Creating Effective Instructional
Materials for the World Wide Web
Originally by Ron Oliver, Jan Herrington ,Arshad Omari,
The purpose of this paper is to consider design aspects that can help to improve the instructional effedtiveness of teaching and learning through the WWW. And it focuses on how to achieve through the web an active environment in which students have cause to be engaged in processing personally relevant content and to be reflective during the learning process.
Factors influencing the effectiveness of the WWW as an instructional tool
In the instructional design for interactive multimedia programs, there is a framework of three multually constitutive elments: the learmer, the implementation and the interactive multimedia program to be useful in describing the roles and responsibilities within the learning process, which correspond to the role of the teacher, learner and the materials themselves, in the instructional setting. When this framework is applied to the design of WWW multimedia materials, key factors and strategies for each of the elements can be identified (Figure1).
Designing WWW Documents
Some critical considerations in designing lelectronic instructional
and informational materials include organisation, orientation, nabigation,
presentation and interactivity.
There are several forms of exposition to realise the learning environment with hypermedia. This can be described through the following continuum describing the nature of the linking involved.
Figure 2: continuum describing the nature of the linking involved in the different forms of hypermedia
The choice of information organasition for WWW materials depends on the nature of the intended learning outcomes. Figure 3 shows a useful guide for selecting the form of hypermaêdia most suited to the nature of intednded learning outcomes by suggesting instructional strategies against knowledge acquisition aims.
Orientation describes the means by which users are able to identify their current position in the system, how they achieved that position and
how to return to a previous position.
Here are a number of strategies for the WWW developer to aid orientation within learning materials:
Text structure and its readability are critical aspects in WWW content presentation. The following describes some useful strategies that can be used in developing hypermedia that lead to will structured, coherent and readable texts.
It is widely accepted that clicking on paths and navigating through
a WWW instructional sequence is not representative of interactivity. Some
strategies that have been used successfully to create the essence of interactivity
in WWW learning materials include the provision of model answers and e-mail
communications. More recently, other forms of interactivity have come to
be supported by WWW documents. The use of Common Gateway Interface (CGI)
scripts at the server enables designers to create forms within documents
by which learners can enter responses and receive programmed feedback.
This feature has been used widely in the creation of multiple choice and
short answer tests which can be automatically marked and has the capacity
to support record-keeping for more advanced student diagnostics.
New developments in client-side processing applications have led to enhanced interactive capabilities for the WWW . The advantage of client-side processing is that learners can receive immediate feedback to interactions. For example, the Java application supports many forms of interactivity and the continual release of plug-ins such as Shockwave (for Director) now support quite sophisticated processing of learner actions and responses.
Designing Learner Roles
The following list describes student behaviours that can be considered and planned in the process of designing the WWW materials.
Studies have shown that there are clear educational advantages to be derived from collaborative activities among students. The implications of this for WWW materials are that interactions and activities that engage higher-order thinking and critical reflection need to be included and opportunities presented to enable group and team work.
Computer-based learning programs frequently subdivide skills into small sections which are then taught systematically in a logical order. This often results in the processes requiring little thought as the students can deduce the answers correctly from the preceding section without a real understanding of the subject. More effective environments require students to reflect upon a much broader base of knowledge to solve their problem. The simple fact of being adjacent to a particular topic would be no guarantee that the information is relevant to the problem. In order to solve the problem or complete the task, the student would be required to reflect upon the whole resource by predicting, hypothesising, and experimenting to produce a solution. Activities that encourage reflection and metacognition through increased levels of learner control can assist students to focus more attention onto their own thought processes (Collins & Brown, 1988).
More effective learning environments ensurethat the resources are used within a social context with students working in groups, discussing the issues, reporting back, presenting findings, interviewing and debating the issues to ensure that students have the opportunity to articulate, negotiate and defend their knowledge. The use of e-mail and other communicative activities supported by the WWW provide opportunities for articulation enabling tacit knowledge to be made explicit (Bransford, et al., 1990; Collins, 1988; Collins, et al., 1989).
Planning Implementation strategies
The third constitutive element of an effective WWW learning environment is the role of the teacher and the procedures by which the learning materials are implemented. The following strategies are powerful adjuncts to enhancing teaching and learning with the WWW:
Coaching and scaffolding
Coaching describes the action of the teacher in providing guidance and
help in a learning setting while scaffolding represents the support provided
in the form of skills, strategies and links that the students are unable
to provide to complete the task. Enhanced achievement is obtained when
the strong support is provided initially (the scaffolding) and then gradually
removed as the student becomes able to stand alone (Collins, et al., 1989;
Griffin, 1995; Harley, 1993; Collins, 1988; Young, 1993).
The teacher's role in coaching, observing students, offering hints and reminders, providing feedback, scaffolding and fading, modeling, and so on, are powerful enhancements to any learning situation. The implication for the instructional design of WWW materials is that the teacher's coaching role needs to be acknowledged and addressed, with suggestions and strategies planned and taken for implementation with students. Much of this planning is independent of the actual development of the WWW materials
Measures and assessments of achievement and outcomes from instructional settings play an important part in the teaching and learning process. Frequently with computer-based learning, assessment measures bear little semblance to the environment in which the learning has taken place. Young (1993) suggests that 'assessment can no longer be viewed as an add-on to an instructional design or simply as separate stages in a linear process of pre-test, instruction, posttest; rather assessment must become an integrated, ongoing, and seamless part of the learning environment' (p. 48). The implications of this for instructional design are that some thought should be given to designing assessment which is concerned with the process as well as the product of involvement with the learning program. The enhanced interactive capabilities of the WWW provides the means for assessment of student learning to extend beyond conventional essays and examinations.
Summary and Conclusions
The purpose of this paper has been to demonstrate that the learning achieved through use of the WWW depends not only on the quality of the learning materials but also on the ways they are used by the learners and are implemented by the instructor. We cannot judge potential learning by the consideration of any of these factors in isolation. The best WWW materials can be completely ineffective when used in the wrong contexts and with inappropriate implementation. Potentially poor materials from a design perspective can be greatly enhanced through clever and innovative use.