The Tragedy of Openness

In March 2020, just when the Covid-19 pandemic forced many events to be cancelled, I recorded a talk that I planned to give at the Edunautika in Hamburg. It’s in German, but there are English subtitles, and you can contribute more translations on YouTube.

If you have any thoughts about that topic, just let me know in the comments!

Surprise: Structure Strip

Do you know structure strips? I didn’t until I met a wonderful person who explained the concept to me. I learned that when students write texts, they often struggle with the proportions of the text’s sections. For example, the introduction might become as long as the main part. On paper (literally), structure strips can help.

Let’s say, an introduction should roughly take up 20 % of a text, the main part should span 60 %, the conclusion 20 %. Then a teacher could prepare a paper strip that’s divided into these three sections, where each sections takes up the required percentage of the strip’s full length. If students now put this paper strip next to a piece of paper, they now can see how much space a section should cover in relation to the others. In addition, the teacher could add some information to the section on the strip, e.g. what details must be covered or what to pay attention to in particular.

While this method seems to be pretty useful, doing it on paper comes with at least one problem: Students cannot simply change the length of their text. Once they have used up all the space for a section, they can’t add missing information or remove parts that are less important and could be spared in order to stay within the desired proportions.

H5P to the rescue!

I bet by now you can already guess where this is headed at: I have created a new content type for H5P in my free time. It allows you to create digital structure strips. ‘Structure Strip’ is not completely done, but the finishing touches should not take forever. It will look and feel something like this:

The virtual strip sections will either be next to each text input field or above them if there’s not enough horizontal space, e.g. on mobile devices. Students can write their text sections, and on clicking “check”, they will receive feedback on each sections’ length. Of course, there’s some slack that you can define, so students won’t have to hit a particular percentage precisely. There’s also a “live” mode that teachers can choose, so the feeback will be displayed within the section while students are typing instead of them having to click on the check button. Eventually, if the exercise is not supposed to be a self-assessment only, students can copy the complete text into the clipboard using a dedicated button and paste it somewhere else.

What’s missing before Structure Strip is released?

While everything is working fine, the user experience will become nicer thanks to the feedback I received from Jelena who works at Joubel.

mockup of a section of the structure content type

If teachers give hints for a section, the section may become quite large and so will the overall form. That’s why it will be possible to hide the hints and require the students to click on the question mark symbol shown after the section title. The hints will then show in a popup.

The sections will get some visual representation of how close the section text is to being complete. That’s the bar that you can see at the top of the image above.

And?

And that’s it … The source code will be openly licensed as usual, so you can customize it as you like or add features that you think are missing – or you might want to hire me to do that for you, of course 😉

H5P won’t display in tabs, accordions, lightboxes, etc. – will it?

There are many plugins for WordPress that allow you to enhance the appearance of your post and pages with tabs, accordions, lightboxes and similar elements that reveal content selectively. If you want to use H5P content inside these elements, the H5P content may not be displayed however.

This issue may be caused by giving the content that’s hidden the height of 0 pixels – so the H5P content is there, but it’s invisible. When you switch tabs, open an accordion element, etc. and then expect the content to show up, H5P would have to be informed that there’s more space now and that it should resize. Unfortunately, the other plugin would have to tell H5P, and it’s quite understandable if other plugin developers don’t want to have some extra rule for one arbitrary other plugin like H5P – what if other plugins come along that need some special treatment for themselves?

There’s a workaround that I created in my free time. It’s a separate plugin. Using it and its source code is absolutely free. I don’t want any money from you. However, if you like this plugin, I kindly ask you to make a one-time donation of 2.50 EUR to the Rainforest Coalition — or more if you can afford to.

What does the plugin do?

The plugin is just a workaround. It tells H5P content to resize regularly in a time interval that you can set instead of the other plugin telling H5P to resize once it should. You can easily guess that this is not a perfect solution. H5P will be told to resize way more often than it needs to, and H5P content may be displayed with a slight delay that’s defined by the time interval. It defaults to half a second. You cannot make the interval too small however, because then H5P would be told to resize too often, and the user’s browser might stall. Oh, and of course the plugin will not solve the H5P-not-being-displayed issue if it’s caused by something else.

How to get the plugin?

The plugin is called SNORDIAN’s H5P Resize Pulse. You can install it via the official WordPress plugin repository or download it from my github repository. The source code is openly licensed, so feel free to remix and repurpose it.

Oh, and please don’t forget: If you like this plugin, I kindly ask you to make a one-time donation of 2.50 EUR to the Rainforest Coalition — or more if you can afford to.

You have some other H5P related issue?

Feel free to get in touch if you have some other issue with H5P that you need to be solved. I am an IT freelancer that will gladly help you to use and enhance H5P.