In the past few years software manufacturers have introduced myriad new applications that promise to "let you do X just like the pros." Among these have been authoring programs, such as LiveCode, HyperCard, Authorware, Toolbook and others. But just having a powerful, easy to use tool, does not guarantee you will produce wonderful courseware, any more than having a paint program will let you produce artistic images, or a high-powered word processing program will make you a great author. There are lots of overblown claims of the capabilities of computer-aided productivity tools.
Lets illustrate the folly of such claims by comparing courseware production to video production. Todays video and motion picture cameras are light years ahead of those in use just a few years ago. Many of them have advanced features, many dependent on microchip technology (= computers) to acheive this high performance. Yet the manufacturers of the cameras do not suggest that anyone can pick up a high-tech camera and begin producing professional-quality videos or motion pictures.
For any project to succeed, several elements must be present:
Thats what we are trying to gain in this course.
Subject matter expertise
Each of you brings some level of expertise gained from your major studies. You may also draw upon the expertise of professors, reference materials, etc.
Careful planning before the start of production
This is what I want to discuss today.
II. Basic principles of instructional design
There have been many models proposed for designing courseware materials. Each may emphasize different aspects of the process, but, in regard to the what should take place before the actual development begins, most include these basic considerations:
Setting objectives and goals
What is my subject?
Presumably we all have a general notion of what it is we want to teach (A language, a countrys culture, microbiology, etc.)
Who is my audience?
Level of education (college, elementary, high school, etc.)
Abilities of learners. Are these students accelerated? Self-motivated? Learning disabled? Sensory disabled? Non-English speakers? Remedial learning situation?
What objectives should I set for the user?
Broad goals and detailed subgoals.
E.g., "The student will understand the use of the dative case in German."
What concrete performance goals will let me (my program) assess the users progress toward achieving the objectives?
Identify the observable behavior that will reliably demonstrate that the users have acheived the objective.
E.g., "The student will complete the posttest segment of the lesson on the use of the dative case with a minimum score of 90%."
You may want to include a pretest and posttest to measure progress.
Write down your objectives, goals, and subgoals.
Formulating an instructional strategy
After determining what it is you want to teach, you must formulate an instructional strategy, then choose the media and format that best facilitate this.
Decisions that affect the design of the courseware:
1. Courseware formats:
Discussion of various types of courseware approaches: tutorial, simulation, hypermedia, drill and practice.
TUTORIAL: Any of the Humanities 101 tutorials
Formal, usually linear, presentation of materials.
Often followed by quiz.
Tends to be less flexible, open-ended.
Less complicated structure, since the programmer controls the path through the program.
Models a real-life problem or situation.
Presents user with problems to solve, requiring skills that the user is supposed to be learning.
Often very flexible; more than a single outcome.
Planning for simulation can be quite extensive; the more realistic, the more complex the structure of the program.
HYPERTEXT/HYPERMEDIA: Beethoven 9th Symphony, Early Spring
Takes basic text or informational material and supplements with other materials.
Often reference rather than instructional.
Very flexible, open-ended. User can access as much or as little as he wishes.
Requires careful consideration of the logical structure; you dont want your user getting "lost."
One of the easiest kinds of courseware to do with LiveCode, but one of the hardest to do well.
Often called "drill and kill".
Tends toward less flexible, but some have sophisticated adaptive features that determine the users level and adjusts difficulty of questions accordingly.
Currently somewhat out of favor in CAI development circles.
Helpful for learning tasks requiring lots of repetition, rote learning; e.g., grammar practice, vocabulary learning.
Answer judging and feedback crucial to success of such courseware.
Tends to rely on a few standard question formats: fill in the blank, multiple choice, adding grammatical endings; seldom sophisticated enough to take long, multiple word answers. A mischievous user can usually defeat the softwares purpose.
While overall program structure is fairly simple, creating accurate answer judging routines can be very complicated.
2. Linear vs. Non-linear
Linear - Sequential presentation of information. "Electronic page-turning."
Non-linear - Lots of branching, links to related information. Path is user-selected or determined by user choices.
3. Structured vs. Unstructured
"Some of the few studies that have been done on how multimedia course structure affects student comprehension have found that programs that actively control the students progress (as opposed to unstructured free exploration) and those that frequently test for comprehension are ultimately more effective in raising student test scores." Syllabus, No. 22, April/May 1992, p. 4
Make a blueprint
It is a good idea, before you begin to program, to map out your step-by-step plan for implementing your strategy.
A storyboard can be useful in thinking through your ideas and providing you a blueprint during actual development
This does not mean that you should not use your computer at all during this phase. It can be useful for trying out ideas. But you should not consider anything you program at this time as part of the final project, only as "studies" that may be incorporated later.
As a general rule of thumb, in a well-conceived courseware project you will spend at least as much time in "pencil-and-paper" planning as you will in the actual "programming" stage.
A word about the development team model
An ideal approach, but often not available. Sometimes one person may play more than one role.
The team may include, but not limited to:
Computer systems specialist/programmer
Even if you are working on your own, your project will always benefit from input by others, either from the expert/specialist point of view, or from the user point of view.