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With the ever increasing reliance on IT in education, how courseware and instructional mediums are designed is vital if technology in education is to be used and implemented successfully. The aim of this issue of CDTL Brief is to examine some of the issues surrounding Instructional Systems Design.

May 2002, Vol. 5 No. 3 Print Ready ArticlePrint-Ready
Considerations for Web-Based Learning Design
Mr J. A. Gilles Doiron
Principal Educational Technologist, CDTL

In universities around the world, teaching staff are being encouraged to create online learning materials. Not just making lecture notes available to students, lecturers are urged to make better use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for teaching and learning by creating online activities for their students. However, most have little experience in designing Web-Based Learning (WBL) to enhance their curriculum, although some may have ad hoc knowledge of the Instructional Systems Design (ISD) process. The following are points to consider when reflecting on how to build a WBL activity for your students:

  1. Establish a formal development process that is best suited for your course. Focus on meeting the needs of your students and plan, design, test, build, deliver, observe, and refine accordingly. Quality outcomes depend on adhering to this process.

  2. Think of the learning objectives when choosing media to support learning. Never use technology for the sake of using technology. For example, should you use video clips? Ask yourself whether motion or time-based sequencing is an essential element of the point you are teaching. If not, then forgo using video. Your students will be more impressed with rational choices of media types than in being wowed by irrelevant bells and whistles. Also remember that more and more students are accessing course materials from home and that, for most, bandwidth is still an issue. If your learning objective requires that you use video, advise your students that they should access this WBL on campus through the Intranet.

  3. Provide ample opportunity for the user to interact with the information. Appropriate instructional design provides for meaningful interactions between the student and the concepts to learn.

    If you are not familiar with web programming and web authoring tools, talk to specialists from your faculty Centre for Information Technology Application (CITA) or from the Centre for Instructional Technology (CIT).

    The use of HTML, Java, and Shockwave offers ways to add interactive design elements that engage the learner. Buttons, hot spots, controls, movable objects, and data entry fields: each has its use in instructional design. Keep in mind that your design goal should be to encourage intellectual interaction with course content; some interactions could be used to test if students have understood relationships and concepts, while others could be used to activate deeper levels of learning, gradually adding complexity to the learning activity.

  4. Design WBL, where possible, that adapts to the students’ abilities and intelligently responds to the students’ input. Design your WBL to detect whether a student is having difficulty with a concept or a task, and offer remediation through extra information presentation and reinforcement, or suggest alternative resources (e.g. other courses, publications, hyperlinked information). Be an effective communicator. Provide meaningful feedback to student input; reinforce a concept and clarify common misunderstandings. Respect the learner. Avoid any content or feedback that is instructionally insignificant, annoying, or degrading.

  5. Keep in mind that students learn through a variety of styles. Visual learners need lots of graphic illustrations to understand concepts and relationships. Verbal learners use text and narration to accomplish the same end. Reflect on the type of presentation features you should include in your WBL and whether learners with differing learning styles will benefit equally.

  6. Reject and abandon the traditional linear approach to designing instruction. In WBL, the student should be the one to decide on which direction to take in their personal sequence of learning. While it is perfectly acceptable to suggest a path through a course, dictating that students follow a predetermined path through linear design is not recommended. Good WBL design allows the students to customise their learning path: to start where they want, to stop and return to where they left off, and to access items from various pathways.

  7. Ask some students to test your designs. Follow the WBL developers’ maxim: test early and test often. This applies to both the instructional design and the user interface, including icons, buttons, and navigational features. Also remember that your personal views on screen layout and user friendliness may conflict with those of the target audience. Seek the advice of multimedia producers, educational technologists and experienced instructional designers: call on CDTL, CIT and your CITA staff.
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Inside this issue
e-Learning at Singapore Polytechnic: From Concept to Reality
Considerations for Web-Based Learning Design
Creating a Meaningful Learning Environment Using ICT
Understanding Strategies of Authoring Computer Courseware
Towards a Blended Design for e-Learning