Achieving Sustainable Academic Growth through Courseware Integration: The Experience of a Nigerian University
In the recent time, achieving sustainable development and excellence in higher education is anchored on effective development of courseware and its application in a web-enabled environment. The development of interactive e-learning courseware has focused largely on the instructional design approach of multimedia applications and has brought about a substantial amount of success in producing engaging multimedia educational resources. However, challenges associated with early stages of e-learning courseware development are significant when compared to those at the later stages. Addressing these challenges requires sensitivity to the process dynamics, besides the technical know-how. This study is based on an in-progress project to develop courseware material for online learning. The project was anchored by University of Ilorin, Committee on Courseware Development in conjunction with all the academic staff of the University. In this project, template was adopted as the developmental model to navigate the project through the early stages, with the intention of securing incremental progress. Within this developmental model, the paper then describes the intricacies of integrating instructional design principles and evaluation techniques to tackle the challenges of the evolving template. This study represents the reflections of the authors as practicing instructional designer and it should interest readers who want to see a stronger connection between the theory and practice of courseware development. The general reader may also find the concept of templating helpful, given the constant demand to innovate in the learning contexts and may well find some applicability for it in their own disciplines.
June 21, 2010; Accepted: June 30, 2010;
Published: July 30, 2011
The University of Ilorin, as a centre of excellence in higher education, adopts
multiple approaches to promote the adoption of online teaching-learning and
to promote its delivery quality. Joint courseware development in the University
is one of the approaches. The scope of the project described in this study is
to re-design and develop 15 weeks of lectures in a computer education subject
into self-instructional material to be deployed online. The project is part
of a larger research initiative by the University to promote self-driven learning
among the students through alternative delivery methods, media and instructional
strategies. With the deployment of the self-instructional material online, the
overall delivery of the subject will be blended, with face-to-face still remaining
as the delivery mode for tutorials and laboratory sessions. The project will
be managed in three phases over 12 months. This study covers Phase 1, which
was concluded successfully recently through University-wide seminar on courseware
development. It describes the development and the use of the prototypes to engage
the first set of stakeholders, i.e., the course lecturers, curriculum experts,
educational technologists, Information Technology (IT) officers and staff members
of the subject. In Phase 2, which is in-progress, the prototypes will be substantially
expanded and they will be used to engage the next set of stakeholders, the students.
With the early challenges resolved in Phase 1 and 2, the project is expected
to proceed speedily to completion in Phase 3 and be deployed to the University
website for students open access.
The primary criteria for success of the project will be improved engagement
of the students with the online self-instructional material, compared to existing
lecture participation. Indirect benefits expected are better achievement in
the semester examinations and also greater flexibility in subject deployment.
Several researches have been conducted on the relevance and the influence of
computer technology in teaching and learning that supports online delivery (Onasanya
et al., 2007; Asuquo and Onasanya, 2006,
2007; Onasanya and Asuquo, 2007).
Recent research on information and communication technology where instructional
media can be packaged for distance learning and online individualized learning
include the studies conducted by Onasanya et al.
(2006, 2010a-c) and Soetan
et al. (2010). These studies advocates that higher institution lecturers
should develop positive attitude towards the integration of ICT into teaching
and research and also to effective online delivery of instruction.
Statement of the problem: When faced with a request for assistance with
instructional development, a needs assessment is usually carried out with the
intention to find answers with respect to the optimal performance, actual performance,
feelings, cause(s) and the solutions (Rossett, 1995;
Soo and Liew, 2007). However, in the context of University
of Ilorin, the schools typically approach the Universitys Centre for Research
and Development with the needs established, though not necessarily in a complete
and documented format. The Centre for Research and Development will clarify
the needs, then focuses on identifying the issues in carrying out the solutions.
In this project, the key issues identified were:
High impact: The project is high impact because of the large number of end users involved (expected to be about 20,000 students). The project was also initiated from the management of the University of Ilorin, thereby increasing its stake significantly.
High design and development effort is anticipated: The 15 week of self-instructional material to be developed by course lecturers in all the university courses as reflected in the University of Ilorin Academic Programmes. This reduces the possibility of the use of off-the-shelf material. The subject matter of the lectures is technical and largely content-driven. The objectives correspond mainly to the comprehension and application levels of Blooms Taxonomy of learning outcomes. This means creative instructional design is required to give the material the level of interactivity required to engage the students. It follows then that the use of a more sophisticated authoring tool, e.g., Flash, is more likely, instead of rapid development tools such as Adobe Presenter (Breeze).
A well-defined courseware development team: As online learning is not the predominant form of learning in the university, there is special financial commitment and full spectrum of expertise required for major courseware development for online delivery. Workshops and seminars were usually undertaken by the course lecturers through the experts from universitys Centre for Research and Development.
