SmartComponents have been around for four or five years now in TT-Knowledge Force, but they generally remain in the domain of the developers and TT-S professional services consultants. In this post, I’ll try to demystify them and attempt to explain how they can be useful to you in simple language. It won’t be easy but let’s have a bash!
What is a SmartComponent?
From the end-user point of view, a SmartComponent is generally regarded as an object that you can add to your eLearning in the document editor. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and add interactivity and fun to your eLearning course. An example of this is an avatar SmartComponent. You can see from the screenshot below that a SmartComponent also has settings that work to control how the SmartComponent works and to keep the interface simple and easy to use for an instructional designer or author.
Underneath all SmartComponents there is an API (Application Programming Interface). This API links the eLearning with the core functionality built into TT-Knowledge Force. In this API there are a series of commands that can be used to push information into TT-Knowledge Force or to pull information out of it. This is a key concept to understand, as it means that a SmartComponent can be developed separately from TT-Knowledge Force, as long as there are no changes to the way that the commands for pushing and pulling information between the core of the product and the eLearning work.
You can read more about this API if you are interested from here.
The main thing to understand though, is that these commands in the API need to be synchronized in both the eLearning side and the core TT-Knowledge Force side. So, if for example the API was changed in the core TT-Knowledge Force side adding new functionality (new commands), then you wouldn’t be able to use this new functionality in a SmartComponent until the SmartComponent had also had its API upgraded so it could understand the new commands.
Therefore, it’s easy to understand that each version of TT-Knowledge Force supports different sets of comamnds in the API. And therefore, only the SmartComponents that use supported commands will actually work.
Because TT-S publish details on the API, it means that if you were a sufficiently skilled developer or had access to a developer, then you could in theory create your own SmartComponents. In reality though most of us don’t have these skills or the developer access for this, so we generally end up using the SmartComponents that TT-S give us and support. They put these SmartComponents into libraries which we will now try to explain.
TT-S make it easy to ensure that the SmartComponents on offer work with the latest version of TT-Knowledge Force by arranging the SmartComponents into libraries. For example:
- For TT-Knowledge Force version 2016 and 2016R2 use SmartComponent library version 2.2.154
- For TT-Knowledge Force version 2017 use SmartComponent library version 2.3.190
- For TT-Knowledge Force version 2017R2 use SmartComponent library version 3.0.8
- For TT-Knowledge Force version 2018 and 2018R2 use SmartComponent library version 4.0
You can probably see from those version numbers that quite a lot of work has gone into SmartComponents from TT-S!
“But wait..” I hear you say. “..how do you know which version of the SmartComponent actually matches which version of TT-Knowledge Force?” Well, the answer is simple, they are published here.
There is also another fundamental question to ask yourself when thinking about libraries, which is “What SmartComponents are there in each library and what do they do?”. Once again, the answer is in the documentation. For each library TT-S release a document telling you about the SmartComponents in that library. They call these documents the Product Description(s) and they are also available for download from here.
So, from this particular library, we can see that there is an entry describing the avatar we have in the screenshot above. He’s called Ben and there is also another avatar called Emma.
OK, so you have decided that you want to go ahead and start looking at SmartComponents and adding them in to your eLearning. Great! Let’s discuss how we get these things up and running.
- First off, you need to get the library of SmartComponents that relates to the core version of TT-Knowledge Force that you are using. You can find out what that version is from Help –> About.
- Next, work out which version of the library it is that you need to get and download it from here. You can tell which of the links is actually a library as the icon looks like a piece of paper as highlighted below.
- The library has a file extension of .ttscp and you need to save it to your local hard disk.
- Now you need to install the library by importing it. Do this from the local workspace and before you do it, you need to check out the configuration from Templates –> Check Out. Not everybody will have access to do this, so if you don’t, please contact your system administrator. When you start the import you will have to locate the .ttscp file that you saved to your local hard disk already.
- Optionally, you can now select the SmartComponents that you want to install, or alternatively just install them all using the “All” button.
- Now that all the SmartComponents you need have been imported, just check back in the configuration, using the Check In button from the Templates tab.
Adding a SmartComponent to eLearning
To start using the newly imported SmartComponents, open a document from your local workspace and navigate to the Insert tab. From here you can find a button called Insert which looks like a jigsaw piece and then you can select the SmartComponent that you want to put into your eLearning. Once it is on the screen, double clicking on it opens the properties dialogue box where you can define how your SmartComponent should look and how it operates. Each of these dialogue boxes are different depending on the SmartComponent that you insert.
I hope that many of you will find this article useful. If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments box below. If you want to find out more about TT-Knowledge Force and how it can be used to efficiently create eLearning, documentation and integrate into a EPSS, then please contact us.