Topic map templates

An application like PerfectLearn can be used in a wide variety of scenarios. Although I normally think of PerfectLearn within the learning space, a friend of mine has been testing PerfectLearn and using the application to help him manage some of his work-related projects. While discussing his experience with PerfectLearn we came up with the idea of, what I am now calling, "topic map templates."

Network Graph

Network Graph

A topic map template, for all intents and purposes, is a predefined set of placeholder topics and the accompanying relationships between those topics. Selecting a topic map template from a list of available templates (from within PerfectLearn) would automatically generate a set of topics and associations after which the user could carry on fleshing-out the topics and the associations as if they had been manually created by the user himself.

Advantages of using a topic map template include saving time (as you don’t have to manually create the topics and the relationships between the topics) and being able to repeatedly create a standardized topic map structure.

In the case of my friend, he found that he was creating the same kind of topics and relationships for the different projects he was managing, over and over again. For example, he was creating the project topic itself, followed by creating topics for the project’s requirements, stakeholders, project deliverables, time frames, and so forth. And after creating the necessary topics he would then have to create the accompanying associations between the topics. All in all, it was an error-prone and time consuming process. A process that, if you think about it, is unnecessary. It is something that can be automated away.

With regards to topic map templates, I envisage the PerfectLearn community submitting templates to a central repository that other PerfectLearn users could browse or search from within the application. When a user finds an appropriate template the user downloads it after which it would be available within PerfectLearn to create the desired topic map structure. To ensure that the user has an accurate overview of what exactly the template provides, on selecting a template, a live visual graph of the template would be displayed together with a description (provided by the user who submitted the template to the repository). Furthermore, the individual templates would be categorized, tagged and user-rated to ensure that the most useful templates are easily found.

Topic map templates could span from the simple (only a handful of topics and associations) to the complex (dozens, or perhaps even hundreds of topics and accompanying associations). In that respect, being able to undo or roll-back applying a template should be possible to ensure that the user is not straddled with topics and associations that in retrospect are not applicable to his or her requirements.

Finally, I expect to start implementing the topic map template feature in version 1.2 of the application. If you have any suggestions with regards to the template feature let me know by submitting the feedback form.

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