Lack of experience in the use of self-instructional material among the staff members: While the University is achieving some success in implementing self-instructional online learning, the experience is restricted to highly computer literate lecturers. However, 98% of all academic staffs of the university are equipped with laptop computers; the concept of self-instructional material is fuzzy to many. It is reasonable to say that, generally, staff members do not see the distinction clearly between self instructional and informational material in online learning. Although, this is an issue that has to be addressed, it also provides an indirect opportunity for the University of Ilorin to engage in staff development in the use of a more sophisticated authoring tool for online delivery.
Strategies to address the problems: After the key issues were identified, strategies were put in place to deal with them. These strategies are helpful to guide decisions on project management and the development model. The following strategies were adopted:
Proposal was initiated by the University Centre for Research and Development and it was endorsed by the University administration. Seminars were planned and paper presentations were made by experts. Following the paper presentations, workshops were also organized to further help the course lecturers on design modalities and presentation prototype. This cut across faculties and departments.
Assignment of more resources experts from other universities to complement the Universitys Research and Development Centre. This has helped to level-up the skill-sets required for the project success. The necessary skill-sets are: project management, subject matter expertise, instructional design, graphic design, multimedia authoring and quality control. With the Center for Research and Development providing for the initial project management, a full team of experts is then needed to equipped course lecturers with the necessary skills in creating instructional design, graphic design and multimedia authoring systems.
Aimed for sustainable success by breaking the project into three phases. The use of prototypes in Phase 1 and 2 will feature prominently to set team dynamics, establish project metrics, elicit and communicate views, educate and gain acceptance and test deployment strategies.
Conceptual frameworks of courseware development models: Models help
to conceptualize representations of concepts by providing simpler representations
of more complex forms and processes (Gustafson and Branch,
1997). Therefore, it is not surprising that there is a plethora of models
for instructional development, because they are, by nature, complex processes.
Seels and Richey (1994) as reported by Soo
and Liew (2007) defined instructional development as an organized procedure
that includes the steps of analyzing, designing, developing, implementing and
evaluating instruction. Because a model offers a simpler way for conceptualization
and an organized procedure, adopting it makes the development more amenable
to proper project management treatment. However, it is important that a simple
and useful model is adopted to guide instructional development, as a misfit
renders the model more of a hindrance than a help.
Gustafson and Branch (1997) proposed a classification
for instructional development models based on the orientation of the models,
which could be: classroom orientation, product orientation or system orientation.
Models that fit this project better should be product-oriented and the two models
chosen for this project were Rapid Prototyping Model by Tripp
and Bichelmeyer (1990) and the Leshin et al. (1992)
Model. The Rapid Prototyping Model, is the main model to guide Phase 1 and 2.
It fits well with prototyping as a strategy to achieve incremental successes.
By Phase 3, the project dynamics and the instructional design will be more established.
The use of prototypes can be minimized and a linear model may be more desirable.
The Leshin et al. (1992) Model, which is a more
linear model, may serve this final phase better.
Pedagogical principles of instructional design: An indirect challenge
in this project is to help course lecturers to move from perceiving self instructional
material as content presentation to that of engaging the learners with the content
instead. To achieve this, three instructional design principles are clearly
illustrated in the prototypes. They are: instructional alignment, Gagnés
events of learning (Gagne et al., 1992) and Kellers
ARCS model for motivation (Keller, 1983).
Instructional alignment refers to the alignment of the learning objectives,
content, instructional strategies and assessment. The objectives, which should
be measurably defined, serve as the starting point. The objectives are then
used to determine suitable content, instructional strategies and assessment
methods. This principle of alignment is central to the design of any instructional
material (Boyle, 2003).
Based on a cognitive model for learning, Gagné termed instruction as
a set of events external to the learner designed to support the internal processing
of the learning (Gagne, 1977, 1985).
This set of events is commonly referred to as the nine events of Gagné,
they are: gaining attention, informing learners of the objective, stimulating
recall of prerequisite learning, presenting the stimulus material, providing
learning guidance, eliciting the performance, providing feedback about the performance
correctness, assessing the performance and enhancing retention and transfer
(Gagne et al., 1992). With the exceptions of recall
prerequisites and transfer learning, which may or may not be evident, all the
other events are designed into the self-instructional material. Incorporating
the events help to enhance the self instructional capacity of the material,
besides improving the richness of the learning experience (Soo
and Liew, 2007).
Evolution of the prototype template: In providing guidance to the course lecturers, a prototype adopted by the University is presented for use as template, reflecting micro-strategies appropriate of contents to be delivered. Table 1 illustrates the content of the prototype template adopted in phase 1 of courseware development project of the university. This was done through workshops and seminars.
