogically sound multimedia courseware, including datasets of content-rich materials from a common pool, to which participants may also be able to contribute new or re-versioned content to ensure its dynamism. The materials will be constructed in an open framework which will allow for multiplicity of instructional design approaches:

© Graham Davies 1998. This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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