After the prototype template was developed, helpful strategies were put in place to guide the course lecturers on project management and the development model. The following strategies were adopted:
||There should be at least 5 study questions for each week
||The last week will be the revision week, in which many study questions
that cover the whole course would be provided to students. The study questions
for the revision week should not be less than 10
||For each item in the reading list, the exact pages to be consulted by
the students must be stated
||Lecturers for each course must indicate the availability of each item
in the reading list. It could be available on the Internet, the University
library, the departmental library or even the personal collection of the
|| Phase 1 prototype template adopted at the university of ilorin
A general reading list that covers the whole course must be provided. Table 2 shows an example of how a prototype template is further build up from an early development in Phase 1. It then evolves into a more sophisticated prototype and was used to engage the course lecturers in developing their courses using the prototype. The sample given in Table 2 is on a course in Educational Technology programme titled: EDT 410, Computer in Education II course. For the purpose of this study, the courseware is presented up to week 1. This is the Phase 2 stage of the courseware development project and is presented in Table 2.
As the prototypes evolve, decisions on retaining or discarding them have to
be made. To retain means to carry over the prototype or some of its elements
over to the next phase and usually the new prototype will show a web-enabled
design. This may look completely new from the Phase 2 format. However, it is
the opinion of these researchers that the University will proceed to Phase 3
where prototypes are presented in a web-enabled environment, where hyperlinks,
hypertext and HTML languages are used to navigate the window environment. Decisions
are based on the intentions and the functions of the prototypes. Prototypes
that are used to gain acceptance of ideas and which require heavy investment
effort should be retained, if possible. Examples are interactive objects to
illustrate instructional strategies (Soo and Liew, 2007).
Prototypes should be such that can be created quickly and used primarily to
elicit opinions and preferences. Examples are screen design, visual, navigational
elements and course structuring in the Learning Management System. The target
stakeholder may also play a part in the decision-making. Prototypes will suffice
where the stakeholders are familiar with the ideas the prototypes seek to convey.
The following Table 2 is the Phase 2 that follows the guidelines in Table 1 to evolve more detailed information on the Course of study.
|| The detailed information on the course of study
Figure 1 shows an example of how a prototype should transform into at a later development in Phase 3. It then evolved into a more sophisticated prototype that will be used to engage the staff members of the subject.
Formative evaluation is done with the intent to improve (Scriven,
1991) and therefore lies at the heart of prototyping. In an analysis of
various rapid prototyping models evolved from demonstration projects, Jones
and Richey (2000) noted that rapid prototyping de-emphasizes summative evaluation
but stresses formative evaluation. However, it should be kept clearly in mind
that prototypes are only a means to an end and not an end in itself. Although,
the emphasis is on formative evaluation, they should be planned with the view
that the final material stands a better chance of undergoing a successful summative
||A proposed web-enabled prototype for Phase 3. Dr. Onasanyas
class home page (A simulated model)
For example, when appropriate stakeholders are not engaged in the evaluation,
the final material may fail to be accepted eventually. The main factor for planning
is the intention of the prototypes and the stakeholders to be involved, which
then determine the appropriate techniques to be used (Soo
and Liew, 2007). There are many well-documented techniques in the literature,
such as those described by Jonassen et al. (1999).
While the prototyping developmental model has helped this project to get through
Phase 1 successfully, it is not without its dangers. The developments can get
out of hand and diverse or frequent conflicting views may hinder the progress
of the project. Boyle et al. (2006) quoted maintaining
time discipline and clear specification of outputs to mitigate failure of on-time
delivery. The importance of good project management cannot be under emphasized
in a project such as this. In addition, as can be seen in Fig.
1, this project also targets the stakeholders selectively, according to
the intentions of the evolving prototypes.
E-learning has gained immense popularity in recent times. Debunking traditional
notions of how teaching and learning have been taking place in educational ecology,
e-learning has bridged the constraints of time and geographical distance that
characterized the traditional learning system and it has diffused into a flexible
yet dynamic mode of study for populations of learners, taking into account their
varied learning styles and needs. E-learning is now widely hailed and synonymously
associated with a more effective and efficient learning outcomes (Onasanya
and Ogunojemite, 2005).
Of the three phases in this project, the first is the most challenging although smallest in scale. However, the use of the prototyping development model has helped to successfully establish the team dynamics and clarify the instructional design principles with the key stakeholders of this phase. This small success is important as it sets the stage for the subsequent phases. This study outlines the outcomes of the early analysis of the project and how these then influence the directions of the future project, including the decision for adopting a prototyping development model. Guided by this developmental approach, the paper then provides some insights into how the key principles of instructional design and evaluation come together to drive the design of the prototypes. In this way, the paper serves to illustrate a way of bridging the theory and practice of courseware development and underscores the importance of principles in guiding course lecturers and other stakeholders.
The project is currently in Phase 2 and the target is to develop and transform the 15-week of self-instructional learning material into web-enabled prototype by the end of Phase 3. The material will then be used to engage the next set of stakeholders, course lecturers, IT officers, web designers and the students. The intentions are to gauge the effectiveness of the material on the target learners and to test the deployment strategies.
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